Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ON THE PATRON OF ENGLAND, by JOHN BYROM



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ON THE PATRON OF ENGLAND, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Will you please to permit me, my very good lord
Last Line: "was old england's old patron a knight, or a pope?"
Subject(s): Gregory I. Saint (504-604); Monks; Popes; Saints; Papacy


Will you please to permit me, my very good Lord,
Some night when you meet upon ancient record,
Full worthily filling Antiquity's throne,
To propose to your sages a doubt of my own,—
A certain moot point of a national kind?
For it touches all England to have it defin'd
With a little more fact, by what sort of a right
Her Patron, her Saint, is a Cappadox Knight.

I know what our songs and our stories advance,
That St. George is for England, St. Denys for France;
But the French, tho' uncertain what Denys it was,
All own he converted and taught 'em their mass;
And most other nations, I fancy, remount
To some Saint whom they chose upon such an account:
But I never could learn, that for any like notion
The English made choice of a Knight Cappadocian.

Their conversion,—a turn worth rememb'ring, I'd hope,—
To Gregory was owing, a Saint, and a Pope,
Who was known by the title of FIRST and the GREAT:
He sent to relieve them from Pagan deceit
St. Austin the Monk;—and both SENDER and SENT
Had their days in old Fasti, which mark'd th' event.—
Now, my Lord, I would ask of the learn'd and laborious,
"Has not Geor-gi-us been a mistake for Gregorious?"

In names so like letter'd it would be no wonder
If hasty transcribers had made such a blunder;
And mistake in the names by a slip of their pen
May, perhaps, have occasion'd mistake in the men.
That this has been made, to omit all the rest,
Let a champion of yours, your own Selden, attest;
See "on titles of honour" his book in that quarter
Where he treats of St. George and the Knights of the garter:

There he quotes from Froissart how at first, on the plan
Of a Lady's blue garter, blue Order began,
In One Thousand, Three hundred, and forty, and Four;—
But the name of the Saint in Froissart is Gregore:
"So the chronicle-writer or printed, or wrote
"For George, without doubt,"—says the marginal note.
Be it there a mistake;—but, my Lord, I'm afraid
That the same, vice versâ, was anciently made.

For tho' much has been said by the great Antiquarian
Of an Orthodox George,—Cappadocian,—and Arian;
"How the soldier first came to be Patron of old
"I have not," (says he,) "light enough to behold."
He thinks, since of proofs he is sorely in want,
A soldier-like nation would choose him for Saint;
For in all his old writings no fragment occurr'd
That saluted him Patron till Edward the third.

That reign he had guess'd to be the first time,
But for old Saxon prose and for old English Rhyme,
Which mention a George, a great Martyr and Saint,
Tho' they say not a word of the thing that we want.
They tell of his tortures, his death, and his pray'r,
Without the least hint of the question'd affair,
Not being the Patron;—with submission to Selden,
I conjecture, that light he was never beheld in.

The name in French, Latin, and Saxon, 'tis hinted,
Some three or four times is mis-writ or mis-printed;
He renders it George;—but allowing the hint,
And the justice of change both in writing and print,
Some George by like error, which adds to the doubt,
Has turn'd our Converter, St. Gregory, out;
He, or Austin the monk, bids the fairest by far
To be Patron of England till Garter and Star.

In the old Saxon custom of crowning our Kings,
As Selden has told us, amongst other things
They nam'd in the pray'rs which his pages transplant,
The VIRGIN, ST. PETER, and one other saint,
Whose connection with England is also express'd,
And yields in this case such a probable test,
That, a Patron suppos'd, we may fairly agree
Such a Saint is the person, whoever he be.

Now with MARY and PETER, when Monarchs were crown'd
There is only a SANCTUS GREGORIUS found;
And his title ANGLORUM APOSTOLUS too,
With which a ST. GEORGE can have nothing to do.
While Scotland, France, Ireland, and Spain put in claims
To ST. ANDREW, ST. DENYS, ST. PATRICK, ST. JAMES,
Both Apostle and Patron,—an Apostle, her own,
Why should England reject for a Saint so unknown?

This my Lord, is the matter;—the plain, simple rhymes
Lay no fault, you perceive, upon Protestant times.
I impute the mistake, if it should be one, solely
To the Pontiffs succeeding who christen'd wars holy,—
To Monarchs, who, madd'ning around their round tables,
Preferr'd to conversion their fighting and fables;
When Soldiers were many, good Christians but few,
ST. GEORGE was advanc'd to ST. GREGORY'S due.

One may be mistaken, I therefore would beg
That a Willis, a Stukeley, an Ames, or a Pegge,
In short, that your Lordship and all the fam'd set,
Who are under your auspices happily met,
In perfect good-humour, which you can inspire
As I know by experience, would please to inquire,
To search this one question, and settle I hope,
"Was old England's old Patron a KNIGHT, or a POPE?"





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