Specimens with Memoirs of the Less-known British Poets, Complete
Part 9 out of 20
This done, then to th' enamell'd meads,
Thou go'st; and as thy foot there treads,
Thou seest a present godlike power
Imprinted in each herb and flower;
And smell'st the breath of great-eyed kine,
Sweet as the blossoms of the vine.
Here thou behold'st thy large sleek neat
Unto the dewlaps up in meat;
And, as thou look'st, the wanton steer,
The heifer, cow, and ox, draw near,
To make a pleasing pastime there.
These seen, thou go'st to view thy flocks
Of sheep, safe from the wolf and fox;
And find'st their bellies there as full
Of short sweet grass, as backs with wool;
And leav'st them as they feed and fill;
A shepherd piping on a hill.
For sports, for pageantry, and plays,
Thou hast thy eves and holidays;
On which the young men and maids meet,
To exercise their dancing feet;
Tripping the comely country round,
With daffodils and daisies crown'd.
Thy wakes, thy quintels, here thou hast;
Thy May-poles too, with garlands graced;
Thy morris-dance, thy Whitsun-ale,
Thy shearing feast, which never fail;
Thy harvest-home, thy wassail-bowl,
That's toss'd up after fox i' the hole;
Thy mummeries, thy Twelfth-night kings
And queens, thy Christmas revellings;
Thy nut-brown mirth, thy russet wit;
And no man pays too dear for it.
To these thou hast thy times to go,
And trace the hare in the treacherous snow;
Thy witty wiles to draw, and get
The lark into the trammel net;
Thou hast thy cockrood, and thy glade
To take the precious pheasant made;
Thy lime-twigs, snares, and pitfalls, then,
To catch the pilfering birds, not men.
O happy life, if that their good
The husbandmen but understood!
Who all the day themselves do please,
And younglings, with such sports as these;
And, lying down, have nought to affright
Sweet sleep, that makes more short the night.
SIR RICHARD FANSHAWE.
This gallant knight was son to Sir Henry Fanshawe, who was Remembrancer
to the Irish Exchequer, and brother to Thomas Lord Fanshawe. He was born
at Ware, in Hertfordshire, in 1607-8. He became a vehement Royalist, and
acted for some time as Secretary to Prince Rupert, and was, in truth, a
kindred spirit, worthy of recording the orders of that fiery spirit--the
Murat of the Royal cause--to whom the dust of the _mêlée_ of battle was
the very breath of life. After the Restoration, Fanshawe was appointed
ambassador to Spain and Portugal. He acted in this capacity at Madrid in
1666. He had issued translations of the 'Lusiad' of Camoens, and the
'Pastor Fido' of Guarini. Along with the latter, which appeared in 1648,
he published some original poems of considerable merit. He holds
altogether a respectable, if not a very high place among our early
translators and minor poets.
THE SPRING, A SONNET.
FROM THE SPANISH.
Those whiter lilies which the early morn
Seems to have newly woven of sleaved silk,
To which, on banks of wealthy Tagus born,
Gold was their cradle, liquid pearl their milk.
These blushing roses, with whose virgin leaves
The wanton wind to sport himself presumes,
Whilst from their rifled wardrobe he receives
For his wings purple, for his breath perfumes.
Both those and these my Caelia's pretty foot
Trod up; but if she should her face display,
And fragrant breast, they'd dry again to the root,
As with the blasting of the mid-day's ray;
And this soft wind, which both perfumes and cools,
Pass like the unregarded breath of fools.
The 'melancholy' and musical Cowley was born in London in the year 1618.
He was the posthumous son of a worthy grocer, who lived in Fleet Street,
near the end of Chancery Lane, and who is supposed, from the omission of
his name in the register of St Dunstan's parish, to have been a
Dissenter. His mother was left poor, but had a strong desire for her
son's education, and influence to get him admitted as a king's scholar
into Westminster. His mind was almost preternaturally precocious, and
received early a strong and peculiar stimulus. A copy of Spenser lay in
the window of his mother's apartment, and in it he delighted to read,
and became the devoted slave of poetry ever after. When only ten he
wrote 'The Tragical History of Pyramus and Thisbe,' and at twelve
'Constantia and Philetus.' Pope wrote a lampoon about the same age as
Cowley these romantic narratives; and we have seen a pretty good copy of
verses on Napoleon, written at the age of seven, by one of the most
distinguished rising poets of our own day. When fifteen (Johnson calls
it thirteen, but he and some other biographers were misled by the
portrait of the poet being, by mistake, marked thirteen) Cowley
published some of his early effusions, under the title of 'Poetical
Blossoms.' While at school he produced a comedy of a pastoral kind,
entitled, 'Love's Riddle,' but it was not published till he went to
Cambridge. To that university he proceeded in 1636, and two years after,
there appeared the above-mentioned comedy, with a poetical dedication to
Sir Kenelm Digby, one of the marvellous men of that age; and also
'Naufragium Joculare,' a comedy in Latin, inscribed to Dr Comber, master
of the college. When the Prince of Wales afterwards visited Cambridge,
the fertile Cowley got up the rough draft of another comedy, called 'The
Guardian,' which was repeated to His Royal Highness by the scholars.
This was afterwards, to the poet's great annoyance, printed during his
absence from the country. In 1643 he took his degree of A.M., and was,
the same year, through the prevailing influence of the Parliament,
ejected, with many others, from Cambridge. He took refuge in St John's
College, Oxford, where he published a satire, entitled 'The Puritan and
Papist,' and where, by his loyalty and genius, he gained the favour of
such distinguished courtiers as Lord Falkland. During this agitated
period he resided a good deal in the family of the Lord St Albans; and
when Oxford fell into the hands of the Parliament he followed the Queen
to Paris, and there acted as Secretary to the same noble lord. He
remained abroad about ten years, and during that period made various
journeys in the furtherance of the Royal cause, visiting Flanders,
Holland, Jersey, Scotland, &c. His chief employment, however, was
carrying on a correspondence in cipher between the King and the Queen.
Sprat says, 'he ciphered and deciphered with his own hand the greatest
part of the letters that passed between their Majesties, and managed a
vast intelligence in other parts, which, for some years together, took
up all his days and two or three nights every week.' This does not seem
employment very suitable to a man of genius. He seems, however, to have
found time for more congenial avocations; and, in 1647, he published his
'Mistress,' a work which seems to glow with amorous fire, although
Barnes relates of the author that he was never in love but once, and
then had not resolution to reveal his passion. And yet he wrote 'The
Chronicle,' from which we might infer that his heart was completely
tinder, and that his series of love attachments had been an infinite
In 1556, being of no more use in Paris, Cowley was sent back to England,
that 'under pretence of privacy and retirement he might take occasion of
giving notice of the posture of things in this nation.' For some time he
lay concealed in London, but was at length seized by mistake for another
gentleman of the Royal party; and being thus discovered, he was continued
in confinement, was several times examined, and ultimately succeeded,
although with some difficulty, in obtaining his liberation, Dr Scarborough
becoming his bail for a thousand pounds. In the same year he published a
collection of his poems, with a querulous preface, in which he expresses
a strong desire to 'retire to some of the American plantations, and to
forsake the world for ever.' Meanwhile he gave himself out as a physician
till the death of Cromwell, when he returned to France, resumed his former
occupation, and remained till the Restoration. In 1657 he was created
Doctor of Medicine at Oxford. Having studied botany to qualify himself for
his physician's degree, he was induced to publish in Latin some books on
plants, flowers, and trees.
The Restoration brought him less advantage than he had anticipated.
Probably he expected too much, and had expressed his sanguine hopes in a
song of triumph on the occasion. He had been promised, both by Charles
I. and Charles II., the Mastership of the Savoy, (a forgotten sinecure
office;) but lost it, says Wood, 'by certain persons, enemies to the
Muses.' He brought on the stage at this time his old comedy of 'The
Guardian,' under the title of 'Cutter of Coleman Street;' but it was
thought a satire on the debauchery of the King's party, and was received
with coldness. Cowley, according to Dryden, 'received the news of his
ill success not with so much firmness as might have been expected from
so great a man.' There are few who, like Dr Johnson, have been able to
declare, after the rejection of a play or poem, that they felt 'like the
Monument.' Cowley not only entertained, but printed his dissatisfaction,
in the form of a poem called 'The Complaint,' which, like all selfish
complaints, attracted little sympathy or attention. In this he calls
himself the 'melancholy Cowley,' an epithet which has stuck to his
He had always, according to his own statement, loved retirement. When he
was a young boy at school, instead of running about on holidays, and
playing with his fellows, he was wont to steal from them, and walk into
the fields alone with a book. This passion had been overlaid, but not
extinguished, during his public life; and now, swelled by disgust, it
came back upon him in great strength. He seems, too, if we can believe
Sprat, to have had an extraordinary attachment to Nature, as it 'was
God's;' to the whole 'compass of the creation, and all the wonderful
effects of the Divine wisdom.' At all events, he retired first to Barn
Elms, and then to Chertsey in Surrey. He had obtained, through Lord St
Albans and the Duke of Buckingham, the lease of some lands belonging to
the Queen, which brought him in an income of £300 a year. Here, then,
having, at the age of forty-two, reached the peaceful hermitage,' he set
himself with all his might to enjoy it. He cultivated his fields, and
renewed his botanical studies in his woods and garden. He wrote letters
to his friends, which are said to have been admirable, and might have
ranked with those of Gray and Cowper, but unfortunately they have not
been preserved. He renewed his intimacy with the Greek and Latin poets,
and he set himself to retouch the 'Davideis,' which he had begun in
early youth, but which he never lived to finish, and to compose his
beautiful prose essays. But he soon found that Chertsey, no more than
Paris, was Paradise. He had no wife nor children. He had sweet solitude,
but no one near him to whom to whisper 'how sweet this solitude is!' The
peasants were boors. His tenants would pay him no rent, and the cattle
of his neighbours devoured his meadows. He was troubled with rheums and
colds. He met a severe fall when he first came to Chertsey, of which he
says, half in jest and half in earnest--'What this signifies, or may
come to in time, God knows; if it be ominous, it can end in nothing less
than hanging.' Robert Hall said of Bishop Watson that he seemed to have
wedded political integrity in early life, and to have spent all the rest
of his days in quarrelling with his wife. So Cowley wedded his long-
sought-for bride, Solitude, and led a miserable life with her ever
after. Fortunately for him, if not for the world, his career soon came
to a close.
One hot day in summer, he stayed too long among his labourers in the
meadows, and was seized with a cold, which, being neglected, carried him
off on the 28th of July 1667. He was not forty-nine years old. He died
at the Porch House, Chertsey, and his remains were buried with great
pomp near Chaucer and Spenser; and King Charles, who had neglected him
during life, pronounced his panegyric after death, declaring that 'Mr
Cowley had not left behind him a better man in England.' It was in
keeping with the character of Charles to make up for his deficiency in
action, by his felicity of phrase.
If we may differ from such a high authority as 'Old Rowley,' we would
venture to doubt whether Cowley was the best--certainly he was not the
greatest--man then in England. Milton was alive, and the 'Paradise Lost'
appeared in the very year when the author of the 'Davideis' departed.
Cowley gives us the impression of having been an amiable and blameless,
rather than a good or great man. At all events, there was nothing
_active_ in his goodness, and his greatness could not be called
magnanimity. He was a scholar and a poet misplaced during early life;
and when he gained that retirement for which he sighed, he had, by his
habits of life, lost his capacity of relishing it. 'He that would enjoy
solitude,' it has been said, 'must either be a wild beast or a god;' and
Cowley was neither. How different his grounds of dissatisfaction with
the world from those of Milton! Cowley was wearied of ciphering, and his
'Cutter of Coleman Street' had been cut; that was nearly the whole
matter of his complaint; while Milton had fallen from being the second
man in England into poverty, blindness, contempt, danger, and the
disappointment of the most glorious hopes which ever heaved the bosom of
patriot or saint.
We find the want of greatness which marked the man characterising the
poet. Infinite ingenuity, a charming flexibility and abundance of fancy,
a perception of remote analogies almost unrivalled, great command of
versification and language, learning without bounds, and an occasional
gracefulness and sparkling ease (as in 'The Chronicle') superior to even
Herrick or Suckling, are qualities that must be conceded to Cowley. But
the most of his writings are cold and glittering as the sun-smitten
glacier. He is seldom warm, except when he is proclaiming his own
merits, or bewailing his own misfortunes. Hence his 'Wish,' and even his
'Complaint,' are very pleasing and natural specimens of poetry. But his
'Pindaric Odes,' his 'Hymn to Light,' and most of his 'Davideis,' while
displaying great power, shew at least equal perversion, and are more
memorable for their faults than for their beauties. In the 'Davideis,'
he describes the attire of Gabriel in the spirit and language of a
tailor; and there is no path so sacred or so lofty but he must sow it
with conceits,--forced, false, and chilly. His 'Anacreontics,' on the
other hand, are in general felicitous in style and aerial in motion. And
in his Translations, although too free, he is uniformly graceful and
spirited; and his vast command of language and imagery enables him often
to improve his author--to gild the refined gold, to paint the lily, and
to throw a new perfume on the violet, of the Grecian and Roman masters.
In prose, Cowley is uniformly excellent. The prefaces to his poems,
especially his defence of sacred song in the prefix to the 'Davideis,'
his short autobiography, the fragments of his letters which remain, and
his posthumous essays, are all distinguished by a rich simplicity of
style and by a copiousness of matter which excite in equal measure
delight and surprise. He had written, it appears, three books on the
Civil War, to the time of the battle of Newbury, which he destroyed. It
is a pity, perhaps, that he had not preserved and completed the work.
His intimacy with many of the leading characters and the secret springs
of that remarkable period,--his clear and solid judgment, always so
except when he was following the Daedalus Pindar upon waxen Icarian
wings, or competing with Dr Donne in the number of conceits which he
could stuff, like cloves, into his subject-matter,--and the bewitching
ease and elegance of his prose style, would have combined to render it
an important contribution to English history, and a worthy monument of
its author's highly-accomplished and diversified powers.
THE CHRONICLE, A BALLAD.
1 Margarita first possess'd,
If I remember well, my breast,
Margarita first of all;
But when a while the wanton maid
With my restless heart had play'd,
Martha took the flying ball.
2 Martha soon did it resign
To the beauteous Catharine:
Beauteous Catharine gave place
(Though loth and angry she to part
With the possession of my heart)
To Eliza's conquering face.
3 Eliza till this hour might reign,
Had she not evil counsels ta'en:
Fundamental laws she broke
And still new favourites she chose,
Till up in arms my passions rose,
And cast away her yoke.
4 Mary then, and gentle Anne,
Both to reign at once began;
Alternately they sway'd,
And sometimes Mary was the fair,
And sometimes Anne the crown did wear,
And sometimes both I obey'd.
5 Another Mary then arose,
And did rigorous laws impose;
A mighty tyrant she!
Long, alas! should I have been
Under that iron-sceptred queen,
Had not Rebecca set me free.
6 When fair Rebecca set me free,
'Twas then a golden time with me:
But soon those pleasures fled;
For the gracious princess died
In her youth and beauty's pride,
And Judith reign'd in her stead.
7 One month, three days, and half an hour,
Judith held the sovereign power:
Wondrous beautiful her face,
But so weak and small her wit,
That she to govern was unfit,
And so Susanna took her place.
8 But when Isabella came,
Arm'd with a resistless flame,
And the artillery of her eye,
Whilst she proudly march'd about,
Greater conquests to find out,
She beat out Susan by the bye.
9 But in her place I then obey'd
Black-eyed Bess, her viceroy made,
To whom ensued a vacancy.
Thousand worst passions then possess'd
The interregnum of my breast.
Bless me from such an anarchy!
10 Gentle Henrietta then,
And a third Mary, next began:
Then Joan, and Jane, and Audria;
And then a pretty Thomasine,
And then another Catharine,
And then a long _et caetera_.
11 But should I now to you relate
The strength and riches of their state,
The powder, patches, and the pins,
The ribands, jewels, and the rings,
The lace, the paint, and warlike things,
That make up all their magazines:
12 If I should tell the politic arts
To take and keep men's hearts,
The letters, embassies, and spies,
The frowns, the smiles, and flatteries,
The quarrels, tears, and perjuries,
Numberless, nameless mysteries!
13 And all the little lime-twigs laid
By Mach'avel the waiting-maid;
I more voluminous should grow
(Chiefly if I like them should tell
All change of weathers that befell)
Than Holinshed or Stow.
14 But I will briefer with them be,
Since few of them were long with me.
An higher and a nobler strain
My present Emperess does claim,
Heleonora! first o' the name,
Whom God grant long to reign.
In a deep vision's intellectual scene,
Beneath a bower for sorrow made,
The uncomfortable shade
Of the black yew's unlucky green,
Mixed with the mourning willow's careful gray,
Where rev'rend Cam cuts out his famous way,
The melancholy Cowley lay;
And, lo! a Muse appeared to his closed sight
(The Muses oft in lands of vision play,)
Bodied, arrayed, and seen by an internal light:
A golden harp with silver strings she bore,
A wondrous hieroglyphic robe she wore,
In which all colours and all figures were
That Nature or that Fancy can create.
That Art can never imitate,
And with loose pride it wantoned in the air,
In such a dress, in such a well-clothed dream,
She used of old near fair Ismenus' stream
Pindar, her Theban favourite, to meet;
A crown was on her head, and wings were on her feet.
She touched him with her harp and raised him from the ground;
The shaken strings melodiously resound.
'Art thou returned at last,' said she,
'To this forsaken place and me?
Thou prodigal! who didst so loosely waste
Of all thy youthful years the good estate;
Art thou returned here, to repent too late?
And gather husks of learning up at last,
Now the rich harvest-time of life is past,
And winter marches on so fast?
But when I meant to adopt thee for my son,
And did as learned a portion assign
As ever any of the mighty nine
Had to their dearest children done;
When I resolved to exalt thy anointed name
Among the spiritual lords of peaceful fame;
Thou changeling! thou, bewitch'd with noise and show,
Wouldst into courts and cities from me go;
Wouldst see the world abroad, and have a share
In all the follies and the tumults there;
Thou wouldst, forsooth, be something in a state,
And business thou wouldst find, and wouldst create:
Business! the frivolous pretence
Of human lusts, to shake off innocence;
Business! the grave impertinence;
Business! the thing which I of all things hate;
Business! the contradiction of thy fate.
'Go, renegado! cast up thy account,
And see to what amount
Thy foolish gains by quitting me:
The sale of knowledge, fame, and liberty,
The fruits of thy unlearned apostasy.
Thou thoughtst, if once the public storm were past,
All thy remaining life should sunshine be:
Behold the public storm is spent at last,
The sovereign is tossed at sea no more,
And thou, with all the noble company,
Art got at last to shore:
But whilst thy fellow-voyagers I see,
All marched up to possess the promised land,
Thou still alone, alas! dost gaping stand,
Upon the naked beach, upon the barren sand.
As a fair morning of the blessed spring,
After a tedious, stormy night,
Such was the glorious entry of our king;
Enriching moisture dropped on every thing:
Plenty he sowed below, and cast about him light.
But then, alas! to thee alone
One of old Gideon's miracles was shown,
For every tree, and every hand around,
With pearly dew was crowned,
And upon all the quickened ground
The fruitful seed of heaven did brooding lie,
And nothing but the Muse's fleece was dry.
It did all other threats surpass,
When God to his own people said,
The men whom through long wanderings he had led,
That he would give them even a heaven of brass:
They looked up to that heaven in vain,
That bounteous heaven! which God did not restrain
Upon the most unjust to shine and rain.
'The Rachel, for which twice seven years and more,
Thou didst with faith and labour serve,
And didst (if faith and labour can) deserve,
Though she contracted was to thee,
Given to another, thou didst see, who had store
Of fairer and of richer wives before,
And not a Loah left, thy recompense to be.
Go on, twice seven years more, thy fortune try,
Twice seven years more God in his bounty may
Give thee to fling away
Into the court's deceitful lottery:
But think how likely 'tis that thou,
With the dull work of thy unwieldy plough,
Shouldst in a hard and barren season thrive,
Shouldst even able be to live;
Thou! to whose share so little bread did fall
In the miraculous year, when manna rain'd on all.'
Thus spake the Muse, and spake it with a smile,
That seemed at once to pity and revile:
And to her thus, raising his thoughtful head,
The melancholy Cowley said:
'Ah, wanton foe! dost thou upbraid
The ills which thou thyself hast made?
When in the cradle innocent I lay,
Thou, wicked spirit, stolest me away,
And my abused soul didst bear
Into thy new-found worlds, I know not where,
Thy golden Indies in the air;
And ever since I strive in vain
My ravished freedom to regain;
Still I rebel, still thou dost reign;
Lo, still in verse, against thee I complain.
There is a sort of stubborn weeds,
Which, if the earth but once it ever breeds,
No wholesome herb can near them thrive,
No useful plant can keep alive:
The foolish sports I did on thee bestow
Make all my art and labour fruitless now;
Where once such fairies dance, no grass doth ever grow.
'When my new mind had no infusion known,
Thou gavest so deep a tincture of thine own,
That ever since I vainly try
To wash away the inherent dye:
Long work, perhaps, may spoil thy colours quite,
But never will reduce the native white.
To all the ports of honour and of gain
I often steer my course in vain;
Thy gale comes cross, and drives me back again,
Thou slacken'st all my nerves of industry,
By making them so oft to be
The tinkling strings of thy loose minstrelsy.
Whoever this world's happiness would see
Must as entirely cast off thee,
As they who only heaven desire
Do from the world retire.
This was my error, this my gross mistake,
Myself a demi-votary to make.
Thus with Sapphira and her husband's fate,
(A fault which I, like them, am taught too late,)
For all that I give up I nothing gain,
And perish for the part which I retain.
Teach me not then, O thou fallacious Muse!
The court and better king t' accuse;
The heaven under which I live is fair,
The fertile soil will a full harvest bear:
Thine, thine is all the barrenness, if thou
Makest me sit still and sing when I should plough.
When I but think how many a tedious year
Our patient sovereign did attend
His long misfortune's fatal end;
How cheerfully, and how exempt from fear,
On the Great Sovereign's will he did depend,
I ought to be accursed if I refuse
To wait on his, O thou fallacious Muse!
Kings have long hands, they say, and though I be
So distant, they may reach at length to me.
However, of all princes thou
Shouldst not reproach rewards for being small or slow;
Thou! who rewardest but with popular breath,
And that, too, after death!'
1 Beneath this gloomy shade,
By Nature only for my sorrows made,
I'll spend this voice in cries,
In tears I'll waste these eyes,
By love so vainly fed;
So lust of old the deluge punished.
Ah, wretched youth, said I;
Ah, wretched youth! twice did I sadly cry;
Ah, wretched youth! the fields and floods reply.
2 When thoughts of love I entertain,
I meet no words but Never, and In vain:
Never! alas! that dreadful name
Which fuels the infernal flame:
Never! my time to come must waste;
In vain! torments the present and the past:
In vain, in vain! said I,
In vain, in vain! twice did I sadly cry;
In vain, in vain! the fields and floods reply.
3 No more shall fields or floods do so,
For I to shades more dark and silent go:
All this world's noise appears to me
A dull, ill-acted comedy:
No comfort to my wounded sight,
In the sun's busy and impert'nent light.
Then down I laid my head,
Down on cold earth, and for a while was dead,
And my freed soul to a strange somewhere fled.
4 Ah, sottish soul! said I,
When back to its cage again I saw it fly:
Fool! to resume her broken chain,
And row her galley here again!
Fool! to that body to return,
Where it condemned and destined is to burn!
Once dead, how can it be
Death should a thing so pleasant seem to thee,
That thou shouldst come to live it o'er again in me?
1 Tell me, O tell! what kind of thing is Wit,
Thou who master art of it;
For the first matter loves variety less;
Less women love it, either in love or dress:
A thousand different shapes it bears,
Comely in thousand shapes appears:
Yonder we saw it plain, and here 'tis now,
Like spirits, in a place, we know not how.
2 London, that vends of false ware so much store,
In no ware deceives us more:
For men, led by the colour and the shape,
Like Zeuxis' birds, fly to the painted grape.
Some things do through our judgment pass,
As through a multiplying-glass;
And sometimes, if the object be too far,
We take a falling meteor for a star.
3 Hence 'tis a wit, that greatest word of fame,
Grows such a common name;
And wits by our creation they become,
Just so as tit'lar bishops made at Rome.
'Tis not a tale, 'tis not a jest,
Admired with laughter at a feast,
Nor florid talk, which can that title gain;
The proofs of wit for ever must remain.
4 'Tis not to force some lifeless verses meet
With their five gouty feet;
All everywhere, like man's, must be the soul,
And reason the inferior powers control.
Such were the numbers which could call
The stones into the Theban wall.
Such miracles are ceased; and now we see
No towns or houses raised by poetry.
5 Yet 'tis not to adorn and gild each part;
That shows more cost than art.
Jewels at nose and lips but ill appear;
Rather than all things wit, let none be there.
Several lights will not be seen,
If there be nothing else between.
Men doubt, because they stand so thick i' the sky,
If those be stars which paint the galaxy.
6 'Tis not when two like words make up one noise,
Jests for Dutch men and English boys;
In which who finds out wit, the same may see
In an'grams and acrostics poetry.
Much less can that have any place
At which a virgin hides her face;
Such dross the fire must purge away; 'tis just
The author blush there where the reader must.
7 'Tis not such lines as almost crack the stage,
When Bajazet begins to rage:
Nor a tall met'phor in the bombast way,
Nor the dry chips of short-lunged Seneca:
Nor upon all things to obtrude
And force some old similitude.
What is it then, which, like the Power Divine,
We only can by negatives define?
8 In a true piece of wit all things must be,
Yet all things there agree:
As in the ark, joined without force or strife,
All creatures dwelt, all creatures that had life.
Or as the primitive forms of all,
If we compare great things with small,
Which without discord or confusion lie,
In that strange mirror of the Deity.
1 Hail, old patrician trees, so great and good!
Hail, ye plebeian underwood!
Where the poetic birds rejoice,
And for their quiet nests and plenteous food
Pay with their grateful voice.
2 Hail the poor Muse's richest manor-seat!
Ye country houses and retreat,
Which all the happy gods so love,
That for you oft they quit their bright and great
3 Here Nature does a house for me erect,
Nature! the fairest architect,
Who those fond artists does despise
That can the fair and living trees neglect,
Yet the dead timber prize.
4 Here let me, careless and unthoughtful lying,
Hear the soft winds above me flying,
With all their wanton boughs dispute,
And the more tuneful birds to both replying,
Nor be myself, too, mute.
5 A silver stream shall roll his waters near,
Gilt with the sunbeams here and there,
On whose enamelled bank I'll walk,
And see how prettily they smile,
And hear how prettily they talk.
6 Ah! wretched, and too solitary he,
Who loves not his own company!
He'll feel the weight of it many a day,
Unless he calls in sin or vanity
To help to bear it away.
7 O Solitude! first state of humankind!
Which bless'd remained till man did find
Even his own helper's company:
As soon as two, alas! together joined,
The serpent made up three.
8 Though God himself, through countless ages, thee
His sole companion chose to be,
Thee, sacred Solitude! alone,
Before the branchy head of number's tree
Sprang from the trunk of one;
9 Thou (though men think thine an unactive part)
Dost break and tame the unruly heart,
Which else would know no settled pace,
Making it move, well managed by thy art,
With swiftness and with grace.
10 Thou the faint beams of reason's scattered light
Dost, like a burning glass, unite,
Dost multiply the feeble heat,
And fortify the strength, till thou dost bright
And noble fires beget.
11 Whilst this hard truth I teach, methinks I see
The monster London laugh at me;
I should at thee, too, foolish city!
If it were fit to laugh at misery;
But thy estate I pity.
12 Let but thy wicked men from out thee go,
And all the fools that crowd thee so,
Even thou, who dost thy millions boast,
A village less than Islington wilt grow,
A solitude almost.
Lest the misjudging world should chance to say
I durst not but in secret murmurs pray,
To whisper in Jove's ear
How much I wish that funeral,
Or gape at such a great one's fall;
This let all ages hear,
And future times in my soul's picture see
What I abhor, what I desire to be.
I would not be a Puritan, though he
Can preach two hours, and yet his sermon be
But half a quarter long;
Though from his old mechanic trade
By vision he's a pastor made,
His faith was grown so strong;
Nay, though he think to gain salvation
By calling the Pope the Whore of Babylon.
I would not be a Schoolmaster, though to him
His rods no less than Consuls' fasces seem;
Though he in many a place,
Turns Lily oftener than his gowns,
Till at the last he makes the nouns
Fight with the verbs apace;
Nay, though he can, in a poetic heat,
Figures, born since, out of poor Virgil beat.
I would not be a Justice of Peace, though he
Can with equality divide the fee,
And stakes with his clerk draw;
Nay, though he sits upon the place
Of judgment, with a learned face
Intricate as the law;
And whilst he mulcts enormities demurely,
Breaks Priscian's head with sentences securely.
I would not be a Courtier, though he
Makes his whole life the truest comedy;
Although he be a man
In whom the tailor's forming art,
And nimble barber, claim more part
Than Nature herself can;
Though, as he uses men, 'tis his intent
To put off Death too with a compliment.
From Lawyers' tongues, though they can spin with ease
The shortest cause into a paraphrase,
From Usurers' conscience
(For swallowing up young heirs so fast,
Without all doubt they'll choke at last)
Make me all innocence,
Good Heaven! and from thy eyes, O Justice! keep;
For though they be not blind, they're oft asleep.
From Singing-men's religion, who are
Always at church, just like the crows, 'cause there
They build themselves a nest;
From too much poetry, which shines
With gold in nothing but its lines,
Free, O you Powers! my breast;
And from astronomy, which in the skies
Finds fish and bulls, yet doth but tantalise.
From your Court-madam's beauty, which doth carry
At morning May, at night a January;
From the grave City-brow
(For though it want an R, it has
The letter of Pythagoras)
Keep me, O Fortune! now,
And chines of beef innumerable send me,
Or from the stomach of the guard defend me.
This only grant me, that my means may lie
Too low for envy, for contempt too high.
Some honour I would have,
Not from great deeds, but good alone:
The unknown are better than ill known:
Rumour can ope the grave.
Acquaintance I would have, but when 't depends
Not from the number, but the choice of friends.
Books should, not business, entertain the light,
And sleep, as undisturbed as death, the night.
My house a cottage more
Than palace, and should fitting be
For all my use, not luxury;
My garden, painted o'er
With Nature's hand, not Art's, that pleasure yield
Horace might envy in his Sabine field.
Thus would I double my life's fading space;
For he that runs it well twice runs his race;
And in this true delight,
These unbought sports, and happy state,
I would not fear, nor wish my fate,
But boldly say each night,
To-morrow let my sun his beams display,
Or in clouds hide them, I have lived to-day.
UPON THE SHORTNESS OF MAN'S LIFE.
1 Mark that swift arrow, how it cuts the air,
How it outruns thy following eye!
Use all persuasions now, and try
If thou canst call it back, or stay it there.
That way it went, but thou shalt find
No track is left behind.
2 Fool! 'tis thy life, and the fond archer thou.
Of all the time thou'st shot away,
I'll bid thee fetch but yesterday,
And it shall be too hard a task to do.
Besides repentance, what canst find
That it hath left behind?
3 Our life is carried with too strong a tide,
A doubtful cloud our substance bears,
And is the horse of all our years:
Each day doth on a winged whirlwind ride.
We and our glass run out, and must
Both render up our dust.
4 But his past life who without grief can see,
Who never thinks his end too near,
But says to Fame, Thou art mine heir;
That man extends life's natural brevity--
This is, this is the only way
To outlive Nestor in a day.
ON THE PRAISE OF POETRY.
'Tis not a pyramid of marble stone,
Though high as our ambition;
'Tis not a tomb cut out in brass, which can
Give life to the ashes of a man,
But verses only; they shall fresh appear,
Whilst there are men to read or hear,
When time shall make the lasting brass decay,
And eat the pyramid away,
Turning that monument wherein men trust
Their names, to what it keeps, poor dust;
Then shall the epitaph remain, and be
New graven in eternity.
Poets by death are conquered, but the wit
Of poets triumph over it.
What cannot verse? When Thracian Orpheus took
His lyre, and gently on it strook,
The learned stones came dancing all along,
And kept time to the charming song.
With artificial pace the warlike pine,
The elm and his wife, the ivy-twine,
With all the better trees which erst had stood
Unmoved, forsook their native wood.
The laurel to the poet's hand did bow,
Craving the honour of his brow;
And every loving arm embraced, and made
With their officious leaves a shade.
The beasts, too, strove his auditors to be,
Forgetting their old tyranny.
The fearful hart next to the lion came,
And wolf was shepherd to the lamb.
Nightingales, harmless Syrens of the air,
And Muses of the place, were there;
Who, when their little windpipes they had found
Unequal to so strange a sound,
O'ercome by art and grief, they did expire,
And fell upon the conquering lyre.
Happy, oh happy they! whose tomb might be,
Mausolus! envied by thee!
TENTANDA VIA EST, ETC.
What shall I do to be for ever known,
And make the age to come my own?
I shall like beasts or common people die,
Unless you write my elegy;
Whilst others great by being born are grown,
Their mother's labour, not their own.
In this scale gold, in the other fame does lie;
The weight of that mounts this so high.
These men are Fortune's jewels, moulded bright,
Brought forth with their own fire and light.
If I, her vulgar stone, for either look,
Out of myself it must be strook.
Yet I must on: What sound is't strikes mine ear?
Sure I Fame's trumpet hear:
It sounds like the last trumpet, for it can
Raise up the buried man.
Unpass'd Alps stop me, but I'll cut through all,
And march, the Muse's Hannibal.
Hence, all the flattering vanities that lay
Nets of roses in the way;
Hence, the desire of honours or estate,
And all that is not above Fate;
Hence, Love himself, that tyrant of my days,
Which intercepts my coming praise.
Come, my best friends! my books! and lead me on,
'Tis time that I were gone.
Welcome, great Stagyrite! and teach me now
All I was born to know:
Thy scholar's victories thou dost far outdo;
He conquered th' earth, the whole world you,
Welcome, learn'd Cicero! whose bless'd tongue and wit
Preserves Rome's greatness yet;
Thou art the first of orators; only he
Who best can praise thee next must be.
Welcome the Mantuan swan! Virgil the wise,
Whose verse walks highest, but not flies;
Who brought green Poesy to her perfect age,
And made that art which was a rage.
Tell me, ye mighty Three! what shall I do
To be like one of you?
But you have climb'd the mountain's top, there sit
On the calm flourishing head of it,
And whilst, with wearied steps, we upward go,
See us and clouds below.
The friendship betwixt Jonathan and David; and, upon that occasion,
a digression concerning the nature of love. A discourse between
Jonathan and David, upon which the latter absents himself from court,
and the former goes thither to inform himself of Saul's resolution.
The feast of the New-moon; the manner of the celebration of it; and
therein a digression of the history of Abraham. Saul's speech upon
David's absence from the feast, and his anger against Jonathan.
David's resolution to fly away. He parts with Jonathan, and falls
asleep under a tree. A description of Fancy. An angel makes up a
vision in David's head. The vision itself; which is a prophecy of
all the succession of his race, till Christ's time, with their most
remarkable actions. At his awaking, Gabriel assumes a human shape,
and confirms to him the truth of his vision.
But now the early birds began to call
The morning forth; up rose the sun and Saul:
Both, as men thought, rose fresh from sweet repose;
But both, alas! from restless labours rose:
For in Saul's breast Envy, the toilsome sin,
Had all that night active and tyrannous been:
She expelled all forms of kindness, virtue, grace,
Of the past day no footstep left, or trace;
The new-blown sparks of his old rage appear,
Nor could his love dwell longer with his fear.
So near a storm wise David would not stay,
Nor trust the glittering of a faithless day:
He saw the sun call in his beams apace,
And angry clouds march up into their place:
The sea itself smooths his rough brow awhile,
Flatt'ring the greedy merchant with a smile;
But he whose shipwrecked bark it drank before,
Sees the deceit, and knows it would have more.
Such is the sea, and such was Saul;
But Jonathan his son, and only good,
Was gentle as fair Jordan's useful flood;
Whose innocent stream, as it in silence goes,
Fresh honours and a sudden spring bestows
On both his banks, to every flower and tree;
The manner how lies hid, the effect we see:
But more than all, more than himself, he loved
The man whose worth his father's hatred moved;
For when the noble youth at Dammin stood,
Adorned with sweat, and painted gay with blood,
Jonathan pierced him through with greedy eye,
And understood the future majesty
Then destined in the glories of his look:
He saw, and straight was with amazement strook,
To see the strength, the feature, and the grace
Of his young limbs; he saw his comely face,
Where love and reverence so well-mingled were,
And head, already crowned with golden hair:
He saw what mildness his bold sp'rit did tame,
Gentler than light, yet powerful as a flame:
He saw his valour by their safety proved;
He saw all this, and as he saw, he loved.
What art thou, Love! thou great mysterious thing?
From what hid stock does thy strange nature spring?
'Tis thou that movst the world through every part,
And holdst the vast frame close, that nothing start
From the due place and office first ordained;
By thee were all things made, and are sustained.
Sometimes we see thee fully, and can say
From hence thou tookst thy rise, and wentst that way;
But oftener the short beams of Reason's eye
See only there thou art, not how, nor why.
How is the loadstone, Nature's subtle pride,
By the rude iron woo'd, and made a bride?
How was the weapon wounded? what hid flame
The strong and conquering metal overcame?
Love (this world's grace) exalts his natural state;
He feels thee, Love! and feels no more his weight.
Ye learned heads whom ivy garlands grace,
Why does that twining plant the oak embrace?
The oak, for courtship most of all unfit,
And rough as are the winds that fight with it.
How does the absent pole the needle move?
How does his cold and ice beget hot love?
Which are the wings of lightness to ascend?
Or why does weight to the centre downwards bend?
Thus creatures void of life obey thy laws,
And seldom we, they never, know the cause.
In thy large state, life gives the next degree,
Where sense and good apparent places thee;
But thy chief palace is man's heart alone;
Here are thy triumphs and full glories shown:
Handsome desires, and rest, about thee flee,
Union, inheritance, zeal, and ecstasy,
With thousand joys, cluster around thine head,
O'er which a gall-less dove her wings does spread:
A gentle lamb, purer and whiter far
Than consciences of thine own martyrs are,
Lies at thy feet; and thy right hand does hold
The mystic sceptre of a cross of gold.
Thus dost thou sit (like men, ere sin had framed
A guilty blush) naked, but not ashamed.
What cause, then, did the fab'lous ancients find,
When first their superstition made thee blind?
'Twas they, alas! 'twas they who could not see,
When they mistook that monster, Lust, for thee.
Thou art a bright, but not consuming, flame;
Such in the amazed bush to Moses came,
When that, secure, its new-crown'd head did rear,
And chid the trembling branches' needless fear;
Thy darts are healthful gold, and downwards fall,
Soft as the feathers that they are fletched withal.
Such, and no other, were those secret darts
Which sweetly touched this noblest pair of hearts:
Still to one end they both so justly drew,
As courteous doves together yoked would do:
No weight of birth did on one side prevail;
Two twins less even lie in Nature's scale:
They mingled fates, and both in each did share;
They both were servants, they both princes were.
If any joy to one of them was sent,
It was most his to whom it least was meant;
And Fortune's malice betwixt both was cross'd,
For striking one, it wounded the other most.
Never did marriage such true union find,
Or men's desires with so glad violence bind;
For there is still some tincture left of sin,
And still the sex will needs be stealing in.
Those joys are full of dross, and thicker far;
These, without matter, clear and liquid are.
Such sacred love does heaven's bright spirits fill,
Where love is but to understand and will,
With swift and unseen motions such as we
Somewhat express in heighten'd charity.
O ye bless'd One! whose love on earth became
So pure, that still in heaven 'tis but the same!
There now ye sit, and with mix'd souls embrace,
Gazing upon great Love's mysterious face,
And pity this base world, where friendship's made
A bait for sin, or else at best a trade.
Ah, wondrous prince! who a true friend couldst be
When a crown flatter'd, and Saul threaten'd thee!
Who held'st him dear whose stars thy birth did cross,
And bought'st him nobly at a kingdom's loss!
Israel's bright sceptre far less glory brings,
There have been fewer friends on earth than kings.
To this strong pitch their high affections flew,
Till Nature's self scarce looked on them as two.
Hither flies David for advice and aid,
As swift as love and danger could persuade;
As safe in Jonathan's trust his thoughts remain,
As when himself but dreams them o'er again.
'My dearest lord! farewell,' said he, 'farewell;
Heaven bless the King; may no misfortune tell
The injustice of his hate when I am dead:
They're coming now; perhaps my guiltless head
Here, in your sight, must then a-bleeding lie,
And scarce your own stand safe for being nigh.
Think me not scared with death, howe'er 't appear;
I know thou canst not think so: it is a fear
From which thy love and Dammin speaks me free;
I've met him face to face, and ne'er could see
One terror in his looks to make me fly
When virtue bids me stand; but I would die
So as becomes my life, so as may prove
Saul's malice, and at least excuse your love.'
He stopped, and spoke some passion with his eyes.
'Excellent friend!' the gallant prince replies;
'Thou hast so proved thy virtues, that they're known
To all good men, more than to each his own.
Who lives in Israel that can doubtful be
Of thy great actions? for he lives by thee.
Such is thy valour, and thy vast success,
That all things but thy loyalty are less;
And should my father at thy ruin aim,
'Twould wound as much his safety as his fame.
Think them not coming, then, to slay thee here,
But doubt mishaps as little as you fear;
For, by thy loving God, whoe'er design
Against thy life, must strike at it through mine,
But I my royal father must acquit
From such base guilt, or the low thought of it.
Think on his softness, when from death he freed
The faithless king of Am'lek's cursed seed;
Can he t' a friend, t' a son, so bloody grow,
He who even sinned but now to spare a foe?
Admit he could; but with what strength or art
Could he so long close and seal up his heart?
Such counsels jealous of themselves become,
And dare not fix without consent of some;
Few men so boldly ill great sins to do,
Till licensed and approved by others too.
No more (believe it) could he hide this from me,
Than I, had he discovered it, from thee.'
Here they embraces join, and almost tears,
Till gentle David thus new-proved his fears:
'The praise you pleased, great prince! on me to spend,
Was all outspoken, when you styled me friend:
That name alone does dangerous glories bring,
And gives excuse to the envy of a king.
What did his spear, force, and dark plots, impart
But some eternal rancour in his heart?
Still does he glance the fortune of that day
When, drowned in his own blood, Goliath lay,
And covered half the plain; still hears the sound
How that vast monster fell, and strook the around:
The dance, and, David his ten thousand slew,
Still wound his sickly soul, and still are new.
Great acts t' ambitious princes treason grow,
So much they hate that safety which they owe.
Tyrants dread all whom they raise high in place;
From the good danger, from the bad disgrace.
They doubt the lords, mistrust the people's hate,
Till blood become a principle of state.
Secured not by their guards nor by their right,
But still they fear even more than they affright,
Pardon me, sir; your father's rough and stern;
His will too strong to bend, too proud to learn.
Remember, sir, the honey's deadly sting!
Think on that savage justice of the King,
When the same day that saw you do before
Things above man, should see you man no more.
'Tis true, the accursed Agag moved his ruth;
He pitied his tall limbs and comely youth;
Had seen, alas! the proof of Heaven's fierce hate,
And feared no mischief from his powerless fate;
Remember how the old seer came raging down,
And taught him boldly to suspect his crown.
Since then, his pride quakes at the Almighty's rod,
Nor dares he love the man beloved by God.
Hence his deep rage and trembling envy springs;
Nothing so wild as jealousy of kings.
Whom should he counsel ask, with whom advise,
Who reason and God's counsel does despise?
Whose headstrong will no law or conscience daunt,
Dares he not sin, do you think, without your grant?
Yes, if the truth of our fixed love he knew,
He would not doubt, believe it, to kill even you.'
The prince is moved, and straight prepares to find
The deep resolves of his grieved father's mind.
The danger now appears, love can soon show it,
And force his stubborn piety to know it.
They agree that David should concealed abide,
Till his great friend had the Court's temper tried;
Till he had Saul's most sacred purpose found,
And searched the depth and rancour of his wound.
'Twas the year's seventh-born moon; the solemn feast,
That with most noise its sacred mirth express'd.
From opening morn till night shuts in the day,
On trumpets and shrill horns the Levites play:
Whether by this in mystic type we see
The new-year's day of great eternity,
When the changed moon shall no more changes make,
And scattered death's by trumpets' sound awake;
Or that the law be kept in memory still,
Given with like noise on Sinai's shining hill;
Or that (as some men teach) it did arise
From faithful Abram's righteous sacrifice,
Who, whilst the ram on Isaac's fire did fry,
His horn with joyful tunes stood sounding by;
Obscure the cause, but God his will declared,
And all nice knowledge then with ease is spared.
At the third hour Saul to the hallowed tent,
'Midst a large train of priests and courtiers, went;
The sacred herd marched proud and softly by,
Too fat and gay to think their deaths so nigh.
Hard fate of beasts more innocent than we!
Prey to our luxury and our piety!
Whose guiltless blood on boards and altars spilt,
Serves both to make and expiate, too, our guilt!
Three bullocks of free neck, two gilded rams,
Two well-washed goats, and fourteen spotless lambs,
With the three vital fruits, wine, oil, and bread,
(Small fees to Heaven of all by which we're fed)
Are offered up: the hallowed flames arise,
And faithful prayers mount with them to the skies.
From thence the King to the utmost court is brought,
Where heavenly things an inspired prophet taught,
And from the sacred tent to his palace gates,
With glad kind shouts the assembly on him waits;
The cheerful horns before him loudly play,
And fresh-strewed flowers paint his triumphant way.
Thus in slow pace to the palace-hall they go,
Rich dressed for solemn luxury and show:
Ten pieces of bright tapestry hung the room,
The noblest work e'er stretched on Syrian loom,
For wealthy Adriel in proud Sidon wrought,
And given to Saul when Saul's best gift he sought,
The bright-eyed Merab; for that mindful day
No ornament so proper seemed as they.
There all old Abram's story you might see,
And still some angel bore him company.
His painful but well-guided travels show
The fate of all his sons, the church below.
Here beauteous Sarah to great Pharaoh came;
He blushed with sudden passion, she with shame:
Troubled she seemed, and labouring in the strife,
'Twixt her own honour and her husband's life.
Here on a conquering host, that careless lay,
Drowned in the joys of their new-gotten prey,
The patriarch falls; well-mingled might you see
The confused marks of death and luxury.
In the next piece bless'd Salem's mystic king
Does sacred presents to the victor bring;
Like Him whose type he bears, his rights receives,
Strictly requires his due, yet freely gives:
Even in his port, his habit, and his face,
The mild and great, the priest and prince, had place.
Here all their starry host the heavens display;
And, lo! a heavenly youth, more fair than they,
Leads Abram forth; points upwards; 'Such,' said he,
'So bright and numberless thy seed shall be.'
Here he with God a new alliance makes,
And in his flesh the marks of homage takes:
Here he the three mysterious persons feasts,
Well paid with joyful tidings by his guests:
Here for the wicked town he prays, and near,
Scarce did the wicked town through flames appear:
And all his fate, and all his deeds, were wrought,
Since he from Ur to Ephron's cave was brought.
But none 'mongst all the forms drew then their eyes
Like faithful Abram's righteous sacrifice:
The sad old man mounts slowly to the place,
With Nature's power triumphant in his face
O'er the mind's courage; for, in spite of all,
From his swoln eyes resistless waters fall.
The innocent boy his cruel burden bore
With smiling looks, and sometimes walked before,
And sometimes turned to talk: above was made
The altar's fatal pile, and on it laid
The hope of mankind: patiently he lay,
And did his sire, as he his God, obey.
The mournful sire lifts up at last the knife,
And on one moment's string depends his life,
In whose young loins such brooding wonders lie.
A thousand sp'rits peeped from the affrighted sky,
Amazed at this strange scene, and almost fear'd,
For all those joyful prophecies they'd heard;
Till one leaped nimbly forth, by God's command,
Like lightning from a cloud, and stopped his hand.
The gentle sp'rit smiled kindly as he spoke;
New beams of joy through Abram's wonder broke
The angel points to a tuft of bushes near,
Where an entangled ram does half appear,
And struggles vainly with that fatal net,
Which, though but slightly wrought, was firmly set:
For, lo! anon, to this sad glory doomed,
The useful beast on Isaac's pile consumed;
Whilst on his horns the ransomed couple played,
And the glad boy danced to the tunes he made.
Near this hall's end a shittim table stood,
Yet well-wrought plate strove to conceal the wood;
For from the foot a golden vine did sprout,
And cast his fruitful riches all about.
Well might that beauteous ore the grape express,
Which does weak man intoxicate no less.
Of the same wood the gilded beds were made,
And on them large embroidered carpets laid,
From Egypt, the rich shop of follies, brought;
But arts of pride all nations soon are taught.
Behold seven comely blooming youths appear,
And in their hands seven silver washpots bear,
Curled, and gay clad, the choicest sons that be
Of Gibeon's race, and slaves of high degree.
Seven beauteous maids marched softly in behind,
Bright scarves their clothes, their hair fresh garlands bind,
And whilst the princes wash, they on them shed
Rich ointments, which their costly odours spread
O'er the whole room; from their small prisons free,
With such glad haste through the wide air they flee.
The King was placed alone, and o'er his head
A well-wrought heaven of silk and gold was spread,
Azure the ground, the sun in gold shone bright,
But pierced the wandering clouds with silver light.
The right-hand bed the King's three sons did grace,
The third was Abner's, Adriel's, David's place:
And twelve large tables more were filled below,
With the prime men Saul's court and camp could show.
The palace did with mirth and music sound,
And the crowned goblets nimbly moved around:
But though bright joy in every guest did shine,
The plenty, state, music, and sprightful wine,
Were lost on Saul: an angry care did dwell
In his dark breast, and all gay forms expel.
David's unusual absence from the feast,
To his sick sp'rit did jealous thoughts suggest:
Long lay he still, nor drank, nor ate, nor spoke,
And thus at last his troubled silence broke.
'Where can he be?' said he. 'It must be so.'
With that he paused awhile. 'Too well we know
His boundless pride: he grieves, and hates to see
The solemn triumphs of my court and me.
Believe me, friends! and trust what I can show
From thousand proofs; the ambitious David now
Does those vast things in his proud soul design,
That too much business give for mirth or wine.
He's kindling now, perhaps, rebellious fire
Among the tribes, and does even now conspire
Against my crown, and all our lives, whilst we
Are loth even to suspect what we might see.
By the Great Name 'tis true.'
With that he strook the board, and no man there,
But Jonathan, durst undertake to clear
The blameless prince: and scarce ten words he spoke,
When thus his speech the enraged tyrant broke:
'Disloyal wretch! thy gentle mother's shame!
Whose cold, pale ghost even blushes at thy name!
Who fears lest her chaste bed should doubted be,
And her white fame stained by black deeds of thee!
Canst thou be mine? A crown sometimes does hire
Even sons against their parents to conspire;
But ne'er did story yet, or fable, tell
Of one so wild who, merely to rebel,
Quitted the unquestioned birthright of a throne,
And bought his father's ruin with his own.
Thou need'st not plead the ambitious youth's defence;
Thy crime clears his, and makes that innocence:
Nor can his foul ingratitude appear,
Whilst thy unnatural guilt is placed so near.
Is this that noble friendship you pretend?
Mine, thine own foe, and thy worst enemy's friend?
If thy low spirit can thy great birthright quit,
The thing's but just, so ill deserv'st thou it.
I, and thy brethren here, have no such mind,
Nor such prodigious worth in David find,
That we to him should our just rights resign,
Or think God's choice not made so well as thine.
Shame of thy house and tribe! hence from mine eye;
To thy false friend and servile master fly;
He's ere this time in arms expecting thee;
Haste, for those arms are raised to ruin me.
Thy sin that way will nobler much appear,
Than to remain his spy and agent here.
When I think this, Nature, by thee forsook,
Forsakes me too.' With that his spear he took
To strike at him: the mirth and music cease;
The guests all rise this sudden storm t' appease.
The prince his danger and his duty knew,
And low he bowed, and silently withdrew.
To David straight, who in a forest nigh
Waits his advice, the royal friend does fly.
The sole advice, now, like the danger clear,
Was in some foreign land this storm t' outwear.
All marks of comely grief in both are seen,
And mournful kind discourses passed between.
Now generous tears their hasty tongues restrain;
Now they begin, and talk all o'er again:
A reverent oath of constant love they take,
And God's high name their dreaded witness make:
Not that at all their faiths could doubtful prove,
But 'twas the tedious zeal of endless love.
Thus, ere they part, they the short time bestow
In all the pomp friendship and grief could show.
And David now, with doubtful cares oppressed,
Beneath a shade borrows some little rest;
When by command divine thick mists arise,
And stop the sense, and close the conquered eyes.
There is a place which man most high doth rear,
The small world's heaven, where reason moves the sphere;
Here in a robe which does all colours show,
(The envy of birds, and the clouds' gaudy bow,)
Fancy, wild dame, with much lascivious pride,
By twin-chameleons drawn, does gaily ride:
Her coach there follows, and throngs round about
Of shapes and airy forms an endless rout.
A sea rolls on with harmless fury here;
Straight 'tis a field, and trees and herbs appear.
Here in a moment are vast armies made,
And a quick scene of war and blood displayed.
Here sparkling wines, and brighter maids come in,
The bawds for Sense, and lying baits of sin.
Some things arise of strange and quarrelling kind,
The forepart lion, and a snake behind.
Here golden mountains swell the covetous place,
And Centaurs ride themselves, a painted race.
Of these slight wonders Nature sees the store,
And only then accounts herself but poor.
Hither an angel comes in David's trance,
And finds them mingled in an antique dance;
Of all the numerous forms fit choice he takes,
And joins them wisely, and this vision makes.
First, David there appears in kingly state,
Whilst the Twelve Tribes his dread commands await:
Straight to the wars with his joined strength he goes,
Settles new friends, and frights his ancient foes.
To Solima, Canaan's old head, they came,
(Since high in note, then not unknown to Fame,)
The blind and lame the undoubted wall defend,
And no new wounds or dangers apprehend.
The busy image of great Joab there
Disdains the mock, and teaches them to fear:
He climbs the airy walls, leaps raging down,
New-minted shapes of slaughter fill the town.
They curse the guards their mirth and bravery chose,
All of them now are slain, or made like those.
Far through an inward scene an army lay,
Which with full banners a fair Fish display.
From Sidon plains to happy Egypt's coast
They seem all met, a vast and warlike host.
Thither hastes David to his destined prey,
Honour and noble danger lead the way.
The conscious trees shook with a reverent fear
Their unblown tops: God walked before him there.
Slaughter the wearied Rephaims' bosom fills,
Dead corpse emboss the vale with little hills.
On the other side, Sophenes' mighty king
Numberless troops of the bless'd East does bring:
Twice are his men cut off, and chariots ta'en;
Damascus and rich Adad help in vain;
Here Nabathaean troops in battle stand,
With all the lusty youth of Syrian land;
Undaunted Joab rushes on with speed,
Gallantly mounted on his fiery steed;
He hews down all, and deals his deaths around;
The Syrians leave, or possess, dead, the ground.
On the other wing does brave Abishai ride,
Reeking in blood and dust: on every side
The perjured sons of Ammon quit the field;
Some basely die, and some more basely yield.
Through a thick wood the wretched Hanun flies,
And far more justly then fears Hebrew spies.
Moloch, their bloody god, thrusts out his head,
Grinning through a black cloud: him they'd long fed
In his seven chambers, and he still did eat
New-roasted babes, his dear delicious meat.
Again they rise, more angered and dismayed;
Euphrates and swift Tigris sends them aid:
In vain they send it, for again they're slain,
And feast the greedy birds on Healy plain.
Here Rabba with proud towers affronts the sky,
And round about great Joab's trenches lie:
They force the walls, and sack the helpless town;
On David's head shines Ammon's massy crown.
'Midst various torments the cursed race expires;
David himself his severe wrath admires.
Next upon Israel's throne does bravely sit
A comely youth, endowed with wondrous wit:
Far, from the parched line, a royal dame,
To hear his tongue and boundless wisdom, came:
She carried back in her triumphant womb
The glorious stock of thousand kings to come.
Here brightest forms his pomp and wealth display;
Here they a temple's vast foundations lay;
A mighty work; and with fit glories filled,
For God to inhabit, and that King to build.
Some from the quarries hew out massy stone,
Some draw it up with cranes; some breathe and groan
In order o'er the anvil; some cut down
Tall cedars, the proud mountain's ancient crown;
Some carve the trunks, and breathing shapes bestow,
Giving the trees more life than when they grow.
But, oh! alas! what sudden cloud is spread
About this glorious King's eclipsed head?
It all his fame benights, and all his store,
Wrapping him round; and now he's seen no more.
When straight his son appears at Sichem crown'd,
With young and heedless council circled round;
Unseemly object! but a falling state
Has always its own errors joined with Fate.
Ten tribes at once forsake the Jessian throne,
And bold Adoram at his message stone;
'Brethren of Israel!'--More he fain would say,
But a flint stopped his mouth, and speech in the way.
Here this fond king's disasters but begin;
He's destined to more shame by his father's sin.
Susac comes up, and under his command
A dreadful army from scorched Afric's sand,
As numberless as that: all is his prey;
The temple's sacred wealth they bear away;
Adrazar's shields and golden loss they take;
Even David in his dream does sweat and shake.
Thus fails this wretched prince; his loins appear
Of less weight now than Solomon's fingers were.
Abijah next seeks Israel to regain,
And wash in seas of blood his father's stain.
Ne'er saw the aged sun so cruel sight;
Scarce saw he this, but hid his bashful light.
Nebat's cursed son fled with not half his men;
Where were his gods of Dan and Bethel then?
Yet could not this the fatal strife decide;
God punished one, but blessed not the other side.
Asan, a just and virtuous prince, succeeds,
High raised by Fame for great and godly deeds:
He cut the solemn groves where idols stood,
And sacrificed the gods with their own wood.
He vanquished thus the proud weak powers of hell;
Before him next their doting servants fell:
So huge an host of Zerah's men he slew,
As made even that Arabia desert too.
Why feared he then the perjured Baasha's sight?
Or bought the dangerous aid of Syrian's might?
Conquest, Heaven's gift, cannot by man be sold;
Alas! what weakness trusts he? man and gold.
Next Josaphat possessed the royal state;
A happy prince, well worthy of his fate:
His oft oblations on God's altar, made
With thousand flocks, and thousand herds, are paid,
Arabian tribute! What mad troops are those,
Those mighty troops that dare to be his foes?
He prays them dead; with mutual wounds they fall;
One fury brought, one fury slays them all.
Thus sits he still, and sees himself to win,
Never o'ercome but by his friend Ahab's sin;
On whose disguise Fates then did only look,
And had almost their God's command mistook:
Him from whose danger Heaven securely brings,
And for his sake too ripely wicked kings.
Their armies languish, burnt with thirst, at Seere,
Sighs all their cold, tears all their moisture there:
They fix their greedy eyes on the empty sky,
And fancy clouds, and so become more dry.
Elisha calls for waters from afar
To come; Elisha calls, and here they are.
In helmets they quaff round the welcome flood,
And the decrease repair with Moab's blood.
Jehoram next, and Ochoziah, throng
For Judah's sceptre; both shortlived too long.
A woman, too, from murder title claims;
Both with her sins and sex the crown she shames.
Proud, cursed woman! but her fall at last
To doubting men clears Heaven for what was past.
Joas at first does bright and glorious show;
In life's fresh morn his fame did early crow:
Fair was the promise of his dawning ray,
But prophet's angry blood o'ercast his day:
From thence his clouds, from thence his storms, begin,
It cries aloud, and twice lets Aram in.
So Amaziah lives, so ends his reign,
Both by their traitorous servants justly slain.
Edom at first dreads his victorious hand;
Before him thousand captives trembling stand.
Down a precipice, deep down he casts them all;
The mimic shapes in several postures fall:
But then (mad fool!) he does those gods adore,
Which when plucked down had worshipped him before.
Thus all his life to come is loss and shame:
No help from gods, who themselves helped not, came.
All this Uzziah's strength and wit repairs,
Leaving a well-built greatness to his heirs;
Till leprous scurf, o'er his whole body cast,
Takes him at first from men, from earth at last.
As virtuous was his son, and happier far;
Buildings his peace, and trophies graced his war:
But Achaz heaps up sins, as if he meant
To make his worst forefathers innocent:
He burns his son at Hinnon, whilst around
The roaring child drums and loud trumpets sound:
This to the boy a barbarous mercy grew,
And snatched him from all miseries to ensue.
Here Peca comes, and hundred thousands fall;
Here Rezin marches up, and sweeps up all;
Till like a sea the great Belochus' son
Breaks upon both, and both does overrun.
The last of Adad's ancient stock is slain,
Israel captived, and rich Damascus ta'en;
All his wild rage to revenge Judah's wrong;
But woe to kingdoms that have friends too strong!
Thus Hezekiah the torn empire took,
And Assur's king with his worse gods forsook;
Who to poor Judah worlds of nations brings,
There rages, utters vain and mighty things.
Some dream of triumphs, and exalted names,
Some of dear gold, and some of beauteous dames;
Whilst in the midst of their huge sleepy boast,
An angel scatters death through all the host.
The affrighted tyrant back to Babel hies,
There meets an end far worse than that he flies.
Here Hezekiah's life is almost done!
So good, and yet, alas! so short 'tis spun.
The end of the line was ravelled, weak, and old;
Time must go back, and afford better hold,
To tie a new thread to it of fifteen years.
'Tis done; the almighty power of prayer and tears!
Backward the sun, an unknown motion, went;
The stars gazed on, and wondered what he meant.
Manasses next (forgetful man!) begins,
Enslaved and sold to Ashur by his sins;
Till by the rod of learned Misery taught,
Home to his God and country both he's brought.
It taught not Ammon, nor his hardness brake,
He's made the example he refused to take.
Yet from this root a goodly scion springs,
Josiah! best of men, as well as kings.
Down went the calves, with all their gold and cost;
The priests then truly grieved, Osiris lost.
These mad Egyptian rites till now remained;
Fools! they their worser thraldom still retained!
In his own fires Moloch to ashes fell,
And no more flames must have besides his hell.
Like end Astartes' horned image found,
And Baal's spired stone to dust was ground.
No more were men in female habit seen,
Or they in men's, by the lewd Syrian queen;
No lustful maids at Benos' temple sit,
And with their body's shame their marriage get.
The double Dagon neither nature saves,
Nor flies she back to the Erythraean waves.
The travelling sun sees gladly from on high
His chariots burn, and Nergal quenched lie.
The King's impartial anger lights on all,
From fly-blown Accaron to the thundering Baal.
Here David's joy unruly grows and bold,
Nor could sleep's silken chain its violence hold,
Had not the angel, to seal fast his eyes,
The humours stirred, and bid more mists arise;
When straight a chariot hurries swift away,
And in it good Josiah bleeding lay:
One hand's held up, one stops the wound; in vain
They both are used. Alas! he's slain, he's slain.
Jehoias and Jehoiakim next appear;
Both urge that vengeance which before was near.
He in Egyptian fetters captive dies,
This by more courteous Anger murdered lies.
His son and brother next to bonds sustain,
Israel's now solemn and imperial chain.
Here's the last scene of this proud city's state;
All ills are met, tied in one knot of Fate.
Their endless slavery in this trial lay;
Great God had heaped up ages in one day:
Strong works around the walls the Chaldees build,
The town with grief and dreadful business filled:
To their carved gods the frantic women pray,
Gods which as near their ruin were as they:
At last in rushes the prevailing foe,
Does all the mischief of proud conquest show.
The wondering babes from mothers' breasts are rent,
And suffer ills they neither feared nor meant.
No silver reverence guards the stooping age,
No rule or method ties their boundless rage.
The glorious temple shines in flames all o'er,
Yet not so bright as in its gold before.
Nothing but fire or slaughter meets the eyes;
Nothing the ear but groans and dismal cries.
The walls and towers are levelled with the ground,
And scarce aught now of that vast city's found,
But shards and rubbish, which weak signs might keep,
Of forepast glory, and bid travellers weep.
Thus did triumphant Assur homewards pass,
And thus Jerus'lem left, Jerusalem that was!
Thus Zedechia saw, and this not all;
Before his face his friends and children fall,
The sport of insolent victors: this he views,
A king and father once: ill Fate could use
His eyes no more to do their master spite;
All to be seen she took, and next his sight.
Thus a long death in prison he outwears,
Bereft of grief's last solace, even his tears.
Then Jeconiah's son did foremost come,
And he who brought the captived nation home;
A row of Worthies in long order passed
O'er the short stage; of all old Joseph last.
Fair angels passed by next in seemly bands,
All gilt, with gilded baskets in their hands.
Some as they went the blue-eyed violets strew,
Some spotless lilies in loose order threw.
Some did the way with full-blown roses spread,
Their smell divine, and colour strangely red;
Not such as our dull gardens proudly wear,
Whom weather's taint, and wind's rude kisses tear.
Such, I believe, was the first rose's hue,
Which, at God's word, in beauteous Eden grew;
Queen of the flowers, which made that orchard gay,
The morning-blushes of the Spring's new day.
With sober pace an heavenly maid walks in,
Her looks all fair, no sign of native sin
Through her whole body writ; immoderate grace
Spoke things far more than human in her face:
It casts a dusky gloom o'er all the flowers,
And with full beams their mingled light devours.
An angel straight broke from a shining cloud,
And pressed his wings, and with much reverence bowed;
Again he bowed, and grave approach he made,
And thus his sacred message sweetly said:
'Hail! full of grace! thee the whole world shall call
Above all bless'd; thee, who shall bless them all.
Thy virgin womb in wondrous sort shall shroud
Jesus the God; (and then again he bowed)
Conception the great Spirit shall breathe on thee:
Hail thou! who must God's wife, God's mother be.'
With that his seeming form to heaven he reared,
(She low obeisance made) and disappeared.
Lo! a new star three Eastern sages see;
(For why should only earth a gainer be?)
They saw this Phosphor's infant light, and knew
It bravely ushered in a sun as new;
They hasted all this rising sun t' adore;
With them rich myrrh, and early spices, bore.
Wise men! no fitter gift your zeal could bring;
You'll in a noisome stable find your king.
Anon a thousand devils run roaring in;
Some with a dreadful smile deform'dly grin;
Some stamp their cloven paws, some frown, and tear
The gaping snakes from their black-knotted hair;
As if all grief, and all the rage of hell
Were doubled now, or that just now they fell:
But when the dreaded maid they entering saw,
All fled with trembling fear and silent awe:
In her chaste arms the Eternal Infant lies,
The Almighty Voice changed into feeble cries.
Heaven contained virgins oft, and will do more;
Never did virgin contain Heaven before.
Angels peep round to view this mystic thing,
And halleluiah round, all halleluiah sing.
No longer could good David quiet bear
The unwieldy pleasure which o'erflowed him here:
It broke the fetter, and burst ope his eye;
Away the timorous Forms together fly.
Fixed with amaze he stood, and time must take,
To learn if yet he were at last awake.
Sometimes he thinks that Heaven this vision sent,
And ordered all the pageants as they went:
Sometimes that only 'twas wild Fancy's play,
The loose and scattered relics of the day.
When Gabriel (no bless'd sp'rit more kind or fair)
Bodies and clothes himself with thickened air;
All like a comely youth in life's fresh bloom,
Rare workmanship, and wrought by heavenly loom!
He took for skin a cloud most soft and bright
That e'er the mid-day sun pierced through with light;
Upon his cheeks a lively blush he spread,
Washed from the morning beauty's deepest red;
A harmless flaming meteor shone for hair,
And fell adown his shoulders with loose care:
He cuts out a silk mantle from the skies.
Where the most sprightly azure please the eyes;
This he with starry vapours spangles all,
Took in their prime ere they grow ripe, and fall:
Of a new rainbow, ere it fret or fade,
The choicest piece took out, a scarf is made;
Small streaming clouds he does for wings display,
Not virtuous lovers' sighs more soft than they;
These he gilds o'er with the sun's richest rays,
Caught gliding o'er pure streams on which he plays.
Thus dressed, the joyful Gabriel posts away,
And carries with him his own glorious day
Through the thick woods; the gloomy shades a while
Put on fresh, looks, and wonder why they smile;
The trembling serpents close and silent lie;
The birds obscene far from his passage fly;
A sudden spring waits on him as he goes,
Sudden as that which by creation rose.
Thus he appears to David; at first sight
All earth-bred fears and sorrows take their flight:
In rushes joy divine, and hope, and rest;
A sacred calm shines through his peaceful breast.
'Hail, man belov'd! from highest heaven,' said he.
'My mighty Master sends thee health by me.
The things thou saw'st are full of truth and light,
Shaped in the glass of the divine foresight.
Even now old Time is harnessing the Years
To go in order thus: hence, empty fears!
Thy fate's all white; from thy bless'd seed shall spring
The promised Shilo, the great mystic King.
Round the whole earth his dreaded Name shall sound.
And reach to worlds that must not yet be found:
The Southern clime him her sole Lord shall style,
Him all the North, even Albion's stubborn isle.
My fellow-servant, credit what I tell.'
Straight into shapeless air unseen he fell.
1 We're ill by these grammarians used:
We are abused by words, grossly abused;
From the maternal tomb
To the grave's fruitful womb
We call here Life; but Life's a name
That nothing here can truly claim:
This wretched inn, where we scarce stay to bait,
We call our dwelling-place;
We call one step a race:
But angels in their full-enlightened state,
Angels who live, and know what 'tis to be,
Who all the nonsense of our language see,
Who speak things, and our words their ill-drawn picture scorn.
When we by a foolish figure say,
Behold an old man dead! then they
Speak properly, and cry, Behold a man-child born!
2 My eyes are opened, and I see
Through the transparent fallacy:
Because we seem wisely to talk
Like men of business, and for business walk
From place to place,
And mighty voyages we take,
And mighty journeys seem to make
O'er sea and land, the little point that has no space;
Because we fight, and battles gain,
Some captives call, and say the rest are slain;
Because we heap up yellow earth, and so
Rich, valiant, wise, and virtuous seem to grow;
Because we draw a long nobility
From hieroglyphic proofs of heraldry,
And impudently talk of a posterity;
And, like Egyptian chroniclers,
Who write of twenty thousand years,
With maravedies make the account,
That single time might to a sum amount;
We grow at last by custom to believe
That really we live;
Whilst all these shadows that for things we take,
Are but the empty dreams which in death's sleep we make.
3 But these fantastic errors of our dream
Lead us to solid wrong;
We pray God our friends' torments to prolong.
And wish uncharitably for them
To be as long a-dying as Methusalem.
The ripened soul longs from his prison to come,
But we would seal and sew up, if we could, the womb.
We seek to close and plaster up by art
The cracks and breaches of the extended shell,
And in that narrow cell
Would rudely force to dwell
The noble, vigorous bird already winged to part.
THE PLAGUES OF EGYPT.
Is this thy bravery, Man! is this thy pride!
Rebel to God, and slave to all beside!
Captived by everything! and only free
To fly from thine own liberty!
All creatures, the Creator said, were thine;
No creature but might since say, Man is mine!
In black Egyptian slavery we lie,
And sweat and toil in the vain dru
Of tyrant Sin,
To which we trophies raise, and wear out all our breath
In building up the monuments of death.
We, the choice race, to God and angels kin!
In vain the prophets and apostles come
To call us home,
Home to the promised Canaan above,
Which does with nourishing milk and pleasant honey flow,
And even i' th' way to which we should be fed
With angels' tasteful bread:
But we, alas! the flesh-pots love;
We love the very leeks and sordid roots below.
In vain we judgments feel, and wonders see;
In vain did God to descend hither deign,
He was his own Ambassador in vain,
Our Moses and our guide himself to be.
We will not let ourselves to go,
And with worse hardened hearts, do our own Pharaohs grow;
Ah! lest at last we perish so,
Think, stubborn Man! think of the Egyptian prince,
(Hard of belief and will, but not so hard as thou,)
Think with what dreadful proofs God did convince
The feeble arguments that human power could show;
Think what plagues attend on thee,
Who Moses' God dost now refuse more oft than Moses he.
'If from some God you come,' said the proud king,
With half a smile and half a frown,
'But what God can to Egypt be unknown?
What sign, what powers, what credence do you bring?'
'Behold his seal! behold his hand!'
Cries Moses, and casts down the almighty wand:
The almighty wand scarce touched the earth,
When, with an undiscerned birth,
The almighty wand a serpent grew,
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