1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Christopher Brooke

Joseph Haslewood, "A Funerall Poem" British Bibliographer 2 (1812) 235-42.



A Funerall Poem: consecrated to the Memorie of that ever honored President of Soldyership, Goodnes, and Vertue; Sr. Arthure Chichester; Baron of Belfast: Lo: high Treasurer of this Kingdome; one of his then Majesties most Honorable Privie Cousnell; and of the Counsaile of Warre. Written by Christ. Brooke, gent. "Hoc Fonte derivata clades, in Patriam populumq. fluxit." [M.S. quarto, 1625. ]

Christopher Brooke was, according to Wood, born Yorkshire. After he left the University, (whether Oxford or Cambridge, seems uncertain) he entered of Lincoln's Inn, where he became the chamber fellow of the celebrated Dr. Donne. His friendship with that writer appears to have involved him in some difficulty; as himself and brother were arbitrarily imprisoned along with Donne, in consequence of his secret marriage with the daughter of Sir George Moor. As a writer he became first known to the wits by an Elegy on Prince Henry, printed 1613. And Wood also mentions Eclogues dedicated to his friend Will. Brown, 1614, before whose Britannia's Pastorals, he has a short poem; and another before the first edition of Drayton's Legend of Cromwell. He had also a considerable hand in dishing out The Odcombian Banquet, An. 1611. The subject of the present article appears to have been hitherto unknown.

"The Epistle Dedicatorie. To the Honorable Gentleman, Sr. Francis Ansley, Knight Baronet. Noble Sir: Not to ad more weight unto that griefe (which I know lyes too heavy at your heart already) do I present you this poem; but to give testimony of my humane nature in the sense of so deare a losse; and with all, to grow in your good opinion. And though I do not thinck out the strong desert, and exemplare vertue of this noble man be sufficiently establish't in the love of a multitude of hearts; yet knowing those hearts, as they are (in their figure) extended and open upwards, as to send forth their good motions and desiers; so are they lykewise narrow, and poynted downwards, which may imply their descent to the grave. Since therefore letters are more permanent, and free from the wrong of tyme; I thought I should do an acceptable office to your self, and all that lov'd hym, to record his vertues in this numerous kynd, the better to preserve his memorie. So, hoping you will receive theise lynes, as they are intended to the honor of the deceased, and my ]one to your worthynesse: I rest at your service. Christ. Brooke."

Probably, the following complimentary lines from the pen of Wither, are now first made public.

"To his ingenious and (which is more worthy) his truely honest Frend, Mr. Christ. Brooke."
I have surveid the structure thow hast here
Composed for thrice honord Chichester;
(Whose vertues yeild for praise such copious matter,
That (if thow wouldst) thow hast not meanes to flatter:
And I commend thy judgment that doth knowe
True worth so well, and how to blaze it so.

Oh! I could wish (would Pietie permit)
Thow hadst not gotten this occasion yet
Of shewing us our losse, who seldome see
How rich wee were, untill wee beggerd be.

But since his death invited thee to frame
This monument to memorize his name,
Erect it, where in publike it may rise
To make hym knowne unto posterities.

For when a costly pile wee do advance,
Of farr fetch't marble, Touch or pollish't Rance,
It fills but one small Roome, and standeth dumb,
Even till a heape of rubbish it become:
But this in many realmes will speake at once;
And speaks hym playner farr then guilded stones;
Yea, give his fame a longer being, than
The richest fabricks of mechanicks can.

Besides (that thow this paynes mays not repent)
It shall be of thy love a monument:
And those in whome his virtues living be,
Will live no longer then they favor thee.
GEOR. WYTHER.

Another elegy, written by Alexander Spicer, was printed "on the nonce," and probably, from precedence, occasioned a delay and final suspension in the intended publication by Brooke. Both writers have selected similar incidents, and commence their eulogies at nearly the same period of their hero's life; the whole of which appears occupied m martial pursuits or political appointments. Chichester was educated at Oxford. His naval and martial career, is thus briefly described in a note by Spicer. ''He was captaine of the ship called the Victorie, under the command of the Lord Sheffield, employed against the Spanish invasion, Anno 1587 & 88. Afterwards he was Captaine and Commander in the Portugall voyage of 200 foot, in the Regiment of the Generall Sir Francis Drake, 88 and 89. He went with Sir Francis Drake to the West Indies, where he was Captain of a Companie of foot, and Lieutenant Colonell of a Regiment Arid in Porterco he set fire of the Admirall of the Spanish Frigats, 95 & 96. After their return from that voyage he was employed in France, being Captain and Lieutenant Colonel of a regiment with Sir Th. Baskerville, 96. After his returne out of France, he was employed into Ireland with the Earle of Essex." He was ennobled by virtue as well as valour: thus Brooke;

When Nature first did set this man on foote,
And virtue in his prime of yeares tooke roote;
All culture was apply'd; manur'd for seedes
Of grace, religion, learning; and no weedes
That might annoy his groath, but in the bud
Were choakt ere they could settle; that his blood
(With those effects of sense.) receiv'd controll,
And did their homage to their soveraigne soule.

His knighthood was conferred on him by Henry the IV. of France, a circumstance descanted on by both poets: the preludia of Brooke define vertue as assuming her proper character in the field of battle.

Who would see vertue in her proper sphere,
In warre must seeke her, and behold her there:
Her hands of iron, and her countnance tan'd;
Now scaling of a wall, then doth shee stand
At th' entrie of a breach; where there is anger,
Most frownes of fortune, most feare and most danger,
Then lookes shee big lyke Phoebus in descent,
And guylds with brightnes her owne element
Hardnes shee loves soft spirits shee disdaynes;
And holds that conquest noblest, got with paynes.
Theise were his rules, 'Things safest are lest gratefull,
And to true souldyers, love and ease are hatefull.'
Fights were the feasts of noble Chichester,
Who (but on th' enemyes backs) never knew feare;
He fronted danger in the fearefulist storme,
And outfac't death in his most uglie forme;
The shewres of bullets, and the deawes of blood
Gave verdure to his spirit, mad honors bud
Upon his crest; which ripened and were growne
A wreathe Olimpiak and his valours crowne.

Nor let this seeme hiperbole in me,
To say, blood deaw'd this flowre of chivalrie;
Or that his blooming honors grew not right
In stormes of bulletts, and in heate of fight,
For France (whose civill or uncivill armes,
Drew hym, in suite of fame, to those alarms)
Can witnesse (in Amienses siege) how he
Did show such deedes of active valiancie;
That lyke to one of Roomes greate trium-viri,
With substance ayrie; and spirit fyrie;
He seem'd to leape at fame, and take his rise,
As if shee were an object in his eyes.

Hence Honors flowre, sprung out of valours bud;
Heere did he wyn his golden spurrs in blood:
And as he bled, the king of France in field,
Gave hym his Knighthood; which doth give his shield
A marke of more renowne, and honor'd note,
Then blood from byrth; or gentries fairest coate.
Nor could his crop of glories reap't in field,
His covetous mynd her satisfaction yeild;
But his plough-share (his sword's well temperd steele,)
Now doth he change, to plowe the seas with keele;
Where prowde Iberian hearts must seede the furrowes;
Where Trytons draw, and Neptune speeds the harrowes:
Where Honors husbandmen (lyke those of Greece)
Travaile and sweate, to gayne the golden Fleece.

For Jason, Drake, who was our ages wonder,
Jove's substitute, that rul'd the earthly thunder:
Castor and Pollux, Troyns of joviall style,
Were payr'd in Chichester, and Baskervile.

Theise were the Argonautae of our tymes,
Who shifted ayres, zones, tropicks, contries, clymes,
In quest of fame; and with unwearied payne
Brought home the fleece, and left the hornes with Spayne.

Nor in the vast circumference, or center,
Was there a barre, or strayte, so hard to enter,
But noble Chichester (wyng'd with desier,
His spirit steeled with Cyclopian fyre)
Would force a passage, and bring thorough agayne
Glory, the guerdon of a souldyers payne.

[The worthles Knights that now and then are made,
Some fooles, some clownes, some yeomen, some of trade:
That when wee speake of them (as 'twere in scoffe)
It may be ask't what trade the knight is of:
Theise parcell guilt ones, counterfetts that fly,
And dare not stand the test of gentrie,
Our heroe scorn'd; compar'd with hym no better
Than empty cyphers, or a flourrish't letter.]
Tytles are cyphers, honor but a blast,
That want existent parts to stand and last.

It will be unnecessary to give further specimens of Brooke's performance, in this extended extract the lines in brackets have been erased by the licenser of the press, and are referred to in the following letter from our author to that person, which is written on the last leaf of the tract.

"To the gentleman that shall licence this poem for the presse.

SIR,

Though it be a knowne truth, that you shall fynd here writ, concerning knights of thiese tymes (as my matter subject gave scope:) yet if you shall take exception or thinke any offence therein, I answer, that it may stand if you please, for theise grounds or reasons. First, it cannot be unknowne to you and others, that things much more satyricall in England have passed both the publike stage, and the presse, and never question'd by authority: next, I presume there are feaw in this kingdome, that will fynd themselves touched or taxed. If this satisfy not, then where it begyns thus: 'These worthles knights that now and then,' &c. these first 4 lynes may be razed and left out; beginning 1st. lyne thus: 'Some parcell guilt knights; counterfetts that,' &c. and so forward, as it succcedes; being voyd of all offence or scruple, because it may concerne other kingdomes as well as ours. This (when you have perused, and given your passe to the booke) you may eyther take out, or dash with your pen, lest the printer should be so grosse to print it with the rest. C. B."

J. H.