1610
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Christs Triumph After Death.

Christs Victorie, and Triumph in Heaven, and Earth, over, and after death.

Rev. Giles Fletcher


The poem concludes with a vision of the Resurrection; "young Thyrsilis" at the conclusion is Giles's older brother, Phineas Fletcher.

Robert Aris Willmott: "Although several poems had appeared in Italy, founded upon the death and resurrection of our Saviour, Fletcher claims the merit of having been the earliest of our own poets who strung the lyre to this noble theme. In the management of the subject he was naturally influenced by the character of the Fairy Queen. Spenser died in 1598-99. At this time Fletcher could scarcely have been more than twelve or thirteen years old; but it is evident that his study of that charming poem commenced in childhood" Lives of Sacred Poets (1834) 55.

Edmund Gosse: "He was the author of the finest religious poem produced in English literature between the Vision of Piers Plowman and Paradise Lost. In several passages of his fourfold Christ's Victory and Triumph (1610) Giles Fletcher solved the difficult problem of how to be at once gorgeous and yet simple, majestic and yet touching. At his apogee he surpasses his very master, for his imagination lifts him to a spiritual sublimity. In the beatific vision in his fourth canto we are reminded of no lesser poem than the Paradiso. It is right to say that these splendours are not sustained, and that Giles Fletcher is often florid and sometimes merely trivial. The sonorous purity and elevation of Giles Fletcher at his best give more than a hint of the approaching Milton, and he represents the Spenserian tradition at its very highest" Short History of Modern English Literature (1897) 121.

Herbert E. Cory: "With a real rapture the poet visions the splendors of Paradise. He rejoices in the love of Egliset for Christ. But he is too humble to sing of the great marriage. That is reserved for Thirsil. And with this modest note the noble poem closes" "Spenser, the Fletchers, and Milton" UCPMP 2 (1912) 330.



But now the second Morning, from her bowre,
Began to glister in her beames, and nowe
The roses of the day began to flowre
In th' easterne garden; for heav'ns smiling browe
Halfe insolent for joy begunne to showe:
The early Sunne came lively dauncing out,
And the bragge lambes ranne wantoning about,
That heav'n, and earth might seeme in tryumph both to shout.

Th' engladded Spring, forgetfull now to weepe,
Began t' eblazon from her leavie bed,
The waking swallowe broke her halfe-yeares sleepe,
And everie bush lay deepely purpured
With violets, the woods late-wintry head
Wide flaming primroses set all on fire,
And his bald trees put on their greene attire,
Among whose infant leaves the joyeous birds conspire.

And now the taller Sonnes (whom Titan warmes)
Of unshorne mountaines, blowne with easie windes,
Dandled the mornings childhood in their armes,
And, if they chaunc't to slip the prouder pines,
The under Corylets did catch the shines,
To guild their leaves, sawe never happie yeare
Such joyfull triumph, and triumphant cheare,
As though the aged world anew created wear.

Say Earth, why hast thou got thee new attire,
And stick'st thy habit full of dazies red?
Seems that thou doest to some high thought aspire,
And some newe-found-out Bridegroome mean'st to wed:
Tell me ye Trees, so fresh apparelled,
So never let the spitefull Canker wast you,
So never let the heav'ns with lightening blast you,
Why goe you now so trimly drest, or whither hast you?

Answer me Jordan, why thy crooked tide
So often wanders from his neerest way,
As though some other way thy streame would slide,
And faine salute the place where something lay?
And you sweete birds, that shaded from the ray,
Sit carolling, and piping griefe away,
The while the lambs to heare you daunce, and play,
Tell me sweete birds, what is it you so faine would say?

And, thou faire Spouse of Earth, that everie yeare,
Gett'st such a numerous issue of thy bride,
How chance thou hotter shin'st, and draw'st more neere?
Sure thou somewhear some worthie sight hast spide,
That in one place for joy thou canst not bide:
And you dead Swallowes, that so lively now
Through the flit aire your winged passage rowe,
How could new life into your frozen ashes flowe?

Ye Primroses, and purple violets,
Tell me, why blaze ye from your leavie bed,
And wooe mens hands to rent you from your sets,
As though you would somewhear be carried,
With fresh perfumes, and velvets garnished?
But ah, I neede not aske, 'tis surely so,
You all would to your Saviours triumphs goe,
Thear would ye all awaite, and humble homage doe.

Thear should the Earth herselfe with garlands newe
And lovely flo[w'r]s embellished adore,
Such roses never in her garland grewe,
Such lillies never in her brest she wore,
Like beautie never yet did shine before:
Thear should the Sunne another Sunne behold,
From whence himselfe borrowes his locks of gold,
That kindle heav'n, and earth with beauties manifold.

Thear might the violet, and primrose sweet
Beames of more lively, and more lovely grace,
Arising from their beds of incense meet;
Thear should the Swallowe see newe life embrace
Dead ashes, and the grave unheale his face,
To let the living from his bowels creepe,
Unable longer his owne dead to keepe:
Thear heav'n, and earth should see their Lord awake from sleepe.

Their Lord, before by other judg'd to die,
Nowe Judge of all himselfe, before forsaken
Of all the world, that from his aide did flie,
Now by the Saints into their armies taken,
Before for an unworthie man mistaken,
Nowe worthy to be God confest, before
With blasphemies by all the basest tore,
Now worshipped by Angels, that him lowe adore.

Whose garment was before indipt in blood,
But now, imbright'ned into heav'nly flame,
The Sun it selfe outglitters, though he should
Climbe to the toppe of the celestiall frame,
And force the starres go hide themselves for shame:
Before that under earth was buried,
But nowe about the heav'ns is carried,
And thear for ever by the Angels heried.

So fairest Phosphor the bright Morning starre,
But neewely washt in the greene element,
Before the drouzie Night is halfe aware,
Shooting his flaming locks with deaw besprent,
Springs lively up into the orient,
And the bright drove, fleec't all in gold, he chaces
To drinke, that on the Olympique mountaine grazes,
The while the minor Planets forfeit all their faces.

So long he wandred in our lower spheare,
That heav'n began his cloudy starres despise,
Halfe envious, to see on earth appeare
A greater light, then flam'd in his owne skies:
At length it burst for spight, and out thear flies
A globe of winged Angels, swift as thought,
That, on their spotted feathers, lively caught
The sparkling Earth, and to their azure fields it brought.

The rest, that yet amazed stood belowe,
With eyes cast up, as greedie to be fed,
And hands upheld, themselves to ground did throwe,
So when the Trojan boy was ravished,
As through th' Idalian woods they saie he fled,
His aged Gardians stood all dismai'd,
Some least he should have fallen back afraid,
And some their hasty vowes, and timely prayers said.

Tosse up your heads ye everlasting gates,
And let the Prince of glorie enter in:
At whose brave voly of sideriall States,
The Sunne to blush, and starres growe pale wear seene,
When, leaping first from earth, he did begin
To climbe his Angells wings; then open hang
Your christall doores, so all the chorus sang
Of heav'nly birds, as to the starres they nimbly sprang.

Hearke how the floods clap their applauding hands,
The pleasant valleyes singing for delight,
And wanton Mountaines daunce about the Lands,
The while the fieldes, struck with the heav'nly light,
Set all their flo[w'r]s a smiling at the sight,
The trees laugh with their blossoms, and the sound
Of the triumphant shout of praise, that crown'd
The flaming Lambe, breaking through heav'n, hath passage found.

Out leap the antique Patriarchs, all in hast,
To see the po[w'r]s of Hell in triumph lead,
And with small starres a garland interchast
Of olive leaves they bore, to crowne his head,
That was before with thornes degloried,
After them flewe the Prophets, brightly stol'd
In shining lawne, and wimpled manifold,
Striking their yvorie harpes, strung all in chords of gold.

To which the Saints victorious carolls sung,
Ten thousand Saints at once, that with the sound,
The hollow vaults of heav'n for triumph rung:
The Cherubins their clamours did confound
With all the rest, and clapt their wings around:
Downe from their thrones the Dominations flowe,
And at his feet their crownes, and scepters throwe,
And all the princely Soules fell on their faces lowe.

Nor can the Martyrs wounds them stay behind,
But out they rush among the heav'nly crowd,
Seeking their heav'n out of their heav'n to find,
Sounding their silver trumpets out so loude,
That the shrill noise broke through the starrie cloude,
And all the virgin Soules, in pure araie,
Came dauncing forth, and making joyeous plaie;
So him they lead along into the courts of day.

So him they lead into the courts of day,
Whear never warre, nor wounds abide him more,
But in that house, eternall peace doth plaie,
Acquieting the soules, that newe before
Their way to heav'n through their owne blood did skore,
But now, estranged from all miserie,
As farre as heav'n, and earth discoasted lie,
Swelter in quiet waves of immortalitie.

And if great things by smaller may be ghuest,
So, in the mid'st of Neptunes angrie tide,
Our Britan Island, like the weedie nest
Of true Halcyon, on the waves doth ride,
And softly sayling, skornes the waters pride:
While all the rest, drown'd on the continent,
And tost in bloodie waves, their wounds lament,
And stand, to see our peace, as struck with woonderment.

The Ship of France religious waves doe tosse,
And Greec[e] it selfe is now growne barbarous,
Spains Children hardly dare the Ocean crosse,
And Belges field lies wast, and ruinous,
That unto those, the heav'ns ar invious,
And unto them, themselves ar strangers growne,
And unto these, the Seas ar faithles knowne,
And unto her, alas, her owne is not her owne.

Here onely shut we Janus yron gates,
And call the welcome Muses to our springs,
And ar but Pilgrims from our heav'nly states,
The while the trusty Earth sure plentie brings,
And Ships through Neptune safely spread their wings.
Goe blessed Island, wander whear thou please,
Unto thy God, or men, heav'n, lands, or seas,
Thou canst not loose thy way, thy King with all hath peace.

Deere Prince, thy Subjects joy, hope of their heirs,
Picture of peace, or breathing Image rather,
The certaine argument of all our pray'rs,
Thy Harries, and thy Countries lovely Father,
Let Peace, in endles joyes, for ever bath her
Within thy sacred brest, that at thy birth
Brought'st her with thee from heav'n, to dwell on earth,
Making our earth a heav'n, and paradise of mirth.

Let not my Liege misdeem these humble laies,
As lick't with soft, and supple blandishment,
Or spoken to disparagon his praise;
For though pale Cynthia, neere her brothers tent,
Soone disappeares in the white firmament,
And gives him back the beames, before wear his,
Yet when he verges, or is hardly ris,
She the vive image of her absent brother is.

Nor let the Prince of peace his beadsman blame,
That with his Stewart dares his Lord compare,
And heav'nly peace with earthly quiet shame:
So Pines to lowely plants compared ar,
And lightning Phoebus to a little starre:
And well I wot, my rime, albee unsmooth,
Ne, saies but what it meanes, ne meanes but sooth,
Ne harmes the good, ne good to harmefull person doth.

Gaze but upon the house, whear Man embo[w'r]s:
With flo[w'r]s, and rushes paved is his way,
Whear all the Creatures ar his Servitours,
The windes doe sweepe his chambers every day,
And cloudes doe wash his rooms, the seeling gay,
Starred aloft the guilded knobs embrave:
If such a house God to another gave,
How shine those glittering courts, he for himselfe will have?

And if a sullen cloud, as sad as night,
In which the Sunne may seeme embodied,
Depur'd of all his drosse, we see so white,
Burning in melted gold his watrie head,
Or round with yvorie edges silvered,
What lustre superexcellent will he
Lighten on those, that shall his sunneshine see,
In that all-glorious court, in which all glories be

If but one Sunne, with his diffusive fires,
Can paint the starres, and the whole world with light,
And joy, and life into each heart inspires,
And every Saint shall shine in heav'n, as bright
As doth the Sunne in his transcendent might,
(As faith may well beleeve, what Truth once sayes)
What shall so many Sunnes united rayes
But dazle all the eyes, that nowe in heav'n we praise?

Here let my Lord hang up his conquering launce,
And bloody armour with late slaughter warme,
And looking downe on his weake Militants,
Behold his Saints, mid'st of their hot alarme,
Hang all their golden hopes upon his arme.
And in this lower field dispacing wide,
Through windie thoughts, that would thei[r] sayles misguide,
Anchor their fleshly ships fast in his wounded side.

Here may the Band, that now in Tryumph shines,
And that (before they wear invested thus)
In earthly bodies carried heavenly mindes,
Pitcht round about in order glorious,
Their sunny Tents, and houses luminous,
All their eternall day in songs employing,
Joying their ende, without ende of their joying,
While their almightie Prince Destruction is destroying.

Full, yet without satietie, of that
Which whetts, and quiets greedy Appetite,
Whear never Sunne did rise, nor ever sat,
But one eternall day, and endles light
Gives time to those, whose time is infinite,
Speaking with thought, obtaining without fee,
Beholding him, whom never eye could see,
And magnifying him, that cannot greater be.

How can such joy as this want words to speake?
And yet what words can speake such joy as this?
Far from the world, that might their quiet breake,
Here the glad Soules the face of beauty kisse,
Powr'd out in pleasure, on their beds of blisse.
And drunke with nectar torrents, ever hold
Their eyes on him, whose graces manifold,
The more they doe behold, the more they would behold.

Their sight drinkes lovely fires in at their eyes,
Their braine sweete incense with fine breath accloyes,
That on Gods sweating altar burning lies,
Their hungrie cares feede on their heav'nly noyse,
That Angels sing, to tell their untould joyes;
Their understanding naked Truth, their wills
The all, and selfe-sufficient Goodnesse fills,
That nothing here is wanting, but the want of ills.

No Sorrowe nowe hangs clowding on their browe,
No bloodles Maladie empales their face,
No Age drops on their hayrs his silver snowe,
No Nakednesse their bodies doeth embase,
No Povertie themselves, and theirs disgrace,
No feare of death the joy of life devours,
No unchast sleepe their precious time deflowrs,
No losse, no griefe, no change waite on their winged hour's.

But now their naked bodies skorne the cold,
And from their eyes joy lookes, and laughs at paine,
The Infant wonders how he came so old,
And old man how he came so young againe;
Still resting, though from sleepe they still refraine,
Whear all are rich, and yet no gold they owe,
And all are Kings, and yet no Subjects knowe,
All full, and yet no time on foode they doe bestowe.

For things that passe are past, and in this field,
The indeficient Spring no Winter feares,
The Trees together fruit, and blossome yeild,
Th' unfading Lilly leaves of silver beares,
And crimson rose a skarlet garment weares:
And all of these on the Saints bodies growe,
Not, as they woont, on baser earth belowe;
Three rivers heer of milke, and wine, and honie flowe.

About the holy Cittie rowles a flood
Of moulten chrystall, like a sea of glasse,
On which weake streame a strong foundation stood,
Of living Diamounds the building was,
That all things else, besides it selfe, did passe.
Her streetes, in stead of stones, the starres did pave,
And little pearles, for dust, it seem'd to have,
On which soft-streaming Manna, like pure snowe, did wave.

In mid'st of this Citie coelestiall,
Whear the eternall Temple should have rose,
Light'ned th' Idea Beatificall:
End, and beginning of each thing that growes,
Whose selfe no end, nor yet beginning knowes,
That hath no eyes to see, nor ears to heare,
Yet sees, and heares, and is all-eye, all-eare,
That no whear is contain'd, and yet is every whear.

Changer of all things, yet immutable,
Before, and after all, the first, and last,
That mooving all, is yet immoveable,
Great without quantitie, in whose forecast,
Things past are present, things to come are past,
Swift without motion, to whose open eye
The hearts of wicked men unbrested lie,
At once absent, and present to them, farre, and nigh.

It is no flaming lustre, made of light,
No sweet concent, or well-tim'd harmonie,
Ambrosia, for to feast the Appetite,
Or flowrie odour, mixt with spicerie.
No soft embrace, or pleasure bodily,
And yet it is a kinde of inward feast,
A harmony, that sounds within the brest,
An odour, light, embrace, in which the soule doth rest.

A heav'nly feast, no hunger can consume,
A light unseene, yet shines in every place,
A sound, no time can steale, a sweet perfume,
No windes can scatter, an intire embrace,
That no satietie can ere unlace,
Ingrac't into so high a favour, thear
The Saints, with their Beaw-peers, whole worlds outwear,
And things unseene doe see, and things unheard doe hear.

Ye blessed soules, growne richer by your spoile,
Whose losse, though great, is cause of greater gaines,
Here may your weary Spirits rest from toyle,
Spending your endlesse eav'ning, that remaines,
Among those white flocks, and celestiall traines,
That feed upon their Sheapheards eyes, and frame
That heav'nly musique of so woondrous fame,
Psalming aloude the holy honours of his name.

Had I a voice of steel to tune my song,
Wear every verse as smoothly fil'd as glasse,
And every member turned to a tongue,
And every tongue wear made of sounding brasse,
Yet all that skill, and all this strength, alas,
Should it presume to guild, wear misadvis'd,
The place, whear David hath new songs devis'd,
As in his burning throne he sits emparadis'd.

Most happie Prince, whose eyes those starres behould,
Treading ours under feet, now maist thou powre
That overflowing skill, whearwith of ould
Thou woont'st to combe rough speech, now maist thou showr
Fresh streames of praise upon that holy bowre,
Which well we heaven call, not that it rowles,
But that it is the haven of our soules.
Most happie Prince, whose sight so heav'nly sight behoulds.

Ah foolish Sheapheards, that wear woont esteem,
Your God all rough, and shaggy-hair'd to bee;
And yet farre wiser Sheapheards then ye deeme,
For who so poore (though who so rich) as hee,
When, with us hermiting in lowe degree,
He wash't his flocks in Jordans spotles tide,
And, that his deere remembrance aie might bide,
Did to us come, and with us liv'd, and for us di'd?

But now so lively colours did embeame
His sparkling forehead, and so shiny rayes
Kindled his flaming locks; that downe did streame
In curles, along his necke, whear sweetly playes
(Singing his wounds of love in sacred layes)
His deerest Spouse, Spouse of the deerest Lover,
Knitting a thousand knots over, and over,
And dying still for love, but they her still recover.

Faire Egliset, that at his eyes doth dresse
Her glorious face, those eyes, from whence ar shed
Infinite belamours, whear to expresse
His love, high God all heav'n as captive leads,
And all the banners of his grace dispreads,
And in those windowes, doth his armes englaze,
And on those eyes, the Angels all doe gaze,
And from those eies, the lights of heav'n do gleane their blaze.

But let the Kentish lad, that lately taught
His oaten reed the trumpets silver sound,
Young Thyrsilis, and for his musique brought
The willing sphears from heav'n, to lead a round
Of dauncing Nymphs, and Heards, that sung, and crown'd
Eclectas hymen with ten thousand flowrs
Of choycest prayse, and hung her heav'nly bow'rs
With saffron garlands, drest for Nuptiall Paramours,

Let his shrill trumpet, with her silver blast,
Of faire Eclecta, and her Spousall bed,
Be the sweet pipe, and smooth Encomiast:
But my greene Muse, hiding her younger head
Under old Chamus flaggy banks, that spread
Their willough locks abroad, and all the day
With their owne watry shadowes wanton play,
Dares not those high amours, and love-sick songs assay.

Impotent words, weake sides, that strive in vaine,
In vaine, alas, to tell so heav'nly sight,
So heav'nly sight, as none can greater feigne,
Feigne what he can, that seemes of greatest might,
Might any yet compare with Infinite?
Infinite sure those joyes, my words but light,
Light is the pallace whear she dwells. O blessed wight!

[Boas (1908) 1:75-87]