(this is my restoration blog post that I should have done way earlier)
Let’s face facts for once in my life: I’m a sucker for overdone long-winded metaphors that use pretty words. Annus Mirabilis, or London Reborn, is exactly that. Perhaps that’s why I like it so much. Dryden is known for creating works made for practical need rather than emotional need. I find this interesting due to the fact that Annus Mirabilis is needed for both emotional and practical support. The beautiful London burns in the great fire and everyone is sad and lost. What better way to bring them together than to write a poem portraying London as a beautiful, strong woman who can carry the backbone of society?
It’s interesting because he not only creates a metaphor for London, but makes a statement by portraying the city as a woman. He’s saying a lot of stuff by doing that. On one hand, he’s saying women are the backbone of society and we would have nothing to stand on if not for them. On the other hand, he’s also saying that women are like cities – they’re made to be beautiful and useful to others. What would be the point if they weren’t both?
“Rich as the town which gives the Indies name,
with silver paved, and all divine with gold.
Already, laboring with a might fate,
She shakes the rubbish from her mounting brow,”
The lines “with silver paved, and all divine with gold.” indicate an irreplaceable beauty in London. The second part of that quote indicates the hardworking labour that London must endure throughout the poem. On the other hand, perhaps he had to portray London as a woman instead of a man because, since this poem has to be speckled with nationalism, he views London as a beautiful place. Towns always seemed to be looked at as “beautiful.” Sadly, I’ve noticed people get squicked out when others refer to guys as “beautiful” rather than “handsome.” Due to those weird societal views, perhaps he was unknowingly forced into portraying London in such a way.
On yet another hand (how many hands is that?), perhaps he portrayed London as a woman because London should be admired, protected, and loved – you know, exactly how they viewed women. I also find it interesting that he refers to London as a “Maiden Queen” in line 1185, which means said queen is unmarried but obviously capable. This goes back to the whole radicalizing idea that women are actually the backbone of society. In fact, Dryden goes so far as to say (in the next line) that suitors will “receive her doom,” meaning they are completely at her mercy of judgement rather than the other way around. In a strange way, I guess you could say that Annus Mirabilis is actually about Britain’s obsession with weird, nationalistic power dynamics.