1613
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Elegie on the bewailed Death of Henry, Prince of Wales.

Two Elegies, consecrated to the never-dying Memorie of the most worthily admyred; most hartily loved; and generally bewayled Prince; Henry Prince of Wales.

William Browne of Tavistock


Twelve lyric stanzas signed "W. B. Inter: Templ:," are printed with a separate title page. The first of the "Two Elegies" is by Christopher Brooke. The title before the poem is "An Elegie on the bewailed Death of the truely beloved and most vertuous Henry, Prince of Wales"; the alternate title is "An Elegie on the Never-Inough bewailed Death of the Worthy, Vertuous, glory of these, and wonder for ensuing times, Henry, Prince of Wales." Both poems underscore the political significance of Henry's death, and call for a response from the community of poets.

Unlike most of the elegies for Henry, Browne's lyric avoids argument, narrative, or description, striving instead for sheer hyperbolic ventilation: "Is HENRIE dead? alas! and doe I live | To sing a SCRICH-OWLES note that he is dead? | If any one a fitter Theame can give; | Come: give it now, or never to be read: | But let him see it doe of HORROR taste" Sig. D4. The reference to the Earl of Essex and some possibly equivocal language in the tenth stanza sound a little like a summons to political resistance — neither Brooke nor Browne mention King James.

Ruth Wallerstein: "The infelicitous elegy of William Browne of Tavistock might well have been considered among those in the Spenserian tradition.... For though it is predominantly in the mythological and allegorical tradition, and though it uses an elaborate stanza probably suggested by Spenser's November, it is essentially a rhetorical medley. Hope, Envy, Comfort gather to express man's endurance and his suffering; Helicon and the Muses, imps of memory, are called upon, proverbs abound, and Thetis raves; but from quite different quarries come the classical example of Caligula, the labyrinth and clue figure, an emblem though without symbolic content, and the churchyard conventions. Browne has followed the teaching of imitation at its most mechanical" Studies in Seventeenth-Century Poetic (1950) 91.

Dennis Kay: "Once more the emphasis is on the capacity of the like-minded mourners to be moved ... or at least those men who can participate in the Spenserian community, and who have been formed into a group by the experience of grief and by accepting some moral responsibility for Henry's death" Melodious Tears (1990) 172.



What time the World, clad in a mourning robe
A STAGE made, for a woefull TRAGEDIE,
When showres of Teares from the celestiall globe,
Bewail'd the Fate of Sea-lov'd BRITTANIE:
When sighes as frequent were as various sights,
When Hope lay bed-rid, and all pleasures dying,
When Envie wept,
And Comfort slept,
When Crueltie it selfe sat almost crying:
Nought being heard but what the minde affrights:
When AUTUMNE had disrob'd the SUMMERS pride,
Then Englands HONOUR, Europes WONDER dide.

O saddest straine that ere the Muses sung!
A Text of woe for griefe to comment on:
Teares, sighs and sobs, give passage to my tongue,
Or I shall spend you till the last is gone:
And then my hart in flames of burning love,
Wanting his moisture, shall to cinders turne,
But first by me,
Bequeathed be,
To strew the place, wherein his sacred URNE
Shall be enclos'd. This might in many move
The like effect: (who would not doe it?) when
No grave befits him, but the harts of MEN.

The Man whose MASSE of Sorrowes have beene such,
That, by their weight laid on each severall part,
His FOUNTAINES are so drie, he but as much
As one poore drop hath left, to ease his hart:
Why should he keepe it? since the time doth call
That he n'ere better can bestow it in?
If so he feares,
That others teares
In greater number greatest prizes winne,
Know, none gives more then HEE who giveth all:
Then he which hath but one poore teare in store,
Oh let him spend that DROP and weepe no more!

Why flowes not Hellicon beyond her strands?
Is HENRIE dead, and doe the Muses sleepe?
Alas! I see each one, amazed stands,
Shallow FOORDS mutter, silent are the DEEPE:
Faine would they tell their griefes, but know not where,
All are so full, nought can augment their store.
Then how should they
Their griefes displey
To men so cloide they faine would heare no more,
Though blaming those whose plaints they cannot heare?
And with this wish their passions I allow,
May that MUSE never speake that's silent now!

Is HENRIE dead? alas! and doe I live
To sing a SCRICH-OWLES note that he is dead?
If any one a fitter Theame can give;
Come: give it now, or never to be read:
But let him see it doe of HORROR taste,
ANGUISH, DESTRUCTION, could it rend in sunder;
With fearefull grones
The fencelesse stones,
Yet should we hardly be inforc'd to wonder,
Our former griefes would so exceed their last:
TIME cannot make our Sorrowes ought compleater,
Nor add one griefe to make our mourning greater.

England stood ne're engirt with Waves till now,
Till now it held part with the CONTINENT,
Aye me! some one, in pittie shew me how
I might in dolefull numbers so lament,
That any one, which lov'd him, hated me,
Might dearly love me, for lamenting him:
Alas my plaint
In such constraint
Breakes forth in rage, that though my passions swimme,
Yet are they drowned ere they landed be.
Imperfect lines: oh happie were I, hurld
And cut from life, as England from the world.

O! happier had we beene, if we had beene
Never made happie, by enjoying thee,
Where hath the glorious EYE of Heaven, seene,
A Spectacle of greater miserie?
TIME turn thy course! and bring againe the spring!
Breake NATURES Lawes! search the RECORDS of old!
If ought e're fell
Might Paralel
Sad Albions case: then note when I unfold
What Seas of Sorrow she is plunged in:
Where stormes of woe so mainely have beset her,
She hath no PLACE for worse, nor HOPE for better.

Brittaine was whilome knowne (by more then FAME)
To be one of the Ilands fortunate:
What franticke man would give her now that name,
Lying so ruefull and disconsolate?
Hath not her watrie ZONE in murmuring,
Fil'd every shoare with ECCHO'S of her crie?
Yes THETIS raves,
And bids her waves
Bring all the NIMPHES within her EMPERIE,
To be assistant in her sorrowing.
See where they sadly sit on ISIS shore,
And rend their haires as they would joy no more.

ISIS, the glory of the Westerne world,
When our HEROE, honour'd ESSEX dyde,
Strooken with wonder, backe againe she hurl'd,
And fill'd her banckes with an unwonted tyde.
As if she stood in doubt if it were so,
And for the certaintie had turn'd her way:
Why doe not now
Her waves reflow?
Poore NYMPH, her sorrowes will not let her stay,
Or flies to tell the world her COUNTRIES woe:
Is that the cause faire Maide? then stay and know
BAD newes are swift of wing, the GOOD are slow.

Sometime a TYRANT held the Reynes of Rome,
Wishing to all the CITIE but one head,
That all AT ONCE might undergoe his doome,
And by ONE BLOW from life be severed.
FATE wish'd the like on ENGLAND, and 'twas given,
(O miserable men inthral'd to FATE!)
Whose heavie hand,
That never scand
The miserie of Kingdomes ruinate:
(Minding to leave her of all joy bereaven)
With one sad blow (alas! can worser fall?)
Hath given this little ILE her FUNERALL.

O! come yee blessed IMPES of MEMORIE,
Erect a new Parnassus on his grave,
There tune your voices to an ELEGIE,
The saddest note that ere Apollo gave:
Let every accent, make the stander by,
Keepe time unto your songs with dropping teares
Till droppes that fell
Have made a well.
To swallow him which still unmoved heares:
Though my selfe prove sencelesse of your crie,
Yet gladly should my light of life grow dim
To be intomb'd in teares are wept for him.

When last he sickned, then we first began,
To tread the LABORINTH of Woe about;
And by degrees we further inward ran,
Having his THREED of life to guide us out.
But Destiny, no sooner saw us enter
Sad Sorrowes MAZE (immured up in night)
Where nothing dwells,
But cryes and yells,
(Throwne from the harts of men deprived of light)
When we were almost come into the CENTER,
Fate (cruelly) to barre our joyes returning,
Cut off our threed and left us all in MOURNING.

[sigs D3-E2]