Apocalyptic Kingship, Harmony and Political Expediency: the Challenges and Paradoxes of Andrew Marvell’s “First Anniversary”

Open access


The following paper deals with the interpretation of one of the major “Cromwellian” poems of Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), “The First Anniversary of the Government under His Highness the Lord Protector”, 1655. The poem is first set in the context of Marvell’s poetry and his public career in the period between 1637 and 1660. The article then identifies and analyses three main themes of “The First Anniversary”: the notion of a new aeon starting with Cromwell’s rule and the apocalyptical imagery related to his Protectorate, the concept of his power and authority between liberty and tyranny, and the relation between the harmony established by Cromwell and classical Pythagorean harmonious lore. The author argues that the imagery Marvell uses to describe the nature of the regime (especially the concept of Cromwell’s “no-kingship”) shows a deeply paradoxical structure, which uncovers the frailty and insecurity of Cromwell’s dictatorship as well as the circular logic of its justification. In that sense, the poem can be read as a vivid manifestation of the dilemmas and tensions of this period.

Berley, Mark. After the Heavenly Tune: English Poetry and the Aspiration to Song. Pitssburgh: Duquesne UP, 2000. Print.

Davies, John. “Orchestra: or, a Poem of Dancing.” Renascance Editions. University of Oregon. Transcribed by Risa S. Bear, 2001. Web. 20 February 2015. “Fifth Monarchy Men”. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Web. 20 February 2015.

Hollander, John. The Untuning of the Sky: Ideas of Music in English Poetry 1500-1700. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993. Print.

Jajtner, Tomaš. Concepts of Harmony in Five Metpahysical Poets. Červeny Kostelec: Pavel Mervart, 2012. Print.

Kantorowicz, Ernst Hartwig. The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1997. Marvell, Andrew. The Complete Poems. Edited by Elizabeth Storry Donno. London: Penguin, 1996. Print.

McGlammery, Gayla S. “The Rhetoric of Apocalypse and Practical Politics in Marvell’s ‘First Anniversary of the Government under O.C.’ South Atlantic Review 55 (November 1990): 19-35. Print.

Morrill, John. “The Stuarts (1603-1688).” The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain. Edited by Kenneth O. Morgan. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986. Print.

Tripp, Edward. Crowell’s Handbook of Classical Mythology. New York: Thomas Crowell Company, 1970. Print.

Woodford, Benjamin. Perceptions of a Monarchy Without a King: Reactions to Oliver Cromwell’s Power. McGill-Queen’s Press, 2013. Print.

Worden, Blair. Literature and Politics in Cromwellian England: John Milton, Andrew Marvell, Marchamont Nedham. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print

Prague Journal of English Studies

The Journal of Charles University, Faculty of Education

Journal Information


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 152 109 7
PDF Downloads 76 67 3