(Article/content is below...)

An Horatian Ode: upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland by Andrew Marvell


This poem is, obviously, an ode celebrating the return of Cromwell from his defeat of the Irish while looking forward to his campaign against the Scots. "An Horatian Ode: upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland" is written in AABB rhyme scheme with eight stanzas in the first two lines and six in the last two lines of each stanza.

This writing is historical, and, according to historical use of the word "Ode", it is meant as a song to be sung. The phrase "Horatian Ode" comes from the Greek poet/writer/philosopher Horace. It means an ode that has one stanza whose pattern repeats throughout it. They are also subject to philosophy and more personal than other types of odes. In this poem, Marvell uses two couplets per stanza and repeats it consistently.


An Horatian Ode: upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland

THE forward youth that would appear	 
Must now forsake his Muses dear,	 
   Nor in the shadows sing	 
   His numbers languishing.	 
'Tis time to leave the books in dust,
And oil the unused armour's rust,	 
    Removing from the wall	 
    The corslet of the hall.	 
So restless Cromwell could not cease	 
In the inglorious arts of peace,
    But through adventurous war	 
    Urgèd his active star:	 
And like the three-fork'd lightning, first	 
Breaking the clouds where it was nurst,	 
    Did thorough his own side
    His fiery way divide:	 
For 'tis all one to courage high,	 
The emulous, or enemy;	 
    And with such, to enclose	 
    Is more than to oppose.
Then burning through the air he went	 
And palaces and temples rent;	 
    And Cæsar's head at last	 
    Did through his laurels blast.	 
'Tis madness to resist or blame
The face of angry Heaven's flame;	 
    And if we would speak true,	 
    Much to the man is due,	 
Who, from his private gardens, where	 
He lived reservèd and austere
    (As if his highest plot	 
    To plant the bergamot),	 
Could by industrious valour climb	 
To ruin the great work of time,	 
    And cast the Kingdoms old
    Into another mould;	 
Though Justice against Fate complain,	 
And plead the ancient rights in vain—	 
    But those do hold or break	 
    As men are strong or weak-
Nature, that hateth emptiness,	 
Allows of penetration less,	 
    And therefore must make room	 
    Where greater spirits come.	 
What field of all the civil war
Where his were not the deepest scar?	 
    And Hampton shows what part	 
    He had of wiser art;	 
Where, twining subtle fears with hope,	 
He wove a net of such a scope
    That Charles himself might chase	 
    To Caresbrooke's narrow case;	 
That thence the Royal actor borne	 
The tragic scaffold might adorn:	 
    While round the armèd bands
    Did clap their bloody hands.	 
He nothing common did or mean	 
Upon that memorable scene,	 
    But with his keener eye	 
    The axe's edge did try;
Nor call'd the gods, with vulgar spite,	 
To vindicate his helpless right;	 
    But bow'd his comely head	 
    Down, as upon a bed.	 
This was that memorable hour
Which first assured the forcèd power:	 
    So when they did design	 
    The Capitol's first line,	 
A Bleeding Head, where they begun,	 
Did fright the architects to run;
    And yet in that the State	 
    Foresaw its happy fate!	 
And now the Irish are ashamed	 
To see themselves in one year tamed:	 
    So much one man can do
    That does both act and know.	 
They can affirm his praises best,	 
And have, though overcome, confest	 
    How good he is, how just	 
    And fit for highest trust.
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 Commons' feet presents
A Kingdom for his first year's rents,	 
    And, what he may, forbears	 
    His fame, to make it theirs:	 
And has his sword and spoils ungirt	 
To lay them at the public's skirt.
    So when the falcon high	 
    Falls heavy from the sky,	 
She, having kill'd, no more doth search	 
But on the next green bough to perch;	 
    Where, when he first does lure,
    The falconer has her sure.	 
What may not then our Isle presume	 
While victory his crest does plume?	 
    What may not others fear,	 
    If thus he crowns each year?
As Cæsar he, ere long, to Gaul,	 
To Italy an Hannibal,	 
    And to all States not free	 
    Shall climacteric be.	 
The Pict no shelter now shall find
Within his particolour'd mind,	 
    But, from this valour, sad	 
    Shrink underneath the plaid;	 
Happy, if in the tufted brake	 
The English hunter him mistake,
    Nor lay his hounds in near	 
    The Caledonian deer.	 
But thou, the war's and fortune's son,	 
March indefatigably on;	 
    And for the last effect,
    Still keep the sword erect:	 
Besides the force it has to fright	 
The spirits of the shady night,	 
    The same arts that did gain	 
    A power, must it maintain.

Published in The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250-1900 .

Next: The Definition of Love
Recommended Content
Find out more information about this poem and read others like it.


Literary Movement
Metaphysical, 17th Century

War, Ode

Last update: