Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Battle of Naseby (part 2 of 2)


hey are here! They rush on! We are broken! We are gone!
Our left is borne before them like stubble on the blast.
O Lord, put forth thy might! O Lord, defend the right!
Stand back to back, in God’s name, and fight it to the last.

Stout Skippon hath a wound; the centre hath given ground:
Hark! hark! – What means the trampling of horsemen on our rear?
Whose banner do I see, boys? ‘Tis he, thank God, ‘tis he, boys,
Bear up another minute, brave Oliver is here.

Their heads all stooping low, their points all in a row,
Like a whirlwind on the trees, like a deluge on the dykes,
Our cuirassiers have burst on the ranks of he Accurst,
And at a shock have scattered the forest of his pikes.

Fast, fast, the gallants ride, in some safe nook to hide
Their coward heads, predestined to rot on Temple Bar;
And he – he turns, he flies: - shame on those cruel eyes
That bore to look on torture, and dare not look on war.

Ho! comrades, scour the plain; and, ere ye strip the slain,
First give another stab to make your search secure,
Then shake from sleeves and pockets their broad-pieces and lockets,
The tokens of the wanton, the plunder of the poor.

Fools! your doublets shone with gold, and your hearts were gay and bold,
When you kissed your lily hands to your lemans to-day;
And to-morrow shall the fox, from her chambers in the rocks,
Lead forth her tawny cubs to howl above the prey.

Where be your tongues that late mocked at heaven and hell and fate,
And the fingers that once were so busy with your blades,
Your perfum’d satin clothes, your catches and your oaths,
Your stage-plays and your sonnets, your diamonds and your spades?

Down, down, for ever down with the mitre and the crown;
With the Belial of the Court and the Mammon of the Pope;
There is woe in Oxford halls: there is wail in Durham’s Stalls;
The Jesuit smites his bosom: the Bishop rends his cope.

And She of the seven hills shall mourn her children’s ills,
And tremble when she thinks on the edge of England’s sword;
And the Kings of earth in fear shall shudder when they hear
What the hand of God hath wrought for the House and the Word.

3 comments:

H.C. Ross said...

Great post, Susan.

Hey, do you think the mention of the 'crown' in the second to last stanza refers to the pope, or does it also refer to the King -- Charles himself, and maybe even monarchy?

And could you comment again on the intentions of this poet? Was this poem meant as a serious romanticization of the puritan cause, or as the opposite, ie, a parody of puritan arrogance?

Thanks!

Susan A said...

'Crown' in the penultimate stanza is probably chiefly referring to the English Monarchy: 'Crown and Mitre' being Monarchy and Bishops, which is what many people saw themselves as fighting against. But it probably has more than one meaning... I think the first part of the last stanza is talking about Rome and the Roman Church more explicitly (seven hills etc) then referring to the Old Testament idea of the Kings of the Earth bowing to Israel (see 1 Chronicles 9 and various of the Psalms!) in terms of England and its relation to other countries.

Macaulay was quite shadowy about his intentions, but he was a very clever and witty historian. The name of the persona he adopts, Obadiah Bind-Their-Kings-in-Chains-and-Their -Nobles-with-Links-of-Iron, comments better on the parody than I can. But he was very big on the medium of language as a way for understanding history; for instance, trying to think and speak how puritans would have thought and spoken in order to portray them effectively. So it's more a slightly comic reflection of their attitudes, such as the way they associate themselves with Old Testament Israel, and the extreme nature of their providentialism, than a parody in a more bitter sense. Maybe more on Macaulay another time!

Susan A said...

Of course, as the stanza suggests, the Crown and the Pope were also connected at the time: Charles's wife was a Roman Catholic and many people thought there was a plot to re-Roman-Catholicise England...

Sorry if it's sent you inordinate numbers of emails to tell you I've replied to your comment... I am not being very coherent today and keep having to delete my own comments.

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