The Wounded Body Politic

  • Sarah Covington


Images of bodily trauma suffused the political language of mid-seventeenth-century England, particularly when it came to describing a world fractured by civil war. Likened by royalists and parliamentarians to fallen nations such as the Israel of Isaiah or the Thebes of Oedipus, the state was imagined as a realm whose identity, once hedged by boundaries, had been irreparably breeched, leaving it in a state of bloody and defiled collapse. Abraham Cowley, a royalist, was one of the more vivid writers to describe how “England dyes us red in blood and blushes too”;1 such images were not simply metaphorical, however, but perceived as all too real. When writers referred to Charles I as “that man of blood,”2 for example, they really did mean that the king had wounded the nation by causing innocent blood to be spilled; by the same token, royalists, in addition to describing a land soaked in “Young Men’s Blood … and Mother’s Tears,” accused the regicides of literally breaking apart the seal of the corpus mysticum as well as the corpus materium, both of which constituted the very essence of the king (and relatedly, the kingdom).3


Body Politic Political Language Divine Healing Biblical Language Rotten Member 
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© Sarah Covington 2009

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  • Sarah Covington

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