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Anonymous, ‘An Elegie Upon the Death, and in Commemoration of the Truly Honourable and Truly Learned, John Lord Wilmot…
THE CRITICAL HERITAGE
Flow, brynie Orbs; weep, Britains Isles for him,
Till in salt tears thou like to Delos swim.
For can such Sapience unregarded set?
Or can ungrateful Man his worth forget,
Whose Candid soul in a sublimer sphere
Divinest Attributes deserves to share?
Should his great Requiems now be left unsung,
No doubt the golden Lyres by Angels strung,
In doleful Numbers from the high rais’d Pole,
On which the glittering Orbs of Heaven do roul,
Would nightly from Seraphick Hierarchs sound,
To wake the drousie world through Earth’s vast round,
The great Idea’s of his far-strech’d fame,
And Sapience Angelical proclaime.
With Conduct and with Courage was he fill’d,
Those great Foundations on which Empires build.
In War renown’d, at home for Peace besought:
For with his Pen as well as Sword he fought:1
Equally dreadful2 to correct the proud,
And send Chimera’s to their Mother-Cloud.
Though great by Birth, yet condescendent still
To all that sought him with compliant Will.
Meek in himself, true Honour’s brighter eye,
The only Badge of true Nobility.
For Pride in Greatness gets Contempt and Scorn;
Which dwells in Baseness rais’d, not Nobly born,
Heroick Virtues shin’d in him so bright,
That they oft daz’d the sharpest Eagles sight
Of prying Envy, which is only fed
On Honours Ruines, when ‘tis Captive led.
’Tis sure, the fates were cruel to supplant
The Man, whom now so much this Isle must want;
Yet wanting him, in loss for ever lye;
Too good for Earth, now rap’d above the Sky,
Where Hallelujahs he Triumphant sings,
Born up aloft on high Cherubean wings,
To eccho Praises to the King of Kings:
Whilst o’re the bright Empyrean fields he strays,
Crown’d with a Wreath of never-fading Bays;
There were other opinions about Rochester’s courage. This line is possibly an allusion to Carr Scroope’s Epigram, see No. 5.
Admir’d by the Angelick Orders there,
Whose beaming Faces are Eternal fair;
And yet from his diviner Soul did gain
A pleasing sense of Joy which they sustain
In endless Bliss, and coeternal Praise:
There let him dwell time boundless without Days.
Here lies the Muses’ Darling, and the Son
Of great Apollo, who such praises won
Upon this Mole-hill Globe, that Heav’n thought fit
He rais’d on high should in bright Mansions sit,
And safely thence upon the world look down,
Whilst ever-radiant Wreaths his Temples Crown.
The loss is ours; from Earth Heav’n won the Prize:
His body’s here, but Soul above the Skies.
An elegy ‘On the Death of the Earl of Rochester’, by ‘an unknown
What words, what sense, what Night-piece can express
The World’s Obscurity and Emptiness?
Since Rochester withdrew his Vital Beams
From the great chaos; fam’d for high Extreams
The Hero’s Talent, or in Good or Ill,
Dull Mediocrity misjudging still.
Seraphic Lord! whom Heav’n for wonders meant,
The earliest Wit, and the most sudden Saint.
What tho the Vulgar may traduce thy ways,
And strive to rob thee of thy Moral Praise?
If, with thy Rival Solomon’s intent,
Thou sin’dst a little for Experiment;
Or to maintain a Paradox, which none
Had Wit to answer but thy self alone;
Thy Soul flew higher; that strict sacred tye
With thy Creator, time was to discry.
Thus pregnant Prophets us’d uncommon ways,
Play’d their wild pranks and made the Vulgar gaze.
Till their great Message came to be declar’d:
They sin in Types, that sin so unprepar’d.
An unexpected change attracts all Eyes,
They needs must conquer that can well surprise.
Now Lechers whom the Pox cou’d ne’r convert,
Know where to fix a restless rambling heart.
Drunkards whose Souls, not their sick Maws love Drink,
Confound their Glasses, and begin to think.
The Atheist now has nothing left to say,
His Arguments were lent for sport not prey.
Like Guns to Clowns, or weapons to rash Boys,
Resum’d again for Mischief, or for noise.
The Spark cries out now e’re he is aware,
(Making an Oath a Prologue to a Prayer)
ROCHESTER said ’twas true! it must be so!
He had no Dispensation from Below.
Thy dying words, (than thousands of Harangues,
Urg’d with grimaces, fortifi’d with Bangs
On dreadful Pulpit) have made more recant,
Than Plague, or War, or Penitential want;
A Declaration so well tim’d, has gain’d
More Proselytes than e’re thy wildness feign’d;
Mad Debochees, whom thou didst but allure
With pleasant Baits, and tempt ’em to their cure.
Satan rejoyc’d to see thee take his part,
His Malice not so prosperous as thy Art.
He took thee for his Pilot to convey
Those easie souls he spirited away.
But to his great Confusion saw thee shift
Thy swelling Sails, to take another drift,
With an Illustrious Train, imputed his,
To the bright Region of eternal Bliss.
So have I seen a prudent General Act,
Whom Fate had forc’d with Rebels to contract
A hated League, Fight, Vote, Adhere, Obey,
Own the vile Cause as zealously as they;
Suppress the Loyal side, and pull all down,
With unresisted Force, that propt the Crown.
But when he found out the propitious hour,
To quit his Masque, and own his Prince’s Power;
Boldly asserted his great Sovereign’s Cause,
And brought three Kingdoms to his Master’s Laws.
(Poems on Several Occasions (1684), pp. 136–9)