Page images
PDF
EPUB

What can we add to your triumphant day?
Let the great gift the beauteous giver pay;
For should our thanks awake the rising sun,
And lengthen, as his latest shadows run,
That, though the longest day, would soon, too

soon be done.
Let angels' voices with their harps conspire,
But keep the auspicious infant from the choir;
Late let him sing above, and let us know
No sweeter music than his cries below.

Nor can I wish to you, great monarch, more
Than such an annual income to your store;
The day, which gave this unit, did not shine
For a less omen, than to fill the trine.
After a prince, an admiral beget;
The Royal Sovereign wants an anchor yet.
Our isle has younger titles still in store,
And when the exhausted land can yield no more,
Your line can force them from a foreign shore.

The name of great your martial mind will suit; But justice is your darling attribute: Of all the Greeks, 'twas but one hero's due, And, in him, Plutarch prophesied of you. . A prince's favours but on few can fall

, But justice is a virtue shared by all.

Some kings the name of conquerors have assumed, Some to be great, some to be gods presumed; But boundless power, and arbitrary lust, Made tyrants still abhor the name of just; They shunned the praise this godlike virtue gives, And feared a title that reproached their lives. The power, from which all kings derive their

state, Whom they pretend, at least, to imitate,

Aristides. See his Life in Plutarch.

7

Is equal both to punish and reward;
For few would love their God, unless they feared.

Resistless force and immortality
Make but a lame, imperfect deity;
Tempests have force unbounded to destroy,
And deathless being even the damned enjoy;
And yet heaven's attributes, both last and first,
One without life, and one with life accurst;
But justice is heaven's self, so strictly he,
That could it fail, the godhead could not be.
This virtue is your own; but life and state
Are, one to fortune subject, one to fate :
Equal to al, you justly frown or smile;
Nor hopes nor fears your steady hand beguile;
Yourself our balance hold, the world's our isle.

}

NOTES

ON

BRITANNIA REDIVIVA.

Note I.
Hail, son of prayers! by holy violence

Drawn down from heaven !- -P. 290. We have noticed, in the introduction, that the birth of a Prince of Wales, at a time of such critical importance to the Catholic faith, was looked upon, by the Papists, as little less than miraculous. Some talked of the petition of the Duchess of Modena to Our Lady of Loretto; and Burnet affirms, that, in that famous chapel, there is actually a register of the queen's conception, in consequence of her mother's vow. But, in that case, the good duchess's intercession must have been posthumous ; for she died upon the 19th July, and the queen's time run from the 6th of October. Others ascribed the event to the king's pilgrimage to St Winifred's Well; and others, among whom was the Earl of Melfort, suffered their zeal to hurry them into profaneness, and spoke of the angel of the Lord moving the Bath waters, like the Pool of Bethsaida. But the Jesuits claimed to their own prayers the principal merit of procuring this blessing, which, indeed, they had ventured to prophecy; for, among other devices which that order exhibited to the English ambassador from James to the Pope, there was, according to Mr Misson, one of a lily, from whose leaves distilled some drops of water, which were once supposed, by naturalists, to become the seed of new lilies : the motto was--

--Lechrimor in prolem---" I weep for children." Beneath which was the following distich :

Pro natis, Jacobe, gemis, flos candide regum !

Hos natura tibi si neget, astra dabunt.
For sons, fair flower of kings, why melts thine eye?
The heavens shall grant what nature may deny.

Note II.
For, see the dragon winged on his way,

To watch the travail, and devour the prey.-P. 291. " And the dragon stood before the woman, who was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child, as soon as it was born.”. Revel. xii. 4. Dryden is at pains, by an original marginal note, which, with others, is restored in this edition, to explain, that, by this allusion here, and in other parts of the poem,

he meant the commonwealth's party.” The acquittal of the bishops, on the 17th of June, two days before the poem was licensed, must have excited a prudential reverence for the church of England in the moment of her triumph. The poet fixes upon this commonwealth party therefore, exclusively, the common reports which had been circulated during the queen's pregnancy, and which are thus noticed in the (supposititious) letter to Father La Chaise : “As to the queen's being with child, that great concern goes as well as we could wish, notwithstanding all the satirical discourses of the heretics, who content themselves to vent their poison in libels, which, by night, they disperse in the street, or fix upon the walls. There was one lately found upon a pillar of a church, that imported, that such a day thanks should be given to God for the queen's being great with a cushion. If one of these pasquil-makers could be discovered, he would but have an ill time on't, and should be made to take his last farewell at Tyburn."

The usual topics of wit, during the queen's pregnancy, were, allusions to a cushion, a tympany, &c. &c.; and Partridge, the Protestant almanack-maker, utters the following predictions :“ That there was some bawdy project on foot, either about buying, selling, or procuring, a child or children, for some pious uses.” And, again, “ Some child is to be topped upon the lawful heirs, to cheat them out of their right and estate.”—“God preserve the kingdom of England from invasion! for about this time I fear it in earnest, and keep the Protestants there from being dragooned."

One single circumstance is sufficient to rout all suspicions thus carefully infused into the people. It is well known, and is noticed in one of L'Estrange's papers at the time, that a similar outcry was raised during a former pregnancy of the queen; but the child proving a female, there was no use for pushing the calumny any further upon that occasion,

Note III.
Already has he lifted high the sign,
Which crowned the conquering arms of Constantine;
The moon grows pale at that presaging sight,

And half her train of stars have lost their light.---P. 292. The public exercise of the Catholic religion in England is compared to the miraculous display of the cross, with the motto, In hoc signo vinces ; which is said to have appeared to Constantine on the eve of his great victory.

The war against the Turks, which was now raging in Hungary, seems to have occupied much of James's attention. He amused himself with anxiety about the fate of this holy warfare, as he probably thought it, while his own crown was tottering on his head. In all his letters to the Prince of Orange, he expresses his wishes for the peace of Christendom, that the emperor and the Venetians might have leisure to prosecute the war against the Turks ; and conjectures about the taking of Belgrade, and the progress of the Duke of Lorraine, are very gravely sent, as interesting matter to the prince, who was anticipating the conquest of England, and the dethronement of his father-in-law. There may

be something of affectation in this ; but, as Dryden takes up the same

may be supposed to have forwarded James's general conversation, as well as his letters to the Prince of Orange.---See DalRYMPLE's Memoirs. Appendir to Book V.

tone, it

Note IV.
Behold another Sylvester, to bless
The sacred standard, and secure success;
Large of his treasures, of a soul so great,

As fills and crowds his universal seat.---P. 292. Dryden talks of the Pope with the respect of a good Catholic. Nevertheless it happened, by a very odd chance, that, while the throne of England was held by a Catholic, for the first time during the course of a century, the chair of St Peter was occupied by Innocent XI. who acquired the uncommon epithet of the Protestant Pope. He received, with great coldness, the Earl of Castlemain, whom James sent to Rome as his ambassador, and refused the only two requests which a king of England had made to Rome since the days of Henry VIII., although they were only a dispensation to Petre the king's confessor, to hold a bishopric, and another to the Mareschal D'Humier's daughter to marry within the prohibited de

« PreviousContinue »