Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE KING'S DISGUISE, by JOHN CLEVELAND



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THE KING'S DISGUISE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: And why a tenant to this vile disguise
Last Line: A league with mouldy bread and clouted shoes!
Subject(s): Charles I, King Of England (1600-1649)


AND why a tenant to this vile disguise
Which who but sees, blasphemes thee with his eyes?
My twins of light within their penthouse shrink,
And hold it their allegiance now to wink.
O, for a state-distinction to arraign
Charles of high treason 'gainst my Sovereign!
What an usurper to his prince is wont,
Cloister and shave him, he himself hath don' 't.
His muffled feature speaks him a recluse --
His ruins prove him a religious house!
The sun hath mewed his beams from off his lamp
And majesty defaced the royal stamp.
Is 't not enough thy dignity's in thrall,
But thou'lt transmute it in thy shape and all,
As if thy blacks were of too faint a dye
Without the tincture of tautology?
Flay an Egyptian for his cassock skin,
Spun of his country's darkness, line 't within
With Presbyterian budge, that drowsy trance,
The Synod's sable, foggy Ignorance;
Nor bodily nor ghostly negro could
Roughcast thy figure in a sadder mould.
This privy-chamber of thy shape would be
But the close mourner of thy Royalty.
Then, break the circle of thy tailor's spell,
A pearl within a rugged oyster's shell.
Heaven, which the minster of thy person owns,
Will fine thee for dilapidations.
Like to a martyred abbey's coarser doom,
Devoutly altered to a pigeon-room;
Or like a college by the changeling rabble,
Manchester's elves, transformed into a stable;
Or if there be a profanation higher;
Such is the sacrilege of thine attire,
By which thou'rt half deposed. -- Thou look'st like one
Whose looks are under sequestration;
Whose renegado form at the first glance
Shows like the Self-denying Ordinance;
Angel of light, and darkness too, (I doubt)
Inspired within and yet possessed without;
Majestic twilight in the state of grace,
Yet with an excommunicated face.
Charles and his mask are of a different mint;
A psalm of mercy in a miscreant print.
The sun wears midnight, day is beetle-browed,
And lightning is in kelder of a cloud.
O the accursed stenography of fate!
The princely eagle shrunk into a bat!
What charm, what magic vapour can it be
That checks his rays to this apostasy?
It is no subtile film of tiffany air,
No cobweb vizard such as ladies wear,
When they are veiled on purpose to be seen,
Doubling their lustre by their vanquished screen.
No, the false scabbard of a prince is tough
And three-piled darkness, like the smoky slough
Of an imprisoned flame; 'tis Faux in grain;
Dark lantern to our bright meridian.
Hell belched the damp; the Warwick Castle vote
Rang Britain's curfew, so our light went out.
[A black offender, should he wear his sin
For penance, could not have a darker skin.]
His visage is not legible; the letters
Like a lord's name writ in fantastic fetters;
Clothes where a Switzer might be buried quick;
Sure they would fit the body politic;
False beard enough to fit a stage's plot
(For that's the ambush of their wit, God wot),
Nay, all his properties so strange appear,
Y' are not i' th' presence though the King be there.
A libel is his dress, a garb uncouth,
Such as the Hue and Cry once purged at mouth.
Scribbling assassinate! Thy lines attest
An earmark due, Cub of the Blatant Beast;
Whose breath, before 'tis syllabled for worse,
Is blasphemy unfledged, a callow curse.
The Laplanders, when they would sell a wind
Wafting to hell, bag up thy phrase and bind
It to the bark, which at the voyage end
Shifts poop and breeds the colic in the Fiend.
But I'll not dub thee with a glorious scar
Nor sink thy sculler with a man-of-war.
The black-mouthed Si quis and this slandering suit
Both do alike in picture execute.
But since w' are all called Papists, why not date
Devotion to the rags thus consecrate?
As temples use to have their porches wrought
With sphinxes, creatures of an antic draught,
And puzzling portraitures to show that there
Riddles inhabited; the like is here.
But pardon, Sir, since I presume to be
Clerk of this closet to your Majesty.
Methinks in this your dark mysterious dress
I see the Gospel couched in parables.
At my next view my purblind fancy ripes
And shows Religion in its dusky types;
Such a text royal, so obscure a shade
Was Solomon in Proverbs all arrayed.
Come, all the brats of this expounding age
To whom the spirit is in pupilage,
You that damn more than ever Samson slew,
And with his engine, the same jaw-bone too!
How is 't he 'scapes your inquisition free
Since bound up in the Bible's livery?
Hence, Cabinet-intruders! Pick-locks, hence!
You, that dim jewels with your Bristol sense:
And characters, like witches, so torment
Till they confess a guilt though innocent!
Keys for this coffer you can never get;
None but St. Peter's opes this cabinet,
This cabinet, whose aspect would benight
Critic spectators with redundant light.
A Prince most seen is least. What Scriptures call
The Revelation, is most mystical.
Mount then, thou Shadow Royal, and with haste
Advance thy morning-star, Charles, overcast.
May thy strange journey contradictions twist
And force fair weather from a Scottish mist.
Heaven's confessors are posed, those star-eyed sages,
T' interpret an eclipse thus riding stages.
Thus Israel-like he travels with a cloud,
Both as a conduct to him and a shroud.
But oh, he goes to Gibeon and renews
A league with mouldy bread and clouted shoes!





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