Translating All That's Made: Poetry and History in "Tom May's Death"

by Robert Wiltenburg
Translating All That's Made: Poetry and History in "Tom May's Death"
Robert Wiltenburg
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900
Start Page: 
End Page: 
Select license: 
Select License
SEL 31 (1991) ISSN 0039-3657

Translating All That's Made:
Poetry and History in
"Tom May's Death"


"Tom May's Death" is in many ways a quintessential Marvellian poem: brutal and delicate, satiric and panegyric, topical and politically charged, yet at odds with all topicality and all partisan- ship. And of course we are not quite sure when it was written, or even if it is Marvell's. Some have wished to cast it out of the canon; others have seen in it a touchstone for the whole career.' Surely any poem provoking such uncertainties and disagreements ought to be Marvell's, and I will here assume that it is.

The poem has most commonly been read with one eye on "An Horatian Ode," both because it is the "next" poem in the standard edition,Z apparently following the "Ode" (early summer of 1650) at an interval of about six months (May died in November),s and because, in its lacerating attacks on the Parliament's official historian and on republicanism generally, it so interestingly (perhaps hopelessly) seems to complicate our sense of an evolution in Marvell's political opinions and commitments.* Rather than make another comparative reading, I wish to examine three features bearing on the interrelation of poetry and history: Jonson's authority in the poem; the condemnation not only of May but of May's "author" Lucan; and the extraordinary vehemence of the whole.

That Marvel1 should have chosen to call Ben Jonson from the vasty deep seems natural enough: who better to play the literary arbiter, among the living or the dead?5 There is a peculiar aptness in having the former Poet Laureate and Chronologer to the City of

Robert Wiltenburg teaches Renaissance literature and directs the expository writing program at Washington University in St. Louis. He has published on Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, and Jonson, including his recent Ben Jonson and Self-Love: The Subtlest Maze of All (1990). He is currently at work on a study of "self and soul" in the Renaissance.

London pronounce judgment on one who is "Malignant Poet and Historian both"; the enthusiastic commender, in 1627, of May the translator and "interpreter" of Lucan now condemns May, the Parliament's kept historian.6 Yet the extent of the authority attributed to Jonson is remarkable: "Amongst the Chorus of old Poets," he wields a "Laurel wand,"

The awful Sign of his supream command,

At whose dread Whisk Virgil himself does quake,

And Horace patiently its stroke does take.

(lines 34-36)

Making Jonson not only the guide, but the commander-indeed, the schoolmaster-of the ancients may be put down to the tone of mock-heroic exaggeration with which the poem opens and, more briefly, closes, but Marvell has other and stronger reasons for making Jonson the master of those who write, whether past or present, epic or lyric, historian or poet, reasons deriving from Jonson's characteristic understanding of the relations between poetry, history, and experience as consisting in acts of translation.

Jonson was a great friend and a resolute praiser of antiquarians, historians, and translators: among them was his master Camden (Epigrammes, XIV), and his friend Selden (Under-wood, XIV), Clement Edmondes (Epigrammes,CX, CXI), translator of Caesar's De Bello Gallico, and Sir Henry Savile (Epigrammes, XCV), translator and "supplier" of Tacitus's Histories. In several poems he presents the historian's task in ways particularly relevant to Marvell on May. Both Camden and Selden are praised for their possession of the humanist historian's two prime "Graces," "skill and faith in things." This "skill" comprises several elements: a passionate desire to search out the facts, accurately following them up to their sources; good judgment in connecting the disparate and resolving the contradictory; a penetrating perception that compre- hends and exposes the intricate weave of character, motive, and event; and a style that observes decorum, adapting itself to its varying materials. The historian's "faith," though harder to define strictly, is no less essential. It involves a disinterested respect for phenomena, an assumption of the possibility of rendering them accurately and definitively in language, an honest reporting of what is discovered, and finally, a belief in the significance of the whole enterprise of learning: that the truth known and communi- cated will be good and productive of good. Thus conceived, in a manner at once Baconian and Ciceronian, the historian's task is very nearly heroic. As Jonson concludes his epigram to Savile:

Although to write be lesser then to doo, It is the next deed, and a great one too. We need a man that knowes the several1 graces Of historie, and how to apt their places; Where brevitie, where splendor, and where height, Where sweetnesse is requir'd, and where weight; We need a man, can speake of the intents, The councells, actions, orders, and events Of state, and censure them: we need his pen Can write the things, the causes, and the men. But most we need his faith (and all have you) That dares nor write things false, nor hide things true.7

And the historian's cultural purpose is in turn hardly distin- guishable from the poet's. Though the poet may be, as George Puttenham had said, both imitator and maker, it is primarily as an imitator, interpreter, and judge of words and actions "such as men do use" that Jonson presents himself. Both the mimetic poet and the historian act as "translators" rather than makers of their subjects, the materials of experience, whether public or private, only becoming "history" and "poetry" through acts of translation into forms and traditions of discourse in which they assume meaning, may be understood, and judged.*

The translator must of course be faithful to his original, and in Jonson's opinion (and practice) this means as closely literal a translation as possible. His constricted idea of translation accords with his relatively loose view of the original relation between language and thought. For a poet who first wrote out all his compositions in prose as "his master Cambden had Learned him" (Conversations with Drummond, lines 377-78), what is most characteristic, most meaningful, resides not only in "content" or "intention" but also in specific determinative choices consciously made-that is, in the actual words and turns of phrase-with which a writer has chosen to express his meaning. This literalism also applies, mutatis mutandis, to the "translation" of historical events, as evidenced, for example, by the thorough attempt at literal fidelity to Cicero's and others' recorded words and actions in Catiline.

That the subject of translation, and of Jonson's view of translation, was on Marvell's mind at this time is clear from the poem "To his Worthy Friend Doctor Witty upon his Translation of the Popular Errors," published in 1651. Marvel1 is very much aware of "the commending of a translator" as a poetic occasion that Jonson had made his own. Thus after a magisterial opening,

Sit further, and make room for thine own fame, Where just desert enrolles thy honour'd Name The good Interpreter,

the speaker as judge proceeds, in the best Jonsonian manner, to the dispraise of "ill Translators," who fail either by "obscuring" the original sense (and thus "make the Book their own") or by attempting to "add such lustre" of their own that they "Much of the precious Metal rub away." Defect and excess are equally to blame; the "good Interpreter" will instead earn, as Witty has, the epigrammatic (and most Jonsonian) praise with which the poem closes:

You have Translations statutes best fulfil'd, That handling neither sully nor would guild.


It comes as no surprise, then, that "Jonson's" primary function in "Tom May's Death," a poem of "the translator translated" should be to "translate" May fully and properly. And this in several ways. "Jonson" first "gently" parodies the opening of May's Lucan, the stirring

Warres more than civil1 on Aemathian plaines We sing; rage licensd; where great Rome distaines In her owne bowels her victorious sword^;^


Cups more then civil of Emathian wine,

I sing (said he) and the Pharsalian Sign,

Where the Historian of the Common-wealth

In his own Bowels sheath'd the conquering health.

(lines 21 -24)

This reductive, mock-heroic "translation" of May's own transla- tion of Lucan's "translation" of the ambiguous events and personalities of the Roman civil war into an equally ambiguous epic poem introduces this poem's largest concern: how far we are at this moment-Marvel1 contemplating May, the "translator" would-be of the English civil war-from any simple or satisfying idea of the heroic. More immediately, it shows May that he is not simply waking up once again from a dead drunk, but is in fact dead; and indicates to us both the main charge against him, his breach of the historian's "faith," and the intellectual and moral suicide that breach has entailed. For May is a renegade Son of Ben, one who, in Clarendon's words,

fell from his Duty, and all his former Friends; and prostituted himself to the vile Office of celebrating the infamous Acts of those who were in Rebellion against the King; which He did so meanly, that He seemed to all Men to have lost his Wits, when He left his Honesty.lo

May, clumsily pressing "for his place among the learned throng," still requires a stern lecture on his false "translating," including, in the first place, the several aspects of his broken faith: the "servile" behavior and "mercenary" motives, the "fixed" "malice" arising from thwarted ambition, the "prostitution" of and "apostasy" from the "art" he had professed. But he is also indicted for lack of skill: the lazy, false "similitudes" he "obtrudes" upon the unwary, misconceiving and misrepresenting current history by means of too direct, too continuous analogies between the Roman and English experiences:

Foul Architect, [who had] not Eye to see

How ill the measures of these States agree.

(lines 5 1-52)

As John S. Coolidge has observed, nothing could be more contrary to Marvell's own precise, pointed use, in the "Horatian Ode" and elsewhere, of similarities that "call to mind points of dissimilarity as well."" For it is only through the willingness to distinguish past from present, to distinguish what has changed from what has not, that a "usable past" can be recovered.lZ An historian unable or unwilling to make such distinctions sinks easily enough into a mere "chronicler to Spartacus" (line 74), the sting in the charge lying less in "Spartacus" than in "chronicler," with its implied abandonment of the poet/historian's responsibility not simply to record (or to analogize) "one damn thing after another," but to translate events to a realm of moral, political, or theological significance and understanding.

The poem presents a double portrait: first, of the inadequate and faithless May, the "drunken" and insensate man who misses entirely the actual pain and possible significance of this critical moment; second, of an heroic poet/historian who fights both to preserve the best of the past ("ancient Rights") and to defend a continuous, changeless good ("forsaken Vertues cause"). This lesson in contrasts is of course quite lost on the wandering-eyed May, who, incapable of response, either to the charges or to the "irrevocable sentence" passed on him, simply vanishes "in a cloud of pitch." Yet for the reader the oblivious, unintelligible May has been definitively placed, "translated," both into a lower place, Hell, where, as a false translator he is appropriately punished with literalism ("'Tis just what Torments Poets ere did feign, / Thou first Historically shouldst sustain" [lines 95-96]), but also into a higher language in which who he is and what he means has been, in strict Jonsonian fashion, clarified, measured, and judged.

Jonson is useful to Marvell, then, not only as a convenient Rhadamanthus of neoclassical tradition and authority, but also for his view of the special fidelity in "translationH-to the subject and to the audience-required of both poet and historian. And further, his presence bears on one of the poem's most puzzling aspects: the lumping of Lucan with the barbarian sackers of Rome and with the likes of Polydore Vergil-a historian who, so the libel ran, prudently burned his sources when his book was done.*3 How has the "divine Lucan" (as Jonson once called him) deserved this? Next to Horace, Lucan should be the classical predecessor most useful to a Marvell coming to terms with the "horror" of civil war, the continuing transvaluation of values in which primary social virtues such as loyalty and courage seem to turn upon themselves and become vices, and in which the effort to estimate actions by some coherent moral calculus threatens to break down entirely. Indeed, Lucan (and May) had provided important hints for the balanced characterization of Cromwell in the "Horatian Ode," which draws upon elements in Lucan's Caesar for the initial presentation of Cromwell's restless and resistless force (Pharsalia Bk. 1, line 144) and upon May's Continuation of the Pharsalia for the final reassurance that no usurpation is intended.14

But Jonson's mature view of Lucan, expressed to Drummond, is also instructive here: "That Lucan taken in parts was Good divided, read alltogidder merited not the name of a Poet" (Conv., lines 66-67).15 At the time of this comment, Jonson had already made use of Lucan for several special effects. He had, for example, relied on the description of one of Caesar's captains at Pharsalia for the climactic death of the brave, bad Catiline, and on the thrilling description of Erictho for details of the witchcraft in the Masque of Queens.16 Most telling, however, is "A speech out of Lucane" (Ungathered Verse, L), his translation of a characteristic and revealing passage in the Pharsalia (Bk. 8, lines 484-95), parts of which he used in Sejanus (Act 11, lines 178-87). In this speech, Pothinus, adviser to king Ptolemy of Egypt, cynically urges the murder of the defeated Pompey, now wandering in search of refuge:

Just and fit actions, Ptolemey (he saith)
make many, hurt themselves; a praysed faith
Is her owne scourge, when it sustaines their states
whom fortune hath deprest; come nere the fates
and the immortal1 gods; love only those
whom thou seest happy; wretches flee as foes:
Looke how the starres from earth, or seas from flames
are distant, so is proffitt from just aymes.
The mayne comaund of scepters, soone doth perishe
if it begyn religious thoughts to cherish;
whole armyes fall, swayd by those nyce respects.
It is a lycense to doe ill, protectes
Even states most hated, when no lawes resist
the sword, but that it acteth what it list.
Yet ware; thou mayst do all things cruellie:
not safe; but when thou dost them thoroughlie:
he that will honest be, may quitt the Court,
Virtue, and Soveraigntie, they not consort./
That prince that shames a tyrants name to beare,
shall never dare do any thing but feare./'7

This "Machiavellian" passage goes to the heart of Lucan the historian and Lucan the poet, an anti-Vergil writing an anti- Aeneid, a brilliant, sensational opportunist of character, incident, and effect who follows "fate" and "fortune" in his poetry. Robert Graves, summming up the traditional indictment, finds him guilty of "impatience with craftsmanship, digressive irrelevances, emphasis on the macabre, lack of religious conviction, turgid hyperbole, inconsistency, appeal to violence, and occasional flashes of real brillian~e."'~ Though the Pharsalia is ostensibly written to champion the cause of Pompey and "old Rome," it celebrates (even as it blames) the more vigorous, dramatic, and successful Caesar, and incidentally flatters Nero, Caesar's heir.'g Has Lucan a hero at all? Pompey? Caesar? the Cato who too late draws his sword in "forsaken Vertue's [not Pompey's] cause"? or simply the fortunate soldiers in Spain whose early defeat removes them from the "horror" of civil war (Bk. 4, lines 382-401)?No heroism of a Vergilian sort is even conceivable, for there is in Lucan no higher language, no superior interpretive frame, into which human action and passion may be translated: "In very truth there are no gods who govern mankind: though we say falsely that Jupiter reigns, blind chance sweeps the world along" (Bk. 7, lines 445-47),20-and his story, amid many digressions and dispro- portions, is left finally incomplete, its point uncertain. The poet himself alternates between helpless, handwringing commiseration with those caught up in the moral chaos of the civil war, and his

own esthetic delight in recounting a story so exhilarating, so filled with vivid scenes and moments. In so doing, he achieves what has been called a "rhetorical epic," in which intensity of imagination and a high verbal gloss come to dominate all other motives and effects.Z1 Thus good in part, altogether nothing; some skill, but little faith. Despite his "idealistic" protestations, the stance assumed on behalf of "wretched good" that the Pharsalia supports occasionally and undermines continually, Lucan is finally anti- thetical to the ideal poet described by Marvell's Jonson.

Tom May figures here not only as Lucan's translator and continuer but as an avatar who has "translated" and "continued" Lucan all too well. The best that might be said of him was said by Aubrey, who observed that "His translation of Lucan's excellent Poeme made him in love with the Republique, which Tang stuck by him."*2 A sympathetic modern biographer, searching out evidence of May's early protestant and republican convictions, has attempted to portray him as "one of the more solid and reputable citizens in the republic of English letters in the first half of the seventeenth cent~ry."~3

But the general judgment, then and since, has followed Clarendon in finding him a time-serving follower of fate and fortune, betrayer of his friends and of the king who had extensively patronized him. Those closely comparing his 1647 and 1650 accounts of the rebellion and civil war might even have detected a further shift in his allegiance from the Parliament and its leaders to the army and the independent^.^^ Yet most of this would have been old news by the time of May's death in 1650. Whence Marvell's apparent passion and bitterness in the case?

Something must of course be conceded to the "rough" manners of satire, and something more might be ascribed to an unknown personal grudge. But I think there are sufficient reasons within the poem and its known circumstances to account for the tone. First, Marvell's outrage at the disproportionate funeral honors paid to May by the Parliament: Is this partisan scribbler to be laid next to Chaucer and Spenser? To such an abuse of "the public gravity," such a mis-translation to Westminster Abbey, the poem serves as a sharp corrective.

Second is May's hypocrisy, his pose as an honest historian, frankly committed to a cause, but trying his best to tell the truth in difficult and debatable circumstances. In the introduction to his History (1647), for example, May shows himself well aware of the dangerous temptation to play false with the reader, to abuse the historian's presumed "skill and faith" by writing what he calls "partial History," against the "unexpected stroke" of which "the ward is not so ready, as against that Polemike writing, in which Hostility is professed with open face."25 Yet this agonistic con- ception of the relation of the historian to his audience shows how little remains of the humanist historian's "faith" in the possibility of "true'' history; and May, though "endeavouring" to "avoid" the "fault" of partiality, is finally constrained by the exigencies of fortune:

But it is my misfortune to undertake a subject that is of

such a nature that really to avoid partiality in treating it is

not very easie: but to escape the suspicion, or censure, of

falling into it, is almost impossible for the cleerest integrity

that ever wrote.

(pp. xv-xvi)

And he goes on to entreat the reader to "call that [history] the best, which is the least bad." May's disarming candor sounds well enough, particularly to a time like ours that finds the assumptions of the humanist historians naive (and often betrayed in fact), and embraces as natural and inevitable May's contrary assumption that the business of history is less "proper translation" for the common benefit than persuasive polemic on behalf of cause or party. But in context his apparent moderation is more than a little disingenuous; and it has been justly observed that "May deserves praise rather for the moderation of his language than for the independence of his views."26 For he proceeds to give a clearly tendentious account of English liberty lost (like the Roman) at the hands of those, like Charles I, in whom "private affections" prevailed "against the publike," defended and restored by those, like Queen Elizabeth and the Parliament, who "helpe the Lord against the Mighty."27 May the "honorable partisan" thus presents a large target to the satirist, and the puncturing of his pretense to honesty, performed by Jonson, "sworn enemy to all that do pretend," gives the poem its energy and bite.

Finally, the proper interpretive "translating" of May has pro- voked a meditation on the relation of poetry and history to political events, a meditation in which an heroic possibility is momentarily glimpsed:

When the Sword glitters ore the Judges head,

And fear has Coward Churchmen silenced,

Then is the Poets time, 'tis then he drawes,

And single fights forsaken Vertues cause.

He, when the wheel of Empire, whirleth back,

And though the World's disjointed Axel crack, Sings still of ancient Rights and better Times,

Seeks wretched good, arraigns successful Crimes.

(lines 63-70)

One of the ironies here is that this ideal statement owes something to Lucan's praise of Cato, who only takes up his sword once Pompey's and the republic's cause have been lost.28 Moreover, these stirring words are spoken not by Marvell in propria persona, but by Jonson; and further, by the shade, the spirit, the Idea of Jonson, and not (quite) as he was. Here is the most ambitious conception of the poet as cultural hero, who alone preserves civilization when both tower and temple come crashing down. This was a role Jonson often attempted in the poems and masques, enacting or presenting some vision of the golden age amid the age of gold. Surely, we feel, there must be some mind and sensibility that can, like the Cicero of Jonson's Catiline, hold together what is best and most essential in a culture, despite the failure of its institutions, a poet or historian who can translate mere facts and fate-discordant, brutal, indifferent to human life and hopes- into some discourse, some song in which our lives, despite suffering, assume or retain meaning, purpose, beauty.

But of this Idea of a Poet, actual poets in compromised and compromising circumstances always have (and will) come short: Vergil, Horace, Lucan, Jonson struggling all his life to maintain his "manliness," not to mention poor May-and not to forget Marvell. Held to such a standard, even the great "Horatian Ode" may seem evasive and equivocal, acknowledging the king's "ancient Rights" while giving them over as indefensible, arraigning the "successful Crime," yet guardedly praising the successful criminal, its author a more poised and wary Lucan, but a Lucan still, and not the Jonsonian poet/historian whose "faith" is such that he "dares nor write things false, nor hide things true."


Marvell, like Horace, declines the heroic. Jonson tried to write as a soldier might take a town or a statesman conclude a treaty: the poem a public action with a public purpose and effect. For Marvell, particularly in 1650, the case is much less clear. Is it the times that are at fault? The times are bad enough: to Lucan's horror at the moral and imaginative chaos of civil war has been added the Hobbesian possibility of war more than civil, a war not only of individuals or parties but of ideas and "languages," as the perpetual, even the natural condition of human life. If history assumes the form of tragedy, or worse yet, refuses to assume any definite form, what can the poet/historian do? Can "arts" and "eloquence" still be, as Jonson had assured May in 1627, "th'interpreters twixt godds, and men"? Or is satisfactory interpre- tation and "translation" no longer available-except as a Horatian balancing of claims, responses, and possibilities? "Tom May's Death" has been read as recognizing the necessity of the poet's entering the arena of action;29 or as providing a theoretical validation of his having done so in the "Horatian Ode."30 It seems to me rather that the energies run in another direction, and that the later and lesser poem more likely puts in question the moral adequacy of the earlier and greater. This need not, I think, lead us to any new conclusions about Marvell's politics. "Tom May's Death" displays, without examining, the same Royalist sympathies that provide the ground on which the nuanced and ambivalent appreciation of Cromwell in the "Horatian Ode" is so carefully, deliberately built.

The poem raises first the question of the adequacy of poetry (and history) to "translate" politics in a time of revolutionary change- this, despite all the contrary evidence of past failures and com- promises, is, in the voice of Jonson, triumphantly affirmed. Second, it questions the adequacy of poets and historians to their own high calling-and this, as with all things that "do hold or break / As Men are strong or weak" ("Horatian Ode," lines 39-40), remains in doubt. Here the subject is not only political and cultural, but, by inference, personal. It has been said that Marvell is "never more fierce than when a hit is close."31 What makes this one close is not, I think, any "regret" for the "Horatian Ode" but a keen awareness of Marvell's own inability, an inability (like May's) both contextual and temperamental, to fulfill such exalted notions of the poet's and historian's task.

"Tom May's Death" presents us with striking inversions of two of Marvell's most characteristic strategies. First, the customary sly, superior evocation and revision of past poets and genres is here transformed, by the specific evocation of Jonson and the tradition of humanist "translation" for which he speaks, into a prophetic judgment of the past upon the present. And the poem's private exercise of what should be a public function-as John Carey observes, it was, so far as we know, neither printed nor circulated and Marvell is apparently "haranguing an empty room"32measures the distance between Jonson and Marvell. Second, the poem describes yet another invasion of the pastoral, not however the usual sardonic or elegiac invasion of past simplicities by current complexities, but the invasion of a certain kind of current moral obliviousness-the Pope's Head Alley "pastoral" of easy analogies, banal tendentiousness, and self-congratulation of those who, like May, have settled for too simple a story-by an earlier vision of poetry and history more complex and more demanding.

Yet once these inversions have been accomplished, it is not clear how much ground is left for the poet himself to stand on. Marvell here confronts a "great poet" and a "great idea." In other such poems-like that to Doctor Witty, which includes, between the magisterial opening and close of a Jonsonian epigram, a playful Marvellian excursion on Celia; or in the poem in praise of Milton's Paradise Lost, where he similarly finds himself "transported by the ModeM-there is a controlling, ironic acknowledgement of his own lesser gifts. In "Tom May's Death," however, it is Jonson's voice that dominates, "translating" May, enabling us to under- stand and judge him, and inviting us finally to wonder how the "translator" of May, Marvell in the mind of Jonson, understood and judged himself.


'The poem appears in Miscellaneous Poems (1681), but is omitted from Bodleian MS. Eng. poet. d. 49. For discussion (and opposed conclusions) see George de F. Lord, Andrew Maruell: Complete Poetry (New York: Random House, 1968), p. xxii; and Warren L. Chernaik, The Poet's Time: Politics and Religion in the Work of Andrew Marvell (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1983), pp. 206-209.

2The Poems and Letters of Andrew Marvell, ed. H. M. Margoliouth, 3rd edn., rev. Pierre Legouis and E.E. Duncan-Jones, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971); hereafter cited as Legouis. Annabel Patterson points out that in Miscellaneous Poems the poem presented an even more "shocking anomaly ," following "The Picture of Little T.C. in a Prospect of Flowers." "Jonson, Marvell, and Miscellaneity?" in Neil Fraistat, ed., Poems in Their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1986), p. 110.

3Lines 85-89 have often been thought to suggest at least a retouching in 1661, on the occasion of the removal of May's remains from Westminster Abbey.

'On the difficulty of "graphing" Marvell's political beliefs, see Judith Richards, "Literary Criticism and the Historian: Towards Reconstructine


Marvell's Meaning in 'An Horatian Ode,'" L&H 7, 1 (Spring 1981): 2561, 39-44. jChristine Rees has also discussed Jonson's presence in the poem, but finds the references to him mostly o~~ortunistic

("'Tom Mav's Death' and Ben Jonson's Ghost: A Study of ~ar;~ll's Satiric Method,'' MLR 71,3 [July 19761: 481-88).

GQuotations of Jonson are from the edition of C.H. Herford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson, Ben Jonson, 11 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925-52), hereafter cited as H&S; I have modernized the use of i/j and u/v, but retain Jonson's Roman numeration of his poems. The poem on May is at 8:395.

7Epigrammes, XCV, lines 25-36.

5ee Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth- Century Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1973), on "encoding."

gLegouis, 1:305. loEdward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, Life, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1759), 1:35.

"John S. Coolidge, "Marvell and Horace," in George de F. Lord, ed., Andrew Maruell: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice- Hall, 1968), pp. 85-100, 88.

l2And of course the need to use the past in current controversy accelerated the perception of change; see Arthur B. Ferguson, Clio Unbound: Perception of the Social and Cultural Past in Renaissance England (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1979).

lSLegouis, 1 :305.

"Franklin G. Burroughs, Jr., observes that "suspended in the Cromwell of the 'Ode' are both republican and royalist conceptions of Caesar; Marvell does not predict which will prevail." "Marvell's Cromwell and May's Caesar: 'An Horatian Ode' and the Continuation of the Pharsalia," ELN 13,2 (December 1975): 115-22, 122.

I5H&S, 1: 134.

I6Catiline, Act V, lines 638 ff. (H&S, 5547-48; 10:160); Masque of Queens (H&S, 7:292). 17H&S, 8:422-23. I8Lucan, Pharsalia: Dramatic Episodes of the Civil Wars, trans. Robert

Graves (Baltimore: Penguin, 1957), pp. 23-24.

IgThe poem has been ably defended by Frederick M. Ahl, Lucan: An Introduction (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1976), who sees it as embodying, despite the complicating constraints of a "totalitarian society" and of Lucan's own ambivalence toward the Caesars, a consistent vision of the "perpetual struggle between libertas and Caesarism" (p. 332). This might well have been (or have become) Lucan's "mature" intent, but the poem we have does not, I think, quite fulfill it.

20Quoted from J.D. Duff's translation, Lucan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1957). Ah1 argues that the omission of the gods is primarily tactical: "Lucan had to expel the Olympians from the Pharsalia . . . to avoid conceding a distinct rhetorical advantage to the thoroughly mythologized [by Vergil] Julian clan" (Introduction,p. 69).

z1For "rhetorical epic" see M.P.O. Morford, The Poet Lucan (Oxford: Blackwell, 1967). 22John Aubrey, Aubrey's Brief Lives, ed. Oliver Lawson Dick (London: Secker and Warburg, 1950), p. 197.

2Ullan Griffith Chester, Thomas May: Man of Letters, 1595-1650 (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1932), p. 5. See also Blair Worden's inclusion of May-along with, among others, Milton and Marvell-in a group of "classical republicans," "Classical Republicanism and the Puritan Revolution," in History & Imagination: Essays in Honor of H.R. Trevor- Roper, ed. Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Valerie Pearl, and Blair Worden (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1982), pp. 182-200.

Z4See Gerard Reedy, S.J., '"An Horatian Ode' and 'Tom May's Death,'" SEL 20, 1 (Winter 1980): 137-51. 25Thomas May, The History of the Parliament of England (rpt. London, 1812), p. xv. 26The Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Sir Leslie Stephen and Sir Sidney Lee, 22 vols. (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1917-), 13:145.

27May,History, pp. 5, 2.

?gChernaik, Poet's Time, p. 181.

29Robert Wilcher, ed., Andrew Marvell, Selected Poetry and Prose (London: Methuen, 1986), pp. 199-200. 30Coolidge, "Marvell and Horace," pp. 98-100. 31Ann E. Berthoff, The Resolued Soul: A Study of Maruell's Major Poems

(Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1970), p. 210. j2John Carey, Andrew Maruell: A Critical Anthology (Baltimore: Penguin, 1969), p. 22.

  • Recommend Us