Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
Guests
Christ Church MS.
 
YET 1 if His Majesty, our sovereign lord,
      Should of his own accord
      Friendly himself invite,
And say, ‘I’ll be your guest to-morrow night,’
How should we stir ourselves, call and command        5
All hands to work! ‘Let no man idle stand.
 
‘Set me fine Spanish tables in the hall,
      See they be fitted all;
      Let there be room to eat,
And order taken that there want no meat.        10
See every sconce and candlestick made bright,
That without tapers they may give a light.
 
‘Look to the presence: are the carpets spread,
      The dazie o’er the head,
      The cushions in the chairs,        15
And all the candles lighted on the stairs?
Perfume the chambers, and in any case
Let each man give attendance in his place!’ 2
 
Thus, if the king were coming, would we do,
      And ’twere good reason too;        20
      For ’tis a duteous thing
To show all honour to an earthly king,
And after all our travail and our cost,
So he be pleased, to think no labour lost.
 
But at the coming of the King of Heaven        25
      All’s set at six and seven:
      We wallow in our sin,
Christ cannot find a chamber in the inn.
We entertain Him always like a stranger,
And, as at first, still lodge Him in a manger.        30
 
Note 1. From Christ Church MS., and first printed in Bullen’s More Lyrics from Elizabethan Song-Books, 1888. It was set to music by Thomas Ford. [back]
Note 2. Lines 7–18. Of these lines Mr. Bullen writes: “The detailed description made by a loyal subject for the entertainment of his earthly king is singularly impressive. Few could have dealt with common household objects—tables and chairs and candles and the rest—in so dignified a spirit.” It would be interesting to compare these lines of Mr. Bullen’s enthusiastic praise with that other marvellously poetical description of common objects in Tennyson’s The Revival, in The Day-Dream, beginning:
  A touch, a kiss! the charm was snapt.
  There was a sound of striking clocks, etc.
Mr. Bullen is of the opinion that Henry Vaughan, the Silurist, is the author of this poem. “I know no other devotional poet who could have written it,” he says. But as Prof. Schelling points out that Vaughan’s earliest published work is dated 1650, two years after the death of Ford, who died a very old man, the assignation seems without probability. [back]
 
 
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