1810 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Harbert

Joseph Haslewood, "A Prophesie of Cadwallader" British Bibliographer 1 (1810) 299-303.



A Prophesie of Cadwallader, last King of the Britaines: Containing a Comparison of the English Kings, with many worthy Romanes, from William Rufus, till Henry the fift. Henry the fift, his life and death. Foure Battels betweene the two Houses of Yorke and Lancanster. The Field of Banbery. The losse of Elizabeth. The praise of King James. And lastly a Poeme to the yong Prince. London, printed by Thomas Creede, for Roger Jackson, and are to be solde at his shop in Fleet streete, over against the Conduit. 1604. Extends to I in fours.

This poetical summary of the battles and principal events in the lives of English kings, is preceded by a dedication, in verse, addressed to Sir Philip Herbert, subscribed "the admirer of your vertues, whose life is devoted to your love. William Harbert." The same name occurs in the year 1586, (see Typographical Antiquities, p. 1226) and Ritson, in the Bibliographia Poetica, considers it was the same person. But this is, at least, very doubtful, as in a second address to Sir Philip Harbert, prefixed to the "poeme to the yong Prince," the last in the present work, the author says:

These Poems which my infant labours send
As messengers of dutie to thine eares,
Are of small value, but if nature bend
Some perfect dayes to my unripened yeares,
My pen shall use a more judicious vaine,
And sing thy glory in a higher straine.

Again,

To thee judicious reader do I send
These fruites of youth....

An author that had been writing for eighteen years would not plead his infant labours to disarm criticism.

He was a companion to the young Prince, whom he appears to have then served a twelvemonth by the commencement of his poem:

The lotted servant to thy infant age,
Thrice glorious issue of a gracious King,
Least that her twelve-monthes feareful tapynage,
Ingratitude suspect to thee should bring,
Me, though unworthy, chose thy prayse to sing.

There is a similarity in the author's plan to the poem of the Civil Wars between the two houses of Lancaster and York, by Daniel; to whom he introduces a compliment at the end of his own account of the same subject;

If Homer liv'd and dwelt in Castalie,
And daily tasted of Parnassus well,
Inspirde with furious sacred poesie.
Yet would he not our Virgil's worth excell,
Whose Paeans did these fierce massacres tell.
Delia is prais'd with thy all praysing hand:
No wonder, for thou dwelst in Delos land.

Cadwallader, who is one of the train of heroes following the chariot of Fortune on the banks of Isis, drops a "faire booke, clad in a golden case." This the author having read and returned, posts to his study

—resolv'd for to relate
In poetry the things mine eyes did see,
Which was the uncertainety of humane state;
To paint the things aright with equitie,
I did implore the ayde of memorie,
Which she denide; Oh worthies pardon mee,
If ought I write amisse which you shall see.

As a production of youth there are some passages that might lead to the expectation of better things from the same pen. The occasional harshness of the measure and feebleness of lines, where recording the historic fact, practice would have overcome, and to "say it is meane," he argues is commendation, adding "I'd have it meane, because I meane to mend."

At the field of Banbery the orations of the different leaders to their men, are introduced by the following reflections on the necessity of the subject taking the field in defence of the monarch.

Thus while these royall but disloyall Peeres,
Maugre revenge to him that knew not feare,
Unnumbred bands of men and swarmes appeares
In North and South, East, West, yea every where.
They throw away their coats and corslets weare:
Wives, maids, and orphants eyes are stuft with teares,
And cannot see the spades transform'd to speares.

The shepheards hooke is made a souldiers pike,
Whose weather-beaten hands must learne aright
His speare to traile, and with his sword to strike
Upon the plumed beaver of a knight,
None must be sparde by warres impartiall might.
If every soldier were a King, what then?
Princes should die as fast as other men.

The senator must leave his skarlet gowne,
And keepe him in some turret of defence:
When warres once flourish, Justice must goe downe:
Lawes to correct, is lawlesse warres pretence:
Valure doth greve to see ill gotten pence.
To see a man without deserts to rise,
Makes warre such men, not Justice to despise.

You that in peace by vse of golden hoords
Your dunghill race to Barons did erect:
You that by English phrase and chosen woords
Make heavens envy your toplesse architect,
Your angels cannot you from warres protect.
The camp and court in manners different are,
Words may in peace, but deeds pruaile in warre.

For robes of honour furr'd with Minivere
You must have brest-plates of well-tempred steele,
And on your aged heads strong helmets weare;
All states must turne when Fortune turnes her wheele,
That man which pleasure tastes must sorrow feele:
Who sees the wracke of mightie empery,
He loves his life too well that will not dye.

When Kings must fight, shall subjects live in peace?
What coward is of such a cravant race,
That loves not honor more than idle ease?
Great Romane I applaud thy worthy phrase,
To live with shame, is worse than dye with praise.
All which have being alwaies cannot bee,
For thing corrupt must die, and so must wee.

Another specimen may be selected from his eulogy of King James, where he attempts to harness four poets in yoke to the monarch's coach of glory: yet concluding the monarch alone could sing his own praises.

Mars extold Augustus peacefull dales,
The hiricke poet sung Mecenas fame:
Ennius did Scipio Affricanus praise,
If all they liv'd and saw thy sacred name,
Each verse they made should sure containe the same.
But if they reade thy gift, oh princely worke!
For shame they would in untrode desarts lurke.

If England's load starre, pride of poesie,
Could the firme centers regiment transpearse:
And formalize his peerlesse ingeny,
Thy all-surpassing vertues to rehearse,
A princely matter fitts a princely verse:
Yet were his wit too weake thy deeds to praise,
Which brought us joyes, in our most mournfuli daies.

Could Lidgat passe the tower of Proserpine,
And like to Virbius live a double age,
Penning thy trophies in a golden shrine,
Yet could he not thy merits equipage,
Admiring most would use a tapinage:
Bocchas and Gowre, the Virgils of their time,
Could not unfold thy prayse in antique rime.

If these foure poets liv'd like lions foure,
They should thy famous coach of glory drawe
From Virtue's temple, to true honours towre:
Each should a kingdome have, thy foes should know
Thy might, and feare their finall overthrow:
But what should muses sing? the world doth see,
And seeing feares united Britany.

Still living Sidney, Caesar of our land,
Whose never daunted valure, princely minde,
Imbellished with art and conquests hand,
Did expleiten his high aspiring kinde,
(An eagle hart in crowes we cannot finde:)
If thou couldst live and purchase Orpheus quill,
Our monarches merits would exceed thy skill.

Albions Moeonian, Homer, nature's pride,
Spenser, the Muses sonne and sole delight;
If thou couldst through Dianas kingdome glide,
Passing the palace of infernall night,
(The sentinels that keepes thee from the light)
Yet couldst thou not his retchiesse worth comprise,
Whose minde containes a thousand purities.

What fatall chance is this, and lucklesse fate,
That none can aptly sing thy glorious prayse,
And tell the happiness of England's state,
O barren time, and temporizing dayes,
Fowle Ignorance on sacred Learning prayes.
But now I doe a Diapazon see,
None but thy selfe (great King) can sing of thee.

J. H.