Carmen Seculare. For the Year 1700. To The King

A poem by Matthew Prior

Thy elder Look, Great Janus, cast
Into the long Records of Ages past:
Review the Years in fairest Action drest
With noted White, Superior to the rest;
Aera's deriv'd, and Chronicles begun
From Empires founded, and from Battels won:
Show all the Spoils by valiant Kings achiev'd,
And groaning Nations by Their Arms reliev'd;
The Wounds of Patriots in their Country's Cause,
And happy Pow'r sustain'd by wholesom Laws:
In comely Rank call ev'ry Merit forth:
Imprint on ev'ry Act it's Standard Worth:
The glorious Parallels then downward bring
To Modern Wonders, and to Britain's King:
With equal Justice and Historic Care
Their Laws, Their Toils, Their Arms with His compare:
Confess the various Attributes of Fame
Collected and compleat in William's Name:
To all the list'ning World relate
(As Thou dost His Story read)
That nothing went before so Great,
And nothing Greater can succeed.
Thy Native Latium was Thy darling Care,
Prudent in Peace, and terrible in War:
The boldest Virtues that have govern'd Earth
From Latium's fruitful Womb derive their Birth.
Then turn to Her fair-written Page:
From dawning Childhood to establish'd Age,
The Glories of Her Empire trace:
Confront the Heroes of Thy Roman Race:
And let the justest Palm the Victor's Temples grace.
The Son of Mars reduc'd the trembling Swains,
And spread His Empire o'er the distant Plains:
But yet the Sabins violated Charms
Obscur'd the Glory of His rising Arms.
Numa the Rights of strict Religion knew;
On ev'ry Altar laid the Incense due;
Unskill'd to dart the pointed Spear,
Or lead the forward Youth to noble War.
Stern Brutus was with too much Horror good,
Holding his Fasces stain'd with Filial Blood.
Fabius was Wise, but with Excess of Care;
He sav'd his Country; but prolonged the War:
While Decius, Paulus, Curius greatly fought;
And by Their strict Examples taught,
How wild Desires should be controll'd;
And how much brighter Virtue was, than Gold;
They scarce Their swelling Thirst of Fame could hide;
And boasted Poverty with too much Pride.
Excess in Youth made Scipio less rever'd:
And Cato dying seem'd to own, He fear'd.
Julius with Honor tam'd Rome's foreign Foes:
But Patriots fell, e'er the Dictator rose.
And while with Clemency Augustus reign'd;
The Monarch was ador'd; the City chain'd.
With justest Honour be Their Merits drest:
But be Their Failings too confest:
Their Virtue, like their Tyber's Flood
Rolling, it's Course design'd the Country's Good:
But oft the Torrent's too impetuous Speed
From the low Earth tore some polluting Weed:
And with the Blood of Jove there always ran
Some viler Part, some Tincture of the Man.
Few Virtues after These so far prevail,
But that Their Vices more than turn the Scale:
Valour grown wild by Pride, and Pow'r by Rage,
Did the true Charms of Majesty impair:
Rome by Degrees advancing more in Age,
Show'd sad Remains of what had once been fair;
'Till Heav'n a better Race of Men supplies;
And Glory shoots new Beams from Western Skies.
Turn then to Pharamond, and Charlemain,
And the long Heroes of the Gallic Strain;
Experienc'd Chiefs, for hardy Prowess known,
And bloody Wreaths in vent'rous Battels won.
From the First William, our great Norman King,
The bold Plantagenets, and Tudors bring;
Illustrious Virtues, who by turns have rose,
In foreign Fields to check Britannia's Foes;
With happy Laws Her Empire to sustain,
And with full Pow'r assert Her ambient Main:
But sometimes too Industrious to be Great,
Nor Patient to expect the Turns of Fate,
They open'd Camps deform'd by Civil Fight,
And made proud Conquest trample over Right:
Disparted Britain mourn'd Their doubtful Sway,
And dreaded Both, when Neither would obey.

From Didier, and Imperial Adolph trace
The Glorious Offspring of the Nassaw Race,
Devoted Lives to Publick Liberty;
The Chief still dying, or the Country free.
Then see the Kindred Blood of Orange flow,
From warlike Cornet, thro' the Loins of Beau;
Thro' Chalon next; and there with Nassaw join,
From Rhone's fair Banks transplanted to the Rhine.
Bring next the Royal List of Stuarts forth,
Undaunted Minds, that rul'd the rugged North;
'Till Heav'n's Decrees by rip'ning Times are shown;
'Till Scotland's Kings ascend the English Throne;
And the fair Rivals live for ever One.
Janus, mighty Deity,
Be kind; and as Thy searching Eye
Does our Modern Story trace,
Finding some of Stuart's Race
Unhappy, pass Their Annals by:
No harsh Reflection let Remembrance raise:
Forbear to mention, what Thou canst not praise:
But as Thou dwell'st upon that Heav'nly Name,
To Grief for ever Sacred as to Fame,
Oh! read it to Thy self; in Silence weep;
And Thy convulsive Sorrows inward keep;
Lest Britain's Grief should waken at the Sound;
And Blood gush fresh from Her eternal Wound.
Whither would'st Thou further look?
Read William's Acts, and close the ample Book:
Peruse the Wonders of His dawning Life;
How, like Alcides, He began;
With Infant Patience calm'd Seditious Strife,
And quell'd the Snakes which round his Cradle ran.
Describe His Youth, attentive to Alarms,
By Dangers form'd, and perfected in Arms:
When Conqu'ring, mild; when Conquer'd, not disgrac'd;
By Wrongs not lessen'd, nor by Triumphs rais'd:
Superior to the blind Events
Of little Human Accidents;
And constant to His first Decree,
To curb the Proud, to set the Injur'd free;
To bow the haughty Neck, and raise the suppliant Knee.
His opening Years to riper Manhood bring;
And see the Hero perfect in the King:
Imperious Arms by Manly Reason sway'd,
And Power Supreme by free Consent obey'd:
With how much Haste His Mercy meets his Foes:
And how unbounded His Forgiveness flows:
With what Desire He makes His Subjects bless'd,
His Favours granted ere His Throne address'd:
What Trophies o'er our captiv'd Hearts He rears,
By Arts of Peace more potent, than by Wars:
How o'er Himself, as o'er the World, He Reigns,
His Morals strength'ning, what His Law ordains.
Thro' all His Thread of Life already spun,
Becoming Grace and proper Action run:
The Piece by Virtue's equal Hand is wrought,
Mix'd with no Crime, and shaded with no Fault:
No Footsteps of the Victor's Rage
Left in the Camp, where William did engage:
No Tincture of the Monarch's Pride
Upon the Royal Purple spy'd:
His Fame, like Gold, the more 'tis try'd,
The more shall its intrinsic Worth proclaim;
Shall pass the Combat of the searching Flame,
And triumph o'er the vanquish'd Heat,
For ever coming out the same,
And losing nor it's Lustre, nor it's Weight.
Janus be to William just;
To faithful History His Actions trust:
Command Her, with peculiar Care
To trace each Toil, and comment ev'ry War:
His saving Wonders bid Her write
In Characters distinctly bright;
That each revolving Age may read
The Patriot's Piety, the Hero's Deed:
And still the Sire inculcate to his Son
Transmissive Lessons of the King's Renown:
That William's Glory still may live;
When all that present Art can give,
The Pillar'd Marble, and the Tablet Brass,
Mould'ring, drop the Victor's Praise:
When the great Monuments of His Pow'r
Shall now be visible no more:
When Sambre shall have chang'd her winding Flood;
And Children ask, where Namur stood.
Namur, proud City, how her Towr's were arm'd!
How She contemn'd th'approaching Foe!
'Till She by William's Trumpets was allarm'd,
And shook, and sunk, and fell beneath His Blow.
Jove and Pallas, mighty Pow'rs,
Guided the Hero to the hostile Tow'rs.
Perseus seem'd less swift in War,
When, wing'd with Speed, he flew thro' Air.
Embattl'd Nations strive in vain
The Hero's Glory to restrain:
Streams arm'd with Rocks, and Mountains red with Fire
In vain against His Force conspire.
Behold Him from the dreadful Height appear!
And lo! Britannia's Lions waving there.
Europe freed, and France repell'd
The Hero from the Height beheld:
He spake the Word, that War and Rage should cease:
He bid the Maese and Rhine in Safety flow;
And dictated a lasting Peace
To the rejoicing World below:
To rescu'd States, and vindicated Crowns
His Equal Hand prescrib'd their ancient Bounds;
Ordain'd whom ev'ry Province should obey;
How far each Monarch should extend His Sway:
Taught 'em how Clemency made Pow'r rever'd;
And that the Prince Belov'd was truly Fear'd.
Firm by His Side unspotted Honour stood,
Pleas'd to confess Him not so Great as Good:
His Head with brighter Beams fair Virtue deck't,
Than Those which all His num'rous Crowns reflect:
Establish'd Freedom clap'd her joyful Wings;
Proclaim'd the First of Men, and Best of Kings.
Whither would the Muse aspire
With Pindar's Rage without his Fire?
Pardon me, Janus, 'twas a Fault,
Created by too great a Thought:
Mindless of the God and Day,
I from thy Altars, Janus, stray,
From Thee, and from My self born far away.
The fiery Pegasus disdains
To mind the Rider's Voice, or hear the Reins:
When glorious Fields and opening Camps He views;
He runs with an unbounded Loose:
Hardly the Muse can sit the headstrong Horse:
Nor would She, if She could, check his impetuous Force:
With the glad Noise the Cliffs and Vallies ring;
While She thro' Earth and Air pursues the King.
She now beholds Him on the Belgic Shoar;
Whilst Britain's Tears His ready Help implore,
Dissembling for Her sake his rising Cares,
And with wise Silence pond'ring vengeful Wars.
She thro' the raging Ocean now
Views Him advancing his auspicious Prow;
Combating adverse Winds and Winter Seas,
Sighing the Moments that defer Our Ease;
Daring to wield the Scepter's dang'rous Weight,
And taking the Command, to save the State:
Tho' e'er the doubtful Gift can be secur'd,
New Wars must be sustain'd, new Wounds endur'd.
Thro' rough Ierne's Camp She sounds Alarms,
And Kingdoms yet to be redeem'd by Arms;
In the dank Marshes finds her glorious Theme;
And plunges after Him thro' Boyn's fierce Stream.
She bids the Nereids run with trembling Haste,
To tell old Ocean how the Hero past.
The God rebukes their Fear, and owns the Praise
Worthy that Arm, Whose Empire He obeys.
Back to His Albion She delights to bring
The humblest Victor, and the kindest King.
Albion, with open Triumph would receive
Her Hero, nor obtains His Leave:
Firm He rejects the Altars She would raise;
And thanks the Zeal, while He declines the Praise.
Again She follows Him thro' Belgia's Land,
And Countries often sav'd by William's Hand;
Hears joyful Nations bless those happy Toils,
Which freed the People, but return'd the Spoils.
In various Views She tries her constant Theme;
Finds Him in Councils, and in Arms the Same:
When certain to o'ercome, inclin'd to save,
Tardy to Vengeance, and with Mercy, Brave.
Sudden another Scene employs her Sight:
She sets her Hero in another Light:
Paints His great Mind Superior to Success,
Declining Conquest, to establish Peace:
She brings Astrea down to Earth again,
And Quiet, brooding o'er His future Reign.
Then with unweary'd Wing the Goddess soars
East, over Danube and Propontis Shoars;
Where jarring Empires ready to engage,
Retard their Armies, and suspend their Rage;
'Till William's Word, like That of Fate, declares,
If They shall study Peace, or lengthen Wars.
How sacred His Renown for equal Laws,
To whom the World defers it's Common Cause!
How fair His Friendships, and His Leagues how just,
Whom ev'ry Nation courts, Whom all Religions trust!
From the Maeotis to the Northern Sea,
The Goddess wings her desp'rate Way;
Sees the young Muscovite, the mighty Head,
Whose Sov'reign Terror forty Nations dread,
Inamour'd with a greater Monarch's Praise,
And passing half the Earth to His Embrace:
She in His Rule beholds His Volga's Force,
O'er Precipices, with impetuous Sway
Breaking, and as He rowls his rapid Course,
Drowning, or bearing down, whatever meets his Way.
But her own King She likens to His Thames,
With gentle Course devolving fruitful Streams:
Serene yet Strong, Majestic yet Sedate,
Swift without Violence, without Terror Great.
Each ardent Nymph the rising Current craves:
Each Shepherd's Pray'r retards the parting Waves:
The Vales along the Bank their Sweets disclose:
Fresh Flow'rs for ever rise: and fruitful Harvest grows.
Yet whither would th'advent'rous Goddess go?
Sees She not Clouds, and Earth, and Main below?
Minds She the Dangers of the Lycian Coast,
And Fields, where mad Belerophon was lost?
Or is Her tow'ring Flight reclaim'd
By Seas from Icarus's Downfall nam'd?
Vain is the Call, and useless the Advice:
To wise Perswasion Deaf, and human Cries,
Yet upward She incessant flies;
Resolv'd to reach the high Empyrean Sphere,
And tell Great Jove, She sings His Image here;
To ask for William an Olympic Crown,
To Chromius' Strength, and Theron's Speed unknown:
Till lost in trackless Fields of shining Day,
Unable to discern the Way
Which Nassaw's Virtue only could explore,
Untouch'd, unknown, to any Muse before,
She, from the noble Precipices thrown,
Comes rushing with uncommon Ruin down.
Glorious Attempt! Unhappy Fate!
The Song too daring, and the Theme too great!
Yet rather thus She wills to die,
Than in continu'd Annals live, to sing
A second Heroe, or a vulgar King;
And with ignoble Safety fly
In sight of Earth, along a middle Sky.
To Janus' Altars, and the numerous Throng,
That round his mystic Temple press,
For William's Life, and Albion's Peace,
Ambitious Muse reduce the roving Song.
Janus, cast Thy forward Eye
Future, into great Rhea's pregnant Womb;
Where young Ideas brooding lye,
And tender Images of Things to come:
'Till by Thy high Commands releas'd;
'Till by Thy Hand in proper Atoms dress'd,
In decent Order They advance to Light;
Yet then too swiftly fleet by human Sight;
And meditate too soon their everlasting Flight.
Nor Beaks of Ships in Naval Triumph born,
Nor Standards from the hostile Ramparts torn,
Nor Trophies brought from Battles won,
Nor Oaken Wreath, nor Mural Crown
Can any future Honours give
To the Victorious Monarch's Name:
The Plenitude of William's Fame
Can no accumulated Stores receive.
Shut then, auspicious God, Thy Sacred Gate,
And make Us Happy, as our King is Great.
Be kind, and with a milder Hand,
Closing the Volume of the finish'd Age,
(Tho' Noble, 'twas an Iron Page)
A more delightful Leaf expand,
Free from Alarms, and fierce Bellona's Rage:
Bid the great Months begin their joyful Round,
By Flora some, and some by Ceres Crown'd:
Teach the glad Hours to scatter, as they fly,
Soft Quiet, gentle Love, and endless Joy:
Lead forth the Years for Peace and Plenty fam'd,
From Saturn's Rule, and better Metal nam'd.
Secure by William's Care let Britain stand;
Nor dread the bold Invader's Hand:
From adverse Shoars in Safety let Her hear
Foreign Calamity, and distant War;
Of which let Her, great Heav'n, no Portion bear.
Betwixt the Nations let Her hold the Scale;
And as She wills, let either Part prevail:
Let her glad Vallies smile with wavy Corn:
Let fleecy Flocks her rising Hills adorn:
Around her Coast let strong Defence be spread:
Let fair Abundance on her Breast be shed:
And Heav'nly Sweets bloom round the Goddess' Head.
Where the white Towers and ancient Roofs did stand,
Remains of Wolsey's or great Henry's Hand,
To Age now yielding, or devour'd by Flame;
Let a young Phenix raise her tow'ring Head:
Her Wings with lengthen'd Honour let Her spread;
And by her Greatness show her Builder's Fame.
August and Open, as the Hero's Mind,
Be her capacious Courts design'd:
Let ev'ry Sacred Pillar bear
Trophies of Arms, and Monuments of War.
The King shall there in Parian Marble breath,
His Shoulder bleeding fresh: and at His Feet
Disarm'd shall lye the threat'ning Death:
(For so was saving Jove's Decree compleat.)
Behind, That Angel shall be plac'd, whose Shield
Sav'd Europe, in the Blow repell'd:
On the firm Basis, from his Oozy Bed
Boyn shall raise his Laurell'd Head;
And his Immortal Stream be known,
Artfully waving thro' the wounded Stone.
And Thou, Imperial Windsor, stand inlarg'd,
With all the Monarch's Trophies charg'd:
Thou, the fair Heav'n, that dost the Stars inclose,
Which William's Bosom wears, or Hand bestows
On the great Champions who support his Throne,
And Virtues nearest to His own.
Round Ormond's Knee Thou ty'st the Mystic String,
That makes the Knight Companion to the King.
From glorious Camps return'd, and foreign Feilds,
Bowing before thy sainted Warrior's Shrine,
Fast by his great Forefather's Coats, and Shields
Blazon'd from Bohun's, or from Butler's Line,
He hangs His Arms; nor fears those Arms should shine
With an unequal Ray; or that His Deed
With paler Glory should recede,
Eclips'd by Theirs; or lessen'd by the Fame
Ev'n of His own Maternal Nassaw's Name.
Thou smiling see'st great Dorset's Worth confest,
The Ray distinguishing the Patriot's Breast:
Born to protect and love, to help and please;
Sov'reign of Wit, and Ornament of Peace.
O! long as Breath informs this fleeting Frame,
Ne'er let me pass in Silence Dorset's Name;
Ne'er cease to mention the continu'd Debt,
Which the great Patron only would forget,
And Duty, long as Life, must study to acquit.
Renown'd in Thy Records shall Ca'ndish stand,
Asserting Legal Pow'r, and just Command:
To the great House thy Favour shall be shown,
The Father's Star transmissive to the Son.
From Thee the Talbot's and the Seymour's Race
Inform'd, Their Sire's immortal Steps shall trace:
Happy may their Sons receive
The bright Reward, which Thou alone canst give.
And if a God these lucky Numbers guide;
If sure Apollo o'er the Verse preside;
Jersey, belov'd by all (For all must feel
The Influence of a Form and Mind,
Where comely Grace and constant Virtue dwell,
Like mingl'd Streams, more forcible when join'd.)
Jersey shall at Thy Altars stand;
Shall there receive the Azure Band,
That fairest Mark of Favour and of Fame,
Familiar to the Vilier's Name.

Science to raise, and Knowledge to enlarge,
Be our great Master's future Charge;
To write His own Memoirs, and leave His Heirs
High Schemes of Government, and Plans of Wars;
By fair Rewards our Noble Youth to raise
To emulous Merit, and to Thirst of Praise;
To lead Them out from Ease e'er opening Dawn,
Through the thick Forest and the distant Lawn,
Where the fleet Stag employs their ardent Care;
And Chases give Them Images of War.
To teach Them Vigilance by false Alarms;
Inure Them in feign'd Camps to real Arms;
Practise Them now to curb the turning Steed,
Mocking the Foe; now to his rapid Speed
To give the Rein; and in the full Career,
To draw the certain Sword, or send the pointed Spear.
Let Him unite His Subjects Hearts,
Planting Societies for peaceful Arts;
Some that in Nature shall true Knowledge found,
And by Experiment make Precept sound;
Some that to Morals shall recal the Age,
And purge from vitious Dross the sinking Stage;
Some that with Care true Eloquence shall teach,
And to just Idioms fix our doubtful Speech:
That from our Writers distant Realms may know,
The Thanks We to our Monarch owe;
And Schools profess our Tongue through ev'ry Land,
That has invok'd His Aid, or blest His Hand.
Let His high Pow'r the drooping Muses rear.
The Muses only can reward His Care:
'Tis They that guard the great Atrides' Spoils:
'Tis They that still renew Ulysses' Toils:
To Them by smiling Jove 'twas giv'n, to save
Distinguish'd Patriots from the Common Grave;
To them, Great William's Glory to recal,
When Statues moulder, and when Arches fall.
Nor let the Muses, with ungrateful Pride,
The Sources of their Treasure hide:
The Heroe's Virtue does the String inspire,
When with big Joy They strike the living Lyre:
On William's Fame their Fate depends:
With Him the Song begins: with Him it ends.
From the bright Effluence of His Deed
They borrow that reflected Light,
With which the lasting Lamp They feed,
Whose Beams dispel the Damps of envious Night.
Through various Climes, and to each distant Pole
In happy Tides let active Commerce rowl:
Let Britain's Ships export an Annual Fleece,
Richer than Argos brought to ancient Greece;
Returning loaden with the shining Stores,
Which lye profuse on either India's Shores.
As our high Vessels pass their wat'ry Way,
Let all the Naval World due Homage pay;
With hasty Reverence their Top-Honours lower,
Confessing the asserted Power,
To Whom by Fate 'twas given, with happy Sway
To calm the Earth, and vindicate the Sea.
Our Pray'rs are heard, our Master's Fleets shall go,
As far as Winds can bear, or Waters flow,
New Lands to make, new Indies to explore,
In Worlds unknown to plant Britannia's Power;
Nations yet wild by Precept to reclaim,
And teach 'em Arms, and Arts, in William's Name.
With humble Joy, and with respectful Fear
The list'ning People shall His Story hear,
The Wounds He bore, the Dangers He sustain'd,
How far he Conquer'd, and how well he Reign'd;
Shall own his Mercy equal to His Fame;
And form their Children's Accents to His Name,
Enquiring how, and when from Heav'n He came.
Their Regal Tyrants shall with Blushes hide
Their little Lusts of Arbitrary Pride,
Nor bear to see their Vassals ty'd:
When William's Virtues raise their opening Thought,
His forty Years for Publick Freedom fought,
Europe by His Hand sustain'd,
His Conquest by His Piety restrain'd,
And o'er Himself the last great Triumph gain'd.
No longer shall their wretched Zeal adore
Ideas of destructive Power,
Spirits that hurt, and Godheads that devour:
New Incense They shall bring, new Altars raise,
And fill their Temples with a Stranger's Praise;
When the Great Father's Character They find
Visibly stampt upon the Hero's Mind;
And own a present Deity confest,
In Valour that preserv'd, and Power that bless'd.
Through the large Convex of the Azure Sky
(For thither Nature casts our common Eye)
Fierce Meteors shoot their arbitrary Light;
And Comets march with lawless Horror bright:
These hear no Rule, no righteous Order own;
Their Influence dreaded, as their Ways unknown:
Thro' threaten'd Lands They wild Destruction throw;
'Till ardent Prayer averts the Public Woe:
But the bright Orb that blesses all above,
The sacred Fire, the real Son of Jove,
Rules not His Actions by Capricious Will;
Nor by ungovern'd Power declines to Ill:
Fix'd by just Laws He goes for ever right:
Man knows His Course, and thence adores His Light.
O Janus! would intreated Fate conspire
To grant what Britain's Wishes could require;
Above, That Sun should cease his Way to go,
E'er William cease to rule, and bless below:
But a relentless Destiny
Urges all that e'er was born:
Snatch'd from her Arms, Britannia once must mourn
The Demi-God: The Earthly Half must die.
Yet if our Incense can Your Wrath remove;
If human Prayers avail on Minds above;
Exert, great God, Thy Int'rest in the Sky;
Gain each kind Pow'r, each Guardian Deity,
That conquer'd by the publick Vow,
They bear the dismal Mischief far away:
O! long as utmost Nature may allow,
Let Them retard the threaten'd Day:
Still be our Master's Life Thy happy Care:
Still let His Blessings with His Years increase:
To His laborious Youth consum'd in War,
Add lasting Age, adorn'd and crown'd with Peace:
Let twisted Olive bind those Laurels fast,
Whose Verdure must for ever last.

Long let this growing AEra bless His Sway:
And let our Sons His present Rule obey:
On His sure Virtue long let Earth rely:
And late let the Imperial Eagle fly,
To bear the Hero thro' His Father's Sky,
To Leda's Twins, or He whose glorious Speed
On Foot prevail'd, or He who tam'd the Steed;
To Hercules, at length absolv'd by Fate
From Earthly Toil, and above Envy great;
To Virgil's Theme, bright Cytherea's Son,
Sire of the Latian, and the British Throne;
To all the radiant Names above,
Rever'd by Men, and dear to Jove.
Late, Janus, let the Nassaw-Star
New born, in rising Majesty appear,
To triumph over vanquish'd Night,
And guide the prosp'rous Mariner
With everlasting Beams of friendly Light.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Carmen Seculare. For the Year 1700. To The King' by Matthew Prior

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy