Allegiance, Force, and Events in Marvell’s Cromwell Trilogy and Royalist Elegies
Marvell’s political verse alters the target of praise, praising apocalyptically transformative forces instead of persons. All of Marvell’s encomia laud an event as such, instead of the actor who would purportedly control this significant occurrence. They praise means instead of ends, goals, or plans. Even the titles of the Cromwell lyrics indicate that they are on or about specific events: Cromwell’s return from Ireland, his death, or the first anniversary of the Protectorate. Instead of amounting to a disturbingly proto-fascistic idealization of power, Marvell’s early elegies and his poems in praise of Cromwell attempt to wrest encomium away from its mercenary tendencies, insisting that only praise for force can make of encomium something other than the most retrograde of self-interested social climbing. As a result, these poems demand a reconceptualization of political engagement, maintaining that only allegiance to an apocalyptic force, acting in the present, can enable real novelty. Loyalty to persons always results in inertia, precisely because it amounts to nothing more than a restful and reassuring agreement.
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