Tom May's Death
Poem by Andrew Marvell
As one put drunk into the Packet-boat,
Tom May was hurry'd hence and did not know't.
But was amaz'd on the Elysian side,
And with an Eye uncertain, gazing wide,
Could not determine in what place he was,
For whence in Stevens ally Trees or Grass.
Nor where the Popes head, nor the Mitre lay,
Signs by which still he found and lost his way.
At last while doubtfully he all compares,
He saw near hand, as he imagin'd Ares.
Such did he seem for corpulence and port,
But 'twas a man much of another sort;
'Twas Ben that in the dusky Laurel shade
Amongst the Chorus of old Poets laid,
Sounding of ancient Heroes, such as were
The Subjects Safety, and the Rebel's Fear.
But how a double headed Vulture Eats,
Brutus and Cassius the Peoples cheats.
But seeing May he varied streight his song,
Gently to signifie that he was wrong.
Cups more then civil of Emilthian wine,
I sing (said he) and the Pharsalian Sign,
Where the Historian of the Common-wealth
In his own Bowels sheath'd the conquering health.
By this May to himself and them was come,
He found he was tranflated, and by whom.
Yet then with foot as stumbling as his tongue
Prest for his place among the Learned throng.
But Ben, who knew not neither foe nor friend,
Sworn Enemy to all that do pretend,
Rose more then ever he was seen severe,
Shook his gray locks, and his own Bayes did tear
At this intrusion. Then with Laurel wand,
The awful Sign of his supream command.
At whose dread Whisk Virgil himself does quake,
And Horace patiently its stroke does take,
As he crowds in he whipt him ore the pate
Like Pembroke at the Masque, and then did rate.
Far from these blessed shades tread back agen
Most servil' wit, and Mercenary Pen.
Polydore, Lucan, Allan, Vandale, Goth,
Malignant Poet and Historian both.
Go seek the novice Statesmen, and obtrude
On them some Romane cast similitude,
Tell them of Liberty, the Stories fine,
Until you all grow Consuls in your wine.
Or thou Dictator of the glass bestow
On him the Cato, this the Cicero.
Transferring old Rome hither in your talk,
As Bethlem's House did to Loretto walk.
Foul Architect that hadst not Eye to see
How ill the measures of these States agree.
And who by Romes example England lay,
Those but to Lucan do continue May.
But the nor Ignorance nor seeming good
Misled, but malice fixt and understood.
Because some one than thee more worthy weares
The sacred Laurel, hence are all these teares?
Must therefore all the World be set on flame,
Because a Gazet writer mist his aim?
And for a Tankard-bearing Muse must we
As for the Basket Guelphs and Gibellines be?
When the Sword glitters ore the Judges head,
And fear has Coward Churchmen silenced,
Then is the Poets time, 'tis then he drawes,
And single fights forsaken Vertues cause.
He, when the wheel of Empire, whirleth back,
And though the World disjointed Axel crack,
Sings still of ancient Rights and better Times,
Seeks wretched good, arraigns successful Crimes.
But thou base man first prostituted hast
Our spotless knowledge and the studies chast.
Apostatizing from our Arts and us,
To turn the Chronicler to Spartacus.
Yet wast thou taken hence with equal fate,
Before thou couldst great Charles his death relate.
But what will deeper wound thy little mind,
Hast left surviving Davenant still behind
Who laughs to see in this thy death renew'd,
Right Romane poverty and gratitude.
Poor Poet thou, and grateful Senate they,
Who thy last Reckoning did so largely pay.
And with the publick gravity would come,
When thou hadst drunk thy last to lead thee home.
If that can be thy home where Spencer lyes
And reverend Chaucer, but their dust does rise
Against thee, and expels thee from their side,
As th' Eagles Plumes from other birds divide.
Nor here thy shade must dwell, Return, Return,
Where Sulphrey Phlegeton does ever burn.
The Cerberus with all his Jawes shall gnash,
Megera thee with all her Serpents lash.
Thou rivited unto Ixion's wheel
Shalt break, and the perpetual Vulture feel.
'Tis just what Torments Poets ere did feign,
Thou first Historically shouldst sustain.
Thus by irrevocable Sentence cast,
May only Master of these Revels past.
And streight he vanisht in a Cloud of Pitch,
Such as unto the Sabboth bears the Witch.
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