Part 2 out of 7
Sir,--I am so many ways obliged to you, and so little able to return
your favours, that, like those who owe too much, I can only live by
getting further into your debt. You have not only been careful of my
fortune, which was the effect of your nobleness, but you have been
solicitous of my reputation, which is that of your kindness. It is not
long since I gave you the trouble of perusing a play for me, and now,
instead of an acknowledgment, I have given you a greater, in the
correction of a poem. But since you are to bear this persecution, I will
at least give you the encouragement of a martyr; you could never suffer
in a nobler cause. For I have chosen the most heroic subject which any
poet could desire: I have taken upon me to describe the motives, the
beginning, progress, and successes, of a most just and necessary war; in
it, the care, management, and prudence of our king; the conduct and
valour of a royal admiral, and of two incomparable generals; the
invincible courage of our captains and seamen; and three glorious
victories, the result of all. After this I have, in the Fire, the most
deplorable, but withal the greatest, argument that can be imagined: the
destruction being so swift, so sudden, so vast and miserable, as nothing
can parallel in story. The former part of this poem, relating to the
war, is but a due expiation for my not having served my king and country
in it. All gentlemen are almost obliged to it; and I know no reason we
should give that advantage to the commonalty of England, to be foremost
in brave actions, which the nobles of France would never suffer in their
peasants. I should not have written this but to a person who has been
ever forward to appear in all employments, whither his honour and
generosity have called him. The latter part of my poem, which describes
the Fire, I owe, first to the piety and fatherly affection of our
monarch to his suffering subjects; and, in the second place, to the
courage, loyalty, and magnanimity of the city: both which were so
conspicuous, that I wanted words to celebrate them as they deserve. I
have called my poem Historical, not Epic, though both the actions and
actors are as much heroic as any poem can contain. But since the action
is not properly one, nor that accomplished in the last successes, I have
judged it too bold a title for a few stanzas, which are little more in
number than a single Iliad, or the longest of the AEneids. For this
reason (I mean not of length, but broken action, tied too severely to
the laws of history) I am apt to agree with those who rank Lucan rather
among historians in verse, than Epic poets: in whose room, if I am not
deceived, Silius Italicus, though a worse writer, may more justly be
admitted. I have chosen to write my poem in quatrains, or stanzas of
four in alternate rhyme, because I have ever judged them more noble, and
of greater dignity, both for the sound and number, than any other verse
in use amongst us; in which I am sure I have your approbation. The
learned languages have certainly a great advantage of us, in not being
tied to the slavery of any rhyme; and were less constrained in the
quantity of every syllable, which they might vary with spondees or
dactyls, besides so many other helps of grammatical figures, for the
lengthening or abbreviation of them, than the modern are in the close of
that one syllable, which often confines, and more often corrupts, the
sense of all the rest. But in this necessity of our rhymes, I have
always found the couplet verse most easy, though not so proper for this
occasion: for there the work is sooner at an end, every two lines
concluding the labour of the poet; but in quatrains he is to carry it
further on, and not only so, but to bear along in his head the
troublesome sense of four lines together. For those who write correctly
in this kind must needs acknowledge, that the last line of the stanza is
to be considered in the composition of the first. Neither can we give
ourselves the liberty of making any part of a verse for the sake of
rhyme, or concluding with a word which is not current English, or using
the variety of female rhymes; all which our fathers practised: and for
the female rhymes, they are still in use among other nations; with the
Italian in every line, with the Spaniard promiscuously, with the French
alternately; as those who have read the Alarique, the Pucelle, or any of
their later poems, will agree with me. And besides this, they write in
Alexandrius, or verses of six feet; such as amongst us is the old
translation of Homer by Chapman: all which, by lengthening of their
chain, makes the sphere of their activity the larger. I have dwelt too
long upon the choice of my stanza, which you may remember is much better
defended in the preface to Gondibert; and therefore I will hasten to
acquaint you with my endeavours in the writing. In general, I will only
say, I have never yet seen the description of any naval fight in the
proper terms which are used at sea: and if there be any such, in another
language, as that of Lucan in the third of his Pharsalia, yet I could
not avail myself of it in the English; the terms of art in every tongue
bearing more of the idiom of it than any other words. We hear indeed
among our poets, of the thundering of guns, the smoke, the disorder, and
the slaughter; but all these are common notions. And certainly, as those
who, in a logical dispute, keep in general terms, would hide a fallacy;
so those who do it in any poetical description, would veil their
Descriptas servare vices operumque colores,
Cur ego, si nequeo ignoroque, Poeta salutor?
For my own part, if I had little knowledge of the sea, yet I have
thought it no shame to learn: and if I have made some few mistakes, it
is only, as you can bear me witness, because I have wanted opportunity
to correct them; the whole poem being first written, and now sent you
from a place, where I have not so much as the converse of any seaman.
Yet though the trouble I had in writing it was great, it was more than
recompensed by the pleasure. I found myself so warm in celebrating the
praises of military men, two such especially as the prince and
general, that it is no wonder if they inspired me with thoughts above my
ordinary level. And I am well satisfied, that, as they are incomparably
the best subject I ever had, excepting only the royal family, so also,
that this I have written of them is much better than what I have
performed on any other. I have been forced to help out other arguments;
but this has been bountiful to me: they have been low and barren of
praise, and I have exalted them, and made them fruitful; but
here--_Omnia sponte sua reddit justissima tellus_. I have had a large, a
fair, and a pleasant field; so fertile that, without my cultivating, it
has given me two harvests in a summer, and in both oppressed the reaper.
All other greatness in subjects is only counterfeit; it will not endure
the test of danger; the greatness of arms is only real; other greatness
burdens a nation with its weight, this supports it with its strength.
And as it is the happiness of the age, so it is the peculiar goodness of
the best of kings, that we may praise his subjects without offending
him. Doubtless, it proceeds from a just confidence of his own virtue,
which the lustre of no other can be so great as to darken in him; for
the good or the valiant are never safely praised under a bad or a
degenerate prince. But to return from this digression to a further
account of my poem; I must crave leave to tell you, that as I have
endeavoured to adorn it with noble thoughts, so much more to express
those thoughts with elocution. The composition of all poems is, or ought
to be, of wit; and wit in the poet, or wit-writing (if you will give me
leave to use a school-distinction) is no other than the faculty of
imagination in the writer, which, like a nimble spaniel, beats over and
ranges through the field of memory, till it springs the quarry it hunted
after: or, without metaphor, which searches over all the memory for the
species or ideas of those things which it designs to represent. Wit
written is that which is well designed, the happy result of thought, or
product of imagination. But to proceed from wit, in the general notion
of it, to the proper wit of an heroic or historical poem; I judge it
chiefly to consist in the delightful imaging of persons, actions,
passions, or things. It is not the jerk or sting of an epigram, nor the
seeming contradiction of a poor antithesis (the delight of an
ill-judging audience in a play of rhyme) nor the jingle of a more poor
Paronomasia; neither is it so much the morality of a grave sentence,
affected by Lucan, but more sparingly used by Virgil; but it is some
lively and apt description, dressed in such colours of speech, that it
sets before your eyes the absent object, as perfectly, and more
delightfully than nature. So then the first happiness of the poet's
imagination is properly invention or finding of the thought; the second
is fancy, or the variation, deriving or moulding of that thought, as the
judgment represents it proper to the subject; the third is elocution, or
the art of clothing and adorning that thought, so found and varied, in
apt, significant, and sounding words: the quickness of the imagination
is seen in the invention, the fertility in the fancy, and the accuracy
in the expression. For the two first of these, Ovid is famous among the
poets; for the latter, Virgil. Ovid images more often the movements and
affections of the mind, either combating between two contrary passions,
or extremely discomposed by one. His words therefore are the least part
of his care; for he pictures nature in disorder, with which the study
and choice of words is inconsistent. This is the proper wit of dialogue
or discourse, and consequently of the drama, where all that is said is
to be supposed the effect of sudden thought; which, though it excludes
not the quickness of wit in repartees, yet admits not a too curious
election of words, too frequent allusions, or use of tropes, or, in
fine, anything that shows remoteness of thought or labour in the writer.
On the other side, Virgil speaks not so often to us in the person of
another, like Ovid, but in his own: he relates almost all things as from
himself, and thereby gains more liberty than the other, to express his
thoughts with all the graces of elocution, to write more figuratively,
and to confess as well the labour as the force of his imagination.
Though he describes his Dido well and naturally, in the violence of her
passions, yet he must yield in that to the Myrrha, the Biblis, the
Althaea, of Ovid; for as great an admirer of him as I am, I must
acknowledge, that if I see not more of their souls than I see of Dido's,
at least I have a greater concernment for them: and that convinces me
that Ovid has touched those tender strokes more delicately than Virgil
could. But when action or persons are to be described, when any such
image is to be set before us, how bold, how masterly are the strokes of
Virgil! We see the objects he presents us with in their native figures,
in their proper motions; but so we see them, as our own eyes could never
have beheld them so beautiful in themselves. We see the soul of the
poet, like that universal one of which he speaks, informing and moving
through all his pictures:
--Totamque infusa per artus
Mens agitat molem, et magno so corpore miscet.
We behold him embellishing his images, as he makes Venus breathing
beauty upon her son AEneas.
Purpureum, et laetos oculis afflarat honores:
Quale manus addunt ebori decus, aut ubi flavo
Argentum Pariusve lapis circundatur auro.
See his Tempest, his Funeral Sports, his Combat of Turnus and AEneas: and
in his Georgics, which I esteem the divinest part of all his writings,
the Plague, the Country, the Battle of the Bulls, the Labour of the
Bees, and those many other excellent images of nature, most of which are
neither great in themselves, nor have any natural ornament to bear them
up: but the words wherewith he describes them are so excellent that it
might be well applied to him, which was said by Ovid, _Materiam
superabat opus_: the very sound of his words has often somewhat that is
connatural to the subject; and while we read him, we sit, as in a play,
beholding the scenes of what he represents. To perform this, he made
frequent use of tropes, which you know change the nature of a known
word, by applying it to some other signification; and this is it which
Horace means in his epistle to the Pisos:
Dixeris egregie, notum si callida verbum
Reddiderit junctura novum--
But I am sensible I have presumed too far to entertain you with a rude
discourse of that art, which you both know so well, and put into
practice with so much happiness. Yet before I leave Virgil, I must own
the vanity to tell you, and by you the world, that he has been my master
in this poem: I have followed him everywhere, I know not with what
success, but I am sure with diligence enough: my images are many of them
copied from him, and the rest are imitations of him. My expressions
also are as near as the idioms of the two languages would admit of in
translation. And this, sir, I have done with that boldness, for which I
will stand accountable to any of our little critics, who, perhaps, are
no better acquainted with him than I am. Upon your first perusal of this
poem, you have taken notice of some words which I have innovated (if it
be too bold for me to say refined) upon his Latin; which, as I offer not
to introduce into English prose, so I hope they are neither improper,
nor altogether inelegant in verse; and, in this, Horace will again
Et nova, fictaque nuper, habebunt verba fidem, si
Graeco fonte cadunt, parce detorta--
The inference is exceeding plain: for if a Roman poet might have liberty
to coin a word, supposing only that it was derived from the Greek, was
put into a Latin termination, and that he used this liberty but seldom,
and with modesty; how much more justly may I challenge that privilege to
do it with the same prerequisites, from the best and most judicious of
Latin writers! In some places, where either the fancy or the words were
his, or any other's, I have noted it in the margin, that I might not
seem a plagiary; in others I have neglected it, to avoid as well
tediousness, as the affectation of doing it too often. Such descriptions
or images well wrought, which I promise not for mine, are, as I have
said, the adequate delight of heroic poesy; for they beget admiration,
which is its proper object; as the images of the burlesque, which is
contrary to this, by the same reason beget laughter: for the one shows
nature beautified, as in the picture of a fair woman, which we all
admire; the other shows her deformed, as in that of a lazar, or of a
fool with distorted face and antique gestures, at which we cannot
forbear to laugh, because it is a deviation from nature. But though the
same images serve equally for the Epic poesy, and for the historic and
panegyric, which are branches of it, yet a several sort of sculpture is
to be used in them. If some of them are to be like those of Juvenal,
_Stantes in curribus AEmiliani_, heroes drawn in their triumphal
chariots, and in their full proportion; others are to be like that of
Virgil, _Spirantia mollius oera_: there is somewhat more of softness and
tenderness to be shown in them. You will soon find I write not this
without concern. Some, who have seen a paper of verses, which I wrote
last year to her Highness the Duchess, have accused them of that only
thing I could defend in them. They said, I did _humi serpere_, that I
wanted not only height of fancy, but dignity of words, to set it off. I
might well answer with that of Horace, _Nunc non erat his locus_; I knew
I addressed them to a lady, and accordingly I affected the softness of
expression, and the smoothness of measure, rather than the height of
thought; and in what I did endeavour, it is no vanity to say I have
succeeded. I detest arrogance; but there is some difference betwixt that
and a just defence. But I will not further bribe your candour, or the
reader's. I leave them to speak for me; and, if they can, to make out
that character, not pretending to a greater, which I have given them.
And now, sir, it is time I should relieve you from the tedious length of
this account. You have better and more profitable employment for your
hours, and I wrong the public to detain you longer. In conclusion, I
must leave my poem to you with all its faults, which I hope to find
fewer in the printing by your emendations. I know you are not of the
number of those, of whom the younger Pliny speaks; _Nec sunt parum
multi, qui carpere amicos suos judicium vocant_: I am rather too secure
of you on that side. Your candour in pardoning my errors may make you
more remiss in correcting them; if you will not withal consider that
they come into the world with your approbation, and through your hands.
I beg from you the greatest favour you can confer upon an absent person,
since I repose upon your management what is dearest to me, my fame and
reputation; and therefore I hope it will stir you up to make my poem
fairer by many of your blots; if not, you know the story of the gamester
who married the rich man's daughter, and when her father denied the
portion, christened all the children by his surname, that if, in
conclusion, they must beg, they should do so by one name, as well as by
the other. But since the reproach of my faults will light on you, it is
but reason I should do you that justice to the readers, to let them
know, that, if there be anything tolerable in this poem, they owe the
argument to your choice, the writing to your encouragement, the
correction to your judgment, and the care of it to your friendship, to
which he must ever acknowledge himself to owe all things, who is, sir,
the most obedient, and most faithful of your servants,
From Charlton in Wiltshire, _Nov_. 10, 1666.
* * * * *
1 In thriving arts long time had Holland grown,
Crouching at home and cruel when abroad:
Scarce leaving us the means to claim our own;
Our King they courted, and our merchants awed.
2 Trade, which, like blood, should circularly flow,
Stopp'd in their channels, found its freedom lost:
Thither the wealth of all the world did go,
And seem'd but shipwreck'd on so base a coast.
3 For them alone the heavens had kindly heat;
In eastern quarries ripening precious dew:
For them the Idumaean balm did sweat,
And in hot Ceylon spicy forests grew.
4 The sun but seem'd the labourer of the year;
Each waxing moon supplied her watery store,
To swell those tides, which from the line did bear
Their brimful vessels to the Belgian shore.
5 Thus mighty in her ships, stood Carthage long,
And swept the riches of the world from far;
Yet stoop'd to Rome, less wealthy, but more strong:
And this may prove our second Punic war.
6 What peace can be, where both to one pretend?
(But they more diligent, and we more strong)
Or if a peace, it soon must have an end;
For they would grow too powerful, were it long.
7 Behold two nations, then, engaged so far
That each seven years the fit must shake each land:
Where France will side to weaken us by war,
Who only can his vast designs withstand.
8 See how he feeds the Iberian with delays,
To render us his timely friendship vain:
And while his secret soul on Flanders preys,
He rocks the cradle of the babe of Spain.
9 Such deep designs of empire does he lay
O'er them, whose cause he seems to take in hand;
And prudently would make them lords at sea,
To whom with ease he can give laws by land.
10 This saw our King; and long within his breast
His pensive counsels balanced to and fro:
He grieved the land he freed should be oppress'd,
And he less for it than usurpers do.
11 His generous mind the fair ideas drew
Of fame and honour, which in dangers lay;
Where wealth, like fruit on precipices, grew,
Not to be gather'd but by birds of prey.
12 The loss and gain each fatally were great;
And still his subjects call'd aloud for war;
But peaceful kings, o'er martial people set,
Each, other's poise and counterbalance are.
13 He first survey'd the charge with careful eyes,
Which none but mighty monarchs could maintain;
Yet judged, like vapours that from limbecks rise,
It would in richer showers descend again.
14 At length resolved to assert the watery ball,
He in himself did whole Armadoes bring:
Him aged seamen might their master call,
And choose for general, were he not their king.
15 It seems as every ship their sovereign knows,
His awful summons they so soon obey;
So hear the scaly herd when Proteus blows,
And so to pasture follow through the sea.
16 To see this fleet upon the ocean move,
Angels drew wide the curtains of the skies;
And heaven, as if there wanted lights above,
For tapers made two glaring comets rise.
17 Whether they unctuous exhalations are,
Fired by the sun, or seeming so alone:
Or each some more remote and slippery star,
Which loses footing when to mortals shown.
18 Or one, that bright companion of the sun,
Whose glorious aspect seal'd our new-born king;
And now a round of greater years begun,
New influence from his walks of light did bring.
19 Victorious York did first with famed success,
To his known valour make the Dutch give place:
Thus Heaven our monarch's fortune did confess,
Beginning conquest from his royal race.
20 But since it was decreed, auspicious King,
In Britain's right that thou shouldst wed the main,
Heaven, as a gage, would cast some precious thing,
And therefore doom'd that Lawson should be slain.
21 Lawson amongst the foremost met his fate,
Whom sea-green Sirens from the rocks lament;
Thus as an offering for the Grecian state,
He first was kill'd who first to battle went.
22 Their chief blown up in air, not waves, expired,
To which his pride presumed to give the law:
The Dutch confess'd Heaven present, and retired,
And all was Britain the wide ocean saw.
23 To nearest ports their shatter'd ships repair,
Where by our dreadful cannon they lay awed:
So reverently men quit the open air,
When thunder speaks the angry gods abroad.
24 And now approach'd their fleet from India, fraught
With all the riches of the rising sun:
And precious sand from southern climates brought,
The fatal regions where the war begun.
25 Like hunted castors, conscious of their store,
Their waylaid wealth to Norway's coasts they bring:
There first the north's cold bosom spices bore,
And winter brooded on the eastern spring.
26 By the rich scent we found our perfumed prey,
Which, flank'd with rocks, did close in covert lie;
And round about their murdering cannon lay,
At once to threaten and invite the eye.
27 Fiercer than cannon, and than rocks more hard,
The English undertake the unequal war:
Seven ships alone, by which the port is barr'd,
Besiege the Indies, and all Denmark dare.
28 These fight like husbands, but like lovers those:
These fain would keep, and those more fain enjoy:
And to such height their frantic passion grows,
That what both love, both hazard to destroy.
29 Amidst whole heaps of spices lights a ball,
And now their odours arm'd against them fly:
Some preciously by shatter'd porcelain fall,
And some by aromatic splinters die.
30 And though by tempests of the prize bereft,
In Heaven's inclemency some ease we find:
Our foes we vanquish'd by our valour left,
And only yielded to the seas and wind.
31 Nor wholly lost we so deserved a prey;
For storms repenting part of it restored:
Which, as a tribute from the Baltic sea,
The British ocean sent her mighty lord.
32 Go, mortals, now; and vex yourselves in vain
For wealth, which so uncertainly must come:
When what was brought so far, and with such pain,
Was only kept to lose it nearer home.
33 The son, who twice three months on th' ocean tost,
Prepared to tell what he had pass'd before,
Now sees in English ships the Holland coast,
And parents' arms in vain stretch'd from the shore.
34 This careful husband had been long away,
Whom his chaste wife and little children mourn;
Who on their fingers learn'd to tell the day
On which their father promised to return.
35 Such are the proud designs of human kind,
And so we suffer shipwreck every where!
Alas, what port can such a pilot find,
Who in the night of fate must blindly steer!
36 The undistinguish'd seeds of good and ill,
Heaven, in his bosom, from our knowledge hides:
And draws them in contempt of human skill,
Which oft for friends mistaken foes provides.
37 Let Munster's prelate ever be accurst,
In whom we seek the German faith in vain:
Alas, that he should teach the English first,
That fraud and avarice in the Church could reign!
38 Happy, who never trust a stranger's will,
Whose friendship's in his interest understood!
Since money given but tempts him to be ill,
When power is too remote to make him good.
39 Till now, alone the mighty nations strove;
The rest, at gaze, without the lists did stand:
And threatening France, placed like a painted Jove,
Kept idle thunder in his lifted hand.
40 That eunuch guardian of rich Holland's trade,
Who envies us what he wants power to enjoy;
Whose noiseful valour does no foe invade,
And weak assistance will his friends destroy.
41 Offended that we fought without his leave,
He takes this time his secret hate to show:
Which Charles does with a mind so calm receive,
As one that neither seeks nor shuns his foe.
42 With France, to aid the Dutch, the Danes unite:
France as their tyrant, Denmark as their slave,
But when with one three nations join to fight,
They silently confess that one more brave.
43 Lewis had chased the English from his shore;
But Charles the French as subjects does invite:
Would Heaven for each some Solomon restore,
Who, by their mercy, may decide their right!
44 Were subjects so but only by their choice,
And not from birth did forced dominion take,
Our prince alone would have the public voice;
And all his neighbours' realms would deserts make.
45 He without fear a dangerous war pursues,
Which without rashness he began before:
As honour made him first the danger choose,
So still he makes it good on virtue's score.
46 The doubled charge his subjects' love supplies,
Who, in that bounty, to themselves are kind:
So glad Egyptians see their Nilus rise,
And in his plenty their abundance find.
47 With equal power he does two chiefs create,
Two such as each seem'd worthiest when alone;
Each able to sustain a nation's fate,
Since both had found a greater in their own.
48 Both great in courage, conduct, and in fame,
Yet neither envious of the other's praise;
Their duty, faith, and interest too the same,
Like mighty partners equally they raise.
49 The prince long time had courted fortune's love,
But once possess'd, did absolutely reign:
Thus with their Amazons the heroes strove,
And conquer'd first those beauties they would gain.
50 The Duke beheld, like Scipio, with disdain,
That Carthage, which he ruin'd, rise once more;
And shook aloft the fasces of the main,
To fright those slaves with what they felt before.
51 Together to the watery camp they haste,
Whom matrons passing to their children show:
Infants' first vows for them to heaven are cast,
And future people bless them as they go.
52 With them no riotous pomp, nor Asian train,
To infect a navy with their gaudy fears;
To make slow fights, and victories but vain:
But war severely like itself appears.
53 Diffusive of themselves, where'er they pass,
They make that warmth in others they expect;
Their valour works like bodies on a glass,
And does its image on their men project.
54 Our fleet divides, and straight the Dutch appear,
In number, and a famed commander, bold:
The narrow seas can scarce their navy bear,
Or crowded vessels can their soldiers hold.
55 The Duke, less numerous, but in courage more,
On wings of all the winds to combat flies:
His murdering guns a loud defiance roar,
And bloody crosses on his flag-staffs rise.
56 Both furl their sails, and strip them for the fight;
Their folded sheets dismiss the useless air:
The Elean plains could boast no nobler sight,
When struggling champions did their bodies bare.
57 Borne each by other in a distant line,
The sea-built forts in dreadful order move:
So vast the noise, as if not fleets did join,
But lands unfix'd, and floating nations strove.
58 Now pass'd, on either side they nimbly tack;
Both strive to intercept and guide the wind:
And, in its eye, more closely they come back,
To finish all the deaths they left behind.
59 On high-raised decks the haughty Belgians ride,
Beneath whose shade our humble frigates go:
Such port the elephant bears, and so defied
By the rhinoceros, her unequal foe.
60 And as the build, so different is the fight;
Their mounting shot is on our sails design'd:
Deep in their hulls our deadly bullets light,
And through the yielding planks a passage find.
61 Our dreaded admiral from far they threat,
Whose batter'd rigging their whole war receives:
All bare, like some old oak which tempests beat,
He stands, and sees below his scatter'd leaves.
62 Heroes of old, when wounded, shelter sought;
But he who meets all danger with disdain,
Even in their face his ship to anchor brought,
And steeple-high stood propt upon the main.
63 At this excess of courage, all amazed,
The foremost of his foes awhile withdraw:
With such respect in enter'd Rome they gazed,
Who on high chairs the god-like fathers saw.
64 And now, as where Patroclus' body lay,
Here Trojan chiefs advanced, and there the Greek
Ours o'er the Duke their pious wings display,
And theirs the noblest spoils of Britain seek.
65 Meantime his busy mariners he hastes,
His shatter'd sails with rigging to restore;
And willing pines ascend his broken masts,
Whose lofty heads rise higher than before.
66 Straight to the Dutch he turns his dreadful prow,
More fierce the important quarrel to decide:
Like swans, in long array his vessels show,
Whose crests advancing do the waves divide.
67 They charge, recharge, and all along the sea
They drive, and squander the huge Belgian fleet;
Berkeley alone, who nearest danger lay,
Did a like fate with lost Creusa meet.
68 The night comes on, we eager to pursue
The combat still, and they ashamed to leave:
Till the last streaks of dying day withdrew,
And doubtful moonlight did our rage deceive.
69 In the English fleet each ship resounds with joy,
And loud applause of their great leader's fame:
In fiery dreams the Dutch they still destroy,
And, slumbering, smile at the imagined flame.
70 Not so the Holland fleet, who, tired and done,
Stretch'd on their decks like weary oxen lie;
Faint sweats all down their mighty members run;
Vast bulks which little souls but ill supply.
71 In dreams they fearful precipices tread:
Or, shipwreck'd, labour to some distant shore:
Or in dark churches walk among the dead;
They wake with horror, and dare sleep no more.
72 The morn they look on with unwilling eyes,
Till from their main-top joyful news they hear
Of ships, which by their mould bring new supplies,
And in their colours Belgian lions bear.
73 Our watchful general had discern'd from far
This mighty succour, which made glad the foe:
He sigh'd, but, like a father of the war,
His face spake hope, while deep his sorrows flow.
74 His wounded men he first sends off to shore,
Never till now unwilling to obey:
They, not their wounds, but want of strength deplore,
And think them happy who with him can stay.
75 Then to the rest, Rejoice, said he, to-day;
In you the fortune of Great Britain lies:
Among so brave a people, you are they
Whom Heaven has chose to fight for such a prize.
76 If number English courages could quell,
We should at first have shunn'd, not met, our foes,
Whose numerous sails the fearful only tell:
Courage from hearts and not from numbers grows.
77 He said, nor needed more to say: with haste
To their known stations cheerfully they go;
And all at once, disdaining to be last,
Solicit every gale to meet the foe.
78 Nor did the encouraged Belgians long delay,
But bold in others, not themselves, they stood:
So thick, our navy scarce could steer their way,
But seem'd to wander in a moving wood.
79 Our little fleet was now engaged so far,
That, like the sword-fish in the whale, they fought:
The combat only seem'd a civil war,
Till through their bowels we our passage wrought.
80 Never had valour, no not ours, before
Done aught like this upon the land or main,
Where not to be o'ercome was to do more
Than all the conquests former kings did gain.
81 The mighty ghosts of our great Harries rose,
And armed Edwards look'd with anxious eyes,
To see this fleet among unequal foes,
By which fate promised them their Charles should rise.
82 Meantime the Belgians tack upon our rear,
And raking chase-guns through our sterns they send:
Close by their fire ships, like jackals appear
Who on their lions for the prey attend.
83 Silent in smoke of cannon they come on:
Such vapours once did fiery Cacus hide:
In these the height of pleased revenge is shown,
Who burn contented by another's side.
84 Sometimes from fighting squadrons of each fleet,
Deceived themselves, or to preserve some friend,
Two grappling AEtnas on the ocean meet,
And English fires with Belgian flames contend.
85 Now at each tack our little fleet grows less;
And like maim'd fowl, swim lagging on the main:
Their greater loss their numbers scarce confess,
While they lose cheaper than the English gain.
86 Have you not seen, when, whistled from the fist,
Some falcon stoops at what her eye design'd,
And, with her eagerness the quarry miss'd,
Straight flies at check, and clips it down the wind.
87 The dastard crow that to the wood made wing,
And sees the groves no shelter can afford,
With her loud caws her craven kind does bring,
Who, safe in numbers, cuff the noble bird.
88 Among the Dutch thus Albemarle did fare:
He could not conquer, and disdain'd to fly;
Past hope of safety, 'twas his latest care,
Like falling Caesar, decently to die.
89 Yet pity did his manly spirit move,
To see those perish who so well had fought;
And generously with his despair he strove,
Resolved to live till he their safety wrought.
90 Let other muses write his prosperous fate,
Of conquer'd nations tell, and kings restored;
But mine shall sing of his eclipsed estate,
Which, like the sun's, more wonders does afford.
91 He drew his mighty frigates all before,
On which the foe his fruitless force employs:
His weak ones deep into his rear he bore
Remote from guns, as sick men from the noise.
92 His fiery cannon did their passage guide,
And following smoke obscured them from the foe:
Thus Israel safe from the Egyptian's pride,
By flaming pillars, and by clouds did go.
93 Elsewhere the Belgian force we did defeat,
But here our courages did theirs subdue:
So Xenophon once led that famed retreat,
Which first the Asian empire overthrew.
94 The foe approach'd; and one for his bold sin
Was sunk; as he that touch'd the ark was slain:
The wild waves master'd him and suck'd him in,
And smiling eddies dimpled on the main.
95 This seen, the rest at awful distance stood:
As if they had been there as servants set
To stay, or to go on, as he thought good,
And not pursue, but wait on his retreat.
96 So Lybian huntsmen, on some sandy plain,
From shady coverts roused, the lion chase:
The kingly beast roars out with loud disdain,
And slowly moves, unknowing to give place.
97 But if some one approach to dare his force,
He swings his tail, and swiftly turns him round;
With one paw seizes on his trembling horse,
And with the other tears him to the ground.
98 Amidst these toils succeeds the balmy night;
Now hissing waters the quench'd guns restore;
And weary waves, withdrawing from the fight,
Lie lull'd and panting on the silent shore:
99 The moon shone clear on the becalmed flood,
Where, while her beams like glittering silver play,
Upon the deck our careful general stood,
And deeply mused on the succeeding day.
100 That happy sun, said he, will rise again,
Who twice victorious did our navy see:
And I alone must view him rise in vain,
Without one ray of all his star for me.
101 Yet like an English general will I die,
And all the ocean make my spacious grave:
Women and cowards on the land may lie;
The sea's a tomb that's proper for the brave.
102 Restless he pass'd the remnant of the night,
Till the fresh air proclaimed the morning nigh:
And burning ships, the martyrs of the fight,
With paler fires beheld the eastern sky.
103 But now, his stores of ammunition spent,
His naked valour is his only guard;
Rare thunders are from his dumb cannon sent,
And solitary guns are scarcely heard.
104 Thus far had fortune power, here forced to stay,
Nor longer durst with virtue be at strife:
This as a ransom Albemarle did pay,
For all the glories of so great a life.
105 For now brave Rupert from afar appears,
Whose waving streamers the glad general knows:
With full spread sails his eager navy steers,
And every ship in swift proportion grows.
106 The anxious prince had heard the cannon long,
And from that length of time dire omens drew
Of English overmatch'd, and Dutch too strong,
Who never fought three days, but to pursue.
107 Then, as an eagle, who, with pious care
Was beating widely on the wing for prey,
To her now silent eyrie does repair,
And finds her callow infants forced away:
108 Stung with her love, she stoops upon the plain,
The broken air loud whistling as she flies:
She stops and listens, and shoots forth again,
And guides her pinions by her young ones' cries.
109 With such kind passion hastes the prince to fight,
And spreads his flying canvas to the sound;
Him, whom no danger, were he there, could fright,
Now absent every little noise can wound.
110 As in a drought the thirsty creatures cry,
And gape upon the gather'd clouds for rain,
And first the martlet meets it in the sky,
And with wet wings joys all the feather'd train.
111 With such glad hearts did our despairing men
Salute the appearance of the prince's fleet;
And each ambitiously would claim the ken,
That with first eyes did distant safety meet.
112 The Dutch, who came like greedy hinds before,
To reap the harvest their ripe ears did yield,
Now look like those, when rolling thunders roar,
And sheets of lightning blast the standing field.
113 Full in the prince's passage, hills of sand,
And dangerous flats in secret ambush lay;
Where the false tides skim o'er the cover'd land,
And seamen with dissembled depths betray.
114 The wily Dutch, who, like fallen angels, fear'd
This new Messiah's coming, there did wait,
And round the verge their braving vessels steer'd,
To tempt his courage with so fair a bait.
115 But he, unmoved, contemns their idle threat,
Secure of fame whene'er he please to fight:
His cold experience tempers all his heat,
And inbred worth doth boasting valour slight.
116 Heroic virtue did his actions guide,
And he the substance, not the appearance chose
To rescue one such friend he took more pride,
Than to destroy whole thousands of such foes.
117 But when approach'd, in strict embraces bound,
Rupert and Albemarle together grow;
He joys to have his friend in safety found,
Which he to none but to that friend would owe.
118 The cheerful soldiers, with new stores supplied,
Now long to execute their spleenful will;
And, in revenge for those three days they tried,
Wish one, like Joshua's, when the sun stood still.
119 Thus reinforced, against the adverse fleet,
Still doubling ours, brave Rupert leads the way:
With the first blushes of the morn they meet,
And bring night back upon the new-born day.
120 His presence soon blows up the kindling fight,
And his loud guns speak thick like angry men:
It seem'd as slaughter had been breathed all night,
And Death new pointed his dull dart again.
121 The Dutch too well his mighty conduct knew,
And matchless courage since the former fight;
Whose navy like a stiff-stretch'd cord did show,
Till he bore in and bent them into flight.
122 The wind he shares, while half their fleet offends
His open side, and high above him shows:
Upon the rest at pleasure he descends,
And doubly harm'd he double harms bestows.
123 Behind the general mends his weary pace,
And sullenly to his revenge he sails:
So glides some trodden serpent on the grass,
And long behind his wounded volume trails.
124 The increasing sound is borne to either shore,
And for their stakes the throwing nations fear:
Their passions double with the cannons' roar,
And with warm wishes each man combats there.
125 Plied thick and close as when the fight begun,
Their huge unwieldy navy wastes away;
So sicken waning moons too near the sun,
And blunt their crescents on the edge of day.
126 And now reduced on equal terms to fight,
Their ships like wasted patrimonies show;
Where the thin scattering trees admit the light,
And shun each other's shadows as they grow.
127 The warlike prince had sever'd from the rest
Two giant ships, the pride of all the main;
Which with his one so vigorously he prest,
And flew so home they could not rise again.
128 Already batter'd, by his lee they lay,
In rain upon the passing winds they call:
The passing winds through their torn canvas play,
And flagging sails on heartless sailors fall.
129 Their open'd sides receive a gloomy light,
Dreadful as day let into shades below:
Without, grim Death rides barefaced in their sight,
And urges entering billows as they flow.
130 When one dire shot, the last they could supply,
Close by the board the prince's mainmast bore:
All three now helpless by each other lie,
And this offends not, and those fear no more.
131 So have I seen some fearful hare maintain
A course, till tired before the dog she lay:
Who, stretch'd behind her, pants upon the plain,
Past power to kill, as she to get away.
132 With his loll'd tongue he faintly licks his prey;
His warm breath blows her flix up as she lies;
She trembling creeps upon the ground away,
And looks back to him with beseeching eyes.
133 The prince unjustly does his stars accuse,
Which hinder'd him to push his fortune on;
For what they to his courage did refuse,
By mortal valour never must be done.
134 This lucky hour the wise Batavian takes,
And warns his tatter'd fleet to follow home;
Proud to have so got off with equal stakes,
Where 'twas a triumph not to be o'ercome.
135 The general's force, as kept alive by fight,
Now not opposed, no longer can pursue:
Lasting till heaven had done his courage right;
When he had conquer'd he his weakness knew.
136 He casts a frown on the departing foe,
And sighs to see him quit the watery field:
His stern fix'd eyes no satisfaction show,
For all the glories which the fight did yield.
137 Though, as when fiends did miracles avow,
He stands confess'd e'en by the boastful Dutch:
He only does his conquest disavow,
And thinks too little what they found too much.
138 Return'd, he with the fleet resolved to stay;
No tender thoughts of home his heart divide;
Domestic joys and cares he puts away;
For realms are households which the great must guide.
139 As those who unripe veins in mines explore,
On the rich bed again the warm turf lay,
Till time digests the yet imperfect ore,
And know it will be gold another day:
140 So looks our monarch on this early fight,
Th' essay and rudiments of great success;
Which all-maturing time must bring to light,
While he, like Heaven, does each day's labour bless.
141 Heaven ended not the first or second day,
Yet each was perfect to the work design'd;
God and king's work, when they their work survey,
A passive aptness in all subjects find.
142 In burden'd vessels first, with speedy care,
His plenteous stores do seasoned timber send;
Thither the brawny carpenters repair,
And as the surgeons of maim'd ships attend.
143 With cord and canvas from rich Hamburgh sent,
His navy's molted wings he imps once more:
Tall Norway fir, their masts in battle spent,
And English oak, sprung leaks and planks restore.
144 All hands employ'd, the royal work grows warm:
Like labouring bees on a long summer's day,
Some sound the trumpet for the rest to swarm.
And some on bells of tasted lilies play.
145 With gluey wax some new foundations lay
Of virgin-combs, which from the roof are hung:
Some arm'd, within doors upon duty stay,
Or tend the sick, or educate the young.
146 So here some pick out bullets from the sides,
Some drive old oakum through each seam and rift:
Their left hand does the calking-iron guide,
The rattling mallet with the right they lift.
147 With boiling pitch another near at hand,
From friendly Sweden brought, the seams instops:
Which well paid o'er, the salt sea waves withstand,
And shakes them from the rising beak in drops.
148 Some the gall'd ropes with dauby marline bind,
Or sear-cloth masts with strong tarpaulin coats:
To try new shrouds one mounts into the wind,
And one below their ease or stiffness notes.
149 Our careful monarch stands in person by,
His new-cast cannons' firmness to explore:
The strength of big-corn'd powder loves to try,
And ball and cartridge sorts for every bore.
150 Each day brings fresh supplies of arms and men,
And ships which all last winter were abroad;
And such as fitted since the fight had been,
Or, new from stocks, were fallen into the road.
151 The goodly London in her gallant trim
(The Phoenix daughter of the vanish'd old).
Like a rich bride does to the ocean swim,
And on her shadow rides in floating gold.
152 Her flag aloft spread ruffling to the wind,
And sanguine streamers seem the flood to fire;
The weaver, charm'd with what his loom design'd,
Goes on to sea, and knows not to retire.
153 With roomy decks, her guns of mighty strength,
Whose low-laid mouths each mounting billow laves;
Deep in her draught, and warlike in her length,
She seems a sea-wasp flying on the waves.
154 This martial present, piously design'd,
The loyal city give their best-loved King:
And with a bounty ample as the wind,
Built, fitted, and maintain'd, to aid him bring.
155 By viewing Nature, Nature's handmaid, Art,
Makes mighty things from small beginnings grow:
Thus fishes first to shipping did impart,
Their tail the rudder, and their head the prow.
156 Some log perhaps upon the waters swam,
An useless drift, which, rudely cut within,
And, hollow'd, first a floating trough became,
And cross some rivulet passage did begin.
157 In shipping such as this, the Irish kern,
And untaught Indian, on the stream did glide:
Ere sharp-keel'd boats to stem the flood did learn,
Or fin-like oars did spread from either side.
158 Add but a sail, and Saturn so appear'd,
When from lost empire he to exile went,
And with the golden age to Tiber steer'd,
Where coin and commerce first he did invent.
159 Rude as their ships was navigation then;
No useful compass or meridian known;
Coasting, they kept the land within their ken,
And knew no North but when the Pole-star shone.
160 Of all who since have used the open sea,
Than the bold English none more fame have won:
Beyond the year, and out of heaven's high way,
They make discoveries where they see no sun.
161 But what so long in vain, and yet unknown,
By poor mankind's benighted wit is sought,
Shall in this age to Britain first be shown,
And hence be to admiring nations taught.
162 The ebbs of tides and their mysterious flow,
We, as art's elements, shall understand,
And as by line upon the ocean go,
Whose paths shall be familiar as the land.
163 Instructed ships shall sail to quick commerce,
By which remotest regions are allied;
Which makes one city of the universe,
Where some may gain, and all may be supplied.
164 Then we upon our globe's last verge shall go,
And view the ocean leaning on the sky:
From thence our rolling neighbours we shall know,
And on the lunar world securely pry.
165 This I foretell from your auspicious care,
Who great in search of God and nature grow;
Who best your wise Creator's praise declare,
Since best to praise his works is best to know.
166 O truly royal! who behold the law
And rule of beings in your Maker's mind:
And thence, like limbecks, rich ideas draw,
To fit the levell'd use of human-kind.
197 But first the toils of war we must endure,
And from the injurious Dutch redeem the seas.
War makes the valiant of his right secure,
And gives up fraud to be chastised with ease.
168 Already were the Belgians on our coast,
Whose fleet more mighty every day became
By late success, which they did falsely boast,
And now by first appearing seem'd to claim.
169 Designing, subtle, diligent, and close,
They knew to manage war with wise delay:
Yet all those arts their vanity did cross,
And by their pride their prudence did betray.
170 Nor stay'd the English long; but, well supplied,
Appear as numerous as the insulting foe:
The combat now by courage must be tried,
And the success the braver nation show.
171 There was the Plymouth squadron now come in,
Which in the Straits last winter was abroad;
Which twice on Biscay's working bay had been,
And on the midland sea the French had awed.
172 Old expert Allen, loyal all along,
Famed for his action on the Smyrna fleet:
And Holmes, whose name shall live in epic song,
While music numbers, or while verse has feet.
173 Holmes, the Achates of the general's fight;
Who first bewitch'd our eyes with Guinea gold;
As once old Cato in the Roman sight
The tempting fruits of Afric did unfold.
174 With him went Spragge, as bountiful as brave,
Whom his high courage to command had brought:
Harman, who did the twice-fired Harry save,
And in his burning ship undaunted fought.
175 Young Hollis, on a Muse by Mars begot,
Born, Caesar-like, to write and act great deeds:
Impatient to revenge his fatal shot,
His right hand doubly to his left succeeds.
176 Thousands were there in darker fame that dwell,
Whose deeds some nobler poem shall adorn:
And, though to me unknown, they sure fought well
Whom Rupert led, and who were British born.
177 Of every size an hundred fighting sail:
So vast the navy now at anchor rides,
That underneath it the press'd waters fail,
And with its weight it shoulders off the tides.
178 Now anchors weigh'd, the seamen shout so shrill,
That heaven and earth and the wide ocean rings:
A breeze from westward waits their sails to fill,
And rests in those high beds his downy wings.
179 The wary Dutch this gathering storm foresaw,
And durst not bide it on the English coast:
Behind their treacherous shallows they withdraw,
And there lay snares to catch the British host.
180 So the false spider, when her nets are spread,
Deep ambush'd in her silent den does lie:
And feels far off the trembling of her thread,
Whose filmy cord should bind the struggling fly.
181 Then if at last she find him fast beset,
She issues forth and runs along her loom:
She joys to touch the captive in her net,
And drags the little wretch in triumph home.
182 The Belgians hoped, that, with disorder'd haste,
Our deep-cut keels upon the sands might run:
Or, if with caution leisurely were past,
Their numerous gross might charge us one by one.
183 But with a fore-wind pushing them above,
And swelling tide that heaved them from below,
O'er the blind flats our warlike squadrons move,
And with spread sails to welcome battle go.
184 It seem'd as there the British Neptune stood,
With all his hosts of waters at command.
Beneath them to submit the officious flood;
And with his trident shoved them off the sand.
185 To the pale foes they suddenly draw near,
And summon them to unexpected fight:
They start like murderers when ghosts appear,
And draw their curtains in the dead of night.
186 Now van to van the foremost squadrons meet,
The midmost battles hastening up behind,
Who view far off the storm of falling sleet,
And hear their thunder rattling in the wind.
187 At length the adverse admirals appear;
The two bold champions of each country's right:
Their eyes describe the lists as they come near,
And draw the lines of death before they fight.
188 The distance judged for shot of every size,
The linstocks touch, the ponderous ball expires:
The vigorous seaman every port-hole plies,
And adds his heart to every gun he fires!
189 Fierce was the fight on the proud Belgians' side,
For honour, which they seldom sought before!
But now they by their own vain boasts were tied,
And forced at least in show to prize it more.
190 But sharp remembrance on the English part,
And shame of being match'd by such a foe,
Rouse conscious virtue up in every heart,
And seeming to be stronger makes them so.
191 Nor long the Belgians could that fleet sustain,
Which did two generals' fates, and Caesar's bear:
Each several ship a victory did gain,
As Rupert or as Albemarle were there.
192 Their batter'd admiral too soon withdrew,
Unthank'd by ours for his unfinish'd fight;
But he the minds of his Dutch masters knew,
Who call'd that Providence which we call'd flight.
193 Never did men more joyfully obey,
Or sooner understood the sign to fly:
With such alacrity they bore away,
As if to praise them all the States stood by.
194 O famous leader of the Belgian fleet,
Thy monument inscribed such praise shall wear,
As Varro, timely flying, once did meet,
Because he did not of his Rome despair.
195 Behold that navy, which a while before,
Provoked the tardy English close to fight,
Now draw their beaten vessels close to shore,
As larks lie, dared, to shun the hobby's flight.
196 Whoe'er would English monuments survey,
In other records may our courage know:
But let them hide the story of this day,
Whose fame was blemish'd by too base a foe.
197 Or if too busily they will inquire
Into a victory which we disdain;
Then let them know the Belgians did retire
Before the patron saint of injured Spain.
198 Repenting England this revengeful day
To Philip's manes did an offering bring:
England, which first by leading them astray,
Hatch'd up rebellion to destroy her King.
199 Our fathers bent their baneful industry,
To check a, monarchy that slowly grew;
But did not France or Holland's fate foresee,
Whose rising power to swift dominion flew.
200 In fortune's empire blindly thus we go,
And wander after pathless destiny;
Whose dark resorts since prudence cannot know,
In vain it would provide for what shall be.
201 But whate'er English to the bless'd shall go,
And the fourth Harry or first Orange meet;
Find him disowning of a Bourbon foe,
And him detesting a Batavian fleet.
202 Now on their coasts our conquering navy rides,
Waylays their merchants, and their land besets:
Each day new wealth without their care provides;
They lie asleep with prizes in their nets.
203 So, close behind some promontory lie
The huge leviathans to attend their prey;
And give no chase, but swallow in the fry,
Which through their gaping jaws mistake the way.
204 Nor was this all: in ports and roads remote,
Destructive fires among whole fleets we send:
Triumphant flames upon the water float,
And out-bound ships at home their voyage end.
205 Those various squadrons variously design'd,
Each vessel freighted with a several load,
Each squadron waiting for a several wind,
All find but one, to burn them in the road.
206 Some bound for Guinea, golden sand to find,
Bore all the gauds the simple natives wear;
Some for the pride of Turkish courts design'd,
For folded turbans finest Holland bear.
207 Some English wool, vex'd in a Belgian loom,
And into cloth of spungy softness made,
Did into France, or colder Denmark, doom,
To ruin with worse ware our staple trade.
208 Our greedy seamen rummage every hold,
Smile on the booty of each wealthier chest;
And, as the priests who with their gods make bold,
Take what they like, and sacrifice the rest.
209 But ah! how insincere are all our joys!
Which, sent from heaven, like lightning make no stay;
Their palling taste the journey's length destroys,
Or grief, sent post, o'ertakes them on the way.
210 Swell'd with our late successes on the foe,
Which France and Holland wanted power to cross,
We urge an unseen fate to lay us low,
And feed their envious eyes with English loss.
211 Each element His dread command obeys,
Who makes or ruins with a smile or frown;
Who, as by one he did our nation raise,
So now he with another pulls us down.
212 Yet London, empress of the northern clime,
By an high fate thou greatly didst expire;
Great as the world's, which, at the death of time
Must fall, and rise a nobler frame by fire!
213 As when some dire usurper Heaven provides,
To scourge his country with a lawless sway;
His birth perhaps some petty village hides,
And sets his cradle out of fortune's way.
214 Till fully ripe his swelling fate breaks out,
And hurries him to mighty mischiefs on:
His prince, surprised at first, no ill could doubt,
And wants the power to meet it when 'tis known.
215 Such was the rise of this prodigious fire,
Which, in mean buildings first obscurely bred,
From thence did soon to open streets aspire,
And straight to palaces and temples spread.
216 The diligence of trades and noiseful gain,
And luxury more late, asleep were laid:
All was the night's; and in her silent reign
No sound the rest of nature did invade.
217 In this deep quiet, from what source unknown,
Those seeds of fire their fatal birth disclose;
And first few scattering sparks about were blown,
Big with the flames that to our ruin rose.
218 Then in some close-pent room it crept along,
And, smouldering as it went, in silence fed;
Till the infant monster, with devouring strong,
Walk'd boldly upright with exalted head.
219 Now like some rich or mighty murderer,
Too great for prison, which he breaks with gold;
Who fresher for new mischiefs does appear,
And dares the world to tax him with the old:
220 So 'scapes the insulting fire his narrow jail,
And makes small outlets into open air:
There the fierce winds his tender force assail,
And beat him downward to his first repair.
221 The winds, like crafty courtesans, withheld
His flames from burning, but to blow them more:
And every fresh attempt he is repell'd
With faint denials weaker than before.
222 And now no longer letted of his prey,
He leaps up at it with enraged desire:
O'erlooks the neighbours with a wide survey,
And nods at every house his threatening fire.
223 The ghosts of traitors from the bridge descend,
With bold fanatic spectres to rejoice:
About the fire into a dance they bend,
And sing their sabbath notes with feeble voice.
224 Our guardian angel saw them where they sate
Above the palace of our slumbering king:
He sigh'd, abandoning his charge to fate,
And, drooping, oft look'd back upon the wing.
225 At length the crackling noise and dreadful blaze
Call'd up some waking lover to the sight;
And long it was ere he the rest could raise,
Whose heavy eyelids yet were full of night.
226 The next to danger, hot pursued by fate,
Half-clothed, half-naked, hastily retire:
And frighted mothers strike their breasts too late,
For helpless infants left amidst the fire.
227 Their cries soon waken all the dwellers near;
Now murmuring noises rise in every street:
The more remote run stumbling with their fear,
And in the dark men jostle as they meet.
228 So weary bees in little cells repose;
But if night-robbers lift the well-stored hive,
An humming through their waxen city grows,
And out upon each other's wings they drive.
229 Now streets grow throng'd and busy as by day:
Some run for buckets to the hallow'd quire:
Some cut the pipes, and some the engines play;
And some more bold mount ladders to the fire.
230 In vain: for from the east a Belgian wind
His hostile breath through the dry rafters sent;
The flames impell'd soon left their foes behind,
And forward with a wanton fury went.
231 A quay of fire ran all along the shore,
And lighten'd all the river with a blaze:
The waken'd tides began again to roar,
And wondering fish in shining waters gaze.
232 Old father Thames raised up his reverend head,
But fear'd the fate of Simois would return:
Deep in his ooze he sought his sedgy bed,
And shrunk his waters back into his urn.
233 The fire, meantime, walks in a broader gross;
To either hand his wings he opens wide:
He wades the streets, and straight he reaches cross,
And plays his longing flames on the other side.
234 At first they warm, then scorch, and then they take;
Now with long necks from side to side they feed:
At length, grown strong, their mother-fire forsake,
And a new colony of flames succeed.
235 To every nobler portion of the town
The curling billows roll their restless tide:
In parties now they straggle up and down,
As armies, unopposed, for prey divide.
236 One mighty squadron with a side-wind sped,
Through narrow lanes his cumber'd fire does haste,
By powerful charms of gold and silver led,
The Lombard bankers and the 'Change to waste.
237 Another backward to the Tower would go,
And slowly eats his way against the wind:
But the main body of the marching foe
Against the imperial palace is design'd.
238 Now day appears, and with the day the King,
Whose early care had robb'd him of his rest:
Far off the cracks of falling houses ring,
And shrieks of subjects pierce his tender breast.
239 Near as he draws, thick harbingers of smoke
With gloomy pillars cover all the place;
Whose little intervals of night are broke
By sparks, that drive against his sacred face.
240 More than his guards, his sorrows made him known,
And pious tears, which down his cheeks did shower;
The wretched in his grief forgot their own;
So much the pity of a king has power.
241 He wept the flames of what he loved so well,
And what so well had merited his love:
For never prince in grace did more excel,
Or royal city more in duty strove.
242 Nor with an idle care did he behold:
Subjects may grieve, but monarchs must redress;
He cheers the fearful, and commends the bold,
And makes despairers hope for good success.
243 Himself directs what first is to be done,
And orders all the succours which they bring,
The helpful and the good about him run,
And form an army worthy such a king.
244 He sees the dire contagion spread so fast,
That, where it seizes, all relief is vain:
And therefore must unwillingly lay waste
That country, which would else the foe maintain.
245 The powder blows up all before the fire:
The amazed flames stand gather'd on a heap;
And from the precipice's brink retire,
Afraid to venture on so large a leap.
246 Thus fighting fires a while themselves consume,
But straight, like Turks forced on to win or die,
They first lay tender bridges of their fume,
And o'er the breach in unctuous vapours fly.
247 Part stay for passage, till a gust of wind
Ships o'er their forces in a shining sheet:
Part creeping under ground their journey blind,
And climbing from below their fellows meet.
248 Thus to some desert plain, or old woodside,
Dire night-hags come from far to dance their round;
And o'er broad rivers on their fiends they ride,
Or sweep in clouds above the blasted ground.
249 No help avails: for hydra-like, the fire
Lifts up his hundred heads to aim his way;
And scarce the wealthy can one half retire,
Before he rushes in to share the prey.
250 The rich grow suppliant, and the poor grow proud;
Those offer mighty gain, and these ask more:
So void of pity is the ignoble crowd,
When others' ruin may increase their store.
251 As those who live by shores with joy behold
Some wealthy vessel split or stranded nigh;
And from the rocks leap down for shipwreck'd gold,
And seek the tempests which the others fly:
252 So these but wait the owners' last despair,
And what's permitted to the flames invade;
Even from their jaws they hungry morsels tear,
And on their backs the spoils of Vulcan lade.
253 The days were all in this lost labour spent;
And when the weary king gave place to night,
His beams he to his royal brother lent,
And so shone still in his reflective light.
254 Night came, but without darkness or repose,--
A dismal picture of the general doom,
Where souls, distracted when the trumpet blows,
And half unready, with their bodies come.
255 Those who have homes, when home they do repair,
To a last lodging call their wandering friends:
Their short uneasy sleeps are broke with care,
To look how near their own destruction tends.
256 Those who have none, sit round where once it was,
And with full eyes each wonted room require;
Haunting the yet warm ashes of the place,
As murder'd men walk where they did expire.
257 Some stir up coals, and watch the vestal fire,
Others in vain from sight of ruin run;
And, while through burning labyrinths they retire,
With loathing eyes repeat what they would shun.
258 The most in fields like herded beasts lie down,
To dews obnoxious on the grassy floor;
And while their babes in sleep their sorrows drown,
Sad parents watch the remnants of their store.
259 While by the motion of the flames they guess
What streets are burning now, and what are near;
An infant waking to the paps would press,
And meets, instead of milk, a falling tear.
260 No thought can ease them but their sovereign's care,
Whose praise the afflicted as their comfort sing:
Even those whom want might drive to just despair,
Think life a blessing under such a king.
261 Meantime he sadly suffers in their grief,
Out-weeps an hermit, and out-prays a saint:
All the long night he studies their relief,
How they may be supplied, and he may want.
262 O God, said he, thou patron of my days,
Guide of my youth in exile and distress!
Who me, unfriended, brought'st by wondrous ways,
The kingdom of my fathers to possess:
263 Be thou my judge, with what unwearied care
I since have labour'd for my people's good;
To bind the bruises of a civil war,
And stop the issues of their wasting blood.
264 Thou who hast taught me to forgive the ill,
And recompense, as friends, the good misled;
If mercy be a precept of thy will,
Return that mercy on thy servant's head.
265 Or if my heedless youth has stepp'd astray,
Too soon forgetful of thy gracious hand;
On me alone thy just displeasure lay,
But take thy judgments from this mourning land.
266 We all have sinn'd, and thou hast laid us low,
As humble earth from whence at first we came:
Like flying shades before the clouds we show,
And shrink like parchment in consuming flame.
267 O let it be enough what thou hast done;
When spotted Deaths ran arm'd through every street,
With poison'd darts which not the good could shun,
The speedy could out-fly, or valiant meet.
268 The living few, and frequent funerals then,
Proclaim'd thy wrath on this forsaken place;
And now those few who are return'd again,
Thy searching judgments to their dwellings trace.
269 O pass not, Lord, an absolute decree,
Or bind thy sentence unconditional!
But in thy sentence our remorse foresee,
And in that foresight this thy doom recall.
270 Thy threatenings, Lord, as thine thou mayst revoke:
But if immutable and fix'd they stand,
Continue still thyself to give the stroke,
And let not foreign foes oppress thy land.
271 The Eternal heard, and from the heavenly quire
Chose out the cherub with the flaming sword;
And bade him swiftly drive the approaching fire
From where our naval magazines were stored.
272 The blessed minister his wings display'd,
And like a shooting star he cleft the night:
He charged the flames, and those that disobey'd
He lash'd to duty with his sword of light.
273 The fugitive flames chastised went forth to prey
On pious structures, by our fathers rear'd;
By which to heaven they did affect the way,
Ere faith in churchmen without works was heard.
274 The wanting orphans saw, with watery eyes,
Their founder's charity in dust laid low;
And sent to God their ever-answered cries,
For He protects the poor, who made them so.
275 Nor could thy fabric, Paul's, defend thee long,
Though thou wert sacred to thy Maker's praise:
Though made immortal by a poet's song;
And poets' songs the Theban walls could raise.
276 The daring flames peep'd in, and saw from far
The awful beauties of the sacred quire:
But since it was profaned by civil war,
Heaven thought it fit to have it purged by fire.
277 Now down the narrow streets it swiftly came,
And widely opening did on both sides prey:
This benefit we sadly owe the flame,
If only ruin must enlarge our way.
278 And now four days the sun had seen our woes:
Four nights the moon beheld the incessant fire:
It seem'd as if the stars more sickly rose,
And farther from the feverish north retire.
279 In th' empyrean heaven, the bless'd abode,
The Thrones and the Dominions prostrate lie,
Not daring to behold their angry God;
And a hush'd silence damps the tuneful sky.
280 At length the Almighty cast a pitying eye,
And mercy softly touch'd his melting breast:
He saw the town's one half in rubbish lie,
And eager flames drive on to storm the rest.
281 An hollow crystal pyramid he takes,
In firmamental waters dipt above;
Of it a broad extinguisher he makes,
And hoods the flames that to their quarry drove.
282 The vanquish'd fires withdraw from every place,
Or, full with feeding, sink into a sleep:
Each household genius shows again his face,
And from the hearths the little Lares creep.
283 Our King this more than natural change beholds;
With sober joy his heart and eyes abound:
To the All-good his lifted hands he folds,
And thanks him low on his redeemed ground.
284 As when sharp frosts had long constrain'd the earth,
A kindly thaw unlocks it with mild rain;
And first the tender blade peeps up to birth,
And straight the green fields laugh with promised grain:
285 By such degrees the spreading gladness grew
In every heart which fear had froze before:
The standing streets with so much joy they view,
That with less grief the perish'd they deplore.
286 The father of the people open'd wide
His stores, and all the poor with plenty fed:
Thus God's anointed God's own place supplied,
And fill'd the empty with his daily bread.
287 This royal bounty brought its own reward,
And in their minds so deep did print the sense,
That if their ruins sadly they regard,
'Tis but with fear the sight might drive him thence.
288 But so may he live long, that town to sway,
Which by his auspice they will nobler make,
As he will hatch their ashes by his stay,
And not their humble ruins now forsake.
289 They have not lost their loyalty by fire;
Nor is their courage or their wealth so low,
That from his wars they poorly would retire,
Or beg the pity of a vanquish'd foe.
290 Not with more constancy the Jews of old,
By Cyrus from rewarded exile sent,
Their royal city did in dust behold,
Or with more vigour to rebuild it went.
291 The utmost malice of their stars is past,
And two dire comets, which have scourged the town,
In their own plague and fire have breathed the last,
Or dimly in their sinking sockets frown.
292 Now frequent trines the happier lights among,
And high-raised Jove, from his dark prison freed,
Those weights took off that on his planet hung,
Will gloriously the new-laid work succeed.
293 Methinks already from this chemic flame,
I see a city of more precious mould:
Rich as the town which gives the Indies name,
With silver paved, and all divine with gold.
294 Already labouring with a mighty fate,
She shakes the rubbish from her mounting brow,
And seems to have renew'd her charter's date,
Which Heaven will to the death of time allow.
295 More great than human now, and more august,
Now deified she from her fires does rise:
Her widening streets on new foundations trust,
And opening into larger parts she flies.
296 Before, she like some shepherdess did show,
Who sat to bathe her by a river's side;
Not answering to her fame, but rude and low,
Nor taught the beauteous arts of modern pride.
297 Now, like a maiden queen, she will behold,
From her high turrets, hourly suitors come;
The East with incense, and the West with gold,
Will stand, like suppliants, to receive her doom!
298 The silver Thames, her own domestic flood,
Shall bear her vessels like a sweeping train;
And often wind, as of his mistress proud,
With longing eyes to meet her face again.
299 The wealthy Tagus, and the wealthier Rhine,
The glory of their towns no more shall boast;
And Seine, that would with Belgian rivers join,
Shall find her lustre stain'd, and traffic lost.
300 The venturous merchant who design'd more far,
And touches on our hospitable shore,
Charm'd with the splendour of this northern star,
Shall here unlade him, and depart no more.
301 Our powerful navy shall no longer meet,
The wealth of France or Holland to invade;
The beauty of this town without a fleet,
From all the world shall vindicate her trade.
302 And while this famed emporium we prepare,
The British ocean shall such triumphs boast,
That those, who now disdain our trade to share,
Shall rob like pirates on our wealthy coast.
303 Already we have conquer'd half the war,
And the less dangerous part is left behind:
Our trouble now is but to make them dare,
And not so great to vanquish as to find.
304 Thus to the Eastern wealth through storms we go,
But now, the Cape once doubled, fear no more;
A constant trade-wind will securely blow,
And gently lay us on the spicy shore.
* * * * *
[Footnote 36: Prince Rupert and General Monk, Duke of Albemarle.]
[Footnote 37: 'Lawson:' Sir John Lawson, rear admiral of the red, killed
by a ball that wounded him in the knee.]
[Footnote 38: 'Wholly lost:' the Dutch ships on their return home, being
separated by a storm, the rear and vice-admirals of the East India
fleet, with four men of war, were taken by five English frigates. Soon
after, four men of war, two fire-ships, and thirty merchantmen, being
driven out of their course, joined our fleet instead of their own, and
were all taken. These things happened in 1665.]
[Footnote 39: 'Munster's prelate:' the famous Bertrand Von Der Chalen,
Bishop of Munster, excited by Charles, marched twenty thousand men into
the province of Overyssel, under the dominion of the republic of
Holland, where he committed great outrages.]
[Footnote 40: 'Two chiefs:' Prince Rupert and Monk.]
[Footnote 41: 'Berkeley:' Vice-admiral Berkeley fought till his men were
all killed, and was found in the cabin dead and covered with blood.]
[Footnote 42: 'Cacus:' see Virgil in Cowper's translation, 2d vol. of
[Footnote 43: 'Albemarle:' Monk.]
[Footnote 44: 'Flix:' old word for hare fur.]
[Footnote 45: 'Allen:' Sir Thomas Allen, admiral of the white. 'The
Achates:' Sir Robert Holmes was rear-admiral of the white.]
[Footnote 46: 'Leader:' De Ruyter.]
[Footnote 47: 'Patron saint:' St James, on whose day the victory was
[Footnote 48: 'Usurper:' this seems a reference to Cromwell; if so, it
contradicts Scott's statement quoted above in the 'Life.']
[Footnote 49: 'Letted:' hindered.]
* * * * *
AN ESSAY UPON SATIRE.
BY ME DRYDEN AND THE EARL OF MULGRAVE, 1679.
How dull, and how insensible a beast
Is man, who yet would lord it o'er the rest!
Philosophers and poets vainly strove
In every age the lumpish mass to move:
But those were pedants, when compared with these,
Who know not only to instruct, but please.
Poets alone found the delightful way,
Mysterious morals gently to convey
In charming numbers; so that as men grew
Pleased with their poems, they grew wiser too. 10
Satire has always shone among the rest,
And is the boldest way, if not the best,
To tell men freely of their foulest faults;
To laugh at their vain deeds, and vainer thoughts.
In satire too the wise took different ways,
To each deserving its peculiar praise.
Some did all folly with just sharpness blame,
Whilst others laugh'd and scorn'd them into shame.
But of these two, the last succeeded best,
As men aim rightest when they shoot in jest. 20
Yet, if we may presume to blame our guides,
And censure those who censure all besides,
In other things they justly are preferr'd.
In this alone methinks the ancients err'd,--
Against the grossest follies they declaim;
Hard they pursue, but hunt ignoble game.
Nothing is easier than such blots to hit,
And 'tis the talent of each vulgar wit:
Besides, 'tis labour lost; for who would preach
Morals to Armstrong, or dull Aston teach? 30
'Tis being devout at play, wise at a ball,
Or bringing wit and friendship to Whitehall.
But with sharp eyes those nicer faults to find,
Which lie obscurely in the wisest mind;
That little speck which all the rest does spoil,
To wash off that would be a noble toil;
Beyond the loose writ libels of this age,
Or the forced scenes of our declining stage;
Above all censure too, each little wit
Will be so glad to see the greater hit; 40
Who, judging better, though concern'd the most,
Of such correction, will have cause to boast.
In such a satire all would seek a share,
And every fool will fancy he is there.
Old story-tellers too must pine and die,
To see their antiquated wit laid by;
Like her, who miss'd her name in a lampoon,
And grieved to find herself decay'd so soon.
No common coxcomb must be mentioned here:
Not the dull train of dancing sparks appear; 50
Nor fluttering officers who never fight;
Of such a wretched rabble who would write?
Much less half wits: that's more against our rules;
For they are fops, the other are but fools.
Who would not be as silly as Dunbar?
As dull as Monmouth, rather than Sir Carr?
The cunning courtier should be slighted too,
Who with dull knavery makes so much ado;
Till the shrewd fool, by thriving too, too fast,
Like AEsop's fox becomes a prey at last. 60
Nor shall the royal mistresses be named,
Too ugly, or too easy to be blamed,
With whom each rhyming fool keeps such a pother,
They are as common that way as the other:
Yet sauntering Charles, between his beastly brace,
Meets with dissembling still in either place,
Affected humour, or a painted face.
In loyal libels we have often told him,
How one has jilted him, the other sold him:
How that affects to laugh, how this to weep; 70
But who can rail so long as he can sleep?
Was ever prince by two at once misled,
False, foolish, old, ill-natured, and ill-bred?
Earnely and Aylesbury with all that race
Of busy blockheads, shall have here no place;
At council set as foils on Danby's score,
To make that great false jewel shine the more;
Who all that while was thought exceeding wise,
Only for taking pains and telling lies.
But there's no meddling with such nauseous men; 80
Their very names have tired my lazy pen:
'Tis time to quit their company, and choose
Some fitter subject for sharper muse.
First, let's behold the merriest man alive
Against his careless genius vainly strive;
Quit his dear ease, some deep design to lay,
'Gainst a set time, and then forget the day:
Yet he will laugh at his best friends, and be
Just as good company as Nokes and Lee.
But when he aims at reason or at rule, 90
He turns himself the best to ridicule;
Let him at business ne'er so earnest sit,
Show him but mirth, and bait that mirth with wit;
That shadow of a jest shall be enjoy'd,
Though he left all mankind to be destroy'd.
So cat transform'd sat gravely and demure,
Till mouse appear'd, and thought himself secure;
But soon the lady had him in her eye,
And from her friend did just as oddly fly.
Reaching above our nature does no good; 100
We must fall back to our old flesh and blood;
As by our little Machiavel we find
That nimblest creature of the busy kind,
His limbs are crippled, and his body shakes;
Yet his hard mind which all this bustle makes,
No pity of its poor companion takes.
What gravity can hold from laughing out,
To see him drag his feeble legs about,
Like hounds ill-coupled? Jowler lugs him still
Through hedges, ditches, and through all that's ill. 110
'Twere crime in any man but him alone,
To use a body so, though 'tis one's own:
Yet this false comfort never gives him o'er,
That whilst he creeps his vigorous thoughts can soar;
Alas! that soaring to those few that know,
Is but a busy grovelling here below.
So men in rapture think they mount the sky,
Whilst on the ground the entranced wretches lie:
So modern fops have fancied they could fly.
As the new earl, with parts deserving praise, 120
And wit enough to laugh at his own ways,
Yet loses all soft days and sensual nights,
Kind nature checks, and kinder fortune slights;
Striving against his quiet all he can,
For the fine notion of a busy man.
And what is that at best, but one whose mind
Is made to tire himself and all mankind?
For Ireland he would go; faith, let him reign;
For if some odd, fantastic lord would fain
Carry in trunks, and all my drudgery do, 130
I'll not only pay him, but admire him too.
But is there any other beast that lives,
Who his own harm so wittingly contrives?
Will any dog that has his teeth and stones,
Refinedly leave his bitches and his bones,
To turn a wheel, and bark to be employ'd,
While Venus is by rival dogs enjoy'd?
Yet this fond man, to get a statesman's name,