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ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Shepheards Oracle: delivered in an Eglogue.

The Shepheards Oracle: delivered in an Eglogue.

Francis Quarles


Philarchus and Philorthus, two Anglican clergymen, lament the "enormous crimes | Of our Profession, heightened with the times" resulting in the disestablishment of the Church. They are interrupted by Anarchus, who sings an uproarious ballad: "Lawn sleeves and Rochets shal go down, | And hey! then up we go." The Shepheards Oracle was published without a signature.

Preface: "Whose soever these Lines were, Readers they are now yours. The Authors name is obscured, not for that he dares not owne them, but that he will not. The Sense of this Eclogue is covered with a vaile, but so thin that an easie eye may transpect it. Lord, what times are these, when harmelesse Truth is dasht so out of Countenance, that she dare not appeare but when she comes in a disguize! If I have done the Author wrong in publishing his Lines, not according to his minde, be you candid in protecting them according to their merit" sig. Av.

Francis Quarles achieves a fine effect by having Anarchus speak in ballad-measure and printing his song in double-columns like a broadside. A postscript informs us that it had indeed been sold as such: "A word more to the Reader. The Author, (as I am informed) being not over curious of this Peece, was made bold with, concerning the speech of Anarchus; which hath been nos'd by the Balad-singers about the streets of London, with some additions of their owne, to make up a full penny worth: What you had then be stealth, now yee have by purchase, which with all the rest you may lawfully (if you please) now call your owne" A word more to the Reader, p. 14.

Robert Aris Willmott: "The 'bleeding nation' was constantly at his heart. 'His love to his king and country,' says his widow, "in these late unhappy times of distraction, was manifest, in that he used his pen, and poured out his continual prayers and tears, to quench this miserable fire of dissension, while too many others added daily fuel to it'" Lives of Sacred Poets (1834) 217.

W. W. Greg: "The whole song for sheer rollicking hypocrisy is without parallel in the language" Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama (1906) 119.



PHILARCHUS.
Shepheard, ah Shepheard, what sad dayes have we
(More sad then those sad dayes) surviv'd to see!
How is the guilt of our forefathers crimes,
Revengd on us in these distracted times!
How is the Shepheards honour, that while ere
Shone like the morning Star; and did appeare
To all the world, like Heraulds to make knowne
Th' approaching Glory of the rising Sun!
How is that honour dim! how is her light
Clouded in shades of Ignorance and night!
How is our Calling slighted, and that power
Our Master lent us, threatned every howre!
How are our worried Names become the scorne
Of every base Mechanick! rent and torne
In every vulgar mouth? reproacht and made
Delinquents, judgd by every triviall Trade!
How are our persons scornd, contemnd, revild,
Nay even by him whose schoole-instructed child
Jeeres at his ignorance; and oft by him
Whose sinking fortunes teaches how to swim
With zealous Bladders, being apt to steale
Advantage from the times, and trade in Zeale.
How are we growne the By-word of the land,
Commanded now, where late we did command!
Prest like a Vintage, banded like a Ball?
Despisd of many, and disprisd of all!

PHILORTHUS.
True my Philarchus; Shepheards never found
So hard a time; Ah fortune never frownd
So sterne till now; Presumptious Ignorance
Had nere till now the boldnesse to advance
Her beetle browes, or once to tread the Stage
Of this blest Island in so bright an Age.
But ah! when Lights grow dim and dull, what hand
Can keep out darknesse? who can countermand
The melancholly shades of ugly night
When heaven wants Lamps, or when those Lamps want Light?
Come Shepheard come, (here's none but Thee and I)
We taxe the Times, but could the times reply
They'd vindicate their evils, and lay their crimes
On us poore Shepheards that thus taxe the Times.
Had we burnt bright, had our refulgent Rayes
Given lustre to the world, and fill'd our dayes
With glorious brightnesse, how had darknesse found
A place for entrance? where could shadowes ground
Their ayery errands? or what soule could taint
Our Sun-bright names? what evill could cause complaint?
How blest! how more then blest had Shepheards been,
Had Shepheards beene so happy to have seene
But their owne happinesse; Had the waxen-wings
Of their ambitious thoughts not aymd at things
Beyond their pitch; Had they beene wise to move
In their owne Orbes, and not like Phaeton rove
Through the wilde Labyrinth of th' Olimpick Tower,
And search'd the secrets of too vast a power,
Their Glory had not found so short a date,
Nor causd combustion in so calm a State.

PHILARCHUS.
Admit all this Philorthus (for who can
Consider frailty and not think of Man?)
Shall some few staines in the full Lampe of night
Cry down the Moone, and wooe the Stars for light?
What if thy too neglected Soyle abound
With noysome Weeds? wilt thou disclaime the ground?
Or wouldst thou dry the earths full breast, that feeds
Thy fragrant Flowers, because it Fosters Weeds?
Ah, my Philorthus, thus the cause now stands
With us poore Swaynes, The power of our hands,
Entrusted there by our all-wise God Pan,
(To whom the frailties of collapsed Man
Was knowne too well) for some disorders growne
Among us Swaines is cry'd, is voted downe;
And that faire Livelyhood that late maintaind
Those love-preserving Festivals which chaind
Our mutuall hearts in links of love, which clad
The naked Orphan, and reliev'd the sad
Afflicted Widow, and releas'd the bands
Of the leane Prisoner grip'd with the hard hands
Of his too just Oppressor; this they say
Is to be shortned, if not snatcht away.

PHILORTHUS.
Ah, gentle Shepheard, heaven, ah, heavens forefend,
Those Tydes should ebb that flow to such an end;
But some we feare bin more corrupt then so;
They'r two things, what they should, and what they do.

PHILARCHUS.
True my Philorthus, some lewd Swaines there be
That have more Bags then Bowels, that can see
Pale misery panting at their Lordly gates,
Answerd with Statutes, and repulsive Rates;
Whose hard, whose Adamantine eare can brooke
The sad Complaints of those (who cannot looke
Beyond the Prospect of consuming Griefe)
Without Remorse at all, without Reliefe;
Whose wanton tables, deckt with costly fare,
Pamper their idle bodies, and prepare
Oyle for their Lust, whose craving thoughts, made poore
With too much wealth, condemne themselves to more;
And such they be Philorthus whose lewd fames
And lives have poysond the illustrious names
Of reverend Shepheards, whose ambitious Pride
Hath brought contempt, and made the world deride
What late it honour'd; now disdaind, abhord
By whom they were as much, ere while, ador'd.
Ah Shepheard these are they whose vaine Ambition
Made us sad Partners in the worlds derision;
But that which wounds my soule beyond redresse,
And aggravates my griefe above excesse,
Those Past'rall staves wherewith those reverend Sages
Of former times have rul'd so many ages,
And by a settled Government, exilde
Confus'd disorder, the prodigious Childe
Of factious Anarchie, Those Rods of power
That rul'd our swaines by day, and did secure
Their Folds by night, are threatned from our hands,
And all our Flocks to bow to new Commands.

PHILORTHUS.
It cannot be, the great Assembly's wise;
Has many Heads, and twice as many Eyes,
Eyes bright as day, that view both things and times,
Fast closd to Persons, open to their Crimes:
Judgement, not Fancy, moves in that bright Sphere;
There are not Ends, no by-Respects are there:
The care of Truth and zeale of publique Rest
Rests in their restlesse, their united brest:
Heav'n be their Guide, and may their pains encrease
Heav'ns glory, and this glorious Islands peace;
Ah, thinkst thou Shepheard, their heav'n-guided heart
Will venture to decline his wayes, or start
From Heav'ns Example? Heav'n was pleasd to beare
With very Sodom, had but ten been there
That had beene righteous; loath to mixe the blood
Of guilty thousands with some few of good:
No question Shepheard but the enormous crimes
Of our Profession, heightened with the times,
Are foule enough; nor could such Actions lye
Conceald and clos'd before so cleare an Eye;
And being seene, how could they choose but grate
The groaning Feoffees of our tottering State?
How could our growing greatnesse choose but blow
And quicken up their zealous flames? or how
Could our untam'd Ambition hope to stand
Against the power of so great a hand?
But they are just and wise, and wisdome still
Shews rather what it can, then what it will.
When publique Justice threatens, it propounds
Way for amendment, rather then confounds:
And far lesse cost and dammage will ensue
To weede old Gardens, then to dig a new.

PHILARCHUS.
True, Shepheard, But they plead for want of dressing
Our Garden's forfeited, and they are pressing
Hard for Reentry; They have seald a deed
Upon the ground, intending to proceed
Next Tearme t' Ejectment, by which meanes they'l stand
A new possest and re-enjoy the Land.

PHILORTHUS.
Shepheard, we hold in Ferme from great god Pan;
His Counsell drew the Lease; If wiser Man
Can finde a flaw, our weaknesse must appeale
To Pan's Vicegerant; He will vouch the Seale
Faire and authentick: If the Common Lawes
Condemne our Right, by vertue of that Clause
Of heedlesse Forfeiture, O then we flye
To be reliev'd in the high Chancery,
That uncorrupted Court that now does rest
In the great Chamber of th' Assemblies brest:
Ther's Judgment there, which idle heapes of gold
Despaires to bribe, And Conscience there's unsold:
Poore Shepheardes, there, shall find as faire accesse,
As Peere, as Princes, and as just redresse.

PHILARCHUS.
Heav'n be our great Protection, and close
Their suits-attending eares against all those,
Whom rayling Ignorance, and frantick Zeale
Hath onely taught the way to say, and feale,
And set their marks, not having skill to shape
A letter; or, without a Lye, to scape
The danger of Non legit, whose profession
Is onely to scorne Lambeth, and discretion:
These be fit men Philorthus to descend
Into these Lists, sweet Champions to contend
About these Myst'ries, likely to confound
Those famous Worthies that have searcht the ground
Of sage Antiquity; wherein of old,
Our Government was wrapt, and still enroll'd.

PHILORTHUS.
Come Shepheard come, our great Assemblie's wise,
And for a while, in policy complies
With the rude Multitude, who must have day,
To breath their Humours, which would else breake way,
Like earth-imprisoned Aire, whose sudden birth
Startles the world, and shakes the shivering earth:
It is the nature of the vulgar brest
Still to mislike, and count that State the best
Which they enjoy not; Pleas'd with Novelties,
They grow impatient of the old, and prize
What's next in hope; more happy in expectation
Then when possest; all fire to Alteration:
But Shepheard know; our grave Assembly pryes
Where they nere view'd, and lookes with clearer eyes;
Their wisdomes know, what sudden Change portends:
Things rash begun, too oft in danger ends;
But unavoided Ruine daily waites
On suddaine change of fundamentall States.

PHILARCHUS.
I but Philorthus, whilst the State complies
With the tumultuous Vulgar, tumults rise,
And rude disorder creeps into our playnes,
Swaines will be Shepheards, Coblers will be Swaines;
Flocks are disturb'd, and pastures are defac'd;
Swaines are despis'd, and Shepheards are disgrac'd,
Orders are laught to scorne; and, in conclusion,
Our Kingdome's turn'd into a Chaos of confusions.

PHILORTHUS.
Why Shepheard, there's the Plot: the surest way
To take the Fish, is give her leave to play,
And yeild her Line; He best can cure the Cause
That markes th' effect; Evill manners breed good Lawes:
The wise Assembly knowing well the length
Of the rude popular foote, with what a strength
The vulgar fancy still pursues the Toy
That's last presented, leaves them to enjoy
Their uncontrolled wils, untill they tyre
And quickly sufeit on their own desire,
Whose wild Disorders secretly confesse
Needfull support of what they'd most suppresse:
But who comes here? Anarchus?

PHILARCHUS.
'Tis the same;

PHILORTHUS.
How like a Meteor made of Zeale and flame
The man appeares?

PHILARCHUS.
Or like a blazing Star
Portending change of State, or some sad Warre;
Or death of some good Prince.

PHILORTHUS.
He is the trouble
Of three sad Kingdomes.

PHILARCHUS.
Even the very Bubble,
The froth of troubled waters;

PHILORTHUS.
Hee's a Page
Fill'd with Errata's of the present Age;

PHILARCHUS.
The Churches Scourge;

PHILORTHUS.
The devils Enchiridion

PHILARCHUS.
The Squib, the Ignis fatuus of Religion:
But hee's at hand: Anarchus what's the newes?

PHILORTHUS.
In a Browne studie?

PHILARCHUS.
Speechlesse?

PHILORTHUS.
In a Muse?

ANARCHUS.
Man, if thou be'st a Babe of Grace,
And of an holy Seed,
I will reply incontinent,
And in my words proceed;
But if thou art a Childe of wrath,
And lewd in conversation,
I will not then converse with thee,
Nor hold communication.

PHILORTHUS.
I trust Anarchus, we all three inherit
The self same Gifts, and share the selfe same Spirit.

ANARCHUS.
Know then my brethren, heav'n is cleare
And all the Clouds are gon;
The Righteous now shall flourish, and
Good dayes are comming on;
Come then, my Brethren, and be glad
And eke rejoyce with me;
Lawn sleeves and Rochets shal go down,
And, hey! then up go we.

Wee'l breake the windowes which the Whore
Of Babilon hath painted,
And when the Popish Saints are down
Then Barow shalbe Sainted;
Ther's neither Crosse nor Crucifixe
Shall stand for men to see;
Romes trash and trumperies shall go down,
And, hey! then up go we.

What ere the Popish hands have built
Our Hammers shall undoe;
Wee'l breake their Pipes and burne their Copes,
And pull downe Churches too:
Wee'l exercise within the Groves,
And teach beneath a Tree,
Wee'l make a Pulpit of a Cart,
And, hey! then up go we.

Wee'l downe with all the Varsities
Where Larning is profest,
Because they practise and maintaine
The language of the Beast:
Wee'l drive the Doctors out of doores,
And Arts what ere they be,
Wee'l cry both Arts and Larning downe,
And, hey! then up go we.

Wee'l down with Deanes and Prebends too,
But I rejoyce to tell ye,
How then we will eate Pig our fill,
And Capon by the belly:
Wee'l burne the Fathers witty Tomes,
And make the Schoole-men flee,
Wee'l down with all that smels of wit,
And, hey! then up go we.

If once that Antichristian crew
Be crusht and overthrowne,
Wee'l teach the Nobles how to croutch,
And keep the Gentry downe;
Good manners have an evill report,
And turnes to pride we see,
Wee'l therefore cry good manners down,
And, hey, then up go we.

Our Coblers shall translate their Soules
From Caves obscure and shady,
Wee'l make Tom T— as good as my Lord
And Joane as good as my Lady.
Wee'l crush and fling the marriage Ring
Into the Roman See;
Wee'l ask no bands, but even clap hands
And hey! then up go we.

PHILARCHUS.
Heaven keep such vermin hence: If sinfull dust
May boldly chuse a punishment, and trust
Their own desires, let famin plague or Sword,
A treacherous friend, or (what is more abhor'd)
A foolish-faire contentious wife, first seize
On our sad soules, then such wild beasts as these.

ANARCHUS.
Surely thou art an Hypocrite.
A lewd false hearted Brother;
I find thou art a Child of Rome,
And smell the whore thy Mother.

PHILORTHUS.
Away false varlet; come not neere my flockes;
Thou taint'st my pastures; Neither Wolfe nor Fox
If halfe so furious; They, by stealth, can prey,
Perchance, upon a Lambe, and so away;
But thy blood-thirsty malice is so bold,
Before my face to poyson all my fold:
I warn thee hence; come not within my list;
Be still, what thou art thought, a Separatist.

ANARCHUS.
Thou art the spawne of Antichrist,
And so is this thy Brother;
Thou art a man of Beliall,
And he is such another:
I say thou art a Priest of Baal,
And surely I defie thee;
To Satan I will leave thy soule,
And never more come nigh thee.

PHILARCHUS.
A gentle riddance: O may never crosse
Fall heavier on this Land, then such a losse.

PHILORTHUS.
But thinkst thou, Swaine, the great Assemblies eye
Beholds not these base Sycophants that lye
Close gnawing at the roote, as well as those,
That with the Romish Axe, strike down right blows
On the maine body of Religions tree?
Think'st thou their sharp-ey'd Providence can see
The Chamber Councels, and the close designes
Of forraigne Princes, and their secret Mines
Of State Invention? Can their wisdomes rome
Through all the world, and yet be blinde at home?
No, no; Philarchus, the Assemblies hand
Feeles but, as yet, the Pulses of the Land,
Seeks out the ev'll; and, with a skillful eye,
Enquiers where the peccant humours lye:
But when th' apparent Symptomes shall disclose
The certaine griefes that vexe and discompose
Our universall Body; then, no doubt,
Their active Wisdomes soone will cast about,
To make a glorious Cure, which shall enhaunce
Heav'ns greater glory, settle and advaunce
The rest of groaning Sion, to th' encrease
Of their own honour, and great Britains peace.

PHILARCHUS.
My bended knee shall never rise till then

PHILORTHUS.
Heav'n nere shall rest, till Heav'n shall say Amen.

[pp. 1-14]