Between Nations: Shakespeare, Spenser, Marvell, and the Question of Britain

By David J. Baker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
British Poetics
ANDREW MARVELL'S "AN HORATIAN ODE UPON CROMWELL'S RETURN FROM IRELAND" AND "THE LOYAL SCOT"

"More normal and less random"

The "question of [ Andrew Marvell's] political sincerity" 1 has been persistent. In his own day, and especially his later years, Marvell ( 1621-78) was dogged by rumors and accusations. The brief against him was mainly this: that he was a man of no settled principles or partisan loyalties. He was a "coward," said his chief antagonist, Samuel Parker, willing to ally himself with whatever regime was in power at the moment and disposed to justify himself, speciously, later. 2"He was made Undersecretary to Cromwell's Secretary," said Parker, "But the King being restor'd, this wretched man falling into his former poverty, did, for the sake of a livelihood, procure himself to be chosen Member of Parliament for a Borough," although even there Marvell was "an enemy to the King's affairs . . . vent [ing] himself with the greater bitterness, and daily spew[ing] infamous libels out of his filthy mouth." 3 Marvell's critics were not deterred by his insistence that he "never had any, not the remotest relation to publick matters" during most of Cromwell's rule, or that the employment he eventually took was "the most innocent and inoffensive toward his Majestie's affairs of any in that usurped and irregular government." 4 More recently, readers have recognized that the charges against Marvell are, as stated, if not totally untrue, then so unnuanced as to be almost useless in accounting for the subtleties of his investments in the politics of mid-seventeenth-centuryEngland. But they have not had to credit them entirely to see that there is something

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