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The religious geography of Marvell’s “An Horatian Ode”: popery, presbytery, and parti-coloured picts

Mottram, Stewart


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Dr Stewart Mottram
Director of Research, School of Humanities, and Reader in English Literature


Marvell’s “Ode” (1650) is an English poem about a British problem – a problem further problematized by religion. The “Ode” lauds Cromwell’s Irish and Scottish campaigns, but English responses to these “colonial” wars were in reality complicated by protestant infighting among presbyterians, independents, and sectarians. Writers like Milton and Nedham rallied English support for Cromwell’s Irish campaign by recycling Spenserian stereotypes of Irish catholic barbarity. But Milton and Nedham also undercut English protestant unity by flinging these same anti-catholic stereotypes at Scottish presbyterians in Belfast and Edinburgh. Departing from previous studies, this article argues that Marvell’s “Ode” eschews Milton and Nedham’s anti-Presbyterianism in ways calculated to elide, rather than divide, protestant communities. The article explores how the “Ode” presents Cromwell’s Irish and Scottish campaigns as exclusively anti-catholic (rather than anti-presbyterian) crusades, comparing Marvell’s presentation of Cromwell in the “Ode” with his identification of Cromwell as an anti-catholic crusader in “First Anniversary” (1655). Both poems anticipate in this respect Marvell’s later anti-catholic, but pro-nonconformist, approach to Ireland in Rehearsal transpros’d (1672-1673). The article is therefore concerned to root Marvell’s post-Restoration commitment to protestant tolerationism within the anti-catholic language of the “Ode”.


Mottram, S. (2018). The religious geography of Marvell’s “An Horatian Ode”: popery, presbytery, and parti-coloured picts. Seventeenth Century, 33(4), 441-461.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 11, 2018
Online Publication Date Sep 17, 2018
Publication Date Aug 8, 2018
Deposit Date Jul 6, 2018
Publicly Available Date Feb 9, 2020
Print ISSN 0268-117X
Electronic ISSN 2050-4616
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 4
Pages 441-461
Keywords Andrew Marvell; John Milton: Observations; Marchamont Nedham: Mercurius Politicus; Edmund Spenser: A View of the State of Ireland; Cromwell and Ireland; Cromwell and Scotland, anti-catholicism, presbyterianism
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