MacLean, Gerald, editor. The Return of the King : An Anthology of English Poems Commemorating the Restoration of Charles II / edited by Gerald MacLean
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John Couch: His Majesties miraculous Preservation98

   [undated: before May?]

John Couch was among those anglican divines who suffered sequestration during the civil war. In 1640 the living of St. Margaret's Church, Horsmonden in Kent, became vacant on the death of the rector Dr. Geoffery Amhurst.

   Dr Amhurst's place was first filled by one Elliston, and a little later Mrs Beswicke introduced John Couch, who in due course also found himself in trouble from the Puritan members of his flock, becoming a second victim of sequestration in 1653. He was supplanted by Edward Rawson, a recent graduate of Harvard, who is described as `a New England man and a violent Presbyterian.' . . .

   The unfortunate Mr Couch, with his wife and six or seven children, was turned out of the rectory with an allowance of only £20 per annum, but was able to claim the benefice again at the Restoration, a claim strongly resisted by Rawson, who made belated efforts to legalize his own position. It appears that neither contender had ever been legally inducted. Rawsons's battle-cry had always been `No bishop': now he found himself in urgent need of one, and twice contrived to secure an induction mandate (in August 1660 and August 1661) for the vacancy `per mortem naturalem Gaudfridi Amhurst' (who had died in 1647). These manoeuvres being subsequently declared to be invalid, John Couch was restored to the rectory amid general approbation in 1661, and held it until his death in 1673.99

   The most poetic, learned and witty of the Restoration broadsides on the king's escapades after Worcester, Couch's verses hearken back to the emblem tradition, meditating on three agents of the "miraculous" escape that are signs of a special providential promise to the nation. Not for Couch the narrative stanza of ballad form. Indeed, the heroic exploits of the English king outgo biblical, classical, and legendary precedents, just as the heroic virtues of the Englishwoman Jane Lane surpass and obliviate those of the heroic Frenchwoman, Joan of Arc. For this treatment of events, only the elevated style of the classical pentameter couplet would do.

   Couch imagines Charles endangered by lions and tigers in his flight across the English countryside, a peculiar poetic fancy that he shared with the writer of The Countrymens Vive le Roy.


[98] Wing: C6508A. brs. Copies: L c.20.f.4(38).

[99] Anthony Cronk, St Margaret's Church, Horsmonden: An Historical and Descriptive Account (Horsmonden: Church Farm House, 1967), p. 45. My thanks to B. E. Fowler, Clerk of Horsmonden Parish Council; personal letter including a copy of Cronk's notice, October 1995.

His Majesties miraculous Preservation By the Oak, Maid, and Ship.

The Oak.

1: WHen Absalom rebell'd against his King,
2: An Oak betray'd him to a suffering:
3: Boughs hang'd him first; then Joabs Dart,
4: Thrice striking, wounded his perfidious Heart.100
5: When second CHARLES by Rebels lost the Field,
6: An Oak 'gainst Rebels was to him a Shield;
7: It open'd wide, and in the Hollow where
8: Once lay its Heart, the King concealed there.101
9: Men may suspend their Thoughts, Trees can define
10: Rebellion sinful, Royalty Divine.


[100] See II Sam. 18.9-14 for the story of Absalom, the oak tree, and Joab's three darts.

[101] "This Tree is not hollow but of a sound firm Trunk, onely about the middle of the body of it there is a hole in it about the bignesse of a man's head, from whence it absurdly and abusively (in respect of its deserved perpetual growth to outlast Time itself) is called Hollow," An Exact Narrative, p. 9.

The Maid.

11: THe Oak discharg'd his Trust: a Female found
12: (Men are but Trees inverted from the Ground)
13: Who next takes care: the weaker seems the Hand,
14: The Wonder more admiring doth command:
15: The Sun was then in Virgo; Heaven's Maid15
16: Sent down a potent Influence and Aid:
17: They both agree: Acted by Starry might,
18: Lady Jane Lane conducts the King, in spight
19: Of Armed Bands, safe through the numerous force
20: Of Those, who King from Kingdom would divorce.
21: William was seen: As if sh' had Gyges Ring,102
22: Invisible went Royal CHARLES the King.
23: In vain ye search, Blood-thirsty Men, to find
24: Vail'd Majesty, her Virtue makes you blind;
25: Her Faith out-acts your Malice; and your Swords,
26: First drawn, are melted by her softest Words.
27: Silence in France of Orleans Jone the Fame,
28: Whilst England doth record the worth of Lane.


[102] According to Plato, Gyges was a Lydian shepherd who, discovering a magical ring that made him invisible, used it to help him usurp the throne; Republic 2.359d.

The Ship.

29: POor Cottage of the Sea, we admire thee,
30: Not for thy State, or Pomp, or Pedegree;
31: No Neptune and no Triton stand in Gold
32: About thy Deck, no Statues grace thy hold;
33: Nor Mermaids with their Combs; Nor Stars that make
34: Sometimes the Sea be calm, sometimes to quake:
35: No Pontick Masts, whose towring Summets shew
36: How high the Sun's above the Sea below.
37: Thy Oaky Ribs swell not the Forests Pride,
38: Nor canst thou boast of th'Ankers by thy side,
39: Nor Royal Sails: Ships fram'd by Art most wise,
40: Are thus ennobled of the vastest size.
41: Thy low Condition, various is from them;
42: Once thou secur'dst our King, the best of Men:
43: They Glory is, though mean, yet strong hast stood
44: 'Gainst Rage of Tempests, and 'gainst Waves of Blood;
45: When Lyons, Tygers, and those Beasts of prey,103
46: Hunted his Life, and most would him betray.
47: Talk now no more of Theseus Ship, no more
48: Of that which brought Prince Lothbrook to our Shore:
49: Drown ye the Fame of former Ships, none yet
50: Strange to relate before so small, so great:
51: Worthy of water, more renown'd then Thames,
52: Though the like Tagus yeilded Golden Sands.
53: If Springs of Helicon could make a Main,
54: Thou shouldst ride there, and Muses by their Brain
55: Would make thee more then Mortal; their sweet Breath
56: Would fill thy Sails, and long preserve from Death.
57: Depths are above the Clouds, those Waters there
58: May suit thee well, worthy the Starry Sphere:
59: But if in place beneath the Moon thou rest,
60: Which, for admiring Visitors is best,
61: Gaz'd on by thousands; and when aged Time
62: Thy Body shall dissolve, and Limbs untwine,
63: May Seamen holy Relicts them account,
64: And with them still the Waves when high they mount:
65: Each piece an Amulet 'gainst Shipwracks harm
66: Will stand; 'gainst Winds and Rocks a Charm.


   By John Couch, M. in A. sequestred from Horsmonden in Kent.


[103] Compare The Countreymen's Vive le Roy: "By Tigers, wolves and beasts of prey" line 14.

III. Hoping for the King
December 1659-April 1660