19 sonnets, followed by an ode in six ababcc stanzas addressed "To the sad houshold of Prince Henry." The anonymous poet employs images, diction, and sentiments that suggest Spenser; in reflecting on fame and mutability in the sonnet form he is very likely inspired by the Complaints volumes. In the later sonnets the self-consciousness with which the poet dramatizes his poetic role, and his appropriation of pastoral and heroic poetic modes is also Spenserian.
"B. L. O.": "This curious tract consists of nineteen sonnets, and an address 'to the sad household of prince Henry.' ... Few publications of this nature possess greater claim to notice than that now before me. It much resembles the Period of Mourning by Peacham, written at the same time and on the same occasion, which is reprinted by Waldron in his Literary Museum, 8vo. 1792. But the following extracts will enable the reader to judge for himself of the merits or defects of the poet" British Bibliographer 4 (1814) 37-38.
Ruth Wallerstein: "I have listed Great Brittans Mourning Garment among Spenserian poems. In themes it is perhaps only dimly so, and rather to be seen against more general backgrounds of the Renaissance humanism to which Spenser owes so much. To the materials of the pastoral elegy it is related by its sonnets of outcry agains Saturn and the Fates, by the lament of the nymphs and of the rivers, by its expression of the pathos of youth untimely dead, while evil remains abroad in the world, by the flower image in which this theme is several times embodied" Seventeenth-Century Poetic (1950) 65.
Dennis Kay: "The title ... recalls Henry Chettle's miscellany, Englands mourning garment, on Queen Elizabeth, and thereby locates itself within the Spenserian tradition" Melodious Tears (1990) 155.
TO THE HONORABLE KNIGHT, SIR DAVID MURRAY. AND TO THE OTHER NOBLY DISCENDED, AND HONORABLY MINDED FOLLOWERS OF THE LATE DECEASED PRINCE HENRY.
On whom shall I these funerall notes bestow,
Newly bedeaw'd and hallowed with my teares?
But on you chiefly, for your secret woe
The heaviest burthen of our sorrow beares;
We but as strangers on the shore lament,
A common ship-wracke, but you that did owe
Your service to that golden vessel (rent)
What wonder if your griefes doe over-flow?
By how much greater your faire fortunes were,
The losse is so much greater you sustaine,
We meaner men may our mischances beare
With lesser trouble, and more equall paine,
Yet spare your teares though you have cause to mone
It is not meete you should lament alone.
Melpomene, and all you sacred brood,
Of Mnemosine with living Lawrell crown'd,
You that have fill'd your veins with heavenly foode
And scorne to pray upon the barraine ground,
Helpe me these Funerall Anthems to resound.
For his sweet soule, who living lov'd you deere
But now is dead, and other Saints hath found,
Leaving you to lament his fortunes here.
Strow Cypresse, and pale Violets on his Tombe,
And on his faire Crest fixe a Crowne of Bayes
Immortall, That who'ever there doth come
May view the Ensignes of his endlesse praise:
And let some Spirit garde the holy Cell,
Wherein the bones of that brave Prince shal dwel.
You gentle spirits that turne not your eyes
From common griefes, nor are of mettall made
Such as these Iron Ages do comprise;
Come see, wherein our humane glory lies:
See living vertues in death daily fade,
Wither'd and wasted in th' unthankfull grave:
For as a flower, or Sommers passing shade;
Such is the hope and fortune wordlings have:
Oh noble Prince, thy daies but new begun,
And that same Ensign long since brought from France
By Edward the black-Prince, third Edwards Sonne,
Being by thee but lately re-advanc't;
Why should such honor into darknes goe,
And leave so many friends so full of woe?
Oh froward Saturne, and malevolent,
That every blooming glory dost envie,
And with thy frosts dost nip the buds yet pent
In their greene bowers through thy vilde Jealousie,
And hatefull malice to all living things.
Why dost thou spread on us thy dismall light
Covering our fairest flowers with thy cold wings?
How farre art thou unlike to Phoebus bright,
That joyes to see the smallest blossom thrive,
And throwes his gentle light on every thing?
But thou, perverse, dost all of life deprive,
Man, Beast, and Plant thou dost to ruine bring:
Unlucky Starre, albeit thou thought'st him fit
To stoop to thee, thou might'st have spar'd him yet.
And you foule wrinckled destinies that do sit,
In darknes to deprive the world of light
Making the thread, and sodaine mangling it,
Through peevish rancour, and perverse despight.
Your hand appeares in this our Tragedie,
The wound we feele, by your sharp edge was made.
That edge which cut the golden twist so nigh
Of our Prince HENRY, who in liveles shade
As yet amased of his sodaine change
Lookes for those loving friends whom he lov'd best;
But when he sees himselfe so farre estrang'd,
He Yields his spirit to eternall rest:
Hard-hearted fates, that him of life deprive,
That leaves so many mournfull friends alive.
Sad Melancholy lead me to the Cave
Where thy black Incense and dim Tapers burne,
Let me some darke and hollow corner have,
Where desolate my sorrowes I may mourne:
And let thy heaviest Musick softly sound
Unto the doleful songs that I recite;
And ever let this direfull voice rebound
Through the vast den: Ah dead is Britans light;
Then if thy heart be with compassion mov'd
Of my Laments, come rest thy selfe by me,
And mourne with me, for thou hast ever lov'd
To beare a part in every Tragedie:
And if to plaints thou wilt inure thy minde,
Thou never couldst a fitter season finde.
Who in some earthly Paradise hath espide,
And long time view'd with pleasure of his eye
A well growne Plant, adorn'd on every side
With beauteous blossomes lifted up on high,
Ready when his due season shall require,
To yeild the sweet fruite of his boasted flowers,
But all on sodaine with heavens liquid fire
Is blasted, and on earth untimely powers,
His unripe glorie by his Fate prevented:
Who such a luckles spectacle hath knowne;
Let him compare the fortune then presented
Unto Prince HENRIES Fate, and let him mone
That he to leave all Tropheis now is seene,
Whose Crest of late was honored with, ICH Dien.
They that shall see Prince HENRIES sad built Tomb,
And think his corps are only shrouded there,
Erre farre from truth, nor seem to understand
How many vertues in that Worthy were.
A thousand graces with him buried lie,
A thousand Triumphs, and a thousand loves,
With him the life of honor seems to die,
And that brave troop of Nymphs that from the groves
Were wont to tread the measures through the green;
Since Henries death into dark caves are fled,
Nor ever since of mortall eye were seene,
So that the world reports that they are dead,
And sooth, I know not, but they lov'd him so,
That 'tis no wonder if they died for woe.
Even as the subsistance of a shooting star
Grown great by Time, now ready with new light
Throughout the world to spread his glory farre,
And emulate the raies of Titan bright,
Soone as the hoped fire hath given him powre,
To shew his glory, and aloft to shine,
Even in a moment in the self-same hower,
His golden head does downe to earth encline;
And those Illustrious beams which lately sent
Such star-like brightnes do to darknes turne,
And all his glorious hope so quickly spent,
Leaves but a smoaky cloud his end to mourne,
So did Prince HENRY in his glory fall,
And left us nothing but his funerall.
You sacred Forrests, and you spotles streams
That part the flowery medows with your fall,
You water-Nymphes and Ladies of the Tea'ms,
And thou dread Thamesis, mother of them all;
With brinish teares weep in your sandy Ford:
Weep fields, and groves, and you poore Driads weep,
The sodaine Funerall of our Brittish Lord,
Whose eyes are now clos'd up in iron sleepe.
Both trees, and streams, lament his loss that lov'd
Your silver waters, and wide spreading shades,
But now is farre away from you remoov'd,
Unto a Paradice that never fades,
There in eternall happinesse to remaine,
But we in sorrow here, and ceasless paine.
Oh how uncertaine are the daies of Man?
How many dangers undermine our joyes?
Suppose we shun the stormy Ocean,
Nor stand agast at Cannons fearefull noise,
Admit we put Achilles Armour on,
That never could be pierc'd by mortall Iron,
Or live enclos'd in towres of brasse or stone,
Such as no power of enemy can eviron.
Yet are we not secure from stroake of death,
Our foe we nourish even in our breasts,
The venemous disease that stops our breath:
Oh learn to cast out such ungratefull guests,
Thy fortunes Henry had not falne out so,
If thou hadst fear'd none but an outward foe.
Awake Euterpe my dull drooping Song
With thy melodious thundring blastes awhile:
Helpe thou my fainting fury to prolong,
And powre new fire into my frozen stile:
Then like a bould enchanter I will call,
The mournfull shadowes from infernall deepe,
They know best how t' adorne a Funerall
Or what rights doe belong to them that sleepe.
No: Rest you ghosts, possesse your quiet peace,
My griefes forbid me to disturbe the dead,
And rest fond teares, and fruitlesse Dirges cease,
But thou that with thy Trumpet shril dost spread
The praise of worthies (oh impartiall fame)
Helpe me to celebrate Prince Henries name.
What grace, what fortuns could our hearts invent
While yet Prince Henry in his cradel lay?
That did not following joyne in one consent
To make him fortunate to his dying day.
Shal I recount the honours with him borne,
Which from his worthy Ancestors were deriv'd?
Or those rare vertues, which his mind adorn'd?
Or shall these notes his man-like actions praise;
(Whereof too soone our senses are depriv'd?)
Or comely gestures when he pleasd to grace
The Lordly revells, and a thousand wayes,
The winding measure with his steps to trace:
I, there my Muse if thou for greefe could stay,
We might passe over a long summers day.
You holy Angels, and you powers of light,
And you that in old Abrahams bosome rest,
The glad enjoyers of Gods glorious sight
Have you receiv'd your sanctified guest?
Hath Henry the Caelestiall seat obtain'd?
Shines he in roabes of immortality?
And of his well runne race the crowne now gain'd,
Scornes he our earthly Pompe, and Majesty?
For while his jolly Pilgrimage did last,
His guiltless hands were free from bloud, and strife;
Voide of vaine pride, and as the snow new chac't
From her high Mansion, was his thread of life,
True Christian faith endu'd with constant minde,
And unto such the promise was assign'd.
Whereto shall I Prince Henries life compare?
His Infancy ev'n to those beams that shine,
Before the Sunne unmaskes his visage bare
Beating the shadowes from his goulden eyne.
And those bright houres, that with their temperate heat
Glad the greene earth, and teach the birds to sing,
And Swaines their ancient Carrols to repeat:
Those that present his ripe yeeres in their spring
Thus still with fresh delights, and glory led,
Till the slow shep-heard doth his flock enfould,
And th' evening Sun on the dry earth does spread
New pleasing light, then sodainely behold
Night comes, and chases HENRIES life away,
And makes it like unto a Sommers day.
I Muse from whence these forward tears shold flow
Or when our minde of secret griefe complaines,
Why though unwilling through our eyes wee show
The inward passion of our hidden paines.
I know our sighes are but the cooling ayre,
Wherewith our fainting heart we doe sustaine,
That els would smother in her owne despaire,
All comfort thankles breathing back againe.
But wherefore Nature should in open view,
Create two fountaines full of living source:
Whether so soone as we find cause to rue,
Our Passions make their generall recourse
Who knowes? unlesse thereby we should reveale
That our true sorrowes we should not conceale.
Mother of heavinesse yeeld me one request,
For many drops upon thine Altar shed,
Since thou thy mournful galleries hast drest
With carefull monuments of th' untimely dead:
To feed with view of their callamities
Thy pensive humour, and self-hating sight,
For there Troyes Queene in painted languour lies,
And forlorne Dido rob'd of her delight
Kneeles on the burning pile: There Mausolus tomb:
There stands Pyrene wept into a spring,
And with his love Marke Anthony of Rome,
Their griefe in dead imbracements uttering,
Among these spectacles let a Herse bee made
For wofull HENRY that may never fade.
Once more Melpomene grant thy willing aide,
I sing not now of franticke Progne's change,
Nor of the boy transform'd into a maide:
Nor how the girle did like a Heifar range.
Farre sadder notes, my sullen Musicke yeelds,
Farre other dreames afflict my sad repose
Of broken Tombes, and of th' Elisian fields,
And of the scathfull flouds, that Dis enclose.
But let such vaine thoughts vanish with my sleepe,
And of Prince Henries death now let us sing,
And teach the Rockes on Monas shores to weepe,
And fright the sea with their vast bellowing:
That Neptune hearing of their pitteous cry,
May thinke that all the Westerne world did die.
Thou shalt not die Prince HENRY, if my songs
Hereafter tuned to a higher key
Can sound the honour that to thee belongs,
With sacred murmur of eternity:
With Cordelion in the Towres of Fame,
And with the dreadfull HENRIES of this land,
(Oh nev'r on earth did sound a mightier name)
Thy meeker Image crown'd with Bayes shall stand:
Then shall my Accents break with more successe,
But now rude grief that no adornment beares
Smothers my notes, and bids me but expresse
A sodaine sorrow with my simple teares:
Sufficieth me while thy sweet Ghost doth sleep,
Long over it with watry eyes to weep.
TO THE SAD HOUSHOLD OF PRINCE HENRY.
If vertue, goodnes, and a sober life,
If gravity, and wisdome in yong yeeres,
If a thrice honour'd state, voide of all strife
And all good gifts that mans perfection bears,
Could but have stopt the fatall hand of death,
Then worthy HENRY still had drawn his breath.
Whose flesh and Spirit disjoyn'd but for a time,
With stedfast hope parted to meet againe,
His heavenly parts upwards to heaven do climbe;
His earthly must a while in earth remaine,
Till death hath less to kill, and man to die,
And Time given place to all Eternitie.
For so the Canon of eternall date,
Hath praeordain'd (things bounded must obey)
Vertue is an immortall estimate,
Which neither Time nor Death can over-sway
By her Prince HENRY lives; for vertues fame
Eterniseth his memorable name.
Whose hope-full Age not come to Twenty yeares,
In place of Honor and Authority,
Did beare a burthen in the Countries cares,
That gave his name an happy Memory.
So just, so wise, s' upright in every thing,
As stopt the venom of foule envies sting.
You that his friends and houshould followers were,
That saw the sober cariage of his life:
How he him selfe to all estates did beare,
So Nobly minded, and so free from strife.
Oh you and none so well, can sound his praise,
That knew the upright treadings of his waies.
I doe but sound the Accents of Report,
And sure Report gives him a worthy name,
That from his Cradle liv'd in vertues Court,
Now free from change being registred by fame.
Enjoyes in heaven, heavens immortality,
And here on earth, earths happy Memory.