An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland 1650

by Andrew Marvell


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 unusèd 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-forked 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 Caesar’s head at last
     Did through his laurels blast.
’Tis madness to resist or blame
The force 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 Kingdom 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 wars
Where his were not the deepest scars ?
     And Hampton shows what part
     He had of wise art ;
Where, twining subtle fears with hope,
He wove a net of such a scope
     That Charles himself might chase
     To Car’sbrook’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 called the Gods, with vulgar spite,
To vindicate his helpless right ;
     But bowed 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 killed, no more does 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 crown each year ?
A Caesar 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 particoloured 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 thy 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.
Andrew Marvell | Classic Poems

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