Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN ELEGY UPON THE MOST INCOMPARABLE KING CHARLES THE FIRST, by HENRY KING (1592-1669)



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AN ELEGY UPON THE MOST INCOMPARABLE KING CHARLES THE FIRST, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Call for amazed thoughts, a wounded sense
Last Line: If zimri dies in peace that slew his lord.
Subject(s): Charles I, King Of England (1600-1649); Great Britain - Civil War; English Civil War


CALL for amazed thoughts, a wounded sense
And bleeding hearts at our intelligence.
Call for that Trump of Death, the Mandrake's groan
Which kills the hearers: this befits alone
Our story which through times vast Calendar,
Must stand without example or repair.
What spouts of melting clouds, what endless springs
Pour'd in the Ocean's lap for offerings,
Shall feed the hungry torrent of our grief,
Too mighty for expression or belief?
Though all those moistures which the brain attracts
Ran from our eyes like gushing cataracts,
Or our sad accents could out-tongue the cries
Which did from mournful Hadadrimmon rise,
Since that remembrance of Josiah slain
In our King's murder is reviv'd again.
O pardon me that but from Holy Writ
Our loss allows no parallel to it:
Nor call it bold presumption that I dare
Charles with the best of Judah's Kings compare:
The virtues of whose life did I prefer
The text acquits me for no flatterer.
For he like David perfect in his trust,
Was never stain'd like him, with blood or lust.
One who with Solomon in judgement tried,
Was quick to comprehend, wise to decide
(That even his Judges stood amaz'd to hear
A more transcendent mover in their sphere),
Though more religious: for when doting love
Awhile made Solomon apostate prove,
Charles ne'er endur'd the Truth which he profest,
To be unfix'd by bosom-interest.
Bold as Jehosaphat, yet forc'd to fight,
And for his own, no unconcerned right.
Should I recount his constant time of pray'r,
Each rising morn and ev'ning regular,
You'd say his practice preach'd, 'They ought not eat
Who by devotion first not earn'd their meat:'
Thus Hezekiah he exceeds in zeal,
Though not (like him) so facile to reveal
The treasures of God's House, or His own heart,
To be supplanted by some foreign art.
And that he might in fame with Joash share
When he the ruin'd Temple did repair,
His cost on Paul's late ragged fabric spent
Must (if no other) be His monument.
From this survey the kingdom may conclude
His merits, and her losses' magnitude:
Nor think he flatters or blasphemes, who tells
That Charles exceeds Judea's parallels,
In whom all virtues we concentred see
Which 'mongst the best of them divided be.
O weak-built glories! which those tempests feel!
To force you from your firmest bases reel,
What from the strokes of Chance shall you secure,
When rocks of Innocence are so unsure?
When the World's only mirror slaughter'd lies,
Envy's and Treason's bleeding sacrifice;
As if His stock of goodness could become
No kalendar, but that of martyrdom.
See now, ye cursed mountebanks of State,
Who have eight years for reformations sate;
You who dire Alva's counsels did transfer,
To act his scenes on England's theatre;
You who did pawn yourselves in public faith
To slave the Kingdom by your pride and wrath;
Call the whole World to witness now, how just,
How well you are responsive to your trust,
How to your King the promise you perform,
With fasts, and sermons, and long prayers sworn,
That you intended Peace and Truth to bring
To make your Charles Europe's most glorious King.
Did you for this Lift up your hands on high,
To kill the King, and pluck down Monarchy?
These are the fruits by your wild faction sown,
Which not imputed are, but born your own:
For though you wisely seem to wash your hands,
The guilt on every vote and order stands;
So that convinc'd, from all you did before,
Justice must lay the murder at your door.
Mark if the body does not bleed anew,
In any circumstance approach'd by You,
From whose each motion we might plain descry
The black ostents of this late tragedy.
For when the King, through storms in Scotland bred,
To his Great Council for his shelter fled,
When in that meeting every error gain'd
Redresses sooner granted than complain'd:
Not all those frank concessions or amends
Did suit the then too powerful faction's ends:
No acts of Grace at present would content,
Nor promise of Triennial Parl'ament,
Till by a formal law the King had past
This Session should at Your pleasure last.
So having got the bit, and that 'twas known
No power could dissolve You but Your own,
Your graceless Junto make such use of this,
As once was practis'd by Semiramis;
Who striving by a subtile suit to prove
The largeness of her husband'[s] trust and love,
Did from the much abused King obtain
That for three days she might sole empress reign;
Before which time expir'd, the bloody wife
Depriv'd her lord both of his crown and life.
There needs no comment when your deeds apply
The demonstration of her treachery.
Which to effect, by Absolon's foul wile
You of the people's heart your prince beguile;
Urging what eases they might reap by it
Did you their legislative Judges sit.
How did you fawn upon, and court the rout,
Whose clamour carried your whole plot about?
How did you thank seditious men that came
To bring petitions which yourselves did frame?
And lest they wanted hands to set them on,
You led the way by throwing the first stone.
For in that libel after midnight born,
Wherewith your faction labour'd till the morn,
That famous lie, you a Remonstrance name;
Were not reproaches your malicious aim?
Was not the King's dishonour your intent,
By slanders to traduce his Government?
All which your spiteful cunning did contrive;
Men must receive through your false perspective,
In which the smallest spots improved were,
And every mote a mountain did appear.
Thus Caesar by th' ungrateful Senate found
His life assaulted through his honour's wound.
And now to make Him hopeless to resist,
You guide his sword by vote, which as you list
Must strike or spare (for so you did enforce
His hand against His reason to divorce
Brave Strafford's life), then wring it quite away
By your usurping each Militia:
Then seize His magazines, of which possest
You turn the weapons 'gainst their master's breast.
This done, th' unkennell'd crew of lawless men
Led down by Watkins, Pennington, and Venn,
Did with confused noise the Court invade;
Then all Dissenters in both houses bay'd.
At which the King amaz'd is forc'd to fly,
The whilst your mouth's laid on maintain the cry.
The Royal game dislodg'd and under chase,
Your hot pursuit dogs Him from place to place:
Not Saul with greater fury or disdain
Did flying David from Jeshimon's plain
Unto the barren wilderness pursue,
Than cours'd and hunted is the King by you.
The mountain partridge or the chased roe
Might now for emblems of His fortune go,
And since all other May-games of the town
(Save those yourselves should make) were voted down,
The clam'rous pulpit hollaes in resort,
Inviting men to your King-catching sport.
Where as the foil grows cold you mend the scent
By crying Privilege of Parliament,
Whose fair pretensions the first sparkles are,
Which by your breath blown up enflame the war,
And Ireland (bleeding by design) the stale
Wherewith for men and money you prevail.
Yet doubting that imposture could not last,
When all the Kingdom's mines of treasure waste,
You now tear down Religion's sacred hedge
To carry on the work by sacrilege;
Reputing it Rebellion's fittest pay
To take both God's and Caesar's dues away.
The tenor of which execrable vote
Your over-active zealots so promote,
That neither tomb, nor temple could escape,
Nor dead nor living, your licentious rape.
Statues and grave-stones o'er men buried
Robb'd of their brass, the coffins of their lead;
Not the seventh Henry's gilt and curious screen,
Nor those which 'mongst our rarities were seen,
The chests wherein the Saxon monarchs lay,
But must be basely sold or thrown away.
May in succeeding times forgotten be
Those bold examples of impiety,
Which were the Ages' wonder and discourse,
You have their greatest ills improv'd by worse.
No more be mention'd Dionysius' theft,
Who of their gold the heathen shrines bereft;
For who with Yours his robberies confer,
Must him repute a petty pilferer.
Nor Julian's scoff, who when he view'd the state
Of Antioch's Church, the ornaments and plate,
Cried, Meaner vessels would serve turn, or none
Might well become the birth of Mary's Son:
Nor how that spiteful Atheist did in scorn
Piss on God's Table, which so oft had borne
The Hallow'd Elements, his death present:
Nor he that foul'd it with his excrement,
Then turn'd the cloth unto that act of shame,
Which without trembling Christians should not name.
Nor John of Leyden, who the pillag'd quires
Employ'd in Munster for his own attires;
His pranks by Hazlerig exceeded be,
A wretch more wicked and as mad as he,
Who once in triumph led his sumpter moil
Proudly bedecked with the Altar's spoil.
Nor at Bizantium's sack how Mahomet
In St. Sophia's Church his horses set.
Nor how Belshazzar at his drunken feasts
Carous'd in holy vessels to his guests:
Nor he that did the books and anthems tear,
Which in the daily Stations used were.
These were poor essays of imperfect crimes,
Fit for beginners in unlearned times,
Siz'd only for that dull meridian
Which knew no Jesuit nor Puritan
(Before whose fatal birth were no such things
As doctrines to depose and murder kings).
But since your prudent care enacted well,
That there should be no King in Israel,
England must write such annals of your reign
Which all records of elder mischiefs stain.
Churches unbuilt by order, others burn'd;
Whilst Paul's and Lincoln are to stables turn'd;
And at God's Table you might horses see
By (those more beasts) their riders manger'd be,
Some kitchens and some slaughter-houses made,
Communion-boards and cloths for dressers laid:
Some turn'd to loathsome goals, so by you brought
Unto the curse of Baal's house, a draught.
The Common Prayers with the Bibles torn,
The copes in antic Moorish dances worn,
And sometimes, for the wearer's greater mock,
The surplice is converted to a frock,
Some, bringing dogs, the Sacrament revile,
Some, with Copronymus, the Font defile.
O God! canst Thou these profanations like?
If not, why is Thy thunder slow to strike
The cursed authors? who dare think that Thou
Dost, when not punish them, their acts allow.
All which outrageous crimes, though your pretence
Would fasten on the soldiers' insolence,
We must believe, that what by them was done
Came licens'd forth by your probation.
For, as yourselves with Athaliah's brood
In strong contention for precedence stood,
You robb'd two Royal Chapels of their plate,
Which Kings and Queens to God did dedicate;
Then by a vote more sordid than the stealth,
Melt down and coin it for the Commonwealth,
That is, giv't up to the devouring jaws
Of your great Idol Bel, new styl'd The Cause.
And though this monster you did well devise
To feed by plunder, taxes, loans, excise;
(All which provisions You the people tell
Scarce serve to diet Your Pantagruel).
We no strew'd ashes need to trace the cheat,
Who plainly see what mouths the messes eat.
Brave Reformation! and a through one too,
Which to enrich yourselves must all undo.
Pray tell us (those that can), What fruits have grown
From all Your seeds in blood and treasure sown?
What would you mend? when Your projected State
Doth from the best in form degenerate?
Or why should You (of all) attempt the cure,
Whose facts nor Gospel's test nor Law's endure?
But like unwholesome exhalations met
From Your conjunction only plagues beget,
And in Your circle, as imposthumes fill
Which by their venom the whole body kill;
For never had You pow'r but to destroy,
Nor will, but where You conquer'd to enjoy.
This was Your master-prize, who did intend
To make both Church and Kingdom's prey Your end.
'Gainst which the King (plac'd in the gap) did strive
By His (till then unquestion'd) negative,
Which finding You lack'd reason to persuade,
Your arguments are into weapons made;
So to compel him by main force to yield,
You had a formed army in the field
Before his reared standard could invite
Ten men upon his Righteous Cause to fight:
Yet ere those raised forces did advance,
Your malice struck him dead by Ordinance,
When your Commissions the whole Kingdom swept
With blood and slaughter, Not the King except.
Now hard'ned in revolt, You next proceed
By pacts to strengthen each rebellious deed,
New oaths and vows, and Covenants advance,
All contradicting your allegiance,
Whose sacred knot you plainly did untie,
When you with Essex swore to live and die.
These were your calves in Bethel and in Dan,
Which Jeroboam's treason stablish can,
Who by strange pacts and altars did seduce
The people to their laws' and King's abuse;
All which but serve like Shibboleth to try
Those who pronounc'd not your conspiracy;
That when your other trains defective are,
Forc'd oaths might bring refusers to the snare.
And lest those men your counsels did pervert,
Might when your fraud was seen the Cause desert,
A fierce decree is through the Kingdom sent,
Which made it death for any to repent.
What strange dilemmas doth Rebellion make?
'Tis mortal to deny, or to partake:
Some hang who would not aid your traitorous act,
Others engag'd are hang'd if they retract.
So witches who their contracts have unsworn,
By their own Devils are in pieces torn.
Thus still the raging tempest higher grows,
Which in extremes the King's resolvings throws.
The face of Ruin everywhere appears,
And acts of outrage multiply our fears;
Whilst blind Ambition by successes fed
Hath You beyond the bound of subjects led,
Who tasting once the sweet of regal sway,
Resolving now no longer to obey.
For Presbyterian pride contests as high
As doth the Popedom for supremacy.
Needs must you with unskilful Phaeton
Aspire to guide the chariot of the Sun,
Though your ill-govern'd height with lightning be
Thrown headlong from his burning axle-tree.
You will no more petition or debate,
But your desire in Propositions state,
Which by such rules and ties the King confine,
They in effect are summons to resign.
Therefore your war is manag'd with such sleight,
'Twas seen you more prevail'd by purse than might;
And those you could not purchase to your will,
You brib'd with sums of money to sit still.
The King by this time hopeless here of peace,
Or to procure His wasted People's ease,
Which He in frequent messages had tried,
By you as oft as shamelessly denied;
Wearied by faithless friends and restless foes,
To certain hazard doth His life expose:
When through your quarters in a mean disguise
He to His countrymen for succour flies,
Who met a brave occasion then to save
Their native King from His untimely grave:
Had he from them such fair reception gain'd,
Wherewith ev'n Achish David entertain'd:
But faith to Him or hospitable laws
In your Confederate Union were no clause,
Which back to you their rend'red Master sends
To tell how He was us'd among his friends.
Far be it from my thoughts by this black line
To measure all within that warlike clime;
The still admir'd Montrose some numbers led
In his brave steps of loyalty to tread.
I only tax a furious party there,
Who with our native pests enleagued were.
Then 'twas you follow'd Him with hue and cry,
Made midnight searches in each liberty,
Voting it Death to all without reprieve,
Who should their Master harbour or relieve.
Ev'n in pure pity of both Nations' fame,
I wish that act in story had no name.
When all your mutual stipulations are
Converted at Newcastle to a fair,
Where (like His Lord) the King the mart is made,
Bought with Your money, and by them betrayed;
For both are guilty, they that did contract,
And You that did the fatal bargain act.
Which who by equal reason shall peruse,
Must yet conclude, they had the best excuse:
For doubtless they (good men) had never sold,
But that you tempted them with English gold;
And 'tis no wonder if with such a sum
Our brethren's frailty might be overcome.
What though hereafter it may prove their lot
To be compared with Iscariot?
Yet will the World perceive which was most wise,
And who the nobler traitor by the price;
For though 'tis true both did themselves undo,
They made the better bargain of the two,
Which all may reckon who can difference
Two hundred thousand pounds from thirty-pence.
However something is in justice due,
Which may be spoken in defence of You;
For in your Master's purchase you gave more,
Than all your Jewish kindred paid before.
And had you wisely us'd what then you bought,
Your act might be a loyal ransom thought,
To free from bonds your captive sovereign,
Restoring Him to his lost Crown again.
But You had other plots, your busy hate
Plied all advantage on His fallen state,
And show'd You did not come to bring Him bail,
But to remove Him to a stricter gaol,
To Holmby first, whence taken from His bed,
He by an army was in triumph led;
Till on pretence of safety Cromwell's wile
Had juggl'd Him into the Fatal Isle,
Where Hammond for his jailor is decreed,
And murderous Rolf as lieger-hangman fee'd,
Who in one fatal knot two counsels tie,
He must by poison or by pistol die.
Here now denied all comforts due to life,
His friends, His children, and his peerless wife;
From Carisbrook He oft but vainly sends,
And though first wrong'd, seeks to make you amends;
For this He sues, and by His restless pen
Importunes Your deaf ears to treat again.
Whilst the proud faction scorning to go less,
Return those trait'rous votes of Non Address,
Which follow'd were by th' Armies thund[e]ring
To act without and quite against the King.
Yet when that cloud remov'd, and the clear light
Drawn from His weighty reasons, gave You sight
Of Your own dangers, had not their intents
Retarded been by some cross accidents;
Which for a while with fortunate suspense
Check'd or diverted their swoll'n insolence:
When the whole Kingdom for a Treaty cried,
Which gave such credit to Your falling side,
That you recall'd those votes, and God once more
Your power to save the Kingdom did restore;
Remember how Your peevish Treators sate,
Not to make peace, but to prolong debate;
How You that precious time at first delay'd,
And what ill use of Your advantage made,
As if from Your foul hands God had decreed
Nothing but war and mischief should succeed.
For when by easy grants the King's assent
Did your desires in greater things prevent,
When He did yield faster than You entreat,
And more than modesty dares well repeat;
Yet not content with this, without all sense
Or of His honour or His conscience,
Still you press'd on, till you too late descried,
'Twas now less safe to stay than be denied:
For like a flood broke loose the armed rout,
Then shut Him closer up, and shut You out,
Who by just vengeance are since worried
By those hand-wolves You for his ruin bred.
Thus like two smoking firebrands, You and They
Have in this smother chok'd the Kingdom's day:
And as you rais'd them first, must share the guilt,
With all the blood in those distractions spilt.
For though with Sampson's foxes backward turn'd
(When he Philistia's fruitful harvest burn'd),
The face of your opinions stands averse,
All your conclusions but one fire disperse;
And every line which carries your designs,
In the same centre of confusion joins.
Though then the Independents end the work,
'Tis known they took their platform from the Kirk;
Though Pilate Bradshaw with his pack of Jews,
God's High Vice-gerent at the bar accuse;
They but reviv'd the evidence and charge,
Your pois'nous Declarations laid at large;
Though they condemn'd or made his life their spoil,
You were the setters forc'd him to the toil:
For you whose fatal hand the warrant writ,
The prisoner did for execution fit;
And if their axe invade the Regal throat,
Remember you first murder'd Him by vote.
Thus they receive your tennis at the bound,
Take off that head which you had first un-crown'd;
Which shows the texture of our mischief's clew,
If ravell'd to the top, begins in You,
Who have for ever stain'd the brave intents
And credit of our English Parliaments:
And in this one caus'd greater ills, and more,
Than all of theirs did good that went before.
Yet have You kept your word against Your will,
Your King is great indeed and glorious still,
And you have made Him so. We must impute
That lustre which His sufferings contribute
To your preposterous wisdoms, who have done
All your good deeds by contradiction:
For as to work His peace you rais'd this strife,
And often shot at Him to save His life;
As you took from Him to increase His wealth,
And kept Him pris'ner to secure His health;
So in revenge of your dissembled spite,
In this last wrong you did Him greatest right,
And (cross to all You meant) by plucking down
Lifted Him up to His Eternal Crown.
With this encircled in that radiant sphere,
Where thy black murderers must ne'er appear;
Thou from th' enthroned Martyrs' blood-stain'd line,
Dost in thy virtues bright example shine.
And when thy darted beam from the moist sky
Nightly salutes thy grieving people's eye,
Thou like some warning light rais'd by our fears,
Shalt both provoke and still supply our tears,
Till the Great Prophet wak'd from his long sleep,
Again bids Sion for Josiah weep:
That all successions by a firm decree
May teach their children to lament for Thee.
Beyond these mournful rites there is no art
Or cost can Thee preserve. Thy better part
Lives in despite of Death, and will endure
Kept safe in thy unpattern'd Portraiture:
Which though in paper drawn by thine own hand,
Shall longer than Corinthian-marble stand,
Or iron sculptures: There thy matchless pen
Speaks Thee the Best of Kings as Best of Men:
Be this Thy Epitaph; for This alone
Deserves to carry Thy Inscription.
And 'tis but modest Truth (so may I thrive
As not to please the best of thine alive,
Or flatter my Dead Master, here would I
Pay my last duty in a glorious lie):
In that admired piece the World may read
Thy virtues and misfortunes storied;
Which bear such curious mixture, men must doubt
Whether Thou wiser wert or more devout.
There live, Blest Relic of a saint-like mind,
With honours endless, as Thy peace, enshrin'd;
Whilst we, divided by that bloody cloud,
Whose purple mists Thy murder'd body shroud,
Here stay behind at gaze: apt for Thy sake
Unruly murmurs now 'gainst Heav'n to make,
Which binds us to live well, yet gives no fence
To guard her dearest sons from violence.
But he whose trump proclaims, Revenge is mine,
Bids us our sorrow by our hope confine,
And reconcile our Reason to our Faith,
Which in thy Ruin such conclusions hath;
It dares conclude, God does not keep His Word
If Zimri dies in peace that slew his Lord.





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