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When humbly on the royal babe we gaze, The manly lines of a majestic face Give awful joy; 'tis paradise to look On the fair frontispiece of nature's book: If the first opening page so charms the sight, Think how the unfolded volume will delight! See how the venerable infant lies In early pomp; how through the mother's eyes The father's soul, with an undaunted view, Looks out, and takes our homage as his due! See on his future subjects how he smiles, Nor meanly flatters, nor with craft beguiles; But with an open face, as on his throne, Assures our birthrights, and assumes his own Born in broad day-light, that the ungrateful rout May find no room for a remaining doubt;† Truth, which itself is light, does darkness shun, And the true eaglet safely dares the sun.
Fain would the fiends have made a dubious birth,
Loth to confess the godhead clothed in earth;
Venerable is here used in its original sense, as deserving of veneration. But the epithet has been so commonly connected with old age, that a modern poet would hardly venture to apply it to an infant.
+ Note V.
Alluding to the temptation in the wilderness.
Restitit Eneas, clarâque in luce refulsit,
Eneid. Lib. I.
He to the Tyrians showed his sudden face,
Great Michael, † prince of all the etherial hosts,
Enough of ills our dire rebellion wrought, ¶ When to the dregs we drank the bitter draught; Then airy atoms did in plagues conspire, Nor did the avenging angel yet retire, But purged our still-increasing crimes with fire. Then perjured plots, || the still impending test,** And worse-t but charity conceals the rest.
* Edward the Black Prince, born on Trinity Sunday. + The motto of the poem explained.
↑ St George.
¶ The great Civil War.
§ The Fire of London.
The Popish plot.
++ The death of the Jesuits, executed for the Plot.
Here stop the current of the sanguine flood;
Enough of early saints one womb has given,
Heaven, to reward him, makes his joys sincere ; No future ills nor accidents appear, To sully and pollute the sacred infant's year. Five months to discord and debate were given; t He sanctifies the yet remaining seven. Sabbath of months! henceforth in him be blest, And prelude to the realms perpetual rest! Let his baptismal drops for us atone; § Lustrations for offences not his own:
All the queen's former children died in infancy.
* The year 1688, big with so many events of importance, commenced very unfavourably with stormy weather, and an epidemical distemper among men and cattle.
† 1 Kings, chap. xxxiv.
‡ Note VI.
§ Original sin, supposed to be washed off by baptism.
Let conscience, which is interest ill disguised,
Unnamed † as yet; at least unknown to fame;
But when his tender strength in time shall rise
As Jove's increase, ¶ who from his brain was born, Whom arms and arts did equally adorn, Free of the breast was bred, whose milky taste Minerva's name to Venus had debased; So this imperial babe rejects the food, That mixes monarch's with plebeian blood : **
*See "The Hind and the Panther," p. 224.
The prince christened, but not named.
Jehovah, or the name of God, unlawful to be pronounced by the Jews. DRYDEN.
§ Some authors say, that the true name of Rome was kept a secret, ne hostes incantamentis deos elicerent. DRYDEN.
|| Candia, where Jupiter was born and lived secretly. DRYDEN. ¶ Pallas, or Minerva, said by the poets to have been bred up by hand. DRYDEN.
** The prince had no wet nurse.
Food that his inborn courage might controul,
Thus far the furious transport of the news
As, when pent vapours run their hollow round, Earthquakes, which are convulsions of the ground, Break bellowing forth, and no confinement brook, Till the third settles what the former shook; Such heavings had our souls, till, slow and late, Our life with his returned, and faith prevailed on
*The sudden false report of the prince's death. See Note VII.