Henry Morley.

The King and the commons : Cavalier and Puritan song online

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HIS little pleasure-book of English veree
attempts to blend the voices of true poets
who lived in the time of Charles I. and the
Commonwealth, into a genuine expression of
the manner of their music and the spirit of their time.
During the first seven years of the reign of Charles I.
all the poets who are here to be heard singing were alive
together. In the next year George Herbert passed
away ; then Randolph ; then, in the middle of the reign,
Ben Jonson ; Carew next ; and in its latter years, besides
Quarles and Ford, three died in early manhood Suckling,
Cartwright, and Habington. Drummond's death followed
close upon the King's ; Crashaw lived only into the next
year ; Lovelace and Cleveland did not survive the Com-
monwealth ; while Milton and Andrew Marvell, Waller,
Davenant, Butler, Denham, Cowley, with George Wither,
whose age was sixty at the end of the reign of Charles I.,
lived on into the time of Charles II. The poems are
meant to be so arranged, that while they show the love
of song for its own sake, and have for a light back-
ground the every-day-^hara^e^^f^ountry life and


town life, mirth of the harvest home, the college, and
the tavern, they do, after striking the keynote with a
few strongly marked pieces, indicate something of the
drift of events to the time of the king's execution,
through verse of his friends. The course of song pro-
ceeds, after this, to suggest the spirit of the Common-
wealth, and when it has reached the immediate sequel of
the story, closes with the trustful words of Milton, which
our later history has justified. As far as might be,
within limits so narrow, I have tried to give coherence
to a book of extracts, by basing it on the grand story of
our Civil War, and so blending and contrasting the
pieces quoted, sometimes rather for expression of
character than for inherent merit, that they shall speak
the mind of each great party to the struggle as expressed
by its own best men, rather than as caricatured by the
meaner sort of its opponents.

This being the plan of the book, because Cavalier and
Puritan are the only words used generally as short
symbols of the two camps in the great political and
social battle lying at the heart of it, those words are
placed unwillingly, for want of better, on the title-page.
But they have no more specific sense than loose
usage has assigned to them, and are taken as the mere
x and y of a popular algebra. The true division here
intended, and expressed by the chief title of this vo-
lume, is between the men who, upon the great questions
of principle then in debate, were with the King, and
those who were with the Commons. Some minds are
so constituted that they combat change, lest they lose
what of truth and right the past has won ; others seek
change wherever they believe that they can take part
in the conquests of the future. Minds equal in acute-
ness are employed continually upon an active test of the


validity of every questionable plea. Truth only is
strong enough to live through this incessant question-
ing ; meanwhile the conflict calls forth all the manliness
of man. Here, then, there shall be no gathering of
narrow spite from anonymous broadsheets. Where
there is bitterness, and that, too, must be shown,-^-it
is the bitterness which conflict bred in men who earned a
right to be remembered among wits and poets of their
day. These poets, of all parties, had also a sense of
brotherhood in their own craft. Party feeling did
not blind Wither or Marvell to the genius of Lovelace.
A living poet had the living fellowship of his com-
petitors, a dead poet their praise. The lines of Henry
Vaughan to a fellow poet (on p. 93), show what was
then, and among men of true genius is now, the temper
of the craft. A sense of their old comradeship should
quicken the enjoyment of this small gathering of the
disembodied wit of men who once were glad to come
together in the flesh.

Charles Stuart was twenty-five years old when, on
the 27th of March, 1625, he came to the throne of Eng-
land as King Charles I. Ben Jonson, in that year
twice as old as King Charles, then occupied the throne
of English poetry. He had of late been writing court
masques, but for the last nine years he had not written
a play for the public stage. It was six years since, in
the course of a visit to Scotland, he had spent part of an
April month with William Drummond of Hawthornden.
Drummond, a man eleven years his junior, left notes of
the conversation of his famous guest, which are not al-
together creditable to the note-taker. King Ben's long
sickness began with a stroke of palsy in the year of the
accession of King Charles. He wrote again for the
theatre because he needed bread ; wrote the " Staple of


News," and the "New Inn," received ungenerously,
though its epilogue said of it, " the maker is sick and sad."
This caused him to write the indignant verses which,
with a few lines in recognition of a gift from Charles,
represent in this little book the painful close of an
old master's life among the men of the new generation.
The true wits of the day paid Ben Jonson utmost
honour ; none more cordially than the best of the young
men who pleased the court of Charles. They were
Ben's courtiers too, and lived with the better of their
sovereigns in kindly fellowship.

" My son Cartwright writes all like a man," said Jon-
son. Cartwright was but fourteen years old at the ac-
cession of King Charles, and but six-and-twenty when
Ben Jonson died. He was one of those who died, as
has been said, before the reign was out, when he had
scarcely ripened into man's estate. Yet he had indeed
written and worked like a man. He earned repute at
Oxford as a scholar with the gift of genius, went into holy
orders at the age of twenty-seven, and leapt into fame
as " a most florid and seraphical preacher." His loyalty
to the king and appetite for work, he is said to have
studied sixteen hours a day, caused him to be made by
his University one of the council of war to provide for
the king's troops sent to protect the colleges. He was
imprisoned when the forces of the Parliament prevailed
at Oxford, but released on bail. William Cartwright
not only wrote some of the best poems and plays of his
time, and preached some of the best sermons, but as
reader of metaphysics in his University he earned
especial praise. King Charles wore black on the day of
his funeral, and fifty wits and poets of the time supplied
their tributary verses to the volume, first published in
1651, of "Comedies, Tragi-Comedies, with other Poems,


by Mr. William Cart-wright, late Student of Christ
Church in Oxford, and Proctor of the University. The
Airs and Songs set by Mr. Henry Lawes." There Ls
in this book a touching portrait of young Cartwright,
evidently a true likeness, with two rows of books over
his head, and his elbow upon the open volume of Aris-
totle's metaphysics. He rests on his hand a young head,
in which the full under-lip and downy beard are har-
monized to a face made spiritual by intensity of thought.
Cartwright died, in his thirty-second year, of a camp
fever that killed many in Oxford. These pages include
a Lullaby, from his tragi-comedy of the Siege, or
Love's Convert ; the rest of the pieces representing him
are independent poems.

Another of those short-lived men who yet survive as
poets, was Thomas Randolph, twenty years old at the
accession of King Charles. He too was counted by
Ben Jonson in the number of his sons. He was of
Westminster School and Cambridge University, before
he lived too fast among the wits of town as play writer
and poet. Staphyla's Lullaby, given in these pages, as
burlesque pendant to the lullaby of Cartwright' s is from
Randolph's "Jealous Lovers," and the dainty fairy jingle
at p. 65 is from " Amyntas." The language of these
fairies, who come from the moon, is not English ; but
they say only that they are very small, that they like
apples and rob orchards at night, because stolen fruit is

William Habington, whose age was twenty at His
Majesty's accession, was of a Roman Catholic family in
Worcestershire, the son of a studious man who got ma-
terials together for a history of his own county, when,
instead of death punishment he was condemned to stay
for life in Worcestershire, because he had concealed in


his house persons implicated in the gunpowder plot.
William Habington was educated at St. Omer by the
Jesuits, but declined to become one of their order. He
came home, and expressed the pure delights of love
and marriage in a series of poems, his " Castara," first
published in 1635, and revised in 1640. Habington's
Castara was the lady whom he married, Lucy, daughter
of William Herbert, the first Lord Powis. He wrote
also a tragi-comedy, " The Queen of Arragon," which
was acted and published in 1640 by the King's Chamber-
lain, without consent of its author. The song in this
volume, entitled " Young Folly," belongs to the fourth
act of the play ; the other pieces of his are all from
" Castara." Habington took no active part in politics,
but was of the king's friends, and wrote a " History of
Edward IV." at his majesty's desire.

Sir John Suckling, son of the Comptroller of the
Royal Household, was a year younger than Milton,
he being sixteen, Milton seventeen, at the date of the
accession of Charles I. ; and he died seven or eight
years before the king. He was the lively son of a grave
father, who qualified him to speak Latin at the age of
five. Suckling made, in his youth, the tour of the Con-
tinent, fought in the army of Gustavus Adolphus, lived
expensively in London with the poets for his friends,
and raised for the king's service a troop of horse. Some
have it that his death was hastened by mortification of
heart, because his men ran from the Scots after he had
spent 12,000 upon their gay equipment. Others say
it was mortification of the heel, caused by a penknife
or rusty nail which his valet de chambre, before robbing
him, put in his boot to stay pursuit.

Richard Crashaw was of about Suckling's age. He
was, like Cartwright, a popular enthusiastic preacher at


Oxford as well as a poet ; was expelled from Oxford by
the parliamentary army, went to France, became a
devout Roman Catholic, and suffered much distress till
the good offices of the Queen obtained for him employ-
ment at Rome, where he died of a fever in 1650.

Edmund Waller was about four years older than
Suckling and Crashaw, and of the same age as Habing-
ton. His mother was John Hampden's sister, but a strong
royalist, and as his father died when Edmund Waller was
an infant, leaving him a large fortune, it was she who
sent him to Eton and to Cambridge. He married a
great heiress who died young, and left him, a rich
widower of five-and-twenty, to pay unsuccessful court
to the Lady Dorothea Sidney, whom he celebrated in
his verse as Sacharissa. His Amoret is said to have
been Lady Sophia Murray. Waller began his political
career with his uncle Hampden's party ; was arrested
and narrowly escaped with his life for plotting against
the Commons. Under the Commonwealth he wrote a
panegyric on Cromwell ; and the Restoration maae him
flatterer of Charles the Second.

Probably of the same age as Waller, but a stauncher
man, was John Cleveland, the son of a Leicestershire
vicar. He was for nine years a Fellow of St. John's
College, Cambridge, in repute at the University as orator
and poet. Deprived of his Fellowship as one of the
first who, at the outbreak of the Civil War, spent his
best wit in the king's service, Cleveland betook himself
to the king's head- quarters at Oxford. Afterwards,
with the garrison at Newark-on- Trent, he served as
Judge Advocate, and most unwillingly obeyed the king's
order to surrender. He then became a prisoner at
Yarmouth, and was in great misery until, upon represen-
tation of his suffering, he was set free by Cromwell ;


whom, after this, it was a point of honour with him not
to attack* Cleveland abstained for the rest of his days
from politics, and died of fever in 1659.

Sir William Davenant also was of Waller's age, born
in the same year, 1605. His father was an Oxford inn-
keeper, but he was willing to be thought a natural son
of Shakespeare. He made his first appearance at court
as page to a duchess, and pleased both court and town
so well with his plays, that on the death of Ben Jonson
the Queen procured Davenant's succession to the post
of laureate. In the following year he was appointed
governor of the king and queen's company of actors at
the Cockpit in Drury Lane. He ran great risks for the
king's cause in the Civil War, and was knighted for his
services at the siege of Gloucester. The queen employed
him as a confidential agent. Afterwards, when a pri-
soner in Cowes Castle he finished his six cantos of
Gondibert, and under the Commonwealth it is said
that he owed his safety to the good offices of Milton.
Obtaining freedom, he contrived under the Common-
wealth to evade the interdict, on plays ; and the Re-
storation brought him to great honour as a playhouse

Samuel Butler, who wrote his " Hudibras " in the
Restoration days, was thirteen years old at the accession
of Charles I. He was three years older than Sir John
Denham, and six years older than Lovelace and Cowley.
He was a poor man always, and in some part of the time
of Charles I. had an office in the family of the Countess
of Kent, from whose library, perhaps, he derived some
of his learning.

Sir John Denham, the son of an Irish Chief Baron,
studied law as well as a propensity for gambling would
permit. After his father's death he gambled away part


of his inheritance, and was hardly suspected of poetry
until in 1642 he produced his play of the " Sophy,"
wherewith Waller said that he " broke out like the Irish
Kebellion, threescore thousand strong, when nobody
was aware or in the least suspected it." The queen
trusted him in 1647 with a message to the king, and he
was employed afterwards with Cowley in carrying on
the king's correspondence. Under the Commonwealth
he was a ruined man ; but Charles II. made him a
Knight of the Bath and surveyor of the king's buildings.

Lovelace and Cowley, both born in the same year,
1618, were seven years old at the accession of Charles I.

Richard, eldest son of Sir William Lovelace, at sixteen
was the handsomest gentleman commoner in Oxford. He
was made M.A. of his university at the request of a
great lady who admired his beauty ; went to court ;
served with the army in the north as ensign and as cap-
tain. For presenting a Kentish petition on the king's
behalf, Lovelace was committed to the Gatehouse at
Westminster, where he wrote his song u To Althea from
Prison," and after three or four months' confinement
was released only upon heavy bail. He spent much
of his fortune in the service of the king, and the relief
of men of genius who fell into distress. His " Lucasta "
was Lucy Sacheverell, who, upon a false report of his
death from wounds received at Dunkirk, married
another of her suitors. In the last months of the life
of Charles I. Lovelace was again a prisoner in London,
solacing himself with poetry. He was released after
the execution of the king, when the fine hearted Cava-
lier poet ended his days under the Commonwealth in
years of extreme misery and want. He died in an
alley near Shoe Lane.

Cowley, a grocer's son, left early to the sole care of


his mother, poet as a boy and growing up into the
largest poetical reputation of a later time, was so
heartily the king's friend that in the last years of the
great struggle he was chiefly trusted with the ciphering
and deciphering of the royal correspondence ; and in
him one of the most fanciful of our poets proved himself
to be very practical as a man of business.

Sir Edward Sherburne, too, was born in the year
1618. He succeeded his father as clerk of the ordnance
in 1641, but was rejected for his adherence to the king.
He fought at Edgehill, and was made master of arts
when with the king at Oxford. He survived till 1702.

Alexander Brome, two years younger than Lovelace
and Cowley, was an attorney turned song writer, who
supplied a chief part of the loyal minstrelsy with which
the king's friends graced their cups, and boldly used his
pen under the Commonwealth in aid of a restoration of
the Monarchy. His gayer strains answered their pur-
pose, and there is a poem of his in this volume (p. 103)
which shows an underlying earnestness of character.

Among the elder men blending their voices with these
representatives of the generation that fought out the
Civil War is George Sandys, born when Shakespeare
was a boy of thirteen. George Sandys was the seventh
son of an archbishop, and in the seventh year of
Charles I. he published that paraphrase of the Psalms
from which we take a strain at the close of the first
part of this volume.

George Herbert was sixteen years younger than San-
dys. Under James I. George Herbert looked for court
patronage and hoped to be a Secretary of State. The
death of James destroyed this hope, and on the acces-
sion of King Charles he devoted himself to religion.
To this reign, then, belongs the memorable part of


Herbert's life spent in his parsonage at Bemerton, the
purest upholder of that principle of church authority
which went side by side with maintenance of the divine
right of kings.

Another clergyman was Robert Herrick, who was of
George Herbert's age, or about two years older ; but
Herbert died of consumption in the eighth year of the
reign of Charles I., while Herrick lived through the
Commonwealth into the time of Charles II. In 1629,
King Charles I. presented Herrick to the Vicarage of
Dean Prior, in what he calls " dull Devonshire." There
he lived and preached inaudible sermons ; a bachelor
poet with a tame pig for his pet, and a maid Prue to
take care of him. He professed to be glad when the
Parliament, in 1648, deprived him of his vicarage, and
obliged him to come to London ; where he would have
starved had not his poems made him friends. At the
Restoration Herrick got his vicarage again, and he sur-
vived till 1674.

Thomas Carew, who was born nearly in the same
year with Herrick, had a shorter life. Being of an old
Devonshire family, he perhaps would not have agreed
that Devonshire was dull; but he spent little time
there. He was lively and gay, enjoying the best plea-
sures of the town, which Herrick sighed for. He was
gentleman of the privy chamber and sewer in ordinary
to King Charles I., and one of the inner circle also in
Ben Jonson's court. He is said to have died two years
after Jonson.

Francis Quarles was but a few months older than
George Herbert. Cambridge was his university. He
had been cupbearer to King James's daughter, and
afterwards secretary to Archbishop Usher until the
rebellion of 1641 drove him from Ireland. Among his


works, " The Emblems" are still popular, was a pam-
phlet called " The Loyal Convert," ascribed also to Dr. H.
Hammond, written at the outset of the Civil War. AVhen
Quarles afterwards joined the king at Oxford, he lost
his property, including books and MSS., and his death,
which occurred in 1644, is said to have been hastened
by his troubles. As there is no verse of his in the fol-
lowing pages, he shall be represented here by a few
lines out of " The Invocation," before his " Divine
Poems " :

O All-sufficient God, great Lord of Light,

Without whose gracious aid, and constant sprite,

No labours prosper, howsoe'er begun ;

But fly like mists before the morning sun :

O raise my thoughts, and clear my apprehension,

Infuse thy spirit into my weak invention :

Reflect thy beams upon my feeble eyes,

Shew me the mirror of thy mysteries;

My artless hand, my humble heart inspire,

Inflame my frozen tongue with holy fire :

Ravish my stupid senses with thy glory ;

Sweeten my lips with sacred oratory :

And thou, O First and Last, assist my quill,

That first and last I may perform thy Will .

My sole intent's to blazon forth thy praise;

My ruder pen expects no crown of bays.

Suffice it then thine altar I have kist :

Crown me with glory : take the bays that list.

William Drummond of Hawthornden, whom Jonson
had visited in Scotland, enjoyed li'terary ease on his
paternal estate, before he travelled abroad for eight
years, then coming home into the midst of civil war, sought
quiet in the society of his brother-in-law, Sir John
Scot of Scotstarvet. For his writings as a royalist the
Commons fined him heavily in men and arms wherewith
to fight against the cause he sang for. His estates


lying in three counties, he considered that the men were
claimed of him in fractions, and wrote thereupon :

4< 0f all these forces raised against the King,
Tis my strange hap not one whole man to bring ;
From divers parishes get divers men,
But all in halfs and quarters ; great king, then
In halfs and quarters if they come 'gainst thee,
In halfs and quarters send them back to me."

John Ford, the dramatist, was but a few months
younger than Drummond. He wrote to please himself,
not rapidly ; and though allied to the great company
of the Elizabethan dramatists, his best plays were pro-
duced in the reign of Charles I. We have here only a
dirge from his play of the " Broken Heart."

James Shirley, who is said to have died of the shock
he suffered in the Fire of London, was ten years younger
than Ford. He had a curacy in the Church of Eng-
land, but having joined the Church of Koine, opened a
school at St. Albans. Then he came to London and
wrote plays, obtained the good will of the Queen, and
went to Ireland for a year with the Earl of Kildare. In
the Civil War he fought under the lead of his patron
the Earl of Newcastle. Under the Commonwealth,
when he might not write plays, he kept school again,
and wrote " Rudiments of Grammar." The verses of
his here given are from " The Contention of Ajax and

Barten Holiday was an archdeacon of Oxford, who
wrote sermons, and translated Juvenal and Persius.
The Tobacco song which he contributes to this volume
is from an allegorical play called " Technotamia, or the
Marriage of the Arts."

Jasper Mayne was also a divine, and he was deprived


of his studentship of Christ Church for writing an " Och-
lomachia, or the People's War examined according to
the principles of Scripture and Reason." He was a
lively man, who had then written two plays, from one of
which " The Amazon's War " there is here a song of
the passing away of Time, which is the strophe of a
song sung by two Amazons, having an antistrophe which
answers to its measure line for line.

Thomas Hey wood, from whom we take a " Love's
Good Morrow," was a veteran playwright, said to have
been concerned in two hundred and twenty dramatic
pieces, of which twenty-three are printed. He was a
Lincolnshire man and Fellow of Petevhouse ; at the
close of Elizabeth's reign a regular actor, and sharer in
Henslowe's company ; and in the time of Charles I., one
of the theatrical servants of the Earl of Worcester.

Samuel Rowley was a player and dramatist of less
mark, from whose "Noble Spanish Soldier," we have
here a song of Sorrow.

Richard Brathwaite, born about 1588, at Kendal, in
Westmoreland, was educated at Oriel College, Oxford,
lived upon his freehold, was a deputy* lieutenant and
justice of the peace in Westmoreland, married twice,
had by his first wife six sons and three daughters, and
wrote much in prose and verse, with sharp antagonism
to the Puritans. '

King Charles himself is among the singers ; for al-
though his authorship of the verses said to have been
written by him at Carisbrook may fairly be doubted,
they are in these pages assigned to him as usual. Small
as our selection is, it contains pieces by more than thirty
writers who represent the side of the court, although
but three, Wither, Mar veil, and Milton, who speak
for the people.

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Online LibraryHenry MorleyThe King and the commons : Cavalier and Puritan song → online text (page 1 of 14)