| Best Poems | Short Poems
Like the vain curlings of the watery maze,
Which in smooth streams a sinking weight does raise,
So Man, declining always, disappears
In the weak circles of increasing years;
And his short tumults of themselves compose,
While flowing Time above his head does close.
Cromwell alone with greater vigour runs,
(Sun-like) the stages of succeeding suns:
And still the day which he doth next restore,
Is the just wonder of the day before.
Cromwell alone doth with new lustre spring,
And shines the jewel of the yearly ring.
'Tis he the force of scattered time contracts,
And in one year the work of ages acts:
While heavy monarchs make a wide return,
Longer, and more malignant than Saturn:
And though they all Platonic years should reign,
In the same posture would be found again.
Their earthy projects under ground they lay,
More slow and brittle than the China clay:
Well may they strive to leave them to their son,
For one thing never was by one king done.
Yet some more active for a frontier town,
Taken by proxy, beg a false renown;
Another triumphs at the public cost,
And will have won, if he no more have lost;
They fight by others, but in person wrong,
And only are against their subjects strong;
Their other wars seem but a feigned cont?st,
This common enemy is still oppressed;
If conquerors, on them they turn their might;
If conquered, on them they wreak their spite:
They neither build the temple in their days,
Nor matter for succeeding founders raise;
Nor sacred prophecies consult within,
Much less themself to p?fect them begin;
No other care they bear of things above,
But with astrologers divine of Jove
To know how long their planet yet reprieves
From the deserv?d fate their guilty lives:
Thus (image-like) an useless time they tell,
And with vain sceptre strike the hourly bell,
Nor more contribute to the state of things,
Than wooden heads unto the viol's strings.
While indefatigable Cromwell hies,
And cuts his way still nearer to the skies,
Learning a music in the region clear,
To tune this lower to that higher sphere.
So when Amphion did the lute command,
Which the god gave him, with his gentle hand,
The rougher stones, unto his measures hewed,
Danced up in order from the quarries rude;
This took a lower, that an higher place,
As he the treble altered, or the bass:
No note he struck, but a new stone was laid,
And the great work ascended while he played.
The listening structures he with wonder eyed,
And still new stops to various time applied:
Now through the strings a martial rage he throws,
And joining straight the Theban tower arose;
Then as he strokes them with a touch more sweet,
The flocking marbles in a palace meet;
But for the most the graver notes did try,
Therefore the temples reared their columns high:
Thus, ere he ceased, his sacred lute creates
Th' harmonious city of the seven gates.
Such was that wondrous order and consent,
When Cromwell tuned the ruling Instrument,
While tedious statesmen many years did hack,
Framing a liberty that still went back,
Whose numerous gorge could swallow in an hour
That island, which the sea cannot devour:
Then our Amphion issued out and sings,
And once he struck, and twice, the powerful strings.
The Commonwealth then first together came,
And each one entered in the willing frame;
All other matter yields, and may be ruled;
But who the minds of stubborn men can build?
No quarry bears a stone so hardly wrought,
Nor with such labour from its centre brought;
None to be sunk in the foundation bends,
Each in the house the highest place contends,
And each the hand that lays him will direct,
And some fall back upon the architect;
Yet all composed by his attractive song,
Into the animated city throng.
The Commonwealth does through their centres all
Draw the circumference of the public wall;
The crossest spirits here do take their part,
Fastening the contignation which they thwart;
And they, whose nature leads them to divide,
Uphold this one, and that the other side;
But the most equal still sustain the height,
And they as pillars keep the work upright,
While the resistance of oppos?d minds,
The fabric (as with arches) stronger binds,
Which on the basis of a senate free,
Knit by the roof's protecting weight, agree.
When for his foot he thus a place had found,
He hurls e'er since the world about him round,
And in his several aspects, like a star,
Here shines in peace, and thither shoots in war,
While by his beams observing princes steer,
And wisely court the influence they fear.
O would they rather by his pattern won
Kiss the approaching, not yet angry Son;
And in their numbered footsteps humbly tread
The path where holy oracles do lead;
How might they under such a captain raise
The great designs kept for the latter days!
But mad with reason (so miscalled) of state
They know them not, and what they know not, hate.
Hence still they sing hosanna to the whore,
And her, whom they should massacre, adore:
But Indians, whom they would convert, subdue;
Nor teach, but traffic with, or burn the Jew.
Unhappy princes, ignorantly bred,
By malice some, by error more misled,
If gracious heaven to my life give length,
Leisure to time, and to my weaknes strength,
Then shall I once with graver accents shake
Your regal sloth, and your long slumbers wake:
Like the shrill huntsman that prevents the east,
Winding his horn to kings that chase the beast.
Till then my muse shall hollo far behind
Angelic Cromwell who outwings the wind,
And in dark nights, and in cold days alone
Pursues the monster through every throne:
Which shrinking to her Roman den impure,
Gnashes her gory teeth; nor there secure.
Hence oft I think if in some happy hour
High grace should meet in one with highest power,
And then a seasonable people still
Should bend to his, as he to heaven's will,
What we might hope, what wonderful effect
From such a wished conjuncture might reflect.
Sure, the mysterious work, where none withstand,
Would forthwith finish under such a hand:
Foreshortened time its useless course would stay,
And soon precipitate the latest day.
But a thick cloud about that morning lies,
And intercepts the beams of mortal eyes,
That 'tis the most which we determine can,
If these the times, then this must be the man.
And well he therefore does, and well has guessed,
Who in his age has always forward pressed:
And knowing not where heaven's choice may light,
Girds yet his sword, and ready stand to fight;
But men, alas, as if they nothing cared,
Look on, all unconcerned, or unprepared;
And stars still fall, and still the dragon's tail
Swinges the volumes of its horrid flail.
For the great justice that did first suspend
The world by sin, does by the same extend.
Hence that blest day still counterpos?d wastes,
The ill delaying what the elected hastes;
Hence landing nature to new seas is tossed,
And good designs still with their authors lost.
And thou, great Cromwell, for whose happy birth
A mould was chosen out of better earth;
Whose saint-like mother we did lately see
Live out an age, long as a pedigree;
That she might seem (could we the Fall dispute),
T' have smelled the blossom, and not eat the fruit;
Though none does of more lasting parents grow,
Yet never any did them honour so,
Though thou thine heart from evil still unstained,
And always hast thy tongue from fraud refrained;
Thou, who so oft through storms of thundering lead
Hast born securely thine undaunted head,
Thy breast through poniarding conspiracies,
Drawn from the sheath of lying prophecies;
Thee proof behond all other force or skill,
Our sins endanger, and shall one day kill.
How near they failed, and in thy sudden fall
At once assayed to overturn us all.
Our brutish fury struggling to be free,
Hurried thy horses while they hurried thee,
When thou hadst almost quit thy mortal cares,
And soiled in dust thy crown of silver hairs.
Let this one sorrow interweave among
The other glories of our yearly song.
Like skilful looms, which through the costly thread
Of purling ore, a shining wave do shed:
So shall the tears we on past grief employ,
Still as they trickle, glitter in our joy.
So with more modesty we may be true,
And speak, as of the dead, the praises due:
While impious men deceived with pleasure short,
On their own hopes shall find the fall retort.
But the poor beasts, wanting their noble guide,
(What could they more?) shrunk guiltily aside.
First wing?d fear transports them far away,
And leaden sorrow then their flight did stay.
See how they each his towering crest abate,
And the green grass, and their known mangers hate,
Nor through wide nostrils snuff the wanton air,
Nor their round hoofs, or curl?d manes compare;
With wandering eyes, and restless ears they stood,
And with shrill neighings asked him of the wood.
Thou, Cromwell, falling, not a stupid tree,
Or rock so savage, but it mourned for thee:
And all about was heard a panic groan,
As if that Nature's self were overthrown.
It seemed the earth did from the centre tear;
It seemed the sun was fall'n out of the sphere:
Justice obstructed lay, and reason fooled;
Courage disheartened, and religion cooled.
A dismal silence through the palace went,
And then loud shrieks the vaulted marbles rent,
Such as the dying chorus sings by turns,
And to deaf seas, and ruthless tempests mourns,
When now they sink, and now the plundering streams
Break up each deck, and rip the oaken seams.
But thee triumphant hence the fiery car,
And fiery steeds had borne out of the war,
From the low world, and thankless men above,
Unto the kingdom blest of peace and love:
We only mourned ourselves, in thine ascent,
Whom thou hadst left beneath with mantle rent.
For all delight of life thou then didst lose,
When to command, thou didst thyself dispose;
Resigning up thy privacy so dear,
To turn the headstrong people's charioteer;
For to be Cromwell was a greater thing,
Then ought below, or yet above a king:
Therefore thou rather didst thyself depress,
Yielding to rule, because it made thee less.
For neither didst thou from the first apply
Thy sober spirit unto things too high,
But in thine own fields exercised'st long,
An healthful mind within a body strong;
Till at the seventh time thou in the skies,
As a small cloud, like a man's hand, didst rise;
Then did thick mists and winds the air deform,
And down at last thou poured'st the fertile storm,
Which to the thirsty land did plenty bring,
But, though forewarned, o'ertook and wet the King.
What since he did, an higher force him pushed
Still from behind, and yet before him rushed,
Though undiscerned among the tumult blind,
Who think those high decrees by man designed.
'Twas heaven would not that his power should cease,
But walk still middle betwixt war and peace:
Choosing each stone, and poising every weight,
Trying the measures of the breadth and height;
Here pulling down, and there erecting new,
Founding a firm state by proportions true.
When Gideon so did from the war retreat,
Yet by the conquest of two kings grown great,
He on the peace extends a warlike power,
And Israel silent saw him raze the tower;
And how he Succorth's Elders durst suppress,
With thorns and briars of the wilderness.
No king might ever such a force have done;
Yet would not he be Lord, nor yet his son.
Thou with the same strength, and an heart as plain,
Didst (like thine olive) still refuse to reign,
Though why should others all thy labour spoil,
And brambles be anointed with thine oil,
Whose climbing flame, without a timely stop,
Had quickly levelled every cedar's top?
Therefore first growing to thyself a law,
Th' ambitious shrubs thou in just time didst awe.
So have I seen at sea, when whirling winds,
Hurry the bark, but more the seamen's minds,
Who with mistaken course salute the sand,
And threatening rocks misapprehend for land,
While baleful Tritons to the shipwreck guide,
And corposants along the tackling slide,
The passengers all wearied out before,
Giddy, and wishing for the fatal shore,
Some lusty mate, who with more careful eye
Counted the hours, and every star did spy,
The help does from the artless steersman strain,
And doubles back unto the safer main.
What though a while they grumble discontent,
Saving himself, he does their loss prevent.
'Tis not a freedom, that where all command;
Nor tyranny, where one does them withstand:
But who of both the bounder knows to lay
Him as their father must the state obey.
Thou, and thine house (like Noah's eight) did rest,
Left by the wars' flood on the mountains' crest:
And the large vale lay subject to thy will
Which thou but as an husbandman wouldst till:
And only didst for others plant the vine
Of liberty, not drunken with its wine.
That sober liberty which men may have,
That they enjoy, but more they vainly crave:
And such as to their parents' tents do press,
May show their own, not see his nakedness.
Yet such a Chammish issue still does rage,
The shame and plague both of the land and age,
Who watched thy halting, and thy fall deride,
Rejoicing when thy foot had slipped aside,
That their new king might the fifth sceptre shake,
And make the world, by his example, quake:
Whose frantic army should they want for men
Might muster heresies, so one were ten.
What thy misfortune, they the spirit call,
And their religion only is to fall.
Oh Mahomet! now couldst thou rise again,
Thy falling-sickness should have made thee reign,
While Feake and Simpson would in many a tome,
Have writ the comments of thy sacred foam:
For soon thou mightst have passed among their rant
Were't but for thine unmov?d tulipant;
As thou must needs have owned them of thy band
For prophecies fit to be Alcoraned.
Accurs?d locusts, whom your king does spit
Out of the centre of the unbottomed pit;
Wanderers, adulterers, liars, Munster's rest,
Sorcerers, athiests, jesuits possessed;
You who the scriptures and the laws deface
With the same liberty as points and lace;
Oh race most hypocritically strict!
Bent to reduce us to the ancient Pict;
Well may you act the Adam and the Eve;
Ay, and the serpent too that did deceive.
But the great captain, now the danger's o'er,
Makes you for his sake tremble one fit more;
And, to your spite, returning yet alive
Does with himself all that is good revive.
So when first man did through the morning new
See the bright sun his shining race pursue,
All day he followed with unwearied sight,
Pleased with that other world of moving light;
But thought him when he missed his setting beams,
Sunk in the hills, or plunged below the streams.
While dismal blacks hung round the universe,
And stars (like tapers) burned upon his hearse:
And owls and ravens with their screeching noise
Did make the funerals sadder by their joys.
His weeping eyes the doleful vigils keep,
Not knowing yet the night was made for sleep;
Still to the west, where he him lost, he turned,
And with such accents as despairing mourned:
`Why did mine eyes once see so bright a ray;
Or why day last no longer than a day?'
When straight the sun behind him he descried,
Smiling serenely from the further side.
So while our star that gives us light and heat,
Seemed now a long and gloomy night to threat,
Up from the other world his flame he darts,
And princes (shining through their windows) starts,
Who their suspected counsellors refuse,
And credulous ambassadors accuse.
`Is this', saith one, `the nation that we read
Spent with both wars, under a captain dead,
Yet rig a navy while we dress us late,
And ere we dine, raze and rebuild their state?
What oaken forests, and what golden mines!
What mints of men, what union of designs!
(Unless their ships, do, as their fowl proceed
Of shedding leaves, that with their ocean breed).
Theirs are not ships, but rather arks of war
And beak?d promontories sailed from far;
Of floating islands a new hatch?d nest;
A fleet of worlds, of other worlds in quest;
An hideous shoal of wood-leviathans,
Armed with three tier of brazen hurricanes,
That through the centre shoot their thundering side
And sink the earth that does at anchor ride.
What refuge to escape them can be found,
Whose watery leaguers all the world surround?
Needs must we all their tributaries be,
Whose navies hold the sluices of the sea.
The ocean is the fountain of command,
But that once took, we captives are on land.
And those that have the waters for their share,
Can quickly leave us neither earth nor air.
Yet if through these our fears could find a pass,
Through double oak, and lined with treble brass,
That one man still, although but named, alarms
More than all men, all navies, and all arms.
Him, in the day, him, in late night I dread,
And still his sword seems hanging o'er my head.
The nation had been ours, but his one soul
Moves the great bulk, and animates the whole.
He secrecy with number hath enchased,
Courage with age, maturity with haste:
The valiant's terror, riddle of the wise,
And still his falchion all our knots unties.
Where did he learn those arts that cost us dear?
Where below earth, or where above the sphere?
He seems a king by long succession born,
And yet the same to be a king does scorn.
Abroad a king he seems, and something more,
At home a subject on the equal floor.
O could I once him with our title see,
So should I hope that he might die as we.
But let them write is praise that love him best,
It grieves me sore to have thus much confessed.
Pardon, great Prince, if thus their fear of spite
More than our love and duty do thee right.
I yield, nor further will the prize contend,
So that we both alike may miss our end:
While thou thy venerable head dost raise
As far above their malice as my praise,
And as the Angel of our commonweal,
Troubling the waters, yearly mak'st them heal.
Top Andrew Marvell Poems