Verse > Anthologies > Edward Farr, comp. > Jacobean Poetry
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Edward Farr, ed.  Select Poetry of the Reign of King James the First.  1847.
 
Our Saviour’s Temptation
VII. Giles Fletcher
 
TWICE had Diana bent her golden bow,
And shot from heav’n her silver shafts, to rouse
The sluggish salvages that den below,
And all the day in lazie covert drouze,
Since Him the silent wildernesse did house:        5
  The heav’n his roof and arbour harbour was,
  The ground his bed, and his moist pillow grasse;
But fruit there none did grow, nor rivers none did passe.
 
At length an aged syre farre off he saw
Come slowly footing; ev’ry step he guest        10
One of his feet he from the grave did draw.
Three legs he had—the wooden was the best;
And all the way he went he ever blest
  With benedicities, and prayers store;
  But the bad ground was blessed nere the more;        15
And all his head with snow of age was waxen hore.
 
A good old hermit he might seem to be,
That for devotion had the world forsaken,
And now was travelling some saint to see,
Since to his beads he had himself betaken,        20
Where all his former sinnes he might awaken,
  And them might wash away with dropping brine,
  And almes, and fasts, and church’s discipline;
And dead, might rest his bones under the holy shrine.
 
But when he nearer came he lowted low        25
With prone obeysance, and with curtsie kind,
That at his feet his head he seem’d to throw;—
What needs him now another saint to finde?
Affections are the sails, and faith the winde,
  That to this saint a thousand souls convay        30
  Each houre: O happy pilgrims, thither stray!
What caren they for beasts, or for the wearie way?
 
Soon the old palmer his devotions sung,
Like pleasing anthems moduled in time;
For well that aged syre could tip his tongue        35
With golden foyl of eloquence, and lime,
And lick his rugged speech with phrases prime.
  “Ay me!” (quoth he,) “how many yeares have been
  Since these old eyes the sunne of heav’n have seen!
Certes the Sonne of heav’n they now behold, I ween.        40
 
“Ah, mote my humble cell so blessed be
As Heav’n to welcome in his lowly roof,
And be the temple for thy Deitie!
Lo, how my cottage worships thee aloof,
That underground hath hid his head, in proof        45
  It doth adore thee with the seeling low,—
  Here honey, milke, and chesnuts wilde do grow,
The boughs a bed of leaves upon thee shall bestow.
 
“But, oh!” (he said, and therewith sigh’t full deep,)
“The heav’ns, alas! too envious are grown,        50
Because our fields thy presence from them keep;
For stones do grow where corn was lately sown:”
(So stooping down, he gather’d up a stone:)
  “But thou with corn canst make this stone to eare,—
  What needen we the angry heav’ns to feare?        55
Let them us envie still, so we enjoy thee here.”
 
Thus on they wand’red: but those holy weeds
A monstrous serpent, and no man, did cover:
So under greenest herbs the adder feeds;
And round about that stinking corpse did hover        60
The dismal prince of gloomie night, and over
  His ever-damned head the shadows err’d
  Of thousand peccant ghosts, unseen, unheard,
And all the tyrant fears, and all the tyrant fear’d.
 
He was the sonne of blackest Acheron,        65
Where many frozen souls do chat’ring lie,
And rul’d the burning waves of Phlegethon,
Where many more in flaming sulphur frie,
At once compell’d to live and forc’t to die;
  Where nothing can be heard for the loud crie        70
  Of “Oh!” and “Ah!” and, “Out, alas! that I
Or once again might live, or once at length might die!”
 
Ere long they came neare to a baleful bowre,
Much like the mouth of that infernall cave
That gaping stood all comers to devoure,        75
Dark, dolefull, dreary—like a greedy grave,
That still for carrion carcases doth crave:
  The ground no herbs but venomous did beare,
  Nor ragged trees did leave, but ev’ry where
Dead bones and skulls were cast, and bodies hanged were.        80
 
Upon the roof the bird of sorrow sat,
Elonging joyfull day with her sad note,
And through the shady aire the flutt’ring bat
Did wave her leather sails, and blindely flote,
While with her wings the fatal shreech-owl smote        85
  Th’ unblessed house; there, on a craggy stone,
  Celleno hung, and made his direfull mone,
And all about the murder’d ghosts did shreek and grone.
 
Like cloudie moonshine in some shadowie grove,
Such was the light in which DESPAIR did dwell;        90
But he himself with night for darknesse strove.
His black uncombed locks dishevell’d fell
About his face, through which, as brands of hell,
  Sunk in his skull, his staring eyes did glow,
  That made him deadly look; their glimpse did show        95
Like cockatrice’s eyes, that sparks of poyson throw.
 
His cloaths were ragged clouts, with thorns pin’d fast;
And, as he musing lay, to stonie fright
A thousand wild chimæras would him cast:
As when a fearfull dream in midst of night        100
Skips to the brain, and phancies to the sight
  Some winged furie, straight the hasty foot,
  Eager to flie, cannot pluck up his root;
The voice dies in the tongue, and mouth gapes without boot. 1
 
Now he would dream that he from heaven fell,        105
And then would snatch the aire, afraid to fall;
And now he thought he sinking was to hell,
And then would grasp the earth; and now his stall
Him seemed hell, and then he out would crawl;
  And ever, as he crept, would squint aside,        110
  Lest him, perhaps, some furie had espide,
And then, alas! he should in chains for ever bide.
 
Therefore he softly shrunk, and stole away,
Ne ever durst to draw his breath for fear,
Till to the doore he came, and there he lay        115
Panting for breath, as though he dying were;
And still he thought he felt their craples 2 teare
  Him by the heels back to his ugly denne:
  Out fain he would have leapt abroad, but then
The heav’n, as hell, he fear’d, that punish guilty men.        120
 
Within the gloomie hole of this pale wight
The serpent woo’d him with his charms to inne,
There he might bait the day, and rest the night;
But under that same bait a fearfull grin
Was ready to entangle him in sinne.        125
  But he upon ambrosia daily fed,
  That grew in Eden—thus he answered:
So both away were caught, and to the temple fled.
 
Well knew our Saviour this the Serpent was,
And the old Serpent knew our Saviour well;        130
Never did any this in falsehood passe,
Never did any him in truth excell:
With him we fly to heav’n, from heav’n we fell
  With him: but now they both together met
  Upon the sacred pinacles, that threat,        135
With their aspiring tops, Astræa’s starrie seat.
 
Here did PRESUMPTION her pavilion spread
Over the temple, the bright starres among,
(Ah! that her feet should trample on the head
Of that most rev’rend place!) and a lewd throng        140
Of wanton boyes sung her a pleasant song
  Of love, long life, of mercy, and of grace;
  And ev’ry one her dearely did embrace,
And she herself enamour’d was of her own face—
 
A painted face, belied with vermeyl store,        145
Which light Euëlpis ev’ry day did trimme,
That in one hand a guilded anchor wore,
Not fixed on the rock, but on the brimme,
Of the wide aire, she let it loosely swimme:
  Her other hand a sprinkle carried,        150
  And ever when her lady wavered,
Court holy-water all upon her sprinkeled.
 
Poore fool! she thought herself in wondrous price
With God, as if in paradise she were;
But, were she not in a fool’s paradise,        155
She might have seen more reason to despair:
But him, she, like some ghastly fiend, did fear;
  And therefore, as that wretch hew’d out his cell
  Under the bowels, in the heart of hell,
So she above the moon, amid the starres would dwell.        160
 
Her tent with sunny clouds was seel’d aloft,
And so exceeding shone with a false light,
That heav’n itself to her it seemed oft—
Heav’n without clouds to her deluded sight;
But clouds withouten heav’n it was aright;        165
  And as her house was built, so did her brain
  Build castles in the aire, with idle pain;
But heart she never had in all her body vain.
 
Like as a ship in which no ballance lies,
Without a pilot, on the sleeping waves,        170
Fairly along with winde and water flies,
And painted masts with silken sails embraves, 3
That Neptune’s self the bragging vessel saves,
  To laugh awhile at her so proud aray;
  Her waving streamers loosely she lets play,        175
And flagging colours shine as bright as smiling day.
 
But all so soon as Heav’n his brows doth bend,
She veils her banners, and pulls in her beams,
The empty bark the raging billows send
Up to th’ Olympique waves, and Argus seems        180
Again to ride upon our lower streams:
  Right so PRESUMPTION did herself behave,
  Tossed about with ev’ry stormie wave,
And in white lawn she went, most like an angel brave.
 
Gently our Saviour she began to shrive, 4        185
Whether he were the Sonne of God, or no;
For any other she disdain’d to wive:
And if he were, she bid him fearlesse throw
Himself to ground; and therewithall did show
  A flight of little angels, that did wait,        190
  Upon their glittering wings to latch him straight,
And longed on their backs to feel his glorious weight.
 
But when she saw her speech prevailed naught,
Herself she tumbled headlong to the flore:
But him the angels on their feathers caught,        195
And to an airie mountain nimbly bore,
Whose snowie shoulders like some chaulkie shore,
  Restlesse Olympus seem’d to rest upon,
  With all his swimming globes: so both are gone,
The dragon with the Lambe—Ah! unmeet paragon!        200
 
All suddenly the hill his snow devoures,
In liew whereof a goodly garden grew;
As if the snow had melted into flowers,
Which their sweet breath in subtill vapours threw,
That all about perfumed spirits flew:        205
  For whatsoe’er might aggravate the sense,
  In all the world, or please the appetence,
Here it was poured out in lavish affluence.
 
Not lovely Ida might with this compare,
Though many streams his banks besilvered,        210
Though Xanthus with his golden sands he bare;
Nor Hybla, though his thyme, depastured,
As fast again with honey blossomed;
  Ne Rhodope, ne Tempe’s flowrie plain:
  Adonis’ garden was to this but vain,        215
Though Plato on his beds a floud of praise did rain.
 
For in all these some one thing most did grow,
But in this one grew all things else beside;
For sweet varietie herself did throw
To ev’ry bank: here all the ground she dide        220
In lilie white; there pinks eblazed wide,
  And damaskt all the earth; and here she shed
  Blew violets, and there came roses red;
And ev’ry sight the yeelding sense as captive led.
 
The garden like a lilie fair was cut,        225
That lay as if she slumber’d in delight,
And to the open skies her eyes did shut;
The azure fields of heav’n were sembled right
In a large round, set with the flow’rs of light:
  The flow’rs-de-luce, and the round sparks of dew,        230
  That hung upon their azure leaves, did shew
Like twinkling starres, that sparkle in the evening blew.
 
Upon a hillie bank her head she cast,
On which the bowre of Vain-delight was built;
White and red roses for her face were plac’t,        235
And for her tresses marigolds were spilt:
Them broadly she displaed, like flaming gilt,
  Till in the ocean the glad day were drown’d;
  Then up again her yellow locks she wound,
And with green fillets in their prettie calls 5 them bound.        240
 
What should I here depaint her lilie hand,
Her veins of violets, her ermine breast,
Which there in orient colours living stand;
Or how her gown with silken leaves is dress’d;
Or how her watchman, arm’d with boughie crest,        245
  A wall of prim hid in his bushes bears,
  Shaking at every winde their leavie speares,
While she supinely sleeps, ne to be waked fears?
 
Over the hedge depends the graping elm,
Whose greener head, empurpuled in wine,        250
Seemed to wonder at his bloudy helm,
And half suspect the bunches of the vine,
Lest they, perhaps, his wit should undermine.
  For well he knew such fruit he never bore:
  But her weak arms embraced him the more,        255
And with her ruby grapes laught at her paramour.
 
Under the shadow of those drunken elms
A fountain rose      *      *      *      *
*      *      *      *      *      *
The font of silver was, and so his showres
In silver fell, onely the gilded bowls        260
(Like to a fornace that the minrall powres
Seem’d to have moulten in their shining holes;
And on the water, like to burning coles)
  On liquid silver leaves of roses lay:
  But when PANGLORY here did list to play,        265
Rose-water then it ranne, and milk it rain’d, they say.
 
The roof thick clouds did paint, from which three boyes
Three gaping mermaids with their eawrs did feed,
Whose breasts let fall the stream, with sleepy noise,
To lions’ mouths, from whence it leap’d with speed,        270
And in the rosie laver seem’d to bleed.
  The naked boyes unto the waters fall,
  Their stonie nightingales had taught to call,
When zephyr breath’d into their watry interall.
 
And all about, embayed in soft sleep,        275
A herd of charmed beasts aground were spread,
Which the fair witch in golden chains did keep,
And them in willing bondage fettered;
Once men they liv’d, but now the men were dead,
  And turn’d to beasts,—so fabled Homer old,        280
  That Circe, with her potion, charm’d in gold,
Us’d manly souls in beastly bodies to immould.
 
Through this false Eden, to his Leman’s bowre,
(Whom thousand souls devoutly idolize)
Our first Destroyer led our Saviour:        285
There in the lower room, in solemne wise,
They danc’t around, and pour’d their sacrifice
  To plump Lyæus, and, among the rest,
  The jolly priest in ivie garlands drest,
Chaunted wild orgials, in honour of the feast.
*      *      *      *      *      *
        290
Flie, flie, thou holy Childe, that wanton room,
And thou, my chaster Muse, those harlots shun,
And with him to a higher storie come,
Where mounts of gold, and flouds of silver runne,
The while the owners, with their wealth undone,        295
  Starve in their store, and in their plenty pine,
  Tumbling themselves upon their heaps of mine,
Glutting their famisht souls with the deceitfull shine.
 
Ah! who was he such precious perils found?
How strongly Nature did her treasures hide,        300
And throw upon them mountains of thick ground,
To dark their orie lustre! but queint Pride
Hath taught her sonnes to wound their mother’s side,
  And guage the depths to search for flaring shells,
  In whose bright bosome spumie Bacchus swells,        305
That neither heav’n nor earth henceforth in safetie dwells.
 
O sacred hunger of the greedie eye,
Whose need hath end, but no end covetise;
Emptie in fulnesse, rich in povertie,
That, having all things, nothing can suffice,        310
How thou befanciest the men most wise;
  The poore man would be rich, the rich man great,
  The great man king, the king, in God’s own seat
Enthron’d, with mortal arm dares flames and thunder threat.
 
Therefore above the rest Ambition sate,        315
His court with glitterant pearl was all enwall’d,
And round about the wall, in chairs of state,
And most majestique splendour were enstall’d
A hundred kings, whose temples were impalled
  In golden diadems, set here and there        320
  With diamonds, and gemmed ev’rywhere;
And of their golden virges none disceptred were.
 
High over all Panglories’ blazing throne,
In her bright turret, all of crystall wrought,
Like Phœbus’ lamp, in midst of heaven, shone:        325
Whose starry top, with pride infernall fraught,
Self-arching columnes to uphold were taught,
  In which her image still reflected was
  By the smooth crystall, that most like her glasse,
In beauty and in frailtie did all others passe.        330
 
A silver wand the sorceresse did sway,
And, for a crown of gold, her hair she wore;
Onely a garland of rose-buds did play
About her locks, and in her hand she bore
A hollow globe of glasse, that long before        335
  She full of emptiness had bladdered,
  And all the world therein depictured,
Whose colours, like the rainbow, ever vanished.
 
Such watry orbicles young boyes do blow
Out from their sopy shells, and much admire        340
The swimming world, which tenderly they row
With easie breath till it be waved higher:
But if they chance but roughly once aspire,
  The painted bubble instantly doth fall.
  Here when he came, she ’gan for music call,        345
And sung this wooing song, to welcome him withall:—
 
    “Love is the blossome where there blows
    Every thing that lives or grows:
    Love doth make the heav’ns to move,
    And the sunne doth burn in love:        350
    Love the strong and weak doth yoke,
    And makes the yvie climbe the oke;
    Under whose shadows lions wilde,
    Soften’d by love, grow tame and milde.
    Love no med’cine can appease,        355
    He burns the fishes in the seas;
    Not all the skill his wounds can stench,
    Not all the sea his fire can quench:
    Love did make the bloudy spear
    Once a leavie coat to wear,        360
    While in his leaves there shrouded lay
    Sweet birds, for love, that sing and play:
    And of all love’s joyfull flame
    I the bud and blossome am.
      Only bend thy knee to me,        365
      Thy wooing shall thy winning be.
 
    “See, see the flowers that, below,
    Now as fresh as morning blow;
    And of all, the virgin rose,
    That as bright Aurora shows:        370
    How they all unleaved die,
    Losing their virginitie:
    Like unto a summer shade,
    But now born, and now they fade.
    Every thing doth passe away,        375
    There is danger in delay;
    Come, come, gather then the rose,
    Gather it, or it you lose.
    All the lands of Tagus’ shore
    Into my bosome casts his ore:        380
    All the valleys’ swimming corn,
    To my house is yearly born:
    Every grape of every vine
    Is gladly bruis’d to make me wine;
    While ten thousand kings, as proud        385
    To carry up my train, have bow’d,
    And a world of ladies send me,
    In my chambers to attend me:
    All the starres in heav’n that shine,
    And ten thousand more, are mine.        390
      Only bend thy knee to me,
      Thy wooing shall thy winning be.”
 
Thus sought the dire enchauntresse in his minde
Her guilefull bait to have embosomed;
But he her charms dispersed into winde,        395
And her of insolence admonished,
And all her optique glasses shattered.
  So with her syre to hell she took her flight,
  (The starting aire flew from the damned spright,)
Where deeply both aggriev’d, plunged themselves in night.        400
 
But to their Lord, now musing in his thought,
A heav’nly vollie of light angels flew,
And from his Father him a banquet brought
Through the fine element; for well they knew,
After his Lenten fast, he hungry grew;        405
  And, as he fed, the holy quires combine
  To sing a hymne of the celestiall Trine;
All thought to passe, and each was past all thought divine.
 
The birds’ sweet notes, to sonnet out their joyes,
Attemper’d to the layes angelicall;        410
And to the birds the windes attune their noise;
And to the windes the waters hoarcely call,
And Eccho back again revoiced all;
  That the whole valley rung with victorie.
  But now our Lord to rest doth homeward flie:        415
See how the night comes stealing from the mountains high!
 
Note 1. To no purpose. [back]
Note 2. grapples. [back]
Note 3. adorns. [back]
Note 4. To question as a confessor. [back]
Note 5. calls: cauls. [back]
 
 
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