Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ELEGY UPON KING CHARLES THE FIRST, MURDERED PUBLICLY BY HIS SUBJECTS, by JOHN CLEVELAND



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ELEGY UPON KING CHARLES THE FIRST, MURDERED PUBLICLY BY HIS SUBJECTS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Were not my faith buoyed up by sacred blood
Last Line: This our josias had a jeremy.
Subject(s): Charles I, King Of England (1600-1649)


WERE not my faith buoyed up by sacred blood,
It might be drowned in this prodigious flood;
Which reason's highest ground doth so exceed,
It leaves my soul no anch'rage but my creed;
Where my faith, resting on th' original,
Supports itself in this, the copy's fall.
So while my faith floats on that bloody wood,
My reason's cast away in this red flood
Which near o'erflows us all. Those showers past
Made but land-floods, which did some valleys waste.
This stroke hath cut the only neck of land
Which between us and this red sea did stand,
That covers now our world which cursed lies
At once with two of Egypt's prodigies
(O'ercast with darkness and with blood o'errun),
And justly since our hearts have theirs outdone.
Th'enchanter led them to a less known ill
To act his sin, than 'twas their king to kill;
Which crime hath widowed our whole nation,
Voided all forms, left but privation
In Church and State; inverting every right;
Brought in Hell's state of fire without light.
No wonder then if all good eyes look red,
Washing their loyal hearts from blood so shed;
The which deserves each pore should turn an eye
To weep out even a bloody agony.
Let nought then pass for music but sad cries,
For beauty bloodless cheeks and blood-shot eyes.
All colours soil but black; all odours have
Ill scent but myrrh, incens'd upon this grave.
It notes a Jew not to believe us much
The cleaner made by a religious touch
Of this dead body, whom to judge to die
Seems the Judaical impiety.
To kill the King, the Spirit Legion paints
His rage with law, the Temple and the saints.
But the truth is, he feared and did repine
To be cast out and back into the swine.
And the case holds, in that the Spirit bends
His malice in this act against his ends;
For it is like the sooner he'll be sent
Out of that body he would still torment.
Let Christians then use otherwise this blood;
Detest the act, yet turn it to their good;
Thinking how like a King of Death he dies
We easily may the world and death despise.
Death had no sting for him and its sharp arm,
Only of all the troop, meant him no harm.
And so he looked upon the axe as one
Weapon yet left to guard him to his throne.
In his great name then may his subjects cry,
'Death, thou art swallowed up in victory.'
If this, our loss, a comfort can admit,
'Tis that his narrowed crown is grown unfit
For his enlarged head, since his distress
Had greatened this, as it made that the less.
His crown was fallen unto too low a thing
For him who was become so great a king.
So the same hands enthroned him in that crown
They had exalted from him, not pulled down.
And thus God's truth by them hath rendered more
Than e'er man's falsehood promised to restore;
Which, since by death alone he could attain,
Was yet exempt from weakness and from pain.
Death was enjoined by God to touch a part,
Might make his passage quick, ne'er move his heart,
Which even expiring was so far from death
It seemed but to command away his breath.
And thus his soul, of this her triumph proud,
Broke like a flash of lightning through the cloud
Of flesh and blood; and from the highest line
Of human virtue, passed to be divine.
Nor is't much less his virtues to relate
Than the high glories of his present state.
Since both, then, pass all acts but of belief,
Silence may praise the one, the other grief.
And since upon the diamond no less
Than diamonds will serve us to impress,
I'll only wish that for his elegy
This our Josias had a Jeremy.





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