Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
June 24
The Death of Hampden
By Pakenham Beatty (1855–1930)
 
          One of the “five members” impeached by Charles I. He was mortally wounded at Chalgrove Field and died a week after on June 24, 1643.

Scene.—A tent in the Parliamentary camp. Hampden lies wounded, and Cromwell is bending over him.

Hampden.—Spare all who yield; alas, that we must pierce one English heart for England!
Cromwell.—How he raves! The fever is at height.
Hampden.—I thank you, sir. My wound is nothing; a little loss of blood;
I fear much more must flow from worthier veins
Ere England’s hurt be healed.        5
Crom.—How powerful are base things to destroy!
The brute’s part in them kills the god’s in us,
And robs the world of many glorious deeds;
In all the histories of famous men
We never find the greatest overthrown        10
Of such as were their equals, but the head,
Screened of its laurels from the lightning’s flash,
Falls by some chance blow of an obscure hand,
And glory cannot guard the hero’s heart
Against the least knave’s dagger.        15
Hamp.—You cannot help me.
Save yourself, sir; my best prayers keep you safe—
I fain would win as far as yonder house;
It was my dear dead wife’s; such shapes are there
As I would see about my dying bed,        20
To make me sure of heaven—Forgive me, love,
That I am loath to come yet to thy heart;
I have only lived without thee, O my best,
That I might live for England! Is Cromwell come?
Crom.—How it is with you, cousin?        25
Hamp.—Very well.
With hope to be soon better; gentle cousin,
I have scant time to speak and much to say,
That thou must hear—Men’s eyes more clearly see,
Ere the long darkness; and thus plagues, and wars,        30
Earthquake, and overthrow of prosperous states,
Have been foretold by lips of dying men,
Who saw their country’s end before their own;
But I die happy; with a joy too keen
For this weak wounded body, and delight        35
Of eager youth that dreams of noble deeds;
Knowing the greatness in thee, which occasion
Has not yet shown the world, and thine own self
Hast only dimly guessed at—These hands I hold
Shall bear the weight of England’s greatness up;        40
Thy name, mine own dear kinsman’s, shall have sound
More royal than all crowned kings’; the slave
Shall murmur it in dreams of liberty.
The patriot in his dungeon, and endure,
The tyrant, and grow merciful for fear;        45
And when thou hast done high and song-worthy deeds,
At length shall come thy poet, whose purer eyes
God shall exclude from sight of our gross Earth,
And for the dull light of our darker day
Give all heaven to his vision, star with star        50
Shining, and splendid and sonorous spheres
To make him music; and those sacred lips,
More eloquent than the Mantuan’s, praising thee,
Shall make thy fame a memory for all time,
And set a loftier laurel on thy head        55
Than any gathered from red fields of war;
So great shall England’s great need make thee, Cromwell;
Whom thou forget not still to love and serve,
Holding thy greatness given to make her great,
Thy strength to keep her strong; then (since oblivion        60
Is what men chiefly fear in death), dear cousin,
I would not be forgotten of thy love.
And now I am loath the last words I shall speak
Must be of strife—yet I must utter them;
Be not of those that vex the angry times        65
With meek-mouthed proffers of rejected peace;
When men have set the justice of their cause
To sharp arbitrament of answering arms,
Tongues should keep mute, and steel hold speech with steel,
Till victory can plead the conquered’s cause,        70
And make soft mercy no more dangerous.
We must o’ercome our foes to make them friends……
Thy hand, dear cousin…… Sweet, I hear thy voice
That calls me, and leave England for thy sake;
Kiss me, dear love, and take my soul to God!……        75
Receive my soul, Lord Jesus! O God, save
My country…… God be merciful to….
Crom.—O Lord of Hosts, if thou wilt only give me
An England with but three such Englishmen,
My life shall be as noble as this man’s……        80
Farewell, dear cousin, perfect heart that beats
No more for England…… Think of me in Heaven,
And help to make me all thou saidst I should be,……
[Kneels down by the bed. Rising, and looking steadfastly at the dead body of Hampden.]
            Yea, and I shall be.
 
 
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