Poetical Works of Edmund Waller and Sir John Denham
Edmund Waller; John Denham
Part 5 out of 7
Which first from heaven, to make us happy, came.
 'Late philosophy': that of Copernicus.
The fear of hell, or aiming to be bless'd,
Savours too much of private interest.
This moved not Moses, nor the zealous Paul, 57
Who for their friends abandon'd soul and all;
A greater yet from heaven to hell descends,
To save, and make his enemies his friends.
What line of praise can fathom such a love,
Which reach'd the lowest bottom from above?
The royal prophet, that extended grace
From heaven to earth, measured but half that space.
The law was regnant, and confined his thought;
Hell was not conquer'd when that poet wrote;
Heaven was scarce heard of until He came down,
To make the region where love triumphs known.
That early love of creatures yet unmade,
To frame the world the Almighty did persuade; 70
For love it was that first created light,
Moved on the waters, chased away the night
From the rude Chaos, and bestow'd new grace
On things disposed of to their proper place;
Some to rest here, and some to shine above;
Earth, sea, and heaven, were all th'effects of love.
And love would be return'd; but there was none
That to themselves or others yet were known;
The world a palace was without a guest,
Till one appears that must excel the rest; 80
One! like the Author, whose capacious mind
Might, by the glorious work, the Maker find;
Might measure heaven, and give each star a name;
With art and courage the rough ocean tame;
Over the globe with swelling sails might go,
And that 'tis round by his experience know;
Make strongest beasts obedient to his will,
And serve his use the fertile earth to till.
When, by His Word, God had accomplish'd all, 89
Man to create He did a council call;
Employed His hand, to give the dust He took
A graceful figure, and majestic look;
With His own breath convey'd into his breast
Life, and a soul fit to command the rest;
Worthy alone to celebrate His name
For such a gift, and tell from whence it came.
Birds sing His praises in a wilder note,
But not with lasting numbers and with thought,
Man's great prerogative! but above all
His grace abounds in His new fav'rite's fall. 100
If He create, it is a world He makes;
If He be angry, the creation shakes;
From His just wrath our guilty parents fled;
He cursed the earth, but bruised the serpent's head.
Amidst the storm His bounty did exceed,
In the rich promise of the Virgin's seed;
Though justice death, as satisfaction, craves,
Love finds a way to pluck us from our graves.
 'Abandoned soul and all': Exodus xxxii. 32. Ep. to the Romans ix. 3.
: 'Royal prophet': David.
Not willing terror should His image move;
He gives a pattern of eternal love; 110
His Son descends to treat a peace with those
Which were, and must have ever been, His foes.
Poor He became, and left His glorious seat
To make us humble, and to make us great;
His business here was happiness to give
To those whose malice could not let Him live.
Legions of angels, which He might have used,
(For us resolved to perish) He refused;
While they stood ready to prevent His loss,
Love took Him up, and nail'd Him to the cross. 120
Immortal love! which in His bowels reign'd,
That we might be by such great love constrain'd
To make return of love. Upon this pole
Our duty does, and our religion, roll.
To love is to believe, to hope, to know;
'Tis an essay, a taste of heaven below!
He to proud potentates would not be known;
Of those that loved Him He was hid from none.
Till love appear we live in anxious doubt;
But smoke will vanish when the flame breaks out; 130
This is the fire that would consume our dross,
Refine, and make us richer by the loss.
Could we forbear dispute, and practise love,
We should agree as angels do above.
Where love presides, not vice alone does find
No entrance there, but virtues stay behind;
Both faith, and hope, and all the meaner train
Of mortal virtues, at the door remain.
Love only enters as a native there,
For, born in heaven, it does but sojourn here. 140
He that alone would wise and mighty be,
Commands that others love as well as He.
Love as He loved!--How can we soar so high?--
He can add wings, when He commands to fly.
Nor should we be with this command dismay'd;
He that examples gives, will give His aid;
For He took flesh, that where His precepts fail,
His practice as a pattern may prevail.
His love, at once, and dread, instruct our thought;
As man He suffer'd, and as God He taught. 150
Will for the deed He takes; we may with ease
Obedient be, for if we love we please.
Weak though we are, to love is no hard task,
And love for love is all that Heaven does ask.
Love! that would all men just and temp'rate make, 155
Kind to themselves, and others, for His sake.
'Tis with our minds as with a fertile ground,
Wanting this love they must with weeds abound,
(Unruly passions), whose effects are worse
Than thorns and thistles springing from the curse. 160
To glory man, or misery, is born,
Of his proud foe the envy, or the scorn;
Wretched he is, or happy, in extreme;
Base in himself, but great in Heaven's esteem;
With love, of all created things the best;
Without it, more pernicious than the rest;
For greedy wolves unguarded sheep devour
But while their hunger lasts, and then give o'er;
Man's boundless avarice his wants exceeds,
And on his neighbours round about him feeds. 170
His pride and vain ambition are so vast,
That, deluge-like, they lay whole nations waste.
Debauches and excess (though with less noise)
As great a portion of mankind destroys.
The beasts and monsters Hercules oppress'd,
Might in that age some provinces infest;
These more destructive monsters are the bane
Of every age, and in all nations reign;
But soon would vanish, if the world were bless'd
With sacred love, by which they are repress'd. 180
Impendent death, and guilt that threatens hell,
Are dreadful guests, which here with mortals dwell;
And a vex'd conscience, mingling with their joy
Thoughts of despair, does their whole life annoy;
But love appearing, all those terrors fly;
We live contented, and contented die.
They in whose breast this sacred love has place, 187
Death, as a passage to their joy, embrace.
Clouds and thick vapours, which obscure the day,
The sun's victorious beams may chase away;
Those which our life corrupt and darken, love
(The nobler star!) must from the soul remove.
Spots are observed in that which bounds the year;
This brighter sun moves in a boundless sphere;
Of heaven the joy, the glory, and the light,
Shines among angels, and admits no night.
This Iron Age (so fraudulent and bold!)
Touch'd with this love, would be an Age of Gold;
Not, as they feign'd, that oaks should honey drop,
Or land neglected bear an unsown crop; 200
Love would make all things easy, safe, and cheap;
None for himself would either sow or reap;
Our ready help, and mutual love, would yield
A nobler harvest than the richest field.
Famine and death, confined to certain parts,
Extended are by barrenness of hearts.
Some pine for want where others surfeit now;
But then we should the use of plenty know.
Love would betwixt the rich and needy stand,
And spread heaven's bounty with an equal hand; 210
At once the givers and receivers bless,
Increase their joy, and make their suff'ring less.
Who for Himself no miracle would make,
Dispensed with sev'ral for the people's sake;
He that, long fasting, would no wonder show,
Made loaves and fishes, as they ate them, grow.
Of all His power, which boundless was above,
Here He used none but to express His love;
And such a love would make our joy exceed, 219
Not when our own, but other mouths we feed.
Laws would be useless which rude nature awe;
Love, changing nature, would prevent the law;
Tigers and lions into dens we thrust,
But milder creatures with their freedom trust.
Devils are chain'd, and tremble; but the Spouse
No force but love, nor bond but bounty, knows.
Men (whom we now so fierce and dangerous see)
Would guardian angels to each other be;
Such wonders can this mighty love perform,
Vultures to doves, wolves into lambs transform! 230
Love what Isaiah prophesied can do,
Exalt the valleys, lay the mountains low,
Humble the lofty, the dejected raise,
Smooth and make straight our rough and crooked ways.
Love, strong as death, and like it, levels all;
With that possess'd, the great in title fall;
Themselves esteem but equal to the least,
Whom Heaven with that high character has bless'd.
This love, the centre of our union, can
Alone bestow complete repose on man; 240
Tame his wild appetite, make inward peace,
And foreign strife among the nations cease.
No martial trumpet should disturb our rest,
Nor princes arm, though to subdue the East,
Where for the tomb so many heroes (taught
By those that guided their devotion) fought.
Thrice happy we, could we like ardour have
To gain His love, as they to win His grave!
Love as He loved! A love so unconfined,
With arms extended, would embrace mankind. 250
Self-love would cease, or be dilated, when
We should behold as many selfs as men;
All of one family, in blood allied,
His precious blood, that for our ransom died.
 'Prophesied can do': Isaiah xl. 4.
Though the creation (so divinely taught!)
Prints such a lively image on our thought,
That the first spark of new-created light,
From Chaos struck, affects our present sight:
Yet the first Christians did esteem more bless'd
The day of rising, than the day of rest, 260
That every week might new occasion give,
To make His triumph in their mem'ry live.
Then let our Muse compose a sacred charm,
To keep His blood among us ever warm,
And singing as the blessed do above,
With our last breath dilate this flame of love.
But on so vast a subject who can find
Words that may reach th'idea of his mind?
Our language fails; or, if it could supply,
What mortal thought can raise itself so high? 270
Despairing here, we might abandon art,
And only hope to have it in our heart.
But though we find this sacred task too hard,
Yet the design, th'endeavour, brings reward.
The contemplation does suspend our woe,
And makes a truce with all the ills we know.
As Saul's afflicted spirit from the sound
Of David's harp, a present solace found;
So, on this theme while we our Muse engage,
No wounds are felt, of fortune or of age. 280
On divine love to meditate is peace,
And makes all care of meaner things to cease.
Amazed at once, and comforted, to find
A boundless power so infinitely kind,
The soul contending to that light to flee
From her dark cell, we practise how to die;
Employing thus the poet's winged art,
To reach this love, and grave it in our heart.
Joy so complete, so solid, and severe,
Would leave no place for meaner pleasures there; 290
Pale they would look, as stars that must be gone,
When from the East the rising sun comes on.
 'Solace found': 1 Sam. xvi. 23.
OF THE FEAR OF GOD.
IN TWO CANTOS.
The fear of God is freedom, joy, and peace,
And makes all ills that vex us here to cease.
Though the word fear some men may ill endure,
'Tis such a fear as only makes secure.
Ask of no angel to reveal thy fate;
Look in thy heart, the mirror of thy state.
He that invites will not th'invited mock,
Opening to all that do in earnest knock.
Our hopes are all well-grounded on this fear;
All our assurance rolls upon that sphere. 10
This fear, that drives all other fears away,
Shall be my song, the morning of our day;
Where that fear is, there's nothing to be fear'd;
It brings from heaven an angel for a guard.
Tranquillity and peace this fear does give;
Hell gapes for those that do without it live.
It is a beam, which He on man lets fall,
Of light, by which He made and governs all.
'Tis God alone should not offended be;
But we please others, as more great than He. 20
For a good cause, the sufferings of man
May well be borne; 'tis more than angels can.
Man, since his fall, in no mean station rests,
Above the angels, or below the beasts.
He with true joy their hearts does only fill,
That thirst and hunger to perform His will.
Others, though rich, shall in this world be vex'd,
And sadly live in terror of the next.
The world's great conqu'ror would his point pursue,
And wept because he could not find a new; 30
Which had he done, yet still he would have cried,
To make him work until a third he spied.
Ambition, avarice, will nothing owe
To Heaven itself, unless it make them grow.
Though richly fed, man's care does still exceed;
Has but one mouth, yet would a thousand feed.
In wealth and honour, by such men possess'd,
If it increase not, there is found no rest.
All their delight is while their wish comes in;
Sad when it stops, as there had nothing been. 40
'Tis strange men should neglect their present store,
And take no joy but in pursuing more;
No! though arrived at all the world can aim;
This is the mark and glory of our frame,
A soul capacious of the Deity,
Nothing but He that made can satisfy.
A thousand worlds, if we with Him compare, 47
Less than so many drops of water are.
Men take no pleasure but in new designs;
And what they hope for, what they have outshines.
Our sheep and oxen seem no more to crave,
With full content feeding on what they have;
Vex not themselves for an increase of store,
But think to-morrow we shall give them more.
What we from day to day receive from Heaven,
They do from us expect it should be given.
We made them not, yet they on us rely,
More than vain men upon the Deity;
More beasts than they! that will not understand
That we are fed from His immediate hand. 60
Man, that in Him has being, moves, and lives,
What can he have, or use, but what He gives?
So that no bread can nourishment afford,
Or useful be, without His sacred Word.
 'Great conqueror': Alexander.
Earth praises conquerors for shedding blood,
Heaven those that love their foes, and do them good.
It is terrestrial honour to be crown'd
For strewing men, like rushes, on the ground.
True glory 'tis to rise above them all,
Without th'advantage taken by their fall. 70
He that in sight diminishes mankind,
Does no addition to his stature find;
But he that does a noble nature show,
Obliging others, still does higher grow;
For virtue practised such a habit gives,
That among men he like an angel lives;
Humbly he doth, and without envy, dwell,
Loved and admired by those he does excel.
Fools anger show, which politicians hide; 79
Bless'd with this fear, men let it not abide.
The humble man, when he receives a wrong,
Refers revenge to whom it doth belong;
Nor sees he reason why he should engage,
Or vex his spirit for another's rage.
Placed on a rock, vain men he pities, toss'd
On raging waves, and in the tempest lost.
The rolling planets, and the glorious sun,
Still keep that order which they first begun;
They their first lesson constantly repeat,
Which their Creator as a law did set. 90
Above, below, exactly all obey;
But wretched men have found another way;
Knowledge of good and evil, as at first,
(That vain persuasion!) keeps them still accursed!
The Sacred Word refusing as a guide,
Slaves they become to luxury and pride.
As clocks, remaining in the skilful hand
Of some great master, at the figure stand,
But when abroad, neglected they do go,
At random strike, and the false hour do show; 100
So from our Maker wandering, we stray,
Like birds that know not to their nests the way.
In Him we dwelt before our exile here,
And may, returning, find contentment there:
True joy may find, perfection of delight,
Behold his face, and shun eternal night.
Silence, my Muse! make not these jewels cheap,
Exposing to the world too large a heap.
Of all we read, the Sacred Writ is best,
Where great truths are in fewest words express'd. 110
Wrestling with death, these lines I did indite;
No other theme could give my soul delight.
Oh that my youth had thus employ'd my pen! 113
Or that I now could write as well as then!
But 'tis of grace, if sickness, age, and pain,
Are felt as throes, when we are born again;
Timely they come to wean us from this earth,
As pangs that wait upon a second birth.
OF DIVINE POESY.
Occasioned upon sight of the 53d chapter of Isaiah turned into verse by
Poets we prize, when in their verse we find
Some great employment of a worthy mind.
Angels have been inquisitive to know
The secret which this oracle does show.
What was to come, Isaiah did declare,
Which she describes as if she had been there;
Had seen the wounds, which, to the reader's view,
She draws so lively that they bleed anew.
As ivy thrives which on the oak takes hold,
So, with the prophet's, may her lines grow old! 10
If they should die, who can the world forgive,
(Such pious lines!) when wanton Sappho's live?
Who with His breath His image did inspire,
Expects it should foment a nobler fire;
Not love which brutes as well as men may know,
But love like His, to whom that breath we owe.
Verse so design'd, on that high subject wrote,
Is the perfection of an ardent thought;
The smoke which we from burning incense raise, 19
When we complete the sacrifice of praise.
In boundless verse the fancy soars too high
For any object but the Deity.
What mortal can with Heaven pretend to share
In the superlatives of wise and fair?
A meaner subject when with these we grace,
A giant's habit on a dwarf we place.
Sacred should be the product of our Muse,
Like that sweet oil, above all private use,
On pain of death forbidden to be made,
But when it should be on the altar laid. 30
Verse shows a rich inestimable vein
When, dropp'd from heaven, 'tis thither sent again.
Of bounty 'tis that He admits our praise,
Which does not Him, but us that yield it, raise;
For as that angel up to heaven did rise,
Borne on the flame of Manoah's sacrifice,
So, wing'd with praise, we penetrate the sky;
Teach clouds and stars to praise Him as we fly;
The whole creation, (by our fall made groan!)
His praise to echo, and suspend their moan. 40
For that He reigns, all creatures should rejoice,
And we with songs supply their want of voice.
The church triumphant, and the church below,
In songs of praise their present union show;
Their joys are full; our expectation long;
In life we differ, but we join in song.
Angels and we, assisted by this art,
May sing together, though we dwell apart.
Thus we reach heaven, while vainer poems must
No higher rise than winds may lift the dust. 50
From that they spring; this from His breath that gave,
To the first dust, th'immortal soul we have;
His praise well sung (our great endeavour here),
Shakes off the dust, and makes that breath appear.
He that did first this way of writing grace,
Conversed with the Almighty face to face;
Wonders he did in sacred verse unfold,
When he had more than eighty winters told.
The writer feels no dire effect of age,
Nor verse, that flows from so divine a rage. 60
Eldest of Poets, he beheld the light,
When first it triumph'd o'er eternal night;
Chaos he saw, and could distinctly tell
How that confusion into order fell.
As if consulted with, he has express'd
The work of the Creator, and His rest;
How the flood drown'd the first offending race,
Which might the figure of our globe deface.
For new-made earth, so even and so fair,
Less equal now, uncertain makes the air; 70
Surprised with heat, and unexpected cold,
Early distempers make our youth look old;
Our days so evil, and so few, may tell
That on the ruins of that world we dwell.
Strong as the oaks that nourish'd them, and high,
That long-lived race did on their force rely,
Neglecting Heaven; but we, of shorter date!
Should be more mindful of impendent fate.
To worms, that crawl upon this rubbish here,
This span of life may yet too long appear; 80
Enough to humble, and to make us great,
If it prepare us for a nobler seat.
Which well observing, he, in numerous lines,
Taught wretched man how fast his life declines;
In whom he dwelt before the world was made,
And may again retire when that shall fade.
The lasting Iliads have not lived so long
As his and Deborah's triumphant song.
Delphos unknown, no Muse could them inspire,
But that which governs the celestial choir. 90
Heaven to the pious did this art reveal,
And from their store succeeding poets steal.
Homer's Scamander for the Trojans fought,
And swell'd so high, by her old Kishon taught.
His river scarce could fierce Achilles stay;
Hers, more successful, swept her foes away.
The host of heaven, his Phoebus and his Mars,
He arms, instructed by her fighting stars.
She led them all against the common foe;
But he (misled by what he saw below!) 100
The powers above, like wretched men, divides,
And breaks their union into different sides.
The noblest parts which in his heroes shine,
May be but copies of that heroine.
Homer himself, and Agamemnon, she
The writer could, and the commander, be.
Truth she relates in a sublimer strain,
Than all the tales the boldest Greeks could feign;
For what she sung that Spirit did indite,
Which gave her courage and success in fight. 110
A double garland crowns the matchless dame;
From heaven her poem and her conquest came.
Though of the Jews she merit most esteem,
Yet here the Christian has the greater theme;
Her martial song describes how Sis'ra fell;
This sings our triumph over death and hell.
The rising light employ'd the sacred breath 117
Of the blest Virgin and Elizabeth.
In songs of joy the angels sung His birth;
Here how He treated was upon the earth
Trembling we read! th'affliction and the scorn,
Which for our guilt so patiently was borne!
Conception, birth, and suff'ring, all belong
(Though various parts) to one celestial song;
And she, well using so divine an art,
Has in this concert sung the tragic part.
As Hannah's seed was vow'd to sacred use,
So here this lady consecrates her Muse.
With like reward may Heaven her bed adorn,
With fruit as fair as by her Muse is born! 130
 'Writing grace': Moses.
ON THE PARAPHRASE OF THE LORD'S PRAYER.
WRITTEN BY MRS WHARTON.
Silence, you winds! listen, ethereal lights!
While our Urania sings what Heaven indites;
The numbers are the nymph's; but from above
Descends the pledge of that eternal love.
Here wretched mortals have not leave alone,
But are instructed to approach His throne;
And how can He to miserable men
Deny requests which His own hand did pen?
In the Evangelists we find the prose
Which, paraphrased by her, a poem grows;
A devout rapture! so divine a hymn,
It may become the highest seraphim!
For they, like her, in that celestial choir,
Sing only what the Spirit does inspire.
Taught by our Lord, and theirs, with us they may
For all but pardon for offences pray.
SOME REFLECTIONS OF HIS UPON THE SEVERAL PETITIONS IN THE SAME PRAYER.
1 His sacred name with reverence profound
Should mention'd be, and trembling at the sound!
It was Jehovah; 'tis Our Father now;
So low to us does Heaven vouchsafe to bow!
He brought it down that taught us how to pray,
And did so dearly for our ransom pay.
2 _His kingdom come._ For this we pray in vain
Unless he does in our affections reign.
Absurd it were to wish for such a King,
And not obedience to His sceptre bring,
Whose yoke is easy, and His burthen light,
His service freedom, and his judgments right.
3 _His will be done._ In fact 'tis always done;
But, as in heaven, it must be made our own.
His will should all our inclinations sway,
Whom Nature, and the universe, obey.
Happy the man! whose wishes are confined
To what has been eternally designed;
Referring all to His paternal care,
To whom more dear than to ourselves we are.
4 It is not what our avarice hoards up;
'Tis He that feeds us, and that fills our cup;
Like new-born babes depending on the breast,
From day to day we on His bounty feast;
Nor should the soul expect above a day,
To dwell in her frail tenement of clay;
The setting sun should seem to bound our race,
And the new day a gift of special grace.
5 _That he should all our trespasses forgive_,
While we in hatred with our neighbours live;
Though so to pray may seem an easy task,
We curse ourselves when thus inclined we ask,
This prayer to use, we ought with equal care
Our souls, as to the sacrament, prepare.
The noblest worship of the Power above,
Is to extol, and imitate his love;
Not to forgive our enemies alone,
But use our bounty that they may be won.
6 _Guard us from all temptations of the foe_;
And those we may in several stations know;
The rich and poor in slipp'ry places stand.
Give us enough, but with a sparing hand!
Not ill-persuading want, nor wanton wealth,
But what proportion'd is to life and health.
For not the dead, but living, sing thy praise,
Exalt thy kingdom, and thy glory raise.
Virginibus puerisque canto.--HOR.
 'Vouchsafe to bow': Psalm xviii. 9.
ON THE FOREGOING DIVINE POEMS.
When we for age could neither read nor write,
The subject made us able to indite;
The soul, with nobler resolutions deck'd,
The body stooping, does herself erect.
No mortal parts are requisite to raise
Her that, unbodied, can her Maker praise.
The seas are quiet when the winds give o'er;
So, calm are we when passions are no more!
For then we know how vain it was to boast
Of fleeting things, so certain to be lost.
Clouds of affection from our younger eyes
Conceal that emptiness which age descries.
The soul's dark cottage, batter'd and decay'd,
Lets in new light through chinks that time has made;
Stronger by weakness, wiser men become,
As they draw near to their eternal home.
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view,
That stand upon the threshold of the new.
....Miratur limen Olympi.--VIRG.
END OF WALLER'S POEMS.
* * * * *
THE POETICAL WORKS
SIR JOHN DENHAM.
LIFE OF SIR JOHN DENHAM.
Next to those poets who have exerted an influence on the _matter_,
should be ranked those who have improved the _manner_, of our song. So
that thus the same list may include the names of a Chaucer and a Waller,
of a Milton and a Denham--the more as we suspect none but a true poet
can materially improve even a poetical _mode_, can contrive even a new
stirrup to Pegasus, or even to retune the awful organ of Pythia. Neither
Denham nor Waller were great poets; but they have produced lines and
verses so good, and have, besides, exerted an influence so considerable
on modern versification, and the style of poetical utterance, that they
are entitled to a highly respectable place amidst the sons of British
Sir John Denham, although thoroughly English both in descent and in
complexion of mind, was born in Dublin in 1615. His father, whose name
also was Sir John (of Little Horseley, in Essex), was, at the time of
our poet's birth, the Chief Baron of Exchequer in Ireland. His mother
was Eleanor More, daughter of Sir Garret More, Baron of Mellefont. Two
years after the son's birth, the father, being made an English Baron of
Exchequer, returned to his native country, and educated young John in
London. Thence, at the age of sixteen, he went to study at Oxford, where
he became celebrated rather for dissipation than diligence. He was,
although a youth of imaginative temperament, excessively fond of
gambling; and it was said of him, that he was more given to "dreams and
dice than to study." His future eminence might be foreseen by some of
his friends; but, in general, men looked on him rather as an idle and
misled youth of fortune, than as a genius. Three years after, he removed
to Lincoln's Inn, where he continued occasionally to gamble, and was
sometimes punished for his pains, being plundered by more skilful or
unscrupulous gamesters, but did not forget his studies. His conscience,
on one occasion, aroused by a rebuke from a friend, awoke; and, to
confirm the resolutions which it forced upon him, he wrote and published
an "Essay on Gaming." In this respect he resembles Sir Richard Steele
when a young soldier, who, in order to cure himself of his dissipations,
wrote and published "The Christian Hero"--his object being, by drawing
the picture of a character exactly opposite to his own, to commit
himself irrevocably to virtue, and to break down all the bridges between
him and a return to vice. It is, alas! notorious, that Steele's holiness
turned out only to be a FIT, of not much longer duration than a morning
headache, and that the "Christian Hero" remains not as a model to which
its author's conduct was ever conformed, but as a severe, self-written
satire on his whole career. And so with Denham. For some time he forsook
the gambling-table, and applied his attention partly to law, and partly
to poetry, translating, in 1636, the "Second Book of the Aeneid;" but
when his father died, two years afterwards, and left him some thousands,
he rushed again to the dice-box, and melted them as rapidly as the wind
melts the snow of spring.
"In 1642 he broke out," as Waller remarks of him, "like the Irish
Rebellion, threescore thousand strong, when nobody was aware, or in the
least suspected it," in the play of "Sophy;" and, sooth to say, like
that rebellion, his outbreak is lawless and irregular, as well as
strong; as in that rebellion, too, there is a rather needless
expenditure of blood. What Byron says of Dr. Polidori's tragedy, is
nearly true of "Sophy"--
"All stab, and everybody dies."
Nothing can be more horrible and disgusting than many of the incidents.
A father suspecting and plotting against a dear and noble son; a son
deprived of sight by the command of a father, and meditating in his rage
and revenge the murder of his own favourite daughter, because she is
beloved by his father; and the deaths of both son and father by poison,
administered through means of a courtier who has betrayed both. Such are
the main hinges on which the plot of the piece turns. The versification,
too, is exceedingly unequal; sometimes swelling into rather full and
splendid blank verse, and anon shrinking up into lines stunted and
shrivelled, like boughs either touched by frost, or lopped by the axe of
the woodman. Still there are in "Sophy" a force of style, a maturity of
mind, an energy of declamation, and, here and there, an appreciation of
Shakspeare--shewn in a generous though hopeless rivalry of his manner--
which account for the reception it at first met with, and seem to have
excited in Denham's contemporaries expectations which were never
fulfilled. This uprise, as well as that of the Irish (which took place
the year before it), turned out, on the whole, abortive. And yet what
fine lines and sentiments are the following, culled from "Sophy" almost
_ad aperturam libri_:--
"Fear and guilt
Are the same thing, and when our _actions are not_,
_Our fears are crimes_.
The east and west
Upon the globe, a _mathematic point
Only divides_; thus happiness and misery,
And all extremes, are still contiguous.
More gallant actions have been lost, for want of being
Completely wicked, than have been performed
By being exactly virtuous. 'Tis hard to be
Exact in good, or excellent in ill;
Our will wants power, or else our power wants skill.
When in the midst of fears we are surprised
With unexpected happiness, the first
_Degrees of joy are mere astonishment_.
Fear, the shadow
Of danger, like the shadow of our bodies,
_Is greater, then, when that which is the cause
Is farthest off_."
The blinded prince's soliloquy, in the first scene of the fifth act, is
worthy of Shakspeare. We must quote the following lines:--
"Reason, my soul's eye, still sees
Clearly, and clearer for the want of eyes,
For gazing through the windows of the body
It met such several, such distracting objects;
But now confined within itself it sees
A strange and unknown world, and there discovers
_Torrents of anger, mountains of ambition,
Gulfs of desire, and towers of hope, large giants_,
Monsters and savage beasts; to vanquish these
Will be a braver conquest, than the old
Or the new world."
Shortly after the appearance of "Sophy," he was admitted, by the form
then usual, Sheriff of Surrey, and appointed governor of Farnham Castle
for the king; this important post, however, he soon resigned, and
retreated to Oxford, where, in 1643, he published his poem entitled
"Cooper's Hill." This instantly became popular, and many who might have
seen in "Sophy" greater powers than were disclosed in this new effort,
envied its fame, and gave out that he had bought it of a vicar for forty
pounds. For this there was, of course, no proof, and it is only worth
mentioning because it is one of a large class of cases, in which envious
mediocrity, or crushed dulness, or jealous rivalry, has sought to snatch
hard-won laurels from the brow of genius. As if these laurels were so
smooth, and so soothing, as always to invite ambition, or as if they
were so flexible as to suit every brow! As if FIRE lurked not sometimes
in their leaves, and as if there were not, besides, a nobler jealousy in
the public mind ready to watch and to avenge their misappropriation.
Certain it is that not only, as Johnson remarks, was the attempt made to
rob Addison of "Cato," and Pope of the "Essay of Criticism," but it has
a hundred times taken place in the history of poetry. Rolt, as we saw in
our late life of Akenside, tried to snatch the honour of writing "The
Pleasures of Imagination" from its author. Lauder accused Milton of
plundering the Italians wholesale. Scott's early novels have only the
other day been most absurdly claimed for his brother Thomas. And
notwithstanding Shakspeare's well-known lines over his sepulchre at
"Bless'd be the man who spares these stones,
But curs'd be he who moves my bones"--
a worse outrage has been recently committed on his memory, than were his
dust, like Wickliffe's, tossed out of his tomb into the Avon--his plays
have been, with as much stupidity as malice, attributed to Lord Bacon!
Homer, too, has been found out to be a myth; and we know not if even
Dante's originality has altogether passed unquestioned in this age of
disbelief and downpulling; although what brow, save that thunder-scathed
pile, could wear those scorched laurels, and who but the "man who had
been in hell" could have written the "Inferno?" Worst of all, a class of
writers have of late sought to prove that there is no such thing as
originality--that genius means just dexterous borrowing-that the
"Appropriation Clause" is of divine right--and have certainly proved
themselves true to their own principles.
In 1647, circumstances brought our poet more closely in connexion with
the royal family, and on one occasion he carried a message from the
Queen to King Charles, then in prison. He subsequently conducted, with
great success, the King's correspondence; and in April 1648 he conveyed
the young Duke of York (afterwards James II.) from London to France, and
delivered him to the charge of the Queen and the Prince of Wales. He
had, ere leaving Britain, written a translation of Cato-Major on Old
Age. While in France, attending on the exiled prince, he wrote a number
of poetical pieces at his master's desire; among others, a song in
honour of an embassy to Poland, which he and Lord Crofts undertook for
Charles II., and during which they are said to have collected L10,000
for the royal cause from the Scotchmen who then abounded in that country
as travelling merchants or pedlars. Meanwhile his political
misdemeanours were punished by the Parliament confiscating the remnant
of his estate. In 1652, he returned to England penniless, and was
supported by the Earl of Pembroke. After the Restoration, Charles, more
mindful of him than of many of his friends and the partners of his
exile, bestowed on Denham the Surveyorship of the King's Buildings and
the Order of the Bath. The situation of Surveyor, even in his careless
and improvident hands, turned out a lucrative one; for it is said that
he cleared by it no less than L7000. Of his first wife, we hear little
or nothing; but about this time, flushed as he was with prosperity, and
the popularity of the writings he continued to produce, he contracted a
second marriage, which was so far from happy that its consequences led
to a fit of temporary derangement. Butler, then a disappointed and
exacerbated man, was malignant enough to lampoon him for lunacy--an act
which, Dr. Johnson well remarks, "no provocation could excuse." It was,
in Fuller's fine old quaint language, "breaking one whom God had bowed
before." Our readers will find Butler's squib in our edition of that
poet, vol. ii. p. 200, under the title of "A Panegyrick on Sir John
Denham's Recovery from his Madness." It is a piece quite unworthy of
Butler's powers, and its sting lies principally in charging Denham with
plagiarising "Cooper's Hill" and "Sophy," with gambling, and with
overreaching the King as Surveyor of the Public Buildings, and with an
overbearing and quarrelsome temper--but it contains no allusion to his
domestic infelicity. Some have hinted that the cause of his insanity lay
in jealousy--that Denham suspected his wife to be too intimate with the
Duke of York--that he poisoned her, and maddened in remorse. Whatever
the cause, the distemper was not of long continuance. He recovered in
time to write some verses on the death of Cowley, which took place in
1667; but in the next year he himself expired, and was buried by the
side of his friend in Westminster Abbey, not very far from Chaucer and
Spencer. His funeral took place on the 19th of March 1668. He had
attained the age of fifty-three.
This is all we can definitely state of the history of Sir John Denham,
and certainly the light it casts on his character is neither very
plentiful nor very pleasing. A gambler in his early days, he became a
political intriguer, an unhappy husband, a maniac, and died in the prime
of life. It need only further be recorded of him, that, according to
some accounts, he first discovered the merits of Milton's "Paradise
Lost," and went about with the book new from the press in his hands,
shewing it to everybody, and exclaiming, "This beats us all, and the
ancients too!" If this story be true, it says as much for his heart as
his head for the generous disposition which made him praise a political
adversary, as for the critical taste which discerned at a glance the
value of the world's greatest poem. On the whole, however, Denham as a
man stands on the same general level with the Cavalier wits in the days
of Charles. If he did not rise so high as Cowley, he did not sink so low
as Rochester, or even as Butler.
We may now regret, both that he did not live better, and that he did not
write more. He had unquestionably in him greater powers than he ever
expressed in his works. These are few, fragmentary, and unequal; but,
nevertheless, must be reckoned productions of no ordinary merit. They
discover a great deal of the body, and not a little of the soul, of
poetry. In the passages we cited from "Sophy," and throughout the whole
of that play, there is a vigorous and profound vein of reflection, as
well as of imagination. Like Shakspeare, although on a scale very much
inferior, he carries on a constant stream of subtle reflection amidst
all the windings of his story; and even the most critical points of the
drama are studded with pearls. Coleridge speaks of himself, or some one
else, as wishing to live "collaterally, or aside, to the onward progress
of society;" and thus, in the drama, there should ever be, as it were, a
projection, or _alias_, of the author standing collaterally, or aside,
to the bustling incidents and whirling passions, and calmly adding the
commentary of wisdom, as they rush impetuously on. Such essentially was
the chorus of the ancient Greek play; and a similar end is answered in
Shakspeare by the subtle asides, the glancing bye-lights, which his
wondrous intellect interposes amidst the rapid play of his fancy, the
exuberance of his wit, and the crowded incident and interchange of
passion created by his genius. Some have maintained that the philosophy
of a drama should be chiefly confined to the conceptions of the
characters, the development of the plot, and the management of the
dialogue--that all the reflection should be molten into the mass of the
play, and none of it embossed on the surface; but certainly neither
Shakspeare's, nor Schiller's, nor Goethe's dramas answer to this ideal--
all of them, besides the philosophy, so to speak, afoot in the progress
of the story, contain a great deal standing still, quietly lurking in
nooks and corners, and yet exerting a powerful influence on the ultimate
effect and explanation of the whole. And so, according to its own
proportions, it is with Denham's "Sophy." Indeed, as we have above
hinted, its power lies more in these interesting individual beauties
than in its general structure.
"Cooper's Hill," next to "Sophy," is undoubtedly his best production.
Dr. Johnson calls it the first English specimen of _local_ poetry--i.e.,
of poetry in which a special scene is, through the embellishments of
traditionary recollection, moral reflections, and the power of
association generally, uplifted into a poetical light. This has been
done afterwards by Garth, in his "Claremont;" Pope, in his "Windsor
Forest;" Dyer, in his "Gronger-hill," and a hundred other instances. The
great danger in this class of poems, is lest imported sentiment and
historical reminiscence should overpower the living lineaments, and all
but blot out the memory of the actual landscape. And so it is to some
extent in "Cooper's Hill," the scene beheld from which is speedily lost
in a torrent of political reflection and moralising. The well-known
lines on the Thames are rhetorical and forcible, but not, we think,
"Oh, could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my theme!
Though deep, yet clear, though gentle, yet not dull,
Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full."
The poem closes with another river-picture, which some will admire:--
"When a calm river, raised with sudden rains
Or snows dissolved, o'erflows the adjoining plains,
The husbandmen, with high-raised banks, secure
Their greedy hopes, and this he can endure;
But, if with bays and dams they strive to force
His channel to a new or narrow course,
No longer then--within his banks he dwells,
First to a torrent, then a deluge swells,
Stronger and fiercer by restraint he roars,
And knows no bound, but makes his power his shores."
Again, he says of Thames:--
"Thames, the most loved of all the ocean's sons
By his old sire, to his embraces runs,
Hasting to pay his tribute to the sea,
Like mortal life to meet eternity.
Though with those streams he no resemblance hold
Whose foam is amber and their gravel gold.
His genuine and less guilty wealth t'explore,
Search not his bottom, but survey his shore."
Yet, though fond of, and great in, describing rivers, he is not, after
all, the "river-god" of poetry. Professor Wilson speaks with a far
"Down falls the drawbridge with a thund'ring shock,
And, in an instant, ere the eye can know,
Binds the stern castle to the opposing rock,
And hangs in calmness o'er the flood below;
A raging flood, that, born among the hills,
Flows dancing on through many a nameless glen,
Till, join'd by all his tributary rills
From lake and tarn, from marsh and from fen,
He leaves his empire with a kingly glee,
And fiercely bids retire the billows of the sea!"
Different poets are made to write on different rivers as well as on
different mountains. Denham paints well the calm majestic Thames;
Wilson, the rapid Spey; Scott, the immemorial and historic Forth; Burns,
the wild lonely Lugar and the Doon; and Thomas Aird (see his exquisitely
beautiful "River"), the pastoral Cluden. But the poet of the
St. Lawrence, with Niagara flinging itself over its crag like a mad
ocean--of the Ganges or the Orellana--has yet to be born, or at least
has yet to bring forth his conceptions of such a stupendous object in
In "Cooper's Hill" we find well, if not fully exhibited, what were
Denham's leading qualities--not high imagination or a fertile fancy,
although in neither of these was he conspicuously deficient, but manly
strength of thought and clearness of language. There are in him no
quaintnesses, no crotchets, no conceits, and no involutions or
affectations--all is transparent, masculine, and energetic. It is in
these respects that he became a model to Dryden and Pope, and may even
still be read with advantage for at least his style, which is
"Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full."
His translations we have included, not for their surpassing merit, but
because, in the first place, there is little of our author extant, and
we are happy to reprint every scrap of him we can find, and because
again he, according to Dr. Johnson, was "one of the first that understood
the necessity of emancipating translation from the drudgery of counting
lines and interpreting single words." There has, indeed, been recently a
reaction, attended in some cases with brilliant success--as in Bulwer's
"Ballads of Schiller"--in favour of the literal and lineal method; but
since such popular pieces as Dryden's "Virgil" and Pope's "Homer" have
been written on Denham's plan, it is interesting to preserve the model,
however rude, which they avowedly had in their eye.
His smaller pieces are not remarkable, unless we except his vigorous
lines "On the Earl of Stafford's Trial and Death," containing such noble
sentiments as these--
"Such was his force of eloquence, to make
The hearers more concern'd than he that spake,
Each seem'd to act that part he came to see,
_And none was more a looker-on than he_;
So did he move our passions, some were known
_To wish for the defence, the crime their own_.
Now private pity strove with public hate,
_Reason with rage, and eloquence with fate_."
Nor let us forget his verses on "Cowley's Death," which, although
unequal, and in their praise exaggerated, yet are in parts exceedingly
felicitous, as for instance, in the lines to which Macaulay, in his
"To him no author was unknown,
Yet what he wrote was all his own;
He melted not the ancient gold,
Nor with Ben Jonson did make bold
To plunder all the Roman stores
Of poets and of orators;
Horace's wit and Virgil's state
He did not steal, but emulate!
And when he would like them appear,
Their _garb_, but not their _clothes_, did wear."
Such is true criticism, which, in our judgment, means clear, sharp,
discriminating judgment expressed in the language and with the feelings
DENHAM'S POETICAL WORKS.
POEMS UPON SEVERAL OCCASIONS.
Sure there are poets which did never dream
Upon Parnassus, nor did taste the stream
Of Helicon; we therefore may suppose
Those made not poets, but the poets those,
And as courts make not kings, but kings the court,
So where the Muses and their train resort,
Parnassus stands; if I can be to thee
A poet, thou Parnassus art to me.
Nor wonder, if (advantaged in my flight,
By taking wing from thy auspicious height) 10
Through untraced ways and airy paths I fly,
More boundless in my fancy than my eye:
My eye which, swift as thought, contracts the space
That lies between, and first salutes the place
Crown'd with that sacred pile, so vast, so high,
That, whether 'tis a part of earth or sky,
Uncertain seems, and may be thought a proud
Aspiring mountain, or descending cloud.
Paul's, the late theme of such a Muse, whose flight 19
Has bravely reach'd and soar'd above thy height:
Now shalt thou stand, though sword, or time, or fire,
Or zeal more fierce than they, thy fall conspire,
Secure, whilst thee the best of poets sings,
Preserved from ruin by the best of kings.
Under his proud survey the city lies,
And like a mist beneath a hill doth rise;
Whose state and wealth, the business and the crowd,
Seems at this distance but a darker cloud:
And is, to him who rightly things esteems,
No other in effect than what it seems: 30
Where, with like haste, though sev'ral ways, they run,
Some to undo, and some to be undone;
While luxury and wealth, like war and peace,
Are each the other's ruin and increase;
As rivers lost in seas some secret vein
Thence reconveys, there to be lost again.
O happiness of sweet retired content!
To be at once secure and innocent.
Windsor the next (where Mars with Venus dwells,
Beauty with strength) above the valley swells 40
Into my eye, and doth itself present
With such an easy and unforced ascent,
That no stupendous precipice denies
Access, no horror turns away our eyes:
But such a rise as doth at once invite
A pleasure and a rev'rence from the sight:
Thy mighty master's emblem, in whose face
Sate meekness, heighten'd with majestic grace;
Such seems thy gentle height, made only proud
To be the basis of that pompous load, 50
Than which, a nobler weight no mountain bears,
But Atlas only, which supports the spheres.
When Nature's hand this ground did thus advance,
'Twas guided by a wiser power than Chance;
Mark'd out for such an use, as if 'twere meant
T' invite the builder, and his choice prevent.
Nor can we call it choice, when what we choose,
Folly or blindness only could refuse.
A crown of such majestic towers doth grace
The gods' great mother, when her heavenly race 60
Do homage to her, yet she cannot boast,
Among that num'rous and celestial host.
More heroes than can Windsor; nor doth Fame's
Immortal book record more noble names.
Not to look back so far, to whom this isle
Owes the first glory of so brave a pile,
Whether to Caesar, Albanact, or Brute,
The British Arthur, or the Danish Knute,
(Though this of old no less contest did move
Than when for Homer's birth seven cities strove) 70
(Like him in birth, thou shouldst be like in fame,
As thine his fate, if mine had been his flame),
But whosoe'er it was, Nature design'd
First a brave place, and then as brave a mind;
Not to recount those sev'ral kings, to whom
It gave a cradle, or to whom a tomb;
But thee, great Edward, and thy greater son
(The lilies which his father wore, he won),
And thy Bellona, who the consort came
Not only to thy bed, but to thy fame, so
She to thy triumph led one captive king,
And brought that son, which did the second bring.
Then didst thou found that Order (whether love 83
Or victory thy royal thoughts did move),
Each was a noble cause, and nothing less
Than the design, has been the great success:
Which foreign kings, and emperors esteem
The second honour to their diadem.
Had thy great destiny but given thee skill
To know, as well as power to act her will, 90
That from those kings, who then thy captives were,
In after times should spring a royal pair
Who should possess all that thy mighty power,
Or thy desires more mighty, did devour:
To whom their better fate reserves whate'er
The victor hopes for, or the vanquish'd fear;
That blood, which thou and thy great grandsire shed,
And all that since these sister nations bled,
Had been unspilt, had happy Edward known.
That all the blood he spilt had been his own. 100
When he that patron chose, in whom are join'd
Soldier and martyr, and his arms confin'd
Within the azure circle, he did seem
But to foretell, and prophesy of him,
Who to his realms that azure round hath join'd,
Which Nature for their bound at first design'd;
That bound, which to the world's extremest ends,
Endless itself, its liquid arms extends.
Nor doth he need those emblems which we paint,
But is himself the soldier and the saint. 110
Here should my wonder dwell, and here my praise;
But my fix'd thoughts my wand'ring eye betrays,
Viewing a neighb'ring hill, whose top of late
A chapel crown'd, 'till in the common fate
Th' adjoining abbey fell. (May no such storm
Fall on our times, when ruin must reform!)
Tell me, my Muse! what monstrous dire offence, 117
What crime could any Christian king incense
To such a rage? Was't luxury, or lust?
Was he so temperate, so chaste, so just?
Were these their crimes? They were his own much more;
But wealth is crime enough to him that's poor,
Who having spent the treasures of his crown,
Condemns their luxury to feed his own.
And yet this act, to varnish o'er the shame
Of sacrilege, must bear devotion's name.
No crime so bold, but would be understood
A real, or at least a seeming good:
Who fears not to do ill, yet fears the name,
And, free from conscience, is a slave to fame. 130
Thus he the church at once protects, and spoils:
But princes' swords are sharper than their styles;
And thus to th'ages past he makes amends,
Their charity destroys, their faith defends.
Then did Religion in a lazy cell,
In empty, airy contemplations dwell;
And like the block, unmoved lay; but ours,
As much too active, like the stork devours.
Is there no temp'rate region can be known,
Betwixt their frigid, and our torrid zone? 140
Could we not wake from that lethargic dream,
But to be restless in a worse extreme?
And for that lethargy was there no cure,
But to be cast into a calenture?
Can knowledge have no bound, but must advance
So far, to make us wish for ignorance,
And rather in the dark to grope our way,
Than, led by a false guide, to err by day?
Who sees these dismal heaps, but would demand
What barbarous invader sack'd the land? 150
But when he hears no Goth, no Turk did bring
This desolation, but a Christian king;
When nothing but the name of zeal appears
'Twixt our best actions and the worst of theirs,
What does he think our sacrilege would spare,
When such th'effects of our devotions are?
Parting from thence 'twixt anger, shame and fear,
Those for what's past, and this for what's too near,
My eye descending from the hill, surveys
Where Thames among the wanton valleys strays. 160
Thames, the most loved of all the Ocean's sons
By his old sire, to his embraces runs;
Hasting to pay his tribute to the sea,
Like mortal life to meet eternity.
Though with those streams he no resemblance hold,
Whose foam is amber, and their gravel gold,
His genuine and less guilty wealth t'explore,
Search not his bottom, but survey his shore,
O'er which he kindly spreads his spacious wing,
And hatches plenty for th'ensuing spring; 170
Nor then destroys it with too fond a stay,
Like mothers which their infants overlay;
Nor with a sudden and impetuous wave,
Like profuse kings, resumes the wealth he gave.
No unexpected inundations spoil
The mower's hopes, nor mock the ploughman's toil:
But godlike his unwearied bounty flows;
First loves to do, then loves the good he does.
Nor are his blessings to his banks confined,
But free and common as the sea or wind; 180
When he, to boast or to disperse his stores,
Full of the tributes of his grateful shores,
Visits the world, and in his flying towers
Brings home to us, and makes both Indies ours;
Finds wealth where 'tis, bestows it where it wants,
Cities in deserts, woods in cities plants;
So that to us no thing, no place is strange,
While his fair bosom is the world's exchange.
Oh, could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my theme! 190
Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;
Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full.
Heaven her Eridanus no more shall boast,
Whose fame in thine, like lesser current, 's lost;
Thy nobler streams shall visit Jove's abodes,
To shine among the stars, and bathe the gods.
Here Nature, whether more intent to please
Us or herself with strange varieties,
(For things of wonder give no less delight
To the wise maker's, than beholder's sight; 200
Though these delights from sev'ral causes move;
For so our children, thus our friends, we love),
Wisely she knew the harmony of things,
As well as that of sounds, from discord springs.
Such was the discord, which did first disperse
Form, order, beauty, through the universe;
While dryness moisture, coldness heat resists,
All that we have, and that we are, subsists;
While the steep, horrid roughness of the wood
Strives with the gentle calmness of the flood, 210
Such huge extremes when Nature doth unite,
Wonder from thence results, from thence delight.
The stream is so transparent, pure, and clear,
That had the self-enamour'd youth gazed here,
So fatally deceived he had not been,
While he the bottom, not his face had seen.
But his proud head the airy mountain hides 217
Among the clouds; his shoulders and his sides
A shady mantle clothes; his curled brows
Frown on the gentle stream, which calmly flows,
While winds and storms his lofty forehead beat:
The common fate of all that's high or great.
Low at his foot a spacious plain is placed,
Between the mountain and the stream embraced,
Which shade and shelter from the hill derives,
While the kind river wealth and beauty gives,
And in the mixture of all these appears
Variety, which all the rest endears.
This scene had some bold Greek or British bard
Beheld of old, what stories had we heard 230
Of fairies, satyrs, and the nymphs their dames,
Their feasts, their revels, and their am'rous flames?
'Tis still the same, although their airy shape
All but a quick poetic sight escape.
There Faunus and Sylvanus keep their courts,
And thither all the horned host resorts
To graze the ranker mead; that noble herd
On whose sublime and shady fronts is rear'd
Nature's great masterpiece; to show how soon,
Great things are made, but sooner are undone. 240
Here have I seen the King, when great affairs
Gave leave to slacken, and unbend his cares,
Attended to the chase by all the flower
Of youth whose hopes a nobler prey devour:
Pleasure with praise and danger they would buy,
And wish a foe that would not only fly.
The stag now conscious of his fatal growth,
At once indulgent to his fear and sloth,
To some dark covert his retreat had made,
Where nor man's eye, nor heaven's should invade 250
His soft repose; when th'unexpected sound
Of dogs, and men, his wakeful ears does wound.
Roused with the noise, he scarce believes his ear,
Willing to think th'illusions of his fear
Had given this false alarm, but straight his view
Confirms that more than all he fears is true.
Betray'd in all his strengths, the wood beset;
All instruments, all arts of ruin met;
He calls to mind his strength and then his speed,
His winged heels, and then his armed head; 260
With these t'avoid, with that his fate to meet:
But fear prevails, and bids him trust his feet.
So fast he flies, that his reviewing eye
Has lost the chasers, and his ear the cry;
Exulting, till he finds their nobler sense
Their disproportion'd speed doth recompense;
Then curses his conspiring feet, whose scent
Betrays that safety which their swiftness lent;
Then tries his friends; among the baser herd,
Where he so lately was obey'd and fear'd, 270
His safety seeks; the herd, unkindly wise,
Or chases him from thence, or from him flies;
Like a declining statesman, left forlorn
To his friends' pity, and pursuers' scorn,
With shame remembers, while himself was one
Of the same herd, himself the same had done.
Thence to the coverts and the conscious groves,
The scenes of his past triumphs and his loves;
Sadly surveying where he ranged alone
Prince of the soil, and all the herd his own, 280
And like a bold knight-errant did proclaim.
Combat to all, and bore away the dame,
And taught the woods to echo to the stream
His dreadful challenge, and his clashing beam;
Yet faintly now declines the fatal strife;
So much his love was dearer than his life.
Now every leaf, and every moving breath
Presents a foe, and every foe a death.
Wearied, forsaken, and pursued, at last
All safety in despair of safety placed, 290
Courage he thence resumes, resolved to bear
All their assaults, since 'tis in vain to fear.
And now, too late, he wishes for the fight
That strength he wasted in ignoble flight:
But when he sees the eager chase renew'd,
Himself by dogs, the dogs by men pursued,
He straight revokes his bold resolve, and more
Repents his courage than his fear before;
Finds that uncertain ways unsafest are,
And doubt a greater mischief than despair. 300
Then to the stream, when neither friends, nor force,
Nor speed, nor art, avail, he shapes his course;
Thinks not their rage so desperate to assay
An element more merciless than they.
But fearless they pursue, nor can the flood
Quench their dire thirst; alas! they thirst for blood.
So t'wards a ship the oar-finn'd galleys ply,
Which, wanting sea to ride, or wind to fly,
Stands but to fall revenged on those that dare
Tempt the last fury of extreme despair. 310
So fares the stag, among th'enraged hounds,
Repels their force, and wounds returns for wounds;
And as a hero, whom his baser foes
In troops surround, now these assails, now those,
Though prodigal of life, disdains to die
By common hands; but if he can descry
Some nobler foe approach, to him he calls,
And begs his fate, and then contented falls.
So when the king a mortal shaft lets fly 319
From his unerring hand, then glad to die,
Proud of the wound, to it resigns his blood,
And stains the crystal with a purple flood.
This a more innocent, and happy chase,
Than when of old, but in the selfsame place,
Fair Liberty pursued, and meant a prey
To lawless power, here turn'd, and stood at bay;
When in that remedy all hope was placed
Which was, or should have been at least, the last.
Here was that charter seal'd, wherein the crown
All marks of arbitrary power lays down: 330
Tyrant and slave, those names of hate and fear,
The happier style of king and subject bear:
Happy, when both to the same centre move,
When kings give liberty, and subjects love.
Therefore not long in force this charter stood;
Wanting that seal, it must be seal'd in blood.
The subjects arm'd, the more their princes gave,
Th' advantage only took the more to crave;
Till kings by giving, give themselves away,
And e'en that power, that should deny, betray. 340
'Who gives constrain'd, but his own fear reviles,
Not thank'd, but scorn'd; nor are they gifts, but spoils.'
Thus kings, by grasping more than they could hold,
First made their subjects, by oppression, bold:
And popular sway, by forcing kings to give
More than was fit for subjects to receive,
Ran to the same extremes; and one excess
Made both, by striving to be greater, less.
When a calm river, raised with sudden rains,
Or snows dissolved, o'erflows th'adjoining plains, 350
The husbandmen with high raised banks secure
Their greedy hopes, and this he can endure;
But if with bays and dams they strive to force
His channel to a new, or narrow course;
No longer then within his banks he dwells,
First to a torrent, then a deluge, swells;
Stronger and fiercer by restraint he roars,
And knows no bound, but makes his power his shores.
 'Such a Muse': Mr. Waller.
 'Great Edward, and thy greater son': Edward III. and the Black
 'Thy Bellona': Queen Phillippa.
 'Captive king': the kings of France and Scotland.
 'The stars': the Forest.
 'Self-enamour'd youth': Narcissus.
 'Liberty pursued': Runimede, where Magna Charta was first sealed.
THE DESTRUCTION OF TROY.
AN ESSAY ON THE SECOND BOOK OF VIRGIL'S AENEIS,
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1636.
The first book speaks of Aeneas's voyage by sea, and how, being cast by
tempest upon the coast of Carthage, he was received by Queen Dido, who,
after the feast, desires him to make the relation of the destruction of
Troy; which is the argument of this book.
While all with silence and attention wait,
Thus speaks Aeneas from the bed of state:--
Madam, when you command us to review
Our fate, you make our old wounds bleed anew,
And all those sorrows to my sense restore,
Whereof none saw so much, none suffer'd more.
Not the most cruel of our conqu'ring foes
So unconcern'dly can relate our woes,
As not to lend a tear; then how can I
Repress the horror of my thoughts, which fly 10
The sad remembrance? Now th'expiring night
And the declining stars to rest invite;
Yet since 'tis your command, what you so well
Are pleased to hear, I cannot grieve to tell.
By fate repell'd and with repulses tired,
The Greeks, so many lives and years expired,
A fabric like a moving mountain frame, 17
Pretending vows for their return; this Fame
Divulges; then within the beast's vast womb
The choice and flower of all their troops entomb;
In view the isle of Tenedos, once high,
In fame and wealth, while Troy remain'd, doth lie;
(Now but an unsecure and open bay)
Thither by stealth the Greeks their fleet convey.
We gave them gone, and to Mycenae sail'd,
And Troy reviv'd, her mourning face unveil'd;
All through th'unguarded gates with joy resort
To see the slighted camp, the vacant port;
Here lay Ulysses, there Achilles; here
The battles join'd; the Grecian fleet rode there; 30
But the vast pile th'amazed vulgar views,
Till they their reason in their wonder lose.
And first Thymoetes moves (urged by the power
Of fate, or fraud) to place it in the tower;
But Capys and the graver sort thought fit
The Greeks' suspected present to commit
To seas or flames, at least to search and bore
The sides, and what that space contains, t'explore.
Th' uncertain multitude with both engaged,
Divided stands, till from the tower, enraged 40
Laocoon ran, whom all the crowd attends,
Crying, 'What desp'rate frenzy's this, O friends!
To think them gone? Judge rather their retreat
But a design; their gifts but a deceit;
For our destruction 'twas contrived no doubt,
Or from within by fraud, or from without
By force. Yet know ye not Ulysses' shifts?
Their swords less danger carry than their gifts.'
(This said) against the horse's side his spear 49
He throws, which trembles with enclosed fear,
Whilst from the hollows of his womb proceed
Groans, not his own; and had not Fate decreed
Our ruin, we had fill'd with Grecian blood
The place; then Troy and Priam's throne had stood.
Meanwhile a fetter'd pris'ner to the king
With joyful shouts the Dardan shepherds bring,
Who to betray us did himself betray,
At once the taker, and at once the prey;
Firmly prepared, of one event secured,
Or of his death or his design assured. 60
The Trojan youth about the captive flock,
To wonder, or to pity, or to mock.
Now hear the Grecian fraud, and from this one
Conjecture all the rest.
Disarm'd, disorder'd, casting round his eyes
On all the troops that guarded him, he cries,
'What land, what sea, for me what fate attends?
Caught by my foes, condemned by my friends,
Incensed Troy a wretched captive seeks
To sacrifice; a fugitive the Greeks.'-- 70
To pity this complaint our former rage
Converts; we now inquire his parentage;
What of their counsels or affairs he knew
Then fearless he replies, 'Great king! to you
All truth I shall relate: nor first can I
Myself to be of Grecian birth deny;
And though my outward state misfortune hath
Depress'd thus low, it cannot reach my faith.
You may by chance have heard the famous name
Of Palamede, who from old Belus came, 80
Whom, but for voting peace, the Greeks pursue,
Accus'd unjustly, then unjustly slew,
Yet mourn'd his death. My father was his friend,
And me to his commands did recommend,
While laws and councils did his throne support;
I but a youth, yet some esteem and port
We then did bear, till by Ulysses' craft
(Things known I speak) he was of life bereft:
Since, in dark sorrow I my days did spend, 90
Till now, disdaining his unworthy end,
I could not silence my complaints, but vow'd
Revenge, if ever fate or chance allow'd
My wish'd return to Greece; from hence his hate,
From thence my crimes, and all my ills bear date:
Old guilt fresh malice gives; the people's ears
He fills with rumours, and their hearts with fears,
And then the prophet to his party drew.
But why do I those thankless truths pursue,
Or why defer your rage? on me, for all
The Greeks, let your revenging fury fall. 100
Ulysses this, th'Atridae this desire
At any rate.'--We straight are set on fire
(Unpractised in such myst'ries) to inquire
The manner and the cause: which thus he told,
With gestures humble, as his tale was bold.
'Oft have the Greeks (the siege detesting) tired
With tedious war, a stolen retreat desired,
And would to Heaven they'd gone! but still dismay'd
By seas or skies, unwillingly they stay'd.
Chiefly when this stupendous pile was raised, 110
Strange noises filled the air; we, all amazed,
Despatch Eurypylus t'inquire our fates,
Who thus the sentence of the gods relates:
"A virgin's slaughter did the storm appease,
When first t'wards Troy the Grecians took the seas;
Their safe retreat another Grecian's blood 116
Must purchase." All at this confounded stood;
Each thinks himself the man, the fear on all
Of what the mischief but on one can fall.
Then Calchas (by Ulysses first inspired)
Was urged to name whom th'angry god required;
Yet was I warn'd (for many were as well
Inspired as he) and did my fate foretell.
Ten days the prophet in suspense remain'd,
Would no man's fate pronounce; at last constrain'd
By Ithacus, he solemnly design'd
Me for the sacrifice; the people join'd
In glad consent, and all their common fear
Determine in my fate. The day drew near,
The sacred rites prepared, my temples crown'd 130
With holy wreaths; then I confess I found
The means to my escape; my bonds I brake,
Fled from my guards, and in a muddy lake
Amongst the sedges all the night lay hid,
Till they their sails had hoist (if so they did).
And now, alas! no hope remains for me
My home, my father, and my sons to see,
Whom they, enraged, will kill for my offence,
And punish, for my guilt, their innocence.
Those gods who know the truths I now relate, 140
That faith which yet remains inviolate
By mortal men, by these I beg; redress
My causeless wrongs, and pity such distress.'--
And now true pity in exchange he finds
For his false tears, his tongue his hands unbinds.
Then spake the king, 'Be ours, whoe'er thou art;
Forget the Greeks. But first the truth impart,
Why did they raise, or to what use intend
This pile? to a warlike or religious end?'
Skilful in fraud (his native art) his hands 150
T'ward heaven he raised, deliver'd now from bands.
'Ye pure ethereal flames! ye powers adored
By mortal men! ye altars, and the sword
I 'scaped! ye sacred fillets that involved
My destined head! grant I may stand absolved
From all their laws and rights, renounce all name
Of faith or love, their secret thoughts proclaim;
Only, O Troy! preserve thy faith to me,
If what I shall relate preserveth thee.
From Pallas' favour all our hopes, and all 160
Counsels and actions took original,
Till Diomed (for such attempts made fit
By dire conjunction with Ulysses' wit)
Assails the sacred tower, the guards they slay,
Defile with bloody hands, and thence convey
The fatal image; straight with our success
Our hopes fell back, whilst prodigies express
Her just disdain, her flaming eyes did throw
Flashes of lightning, from each part did flow
A briny sweat; thrice brandishing her spear, 170
Her statue from the ground itself did rear;
Then, that we should our sacrilege restore,
And re-convey their gods from Argos' shore,
Calchas persuades, till then we urge in vain
The fate of Troy. To measure back the main
They all consent, but to return again,
When reinforced with aids of gods and men.
Thus Calchas; then instead of that, this pile
To Pallas was design'd; to reconcile
Th' offended power, and expiate our guilt; 180
To this vast height and monstrous stature built,
Lest through your gates received, it might renew
Your vows to her, and her defence to you.
But if this sacred gift you disesteem,
Then cruel plagues (which Heaven divert on them!)
Shall fall on Priam's state: but if the horse
Your walls ascend, assisted by your force,
A league 'gainst Greece all Asia shall contract;
Our sons then suff'ring what their sires would act.'
Thus by his fraud and our own faith o'ercome, 190
A feigned tear destroys us, against whom
Tydides nor Achilles could prevail,
Nor ten years' conflict, nor a thousand sail.
This seconded by a most sad portent,
Which credit to the first imposture lent;
Laocoon, Neptune's priest, upon the day
Devoted to that god, a bull did slay;
When two prodigious serpents were descried,
Whose circling strokes the sea's smooth face divide;
Above the deep they raise their scaly crests, 200
And stem the flood with their erected breasts,
Their winding tails advance and steer their course,
And 'gainst the shore the breaking billows force.
Now landing, from their brandish'd tongues there came
A dreadful hiss, and from their eyes a flame.
Amazed we fly, directly in a line
Laocoon they pursue, and first entwine
(Each preying upon one) his tender sons;
Then him, who armed to their rescue runs,
They seized, and with entangling folds embraced, 210
His neck twice compassing, and twice his waist:
Their pois'nous knots he strives to break and tear,
While slime and blood his sacred wreaths besmear;
Then loudly roars, as when th'enraged bull
From th'altar flies, and from his wounded skull
Shakes the huge axe; the conqu'ring serpents fly
To cruel Pallas' altar, and there lie
Under her feet, within her shield's extent. 218
We, in our fears, conclude this fate was sent
Justly on him, who struck the sacred oak
With his accursed lance. Then to invoke
The goddess, and let in the fatal horse,
We all consent.
A spacious breach we make, and Troy's proud wall
Built by the gods, by our own hands doth fall;
Thus, all their help to their own ruin give,
Some draw with cords, and some the monster drive
With rolls and levers: thus our works it climbs
Big with our fate; the youth with songs and rhymes,
Some dance, some hale the rope; at last let down 230
It enters with a thund'ring noise the town.
Oh Troy! the seat of gods, in war renown'd!
Three times it struck; as oft the clashing sound
Of arms was heard; yet blinded by the power
Of Fate, we place it in the sacred tower.
Cassandra then foretells th'event, but she
Finds no belief (such was the gods' decree).
The altars with fresh flowers we crown, and waste
In feasts that day, which was (alas!) our last.
Now by the revolution of the skies 240
Night's sable shadows from the ocean rise,
Which heaven and earth, and the Greek frauds involved,
The city in secure repose dissolved,
When from the admiral's high poop appears
A light, by which the Argive squadron steers
Their silent course to Ilium's well-known shore,
When Sinon (saved by the gods' partial power)
Opens the horse, and through the unlock'd doors
To the free air the armed freight restores:
Ulysses, Stheneleus, Tisander slide 250
Down by a rope, Machaon was their guide;
Atrides, Pyrrhus, Thoas, Athamas,
And Epeus who the fraud's contriver was.
The gates they seize; the guards, with sleep and wine
Oppress'd, surprise, and then their forces join.
'Twas then, when the first sweets of sleep repair
Our bodies spent with toil, our minds with care,
(The gods' best gift), when, bathed in tears and blood,
Before my face lamenting Hector stood,
His aspect such when, soil'd with bloody dust, 260
Dragg'd by the cords which through his feet were thrust
By his insulting foe; oh, how transform'd,
How much unlike that Hector, who return'd
Clad in Achilles' spoils! when he, among
A thousand ships (like Jove) his lightning flung!
His horrid beard and knotted tresses stood
Stiff with his gore, and all his wounds ran blood:
Entranced I lay, then (weeping) said, 'The joy,
The hope and stay of thy declining Troy!
What region held thee? whence, so much desired, 270
Art thou restored to us, consumed and tired
With toils and deaths? But what sad cause confounds
Thy once fair looks, or why appear those wounds?'
Regardless of my words, he no reply
Returns, but with a dreadful groan doth cry,
'Fly from the flame, O goddess-born! our walls
The Greeks possess, and Troy confounded falls
From all her glories; if it might have stood
By any power, by this right hand it should.
What man could do, by me for Troy was done. 280
Take here her relics and her gods, to run
With them thy fate, with them new walls expect,
Which, toss'd on seas, thou shalt at last erect;'--
Then brings old Vesta from her sacred choir,
Her holy wreaths, and her eternal fire.
Meanwhile the walls with doubtful cries resound
From far (for shady coverts did surround
My father's house); approaching still more near,
The clash of arms, and voice of men we hear:
Roused from my bed, I speedily ascend 290
The houses' tops, and listening there attend.
As flames roll'd by the winds' conspiring force,
O'er full-ear'd corn, or torrent's raging course
Bears down th'opposing oaks, the fields destroys,
And mocks the ploughman's toil, th'unlook'd for noise
From neighb'ring hills th'amazed shepherd hears;
Such my surprise, and such their rage appears.
First fell thy house, Ucalegon! then thine
Deiphobus! Sigaean seas did shine
Bright with Troy's flames; the trumpets' dreadful sound
The louder groans of dying men confound. 301
Give me my arms, I cried, resolved to throw
Myself 'mong any that opposed the foe:
Rage, anger, and despair at once suggest,
That of all deaths, to die in arms was best.
The first I met was Pantheus, Phoebus' priest,
Who, 'scaping with his gods and relics, fled,
And t'wards the shore his little grandchild led;
'Pantheus, what hope remains? what force, what place
Made good? But, sighing, he replies, 'Alas! 310
Trojans we were, and mighty Ilium was;
But the last period and the fatal hour
Of Troy is come: our glory and our power
Incensed Jove transfers to Grecian hands;
The foe within the burning town commands;
And (like a smother'd fire) an unseen force
Breaks from the bowels of the fatal horse:
Insulting Sinon flings about the flame,
And thousands more than e'er from Argos came
Possess the gates, the passes, and the streets, 320
And these the sword o'ertakes, and those it meets.
The guard nor fights nor flies; their fate so near
At once suspends their courage and their fear.'--
Thus by the gods, and by Atrides' words
Inspir'd, I make my way through fire, through swords,
Where noises, tumults, outcries, and alarms
I heard; first Iphitus, renown'd for arms,
We meet, who knew us (for the moon did shine)
Then Ripheus, Hypanis, and Dymas join
Their force, and young Choroebus, Mygdon's son, 330
Who, by the love of fair Cassandra won,
Arrived but lately in her father's aid;
Unhappy, whom the threats could not dissuade
Of his prophetic spouse;
Whom when I saw, yet daring to maintain
The fight, I said, 'Brave spirits! (but in vain)
Are you resolv'd to follow one who dares
Tempt all extremes? The state of our affairs
You see: the gods have left us, by whose aid
Our empire stood; nor can the flame be stay'd: 340
Then let us fall amidst our foes; this one
Relief the vanquish'd have, to hope for none.'
Then reinforced, as in a stormy night
Wolves urged by their raging appetite
Forage for prey, which their neglected young
With greedy jaws expect, even so among
Foes, fire, and swords, t'assured death we pass;
Darkness our guide, Despair our leader was.
Who can relate that evening's woes and spoils,
Or can his tears proportion to our toils? 350
The city, which so long had flourish'd, falls;
Death triumphs o'er the houses, temples, walls.
Nor only on the Trojans fell this doom,
Their hearts at last the vanquish'd reassume;
And now the victors fall: on all sides fears,
Groans, and pale Death in all her shapes appears!
Androgeus first with his whole troop was cast
Upon us, with civility misplaced
Thus greeting us, 'You lose, by your delay,
Your share, both of the honour and the prey; 360
Others the spoils of burning Troy convey
Back to those ships which you but now forsake.'
We making no return, his sad mistake
Too late he finds; as when an unseen snake
A traveller's unwary foot hath press'd,
Who trembling starts, when the snake's azure crest,
Swoll'n with his rising anger, he espies,
So from our view surprised Androgeus flies.
But here an easy victory we meet:
Fear binds their hands and ignorance their feet. 370
Whilst fortune our first enterprise did aid,
Encouraged with success, Choroebus said,
'O friends! we now by better fates are led,
And the fair path they lead us, let us tread.
First change your arms, and their distinctions bear;
The same, in foes, deceit and virtue are.'
Then of his arms Androgeus he divests,
His sword, his shield he takes, and plumed crests;
Then Ripheus, Dymas, and the rest, all glad
Of the occasion, in fresh spoils are clad. 380
Thus mix'd with Greeks, as if their fortune still
Follow'd their swords, we fight, pursue, and kill.
Some re-ascend the horse, and he whose sides
Let forth the valiant, now the coward hides.
Some to their safer guard, their ships, retire;
But vain's that hope 'gainst which the gods conspire;
Behold the royal virgin, the divine
Cassandra, from Minerva's fatal shrine
Dragg'd by the hair, casting t'wards heaven, in vain,
Her eyes; for cords her tender hands did strain; 390
Choroebus at the spectacle enraged,
Flies in amidst the foes: we thus engaged,
To second him, among the thickest ran;
Here first our ruin from our friends began,
Who from the temple's battlements a shower
Of darts and arrows on our heads did pour:
They us for Greeks, and now the Greeks (who knew
Cassandra's rescue) us for Trojans slew.
Then from all parts Ulysses, Ajax then,
And then th'Atridae rally all their men; 400
As winds, that meet from sev'ral coasts, contest,
Their prisons being broke, the south and west,
And Eurus on his winged coursers borne,
Triumphing in their speed, the woods are torn,
And chasing Nereus with his trident throws
The billows from their bottom; then all those
Who in the dark our fury did escape,
Returning, know our borrow'd arms and shape,
And diff'ring dialect: then their numbers swell
And grow upon us; first Choroebus fell 410
Before Minerva's altar, next did bleed
Just Ripheus, whom no Trojan did exceed
In virtue, yet the gods his fate decreed.
Then Hypanis and Dymas, wounded by
Their friends; nor thee, Pantheus! thy piety,
Nor consecrated mitre, from the same
Ill fate could save. My country's fun'ral flame
And Troy's cold ashes I attest, and call
To witness for myself, that in their fall
No foes, no death, nor danger I declin'd, 420
Did, and deserv'd no less, my fate to find.
Now Iphitus with me, and Pelias
Slowly retire; the one retarded was
By feeble age, the other by a wound;
To court the cry directs us, where we found
Th' assault so hot, as if 'twere only there,
And all the rest secure from foes or fear:
The Greeks the gates approach'd, their targets cast
Over their heads; some scaling ladders placed
Against the walls, the rest the steps ascend, 430
And with their shields on their left arms defend
Arrows and darts, and with their right hold fast
The battlement; on them the Trojans cast
Stones, rafters, pillars, beams; such arms as these,
Now hopeless, for their last defence they seize.
The gilded roofs, the marks of ancient state,
They tumble down; and now against the gate
Of th'inner court their growing force they bring;
Now was our last effort to save the king,
Relieve the fainting, and succeed the dead. 440
A private gallery 'twixt th'apartments led,
Not to the foe yet known, or not observed,
(The way for Hector's hapless wife reserved,
When to the aged king her little son
She would present); through this we pass, and run
Up to the highest battlement, from whence
The Trojans threw their darts without offence,
A tower so high, it seem'd to reach the sky,
Stood on the roof, from whence we could descry,
All Ilium--both the camps, the Grecian fleet; 450
This, where the beams upon the columns meet,
We loosen, which like thunder from the cloud
Breaks on their heads, as sudden and as loud.
But others still succeed: meantime, nor stones
Nor any kind of weapons cease.
Before the gate in gilded armour shone
Young Pyrrhus, like a snake, his skin new grown,
Who, fed on pois'nous herbs, all winter lay
Under the ground, and now reviews the day,
Fresh in his new apparel, proud and young, 460
Rolls up his back, and brandishes his tongue,
And lifts his scaly breast against the sun;
With him his father's squire, Automedon,
And Peripas who drove his winged steeds,
Enter the court; whom all the youth succeeds
Of Scyros' isle, who naming firebrands flung
Up to the roof; Pyrrhus himself among
The foremost with an axe an entrance hews
Through beams of solid oak, then freely views
The chambers, galleries, and rooms of state, 470
Where Priam and the ancient monarchs sate.
At the first gate an armed guard appears;
But th'inner court with horror, noise and tears,
Confus'dly fill'd, the women's shrieks and cries
The arched vaults re-echo to the skies;
Sad matrons wand'ring through the spacious rooms
Embrace and kiss the posts; then Pyrrhus comes;
Full of his father, neither men nor walls
His force sustain; the torn portcullis falls;
Then from the hinge their strokes the gates divorce, 480
And where the way they cannot find, they force.
Not with such rage a swelling torrent flows
Above his banks, th'opposing dams o'erthrows,
Depopulates the fields, the cattle, sheep,
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