by William Alexander
Christs great fore-runner by him pris'd so much,
And those who his familiars were below,
Th' Evangelists, Apostles, and all such
As did him in the flesh when mortall know:
Then those who freely did their faith avouch,
And for the truth true constancy did show:
The Churches Fathers, and the Martyrs all,
Glad stand they here, who for Christs cause did fall.
The world at first against all good obdur'd,
That sacred Statutes might mens judgements sway,
By wonders mov'd, by benefits allur'd,
Their temporall treasures prosp'ring every way;
By Covenant who followed God secur'd,
He, even whil'st here, their service did defray,
As by the Ancients evident appeares,
With plenty, peace, posterity and yeares.
But when glad Tidings went divulging grace,
And shew the ground where soules should reape their good,
Those who the truth with ardour did imbrace,
And (it defending) resolutely stood,
Still toss'd with toiles, and in the worlds disgrace,
Scarce having rest, till purchas'd by their blood:
They were so oft expos'd to scorne, and losse,
That Christians long were knowne but by their crosse.
Such (whil'st transported with a spirituall Ioy)
Contemplating their happinesse above,
(What earth could give, all but esteem'd a toy)
Were ravish'd up to court their makers love,
Those paines which oft this mortall masse annoy,
Contentment gave, by hasting their remove:
And here by them no pleasure was imbrac'd,
Save when for God by some great suff'ring grac'd.
Loe, he whose voice vaste desarts made rebound,
In sprite Elias, and in like estate;
All cloth'd with haire, his loines a girdle bound;
With Locusts joyn'd wilde hony serv'd for meat;
He as (Christs Trumpet) ere he came did sound,
Repent, prepare, of men no man more great;
Yet did he judge himselfe (farre short indeed)
Too base to serve who after should succeed.
He humbly modest (as too much esteem'd)
When baptismes fountaine baptisme came to crave,
Since but a Sinner, and to be redeem'd,
That which was sought, wish'd rather to receave;
Heavens (opening straight) to crave attendance seem'd,
From whence a voice this Testimony gave;
(Whil'st like a Dove the Sprite vpon him seaz'd)
This is my Sonne in whom I am well pleas'd.
This great Ambassadour whom God did send,
Still taxing sinne, with wickednesse at strife,
A Tyrant fierce admonish'd to amend,
Who slept in incest with his brothers wife;
What bloody gift to gratifie a friend?
(Too prodigall of such a pretious life)
He with his head vaine foolery did defray,
A wantons wage, a doting dancers prey.
Those three judg'd wise whom nought from Christ could barre,
Though strangely guided, yet to travell bold,
When having found him whom they sought so farre,
Did frankely offer incense, Myrrhe and gold;
His birth (enrich'd with raies) a flaming starre,
His death the Sunne (all wrapt in darkenesse) told:
But Sunne and Moone bare Ciphers (reckning right)
And Starres turn'd figures cannot count his light.
He who by him whom nought save faith confines,
Had beene secur'd ere death his Lord to see,
When in the Temple knowne by sprituall signes,
Did thus burst forth, glad in a high degree,
The Gentils light, and Israels glory shines,
Salvation comes to all who seeke it free:
Since thus thou hast perform'd the promis'd grace,
Lord let thy servant now depart in peace.
There comes that Captaine (marching with the rest)
Who did beleeve, ere granted, well assur'd,
(His house held base to lodge so great a guest)
That by Christs words his servant should be cur'd;
Then she (when check'd) who did for Crummes contest,
And even with dogs to be compar'd endur'd:
Thus some, (though Gentiles) have so happie beene,
That with the Iewes no faith like theirs was seene.
That Israelite in whom no guile was founde,
Whose minde still pure from stormy waves was free;
He (lest that thronging troupes his sight should bound)
To looke on Christ who mounted on a Tree;
The devills expell'd, who were diseas'd, made sound,
Earst wonders obiects, numbers happie be;
First from short paines, from endlesse last secur'd,
Whose soules and bodies both at once were cur'd.
Haile happie Mary! Virgin great in grace,
Thy sexes glory, the eternalls love!
Whom high affection freely did imbrace,
By sacred flames o're-shadow'd from above;
Not bodies forme, nor colour of a face,
To make this match did the Almighty move:
Her portion was an humble modest minde,
For which the Lord a state in heaven design'd.
But how the deity could be joyn'd with dust,
Some curious brains (weake reasons captives) scan:
Not like fain'd Iove in flames enflam'd with lust,
Nor in a Dove, as he came in a Swan,
Who would be sav'd must absolutely trust,
No Male enjoy'd, a Mayd brought forth a Man:
If by Gods word cold earth did life receive,
A woman by his sprite might soone conceive.
What wonders rare do now enrich my ryme!
Still Mayd, though mother, free from mortall seed,
Wives childe, not husbands, and yet not her cryme,
Bigge by himselfe, who did her Maker breed;
Eternity was limited by Time;
Small bounds did bound who doth all bounds exceed:
How highly Marie shouldst thou be esteem'd,
Since Evah's fault was by thy birth redeem'd?
More then all women blessed in thy bloud,
Thou first for him, he for us all did smart,
Who borrow'd milk, but pay'd for it his bloud,
And what thou hadst was his, not thy desart,
Who with the rest of death in danger stood,
Whil'st from his Crosse he did these words impart:
Look woman on thy Sonne: then might'st thou see,
How he (a Lambe) was offred up for thee.
She who long childlesse, last conceiv'd a sonne,
As first an Angell did to her divine,
Still till the time that thrise three times were runne,
Whose husbands dumbenesse prov'd a certaine signe,
Her to salute when Mary had begun,
The Babe for joy her wombe could scarce confine:
Whose mother prais'd the blessed Virgins state,
As by her birth who did indeed grow great.
I see those sisters shining in this ranke,
Whose brother Christ first wail'd, then rais'd when dead,
But chiefly she who circumspectly franke,
A precious oyntment pour'd upon his head;
Though others grudg'd, Christ her for this did thank,
And it for ever memorable made:
Then unto her as one before held deare,
(Pale death dispatch'd) did at the first appeare.
Thrice glorious twelve whose parts no tongue can tell,
As his companions by our Lord imbrac'd,
To binde, and loose, with power of heaven and hell,
(Still working wonders wonderfully grac'd)
With whom the holy Ghost did come to dwell,
Who now with Christ to judge the world are plac'd:
You by your suffrings conquer'd have farre more,
Then all men else, by acts, since, or before.
True grounds neglect'd, the doting vulgar throng,
To servile meanes do so ascribe events,
The Gospell planting, that to scape such wrong,
God us'd none great in power, nor rich in rents,
But simple Trades-men, neither learn'd, nor strong,
Brought up in fishing, or in making Tents,
That thus all might their heavenly message know,
The which to earthly helps would nothing owe.
He who did first great faith in Christ display,
Which flesh nor bloud could not to him impart,
Commended thus, commanded straight away,
As turn'd a tempter taught by Satans art,
Whose speech did tend salvations course to stay,
Then Iudas worse in words, though true in heart:
His pitie cruell, milde the traitours spite;
This hasted grace, that would have barr'd it quite.
Still of that minde to fight at last he aym'd,
And rashly did cut one of Malchus eares;
But, loe, this Lyon by a Cock was tam'd;
This bragger straight a Mayd o're-whelm'd with feares,
So that remorsefull, angry, and asham'd,
He would have hid his face with flouds of teares:
Yet, even when weeping, with more strength was stor'd,
Then when he walk'd on waves, or drew his sword.
Though shaken like a reed, at length a rocke,
In spite of Tempests he was constant found,
Whom jealously Christ trusted with his flocke,
Who thrise deny'd him, thrise by promise bound;
Yet of the Church (though once a stumbling block)
A speciall pillar, not the onely ground:
He girt himselfe when yong in freedome still,
But when grown old, was girt against his will.
That Disciple stil'd by his Masters love,
By speaking signes whom silent Peter pray'd,
As one whose credit more then his could move,
To learne by whom the Lord should be betrayd,
Whose bosome did so oft his pillow prove,
Who many thought till Christ return'd had stayd:
These words for him might great regard have wonne;
Man see thy Mother, woman see thy Sonne.
Though Christ disprov'd their foolish strife for state,
If oddes there were, I this man chiefe would call,
Whose life so long, whose troubles were so great,
Two persecutions seene, and Sions fall;
This Eagles flight no brightnesse could abate,
Whose ravish'd thoughts have comprehended all:
His Gospell clearely shewes things that were past,
His revelation what should come at last.
There he who first incredulous was found,
Else could not trust what he desir'd so much,
Still wanting faith till he had try'd the wound,
To see too curious, grosse when he did touch;
Yet last, the truth did to farre Indians sound,
This fault to helpe his fervent zeale was such:
Thus having seene and felt, beleeve he must,
But happy those who never saw, yet trust.
That Eunuch who could reade, but not conceive,
Till Christs Apostle taught to him a space,
Who as he strangely came, so did him leave,
In nature lesse, made more then man by grace;
He whom his Chariot then daign'd to receive,
Whil'st running by, as worthy of no place,
Rais'd now above himselfe with reverence seene,
Perchance shall judge his Ethiopian Queene.
Those barbarous Iewes, O how they suffer must!
When seeing him exalted in their sight,
Whom (though as singular entitled just)
They hurl'd downe head-longs from a Temples height,
Then crush'd his braines, when wallowing in the dust,
As so to quench their Cities second light,
Who of their Church rul'd the converted state,
The first of Bishops, both in time, and seat.
He for whose cause two good men jarr'd in will,
Since falling once, not fit to suffer thought,
Yet (never after tax'd) stood constant still,
And was by Venice, for her Patron sought;
That rare Physitian, whose celestiall skill
Cur'd wounded soules by Balme from Iuda brought:
Those two, whose pennes seem'd drawne from Angels wings,
Did write two registers of sacred things.
But what rare person doth pursue my sight,
Whom Christ of purpose came againe to call?
Who straight grew blinde whil'st looking on the light,
And rose more strong when bruised by a fall,
Though none of the first twelve each way as bright,
He travell'd, acted, suffred more then all:
This wondrous change, what weight of words can paint?
A persecutor first, and then a Saint.
His speech more powerfull then could flow from Art,
Where eloquence the greatest glory had,
Caus'd learn'd Philosophers, amaz'd to start,
(Their God unknowne best knowne, the rest prov'd bad)
Made Felix quake, Agrippa neere convert,
Till foolish Festus thought he had beene mad;
His voyce, harmonious Angels sounds might eaven,
Not knowing how since ravish'd up to heaven.
That sacred vessell by the Lord elect'd,
From whom each soule might draw forth streames of grace,
Who doing, suffering, never was deject'd,
Though beaten, bound, in prison, and disgrace,
He boldly did professe what he affect'd,
And kept the faith, till finishing his race
At fatall Rome, the mother of much ill,
Where with his bloud at last he seal'd his will.
I next see him who minds so much did sway,
That Paul Mercurius, he was held for Iove,
Till both scarce Priests, (with garlands crown'd) could stay,
From offring Buls, as to their Gods above;
But whil'st the truth they frankely did display,
What sudden chance so huge a change could move?
Them whom they thus as Gods would have ador'd,
They straight did stone, as if turn'd divels, abhorr'd.
That Publican who did in scroules digest
Those treasures first, whose power each conscience binds:
He whose few lines doe some strange things attest,
From grounds (though true) which now no reader findes:
He who was choic'd by Lot, and all the rest
Whose feet Christ wash'd, to humble haughty mindes,
Which forme in vaine, some fondly would affect,
Though bow'd in show, whil'st swelling in effect.
Then with those twelve, some happy men did haunt,
(Heavens Messengers, evangelizing peace)
As he who watred after Paul did plant,
And circumcis'd to please the Hebrew race,
He (full of faith) who did fraile passions daunt,
Halfe-Iew, halfe-Gentile, joyning both in grace:
Next Silas, Titus and a troupe I spy,
Who with th'Apostles did their travels try.
She rais'd from death, and prais'd for doing well,
Who charitablie garments made, and gave,
That Theatirian, who did purple sell,
But greater treasure freely did receive;
That Lady call'd elect, as to excell,
Who hath already fame, shall glory have:
Some of this sexe, beside with those are found,
Whose piety, eternall pennes renown'd.
Those guiltlesse babes at Bethel kill'd by guesse,
(Loe, jealous mindes each shadow doth affright)
That Martyrs were before they could professe,
By suffring happy, ere to doe of might,
They now in heaven a glorious state possesse,
And from worlds toiles, by time did take their flight:
Thus falne for Christ, before at all they stood,
Those dy'd as Christians, baptiz'd with their bloud.
There he whom Iacobs farre degener'd race,
By calumnies accus'd, with partiall spite,
The Martyrs mirrour, eminent in place,
Who sacred Scriptures did solemnly cite,
Whil'st like an Angell shining was his face,
Not pale for feare, no, lightning forth delight:
For, he those suffrings farre more glorious thought,
Then all the wonders that by him were wrought.
This happy Elder, first of the first seven,
(Whil'st hem'd about by a tumultuous band)
Did looke aloft to the inviting heaven,
And saw the Sonne of man at Gods right hand,
Whose charity he onely then did even,
To pray for them, who stoning him did stand:
Stones bruis'd his body, but could harme no more,
His ravish'd soule had fled to heaven before.
Whil'st ten fierce stormes the Christian state did tosse,
With blasts of blasphemy, and shoures of bloud,
They, not by signes charactring then their crosse,
Did beare it selfe, and try'd by tortures stood;
Of honour, fortune, friends, or life, the losse,
Did passe (as trifles) for a greater good:
Paine (scorn'd) but rais'd, not rack'd their soule nor heart,
Who (even when suffring) act'd the bravest part.
My Muse (ingenuous) gladly would burst forth,
Their praise (when burning) who triumph'd in hearts,
Of whom each one deserves (respecting worth)
An Epicke Poeme, grac'd by all the Arts;
Would God she could translate unto the North,
Their vertues relicts, not terrestriall parts:
Which (even in soules enshrin'd) might reverence claime,
As hence in glory, living here by fame.
Those learned Doctors, primitively great,
The Churches Ancients, whom account we may,
As foster-fathers of her infant state,
Lights set ere noone, yet lightning all the day,
Who did Christs cause by words, by bookes debate,
And banish'd, tortur'd, kill'd, did constant stay:
What rare examples for each following age,
To scorne the fury of a tyrants rage?
When good Ignatius, (highly to be priz'd)
Was brag'd by beasts, which roar'd with rouling eyes,
He boldly said (their gaping jawes despis'd)
Fine wheate for Christ this grinding now me tryes;
Not like that sect which was by one devis'd,
Who had his name, whom heaven farre differing spyes:
Ignatians to inflict, not suffer fire,
Whose too great sprits to vexe the world conspire.
There Smyrna's Angell, whom Iohn did affect,
In stormy times who did a light appeare,
Whom Easterne Churches did to Rome direct,
Of Hesters feast the question'd time to cleare,
His death fore-dream'd, as falling in effect,
(Sayd) urg'd to leave his Lord (so long held deare
Whom I for Master, foure score yeares did try,
And found so good, I will his servant dye.
Like sayles with winde, fires curling waves did swell,
From heaven encourag'd to continue good,
(As gold refin'd, whose brightnesse doth excell)
All crown'd with flames, the reverent old man stood;
(A Sacrifice which did most sweetly smell,)
They burn'd not him, he quench'd them with his bloud:
To hide his dust, the Pagans did accord,
Lest the beholders had the same ador'd.
When Iustine sought (as learning did direct)
How one might arme for death, vaine pleasures loath,
Whil'st Christians courage nothing could deject,
(Though try'd extreamely) confident in both,
So that their course bred vertue in effect,
Philosophy but superficiall froth:
He needs would try who did their grounds devise,
Whence resolution did so bravely rise.
And when baptiz'd, his beames first clouds were past,
The Gospels light he clearely came to know,
Then, what he gain'd, resolv'd to use, not wast,
Straight what he learn'd, did teach, Christs truth to show,
Till (out of envy) heath'nish Crescens last,
When learning fail'd, did him by Art o'rethrow:
Who added one unto the Christian feasts,
Long toss'd by men, and torne in th'end by beasts.
When charg'd with yeares (to dye by Nature ply'd)
Of body weake, but vigorous in minde,
When silver haires (with bloud in crimson dy'd,)
Wept Rubies downe, whil'st th'eyes still tearelesse shin'd,
The wrinckles (raz'd by wounds) could not be spy'd,
By scourging, scorning, torturing, threatning, pin'd:
Old Photinus and Simeon where long plac'd,
Ierusalem, and Lions highly grac'd.
Then Irenæus after doth succeed
To Photinus, in merit, and in place,
Who, whil'st Church-rites did great contention breed,
Would not for them disturbe the common peace;
With him Tertullian, Tullian thrise indeed,
For wit and skill, which learnings height did grace:
What pen can to their pennes afford due praise,
Which did afflicted faith defend and raise.
By mothers care from Martyrdome restrayn'd,
He who for death confirm'd his fathers will,
But, though in Scriptures by long practise train'd,
One text for chastnesse did interpret ill,
And (even by that in which he gloried stayn'd)
Too superstitiously disposed still:
By offring incense, Idols did adore,
To scape disgrace from a detested More.
Barr'd from that Church where falne he made the breach,
Whil'st high remorse his guilty minde did racke,
At Sion urg'd some sacred part to teach,
These words of God his ground did chance to make,
My righteousnesse why should a sinner preach,
Or in his mouth my testimony take?
Then quite confounded, leaving longing eares,
Though words were stay'd, he talk'd with God in teares.
There he (though once to damned Arts a prey)
Who for true knowledge singular did prove,
And did the Church (admir'd by Affricke) sway,
Of Romes old rivall, when with fame in love,
With righteousnesse all Christians to array,
Who long by tongue, and still by pen doth move:
With greater power then whil'st on th'earth he stood,
"Writs grow, when watred with the Authors bloud.
With this bright troupe, Christs Champion doth approach,
Whose torture, no, whose triumph I must praise,
Then earst Eliah in his fyery Coach,
Who did himselfe to heaven more bravely raise,
Whil'st on his Gridiron flames did fast encroach,
Those words of his the hearers did amaze:
Now tyrant chuse, since here halfe broild I rest,
If rosted flesh, or raw, doth please thee best.
From Alexandria, sundry I behold,
Who at this meeting joyfully doe shout,
As Athanasius for the truth still bold,
By Arians banish'd, but not brought to doubt,
And that Paphnutius (happy man when old)
Of whom the eyes Christs en'mies had bor'd out,
Whose feate disfigur'd, Constantine did kisse,
Of faith a Trophee, and a badge of blisse.
The Easterne Churches first did Christ embrace,
And drew their faith from fountaines that were pure,
What famous Doctours, singular for grace,
Have clear'd those parts, though at this time obscure?
What glorious Martyrs crowning there their race,
The fyrie tryall, gold-like did endure?
To thinke of them, my soule for anguish groanes;
Ah, that base Turkes should tread upon their bones!
But since deare Muse, to grace all worth inclin'd,
Two's fame of force, thy offring must procure,
A modest Virgin, faire of face and minde,
Whose soule and body, all men prais'd, as pure;
She for Christs faith was to a Stewes confin'd,
There (worse then death) vile basenesse to endure:
Where she though chast, a Strumpets name should gaine,
(Though innocent) forc'd sinne to entertaine.
Oft in her cheekes, shame kindled vertues flames,
Though in pale ashes quickly quench'd by feares;
Yet death to force the desp'rate Virgin dreames,
And haughty fancies, stormy courage reares,
Whose generous fury, straight religion tames,
Yet could not calme sad sighes, nor dry salt teares:
She (as her enemy) beauty did abhorre,
The leprous envy'd, wish'd to be a More.
Whil'st thus perplex'd, the pensive Maid did sit,
With hands a crosse, eyes lifted to the sky,
Her fame more weigh'd then life, Christ more then it,
Which she must leave, or him she must deny;
There was no hope for force, nor place for wit,
When one comes in, as if her first to try:
But in his garments bids her flye away,
And he in hers would as a woman stay.
When Theodora, Didymus did leave,
(Those names of theirs deserve to be express'd)
His danger first he could not but conceive,
A man soone knowne, a Christian he confess'd,
Who could (said he) of worth but seeke to save,
A woman's honour, a poore Mayd distress'd?
And since you her but for religion blame,
Should thoughts so pure be cross'd by publike shame?
He straight was damn'd to death by partiall hate,
Though charg'd for nothing but for doing good,
And she who heard the danger of his state,
Came him to free, by offring up her bloud:
Both striv'd for death; magnanimous debate!
Whil'st with religion, vertue emulous stood:
They generously devout, devoutly brave,
Taught Gentiles worth, true zeale to Christians gave.
A Tyrant when contemn'd, more fierce doth prove,
Much haste was us'd, that both might fall by fire;
Bright were the flames of their immortall love,
Which never burn'd with any base desire:
This match contract'd below, perform'd above,
God grac'd with Angels in heavens highest Quire:
And as their ashes, soules conjoyn'd did flye,
Whil'st each for th'other, both for Christ did dye.
Not onely men (whom courage bold doth make)
By conscience prick'd, and by their honour bound,
Nor women fraile, who for each terrour quake,
And cannot see, much lesse endure a wound;
Even children yong did resolution take,
Of paines with Parents happy partners found:
That from low grounds may rise a glorious height,
"God by weake meanes most magnifies his might.
What pen can paint, or yet what heart conceive,
When Christians first to plant the Gospell toil'd,
To them what trouble Pagans daily gave,
Still banish'd, scourg'd, of place, and fortunes spoil'd?
Not suffred to have life, no, nor a grave,
Drown'd, burn'd, beheaded, torne with beasts, and broil'd:
Their ashes swallow'd, or dispers'd for spite,
As if their being to abolish quite.
Romes Bishops then with care did keep their flocke,
(A sacrifice to every Tyrants wrath)
Not puffed up presuming of a rock,
But Peter-like in teares, in bands, and death,
More strong then he when challeng'd by a Cock,
For forfeiting the glory of his faith:
Then Mitres now with pompe so proudly borne,
More glorious crownes those Martyrs did adorne.
Those Pastors then farre from contentious pride,
All worldly honours did as rocks eschue,
And onely carefull how their flocke to guide,
Not rich, nor haughty, poore, and humble grew;
None striv'd for place, but where to lurke not spy'd,
Whil'st to their charge still martyrdome was due:
Kings subjects true, though subject to their wrath,
Not torturing others, suffring for the faith.
O treacherous riches, hatching many harmes!
The worlds corrupter, though chiefe ground of trust,
Of peace the poyson, daunting men in armes,
The foile of laws, a tempter to the just,
Nurse of all vice, who can allure with charmes,
Till even the chast (at least for thee) do lust;
The onely Bawd who dost abuse each state;
Yet for all this whom none on earth doth hate.
Thou riches, thou, thou didst deprave each part,
By which Romes Church had flourish'd first so long,
Empoysoning with pride her Bishops heart,
More weak with God, when with the world grown strong;
That gift which Constantine was said t'impart,
If forg'd, or true, did make them first go wrong:
A wooden chalice golden Priests did use,
A golden Chalice wooden Priests abuse.
When once grown great, and Lords of many lands,
Church-rulers prov'd the cause of shedding bloud;
The Guelphs and Gibilins oft arm'd in bands,
Till on an Emperour one triumphing stood;
And whil'st a sword flam'd terrour in his hands,
The scorned keyes one drown'd in Tibers flood:
Not to perswade, but to compell they went,
As earst to save, then how to ruine bent.
But though smooth calmes had blunted many a minde,
Where persecution quickned all before,
Yet some to zeale, franke gratefulnesse did binde,
Even in these times remisse remark'd the more;
And whil'st by others foils more bright they shin'd,
Their faith by fruits did (though secure) decore:
Oft that which roaring windes could not have reft,
Some flatter'd by the Sunne have freely left.
There Mylans glory whom (by grace rais'd high)
In civill charge, the Church would needs acquire,
Not suting first, then fayning to deny,
He not the place, the place did him require,
Which when procur'd, he did so well supply,
That his perfection all men did admire:
Who from his Church an Emp'rour did exclude,
Till by repentance purg'd from guiltlesse bloud.
Bizantiums Bishop for true Christian care,
Then all her Patriarks may more glory claime,
For eloquence, who exquisitely rare,
A mouth of gold made justly grace his name,
Which taxing sinne, did never person spare,
But even in Princes what was ill did blame;
O how this all the worlds affection moves,
When eloquence of truth the lanterne proves!
That painfull labourer in the fields of grace,
Interpreting the truth, translating right,
Who for his dwelling singled out the place,
Where first our Saviour view'd this changling light;
And of fraile thoughts disturbing fleshly peace,
This judgement last with horrour at the height,
Did apprehend (as marking flaming spheares)
That still Christs Trumpet thundred in his eares.
That mother, whose kinde teares with ardour shed,
Wise Ambrose said could not in vaine be spent,
Here comes her sonne whom with such care she bred,
Much for his body, for his soule more bent;
Through errours maze long intricately led,
A friend, and she oft urging to repent:
His eare did move his eye to reade these lines,
By which (made famous) his conversion shines.
And thus what travell huge behov'd to be,
Ere this great person to the light was brought?
Who still in toile, the world from harme to free,
Then earst Alcides, with more monsters fought,
Of heresies most horrible to see,
Whose learned workes a full confusion wrought,
And yet of them he did some faults redresse,
Even strong in that, his weakenesse to confesse.
When barbarous Vandals did that place besiege,
Where this rare Pastor his attendance gave,
Not able to resist their boundlesse rage,
Who (grosse) such parts as his could not conceive,
To flye their force, he yeelded unto age,
His towne (ere stayn'd) in purity to leave:
Whose happy rule still lasted with his life:
Thus at his funerals teares of force were rife.
Whil'st emulous judgements who but fame affect,
To praise themselves, all others would abate;
And where familiar, leaving due respect,
All what they reach, prize at an easie rate;
In living men, the world doth worth neglect,
Mark'd carelesly, by envy, or by hate:
And they when gone, are by the world admir'd,
As he was straight when once from hence retir'd.
Thus Hippoes Bishop, th'ornament of Arts,
Scarce free from stormes, was harbour'd in his Port,
When rancour raging in the Arians hearts,
In Affricke made the Christians peace but short;
Neare thousands five dispers'd in sundry parts,
Were after kill'd by cruelties worst sort:
And some dismembred, yet enjoy'd their breath,
Who (living Martyrs) had triumph'd o're death.
A generall meeting publikely decreed,
As to consult about the Churches state,
Foure hundred Fathers joyn'd themselves with speed,
Where doubts did challenge, freely to debate;
Ah! can religion so much mischiefe breed,
As under trust to shew the height of hate?
Religions shew, Gods Bishops did beguile:
Who met for peace, went parting in exile.
Then some were burn'd to terrifie the rest,
Whose banishment their constancy decor'd,
Till that fierce tyrant (Affrickes fatall pest)
For erring Arrians fought against the Lord,
And dy'd by vermine, with a stormy brest,
Whil'st (as his minde) his body was abhorr'd:
Thus he like Herod, like to him did end,
"Such monsters strange, strange judgements doe attend.
Loe, selfe-divisions still the Church did marre,
Superfluous knowledge toiling clouds to cleare;
Worse then with Turkes, with Christians, Christians jarre;
In levell grounds, all ruptures most appeare,
And each small distance seemes exceeding farre,
In them who (if not joyn'd) are naught, though neare:
Those curious doubts which good men doe eschew,
Make many Atheists, and doe better few.
But vent'rous Muse, a troupe we now must trace,
Prais'd for their rarenesse at the higher rate,
As eminent for parts, as in their place,
Their peoples better each way as in state;
Them Soveraignty did show, they it did grace,
Not by opinion, but with reason great:
Fraile Diadems did earst adorne their brow,
These everlasting are, which decke them now.
Great Constantine, who but commend thee must?
Afflicting furies thou didst soone asswage,
Whom (ere adventring) victory to trust,
A signe in heaven for surety did engage;
Thou quench'd in Tibers streames, a tyrants lust,
Which did in Rome exorbitantly rage:
And (persecution brought unto an end)
The Christian faith didst first by armes defend.
Though great with power, a stranger still to pride,
By warre prevailing, yet a friend to peace,
He rul'd, not raign'd, worlds Emperour, no, her Guide,
As then with men, now high with God in place;
He for the Church (as father) did provide,
And to be gorgeous, brought her from disgrace:
That she who late for feare durst not be seene,
Straight rais'd with pompe, was courted as a Queene.
A brave intention, bad effects may breed,
And things once good, may be deprav'd by time;
This Prince bent to supply the Churches need,
Did taint that purenesse which adorn'd her prime,
And choak'd with surfet, where he sought to feed,
The guiltlesse authour of a casuall crime:
That towne for Christians thus which rear'd he had,
The Turkes chiefe seate, makes many a Christian sad.
His father once (as heath'nish) did pretend,
That in his Campe no Christian more should dwell,
And numbers (straight lest him they should offend)
From their profession impudently fell;
But them who constant were, he did commend,
And from his Court the others did expell:
For those whose basenesse all men thus might view,
Since false to God, could not to him be true.
Next comes a Lady crown'd with glory forth,
Of these first two the mother, and the wife,
Whose birth and vertue did adorne the North,
Where first this Ile did give such goodnesse life;
O how great persons doe make worth more worth!
Her zeale in thousands bred a godly strife,
Like Sparta's Queene for beauty, and in name,
Not of so great, but of farre better fame.
Devotion at the height, (yet not a sinne,)
The scorn'd extreame did come so neare to touch,
That they who follow'd, did fall grosly in;
Thus superstition taught, by zeale grew such,
Which pilgrimage and relicts did begin;
That crosse she found, did since crosse Christ too much:
Of whose true crosse, we but by suff'ring share,
Here but of wood, her sonnes was drawn in th'ayre.
That Emp'rours sight doth next my thoughts invite,
Who was by Ambrose from the Church restrain'd,
Whil'st once (transported with impetuous spite)
His place in time of peace with bloud he stayn'd;
Romes power by parting, who did ruine quite,
Though his weake sonnes (when halfe) too much attain'd:
He dy'd in time, whil'st still held good, and great,
Ere barbarous squadrons came to crush the state.
That ebbing time can but few Emp'rours show,
For piety, or any worth renown'd,
Some servants rose (while as their Lords fell low)
Deserving, and desiring to be crown'd,
As he who did Alaricus o'rethrow,
Whose beaten remnant did his hoast confound,
Though Victor still, and (save him) wanting none;
So great a moment may depend on one.
Brave Ætius thus a bloudy praise may claime,
Who more perform'd then Emp'rours durst attempt;
That great Commander, with the martiall name,
Who Italy from bondage did exempt,
Whose Trophees fill'd both th'East and West, with fame,
Yet dy'd a beggar, sunke below contempt:
That Eunuch (mock'd) repaid his Empresse soone,
Who spun a web which never was undone.
I scarce can know a Christian at this houre,
Of them who sway'd the Empire of the East,
Whose soveraignty seem'd sweet, but still prov'd soure,
Who raign'd in state, oft ending like a beast)
Though Image-breakers, foes to Papall power,
In whose vast minde, religions part was least:
Those barbarous Lords whom dying Greece did breed,
Were types of Turkes that after should succeed.
Brave Martells sonne, great Charles the pride of France,
To plague the Pagans heritably borne,
Who over th'Alpes his ensignes did advance,
The Germans terrour, the Italians scorne,
Who from old foes begg'd helpe (what worse could chance?)
And with new titles did a Gaule adorne:
Ambition here joyn'd two by mutuall hopes,
But since few Emp'rours could agree with Popes.
That dignity whose Virgin flower was due,
To brave Commanders, victory to crowne,
Whil'st but in name, and not in essence true,
A Roman relict in a Grecian towne,
They gave it him (as after did ensue)
That gratefulnesse might godlinesse presse downe:
Yet even when his owne Tutor had the seate,
He oft tax'd Rome, which straight grew grosse, when great.
The next great Christian grac'd by sacred armes,
A glorious plant from the same bounds did spring,
From Infidels who back (by fierce alarmes)
The Tombe of Christ, and Davids throne did bring;
His foes all vanquish'd, and the worlds base charmes,
When both by conquest, and by choice a King:
He would for state be onely crown'd with Thorne,
To him for glory, though given Christ for scorne.
Some else with him whom heavens chiefe stamp did seale,
And in their breasts just fury did infuse,
Not for fraile glory, but enflam'd with zeale,
Who for good ends, warre (mans worst meanes) did use,
Their praise from fame no treacherous time can steale,
Immortalliz'd by ravish'd Tassoes Muse,
To crowne their conquest (scorning latter broils)
With stately trophees rear'd of Pagans spoils.
That Towne (a Garden long for heavens choice flowers)
By baptiz'd Kings commanded for a space,
Was brought to bondage by Barbarian powers,
Farre from faire Sion when with God in grace,
Yet once againe to free her stately Towers,
The steps of Godfrey sundry striv'd to trace,
With German, English, French, and other bands,
But fail'd in fortune, not in hearts, nor hands.
When Purgatory gold enough not gave,
Croisadoes then did holy warres pretend,
And (cosening kingdomes) did franke zeale deceive,
Whil'st publick aymes did maske a private end;
Oft Princes thus (that they lesse power might have)
Romes powerfull threatnings did to Syria send,
Who (jarring still) fear'd their abandon'd states,
Of neighbours jealous, emulous of Mates.
But what great conquest could those Kings acquire,
To take the Crosse whom crosses did constraine,
And not resolv'dly of their owne desire,
As courting glory, or expecting gaine?
Some (whose brave minds conceiv'd a generous ire)
More by their friends, then by their foes in paine,
With shows of vantage gladly did remove;
And all that warre infortunate did prove.
That simple age (rul'd by religious feares)
As Priests were pleas'd in every thing did deale,
Who did the grounds of truth from vulgar eares,
(To breed devotion) cunningly conceale,
Thus urging almes, and for each sinne true teares,
Whil'st want of knowledge bred prepost'rous zeale:
Then superstition (lavishly devout)
Not truly worship'd, but did grosly dote.
When minds of light base ignorance depriv'd,
(His beauties grac'd with many foils plac'd neare)
To banish darknesse godly Bernard striv'd,
A starre by night, more eminently cleare,
Not smelling of that age in which he liv'd,
His works were wonders then, and still are deare;
Those whom that doltish time with him brought forth,
He makes their faults seeme worse, they grace his worth.
That dainty Towne, the pearle of Arnes rich plains,
A Nurcery of good wits, still friend to Arts,
Not mother (as one said) of haplesse Swaines,
Doth now yeeld three, all prais'd for vertuous parts;
The first old Dante (swolne with just disdaines)
To see the errours of corrupted hearts:
Who doth their wayes (a censure) strictly trace,
Yet more then God did make doth grant one place.
The next is one whose brows were crown'd with bayes,
Who (chastly loving) worth did finde, or faine,
And (never jealous but of Phœbus rayes)
His lines (still pure) no sparke of lust could staine,
When marking well of Rome the wandring wayes,
Which in his soule he highly did disdaine.
(Iust fury bursting forth, indeed divine)
Her faults (since tax'd) first clearly did designe.
Then this great Poet hath a Preacher neare,
Who when French Charles the eighth would Naples try,
Did tell (if bent the Church from faults to cleare)
He prosper should, and else unhappy dye,
And when that King did faile (truth must appeare)
He had a minde his errour to supply;
But whil'st this man for heaven a passage urg'd,
His body first fire from corruption purg'd.
Ere taught to swimme, those soules who straight did sinke,
And (not set right) can scarce be said to stray,
Farre, farre be it from any minde to thinke,
That all were lost, who thus did lose their way:
Some seeking Christ no toile could make to shrinke,
Though oft wrong grounds, good works, and zeale did sway:
They did mistake, yet what seem'd best preferr'd,
Not in intention, but in knowledge err'd.
What troupes of late damnations number fill,
Who (clouds remov'd) the truth did clearly know,
And reading Scriptures, hearing Sermons still,
Had wicked hearts, were holy but in show?
Where such are sav'd who had more faith, lesse skill,
And gave good fruits, when none their seed did sow:
Though once in merits too much trust they plac'd,
Who dying theirs disclaim'd, and Christs imbrac'd.
Whil'st ignorance to blinde the world prevail'd,
Some through her darknesse did behold the light,
And marking how (their Guide) example fail'd,
Left shows, and sought what really was right,
Then with true courage, by no danger quail'd,
Did venter boldly in faiths sprituall fight,
Sure, whil'st they liv'd, a numbers souls to save,
And that when dead they should due guerdon have.
Last troupes at once griev'd at the Churches wrong,
(Milde piety transform'd in sacred rage)
As the Waldenses and Albigois long,
Did strive against the errours of their age,
Till Rome with passion, not in reason strong,
As 'gainst the Turks, a generall warre did wage,
To which the reverenc'd Crosse did armies call,
Not to convert, but to subvert them all.
This stately Isle which still for worth excell'd,
The first great bounds which (of it selfe intire)
Both Paganisme, and Popery quite expell'd,
And to perfection alwayes did aspire;
With sacred rage though first some Germans swell'd,
Here rose the sparke, whence they themselves took fire:
Who clear'd the way to many strugling ones,
Yet dy'd in peace, though spite did burne his bones.
Straight (boldly building on so solid ground)
From Bohem two for glory are design'd,
With learned Hierome, holy Hus renown'd,
A second Stephen, first Martyr of one kinde;
He for that faith which in himselfe was found,
And want in others whom no faith could binde,
For too much goodnesse prov'd a guilty man,
Though call'd a Goose, succeeded by a Swanne.
Salvations worke performing as fore-told,
Our great Redeemer offred up his bloud;
And with like inke their blisse doth rest enrold,
To nourish soules with a celestiall food,
Who (when grown strong) the truth so to unfold,
Could but by death make their profession good:
Thus cruelty the foes of Christ doth prove,
And suffring is their badge whom he doth love.
Their severall parts what volume could containe,
Whom (whil'st they guiltlesse scorn'd for feare to flie)
French Massacres, and Mary's bloudy raigne,
As Christ for them, for Christ did make to dye;
And in all states which did the truth restraine,
The faith of numbers raging flames did try.
Yet naming some, lest silence others wrong,
As now in heaven, Muse joyne them in my song.
And Martyrs you who bravely march'd before,
Whil'st match'd with Moderns do not wrath conceive;
When press'd by Pagans Idols to adore,
You chus'd to dye, ere quite your Lord to leave;
These suffred have as much, and aym'd at more,
Who (though they might themselves as Christians save)
Did dye ere that they would Christs will transgresse.
In substance, forme, or any way made lesse.
The Levites long a darknesse huge endur'd,
Till that those books which did Gods will containe,
When found, and read, a publicke griefe procur'd,
Each soule from sinne divorcing with disdaine;
Even so the truth (which ignorance obscur'd)
Iames (like Iosias) did divulge againe:
But Priests of purpose would the Gospell hide,
Where Priests were glad to get the Law for Guide.
O happy you whose pennes in nectar steept!
To flye the like, doe draw immortall lines,
Which well deserve in marble to be kept,
Since light enlarg'd by them more clearely shines;
Whil'st all securely cloath'd with darkenesse slept,
Religions difference quickned good engines,
Which courting knowledge now tosse learned scroules,
Not by implicite faith adventring soules.
A number, loe, I view made happy here,
Who by their travell, sprituall gold refin'd,
And mysteries which doubtfull were, made cleere,
Instructing all, confirming many minde,
Not aym'd to others till themselves were neere,
Did leade their flockes, not driv'd, yet stay'd behinde:
Such (as their doctrine) were reputed pure;
"Words but direct, example must allure.
Thrice happy those, who now in time beginne,
Themselves first judging, judgement to prevent,
Ere swallow'd quite, opposing horrid sinne
By pale remorse, with inward anguish rent;
As wing'd with winde, houres ayery glasse doth rinne,
And can no more be turn'd, repent, repent.
That fatall Serjeant, death, spares no degree,
And heavens straight hast to give their last decree.
Last updated January 14, 2019