Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)
April, pp. 452-564 PDF (74.3 MB)
& BRACE OF CAVALIER POETS. THE BOOK OF DAYS. A BRACE OF CAVALIER POETS, Wallis; and secondly, in the renowned Enleav'our, under Captain Cook. The lords of the Admiralty had, just previous to her death, signed a warrant, admitting her to the privileges of an in-pensioner of Greenwich Hospital, a boon she did not live to enjoy. On her neck she had for some time worn a silver collar, on which was engraved the following distich, composed by Dr Johnson. 'Perpetui ambita bis terra praemia lactis, Hac habet, altrici capra secunda Jovis.' APRIL 29. St Fiaehna of Ireland, 7th century. St Huah, abbot or Cluni, 1109 ; St Robert. bbbot of Milesm-, 1110. St Peter, martyr, 1252. Born.-King Edward IV. of Englnd, 1441 (?) Rouen; Nicolas Vansittart, Lord Hexiey, English saesnman, 1766. Died. -John Cieveland, poet, 1659. St Michael's, College H1; Mictia-1 Ruyter, I)utch adMiral, 1676, Syracuse; Abh6 Ch irles de St Pierre, philanthiropist, 1743, Paris. A BRACE OF CAVALIER POETS. John Cleveland. the noted loyalist poet during the reign of Charles the First and the Common- weali, was a tutor and fellow of St John's College, Cambridge. His first appearance in political strife was the determined opposition he organized and maintained against the return of Oliver Cromwell, then a comparatively obscure candidate in the Puritan interest, as member of Parliament for Cambridge. Cromwell's stronger genius prevailing. lie gained the election by one vote; upon which Cleveland, with the combined foresight of poet and prophet, exclaimed that a single vote had ruined the church and govern- ment of England. On the breaking out of the civil war, Cleveland joined the king at Oxford, and greatly contributed to raise the spirits of the cavaliers by his satires on the opposite party. After the ruin of the royal cause. lie led a pre- carious fugitive life for several years, till. in 1655, he was arrested, as ' one of great abilities, averse, and dangerous to the Commonwealth.' Cleveland then wrote a petition to the Protector, in which. though he adroitly employed the most effective arguments to obtain his release, he did not abate one jot of his principles as a royalist. He appeals to Cromwell'z, magnanimity as a conquerer, saying:-' Methinks, I hear your former achievements interceding with you not to sully your glories with trampling on the pros- trate, nor clog the wheel of your chariot with so degenerous a triumph. The most renowned heroes have ever with such tenderness cherished their captives, that their swords did but cut out work for their courtesies.'* He thus continues -' I cannot conceit that my fidelity to my prince should taint me in your opinion; I should rather expect it would recommend me to your favour. * This idea was paraphrased in Hudibras,- 'The ancient heroes were illustr'ous For beiing benign, and tot blust'rous Against a vanquished foe : their swords Were sharp and trenchisnt. not their words, And did in fight but cut work out T' employ their courtesies about.' 0 My Lord, you see my crimes; as to my defence, you bear it about you. I shall plead nothing in my justification but your Highness' clemency, which, as it is the constant inmate of a valiant breast, if you be graciously pleased to extend it to your suppliant, in taking me out of withering durance, your Highness will find that mercy will establish you more than power, though all the days of your life were as pregnant with victories as your twice auspicious third of September.' The transaction was highly honourable to both parties. Cromwell at once granted full liberty to the spirited petitioner; though, personally, he had much to forgive, as is clearly evinced by Cleveland's DEFINITION OF A PROTECTOR. 'What's a Protector? He's a stately thing, That apes it in the nonage of a king; A tragic actor-Cvsar in a clown, He's a brass farthing stamped with a crown; A bladder blown, with other breaths puffed full; Not the Perillus, but Perillus' bull: £Esop's proud ass veiled in the lion's skin; An outward saint lined with a devil within: An echo whence the royal sound doth come, But just as barrel-head sounds like a drum; Fantastic image of the royal head, The brewer's with the king's arms quartered; He is a counterfeited piece that shows Charles his effigies with a copper nose; In fine, he's one we must Protector call- From whom, the King of kings protect us all.' After his release, Cleveland went to London, where he found a generous patron, and ended his days in peace; though he did not live to be rejoiced (or disappointed) by the Restoration. Cleveland's poetry, at one time highly extolled, now completely sunk in oblivion, has shared the common fate of all works composed to support and flatter temporary opinions and prejudices. Contemporary with Milton, Cleveland was con- sidereid imnmeasurably superior to the author of Paradise Lost. Even Philips, Milton's nephew, asserts that Cleveland was esteemed the best of English poets. Milton's sublime work could searcely s'ruggle into print, while edition after edition of Cleveland's coarse satires were passing through the press ; now, when Cleveland is for- gotten, we need say nothing of the estimation in which Milton is held. In connexion with the life of Cleveland, it may be well to notice a brother cavalier poet, Richard Lovelace, who in April 1642. was imprisoned by the parliament in the Gatehouse, for presenting a petition from the county of Kent, requesting them to restore the king to his rights. It was looked upon as an act of malignancY, or anti- patriotic loyalism, as we might now explain it. There is something fascinating in the gay, cava- lier, self-devoted, poet nature, and tragic end of Lovelace. It was while in prison that he wrote his beautiful lyric, so heroic as to his sufferings, so charmingly sweet to his love, so delightful above all for its assertion of the independence of the moral on the physical and external conditions. When love with unconfined wings Hovers within my gates, And my divine Althea brings To whisper at my grates; 4 BRACE OF CAVALIER POETS. A BRACE OF CAVALIER POETS, THE BOOK OF DAYS.
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