Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, S. JOHN BAPTIST, by JOSEPH BEAUMONT



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S. JOHN BAPTIST, by            
First Line: When nights black houres be almost spent
Last Line: Then herod at his feast beheld thee heere.
Subject(s): Christianity; Jesus Christ - Legends; John The Baptist, Saint (1st Century); Worship


I

WHEN Nights black houres be almost spent,
And her still stealing course is bent
To some far West, where Shee doth crowd
Behind ye World herselfe to shrowd,
The royall Day
Doth not straitway
In its full grace
Supply ye place;
But quick Aurora sweetly faire
Stepps in before to trimme ye Aire,
Showing ten thousand Roses all before
The Suns bright entrance at his easterne doore.

The Jews thick Night (where ye huge shade
Of duskie Ceremonies made
Jacobs great Sun descry'd from far
Appeare no more than Jacobs Star)
When once it grew
Mature, & drew
Unto its end;
Heavn strait did send
An Harbenger to dresse the way
With morning Glories for ye Day:
The other darksome is to this Days Sun,
Nor is Aurora faire compar'd with John.

Elizabeth & Zacharie
Grown old in spotlesse Pietie
Shall have their yeouth renew'd & turne
Againe unto their vigorous Morne,
Whence shall be drawn
This glorious Dawne:
From such & none
But such, may John
Derive his Birth; a Plant so faire
Must needs of some choice Root be Heire;
A Stream so pure & holy could not be
Issue to any Fount, but Sanctitie.

Both in ye work & in ye Place
Of Holynes ye Business was
Reveal'd at first, whilst Gabriel spies
Old Zacharie at Sacrifice.
He spies Him, and
Doth silent stand
Aside, yt He
No stop might be
Unto ye reverend Service: but
Archangells faces cannot shut
Their lustre up so easily; Zacharies eye
Though old & weak, its presence did descry.

And as an awfull reverence did
Through all his joints a trembling spread,
Fair Gabriel with a gentle grace,
Whilst all Heavn smiled in his face,
Thus chears ye Saint;
No time to faint
Is this for Thee
Blest Zacharie,
But to grow young & strong againe
Strong as thy Noble Prayers, wch streine
And reach Heavns top with Clouds more sweet then those
Which from that Incense Altar ever rose.

Strong must Thou grow, & strong shall be
The Partner of thy Pietie:
Thy Dear Eliza shall bring forth
A dearer Son; in whose great Berth
Heavn being far
Ingag'd, takes care
About his Name,
Which wer't ye same
With Thine, ye World might take Him for
Old Zacharies Issue, & no more:
Heavn gives Thee Him, but bids Thee Name him John,
For Heavns He is, & not Thy Son alone.

Be tender therefore how you fashion
Heavns blessed Darlings education:
No wine nor no strong Drink must gin
To kindle dangerous fervour in
His Sacred Blood:
The Virgin Flood
Of some chaste Spring
Shall dayly bring
Supply unto his Cup, that He
As pure & chaste as it may be:
For in his infant venerable Breast
The spotlesse Dove of Heavn will make its Nest.

God means to come & dwell wth Men
But will be nobly usherd in,
And sends thy Son before to see
His royall way prepared be.
Hearts are ye path
He chosen hath;
And these alone
By powerfull John
Can conquerd be & force'd to meet
All plaine & smoothe their Makers feet:
For tis His Privelege fully to inherit
Mighty Elia's most unconquerd Spirit.

As strange as was ye Messenger
Did this all-glorious News appear.
Give leave. Illustrious Angell, cryes
Good Zachary, if Doubts arise:
Shall worthlesse I
Grown old & drie,
Againe revive
And double live,
Fresh in my Selfe, & in a Son
So great, so pure, so strange a One?
Surely this Wonder well deserves that Thou
Some signe aforehand to my Faith allow.

Know then, says He, I'm Gabriel,
And that my honour is, to dwell
Before ye Seat of God, & see
The glories of Divinitie.
Those Spirits, wch lie,
Soar not so high,
But groping dwell
In lowest Hell
Falshoods dark Kingdome: Truth alone
Finds roome about the heavnly Throne.
Yet take this Signe; thy Tongue wch ask'd it, shall
Be mute, till Men shall Thee Johns Father call.

And with this Word, into ye Aire
More pure then it, vanishd ye faire
And nimble Spirit; whilst Zacharie
Doth after in devotion flie;
In praise his Heart
Could beare her parte;
But on his Toung
Did sit so strong
The Silent Signe, that onely now
The language of his Pen can show
His dear Eliza what had made him dumbe,
And what would ope her aged barren wombe.

II

Eliza found the Promise true
Which with her Wombe still bigger grew,
And to its plenitude did swell
Moneth after moneth; whilst Gabriel
Being to goe
On busines to
A Friend of hers
This News inferrs
Among ye rest, which Shee wth joy
Imbraced, & contriv'd a way
How to goe visit, & congratulate
Her new revived Cosins pregnant state.

No sooner was She come, & had
Her gentle Salutation made,
But strait Eliza's wombe prevents
Her Tongues most forward Complements.
The Babe, wch there
Lay hid, did heare
The Strangers Toung
Which sweetly rung
Heavn in his ears, & made him know
His mighty Lord was neer him now;
He knows those gratious words can speak no other
But Heavns and Earths Delight, his Makers Mother.

Wherefore before Eliza's lips
Could let an answer out, He skips
With sprightfull joy, & as He may
Doth to his Lord his homage pay:
Betimes He tries
To exercise
Himselfe, who was
Designed to passe
Before Him, & all things prepare
As his most faithfull Harbenger:
He leaps, & seems to chide ye Wombs delay
Which stopt him now from entring on his way.

At length ye happy time was come
Which did release Him from ye wombe
Unto his joyfull Mothers warme
Kisses, & soft imbracing Arme.
Her Friends about
Her round, poure out
In thousand fashions
Of Gratulations
Their Joyes & Wishes, every one
Blessing ye Mother & ye Son.
But when ye Circumcision Morning came,
A pretty quarrell rose about his Name.

His Friends desir'd He might inherit
Both his great Fathers Name & Spirit,
And in a kind presumption stilde
Him Zachary. O no, ye Child
Is mine, his Mother
Cries, & no other
But John shall be
His Name: to me
Dear is the Name of Zachary,
Dear as my reverend Lord, yet I
Must have my will; this Name say I, or none;
Let Him be Zachary's son, but named John.

And must We this Sweet Babe, say They,
Unto a forrein Name betray?
A Name not heard of yet in thy
Old Famous Line and Family.
Meanst Thou to pluck
Him from ye stock
Where Heavn hath set him,
And not let Him
Be come a Root from whence may rise
An endlesse Brood of Zacharies?
O let his Father end this quarrell, and
May his most reverend Decision stand.

Content, & what my Lord, says Shee,
Does write shall prove a Law to Me.
Grave Zachary no sooner takes
The Table, but by it He speaks.
His name is John.
Which scarce was done,
But strait He felt
All ye Bands melt,
Wherin Great Gabriel thus long
Had kept close Prisoner his Toung.
But now his Mouth flows with his Makers praise
And vents his Spirit in inspired Layes.

The sound of this restored Toung
Through all ye Neighbor regions rung,
Spreading Amazement all ye way
Where e'r it travelled: yet they
Who heard it, were
Roused with fear
And wonder, not
So much at that
As at ye Childs miraculous Fame,
Which wth a louder Eccho came
And pierc'd their Hearts: what will He prove, say They,
Whose Birth through Wonders makes its Noble way?

Why, He will prove all to be true
That Gabriel did of Him forshow,
He will not prove a Man for you,
Nor for ye Life professd below.
Betimes He grows
Angell, & knows
A way to ease
His Soule of these
So weildy worldly clogs: into
The Deserts freedome He can goe
Living alone with God, & learning there
Of Him how He his Sons way must prepare.

He thinks not much to leave behind
Those dainty Clothes, wch lay ye Mind
Open & naked: He can wear
A suit of harsh, & homely hair;
And so appeare
More fine by far
In Heavns strait view,
Then finest you:
A simple Thong girds Him as well
As all your massy Belts, wch swell
With Pearle & gold, this being garnished by
The richest Gemme, poorest Humility.

Though for his Portion, He might call
Unto you yet He leaves them all,
All those soft sweets, wch may invite
Your Learned Palates to delight:
From those wch you
Away doe throw
In fatt disdaine,
He doth refraine
As viands too too delicate
For Him, who at a cheaper rate
Can live & serve his God: poore Locusts are
With wilde & casuall Honey, all his cheare.

And chear enough: No want hath He
All whose Desires answered be.
No Art of Luxurie can please
A Soule with such accomplishd Ease
Which sets her free
From Slavery
Unto this Dust.
No rampant Lust
Flies up & blinds ye Eyes of John,
Who Master of Himselfe alone,
Can freely yeild what is so fully his
Unto His Service, whom to serve is Blisse.

III

Thus waits He on His God, when loe
The wondring World conspires to goe
And pay Attendance unto Him,
Judea & Jerusalem
Both leave their home,
And Pilgrims come
Unto ye Wilde
And desert field,
Yea Jordan summons all his streame
Thither to come & meet wth them;
Such is ye Conflux, yt ye Wildernesse
And that alone no Desert doth confesse.

The Noble Preacher now begins
Battle to bid against those sins,
Which fought wth Heavn, & in its way
Did thick & Foule obstructions lay.
Take downe, He cries,
Those Mounts which rise
So high, & fill
Those gaps of Hell,
That so a Path all smooth may meet
And kisse your Makers gratious feet.
Pave all His way with Hearts, but let them be
Gentle & soft, for such a One is He.

Yet if you rugged make his Path,
He can be like to it: in wrath
Upon you can He trample, and
Has Hell & Death at his Command.
If you will prove
Good wheat, his love
And Armes shall be
Your Granarie:
But if his righteous Fan shall finde
You worthlesse chaffe, his Angers winde,
Which kindled ye eternall flames, shall cast
You headlong in by its all-potent Blast.

O turne in time, & with your tears
Both quench yt fire, & drowne my fears.
Repent, & He will doe so too,
Who has decreed to overthrow
All yt withstand
His mighty hand.
Soone will He heer
In power appeare
And you in Spirit & Fire baptize:
O hearken then, & timely wise
In Water first baptized be by Me
So shall his Baptisme safe & welcome be.

As Jordans crowding Streames made haste
Into ye Sea themselves to cast;
So into his fair channell now
All The converted People flow,
Hasting to drench
Themselves, & quench
Their thirsty Fire,
Whose brave Desire
Burnt all for Baptisme; now no more
Trust They their Ceremonious store
Of Legall Washings, which themselves did grow
So foule, that now 'twas time to wash them too.

Startled at this the High Priests take
Advice about ye Point, & make
Upon debate a Joint Decree
To send Ambassadors, & see
What was this John;
Whither that Great One,
On whom they had
So long time fed
Their highest Hopes, their deare Messias,
Or the miraculous Elias
Or some selected Prophet; for no lesse
By his great Fame could they collect, then this.

No, none of these, says He, am I;
I am ye Voice sent out to crie,
Make strait ye Way, & clear ye room
That God unto his World may come.
Though Mighty He
Comes after Me,
Yet does He too
Before Me goe;
As far before, as He could be
Ev'n By compleat Eternitie.
And I poor worme unworthy am to loose
Ev'n but ye latchet of my Makers shoes.

Peace humble Saint, for He must be
Immediately baptiz'd by Thee.
The more unworthy Thou dost deeme
Thy selfe, ye worthyer dost Thou seeme
To Heavn & Him;
Who on ye brimme
Of Jordan now
Himselfe doth show,
And wooe's thy Hand to wash him there.
O no, cries John, Deare Lord forbeare,
How can pollution wash such Puritie?
All need have I to be washd clean by Thee.

And so Thou shalt: Yet say not no,
Now thy great Lord will have it so.
Humilitie if once it side
With Disobedience, swells to Pride.
He needs not be
Washed by Thee,
But means to make
Thy Hands partake
Of nobler Puritie, whilst They
In washing Him his Will obey;
Whilst on that Sacred Head they water poure,
Which Gods owne hand had dew'd wth Oile before.

Now willing growne, yet trembling too
About his great Work He doth goe;
A Work so royall & so High
As might Archangells dignifie,
Yet deignd to none
But humble John,
His Hands wch were
More pure & faire
Then Jordans silver flood, he fills
With it, & then with reverence spills
It on ye Head of JESUS; & before
His venerable feet his Soule doth poure.

IIII

This Busines done to Court He goes,
A fitting Match to deal wth Those
Illustrious high borne Sins, wch there
In silks & Gold doe domineere;
And which sometime
Are seen to climbe
Up to ye Throne
And reigne alone
Both over Prince & People too;
And Herods Court was tainted so:
The Tetrarch rules ye numerous Multitude
Whilst by no fewer sins He is subdue'd.

But John, who no displeasure feares,
But His, whose Throne's above ye Sphears
Dares bid ye Prince beware how He
Offends an higher Majestie.
Herod give eare,
Says He, & heare
What word to Thee
Heavn sends by Me.
Tis not thy Kingdome that can buy
Thy Brothers Bed: O why should thy
Fond lust, & old Herodias dearer be
Then thy Gods Law, & thine owne Soule to Thee?

Unto thy choise indulgent Heavn
The fullnes of ye world hath given,
Nor is Herodias alone
The Noble & ye beauteous One:
A lawfull Love
As sweet may prove;
And blesse thy Bed
With nobler Seed.
Could all ye world no Females show
But that Herodias, yet Thou
Must not have Her: but now thy choise is free,
Take Thee some other Queen, & prosperous be.

What fire so fierce as that of Lust
When into furie it doth burst?
Is Herod King, & must He be
Bridled by such a Thing as He?
What, must a young
Poor Preachers Toung
Limit his Love?
Must He remove
Out of his Breast his dearer Heart
And Him, & his Herodias part?
Forbid it all my Might, & Kingdome, cries
The Prince: The Saucy Preacher surely dies.

Whilst in his Breast this furie burnes,
Into his Minde ye thought returnes
How bright in all ye Peoples eyes
Johns Sanctitie & Name did rise.
To murder him
Whom they did deem
A Prophet, might
Their Zeale incite
To flat Rebellion, & ye King
Unto a lost Condition bring:
Yea They perhaps, what He had preached, by force
Might execute, & hasten a Divorce.

Yet must not He escape, nor I
Be Prince in vaine, still He shall die,
Though in a Death silent & long:
I have a Prison dark & strong,
Where He shall have
His larger Grave,
Whilst I doe live
And freely give
My Soule unto all Joyes in Thee
Herodias, my Felicitie.
And thus ye zealous Saint imprisoned is,
And sent to trie a straiter wildernes.

Now foolish Herod fearing none
To check his lust, goes cheerly on.
His Birthday comes, & as if now
He liv'd anew, He means to show
His Princely Joy;
That merry Day
To consecrate
To Pompe & State,
His Nobles all must feasted be
At this his grand Solemnitie.
And young Herodias wth her charming dance
The entertainements value must inhance.

The King is set, & set are all
The Nobles in ye royall Hall.
In comes ye Nymph & feeds their eyes
With daintier Varieties
Then those, wch were
The Tables chear:
Her amorous face
Beauties owne Glasse,
Her robes, ye most accomplishd dresse
Of all illustrious Comelinesse:
But when her gracefull Dance She measures, all
Their Hearts trip after Her about the Hall.

Filld with delight, like some mad Lover,
In a wilde Oath ye King runs over;
By Heavn, He cries, & as I'm King
Ask Me, Herodias, any thing;
Challenge of Me
If it like Thee
Halfe of this Throne
I sit upon;
Herod unworthy were to be
A Prince, if unrewarded He
Let goe thy Merit: say what must I give,
In this deep debt thy soveraigne must not live.

The Younger Witch runs to her Dame,
And gives account how Shee did frame
Her soft inchantments, wch did wring
This usefull promise from ye King;
All thanks, says Shee,
Dear Child, to Me
Thou dost restore
What I before
Gave Thee, ev'n Life; I now againe
Shall live, & like a Queen shall reigne.
Ask that bold Preachers Head, & I shall be
From all his raylings & aspersions free.

Back goes ye Dancer, & does pray
A Dish of Meat might be her Pay,
That she as well as all ye rest
Might with her Mother goe & feast.
Let Herod now
Performe his vow,
Cries She, & on
His happy Throne
For ever flourish; the Desire
Of his poor Handmaid shall aspire
No higher then ye wretched Head of John;
This in a Dish I ask, & this or none.

Herod starts at ye Word, & tries
How He might put on Sorrows guise;
Else it might seem a Plot between
Him, & his deep inraged Queen
How to betray
The saint to Day.
Alas, sayes He,
Too late I see
The rashnesse of my rampant vow,
And must be wondrous wicked now
That I may not be so: foule Crueltie
Alone from Perjurie can rescue Me.

All yee, my Lords, are Witnesse how
Profound & solemne was my Vow:
My Honour & my Honestie
Deeply in it ingaged lie:
O could but I
With safetie,
I would betray
Both these to Day
Rather then John: But now, alas,
Inslaved to Herodias
I'm not my selfe: then fetch his Head; but say
'Twas Rashnes & not Herod Him did slay.

Yes glozing Tyrant, it is Thou,
Who dost pretend, but breakst thy Vow:
No more then halfe thy Kingdome was
Ingage'd to spruce Herodias:
Let Her have that,
But let her not
Incroach & call
For more then all.
Farr More then all is this, that Shee
And angry Lust doe ask of Thee,
More then thy totall Kingdome & thy Crowne,
The Baptists Head is worth more then thine owne.

Well, be it worth a World, it must
Be yeilded to ye Dancers Lust;
Who to her Mother dances in
Bearing ye fruit of her bold sin.
Look heer, she cries,
I have ye prize,
A Dish I bring
You from ye King
Wheron your eyes, your Heart, your Spight
May feed with uncontrolld delight.
Madame be free, loe ev'n ye Preacher now
Your pleasure serves, & to your Will doth bow.

Mock not, Herodias. Rescue'd John
From both his Prisons now is gone
Unto a Feast more Princely far
Then Herod has provided heer;
Thou hast made this
Birthday prove His
The Day, yt sends
Saints to their ends
Opes them a new Nativitie
Unto a Life, that cannot die.
John lives to day, nor dost Thou dance alone;
In Paradise they dance, where John is gone.

One Dance for Thee is still behind
By which Revenge thy Crime will find:
The Ice perfidious to Thee,
But unto Justice true shall be,
When it shall catch
Thy neck, & snatch
Its Head away,
Which there shall play
And dance a tragik Measure on
That fatall Pavement: then shall John
Wth greater glory view Thee from his Sphear,
Then Herod at his Feast beheld Thee heere.





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