Notes and Queries, March 1994 v41 n1 p79(3)

Quarles, Waller, Marvell, and the instruments of state. (Andrew Marvell's subversion of Francis Quarles and Edmund Waller poetic treatment of the state) Wilcher, Robert.

Abstract: Andrew Marvell's use of musical and architectural analogy in representation of the state is a subversion of royalist poets such as Edmund Waller and Francis Quarles. He challenges cliched categories and redefines them in the new political context of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell's leadership. His 'The first anniversary of the government under O.C.' thus becomes a eulogy of a man who is not dependent on inherited, monarchical rights to be a glorious leader.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1994 Oxford University Press

COMMENTARIES on ~The First Anniversary of the Government under O.C.' regularly draw attention to Andrew Marvell's use of a ~series of witty, elaborate musical and architectural conceits'(1) based on the familiar story of Amphion raising the walls of Thebes:

So when Amphion did the Lute command,

Which the God gave him, with his gentle hand,

The rougher Stones, unto his Measures hew'd.

Dans'd up in order from the Quarreys rude;

This took a Lower. that an Higher place,

As he the Treble alter'd, or the Base:

No Note he struck, but a new Story lay'd,

And the great Work ascended while he play'd.

(lines 49-52)(2)

After ten more lines of such descriptive ingenuity, the poet begins to apply the classical myth analogically to the achievements of Oliver Cromwell with a punning allusion to the Instrument of Government, whereby the new constitution of the Protectorate had been set up on 16 December 1653:

Such was that wondrous Order and Consent.

When Cromwell tun'd the ruling Instrument;

Then our Amphion issues out and sings,

And once he struck, and twice, the pow'rful Strings.

The Commonwealth then first together came,

And each one enter'd in the willing Frame.

lines 67-76)(3)

Ruth Nevo(4) was the first to note Marvell's debt to Edmund Waller's 1635 poem, ~Upon His Majesty's Repairing of Paul's', in which praise of the partial restoration of St Paul's Cathedral by Charles I was developed into a generalized conceit of monarchs as musicians of state:

He, like Amphion, makes those quarries leap

into fair figures from a confused heap;

For in his art of regiment is found

A power like that of harmony in sound.

Those antique minstrels sure were Charles-like kings,

Cities their lutes, and subjects' hearts their strings,

On which with so divine a hand they strook,

Consent of motion from their breath they took.

(lines 11-18)(5)

The same critic had also glanced at Marvell's practice of taking over traditional symbols from royalist rhetoric in his praise of the Protector and so giving a different value to ~the old coins crown-king-sun'.(6) These hints prompted Annabel Patterson's perception that Marvell was deliberately subverting his sources and launching ~a multiple attack on epideictic conventions, expectations, and familiar categories'.(7) In the case of the Amphion passage, he was ~replying to Waller's poem, rather than merely echoing it'; and in the case of a further allusion to Robert Herrick's ~To the King, to Cure the Evil' at the end of his anniversary tribute to Cromwell, he was implying ~a condensed and subtle rejection of all of Herrick's premises'.(8)

It seems likely that yet another example of royalist flattery from the 1630s was enlisted by Marvell in his complex strategy of reorientating inherited literary materials to meet the new political dispensation of the 1650s. In 1632, Francis Quarles had published a collection of epigrams, meditations, and observations in verse under the title Divine Fancies. Item 6 9, ~To King CHARLES', pursues an extended comparison of the state to a musical instrument played upon by its ruler and then applies it to the current monarch, with an emblematist's eye for ingenious analogy:

The Common-wealth is like an Instrument;

The divers sorts of people represent

The strings, all differing in degrees, in places;

Some trebles, and some Meanes, and some are Bases:

The potent Rulers the Musitians are;

The musicke, sometimes peace; and sometimes warre;

The Lawes are like the Ruled Bookes that lye

Before their eyes, and which they practice by:

Play on great Charles; Heav'n make thy strings as strong,

And true, as thou art skilfull: Ravish long

The world's wide eares, with thy diviner Ayres,

That whosoever to thy Land repayres,

May thence returne amaz'd, and tell the Story

Of Brittain's Triumph, in great Charles his Glory.(9)

The wit of Cromwell's panegyrist was no doubt engaged by the conjunction of music and architecture and by the idea of political harmony founded upon consent in Waller's exploitation of classical myth; but it was the ironic aptness of the image of Commonwealth as ~Instrument' in the first line of the earlier tribute to Charles I that would have had an irresistibly topical appeal towards the end of 1654. It is probable that his expansion of the Amphion material with the detail of altering the treble or the bass was suggested by Quaries's conceit of divers sorts of people' occupying their appropriate ~places' in society like the treble, mean, and bass strings of a musical instrument. This likelihood is strengthened by the coincidence of the ~place/Base' and ~places/Bases' rhymes and by traces of further borrowings from Quarles later in the poem. The metaphor of Cromwell ~in his sev'ral Aspects' as a star, which ~here shines in Peace, and thither shoots a War' (lines 101 -- 2),(10) may be an echo of those ~potent Rulers' whose music is ~sometimes peace; and sometimes warre'. More intriguing is the possibility that both the later poets responded to Quarles's concluding image of visitors from overseas returning ~amaz'd' to tell of Britain's triumphant share in the glory of its king. Waller develops the idea of foreign amazement in his penultimate couplet:

Glad, though amazed, are our neighbour kings,

To see such power employed in peaceful things.

lines 61-2)(11)

The closing movement of Marvell's poem puts a long speech of grudging wonder into the mouth of one of Waller's ~neighbour kings', but goes back to Quarles for the idea of ~credulous Ambassadors' (line 348)(12) who -- in an ironic subversion of the source -- are accused of failing to prepare their princes for the amazing triumph of a nation that could ~rase and rebuild their State(line 352)(13) and a leader whose glory does not depend upon the traditional trappings of monarchy.

(1) Warren L. Chernaik, The Poet's Time: Politics and Religion in the Work of Andrew Marvell (Cambridge, 1983), 53.
(2) The Poems and Letters of Andrew Marvell, ed. H. M. Margoliouth, 3rd edn, rev. Pierre Legouis with the collaboration of E. E. Duncan-Jones, 2 vols (Oxford, 1971). i.109-10.
(3) Ibid., i.110. In his discussion of the musical imagery in this passage, John Hollander observes that ~Marvell has clearly distinguished between the Instrument, or means, and the harmony of the state itself, or end' (see The Untuning of the Sky: Ideas of Mitsic in English Poetry 15000-1700 (Princeton, 1961), 305).
(4) See Ruth Nevo, The Dial of Virtue: A Study of Poems on Affairs of State in the Seventeenth Century (Princeton, 1963), 26 n. 7 and 111.
(5) The Poems of Edmund Waller, ed. G. Thorn Drury, 2 vols (London, 1893), i.16-17.
(6) Nevo, 113.
(7) Annabel Patterson, ~Against Polarization: Literature and Politics in Marvell's Cromwell Poems', English Literary Renaissance, v (I 975), 258,
(8) Ibid., 258, 260. in a recent note, Paul Hammond has argued for a connection between Waller's ~Upon His Majesties repairing of Pauls' and Marvell's earlier assessment of Cromwell in ~An Horatian Ode upon Cromwel's Return from Ireland' (see ~Echoes of Waller in Marvell's Horatian Ode', N&Q;, ccxxxvi (1991), 172-3).
(9) The Complete Works in Prose and Verse of Francis Quarles, ed. Rev. Alexander B. Grosart, 3 vols (repr. New York, 1967), ii.249.
(10) The poems and letters of Andrew Marvell, i.111.
(11) The Poems of Edmund Waller, i.18.
(12) The Poems and Letters of Andrew Marvell, i.117
(13) Ibid., i.117.