Poems, by Andrew Marvell

Nostradamus’ Prophecy.

For faults and follies London’s doom shall fix,

And she must sink in flames in sixty-six.

Fire-balls shall fly, but few shall see the train,

As far as from Whitehall to Pudding-lane,

To burn the city, which again shall rise,

Beyond all hopes, aspiring to the skies,

Where Vengeance dwells. But there is one thing more

(Tho its walls stand) shall bring the city low’r;

When legislators shall their trust betray.

Saving their own, shall give the rest away;10

And those false men, by the easy people sent.

Give taxes to the king by Parliament;

When barefac’d villains shall not blush to cheat,

And Chequer-doors shall shut up Lombard-street;

When players come to act the part of queens,

Within the curtains, and behind the scenes;

When sodomy shall be prime min’ster’s sport.

And whoring shall be the least crime at Court;

When boys shall take their sisters for their mate.

And practise incest between seven and eight;20

When no man knows in whom to put his trust,

And e’en to rob the Chequer shall be just;

When Declarations, lies, and every oath,

Shall be in use at Court, but faith and troth;

When two good kings shall be at Brentford town,

And when in London there shall not be one;

When the seat’s given to a talking fool,

Whom wise men laugh at, and whom women rule,

A min’ster able only in his tongue,

To make harsh empty speeches two hours long;30

When an old Scotch Covenanter shall be

The champion for the English hierarchy;

When bishops shall lay all religion by,

And strive by law t’ establish tyranny;

When a lean Treasurer shall in one year

Make himself fat, his king and people bare;

When th’ English prince shall Englishmen despise,

And think French only loyal, Irish wise;

When wooden shoon shall be the English wear.

And Magna Charta shall no more appear — 40

Then th’ English shall a greater tyrant know,

Than either Greek or Latin story show;

Their wives to’s lust expos’d, their wealth to’s spoil.

With groans, to fill his Treasury, they toil;

But like the Bellides must sigh in vain,

For that still fill’d flows out as fast again;

Then they with envious eyes shall Belgium see,

And wish in vain Venetian liberty.

The frogs too late, grown weary of their pain,

Shall pray to Jove to take him back again.50

Dates, etc, of Nostradamus’ Prophecy. From the omission of any notice of the burning of the ships in the Medway (that so inflamed Marvell), it may be supposed that this event was of somewhat earlier date than the present poem, and did not fall-in with the popular thoughts at the time it was written. The burning of London was an anti-Popish and anti-Jacobean cry, and was therefore inserted. The taxes given to the king (line 12) is probably a reference to the revised excise bill of 1671. The Exchequer doors were shut up throughout 1672 and part of 1673. If Sir Heneage Finch be the ‘talking fool’ of the Satire, he was Keeper of the Great Seal from the latter part of 1673 to 1675, and after that Chancellor under the Earl of Nottingham till 1682. The ‘lean Treasurer’ seems, as noted in B. Museum copy (see various readings immediately following this introductory Note), to have been Lord Clifford. As Sir Thomas, he was one of the Cabal Ministry, and one of the Commissioners of the Treasury; and he was made Lord Clifford and Lord High Treasurer in 1672, and resigned after the passing of the Test Act in May 1673. Hence he was L. H. Treasurer for about a year. The declarations that were not true or truly meant may refer either to the king’s declaration of indulgence in 1672, which he withdrew, and which led, through the strong feelings excited against it, to the Test Act; or to his declaration in 1674, ‘that he had been strangely misrepresented, and had no secret or dangerous agreement with France,’ such as some represented he had made in 1670 at Dover, when he met his sister, the Duchess of Orleans. But the latest reference seems to be in lines 88-4:

‘When bishope shall lay all religion by,

And strive by law t’ establish tyranny.’

In 1675 the ‘No-Popery’ cry was very loud; and early in that year Danby, to cover other designs, or to take the cry out of the mouths of his opponents, brought in a bill which extended the Obedience Oath of 1661 to all officers of state, privy-councillors, peers, and members of the House of Commons. This was strongly supported by the bishops, and more strongly opposed by others, because it bound the Parliament, infringed the birthright of Englishmen, and established tyranny. In the same year also the quondam Scotch Covenanter and then champion of the English hierarchy, Lauderdale, was fiercely attacked by the ‘patriots,’ but kept in his position by the king. This date seems to he confirmed also by the lines regarding the absence of the king from London. They cannot refer to the assembling of the Parliament in Oxford in 1681, because there is no notice of any event between 1675 and that time, and because Clifford’s treasurership would be well out of date in such case. The reference, no doubt, is to the removal of the Court and Parliament thither during the Plague of 1665 — Marvell himself being at this Oxford Parliament — and that so (comparatively) old an event as here noticed is to be explained because the Five-Mile Act against Nonconformists was then passed, and because a similar bill to that of 1675 was then brought in, and would have been carried but for the adverse votes of the promoter and introducer of the 1665 bill, Lords Lindsay and Danby.

Line 15, ‘players.’ In ms. Nell Gwyn.

Line 17. In ms. E[arl of] Shaftesbury or D[uke of] Bucks.

Line 27. In ms. Finch.

Line 81. In ms. Lauderdale.

Line 35. In ms. Lord Clifford.

It was clever in Marvell to utilise the name of old MICHAEL NOSTRADAMUS, a physician and astrologer, born in the diocese of Avignon, 1508. His so-called ‘predictions,’ from the death of Henry II. to the exile of Napoleon III. in our own day, have from time to time called attention to his quaint quatrains. He died at Salon, July 1566. See relative note in Pepys (iii. 54-6).

Line 4, ‘Pudding-Lane.’ According to the old saying, the fire began in Pudding-lane and ended at Pie-corner. In a former note I have spoken of the accusation, thrice repeated by Marvell, against the Duke of York (see ‘Historical Poem,’ onward).

Line 14, ‘And Chequer-doors.’ 1726 annotates here: ‘In the year 1672 the Court, resolving on a war, looked out for money to carry it on. The method they took to get it was this: The king had agreed with some bankers, with whom he had contracted a debt of near a million and a half, to assign over the revenue to them; and he paid them at the rate of eight per cent, and in some proclamations promised he would make good all his assignments till the whole debt was paid; but, in order for a supply, the payments were stopped for a year. This was a great shock to the bankers; for many of the nobility and gentry, who were in the secret, took their money, before the design was publicly known, out of the hands of their bankers.’ See Pepys, ii. 291. Rochester is sarcastically severe on the king:

‘Stopping the Bank in thee was only great.

But in a subject it had been a cheat.’

St. Poems, vol ii. p. 196.

Line 16, ‘queens.’ 1726 annotates: ‘Reflecting on the king for taking Mrs. Gwyn from the stage.’

Line 17, ‘prime minister.’ British-Museum copy writes ‘E. of Shaftesbury or D. of Buck.’ The latter never was prime- minister.

Line 25, ‘two good kings shall be at Brentford.’ In the ‘New Song of the Times’ (State Poems, yol. ii. p. 218) we read,

‘Like a trae Brentford king.

Was here with a whoop and gone with a hollow.’

So too in the satire in ‘Opposition to Mr. Dryden’s Essay on Satire’ (lb. p. 263):

‘Look to it, York, the nation first shall bleed.

Or the two kings of Brentford shall succeed.’

Line 27, ‘talking fool’ B. Museum copy writes ‘Finch.’

Line 80-1, ‘Scotch Covenanter.’ 1726 annotates: ‘Lauderdale, who was at first a noted Dissenter.’ In the State Poems, vol. i. pp. 188-9 (1710), there is a ludicrous attempt made by some Cockney lampooner in the ‘Dream of the Cabal’ (1672) to give the Scotch words and pronunciation of Lauderdale. So also at p. 148; and earlier in N. Hookes’ ‘Amanda’ (as before), in his acrid yet powerful lines ‘On the Rout of the disloyal Partie of Scots at Dunbarre,’ there is a like attempt at Scotch (pp. 145-8) — not without humour. Macaulay has scourged Lauderdale.

Line 35, ‘lean Treasurer,’ B. Museum copy writes ‘Lord Clifford.’

Line 45, ‘Bellides’=:the classical fillers of the sieves with water.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58