This essay examines Andrew Marvell’s An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland in terms of its rhetorical structure. The poem has been read either as a lament for the dead king or as a praise for Cromwell. When we read the poem in terms of its rhetorical structure, we can see the political meanings of the poem clearly.
The poem has a rhetorical structure, divided into six sections: an exordium, a narratio, a propositio, a confutatio, a confirmatio and a peroratio. On the first section of exordium, the poet introduces a “forward youth,” Cromwell who abandons his private life and pursues his active life in society. Then, by way of narratio, the poet examines the political situation in the 1650s. On the third section of propositio, the poet offers an encomiastic portrait of Cromwell. He praises Cromwell for his military abilities, and next commends Cromwell’s political acumen. The fourth section of confutatio deals with a portrait of Charles I. The king he portrays is decorous in that the poet says that Charles did not do any mean thing. Then the confirmatio compares the British republic to the Roman republic, and says that the bleeding head of Charles is taken as an omen of the success of the British republic. The poet counsels support of Cromwell’s republicanism, and expects that the British republic will liberate the suppressed Protestants in Europe. Finally, the peroratio claims that Cromwell will succeed in keeping the cavaliers at bay.
In conclusion, when we read the poem in terms of its rhetorical structure, we can see that the poet advises the English people to support Cromwell and his republic, and also tries to convince Cromwell and his supporters to stick to republicanism.