‘Windows has encountered a problem and needs to close’ has been a large a part of my life in the last month or so, and so my PC is getting a new hard drive, which sounds at first as drastic as having a new engine put in a car (the inexact analogy maybe creates a mood in which one is relatively cheerful about what proves to be a relatively limited cost).
I have been reading R. B.’s Delights for the Ingenious (1684) and have been casting around on MLA and JSTOR to try to find out whether anyone has written on the ‘Majestie in Misery’ poem someone ghosted for Charles I. A Herbert scholar ought to have done so, for the poem is modeled on Herbert’s ‘The Sacrifice’, being a dramatic monologue for the guiltless sufferer, using Herbert’s tercets, but without the ‘Was ever grief like mine’ refrain. I assume that the writer wanted to nudge the reader towards an identification of his Charles Stuart with Christ, not scream it out: nor could his King repeat the Herbertian refrain without sounding ignorant of the analogy the poem invites. It must all have been written up already.
But here’s another Delights for the Ingenious poem, which I have put alongside the version in R. Fletcher’s translation of Martial’s epigrams, Ex otio Negotium (1656)], ‘An Epitaph’. It is about the executed Charles I:
Stay Passenger; behold and see,
The Lawgiver amongst his own,
Stay Passenger: Behold and see
The later version drops one bombastic section of the fuller text, but corrects ‘starest’ for ‘startest’,‘Offer’d’ to ‘Martyr’d’, etc.
But what interests me here is the way in which a prior poem to this surfaces in the otherwise hagiographically loyal text: in the lines
Here lies intomb’d the sacred Dust.
Of Peace and Piety, Right and Just.
The blood (O start’st thou not to hear!)
Of a blest King 'twixt hope and fear,
Shed, and hurried hence to be
The Miracle of Misery…
one can surely hear a more famous mid seventeenth century epitaph, John Cleveland’s on the Earl of Strafford, ‘Black Tom Tyrant’, the autocrat’s autocrat, Thomas Wentworth:
Here lies Wise and Valiant Dust,
Huddled up 'twixt Fit and Just:
Strafford, who was hurried hence
'Twixt Treason and Convenience.
He spent his Time here in a Mist;
A Papist, yet a Calvinist .
His Prince’s nearest Joy, and Grief.
He had, yet wanted all Reliefe.
The Prop and Ruine of the State;
The People’s violent Love, and Hate:
One in extreames lov’d and abhor’d.
Riddles lie here; or in a word,
Here lies Blood; and let it lie
Speechlesse still, and never crie.
The foreboding end to this poem is the reason why it came to the mind of the poet, Fletcher (or whoever it was) who wrote the epitaph on the king who sacrificed Strafford, and whose own blood answered the cry of the blood shed in 1641.
My image is Charles I on the scaffold, from Royall and loyall blood shed by Cromwel and his Party, &c. viz. King Charles the martyr. The Earl of Strafford. The Arch-bishop of