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

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Abstract

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.

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Prague Journal of English Studies

The Journal of Charles University, Faculty of Education

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