1612
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Upon the most lamented Departure of Prince Henrie.

Epicedium Cantabrigiense, in obitum immaturum, semperq; deflendum, Henrici, illustrissimi Principis Walliae, &c.

Rev. Giles Fletcher


Twelve rhyme-royal stanzas. Giles Fletcher's was one of the first entries in what soon became a crowded field of elegies for Prince Henry. The complete title is "Upon the most lamented Departure of the right hopefull, and blessed Prince Henrie Prince of Wales."

The elegy, signed "G. F. T. C.," is part of a Cambridge University collection, where it is notable not merely as an imitation of Spenser (a Cambridge poet, of course) but for being in English, the medium John Milton would later use for "Lycidas" (Fletcher also contributed a Latin poem, and the volume itself was published in two versions, only one of which contains poems in English). Vernacular poems would not become the norm in university anthologies until the middle of the eighteenth century when academic verse became the primary vehicle for reviving the Spenserian-Miltonic style. Fletcher's poem is placed at the head of the vernacular poems in the volume.

John W. Draper: "The poems by Giles and by Phineas Fletcher on the deaths of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Henry are done in the combined styles of the Shepheardes Calender and the Faerie Queene, eked out with odd conceits and lengthy but unsustained pathetic fallacies" The Funeral Elegy (1929) 30.

Ruth Wallerstein: "The substance of his poem is a bare statement of the pastoral-Christian view of death expressed in Spenser's November. Many of the elegists fail in their statements of grief and of faith, through aridity. Fletcher, with Spenser as his model, translates the mingling of grief and otherworldliness into a lyric expression which makes it an immediately felt reality. He does not elaborate pastoral detail and imagery and Spenserian diction beyond what his feeling will support; but it is these media which manifest his feeling, this imagery and diction in which the seed of grief flowers" Seventeenth-Century Poetic (1965) 63.



The weeping time of Heav'n is now come in,
Kindely the season clowdes of sorrowe beares,
To smile, O let it be a deadly sinne
And happy hee, his merry looks forsweares,
See heav'n for us is melted into teares:
O deerest Prince how many hearts wear knowne
To save thy life, that would have lost their owne?

When thou thy Countreys griefe, weart once her glory,
How was this blessed Isle crown'd with delight;
So long it never knew how to be sorry,
But anchor'd all her joyes upon thy sight;
The musique every whear did freely lite:
The Shepheards pip't, and countrey byrds did sing,
The water-nymphs came dauncing from their spring.

It was the mother then of harmeless pleasure
The Queene of beawty all men came to see,
And poore it could not bee, thou weart her treasure,
Onely it was a little prowde of thee,
Aye mee, that ever so it might not bee!
The Garden of the world, whear nothing wanted,
Another Paradise, that God had planted.

Her happie fields wear dec'kt with every flowre,
That with her sweetest lookes Peace smil'd to see it.
Delight it selfe betwixt her breasts did bowre,
And oft her rustique Nymphs thy couch would meet,
And strew with flowers the way before thy feete.
But now those flowers wee woont to strow before thee,
Dead, in thy grave wee throw them to adore thee.

Sleepe softly, royall Ghost, in that cold bed,
Let deaths pale chambers give thee easie rest,
Whear all the Princely bones lie buried,
With guilded crowns and long white scepters drest.
Ah, little look't they thou shouldst be their guest!
What makes the heav'ns proclaime such open warres?
Wee did not owe thee so soone to the starres.

And yet our vowes doe not thy starres envie thee,
Bathe thee in joyes, wee in our teares will swim:
Wee doe not unto heav'n, or God denie thee,
Onely the Muses begge this leave of him,
To fill with teares their fountaine to the brim,
And as thou sett'st emparadis'd above,
To powre out to thee rivers of their love.

See how the yeare with thee is stricken dead,
And from her bosome all her flowers hath throwne,
With thee the trees their haires fling from their head,
And all the Sheapherds pipes are deadly blowne,
All musique now, and mirth is hatefull growne:
Onely Halcyons sad lamenting pleases,
And that Swans dirge, that, as hee sings, deceases.

Heav'n at thy death deni'd our world his light,
Ne suff'red one pale starre abroad to peepe,
And all about the world the winds have sigh'd,
Nor can the watrie-nymps (so fast they weepe)
Within their banks their flouds of sorrow keepe.
Suffer us, in this deluge of distresse,
Thee, if not to enjoy, at least to blesse.

Bedded in all the roses of delight
Let thy engladded soule embalmed lie,
Imbrightned into that celestiall light,
Which all Gods saintly Lamps doth glorifie,
Thear boast thy kinred with the Deitie
Whear God his Sonne, and Christ his Brother greet thee,
And thy too little glorious Sisters meete thee.

But O thou desert Island, that art found
Cast in the seas deepe bosome by mishap,
As if with our salt teares thou all weart drown'd,
And hadst from heav'n drop't into sorrowes lap;
Desolate house! what mantle now shall wrap
Thy naked sides? poore widow, made to mourne,
To whom wilt thou thy sad addresses tourne?

Alas, the silent Angels on his tombe
Can him no honour, thee no comfort sing,
Their pretie weeping lookes may well become
Themselves, but him to life can never bring.
Thee therefore, deerest Prince, from perishing
Or yet alive wee in our hearts will save,
Or dead with thee, our hearts shall be thy grave.

HENRIE farewell, heav'ns soone-restored Exile,
Immortall Garland of thy Fathers head,
Mantle of honour to this naked Isle,
Bright drop of heav'n, on whose wish't nuptiall bed
Now all our ripest hopes hung blossomed.
Farewell, farewell; hearke how the Angels sing,
On earth our Prince is now in heav'n a King.

[sigs N4-O1]