Page images
PDF
EPUB

THRENODIA AUGUSTALIS :

A

FUNERAL PINDARIC POEM,

SACRED TO THE

HAPPY MEMORY OF

KING CHARLES II.

Fortunati ambo si quid mea carmina possunt,
Nulla dies unquam memori vos eximet ævo !

THRENODIA AUGUSTALIS,

THE death of Charles II. was sudden and unexpected. After he had apparently completely subdued the popular party, and was preparing, as has been confidently alleged, a similar conquest over the high-flying followers of the Duke of York, in the midst of his present triumph and future projects, he was, on the morning of the 2d February, 1684-5, seized with a sudden fit, which resembled an apoplexy. He was bled by one King, a chemist, who happened to be in waiting, and experienced a temporary relief, From the 2d till the 6th, he continued in a languishing state, the Duke of York being in constant attendance on his death-bed. On the forenoon of the 6th, Charles died, to the general grief of his subjects, by whom he was personally beloved, and who had reason to fear, that his worst public measures would be followed out with more rigour by his successor.

A numerous host of rhymers stepped forward with their condolences upon this event. Among these, we find few eminent names

The following Nonia, among others, occur in Mr Luttrell's Collection: "A Pindarick Ode, by Sir F. F. Knight of the Bath."

"A Pindarick Ode on the Death of our late Sovereign, with an ancient Prophecy on his present Majesty, by Afra Behn."

A Poem, humbly dedicated to the Great Pattern of Piety and Virtue, Catherine, Queen Dowager. on the Death of her dear Lord and Husband, King Charles II. By the Same. (4th April, 1685.)"

"The Vision, a Pindarick Ode, by Edmund Arwaker, M. A "

"The Second Part of Ditto, on the Coronation of James and Mary." This author poured forth a similar effusion upon the death of Queen Mary.

A Pindarick Ode on the Death of Charles II, by J. H.”

"Ireland's Tears to the sacred Memory of our late Dread Sovereign, King Charles II., 11th April, 1685,'

"Pietas universitatis Oxoniensis in obitum augustissimi et desideratissimi Re gis Caroli Secundi."

besides that of Dryden. Otway, indeed, has left a poem on the subject, called "Windsor Castle;" and he began a pastoral, which, fortunately for his reputation, he left unfinished. + From the laureat a deeper tone of lamentation was due. But whether the sense of discharging a task, a sense so chilling always to poetical imagination, had fettered Dryden's powers, or from whatever other reason, his funeral pindaric has not been esteemed one of his happiest lyric effusions. It is devoid of any appearance of deep feeling on the part of the author himself. This is the more remarkable, as the manners of Charles were eminently calculated to attract affection, and Dryden had been admitted to a greater share of royal intercourse than is usually necessary to excite the personal attachment of a subject to a condescending monarch. But whether Dryden, as he is sometimes believed to have owned, was unapt to feel or express the more tender passions, or whether he saw the character of Charles so closely, as to discern the selfishness of his hollow courtesy, it is certain that the poet seems wonderfully little interested

Duke, and others, also invoked Melpomene on this mournful occasion: but, perhaps, the most remarkable of all these lamentations is, "The Quaker's Elegy on the Death of Charles, late King of England, written by W. P. a sincere lover of Charles and James; (31st March, 1685.)" "Tears wiped off, a Second Part, on the Coronation, (22d April.)” This curious dirge begins thus:

What wondrous change in waking do I find,
For a strange something does my sense unbind;
Truth has possessed my darkened soul all o'er
With an unusual light, not known before;
And doth inform me, that some star is gone,
From whose kind influence we had life alone.
No sooner had this stranger seized my soul,

But Rachel knocked, to raise me from my bed,
And, with a voice of sorrow, did condole

The loss of Charles, whom she declared was dead;
Charles dost thou mean we King of England call,
That lived within the mansion of Whitehall?
Yes'tis too true, &c.

"Windsor Castle, in a monument to our late sovereign, King Charles II.," contains some striking passages. But, for the tenuity of the pastoral, even the taste of the age can hardly excuse the author of " Venice Preserved." For example:

Ye tender lambs, stray not so fast away;
To weep and mourn, let us together stay;
O'er all the universe let it be spread,
That now the shepherd of the flock is dead;
The royal Pan, that shepherd of the sheep,
He, who to leave his flock did dying weep,

Is gone! Ah! gone, ne'er to return from death's eternal sleep.

in the sorrowful theme. Even when he mentions his literary intercourse with the deceased monarch, he does not suppress a murmur, that he was niggard in rewarding the muses whom he loved; that

-little was their hire, and light their gain.

This absence of personal feeling on the part of the author, spreads a coldness over the whole elegy; which we regret the less, as the pensioned monarch ill deserved a deeper lamentation. It is chiefly owing to this want of sympathy, connected with an over indulgence in conceit, a fault which immediately flows from the other, being an effort of ingenuity to supply the want of passion, that the Threnòdia Augustalis" has been neglected. We have to lament some overstrained metaphors and similes. The sun went back ten degrees in the dial of Ahaz; a miraculous sign that Hezekiah was to live; and this is compared to the five days during which the disease of Charles gained ground, until it was obvious that he was to die. The prayers of the people carrying heaven by storm, and almost forcing heaven to revoke his decrees, is extravagant, not to say profane. Yet, with all its faults of coldness and conceit, this poem seems rather to have been under-rated. It appears to great advantage, when compared with others on the same subject. Otway, who affects a warmer display of passion, a particular in which Dryden is said to have acknowledged his superiority, has fallen into the opposite fault, of describing the deathbed rather of a tender husband or lover, attended by his wife or mistress, than that of a king waited on by his successor. Dryden's picture of the duke's grief is much more appropriate and striking:

Horror in all his pomp was there,
Mute and magnificent, without a tear.

We shall here insert the last meeting of the royal brothers, as described in "Windsor Castle," which the reader may contrast with the same theme in the "Threnodia :"

Here, painter, if thou can'st, thy art improve,
And show the wonders of fraternal love;

How mourning James by fading Charles did stand,
The dying grasping the surviving hand;
How round each others necks their arms they cast,
Moaned, with endearing murmurings, and embraced;
And of their parting pangs such marks did give,
'Twere hard to guess which yet could longest live.
Both their sad tongues quite lost the power to speak,
And their kind hearts seemed both prepared to break.

« PreviousContinue »