Horatian Ode Upon Cromwells Return From Ireland An Andrew

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Marvell (1681) Andrew Marvell wrote An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland between June and July 1650. He celebrates in rhyming couplets the fact that oliver Cromwell had distinguished himself in military expeditions to both Ireland and Scotland, becoming commander in chief of parliamentary forces. Marvell begins by establishing a comparison of Cromwell to a scholarly youth who had to "forsake his Muses Dear" and "leave the books in dust," instead oiling "th'unused armour's rust." This proved Cromwell's fate, as described in the third verse when Cromwell uses war to help succeed in peace, as Marvell suggests a paradox:

So restless Cromwell could not cease In the inglorious arts of peace, But through adven'trous war Urged his active star.

Cromwell, "like the three forked-lightning" that broke through the clouds, "Did through his own side / His fiery way divide." Cromwell echoes a tradition of comparison of great warriors to Jove, the god king who threw thunderbolts at the earth.

The poem circulated first in manuscript form, probably supporting Marvell's hopes for patronage from Cromwell. Marvell's political reversals of loyalty from Royalist to republican cause, a stand he reversed again during the later Restoration, caused some critics to term him an opportunist, others to see him merely as an individual sensitive to political climate. Marvell's conflict may have surfaced as the ode presents the history of the ensuing execution of Charles I, famously described with compassion and admiration:

He nothing common did, or mean, upon that memorable scene; But with his keener eye The axe's edge did try.

Nor called the Gods with vulgar spite To vindicate his helpless right; But bowed his comely head Down, as upon a bed. (57-64)

Marvell continues describing the creation of the new republic under Cromwell and the Irish campaign. In addition lines 109-112 anticipated the invasion of Scotland, with Caldonia, the Roman name for northern Britain, commonly used in Marvell's time to refer to Scotland. He characterizes Cromwell as a hunter pursuing elusive game:

Happy if in the tufted brake, The English hunter him mistake, Nor lay his hounds in near The Caledonian deer.

A "tufted brake" could indicate several bushes in a group, but a brake was also a barred cage and a trap or a snare, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Either usage, or perhaps both, fit Marvell's lines.

Marvell's adoption of Horace's approach proved logical, as Horace, who at first defended his era's republicans, later had to accept Augustus Caesar as his ruler, celebrating in verse the peace that Caesar gained for Rome and its territories. Marvell employs the comparison to Caesar, noting of Cromwell, "And Caesar's head at last / Did through his laurels blast"

(23-24). He extends that metaphor when he adds about Cromwell in line 101, "A Caesar he ere long to Gaul."

Marvell also used as models additional Horatian odes that celebrated heroic feats. In one such ode Nero defeats Hannibal, who must eventually accept that defeat. Similarly Marvell's lines 77-80 read about the Irish, who "are ashamed / To see themselves in one year tamed,"

They can affirm his praises best,

And have, though overcome, confessed How good he is, how just, And fit for highest trust.

Later he extends that comparison, as he had the one to Caesar, when he writes that Cromwell was "To Italy an Hannibal" (102). Marvell probably also used the work of Lucan, considered a poet whose depiction of war was superior, as a model. According to the scholar Nigel Smith, Marvell's "recollection of Horace and Lucan serve to evoke Roman responses to the ambiguities of power and right."

Greatly admired for its style, Marvell's ode was regarded differently through the following centuries. The 19th century viewed Marvell as a patriot and omitted the ode's sympathetic characterization of Charles I, as the French Revolution spurred admiration for Cromwell's seeming support of the overthrow of the Crown. Lines 81-88 provide evidence supporting the view of Marvell as a man of republican, sympathies, as he employs the figurative language (figure of speech) of synecdoche to characterize Cromwell's sacrifice of personal glory to the good of the common man:

Nor yet grown stiffer with command,

But still in the Republic's hand: How fit he is to sway That can so well obey.

He to the Common's feet presents

A kingdom, for his first year's rents. And, what he may, forbears His fame to make it theirs.

The ode appeared in Marvell's posthumous Miscellaneous Poems (1681) but would be omitted from later editions in which the political nature of the work was considered inappropriate. Marvell's lyrics grew in popularity, and for a time his ode was characterized also as especially lyrical, although critics puzzled over its contradictory political messages. Later in the 20th century, readers and students focused on the lyrics to the exclusion of Marvell's other works, including this ode.

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