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English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Andrew Marvell

254. 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 Carisbrook’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 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 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 parti-colour’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.