Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IN ANSWER OF AN ELEGIACAL LETTER UPON THE DEATH OF THE KIND OF SWEDEN, by THOMAS CAREW



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IN ANSWER OF AN ELEGIACAL LETTER UPON THE DEATH OF THE KIND OF SWEDEN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Why dost thou sound, my dear aurelian
Last Line: And dance and revel then, as we do now.
Subject(s): Townshend, Aurelian (1583-1651)


WHY dost thou sound, my dear Aurelian,
In so shrill accents from thy Barbican
A loud alarum to my drowsy eyes,
Bidding them wake in tears and elegies
For mighty Sweden's fall? Alas! how may
My lyric feet, that of the smooth soft way
Of love and beauty only know the tread,
In dancing paces celebrate the dead
Victorious king, or his majestic hearse
Profane with th' humble touch of their low verse?
Virgil, nor Lucan, no, nor Tasso, more
Than both, not Donne, worth all that went before,
With the united labour of their wit,
Could a just poem to this subject fit.
His actions were too mighty to be rais'd
Higher by verse: let him in prose be prais'd,
In modest faithful story, which his deeds
Shall turn to poems. When the next age reads
Of Frankfort, Leipzig, Wurzburg, of the Rhine,
The Lech, the Danube, Tilly, Wallenstein,
Bavaria, Pappenheim, Lutzen-field, where he
Gain'd after death a posthume victory,
They 'll think his acts things rather feign'd than done,
Like our romances of The Knight o' th' Sun.
Leave we him, then, to the grave chronicler,
Who, though to annals he cannot refer
His too-brief story, yet his journals may
Stand by the Cæsars' years, and, every day
Cut into minutes, each shall more contain
Of great designment than an emperor's reign.
And, since 'twas but his churchyard, let him have
For his own ashes now no narrower grave
Than the whole German continent's vast womb,
Whilst all her cities do but make his tomb.
Let us to supreme Providence commit
The fate of monarchs, which first thought it fit
To rend the empire from the Austrian grasp,
And next from Sweden's, even when he did clasp
Within his dying arms the sovereignty
Of all those provinces, that men might see
The Divine wisdom would not leave that land
Subject to any one king's sole command.
Then let the Germans fear if Cæsar shall,
Or the United Princes, rise and fall;
But let us, that in myrtle bowers sit
Under secure shades, use the benefit
Of peace and plenty, which the blessed hand
Of our good king gives this obdurate land;
Let us of revels sing, and let thy breath,
(Which fill'd Fame's trumpet with Gustavus' death,
Blowing his name to heaven), gently inspire
Thy past'ral pipe, till all our swains admire
Thy song and subject, whilst they both comprise
The beauties of the SHEPHERD'S PARADISE.
For who like thee (whose loose discourse is far
More neat and polish'd than our poems are,
Whose very gait's more graceful than our dance)
In sweetly-flowing numbers may advance
The glorious night when, not to act foul rapes
Like birds or beasts, but in their angel-shapes,
A troop of deities came down to guide
Our steerless barks in passion's swelling tide
By virtue's card, and brought us from above
A pattern of their own celestial love?
Nor lay it in dark sullen precepts drown'd,
But with rich fancy and clear action crown'd,
Through a mysterious fable (that was drawn,
Like a transparent veil of purest lawn,
Before their dazzling beauties) the divine
Venus did with her heavenly Cupid shine.
The story's curious web, the masculine style,
The subtle sense, did Time and Sleep beguile;
Pinion'd and charm'd they stood to gaze upon
Th' angelic forms, gestures and motion;
To hear those ravishing sounds that did dispense
Knowledge and pleasure to the soul and sense.
It fill'd us with amazement to behold
Love made all spirit; his corporeal mould,
Dissected into atoms, melt away
To empty air, and from the gross allay
Of mixtures and compounding accidents
Refin'd to immaterial elements.
But when the Queen of Beauty did inspire
The air with perfumes, and our hearts with fire,
Breathing from her celestial organ sweet
Harmonious notes, our souls fell at her feet,
And did with humble reverend duty more
Her rare perfections than high state adore.
These harmless pastimes let my Townshend sing
To rural tunes; not that thy Muse wants wing
To soar a loftier pitch, for she hath made
A noble flight, and plac'd th' heroic shade
Above the reach of our faint flagging rhyme;
But these are subjects proper to our clime,
Tourneys, masques, theatres, better become
Our halcyon days. What though the German drum
Bellow for freedom and revenge, the noise
Concerns not us, nor should divert our joys;
Nor ought the thunder of their carabins
Drown the sweet airs of our tun'd violins.
Believe me, friend, if their prevailing powers
Gain them a calm security like ours,
They 'll hang their arms up on the olive bough,
And dance and revel then, as we do now.





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