A brief epic in irregular Spenserians (ababbccC) published 1627. The English version of Phineas Fletcher's Locustae was written circa 1612 and published with the Latin in 1627. The poem is dedicated to Prince Henry, the great hope of the militant Protestant faction. The death of the Prince in 1612 marked the turning point when a number of Spenserian poets went into explicit opposition to the court.
Herbert E. Cory: "The Locusts or Appolyonists is practically a free paraphrase and expansion of Phineas Fletcher's Latin poem, the Locustae, into English stanzas made in imitation of Spenser by an addition of a final alexandrine to the regular ottava rima. Fletcher's utter extravagance; relieved now and again by flashes of vivid power, is more adequately represented in the turbulent rhetoric of the Latin verses, especially in the magnificent speech made by Satan to his cohorts in Hell, the fierce scorn of which was certainly an inspiration to Milton. But the English expansion is naturally more Spenserian and fails more definitely within our province. The allegorical description of Sin is compounded of Spenser's Errour and Duessa, and stands midway between the allegories of The Faerie Queene and of Paradise Lost. In the first canto of Fletcher's poem Hell's pursuivants come with dreadful noise to their domain where the gates are opened by friends below. The porter is Sin, shapeless, foul, deformed, 'of that first woman and th' old serpent bred.' Yet to some she appears beautiful and Fletcher, tempted in true Spenserian fashion to dilate on the deceitful loveliness of Sin, gives a sensuous description of her allurements. Despair (a woman, but very similar to Spenser's male figure), sits close by Sin. In the entrance dwell also Sickness, Languor, Horror, and other figures similar to these whom Mammon showed to Spenser's Sir Guyon before the mouth of Hell and similar to those in Milton's In Quintum Novembris, a poem which might be regarded in some respects as a youthful study for his Paradise Lost. Fletcher then tells us how Satan rises to deliver a fiery speech. Earth is smiling in peace. Superstition and Ignorance fly before Truth and Religion. England especially flourishes. Virginia, which belonged to us, is lost. Arm yourselves against Earth. 'Dare we with Heaven and net with Earth to fight?' Tumult reigns in the council" "Spenser, the Fletchers, and Milton" UCPMP 2 (1912) 316.
Abram Barnett Langdale: "In addition to the 1627 edition of Locustae, there are three known manuscript versions — each an autograph and each materially different from the others — and an English paraphrase, The Apollyonists. All can be dated with reasonable accuracy. The author began the first shortly before March 1610-11, and developed it while he watched at his father's bedside. Having completed the work, he furnished it with a dedication to James Montagu, bishop of Bath and Wells, and a friend of his deceased parent. The second, addressed to Prince Henry, was turned out during the ensuing year. It proved to be an abortive gesture, because Henry died in November; where upon Fletcher produced a third variant, which he inscribed to Charles and to the Prince's tutor, Thomas Murray. This and the Apollyonists probably were written within a year of 1612" Phineas Fletcher (1937) 52-53.
Joan Grundy: "The Gunpowder Plot [is] treated apocalyptically as the work of the locusts of Revelation, identified with the Jesuits. The treatment is Spenserian, in that it makes use of personifications, such as Sin ('The Porter to th'infernall gate') Ignorance, and Error, and in doing so imitates Spenser's 'nastiness'; and also in its elaborate description of statues and paintings. But the germ of the idea comes from Tasso's account of the infernal council meeting in Gerusalemme Liberata, Book IV, which is fused with contemporary protestant interpretations of Revelation" The Spenserian Poets (1969) 190.
William B. Hunter: "Like Spenser are the occasional archaisms, the moral earnestness, the lineal narrative, and to some degree the allegory. The allegory of The Apollyonists resembles more that of the Cantos of Mutability of the Faerie Queene than the symbolic knights and events which occupy for the most part the antecedent six books (and it must be remembered that these books were published in 1609, shortly before Fletcher may first have begun work on The Apollyonists)" English Spenserians (1977) 313.
Frank S. Kastor: "The Apollyonists is distinctly not a Spenserian poem; for, rather than being allegorical, emblematic, and diffuse of episode, it is directly religious, historical, and tightly structured" Giles and Phineas Fletcher (1978) 104.
The Irish poet James Sterling translated part of Locustae into couplets as The Speech of Lucifer, in Miscellaneous Poems original and translated (1724).
The first canto describes the Prince of Darkness, who delivers a long oration directed against England, "spight of our spight."
Of Men, nay Beasts: worse, Monsters: worst of all,
Incarnate Fiends, English Italianat,
Of Priests, O no, Masse-Priests, Priests-Cannibal,
Who make their Maker, chewe, grinde, feede, grow fat
With flesh divine: of that great Cities fall,
Which borne, nurs't, growne with blood, th' Earth's Empresse sat,
Clens'd, spous'd to Christ, yet backe to whoordome fel,
None can enough, something I faine would tell.
How black are quenched lights! Fa[l'n]e Heaven's a double hell.
Great Lord, who grasp'st all creatures in thy hand,
Who in thy lap lay'st downe proud Thetis head,
And bind'st her white curl'd locks in caules of sand,
Who gather'st in thy fist, and lay'st in bed
The sturdy winds; who ground'st the floting land
On fleeting seas, and over all hast spread
Heaven's brooding wings, to foster all below;
Who mak'st the Sun without all fire to glow,
The spring of heat and light, the Moone to ebbe and flow:
Thou world's sole Pilot, who in this poore Isle
(So small a bottome) hast embark't thy light,
And glorious selfe: and stear'st it safe, the while
Hoarse drumming seas, and winds lowd trumpets fight,
Who causest stormy heavens here onely smile:
Steare me poore Ship-boy, steare my course aright;
Breath gracious Spirit, breath gently on these layes,
Be thou my Compasse, Needle to my wayes,
Thy glorious work's my Fraught, my Haven is thy prayse.
Thou purple Whore, mounted on scarlet beast,
Gorg'd with the flesh, drunk with the blood of Saints,
Whose amorous golden Cup, and charmed feast
All earthly Kings, all earthly men attaints;
See thy live pictures, see thine owne, thy best,
Thy dearest sonnes, and cheere thy heart, that faints.
Harke thou sav'd Island, harke, and never cease
To prayse that hand which held thy head in peace.
Else had'st thou swumme as deep in blood, as now in seas.
The cloudy Night came whirling up the skie,
And scatt'ring round the dewes, which first shee drew
From milky poppies, loads the drousie eie:
The watry Moone, cold Vesper, and his crew
Light up their tapers: to the Sunne they fly,
And at his blazing flame their sparks renew.
Oh why should earthly lights then scorne to tine
Their lamps alone at that first Sunne divine?
Hence as false falling starres, as rotten wood they shine.
Her sable mantle was embroydered gay
With silver beames, with spangles round beset:
Foure steedes her chariot drew, the first was gray,
The second blue, third browne, fourth blacke as jet.
The hollowing Owle her Post prepares the way,
And winged dreames (as gnat-swarms) fluttring, let
Sad sleep, who faine his eies in rest would steep.
Why then at death doe weary mortals weep?
Sleep's but a shorter death, death's but a longer sleep.
And now the world, and dreames themselves were drown'd
In deadly sleep; the Labourer snorteth fast,
His brawny armes unbent, his limbs unbound,
As dead, forget all toyle to come, or past,
Onely sad Guilt, and troubled Greatnes crown'd
With heavy gold and care, no rest can tast.
Goe then vaine man, goe pill the live and dead,
Buy, sell, fawne, flatter, rise, then couch thy head
In proud, but dangerous gold: in silke, but restlesse bed.
When loe a sudden noyse breakes th' empty aire;
A dreadfull noyse, which every creature daunts,
Frights home the blood, shoots up the limber haire.
For through the silent heaven hells pursuivants
Cutting their way, command foule spirits repaire
With hast to Pluto, who their counsell wants.
Their hoarse base-hornes like fenny Bittours sound;
Th' earth shakes, dogs howle, and heaven it selfe astound
Shuts all his eies; the stars in clouds their candles drown'd.
Meane time Hels yron gates by fiends beneath
Are open flung; which fram'd with wondrous art
To every guilty soule yeelds entrance eath;
But never wight, but He, could thence depart,
Who dying once was death to endlesse death.
So where the livers channell to the heart
Payes purple tribute, with their three-fork't mace
Three Tritons stand, and speed his flowing race,
But stop the ebbing streame, if once it back would pace.
The Porter to th' infernall gate is Sin,
A shapelesse shape, a foule deformed thing,
Nor nothing, nor a substance: as those thin
And empty formes, which through the ayer fling
Their wandring shapes, at length they'r fastned in
The Chrystall sight. It serves, yet reignes as King:
It lives, yet's death: it pleases, full of paine:
Monster! ah who, who can thy beeing faigne?
Thou shapelesse shape, live death, paine pleasing, servile raigne.
Of that first woman, and th' old serpent bred,
By lust and custome nurst; whom when her mother
Saw so deform'd, how faine would she have fled
Her birth, and selfe? But she her damme would smother,
And all her brood, had not He rescued
Who was his mothers sire, his childrens brother;
Eternitie, who yet was borne and dy'de:
His owne Creatour, earths scorne, heavens pride,
Who th' Deitie inflesht, and mans flesh deifi'de.
Her former parts her mother seemes resemble,
Yet onely seemes to flesh and weaker sight;
For she with art and paint could fine dissemble
Her loathsome face: her back parts (blacke as night)
Like to her horride Sire would force to tremble
The boldest heart; to th' eye that meetes her right
She seemes a lovely sweet, of beauty rare;
But at the parting, he that shall compare,
Hell will more lovely deeme, the divel's selfe more faire.
Her rosie cheeke, quicke eye, her naked brest,
And whatsoe're loose fancie might entice,
She bare expos'd to sight, all lovely drest
In beauties livery, and quaint devise:
Thus she bewitches many a boy unblest,
Who drench't in hell, dreames all of Paradise:
Her brests his spheares, her armes his circling skie;
Her pleasures heav'n, her love eternitie:
For her he longs to live, with her he longs to die.
But he, that gave a stone power to descry
'Twixt natures hid, and checke that mettals pride,
That dares aspire to golds faire puritie,
Hath left a touch-stone, erring eyes to guide,
Which cleares their sight, and strips hypocrisie.
They see, they loath, they curse her painted hide;
Her, as a crawling carrion, they esteeme:
Her worst of ills, and worse then that they deeme;
Yet know her worse, then they can think, or she can seem.
Close by her sat Despaire, sad ghastly Spright,
With staring lookes, unmoov'd, fast nayl'd to Sinne;
Her body all of earth, her soule of fright,
About her thousand deaths, but more within:
Pale, pined cheeks, black hayre, torne, rudely dight;
Short breath, long nayles, dull eyes, sharp-pointed chin:
Light, life, heaven, earth, her selfe, and all shee fled.
Fayne would she die, but could not: yet halfe dead,
A breathing corse she seem'd, wrap't up in living lead.
In th' entrance Sicknes, and faint Languour dwelt,
Who with sad grones tolle out their passing knell:
Late feare, fright, horrour, that already felt
The Torturers clawes, preventing death, and hell.
Within loud Greife, and roaring Pangs (that swelt
In sulphure flames) did weep, and houle, and yell.
And thousand soules in endles dolours lie,
Who burne, frie, hizze, and never cease to crie,
Oh that I ne're had liv'd, Oh that I once could die!
And now th' Infernal Powers through th' ayer driving,
For speed their leather pineons broad display;
Now at eternall Deaths wide gate arriving,
Sinne gives them passage; still they cut their way,
Till to the bottome of hells palace diving,
They enter Dis deepe Conclave: there they stay,
Waiting the rest, and now they all are met,
A full foule Senate, now they all are set,
The horride Court, big swol'ne with th'hideous Counsel swet.
The mid'st, but lowest (in hells heraldry
The deepest is the highest roome) in state
Sat Lordly Lucifer: his fiery eye,
Much swol'ne with pride, but more with rage, and hate,
As Censour, muster'd all his company;
Who round about with awefull silence sate.
This doe, this let rebellious Spirits gaine,
Change God for Satan, heaven's for hells Sov'raigne:
O let him serve in hell, who scornes in heaven to raigne!
Ah wretch, who with ambitious cares opprest,
Long'st still for future, feel'st no present good:
Despising to be better, would'st be best,
Good never; who wilt serve thy lusting mood,
Yet all command: not he, who rais'd his crest,
But pull'd it downe, hath high and firmely stood.
Foole, serve thy towring lusts, grow still, still crave,
Rule, raigne, this comfort from thy greatnes have,
Now at thy top, Thou art a great commanding slave.
Thus fell this Prince of darknes, once a bright
And glorious starre: he wilfull turn'd away
His borrowed globe from that eternall light:
Himselfe he sought, so lost himselfe: his ray
Vanish't to smoke, his morning sunk in night,
And never more shall see the springing day:
To be in heaven the second he disdaines:
So now the first in hell, and flames he raignes,
Crown'd once with joy, and light: crown'd now with fire and paines.
As where the warlike Dane the scepter swayes,
They crowne Usurpers with a wreath of lead,
And with hot steele, while loud the Traitour brayes,
They melt, and drop it downe into his head.
Crown'd he would live, and crown'd he ends his dayes:
All so in heavens courts this Traitour sped.
Who now (when he had overlook't his traine)
Rising upon his throne, with bitter straine
Thus 'gan to whet their rage, and chide their frustrate paine.
See, see you Spirits (I know not whether more
Hated, or hating heaven) ah see the earth
Smiling in quiet peace, and plenteous store.
Men fearles live in ease, in love, and mirth:
Where armes did rage, the drumme, and canon rore,
Where hate, strife, envy raign'd, and meagre dearth;
Now lutes, and viols charme the ravish't eare.
Men plow with swords, horse heels their armors weare.
Ah shortly scarce they'l know what warre, and armors were.
Under their sprowting vines they sporting sit.
Th' old tell of evils past: youth laugh, and play,
And to their wanton heads sweet garlands fit,
Roses with lillies, myrtles weav'd with Bay:
The world's at rest: Erinnys, forc't to quit
Her strongest holds, from earth is driven away.
Even Turks forget their Empire to encrease:
Warres selfe is slaine, and whips of Furies cease.
Wee, wee our selves I feare, will shortly live in peace.
Meane time (I burne, I broyle, I burst with spight)
In midst of peace that sharpe two edged sword
Cuts through our darknes, cleaves the misty night,
Discovers all our snares; that sacred word
(Lo[ck']t up by Rome) breakes prison, spreads the light,
Speakes every tongue, paints, and points out the Lord,
His birth, life, death, and crosse: our guilded Stocks,
Our Laymens bookes, the boy, and woman mocks:
They laugh, they fleer, and say, Blocks teach, and worship Blocks.
Spring-tides of light divine the ayre suround,
And bring downe heaven to earth; deafe Ignoraunce,
Vext with the day, her head in hell hath dro[wn']d:
Fond Superstition, frighted with the glaunce
Of suddaine beames, in vaine hath crost her round.
Truth and Religion every where advaunce
Their conqu'ring standards: Errour's lost and fled:
Earth burnes in love to heaven: heaven yeelds her bed
To earth; and common growne, smiles to be ravished.
That little swimming Isle above the rest,
Spight of our spight, and all our plots, remaines
And growes in happines: but late our nest,
Where wee and Rome, and blood, and all our traines,
Monks, Nuns, dead, and live idols, safe did rest:
Now there (next th' Oath of God) that Wrastler raignes,
Who fills the land and world with peace, his speare
Is but a pen, with which he downe doth beare
Blind Ignoraunce, false gods, and superstitious feare.
There God hath fram'd another Paradise,
Fat Olives dropping peace, victorious palmes,
Nor in the midst, but every where doth rise
That hated tree of life, whose precious balmes
Cure every sinfull wound: give light to th' eyes,
Unlock the eare, recover fainting qualmes.
There richly growes what makes a people blest;
A garden planted by himselfe and drest:
Where he himselfe doth walke, where he himselfe doth rest.
There every starre sheds his sweet influence,
And radiant beames: great, little, old, and new
Their glittering rayes, and frequent confluence
The milky path to Gods high palace strew:
Th' unwearied Pastors with steel'd confidence,
Conquer'd, and conquering fresh their fight renew.
Our strongest holds that thundring ordinaunce
Beats downe, and makes our proudest turrets daunce,
Yoking mens iron necks in his sweet governaunce.
Nor can th' old world content ambitious Light,
Virginia our soile, our seat, and throne,
(To which so long possession gives us right,
As long as hells) Virginia's selfe is gone:
That stormy Ile which th' Ile of Devills hight,
Peopled with faith, truth, grace, religion.
What's next but hell? That now alone remaines,
And that subdu'de, even here he rules and raignes,
And mortals gin to dreame of long, but endles paines.
While we (good harmeles creatures) sleep, or play,
Forget our former losse, and following paine:
Earth sweats for heaven, but hell keeps holy-day.
Shall we repent good soules? or shall we plaine?
Shall we groane, sigh, weep, mourne, for mercy pray?
Lay downe our spight, wash out our sinfull staine?
May be hee'l yeeld, forget, and use us well,
Forgive, joyne hands, restore us whence we fell:
May be hee'l yeeld us heaven, and fall himselfe to hell.
But me, oh never let me, Spirits, forget
That glorious day, when I your standard bore,
And scorning in the second place to sit,
With you assaulted heaven, his yoke forswore.
My dauntlesse heart yet longs to bleed, and swet
In such a fray: the more I burne, the more
I hate: should he yet offer grace, and ease,
If subject we our armes, and spight surcease,
Such offer should I hate, and scorne so base a peace.
Where are those spirits? Where that haughty rage,
That durst with me invade eternall light?
What? Are our hearts falne too? Droope we with age?
Can we yet fall from hell, and hellish spight?
Can smart our wrath, can griefe our hate asswage?
Dare we with heaven, and not with earth to fight?
Your armes, allies, your selves as strong as ever,
Your foes, their weapons, numbers weaker never.
For shame tread downe this earth: what wants but your endeavour?
Now by your selves, and thunder-danted armes,
But never danted hate, I you implore,
Command, adjure, reinforce your fierce alarmes:
Kindle, I pray, who never prayed before,
Kindle your darts, treble repay our harmes.
Oh our short time, too short, stands at the dore,
Double your rage: if now we doe not ply,
We 'lone in hell, without due company,
And worse, without desert, without revenge shall ly.
He, Spirits, (ah that, that's our maine torment) He
Can feele no wounds, laughs at the sword, and dart,
Himselfe from griefe, from suff'ring wholly free:
His simple nature cannot tast of smart,
Yet in his members wee him grieved see;
For, and in them, he suffers; where his heart
Lies bare, and nak't, there dart your fiery steele,
Cut, wound, burne, seare, if not the head, the heele.
Let him in every part some paine, and torment feele.
That light comes posting on, that cursed light,
When they as he, all glorious, all divine,
(Their flesh cloth'd with the sun, and much more bright,
Yet brighter spirits) shall in his image shine,
And see him as hee is: there no despight,
No force, no art their state can undermine.
Full of unmeasur'd blisse, yet still receiving,
Their soules still childing joy, yet still conceiving,
Delights beyond the wish, beyond quick thoughts perceiving.
But we fast pineon'd with darke firy chaines,
Shall suffer every ill, but doe no more,
The guilty spirit there feeles extreamest paines,
Yet feares worse then it feeles: and finding store
Of present deaths, deaths absence sore complaines:
Oceans of ills without or ebbe, or shore,
A life that ever dies, a death that lives,
And, worst of all, Gods absent presence gives
A thousand living woes, a thousand dying griefes.
But when he summes his time, and turnes his eye
First to the past, then future pangs, past dayes
(And every day's an age of misery)
In torment spent, by thousands downe he layes,
Future by millions, yet eternity
Growes nothing lesse, nor past to come allayes.
Through every pang, and griefe he wild doth runne,
And challenge coward death, doth nothing shunne,
That he may nothing be; does all to be undone.
O let our worke equall our wages, let
Our Judge fall short, and when his plagues are spent,
Owe more then he hath paid, live in our debt:
Let heaven want vengeance, hell want punishment
To give our dues: when wee with flames beset
Still dying live in endles languishment.
This be our comfort, we did get and win
The fires, and tortures we are whelmed in:
We have kept pace, outrun his justice with our sin.
And now you States of hell give your advise,
And to these ruines lend your helping hand.
This said, and ceas't; straight humming murmures rise:
Some chafe, some fret, some sad and thoughtfull stand,
Some chat, and some new stratagems devise,
And every one heavens stronger powers ban'd,
And teare for madnesse their uncombed snakes,
And every one his fiery weapon shakes,
And every one expects who first the answer makes.
So when the falling Sunne hangs o're the maine,
Ready to droppe into the Westerne wave,
By yellow Chame, where all the Muses raigne,
And with their towres his reedy head embrave;
The warlike Gnat their flutt'ring armies traine,
All have sharpe speares, and all shrill trumpets have:
Their files they double, loud their cornets sound,
Now march at length, their troopes now gather round:
The bankes, the broken noise, and turrets faire rebound.
[Boas (1908) 1:128-39]