1612 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Locusts, or Apollyonists. Canto IV.

Locustae, vel pietas Iesuitica. Per Phineam Fletcher Collegii Regalis Cantabrigiae.

Rev. Phineas Fletcher


In Canto IV the scene shifts to a conclave in Rome presided over by Pope Paul V, who gives a review of history; it concludes with the plan for the gunpowder plot.

Edmund Gosse: "The Apollyonists ... is a noble epic fragment on the Fall of the Rebel Angels, with the figure of Satan as that of the hero; a bitter attack on the Jesuits is introduced. Milton was not only well acquainted with the writings of Phineas Fletcher, but he paid to the Apollyonists the compliment of borrowing more from it than from any other work when he came to write his own Paradise Lost" The Jacobean Poets (1894) 145-46.

Henry Marion Hall: "This entire invective [of Piscatorie Eclogue IV] was later paraphrased by Fletcher in his 'Apollyonists,' and just as Milton's 'Paradise Lost' shows traces of the influence of this work, it can hardly be doubted that the noble lines in Lycidas on the corruption of the clergy owe suggestions to the imagery of Fletcher's epic. For instance, evil fishers 'steal' into the ship by night, know nothing of the use of the 'hook,' are blind, and care for nothing by their own gain. Moreover, both the sheep in Lycidas and the fish in the 'Apollyonists' are poisoned by the bad ministration that they receive; both rot, and both spread contagion. Yet, though Milton may have borrowed a hint or so from Fletcher, he was far too fond of the orthodox in pastoralism to think of adopting the piscatory form, and he may well have smiled at lines like this — 'Some snorting in their hulks supinely sleep'" Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 117.



Looke as a goodly Pile, whose ayrie towres
Thrust up their golden heads to th' azure sky,
But loosely leanes his weight on sandy floores:
Such is that mans estate, who looking high,
Grounds not his sinking trust on heavenly powres:
His tott'ring hopes no sooner live, but die.
How can that frame be right, whose ground is wrong?
Who stands upon his owne legges, stands not long:
For man's most weake in strength, in weaknes only strong.

Thus Rome (when drench't in seas of Martyrs blood,
And tost with stormes, yet rooted fast on Christ)
Deep grounded on that rocke most firmely stood:
But when, with pride and worldly pompe entic't
She sought her selfe, sunke in her rising flood.
So when of late that boasted Jesuite Priest
Gath'red his flocke, and now the house 'gan swell,
And every eare drew in the sugred spell,
Their house, and rising hopes, swole, burst, and head-long fell.

Through this knowne entraunce past that subtile Spright:
There thundring Paul retir'd he sullen found,
Boyling his restles heart in envious spight,
Gall'd with old sores, and new Venetian wound:
His thoughtfull head lean'd downe his carefull weight
Upon a chayre, farre fetch't from Dodon ground.
Thence without feare of errour they define;
For there the Spirit his presence must confine.
Oh more then God, who makes his bread, blocks, chayres divine!

But that true Spirit's want this false supplies:
He folds that Scorners chayre in's cloudy wings,
And paints, and gilds it fayre with colour'd lies.
But now from's damned head a snake he flings
Burning in flames: the subtile Serpent flies
To th' aymed marke, and fills with firy stings
The Papal brest; his holy bosome swells
With pride and rage; straight cals for books, lights, bells,
Frets, fumes, fomes, curses, chafes, and threatens thousand hells.

So when cold waters wall'd with brasen wreath
Are sieg'd with crackling flames, their common foe,
The angry seas 'gin fome and hotly breath,
Then swell, rise, rave, and still more furious grow:
Nor can be held; but, prest with fires beneath,
Tossing their waves breake out, and all o'reflow.
In hast he calls a Senate; thither runne
The blood-red Cardinalls, Friers white, and dunne,
And with, and 'bove the rest Ignatius' eldest sonne.

The conclave fills apace; now all are met:
Each knowes his stall, and takes his wonted place.
So downe they sit; and now they all are set:
Aequivocus, with his bat-wing'd embrace,
Clucks, broods his chickens, while they sadly treat;
Their eyes all met in th' holy Fathers face,
There first foresee his speech: a dusky cloud
Hangs on his brow; his eyes fierce lightnings shroud,
At length they heare it breake, and rore in thunders loud.

Thrice-glorious founders of Romes Hierarchy,
Whose towring thoughts and more then manly spirit
Beyond the spheares have ray'sd our Monarchy,
Nor earth, nor heaven can pay your boundlesse merit.
Oh let your soules above the loftiest sky
Your purchast crownes and scepters just inherit.
Here in your pourtraits may you ever live;
While wee (poore shadowes of your pictures) grieve
Our sloth should basely spend, what your high vertues give.

I blush to view you: see Priest-kings, oh see
Their lively shades our life as shades upbrayd:
See how his face sparkles in majesty,
Who that first stone of our vast Kingdome layd,
Spous'd the whole Church, and made the world his See:
With what brave anger is his cheek arrayd,
Who Peters useles keyes in Tiber flings?
How high he lookes that treades on Basilisks stings,
And findes for's lordly foot no stool, but necks of Kings?

See where among the rest great Clement stands,
Lifting his head 'bove heaven, who Angels cites
And bids them lowly stoop at his commands,
And waft tir'd soules to those eternall lights.
But what they wonne, we loose; Townes, Cities, Lands
Revolt: our Buls each petty Lamb-kin slights:
We storme and thunder death, they laugh, and gren.
How have we lost our selves? Oh where, and when
Were we thus chang'd? Sure they were more, we lesse then men.

Can that uncloist'red Frier with those light armes,
That sword and shield, which we mocke, scorne, defie,
Wake all the sleeping world with loud alarmes,
And ever conqu'ring live, then quiet die?
And live, and dead load us with losse and harmes?
A single simple Frier? And oh shall I,
Christ, God on earth, so many losses beare
With peace and patience? Who then Rome will feare?
Who then to th' Romane God his heart and hands will reare?

Belgia is wholy lost, and rather chuses
Warres, flame, and blood, then peace with Rome and Spain.
Fraunce halfe fal'ne off, all truce and parl' refuses:
Edicts, massacres, leagues, threats, all are vaine.
Their King with painted shew our hope abuses,
And beares our forced yoke with scorne, and paine.
So Lyons (bound) stoop, crouch with fained awe,
But (loos'd) their Keeper seize with Lordly paw,
Drag, rend, and with his flesh full gorge their greedy maw.

See where proud Dandal chain'd, some scraps expecting,
Lies cur-like under boord, and begs releife:
But now their Corno our three crownes neglecting
Censures our sacred Censures, scornes our Briefe.
Our English plots some adverse power detecting
Doubles their joy, trebles our shame and griefe.
What have we reap't of all our paines and seed?
Seditions, murthers, poysons, treasons breed
To us more spight and scorne; in them more hate and heed.

That fleet, which with the Moone for vastnesse stood,
Which all the earth, which all the sea admires,
Amaz'd to see on waves a Moone of wood,
Blest by our hands, frighted with suddaine fires
And Panicke feares, sunke in the gaping flood:
Some split, some yeeld, scarce one (that torne) retires.
That long wish't houre, when Cynthia set i' th' maine,
What hath it brought at length, what change, what gain?
One bright star fell, the Sun is ris'ne, and all his traine.

But Fates decree our fall: high swelling names
Of Monarch, Spouse, Christ, God, breed much debate,
And heape disdaine, hate, envy, thousand blames:
And shall I yeeld to envy, feare their hate,
Lay downe my titles, quit my justest claimes?
Shall I, earths God, yeeld to uncertaine fate?
Sure I were best with cap in hand to pray
My sheepe be rul'd: I scorne that begging way;
I will, I must command; they must, they shall obay.

Shall I, the worlds bright Sunne, heavens Oracle,
The onely tongue of Gods owne mouth, shall I,
Of men, of faith the Judge infallible,
The rule of good, bad, wrong, and equitie,
Shall I, Almighty, Rock invincible,
Stoop to my servants, beg authoritie?
Rome is the worlds, I Romes Head: it shall raigne:
Which to effect, I live, rule, this to gaine
Is here my heaven; to loose is hells tormenting paine.

So said, and ceas'd: while all the Priestly Round
In sullen greife, and stupide silence sat:
This bit his lip, that nayl'd his eye to th' ground,
Some cloud their flaming eyes with scarlet hat,
Some gnash't their spightfull teeth, some lowr'd, and frown'd:
Till (greife and care driven out by spight and hate)
Soft murmurs first gan creep along the croud:
At length they storm'd, and chaf't, and thundred loud,
And all sad vengeance swore, and all dire mischeife vow'd.

So when a sable cloud with swelling sayle
Comes swimming through calme skies, the silent ayre
(While fierce winds sleepe in Aeol's rocky jayle)
With spangled beames embroydred, glitters faire:
But soone 'gins lowre and grone; straight clatt'ring hayle
Fills all with noyse: Light hides his golden hayre;
Earth with untimely winter's silvered.
Then Loiol's eldest Sonne lifts up his head,
Whom all with great applause, and silence ushered.

Most holy Father, Priests, Kings Soveraigne,
Who equal'st th' highest, makest lesser Gods,
Though Dominick, and Loiola now sustaine
The Lateran Church, with age it stoopes, and noddes:
Nor have we cause to rest, or time to plaine:
Rebellious earth (with heaven it selfe to oddes)
Conspires to ruine our high envi'de state:
Yet may wee by those artes prolong our date,
Whereby wee stand; and if not chaunge, yet stay our fate.

When captaines strive a fort or towne to winne,
They lay their batt'ry to the weakest side;
Not where the wall, and guard stands thicke, but thinne:
So that wise Serpent his assault appli'de,
And with the weaker vessell would beginne:
He first the woman with distrust and pride,
Then shee the man subdues with flatt'ring lies;
So in one battaile gets two victories:
Our foe will teach us fight, our fall will teach us rise.

Our Cheife who every slight and engine knowes,
While on th' old troupes he spent his restles paines,
With equall armes assaulting equall foes,
What hath he got, or wee? What fruite, what gaines
Ensu'de? we beare the losse, and he the blowes:
And while each part their wit, and learning straines,
The breach repaires, and (foil'd) new force assumes:
Their hard encounters, and hot angry fumes
Strike out the sparkling fire, which lights them, us consumes.

In stead of heavy armes hence use we slight:
Trade we with those, which train'd in ignorance
Have small acquaintance with that heavenly light;
Those who disgrac't by some misgovernance
(Their owne, or others) swell with griefe or spight.
But nothing more our Kingdome must advance,
Or further our designes, then to comply
With that weake sexe, and by fine forgerie
To worme in womens hearts, chiefly the rich and high.

Nor let the stronger scorne these weaker powres;
The labour's lesse with them, the harvest more:
They easier yeeld, and win; so fewer houres
Are spent: for women sooner drinke our lore,
Men sooner sippe it from their lippes, then ours:
Sweetly they learne, and sweetly teach: with store
Of teares, smiles, kisses, and ten thousand arts
They lay close batt'ry to mens frayler parts:
So finely steale themselves, and us into their hearts.

That strongest Champion, who with naked hands
A Lyon tore, who all unarm'd and bound
Heap't mounts of armed foes on bloody sands;
By womans art, without or force or wound
Subdu'de, now in a mill blind grinding stands.
That Sunne of wisedome, which the Preacher crown'd
Great King of arts, bewitch't with womens smiles,
Fell deepe in seas of folly by their wiles.
Wit, strength, and grace it selfe yeeld to their flatt'ring guiles.

This be our skirmish: for the maine, release
The Spanish forces, free strong Belgia
From feare of warre, let armes and armies cease.
What got our Alva, John of Austria?
Our Captaine, Guile; our weapons ease, and peace:
These more prevaile then Parma, Spinola.
The Dutch shall yeeld us armes, and men; there dwell
Arminians, who from heaven halfe way fell:
A doubtfull sect, which hang 'tween truth, lies, heaven and hell.

These Epicens have sowne their subtile brayne
With thorny difference, and neat illusion:
Proud, fierce, the adverse part they much disdaine.
These must be handled soft with fine collusion,
For Calvins hate to side with Rome and Spaine,
To worke their owne, and their owne-homes confusion.
And by large summes, more hopes, wee must bring in
Wise Barnevelt to lay our plotted gin:
So where the Lyon fayles, the Fox shall eas'ly win.

The flowres of Fraunce, those faire delicious flowres,
Which late are imp't in stemme of proud Navar,
With ease wee may transferre to Castile bowres.
Feare not that sleeping Lyon: this I dare,
And will make good spight of all envious powres,
When that great bough most threats the neighb'ring ayre,
Then shall he fall: when now his tho[u]ghts worke high,
And in their pitch their towring p[r]ojects fly,
Then shall he stoop; his hopes shall droop, and drop, and dy.

Wee have not yet forgot the shamefull day,
When forc't from Fraunce and our new holds to fly
(Hooted, and chac't as owles) we ran away.
That Pillar of our lasting infamy
Though raz'd, yet in our minds doth freshly stay.
Hence love wee that great King so heartily,
That but his heart nought can our hearts content:
His bleeding heart from crazy body rent,
Shrin'd in bright gold shall stand our Jesuite monument.

This be our taske: the aged truncke wee'l lop,
And force the sprigges forget their former kind:
Wee'l graft the tender twigges on Spanish top,
And with fast knots Fraunce unto Spaine wee'l bind,
With crosse, and double knotts: wee'l still, and drop
The Romane sap into their empty mind:
Wee'l hold their heart, wee'l porter at their eare,
The head, the feet, the hands wee'l wholy steare:
That at our nod the head the heart it selfe shall teare.

All this a Prologue to our Tragedy:
My head's in travaile of an hideous
And fearfull birth; such as may fright the sky,
Turne back the Sun: helpe, helpe Ignatius.
And in this act proove thy new Deity.
I have a plot worthy of Rome and us,
Which with amazement heaven, and earth shall fill:
Nor care I whether right, wrong, good, or ill:
Church-profit is our law, our onely rule thy will.

That blessed Isle, so often curst in vaine,
Triumphing in our losse and idle spight,
Of force shall shortly stoop to Rome and Spayne:
I'le take a way ne're knowne to man or spright.
To kill a King is stale, and I disdaine:
That fits a Secular, not a Jesuite.
Kings, Nobles, Clergy, Commons high and low,
The Flowre of England in one houre I'le mow,
And head all th'Isle with one unseen, unfenced blow.

A goodly frame, rays'd high with carved stones,
Leaning his lofty head on marble stands
Close by that Temple, where the honour'd bones
Of Britaine Kings and many Princely Grands
Adorned rest with golden scutcheons:
Garnish't with curious worke of Dedal hands.
Low at his base the swelling Thamis falls,
And sliding downe along those stately halls,
Doth that chiefe Citie wash, and fence with liquid walls.

Here all the States in full assembly meet,
And every order rank't in fit array,
Cloth'd with rich robes fill up the crowded street.
Next 'fore the King his Heier leades the way,
Glitt'ring with gemmes, and royall Coronet:
So golden Phosphor ushers in the day.
And all the while the trumpets triumphs sound,
And all the while the peoples votes resound:
Their shoutes and tramplings shake the ayre and dauncing ground.

There in Astrea's ballaunce doe they weigh
The right and wrong, reward and punishment;
And rigour with soft equitie allay,
Curbe lawles lust, and stablish government;
There Rome it selfe, and us they dare affray
With bloody lawes, and threatnings violent:
Hence all our suff'rings, torments exquisite,
Varied in thousand formes, appli'de to fright
The harmeles yet (alas!) and spotles Jesuite.

But Cellars large, and cavernes vaulted deep
With bending arches borne, and columnes strong
Under that stately building slyly creep:
Here Bacchus lyes, conceal'd from Juno's wrong,
Whom those cold vaults from hot-breath'd ayers keep.
In place of these wee'l other barrels throng,
Stuf't with those firy sands, and black dry mould,
Which from blue Phlegetons shores that Frier bold
Stole with dire hand, and yet hells force and colour hold.

And when with numbers just the house gins swell,
And every state hath fill'd his station,
When now the King mounted on lofty sell,
With honyed speech and comb'd oration
Charm's every eare, midst of that sugred spell
I'le teare the walls, blow up the nation,
Bullet to heaven the stones with thunders loud,
Equall to th' earth the courts, and turrets proud,
And fire the shaking towne, and quench't with royall blood.

Oh how my dauncing heart leapes in my breast
But to fore-thinke that noble tragedie!
I thirst, I long for that blood-royall feast.
See where their lawes, see, Holy Father, see
Where lawes and Makers, and above the rest
Kings marshal'd in due place through th' ayer flee:
There goes the heart, there th'head, there sindged bones:
Heark, Father, heark; hear'st not those musicke tones?
Some rore, some houle, some shriek; earth, hell, and ayer grones.

Thus sang, and downe he sat; while all the Quire
Attune their ecchoing voices to his layes:
Some Jesuite Pietie, and zealous fire,
Some his deepe reaching wit, and judgement praise:
And all the plot commend, and all admire,
But most great Paul himselfe: a while he stayes,
Then suddaine rising, with embraces long
He hugges his sonne, while yet the passion strong
Wanting due vent, makes teares his words, and eyes his tongue.

At length the heart too full his joy dispers't,
Which mounting on the tongue, thus overflowes:
You Romane Saints, to whose deare reliques herst
In golden shrines every true Catholike bowes,
And thou of lesser gods the best and first,
Great English Thomas, ushering our vowes,
Who giv'st heaven by thy blood, and precious merit,
I see we still your love and helpe inherit,
Who in our need rayse up so true a Romane spirit.

What meed (my Sonne) can Christ, or he above,
Or I beneath, to thy deservings weigh?
What heaven can recompence thy pious love?
In Lateran Church thy statue crown'd with bay
In gold shall mounted stand next highest Jove:
To thee wee'l humbly kneele, and vowe, and pray:
Haile Romes great Patron, ease our restles cares,
Possesse thy heaven, and prosper our affayres,
Even now inure thine eare to our religious prayers.

So up they rose as full of hope, as spight,
And every one his charge with care applies.
Equivocus with heart, and pinions light
Downe posting to th' Infernall shadowes flies;
Fills them with joyes, such joyes as Sonnes of night
Enjoy, such as from sinne and mischiefe rise.
With all they envy, greive, and inly grone
To see themselves out-sinn'd: and every one
Wish't he the Jesuit were, and that dire plot his owne.

[Boas (1908) 1:163-74]

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