John Denham

(1615-1669 / England)

On The Earl Of Strafford's Trial And Death - Poem by John Denham

Great Strafford! worthy of that name, though all
Of thee could be forgotten, but thy fall,
Crush'd by imaginary treason's weight,
Which too much merit did accumulate.
As chemists gold from brass by fire would draw,
Pretexts are into treason forged by law.
His wisdom such, at once it did appear
Three kingdoms' wonder, and three kingdoms' fear;
Whilst single he stood forth, and seem'd, although
Each had an army, as an equal foe.
Such was his force of eloquence, to make
The hearers more concern'd than he that spake;
Each seem'd to act that part he came to see,
And none was more a looker-on than he;
So did he move our passions, some were known
To wish, for the defence, the crime their own.
Now private pity strove with public hate,
Reason with rage, and eloquence with fate:
Now they could him, if he could them, forgive;
He's not too guilty, but too wise, to live:
Less seem those facts which treason's nickname bore,
Than such a fear'd ability for more.
They after death their fears of him express,
His innocence and their own guilt confess.
Their legislative frenzy they repent,
Enacting it should make no precedent.
This fate he could have 'scaped, but would not lose
Honour for life, but rather nobly chose
Death from their fears, than safety from his own,
That his last action all the rest might crown.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, September 18, 2010

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