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In whom with Nature Study claimed a part,
Yet who unto himself owed all his art;
Here lies Ben Jonson : every age will look
With sorrow here, with wonder on his book.
Elsewhere he thus expresses his preference for Jon
son, as a dramatist, over the greatest of his contemporaries:—
Shakspeare may make griefs, merry Beaumont's style
i. and melt anger into a smile;
In winter nights or after meals they be,
I must confess, very good company;
But thou exact'st our best hours' industry;
We may read them, we ought to study thee;
Thy scenes are precepts; every verse doth give
Counsel, and teach us, not to laugh, but live.
In a third elegy he rises to a more rapturous strain:
What thou wert, like the hard oracles of old,
Without an ecstasy cannot be told:
We must be ravished first; thou must infuse
Thyself into us, both the theme and muse;
Else, though we all conspired to make thy hearse
Our works, so that it had been but one great verse;
Though the priest had translated for that time
The Liturgy, and buried thee in rhyme;
So that in metre we had heard it said,
Poetic dust is to poetic laid;
And though, that dust being Shakspeare's, thou might'st
Not his room, but the poet for thy grave;
So that, as thou didst prince of numbers die,
And live, so thou mightest in numbers lie;
'Twere frail solemnity:—verses on thee,
And not like thine, would but kind libels be:
And we, not speaking thy whole worth, should raise
Worse blots than they that envied thy praise.
Of several elegies by this poet upon Charles I. the following is perhaps the most striking:—
Charles —ah! forbear, forbear, lest mortals prize
His name too dearly, and idolatrize.
His name ! our loss!. Thrice cursed and forlorn
Be that black night which ushered in this morn.
Charles our dread sovereign l—hold! lest outlawed sense
Bribe and seduce tame reason to dispense
With those celestial powers, and distrust
Heaven can behold such treason and prove just.
Charles our dread sovereign's murdered l—tremble, and
View what convulsions shoulder-shake this land:
Court, city, country, may three kingdoms run
To their last stage, and set with him, their sun.
Charles our dread sovereign's murdered at his gate'
Fell fiends ! dire hydras of a stiff-necked state 1
Strange body politic, whose members spread,
And monster-like swell bigger than their head.
Charles of Great Britain l He who was the known
King of three realms, lies murdered in his own.
He hel who Faith's Defender lived and stood,'
Died here to rebaptize it in his blood.
No more! no more! Fame's trump shall echo all
The rest in dreadful thunder. Such a fall
Great Christendom ne'er patterned; and ’twas strange
Earth's centre reeled not at this dismal change.
The blow struck Britain blind; each well-set limb
By dislocation was lopt offin him;
And, though she yet lives, she lives but to condole
Three bleeding bodies left without a soul.
Religion puts on black; sad Loyalty
Blushes and mourns to see bright Majesty
Butchered by such assassinates; nay both
'Gainst God, 'gainst Law, Allegiance, and their Oath.
Farewell, sad Isle farewell ! Thy fatal glory
Is summed, cast up, and cancelled in this story.
Cleveland, however, after all, is perhaps most in his element when his chief inspiration is scorn, and facit
indignatis versum. The most elaborate of his satires or invectives is that which he calls The Rebel Scot. It is rather too long to be given entire; and in truth a good deal of it is more furious than forcible; but we will transcribe the commencing portion, which contains the most effective passages:—
How ! Providence 1 and yet a Scottish crew :
Then Madame Nature wears black patches too.
What I shall our nation be in bondage thus
Unto a land that truckles under us?
Ring the bells backward: I am all on fire;
Not all the buckets in a country quire
Shall quench my rage. A poet should be feared
When angry, like a comet's flaming beard.
And where’s the Stoic can his wrath appease
To see his country sick of Pym's disease;—
By Scotch invasion to be made a prey
To such pig-widgeon myrmidons as they 2
But that there's charm in verse, I would not quote
The name of Scot without an antidote;
Unless my head were red, that I might brew
Invention there that might be poison too.
Were I a drowsy judge, whose dismal note
Disgorgeth halters, as a juggler's throat
Doth ribands; could I in Sir Empiric's tone
Speak pills in phrase, and quack destruction,
Or roar like Marshall, that Geneva bull,
Hell and damnation a pulpit-full;
Yet, to express a Scot, to play that prize,
Not all those mouth-granados can suffice.
Before a Scot can properly be cursed,
I must, like Hocus, swallow daggers first.
Come, keen Iambics, with your badger's feet,
And, badger-like, bite till your teeth do meet.
Help, ye tart satirists, to imp my rage
With all the scorpions that should whip this age.
Scots are like witches; do but whet your pen,
Scratch till the blood come, they’ll not hurt you then.
Now, as the Martyrs were enforced to take
The shapes of beasts, like hypocrites at stake,
I’ll bait my Scot so, yet not cheat your eyes;–
A Scot, within a beast, is no disguise.
No more let Ireland brag her harmless nation
Harbours no venom, since that Scots plantation.
Nor can our feigned antiquity obtain:
Since they came in, England hath wolves again.
The Scot that kept the Tower might have shown,
Within the grate of his own breast alone,
The leopard and the panther, and engrossed
What all those wild collegiates had cost
The honest high-shoes, in their termly fees
First to the salvage-lawyer, next to these.
Nature herself doth Scotchmen beasts confess,
Making their country such a wilderness;
A land that brings in question and suspense
God's omnipresence, but that Charles came thence—
But that Montrose and Crawford's royal band
Atoned their sin, and christened half their land :
Nor is it all the nation hath these spots:–
There is a Church as well as Kirk of Scots;
As in a picture where the squinting paint
Shows fiend on this side, and on that side saint.
He that saw Hell in his melancholy dream,
And, in the twilight of his fancy's theme,
Scared from his sins, repented in a fright,
Had he viewed Scotland had turned proselyte.
A land where one may pray with cursed intent,
O may they never suffer banishment!
Had Cain been Scot, God would have changed his
Not forced him wander, but confined him home.
Like Jews they spread, and as infection fly,
As if the Devil had ubiquity.
Hence ’tis they live as rovers, and defy
This or that place, rags of geography:
They're citizens o' the world, they 're all in all;
Scotland's a nation epidemical.
The poem is accompanied by a Latin version on the opposite page, which however is not by Cleveland, but by Thomas Gawen, a Fellow of New College, Oxford.
This may be fitly followed up by the verses headed “The Definition of a Protector:”
What's a Protector? He's a stately thing
That apes it in the non-age of a king:
A tragic actor, Caesar in a clown;
He 's a brass farthing stamped with a crown: -
A bladder blown, with other breaths puffed full;
Not the Perillus, but Perillus bull;
AEsop's proud Ass veiled in the Lion's skin;
An outward saint lined with a Devil within:
An echo whence the royal sound doth come,
But just as a barrel-head sounds like a drum :
Fantastic image of the royal head,
The brewer's with the king's arms quartered:
He is a counterfeited piece, that shows
Charles his effigies with a copper nose:
In fine, he 's one we must Protector call;-
From whom the King of Kings protect us all.
And we fear the still more bitter bile of the following effusion “On O. P. Sick,” with which we shall conclude our extracts, must be understood to be directed against the same illustrious quarter:
Yield, periwigged impostor, yield to fate,
Religious whiffler, mountebank of state, ;
Down to the lowest abyss, the blackest shade
That night does own; that so the earth thou 'st made
Loathsome by thousand barbarisms may be
Delivered from heaven's vengeance, and from thee.
The reeking steam of thy fresh villanies
Would spot the stars, and menstruate the skies;
Force them to break the league they’ve made with men,
And with a flood rinse the foul world again.
Thy bays are tarnished with thy cruelties,
Rebellions, sacrilege, and perjuries.
Descend, descend, thou veiled Devil | Fall,
Thou subtle bloodsucker, thou cannibal
& Misprinted “fate” in the edition before us.