Henry King (16 January 1592 – 30 September 1669 / Worminghall, Buckinghamshire)
AN ELEGY Upon the most victorious King of Sweden Gustavus Adolphus
Like a cold fatal sweat which ushers death
My thoughts hang on me, & my lab'ring breath
Stopt up with sighs, my fancie big with woes,
Feels two twinn'd mountains struggle in her throws,
Of boundless sorrow one, t'other of sin;
For less let no one rate it to begin
Where honour ends. In Great Gustavus flame
That style burnt out, and wasted to a name,
Does barely live with us. As when the stuff
That fed it failes, the Taper turns to snuff.
With this poor snuff, this ayerie shadow, we
Of Fame and Honour must contented be;
Since from the vain grasp of our wishes fled
Their glorious substance is, now He is dead.
Speak it again, and louder, louder yet;
Else whil'st we hear the sound we shall forget
What it delivers. Let hoarse rumor cry
Till she so many ecchoes multiply,
Those may like num'rous witnesses confute
Our unbelieving soules, that would dispute
And doubt this truth for ever. This one way
Is left our incredulity to sway;
To waken our deaf sense, and make our ears
As open and dilated as our fears;
That we may feel the blow, and feeling grieve,
At what we would not feign, but must believe.
And in that horrid faith behold the world
From her proud height of expectation hurl'd,
Stooping with him, as if she strove to have
No lower Center now then Swedens grave.
O could not all thy purchas'd victories
Like to thy Fame thy Flesh immortalize?
Were not thy vertue nor thy valour charmes
To guard thy body from those outward harmes
Which could not reach thy soul? could not thy spirit
Lend somewhat which thy frailty might inherit
From thy diviner part, that Death nor Hate
Nor envy's bullets ere could penetrate?
Could not thy early Trophies in stern fight
Torn from the Dane, the Pole, the Moscovite?
Which were thy triumphs seeds, as pledges sown,
That when thy honours harvest was ripe grown,
With full-summ'd wing thou Falcon-like wouldst fly
And cuff the Eagle in the German sky:
Forcing his iron beak and feathers feel
They were not proof 'gainst thy victorious steel.
Could not all these protect thee? or prevaile
To fright that Coward Death, who oft grew pale
To look thee and thy battails in the face?
Alas they could not: Destiny gives place
To none; nor is it seen that Princes lives
Can saved be by their prerogatives.
No more was thine; who clos'd in thy cold lead,
Dost from thy self a mournful lecture read
Of Mans short-dated glory: learn you Kings,
You are like him but penetrable things;
Though you from Demi-Gods derive your birth,
You are at best but honourable earth:
And howere sifted from that courser bran
Which does compound and knead the common man,
Nothing's immortal or from earth refin'd
About you, but your Office and your Mind.
Here then break your false Glasses, which present
You greater then your Maker ever meant:
Make truth your Mirrour now, since you find all
That flatter you confuted by his fall.
Yet since it was decreed thy lifes bright Sun
Must be eclips'd ere thy full course was run,
Be proud thou didst in thy black Obsequies
With greater glory set then others rise.
For in thy death, as life, thou heldest one
Most just and regular proportion.
Look how the Circles drawn by Compass meet
Indivisibly joyned head to feet,
And by continued points which them unite
Grow at once Circular and Infinite:
So did thy Fate and honour now contend
To match thy brave beginning with thy end.
Therefore thou hadst instead of Passing bells
The Drums and Cannons thunder for thy knells;
And in the Field thou did'st triumphing dy,
Closing thy eye-lids with a victory:
That so by thousands who there lost their breath
King-like thou might'st be waited on in death.
Liv'd Plutarch now, and would of Cæsar tell,
He could make none but Thee his parallel;
Whose tide of glory swelling to the brim
Needs borrow no addition from Him.
When did great Julius in any Clime
Atchieve so much and in so small a time?
Or if he did, yet shalt Thou in that land
Single for him and unexampled stand.
When ore the Germans first his Eagle towr'd
What saw the Legions which on them he pour'd?
But massie bodies, made their swords to try
Subjects not for his fight, but slavery.
In that so vast expanded peece of ground
(Now Swedens Theater and Tom he found
Nothing worth Cæsars valour, or his fear,
No conqu'ring Army, nor a Tilley there,
Whose strength nor wiles, nor practice in the warre
Might the fierce Torrent of thy triumphs barre,
But that thy winged sword twice made him yield,
Both from his trenches beat, and from the field.
Besides the Romane thought he had done much
Did he the bank of Rhenus onely touch.
But though his march was bounded by the Rhine
Not Oder nor the Danube Thee confine;
And but thy frailty did thy fame prevent,
Thou hadst thy conquests strecht to such extent,
Thou might'st Vienna reach, and after span
From Mulda to the Baltick Ocean.
But death hath spann'd thee: nor must we divine
What heir thou leav'st to finish thy design,
Or who shall thee succeed as Champion
For liberty and for religion.
Thy task is done; as in a Watch the spring
Wound to the height, relaxes with the string:
So thy steel nerves of conquest, from their steep
Ascent declin'd, lie slackt in thy last sleep.
Rest then triumphant soul! for ever rest!
And, like the Phœnix in her spicy nest,
Embalm'd with thine own merit, upward fly,
Born in a cloud of perfume to the sky.
Whil'st, as in deathless Urnes, each noble mind
Treasures thy ashes which are left behind.
And if perhaps no Cassiopeian spark
(Which in the North did thy first rising mark)
Shine ore thy Herse: the breath of our just praise
Shall to the Firmament thy vertues raise;
Then fix, and kindle them into a Starre,
Whose influence may crown thy glorious warre.
---O Famâ ingens ingentior armis
Rex Gustave, quibus Cœlo te laudibus æquem?
Virgil. Æneid. lib. 2.
Comments about this poem (AN ELEGY Upon the most victorious King of Sweden Gustavus Adolphus by Henry King )
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