Poems, by Andrew Marvell

A Dialogue between Two Horses.


We read in profane and sacred records,

Of beasts that have utter’d articulate words:

When magpies and parrots cry ‘Walk, knaves, walk!’

It is a clear proof that birds too may talk;

And statues, without either wind-pipes or lungs,

Have spoken as plainly as men do with tongues.

Livy tells a strange story, can hardly be fellow’d,

That a sacrific’d ox, when his guts were out, bellow’d;

Phalaris had a bull, which, grave authors tell ye.

Would roar like a devil with a man in his belly;10

Friar Bacon had a head that spake, made of brass;

And Balaam the prophet was reproved by his ass;

At Delphos and Eome stocks and stones now and then.

Have to questions returned articulate answers. [sirs.

All Popish believers think something divine,

When images speak, possesseth the shrine;

But they that Mth catholick ne’er understood,

When shrines give an answer, a knave’s on the rood.

Those idols ne’er spoke, but are miracles done

By the devil, a priest, a fryer, or a nun.20

In the Roman Church, good Christians, oblige ye

To believe man and beast have spoke in effigie,

Why should we not credit the publick discourses

In a dialogue between two inanimate horses?

The horses I mean of Wool-Church and Charing,

Who told many truths worth any man’s hearing.

Since Viner and Osborn did buy and provide ’em

For the two mighty monarchswho now do bestride ’em.

The stately brass stallion, and the white marble steed,

One night came together, by all ’tis agreed;30

When both kings were weary of sitting all day,

Were stolen off, incognito, each his own way;

And then the two jades, after mutual salutes,

Not only discours’d, but fell to disputes.


Quoth the marble horse:


It would make a stone speak,

To see a lord-mayor and a Lombardnstreet break;

Thy founder and mine to cheat one another,

When both knaves agreed to be each other’s brother. —

Here Charing broke forth, and thus he went on:40


My brass is provoked as much as thy stone,

To see Church and State bow down to a whore,

And the Song’s chief-minister holding the door;

The money of widows and orphans implor’d,

And the bankers quite broke to maintain the whore’s pride.


To see Dei gratia writ on the throne,

And the King’s wicked life say, God there is none.


That he should be stil’d Defender of the Faith,

Who believes not a jot what the Word of God saith.


That the duke should turn Papist, and that church defy50

For which his own father a martyr did die.


Tho he chang’d his religion, I hope he’s so civil

Not to think his own father is gone to the Devil.


That bondage and beggary should be in a nation

By a curst House of Commons and a blest Restoration.


To see a white staff make a beggar a lord,

And scarce a wise man at a long council-board.


That the Bank sho’d be seiz’d, yet the ‘Chequer so poor,

‘Lord ha’ mercy!’ and a cross, might be set on the door.


That a million and half should be the revenue,60

Yet the King of his debts pay no man a penny.


That a king should consume three kingdoms’ estates,

And yet all the Court be as poor as church rats.


That of four seas dominion, and of all their guarding,

No token sho’d appear, but a poor copper farthing.


Our worm-eaten ships to be laid up at Chatham,

Not our trade to secure, but for fools to come at ’em.


And our few ships abroad become Tripoli’s scorn,

By pawning for victuals their guns at Leghorn.


That making us slaves by horse and foot guard,70

For restoring the King, shall be all our reward.


The basest ingratitude ever was heard!

But tyrants ungrateful are always afear’d.


On Harry the Seventh’s head he that plac’d the crown

Was after rewarded by losing his own.


That parliament-men should rail at the Court,

And get good preferments immediately for ‘t;

To see them that suffer for father and son,

And helped to bring the latter to his throne,

That with lives and estates did loyally serye,80

And yet for all this can nothing deserve;

The King looks not on ’em, preferment’s deni’d ’em.

The Eoundheads insult, and the Courtiers deride ’em,

And none get preferments, but who will betray

Their country to ruin; ’tis that opes the way

Of the bold talking members.


If the bastards you add,

What a number of rascally lords have been made!


That traitors to th’ Country, in a brib’d House of Commons,

Should give away millions at every summons,90


Yet some of those givers, such beggarly villains,

As not to be trusted for twice fifty shillings.


Ko wonder that beggars should still be for giving,

Who out of what’s given do get a good living.


Four knights and a knave, who were burgesses made.

For selling their consciences were liberally paid.


How base are the souls of such low-prized sinners,

Who vote with the Court for drink and for dinners!


’Tis they that brought on us this scandalous yoke.

Of excising our cups, and taxing our smoake.100


But thanks to the whores who made the king dogged.

For giving no more the rogues are prorogued.


That a king should endeavour to make a War cease,

Which augments and secures his own profit and peace.


And plenipotentiaries sent into France,

With an addle-headed knight and a lord without blame.


That the King should send for another French whore,

When one already had made him so poor.


The misses take place, each advance to be dutchess,

With pomp great as queens in their coach and six horses;110

Their bastards made dukes, earls, viscounts, and lords,

And all the high titles that honour affords, no


While these brats and their mothers do live in such plenty.

The nation’s empovement, and the ’Chequer quite empty;

And tho War was pretended when the money was lent.

More on whores than in ships or in War hath been spent.


Enough, my dear brother, altho we speak reason,

Yet truth many times being punish’d for treason.

We ought to be wary, and bridle our tongue,

Bold speaking hath done both men and beasts wrong.120

When the ass so boldly rebuked the prophet.

Thou knowest what danger had like to come of it;

Though the beast gave his master ne’er an ill word,

Instead of a cudgel, Balaam wish’d for a sword.


Truth ’s as bold as a lion; I am not afraid;

I’ll prove every tittle of what I have said.

Our riders are absent; who is ‘t that can hear?

Let’s be true to ourselves, whom then need we fear?

Where is thy King gone?


To see Bishop Laud.130


Mine to cuckold a scriv’ner ’s in masquerade;

For on such occasions he oft strays away,

And returns to remount me about break of day.

In very dark nights sometimes you may find him

With a harlot got up on my crupper behind him.


Pause, brother, awhile, and calmly consider

What thou hast to say against my royal rider.


Thy priest-ridden King turned desperate fighter

For the surplice, lawn-sleeves, the cross, and the mitre;

Till at last on the scaffold he was left in the lurch,140

By knaves, who cry’d up themselves for the Church.


Archbishops and bishops, archdeacons and deans!

Thy King will ne’er fight unles’t be for his queans.


He that dies for ceremonies, dies like a fool.


The King on thy back is a lamentable tool.


The goat and the lyon I equally hate,

And freemen alike value life and estate;

Tho’ the father and son be different rods,

Between the two scourgers we find little odds;

Both infamous stand in three kingdoms’ votes;150

This for picking our pockets, that for cutting our throats.


More tolerable are the lion-king’s slaughters,

Than the goat making whores of our wives and our daughters:

The debauched and cruel, since they equally gall us,

I had rather bear Hero than Sardanapalus.


One of the two tyrants must still be our case,

Under all who shall reign of the the Stuart’s race.

De Wit and Cromwell had each a brave soul,

I freely declare it, I am for old Nell;

Tho’ his government did a tyrant resemble.160

He made England great, and his enemies tremble.


Thy rider puts no man to death in his wrath,

But is bury’d alive in lust and in sloth.


What is thy opinion of James, Duke of York


The same that the frogs had of Jupiter’s stork.

With the Turk in his head, and the Pope in his heart,

Father Patrick’s disciples will make England smart

If e’er he be king, I know Britain’s doom,

We must all to a stake, or be converts to Rome.

Ah, Tudor! ah, Tudor! we have had Stuarts enough;170

None ever reign’d like old Bess in the ruff.

Her Walsingham could dark counsels unriddle,

And our Sir Joseph write news books and fiddle.


Truth, brother, well said; but that ’s somewhat bitter;

His perfum’d predecessor was never more fitter:

Yet we have one secretary honest and wise;

For that very reason he ’s never to rise.

But can’st thou devise when things will be mended?


When the reign of the line of the Stuarts is ended.


If speeches’ from animals in Home’s first age180

Prodigious events did surely presage,

That should come to pass, all mankind may swear

That which two inanimate horses declare.

But I should have told you before the jades parted,

Both gallopp’d to Whitehall, and there humbly farted!

Which tyranny’s downfal portended much more

Than all that the beasts had spoken before.

If the Delphick Sibil’s oracular speeches

(As learned men say) came out of their breeches,

Why might not our horses, since words are but wind,190

Have the spirit of prophecy likewise behind?

Tho’ tyrants make laws, which they strictly proclaim,

To conceal their own faults and cover their shame,

Yet the beasts in the field, and the stones in the wall,

Will publish their faults and prophesy their fall;

When they take from the people the freedom of words,

They teach them the sooner to fall to their swords.

Let the city drink coffee and quietly groan, —

(They who conquer’d the father won’t be slaves to the son.)

For wine and strong drink make tumults encrease,200

Chocolate, tea, and coffee, are liquors of Peace;

No quarrels or oaths are among those that drink ’em,

’Tis Bacchus and the brewer, swear Damn ’em! and Sink ’em!

Then, Charles, thy late edict against coffee recal,

There’s ten times more treason in brandy and ale.

It is natural to suppose that this Dialogue was composed when one of the statues was a novelty. The recognised authorities differ as to the date of the reerection of that of Charles I. Pennant, in his account of London, says 1678; Toone, that it was reerected out of money voted in January 1678; Allen, in his account of London, gives 1671; and another statement is that it was in 1674 (as in the heading of this poem); but Allen’s date mnst be wrong, as also the statement that it was put up 1674; for st. viii. and x. of the St. at Ch. Cross, when it was being lingerlngly erected, speak of that of Charles II. at the Stocks-market as already set up, and that we know was in 1675. Perhaps I have wasted superfluous pains in trying to reconcile the discrepancies. That of Charles II. was set up in 1675 by Sir Robert Viner, the Lord Mayor in 1675. Sir Joseph Williamson, the Sir Joseph of Manrell, succeeded his ‘perfumed predecessor’ the Earl of Arlington, 11th May 1674, and continued one of the Secretaries of State till 9th February 1678. But that which fixes the date of the ‘Dialogue’ within the limits of a month are the words ‘Let the city drink coffee’ (1. 196), and ‘Charles, thy late edict against coffee recal’ (1. 201). Charles’s edict or proclamation closing the London coffee-houses, on account of seditious talking and meetings, was issued 29th November 1675, and revoked 8th January 1676; so that the poem must have been written between these dates. With this agrees the reference to the second Frenchwoman: the Duchess of Portsmouth, who came over in 1670, was the first; and the Duchesse de Mazarine arrived in October 1675. See farther note on line 201.

Line 9, ‘Phalaris had a bull.’ The brazen bull made by Perillus.

Line 11, ‘Friar Bacon’ = Roger Bacon.

Line 12, ‘Balaam.’ See Numbers xxii.

Line 18, ‘rood’ = cross. 1710 badly misprints ‘as knave.’ The construction is [think] a knave’s &c., the ‘think’ being taken from L 15. Perhaps an allusion to the detected imposture of Holy Bood in Kent in Henry viii.’s reign. line 24 I retain ‘In,’ not ‘Of.’

Line 25, ‘Wool-Church and Charing.’ 1726 annotates here: ‘The statue at Charing Cross was erected by the Lord Danby; that at Wool-Church by Sir Robert Viner, then Lord-mayor.’ See Pepys, s. n.

Line 27, ‘Viner and Osborne’ See on line 25, supra. Osborn = Danby.

Line 30. 1710 corrects the usual misprint of ‘The’ for ‘One:’ and L 32, ‘They stole’ for ‘Were stolen.’

Line 32, ‘stolen:’ usually printed ‘stole.’

Line 86, ‘Lombard-street break.’ 1726 annotates: ‘Alluding to the failure of the bankers.’ Pepys abundantly confirms the context.

Line 38. St. viii. of the Statue at Charing Cross tells as that Danby and Viner were brothers-in-law.

Line 45, ‘To see Dei gratia,’ Can this be Marvell’s reply to, or a saying suggested by Finch, who, as holder of the seals, told the Parliament in 1675 that ‘they served a prince in whose preservation miracles had become familiar; whose style Dei gratia seemed not to be writ by a vulgar pen, but by the arm of Omnipotence itself’?

Line 46. Even in 1710 edit, printed ‘E ’s,’ and so elsewhere.

Line 48. 1710 corrects the usual misprint of ‘word’ by ‘jot:’ accepted.

Line 49, ‘Duke,’ i.e. of York.

Line 52, ‘father,’ i. e, Charles I.

Line 55, ‘white staff.’ As before, Osborne, i.e, Danby.

Line 57, ‘the Bank.’ On the 2d January 1672 Charles and his ministers suddenly shut up the Exchequer, thus declaring a national bankruptcy, and causing great ruin and loss of all credit. Hence Marvell supposes the Plague sign and words to have been affixed to the building (line 58). Crosses were continued on the gold and silver coins; and the jokes on this were so common in the times of Elizabeth and James, that it is not unlikely Marvell intended the farther satire, that there might be crosses without, but more within. See Pepys, ii. 291, and Lord Braylbooke’s note.

Line 59, ‘revenue.’ See reference to our note in Southwell (pp. 132-8), as before.

Line 63, ‘four seas.’ I think a numismatic allusion. The Charles II. halfpenny bears the figure and legend of Britannia much as at present, the gold and silver coins the royal arms. I do not know whether the ‘farthing’ was more expressive, or whether, metri et sensus gratia, Marvell took ‘farthing’ as for the copper coinage generally.

Line 65, ‘worm-eaten ships.’ 1726 annotates: ‘Alluding to our ships being burned by the Dutch.’

Lines 67-8, ‘Tripoli . . . Leghorn.’ On the latter see Pepys, ii. 74-75.

Line 72. 1710 badly misprints ‘afraid.’ The annotator of the British-Museum copy has written the missing line of the 1689 edition thus, ‘For restoring the king is all our reward;’ and the next line is altered to ‘But tyrants ungrateful have always appear’d;’ i. e. changing ‘are’ and ‘afraid.’

Lines 73-4. Sir William Stanley was accused of participating in the Perkins-Warbeck conspiracy, and beheaded 1496. He saved Henry VII.’s life at Bosworth when Richard made his desperate charge; but it was bis brother Lord Stanley who, both literally and by his defection, as head of the Stanleys placed the crown on the king’s head. The explanation of the confusion lies in the under-referenoe to Argyle, who ‘placed the crown’ on Charles’s head at Scone in 1651, and who exclaimed when he was condemned in 1660, and denied ten days’ respite that the king’s pleasure might be known, ‘I placed the crown upon his head, and this is my reward.’ Marvell is full of such double meanings: and if I may be permitted a clerical remark, it is that the deniers of double meanings and double fulfilments of Bible prophecies have never studied our national literature, or to small purpose.

Lines 77-79. 1710 has ‘both’ in 1. 77 before ‘for,’ and ‘their’ before ‘lives’ in 1. 79.

Line 86, ‘rascally.’ Not merely in our sense of moral unworthiness (though that may be implied). It was used in the sense of worthlessness as to rank and birth. According to one version, Elizabeth said she would have no rascal succeed her: according to another, no rogue. Both words meant one of low condition, and in her lower than royal. See most of the examples in Richardson, q.v., where he does not seem to have sufficiently separated the two senses either as to meaning or time.

Line 96, ‘Court.’ Usually misprinted badly ‘Country,’ even in 1710 edition.

Line 98, ‘excising our cups.’ In the excise, &c. law passed in 1660, coffee was taxed at fourpence a gallon; chocolate, sherbet, and tea at eightpence. In the revision of 1671 the tax on coffee was reduced to twopence.

Lines 103-4, ‘plenipotentiaries.’ See Pepys under St. Alban’s . The ‘addle-headed knight’ was probably Sir William Temple, sent to the Hague on peace being made with the Dutch, Feb. 1674. The king made attempts to mediate between the Dutch and French in 1674. There was also a diplomatic meeting first at Cologne, and then at Nimeguen, at which Sir William Temple was present. ‘Plenipotentiaries’ seems to point to the latter, which was held in 1675.

Line 100, ‘For giving no more,’ In 1675 the Commons, on examining the accounts, stated that the king at the end of the Dntoh ware ought to have had a surplus and not a deficit; but voted 300,000l., as our navy was inferior to that of the French. They were then, in Nov. 1675, prorogued for fifteen months. It is probably this prorogation that is spoken of. See note on heading and date of this poem.

Line 107. For ‘each’ 1710 reads ‘and.’ ‘MisB, as they at this time began to call lewd women’ (Evelyn’s Diary, 9th January 1662).

Line 122, ‘sword.’ See Numbers xxii.

Line 127, ‘Laud:’ somewhat of an anachronism: but it is to be remembered the one interlocutor was a ‘ghost.’

Lines 128-9. Usually misprinted ‘To cuckold . . . nune is . . . For . . .’ In 1710 ‘To cuckold . . . mine’s .’

Line 139. This Line usually wrongly given to Wool-Church.

Line 149, ‘lion-king.’ This, as appears from Une 135 and from 1. 148, ‘that for cutting our throats,’ as compared with ‘ though the father doom,’ is Charles I. But as the term was not very descriptive, it is not improbable that Marvell is alluding to some apologue (contemporary or otherwise) on the King Log and King Stork fable. See below.

Line 150, ‘goat’ = Charles II.,, 155-6. See our Memorial-Introduction on these lines (‘Writings’).

Line 163. The old AEsopian fable found in all languages.

Line 165, ‘Father Patrick.’ See preceding ‘Advice,’ and relative note.

Line 168. Usually misprinted ‘of Stuarts enough’ simply.

Line 169, ‘Bess.’ ‘Brave Queen Bess:’ Elizabeth.

Line 170, ‘Walsingham,’ Secretary of State: died 1590.

Line 171. Sir Joseph Williamson. As I write this, I see his ‘Correspondence’ is about to be issued by the Camden Society. See Pepys, 8, n. frequently. He commenced the ‘Oxford Gazette.’ He was President of the Boyal Society. Buried in Westminster Abbey Uth Oct. 1701. See Evelyn (i. 409 et alibi). On line 173 see note on heading and date.

Line 174, ‘one secretary,’ Henry Coventry was the other Secretary of State; but appointed in 1672, he resigned from ill-health in 1679.

Line 187. Alluding to the saying, that the oracle was influenced by the best payer.

Line 200. Probably an aUnsion not merely to the excitement over grrievances caused by these liquors, bat to that excitement cansed by the particular grieyance of the duties imposed on wine and, beer in 1661, and enlarged in 1671; a tax which increased very considerably the retail prices.

Line 201, ‘edict . . . coffee.’ See note on heading and date. With reference to this edict against coffee it may be added that it was only the culmination of a long-existing displeasure; for in the Dream of the Cabal, which is dated 1672, and must have been writen between 1670 and June 1673, there is an allusion to some talked-of measure of a similar kind:

‘Make coffee-clubs talk of more humble things

Than State affairs and interests of kings.’

The Proclamation shutting the coffee-houses ran thus: ‘Because in such houses, and by the occasion of the meeting of disaffected persons in them, divers false, malicious, and scandalous reports were devised and spread abroad, to the defamation of his majesty’s government, and to the disturbance of the quiet and peace of the realm.’


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