1633 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Shepheards Oracles: Eclogue X. Orthodoxus. Catholicus. Nuncius.

The Shepheards Oracles: Delivered in Certain Eglogues. By Fra: Quarles.

Francis Quarles


Speaking in the language of political prophesy common in early Spenserian verse, Orthodoxus and Catholicus hail the achievements of the King of Sweden, fighting the Beast of Rome. But the messenger Nuncius enters with news that dashes their hopes. Gustavus Adolphus (1594-32) was a hero to the radical faction during the time of the Thirty Years War.

Francis Quarles's intentions in this burlesque of Virgil's Pollio Eclogue are less than clear: following the crass combativeness of the previous eclogue, the prophetic language adopted here appears to be bluster in need of deflation. While such a pacific interpretation would accord with Anglican sentiment, Quarles was friendly with Phineas Fletcher and others of a more radical cast. Compare Fletcher's Locustae for a similar prophetic, anti-Catholic rant. The list of evil portents at the close recalls Thomas Randolph's "Upon the Report of the King of Swedens Death" printed in Poems (1638): "Can he be dead, and no portents appeare?"

W. W. Greg: "One of the eclogues opens with a panegyric on Gustavus Adolphus, in the midst of which a messenger enters bearing the news of his death, thus fixing the date of the poem in all probability in the winter of 1632-33" Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama (1906) 118.



ORTHODOXUS.
What news, Catholicus? You lately came
From the great City: what's the voice of Fame?

CATHOLICUS.
The greatest part of what my sense receives,
Is the least part of what my Faith believes:
I search for none: If ought, perchance, I hear
Unaskt, it often dies within my eare,
Untold; What this man, or what that man saith,
Can hardly make a Packhorse on my Faith:
But, now I think on't; There's great talk about
A strange predictious Star, long since, found out
By learned Ticho-brachy, whose portents
Reach, to these Times, they say, and tels th' events
Of strange adventures, whose successe shall bring
Illustrious fame, to a victorious King,
Born in Northern parts; whose glorious arme
Shall draw a sword, a sword that shall be warm
With Austrian blood, and whose loud beaten drum
Shall send, beyond the walls of Christendome,
Her royall-conquering Marches, to controle
(Even from the Artick, to th' Antartick pole)
The spaun of Antichrist, and to engore
Those Bald-pate Panders of proud Babels Whore.

ORTHODOXUS.
May these portents be sure, as they are great;
And may that drum ne're sound her faint retreat,
Till these things take effect: But tell me, Swaine,
How hapt this lucky Comet to remaine
So long in silence, and, at length, to blaze
With us, and be the rumor of our daies.

CATHOLICUS.
There is a Prince, new risen from the North,
Of mighty spirit, and renowned worth;
Prudent and pious; for heroick deeds,
At least a Caesar, in whose heart, the seeds
Of true Religion were so timely sown,
That they are sprung to height, and he is grown
The wonder of his daies; whose louder name
Has blast enough to split the Trump of Fame:
Hast thou beheld the heavens greater eye,
Maskt in a swarthy cloud, how, by and by,
It breaketh forth; and, with his glorious ray,
Gives glory to the discontented day?
So this illustrious Prince, scarce nam'd among
The rank of common Princes, bravely sprung
From his dark Throne; and with his brighter story
Hast soil'd the lustre of preceding glory:
This is that Man, on whom the common eye
Is turn'd; on his adventure does relye
The worlds discourse; this is that flame of fire
We hope shall burn (we hope as we desire)
Proud Babel: this, the arme that shall unhenge
Th' incestuous gates of Sodom, and revenge
The blood of blessed Martyrs spilt, and frying
In flames; (blood, that has been this age a crying
For slow-pac'd vengeance) this is he, whose Throne
This blazing Prophet bent his eye upon.

ORTHODOXUS.
And well it may; The kalender, whereby
We rurall Shepheards calculate, and forespy
Things future, Good or Evill, hath late descry'd
That evill affected planet Mars, ally'd
To temporizing Mercury, conjoyn'd
I' th' house of Death; whereby we Shepheards find
Strange showres of blood, arising from the North,
And flying Southward, likely to breake forth
Upon the Austrian parts, and raise a flood,
To overwhelm that bloody House, with Blood:
That House; which like a Sun in this our Orbe,
Whiffes up the Belgick fumes, and does absorbe
From every Soile rich vapours, and exhale
From Sea and Land, within our Christian pale;
A Sun, the beams of whose Meridian glory
Fill eyes with wonder, and all tongues with story.

CATHOLICUS.
But there's a Viall, to be emptyed out
Upon this glorious Planet; which, no doubt,
Thine eye and mine shall see, within these few
Approaching days; (if Shepheards signes be true)
No doubt, the lingring times are sliding on,
Wherein, this House shall flame, and this bright Sun
Shall lose his light, shall lose his light, and never
Shine more, but be eclips'd, eclips'd for ever:
O Shepheard; If the pray'rs of many a Swain
Have audience, and our hopes be not in vain,
This is that Prince, whose conqu'ring Drum shal beat
Through the proud streets of Room, and shall unseat
The Man of sin; and, with his sword unthrone
The Beast, and trample on his triple Crown:
This is that Angel, whose full hand does grasp
That threatned Viall, and whose fingers clasp
This flaming Fauchin, which shall hew and burn
The lims of Antichrist, and nere return
Into his quiet sheath, till that proud Whore,
That perks so high, lye groveling on the Flore.

ORTHODOXUS.
Shepheard; Me thinks, when my glad ears attends
Upon his fair successe, his Actions, Ends,
His Valour, Wisdome, Piety, when I scan
All this, me thinks, I think on more then Man:
O, how my soul lies down before the feet
Of this brave Prince! O, how my blessings greet
Each obvious action, whose loud breath I dare
Not hear, unprosper'd with my better pray'r:
I must forget the peace of Sion, when
I cease to honour this brave Man of men:
Had Plutarch liv'd till now, to blazon forth
His life, (as sure he would) what Prince of worth,
Or Greek, or Roman, had his single story
Selected out to parallel his Glory?

CATHOLICUS.
O Shepheard, he, whose service is employ'd
In heavens high battels, can doe nothing void
Of fame, and wonder; nothing, lesse then glorious:
Heavens Champion must prevail; must be victorious:
But, O, what hap! what happinesse have wee,
The last, and dregs of Ages, thus to see
These hopefull Times; nay more, to sit beneath,
Beneath our quiet Vines, and think of death
By leisure, when Spring-tides of blood o'rewhelms
The interrupted peace of forain Realms!
Our painfull Oxen plough our peacefull grounds;
Our quiet streets nere startle at the sounds
Of Drums or Trumpets; neither Wolf, nor Fox
Disturb the Folds of our encreasing Flocks:
Our Kids, and sweet-fac'd Lambs can frisk, and feed
In our fresh Pastures, whilst our Oaten Reed
Can breath her merry strains, and voice can sing
Her frolick Past'rals to our Shepheard-King.

ORTHODOXUS.
'Tis not for our deserts; or that our ways
Are more upright, then theirs of former days:
We lay the Pelion of our new Transgressions
Upon our Fathers Ossa: The Confessions
Of our offences; nay, our very pray'rs
Are more corrupt then the worst sins of theirs:
Sure, Swain, the streams of Mercy run more clear
Then they were wont; Her smiling eyes appear
More gracious now, in these our Borean climes,
Then other Nations, or in former times.

CATHOLICUS.
Shepheard; Perchance, some fifty righteous men,
Perchance, but thirty; Peradventure, ten
Have made our peace: Perchance, th' Almighties eare
Has found a Moses, or some Phineas, here.

ORTHODOXUS.
Vengeance, that threatned sinfull Israels crime,
For Davids sake, nere stirr'd all Davids time:
'Twas Davids piety did suspend the blow
Of Vengeance: Have not we a David too?
A Prince; whose worth, what our poor tongues can scatter,
May rather wrong for want of height, then flatter;
A pious Prince; whose very Actions preach
Rare Doctrines; does, what others doe but teach:
A Prince; whom neither flames of youth can fire,
Nor beauty adde the least to his desire;
Whose eyes are like the eyes of Turtles, chast;
Can view ten thousand dainties, and yet tast
But one; but in that dainty, can digest
The perfect Quintessence of all the rest:
A Prince, that (briefly to characterize him)
Wants nothing, but a People, how to prize him.
Evill Princes, oft, draw plagues upon the Times,
Whereas good Princes salve their peoples Crimes.

CATHOLICUS.
Thou hast not spoken many things, but much;
Such is our People, and our Prince is such:
Such fierce temptations still attend upon
The glitt'ring Pompe of the Imperiall Throne,
I, either wonder Princes should be good,
Or else conceive them not of Flesh and Blood:
What change of pleasure can his soul command,
And not obtain, being Lord of all the Land?
What bold? what ventrous spirit dare enquire
Into the lawfulnesse of his desire?
What Crown-controlling Nathan dare begin
To question Vice? or call his sin, a sin?
Who is't, that will not undertake to be
His sins Attorney? Nay, what man is he
That will not temporize, and fan the fire
T' encrease the flames of his unblown desire?
What place may not be secret? or what eye
Dare (under pain of putting out) once pry
Into his Closet? or what season will
Not wait upon his pleasure, to fulfill
His royall lust? what chast Sophronia would
Wound her own heart, for fear her Soverain should?
O Shepheard, what a Prince have we, that can
Continue just, and yet continue Man!
No doubt, but vengeance would confound these times,
Were not his Goodnesse far above our crimes
Alas; Our happy Age (that has enjoy'd
The best, the best of Princes, and is cloy'd
With prosp'rous Plenty, and the sweet increase
Of right-hand Blessings) in this glut of peace,
Loaths very Quails and Manna; we are strangers
To those hard evils, to those continuall dangers
That cleave to States, wherein poor subjects grone
Beneath the Vices of th' Imperiall Throne:
They cannot prize good Princes, that nere had
The too too dear experience of a bad:
Who knows not Pharoh? Or the plagues, that brake
Upon the people for hard Pharohs sake?

ORTHODOXUS.
The Acts of Princes mount with Eagle-wings:
Few know th' Alliance between God and Kings.

CATHOLICUS.
Look, Shepheard, look! Whose hasty feet are they
That trace the Plains so quick? They bend this way.

ORTHODOXUS.
His steps divide apace; Pray God, his hast
Be good: Good tidings seldome come so fast.

CATHOLICUS.
I think 'tis Nuncius.

ORTHODOXUS.
Nuncius never uses
To come unnews'd.

CATHOLICUS.
I wonder what the news is?

ORTHODOXUS.
See, how he strikes his breast!

CATHOLICUS.
Good Lord, how sad
His countenance seems!

ORTHODOXUS.
What, Nuncius, good or bad?

CATHOLICUS.
Bad! Worse! The worst of worsts! The heaviest news
That lips ere broach'd, or language can diffuse!
O, earths bright Sun's eclips'd! Ah me! is drench'd
In blood! His flames are quench'd, for ever quench'd:
That light, which wondring Shepheards did adore,
Is out; will never shine on Shepheard more:
Expect no Sunshine from the beams of Suede;
Sueden, the glory of the world, is dead:
Our strength is broke, and all our hopes are vain;
Sueden, the glory of the world, is slain:
Our Sun is set, and earth now wants a Sun;
Sueden, the glory of the earth is gone:
Gone, gone for ever to eternall night;
Earth wants her Sueden; and the world, her light.

CATHOLICUS.
Fond hopes! why damp ye not my dull belief,
To lend a little respite to my grief?
What ailes my passion to beleeve so soon
The Evill it feares? Can Phoebus, in the noon
Of his Meridian glory, cease to shine,
Before his Solstice leaves him to decline
The least degree? Can brave Adolphus fall,
And heaven not give us warning? none at all?
There was no Comet blaz'd: no apparition
Of kindled Meteors, lent the least suspition:
Me thinks, the heavens should flame, and earths foundation,
Should shake, against so great an alteration.

ORTHODOXUS.
But is it certain, Nuncius?

NUNCIUS.
I, too sure:
The wounds of death admit no hopes of cure.

ORTHODOXUS.
God knows his own designs: His sacred brest
Knows where to propagate his glory best:
His hidden ways agree not with our eyes:
His wars must prosper, though his Champion dyes:
We must not question Fate: where heaven thinks fit
To doe, we must be silent, and submit:
We must not look too near; we must not prye;
Perhaps, young Joshuah lives, though Moses dye:
Give Suede his honour, and enroll his name
Among the Worthies, in the book of Fame:
Give him the honour of his double story,
Begun in Grace, and perfected in Glory:
But let our fond Indulgence be adviz'd,
In hon'ring Sueden, heaven be not dispriz'd:
We must not languish, in a morall thirst,
T' advance the second Cause, and sleight the first;
We must not droop, for want of Suedes Alarm,
As if that heaven were bound to Suedens Arm:
That God, that hath recall'd our Sueden, can
Make a new Sueden of a common Man.

CATHOLICUS.
But see! The drooping day begins to do'n
His mourning weeds; The sullen night draws on:
'Tis time to fold our sheep; They little know,
Or feel those sorrows, their poor Shepheards do:
Shepheards, farewell; Perchance the morrow light
May shine forth better news:

ORTHODOXUS.
God night.

NUNCIUS.
God night.

[pp. 117-27]