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Andrew Marvell Essay

5306 words - 22 pages

Andrew Marvell

Question 4: With detailed attention to particular poems consider Marvell’s representation of Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell.

Among the numerous subjects that Andrew Marvell addresses in his poems, some of his most important, influential and controversial works are based on significant political figures of his time. Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Fairfax, both figures whom Marvell was personally associated with, were at the very centre of the public political stage during a time of dramatic and extensive national upheaval. Cromwell and Fairfax had contrasting behavioral reactions to England’s crises investing the two great men with symbolic status, functioning ...view middle of the document...

The poems that will be used to support this argument are ‘An Horation Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’ and ‘Upon Appleton House: To my Lord Fairfax’ with supporting references on Cromwell from ‘A Poem upon the Death of His Late Highness the Lord Protector’.

Among Marvell’s political poems, ‘An Horation Ode’ is the most subtle and complex poem in terms of where it indicates Marvell’s political orientations and alliances lie. To some critics, ‘An Horation Ode’ is without ambivalence, others such as Elliot suggesting that the way in which Marvell’s perception of Oliver Cromwell changed is an indication of the complexity of the choices of a political allegiance facing an alert and sensitive mind. Or as Worden suggests: “the Marvell of the ‘Horation Ode’ is a man of troubled and divided loyalties.” In contrast, Wilding accounts for Marvell’s poetic ambiguity as part of his rhetorical strategy as one who is not at all undecided in his opinions but is cleverly advancing a political argument. Marvell’s central representations of Cromwell and events, although detailed and cleverly shaped, invite collisions of opposing ideologies and blatantly refuse to be definitely set in either camp.

One significant way in which Marvell represents Cromwell is describing and referring to the political figure as a force of nature or an instrument of divine justice. One important passage in which Cromwell is represented as a force of nature is in the lightening passage of ‘An Horation Ode’: “And, like the three-forked lightening, first/Breaking the clouds where it was nursed,/Did thorough his own side/His fiery way divide,” (p.55, 13-16). The impression created by the imagery is of Cromwell as a natural force, violent to itself and everything that tries to contain it. Lines such as: "'Tis madness to resist or blame/The force of angry heaven’s flame:” (p. 55, 24-25) suggests that it is ‘madness’ to resist Cromwell as he is an instrument of angry heaven and a Providential and God-directed force.

It is evident that by representing Cromwell as a natural force that Marvell considered Cromwell a great and powerful man, regardless of his political orientations. The use of this image of Cromwell is significant, as it appears again in Marvell’s later poems on the politician, in particular A Poem upon the Death of His Late Highness the Lord Protector. Lines such as: “But never yet was any human fate/By Nature solemnized with so much state./He unconcerned the dreadful passage crossed;/But, oh, what pangs that death did Nature cost!” (p.151, 109-12) suggest that now that Cromwell has died or is dying, nature has been disrupted. Marvell’s image of Cromwell as such a powerful force of nature is evident in the final lines of the poem where the speaker describes that after a figure like Cromwell (who creates thunderstorms and lightening) dies, there is only “calm peace,” (p.156, 321) and...

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