O get thee wings! Or if as yet (until these clouds depart,
And the day springs,) Thou think'st it good to tarry where thou art, Write in thy bookes My ravish'd looks Slain flock, and pillag'd fleeces, And hast thee so As a young Roe Upon the mounts of spices.
O Rosa Campi! O lilium Convallium! quomodo nunc facta es pabulum Aprorum!42
In dramatizing the Bride of Christ - here the Anglican Church — passionately addressing her 'deare' Christ during the darker years of the war, Vaughan's poem differs considerably from Herbert's poem of the same title, which explores the via media of the matriarchal Church of England in relation to the wanton Church of Rome and the naked Calviryst Church of Geneva. (But then Herbert, the religious poet from whom Vaughan learned most, was not of course writing during the chaotic and tumultuous years of the English Revolution.) Vaughan alludes in the first stanza to the soldiers, who serve under Pontius Pilate, casting lots for the seamless coat of the crucified Christ in John 19:23-4: here the soldiers of tfye gospel become the Parliamentary soldiers of the English Civil War who would not only stain Christ's clothing but devastate his church.
The sense of urgency of Vaughan's poem continues in the second stanza with the ravaged Bride's dramatic address to Christ ('O get thee wings!') and with her explicit reference to the destruction brought on by the Civil War and the Parliamentary forces ('My ravish'd looks / Slain flock, and pillag'd fleeces'). Here again Vaughan refers to a biblical passage-this time from the Song of Solomon 8:14 - to highlight the poignancy of the Bride's address to her Bridegroom: 'Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.' The Bride thus implores her spouse's swift return (since 'he is fled' in these dark days) at the Second Coming in order to save his desolated Bride. The Latin motto at the end provides a particularly powerful and graphic conclusion to this haunting poem lamenting the devastation suffered by the English Church under the revolutionary Puritans: 'O rose of the field! O lily of the vallies! how have you now become the food of wild boars!' Fusing Solomon 2:1 with Psalm 80:13 in this final passage, a pessimistic Vaughan suggests the wasteland that England has now become as a result of the chaotic destruction of this traditional institution: 'The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it'. Like Milton or Marvell, then, the Anglican Vaughan could respond acutely to the religious and political upheavals of his time.
politics and religion
PROPHECY, POLITICS, AND REVOLUTION
The English Revolution stimulated poetry that fused religion and politics in new and sometimes radical ways, especially by employing, with greater urgency, prophetic language, and apocalyptic imagery. Indeed, a fairly conservative Jacobean court poet like Jonson, who used his literary talents to praise, counsel, and serve the Stuart aristocracy, was hostile to Puritan apocalypticism — the kind of prophetic strain noticeable in the visionary poetry of Milton's 'Lycidas' (1637), a passionately anti-clerical and anti-Laudian work. After all, the Protestant prophetic tradition in poetry could be transformed to encourage dynamic and even radical political and religious reform. For Protestant reformers, the prophetic Book of Revelation foretold the spectacular destruction of the Romish Antichrist; thus the vivid imagery and language of the Bible was capable of inspiring apocalyptic prophecies and revolutionary visions, especially during and after the upheaval of the 1640s. A brief look at 'Lycidas' and Marvell's Cromwellian poem, 'The First Anniversary of the Government under O. C.' (published 1655), can illustrate how two major poets creatively employed biblical prophecy in their occasional and politically engaged verses.
Milton's 'Lycidas' gives the language of politics and religion a strikingly new radical and prophetic inflection. Indeed, in order to make the political dimension of the poem more explicit, Milton added a telling headnote to 'Lycidas' when he published his 1645 Poems: 'by occasion' his prophetic poem 'foretells the ruin of our corrupted Clergy then in their height' — as if to anticipate the English Revolution itself. Even the poem's opening, 'Yet once more', alludes to the promise of apocalyptic judgement in Hebrews iz:z6~7. The untimely death of one of the nation's young model pastors, Edward King, struck a deep chord in Milton prompting, through his use of the pastoral code, the poem's impassioned religious and political criticism. Having himself considered an ecclesiastical career, Milton felt 'church-outed by the prelats' and 'Lycidas', especially through the fiery apocalyptic voice of St Peter (lines 113-31), registers his profound disillusionment with the corrupt Anglican clergy during the 1630s, the years of Laud's authoritarian power when the bishops were exalted. Referring to the clergy's 'Blind mouths' (suggesting their rapacity and gluttony), Milton scornfully puns on the etymology of bishop (one who sees) and pastor (one who feeds). The inexplicable death of Lycidas seems even more unjust when the present clergy are such bad shepherds, their sermons nothing more than fashionable and superficial exercises ('lean and flashy songs'), the work of bad artists (they grate on 'scrannel Pipes of wretched straw') who cannot feed or satisfy their Christian flock. Milton's criticisms recall a biblical text like Ezekiel
34:2 ('Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?'), giving biblical pastoral a radical Protestant inflection as he builds up to the climactic vision of judgement in which 'that two-handed engine at the door / Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more'. This ominous and resonant passage of promised retribution, a famous crux in Milton criticism (it seems to refer to, among other things, the 'two massy Keys' of St Peter earlier in the poem, and to the sharp two-edged sword issuing out of the apocalyptic Christ's mouth in Revelation 1:16 and 19:15), looks forward to the fierce 'two-handed' sword of the warrior-angel Michael which 'smites' Satan and his rebel forces in Paradise Lost's apocalyptic battle in heaven for the territory of God (see 6.25off.).
Less strident in its apocalypticism, 'The First Anniversary' by Milton's younger contemporary scrutinizes the arts of power and politics in the age of Oliver Cromwell. Marvell's celebratory poem explores the dynamic and creative political role of Cromwell in the Interregnum when 'heavy Monarchs' are associated with an old order no longer actively shaping the forces of history in England:' 'Tis he the force of scatter'd Time contracts, / And in one Year the work of Ages acts' (lines 15,13—14). Marvell is referring specifically to the anniversary of Cromwell becoming the Lord Protector of England (16 December 1653), an occasion when Cromwell assumed greater powers over the Commonwealth declared after the death of Charles I. Unlike 'An Horatian Ode' which depicts the restless Cromwell more as an iconoclast who destroys 'Pallaces and Temples' (line 22) as he recasts the kingdom into another mould, 'The First Anniversary' depicts Cromwell as the creative architect of a new political order — 'Here pulling down, and there erecting New, / Founding a firm State by Proportions true' (lines 247-8). Marvell indeed repeatedly highlights Cromwell's political achievements and talents in aesthetic terms, reminding us that the aesthetic and the political were themselves closely interconnected in this age. So Cromwell, in tune with the will of God, has 'tun'd the ruling Instrument' (line 68) — the Instrument of the Government, the constitution which invested executive authority in the Protector and a Council of State, while providing for triennial parliaments. Marvell's Cromwell is (in one elaborate conceit) like an inspired Amphion raising the walls of Thebes by playing his golden lyre (lines 49-67); moreover, as a highly skilful political architect, he has managed to construct a new edifice, a mixed state whose strength incorporates political tensions and opposing strains within it (lines 87-98), much as Milton's famous temple of God in Areopagitica (1644) incorporates religious differences - 'brotherly dissimilitudes that are not vastly disproportional' — to achieve its goodly symmetry.43
For Marvell, the creative and inspired Cromwell, then, is an instrument of providence ('an higher Force him push'd / Still from behind', lines 239-40), an identification the poet underscores with apocalyptic references. Repeatedly contrasting an active Cromwell with other earthly kings and princes — of whom his poem is often sharply critical - Marvell suggests that the apocalpytic events prophesied in Daniel (e.g. 7:18,27,10:14) and Revelation might indeed be fulfilled under this new dispensation: 'How might they under such a Captain raise / The great Designes kept for the latter Dayes!' (lines 109—10). Among princes and leaders, the divinely chosen Cromwell is alone in pursuing the fierce battle against the powers of Antichrist. Mar-veil's more hopeful, excited prophetic vision is nonetheless qualified by his more realistic sense that the apathy and sinfulness of his own unworthy and thankless countrymen prevent Cromwell from bringing about the approaching millennium, that period of Utopian conditions on earth coinciding with the Second Coming of Christ: 'Hence that blest Day still counterpoysed wastes, / The 111 delaying, what th'Elected hastes' (lines 155-6).
But in endorsing the legitimacy and power of the Protectorate, Marvell's politically engaged poem condemns other, more radical forms of prophecy and political expression in the age: Marvell in any case tends to mistrust the extreme religious enthusiasm which erupted during the revolution. While he is critical of traditional and hereditary kingship, he is no less suspicious of the sectarian fervour of the revolutionary decades. Marvell's poem criticizes the Levellers or radical democrats of the age (lines 257-64) and it criticizes at length (lines 293—320) those radical Puritan sects — the Fifth Monarchists, Quakers, Ranters, among others44 — which had opposed a politically more conservative Cromwell. In Marvell's poem, Cromwell's 'sober Spirit' (line 230) contrasts favourably with the 'frantique Army' of sectarians (line 299), 'The Shame and Plague both of the Land and Age' (line 294). Ten years earlier, Milton had been considerably more tolerant in Areopagitica of the sectarian excitement unleashed by the revolution; but for Marvell, whose political allegiances often resembled Milton's (both wrote in defence of the Protectorate), the extreme radicalism of the age only threatened to undermine the more moderate reforming spirit and social reconstruction of Cromwell's Protectorate.
Marvell's Cromwellian poem, then, attempts to steer deftly between political radicalism and political tyranny:
'Tis not a Freedome, that where All command; Nor Tyranny, where One does them withstand: But who of both the Bounders knows to lay Him as their Father must the State obey. (lines zy<^-Sz)
Here Marvell redefines the symbolic appeal to patriarchal power that, as we saw earlier, was so closely aligned with the politics of Stuart kingship: in this new age, it is the Protector who is now the political 'Father' of the people and who provides true liberty by avoiding extreme political measures. Indeed, Marvell is careful to suggest that Cromwell is no monarch, despite his increased powers under the new regime. In order to stress the wondrous progress and renovation under Cromwell's animating power, Marvell introduces, in the final section of his poem, the reluctant praise of a foreign and potentially hostile monarch:
'He seems a King by long Succession born,
And yet the same to be a King does scorn.
Abroad a King he seems, and something more,
At Home a Subject on the equal Floor.' (lines 387-90)
Besides alluding to Cromwell's famous refusal not to be crowned, Marvell's lines convey the paradoxical nature of Cromwell's political role as Lord Protector: both a 'great Prince' (line 395) and an English 'Subject', he appears kingly and yet is no king at all.
By the end of the decade, however, the experimental Protectorate collapsed, despite the prophetic hopes of Marvell in 'The First Anniversary' and Milton in his visionary tract, The Second Defence of the English People (1654), which likewise depicted Cromwell as the mythic and dynamic architect of the state. The Stuart Restoration of 1660 meant that a true regnum Christi in England would be deferred yet once more. For those poets who challenged the ecclesiastical and civil powers of worldly monarchy during the revolution, one critical response after 1660 was to valorize a more spiritual, inward notion of power and kingship. Like Marvell's Cromwell, Milton's Jesus in Paradise Regained (1671) would also encounter the temptation of worldly kingship and yet scorn 'a Crown, / Golden in show'. Challenging the authority of worldly powers and institutions in the Restoration, his polemical and prophetic responses to his Tempter would reconceive the politics of kingship in a distinctly more interior way:
Yet he who reigns within himself, and rules Passions, Desires, and Fears, is more a King; Which every wise and virtuous man attains: And who attains not, ill aspires to rule Cities of men, or headstrong Multitudes, Subject himself to anarchy within, Or lawlesse passions in him, which he serves.
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