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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Abraham Cowley
Ode, Upon the Blessed Restoration

31 May

   Titlepage: ODE, / UPON / The Blessed Restoration / and Returne / OF / HIS SACRED MAJESTIE, / Charls the Second. / [rule] / By A. Cowley. / [rule] / Virgil. -- -- Quod optanti Div-m promittere nemo / Auderet, volvenda dies, en, attulit ultro. / [rule] / LONDON, / Printed for Henry Herringman, and are to be sold at his / Shop on the Lower Walk in the New Exchange. / Anno Dom. 1660.

   Abraham Cowley (1618-1667) was among the small group of notable poets who, in 1660, found themselves liable to the embarrassing accusation of having accomodated with the enemy.

   He had shown an early aptitude for writing verse while at Westminster School, publishing Poetical Blossoms in 1633 while aged 15. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge in 1637 and continued to write and publish Latin and English verses, including The Guardian, a comic drama performed in 1641 during a visit by prince Charles. Cowley subsequently revised this into The Cutter of Coleman Street for performance after the Restoration. While still at Trinity, he began his unfinished biblical epic, The Davideis, but was ejected from Cambridge in 1643-44 and moved to St Johns College, Oxford, where he became friendly with Richard Crashaw and the circle of royalists around Lord Falkland. While at Oxford he started and abandoned a second epic, The Civil War. In 1646 he followed Henrietta Maria to France, engaging in various diplomatic missions for the exiled court. His collection of poems, The Mistress (1647) became the most popular volume for a generation.

   In 1656, Cowley's Poems was first published, but he was arrested in London that year and remained there on bail. According to Thomas Sprat, he was working undercover for the exiled court, abandoning poetry for medicine as part of his cover. In 1657 he was created M. D. at Oxford by a government order [check Woods] that led many to suspect he had changed allegiances.

    Cowley's Ode is highly figurative, blending biblical and classical allusions with motifs from astrology and medicine. Highly dynastic in argument, the poem is structured as a royal entry in which the king, other members of the royal family, Monk, and members of the two houses of parliament mingle with allegorical personifications of Liberty, Plenty, Riches, Honour and Safety. Along the way Cowley notices the slightly embarrassing absence of Henrietta Maria, who had stayed behind in France having become estranged from Charles as a result of her Catholicism.



NOW Blessings on you all, ye peacefull Starrs,
Which meet at last so kindly, and dispence
Your universall gentle Influence,
To calm the stormy World, and still the rage of Warrs.
5:      Nor whilst around the Continent,
Plenipotentiary Beams ye sent,
Did your Pacifick Lights disdain,
In their large Treaty, to contain
The World apart, o're which do reign
10: Your seven fair Brethren of great Charls his Wane;
No Star amongst ye all did, I believe,
Such vigorous assistance give,
As that which thirty years ago,
At 1Charls his Birth, did, in despight
15:      Of the proud Sun's Meridian Light,
His future Glories, and this Year foreshow,
No lesse effects then these we may
Be assur'd of from that powerfull Ray,
Which could out-face the Sun, and overcome the Day.


20:      Auspicious Star again arise,
And take thy Noon-tide station in the skies.
Again all Heaven prodigiously adorn;
For loe! thy Charls again is Born.
He then was born with, and to Pain;
25:      With, and to Joy he's born again.
And wisely for this second Birth,
By which thou certain wert to bless
The Land with full and flourishing Happinesse
Thou mad'st of that fair Month thy choice,
30:      In which Heaven, Aire, and Sea, and Earth,
And all that's in them all does smile, and does rejoyce.
'Twas a right Season, and the very Ground
Ought with a face of Paradice to be found,
Than when we were to entertain
35: Felicityr and Innocence again.


Shall we again (good Heaven!) that blessed Pair behold,
Which the abused People fondly sold
For the bright Fruit of the Forbidden Tree,
By seeking all like gods to be?
40: Will Peace her Halcyon Nest venture to build
Upon a Shore with Shipwracks fill'd?
And trust that Sea, where she can hardly say,
Sh'has known these twenty years one calmy day?
Ah! mild and gaullesse Dove,
45: Which dost the pure and candid Dwellings love:
Canst thou in Albion still delight?
Still canst thou think it White?
Will ever fair Religion appear
In these deformed Ruines? will she clear
50: Th'Aug'an Stables of her Churches here?
Will Justice hazard to be seen
Where a High Court of Justice e're has been?
Will not the Tragique Scene,
And Bradshaw's bloody Ghost affright her there, 2
55:      Her who should never fear?
Then may White-hall for Charls his Seat be fit
If Justice shall endure at Westminster to sit.


Of all, me thinks, we least should see
The chearfull looks again of Liberty.
60: That Name of Cromwell, which does freshly still
The Curses of so many sufferers fill
Is still enough to make her stay,
And jealous for a while remain,
Lest as a Tempest carried him away,
65: Some Hurican should bring him back again.
Or she might justlier be afraid
Lest that great Serpent, which was all a Tayl,
(And in his poys'nous folds whole Nations prisoners made)
Should a third time perhaps prevail
70: To joyn again, and with worse sting arise,
As it had done, when cut in pieces 3 twice.
Return, return, ye Sacred Fower,4
And dread your perisht Enemies no more,
Your fears are causelesse all, and vain
75:      Whilst you return in Charls his Train,
For God does Him, that He might You restore,
Nor shall the world him onely call,
Defender of the Faith, but of ye All.


Along with you Plenty and Riches go,
80: With a full Tide to every Port they flow,
With a warm fruitfull wind o're all the Country blow.
Honour does as ye march her Trumpet sound
The Arts encompasse you around,
And against all Alarms of Fear,
85:      Safety it self brings up the Rear.
And in the head of this Angelique band,
Lo, how the Goodly Prince at last does stand
(O righteous God!) on his own happy Land.
'Tis Happy now, which could, with so much ease
90: Recover from so desperate a Disease,
A various complicated Ill,
Whose every Symptome was enough to kill,
In which one part of Three Phrenzey possest,
And Lethargy the rest.
95: 'Tis Happy, which no Bleeding does endure
A Surfet of such Blood to cure.
'Tis Happy, which beholds the Flame
In which by hostile hands it ought, to burn,
Or that which if from Heaven it came
100: It did but well deserve, all into Bonfire turn.


We fear'd (and almost toucht the black degree
Of instant Expectation)
That the three dreadfull Angels we
Of Famine, Sword, and Plague should here establisht see,
105: (God's great Triumvirate of Desolation)
To scourge and to destroy the sinfull Nation
Justly might Heav'n Protectors such as those,
And such Committees for their Safety'impose,
Upon a Land which scarcely Better Chose.
110:       We fear'd that the Fanatique War
Which men against God's Houses did declare,
Would from th'Almighty Enemy bring down
A sure destruction on our Own,
We read th'instructive Histories which tell
115: Of all those endlesse mischiefs that befell,
The Sacred Town which God had lov'd so well,
After that fatall Curse had once bin said,
His Blood be upon ours, and on our Childrens head.
We knew, though there a greater Blood was spilt,
120:      'Twas scarcely done with greater Guilt.
We know those miseries did befall
Whilst they rebel'd against that Prince whom all
The rest of Mankind did the Love, and Joy, of Mankind call.


Already was the shaken Nation
125: Into a wild and deform'd Chaos brought.
And it was hasting on (we thought)
Even to the last of Ills, Annihilation.
When in the midst of this confused Night,
Loe, the blest Spirit mov'd, and there was Light.
130: For in the glorious Generall's previous Ray,
We saw a new created Day.
We by it saw, though yet in Mists it shone,
The beauteous Work of Order moving on,
Ere the Great Light, our Sun, his Beams did show,
135:      Our Sun it self appears but now,
Where are the men who bragg'd that God did blesse,
And with the marks of good successe
Signe his allowance of their wickednesse?
Vain men! who thought the Divine Power to find
140: In the fierce Thunder and the violent Wind:
God came not till the storm was past,
In still voice of Peace he came at last.
The cruell businesse of Destruction,
May by the Claws of the great Fiend be done.
145: Here, here we see th'Almighty's hand indeed,
Both by the Beauty of the Work, wee see't, and by the Speed.


He who had seen the noble Brittish Heir,
Even in that ill disadvantageous Light,
With which misfortunes strive t'abuse our sight;
150: He who had seen him in his Clowd so bright:
He who had seen the double Pair
Of Brothers heavenly good, and Sisters heavenly fair,
Might have perceiv'd (me-thinks) with ease,
(But wicked men see onely what they please)
155: That God had no intent t'extinguish quite
The pious King's eclipsed Right.
He who had seen how by the power Divine
All the young Branches of this Royall Line
Did in their fire without consuming shine,
160: How through a rough Red-sea they had been led,
By Wonders guarded, and by Wonders fed.
How many years of trouble and distresse
They'd wandred in their fatall Wilderness,
And yet did never murmur or repine;
165:      Might (me-thinks) plainly understand,
That after all these conquer'd Tryalls past,
Th'Almighty Mercy would at last
Conduct them with a strong un-erring hand
To their own Promis'd Land.
170:      For all the glories of the Earth
Ought to be'entail'd by right of Birth,
And all Heaven's blessings to come down
Upon his Race, to whom alone was given
The double Royalty of Earth and Heaven,
175: Who crown'd the Kingly with the Martyr's Crown.


The Martyr's blood was said of old to be
The seed from whence the Church did grow.
The Royall Blood which dying Charls did sow,
Becomes no lesse the seed of Royaltie.
180:      'Twas in dishonour sown,
We find it now in glory grown,
The Grave could but the drosse of it devowr;
'Twas sown in weaknesse, and 'tis rais'd in power.
We now the Question well decided see,
185:      Which Eastern Wits did once contest
At the Great Monarch's Feast,
Of all on Earth what things the strongest be:
And some for Women, some for Wine did plead;
That is, for Folly and for Rage,
190:      Two things which we have known indeed
Strong in this latter Age.
But as 'tis prov'd by Heaven at length,
The King and Truth have greatest strength,
When they their sacred force unite,
195:      And twine into one Right,
No frantick Common-wealths or Tyrannies,
No Cheats, and Perjuries, and Lies,
No Nets of human Policies.
No stores of Arms or Gold (though you could joyn
200: Those of Peru to the great London Mine)
No Towns, no Fleets by Sea, or Troops by Land,
No deeply entrencht Islands can withstand,
Or any small resistance bring
Against the naked Truth, and the unarmed King.


205: The foolish Lights which Travailers beguile,
End the same night when they begin; 5
No Art so far can upon Nature win
As e're to put out Stars, or long keep Meteors in.
Where's now that Ignis Fatuus, which erewhile
210:      Misled our wandring Isle?
Where's the Impostor Cromwell gon?
Where's now that Falling-star his Son?
Where's the large Comet now whose rageing flame
So fatall to our Monarchy became?
215: Which o're our heads in such proud horror stood,
Insatiate with our Ruine and our Blood?
The fiery Tayl did to vast length extend;
And twice for want of Fuel did expire,
And twice renew'd the dismall Fire;
220: Though long the Tayl, we saw at last it's end.
The flames of one triumphant day,
Which like an Anti-Comet here
Did fatally to that appear,
For ever frighted it away;
225: Then did th'aloted howr of dawning Right
First strike our ravisht sight,
Which Malice or which Art no more could stay,
Then Witches Charms can retardment bring
To the Resuscitation of the Day,
230:      Or Resurrection of the Spring.
We welcome both, and with improv'd delight
Blesse the preceding Winter and the Night.


Man ought his Future Happinesse to fear,
If he be alwaies Happy here.
235:      He wants the Bleeding Mark of Grace,
The Circumcision of the Chosen race.
If no one part of him supplies
The duty of a Sacrifice,
He is (we doubt) reserv'd intire
240:      As a whole Victime for the Fire.
Besides even in this World below,
To those who never did Ill Fortune know,
The good does nauseous or insipid grow.
Consider man's whole Life, and you'l confesse,
245: The Sharp Ingredient of some bad successe
Is that which gives the Tast to all his Happinesse.
But the true Method of Felicitie,
Is when the worst
Of humane Life is plac'd the first,
250: And when the Child's Correction proves to be
The cause of perfecting the Man;
Let our weak Dayes lead up the Van,
Let the brave Second and Triarian Band,
Firm against all impression stand,
255:      The first we may defeated see;
The Virtue and the Force of these, are sure of Victorie.


Such are the years (great Charls) which now we see
Begin their glorious March with Thee:
Long may their March to Heaven, and still Triumphant be.
260:      Now thou art gotten once before,
Ill Fortune never shall or'e-take thee more.
To see't again, and pleasure in it find,
Cast a disdainfull look behind,
Things which offend, when present, and affright,
265: In Memory, well painted, move delight.
Enjoy then all thy'afflictions now;
Thy Royall Father's came at last:
Thy Martyrdom's already past.
And different Crowns to both ye owe.
270: No Gold did e're the Kingly Temples bind,
Than thine more try'd and more refin'd.
As a choice Medall for Heaven's Treasury
God did stamp first upon one side of Thee
The Image of his suffering Humanity:
275: On th'other side, turn'd now to sight, does shine
The glorious Image of his Power Divine.


So when the wisest Poets seek
In all their liveliest colours to set forth
A Picture of Heroick worth,
280: (The Pious Trojan, or the Prudent Greek)
They chuse some comely Prince of heavenly Birth,
(No proud Gigantick son of Earth,
Who strives t'usurp the god's forbidden seat)
They feed him not with Nectar, and the Meat
285:      That cannot without Joy be eat.
But in the cold of want, and storms of advers chance,
They harden his young Virtue by degrees;
The beauteous Drop first into Ice does freez,
And into solid Chrystall next advance.
290: His murdered friends and kindred he does see,
And from his flaming Country flee.
Much is he tost at Sea, and much at Land,
Does long the force of angry gods withstand.
He does long troubles and long wars sustain,
295:      Ere he his fatall Birth-right gain.
With no lesse time or labour can
Destiny build up such a Man,
Who's with sufficient virtue fill'd
His ruin'd Country to rebuild.


300:      Nor without cause are Arms from Heaven,
To such a Hero by the Poets given.
No human Metall is of force t'oppose
So many and so violent blows.
Such was the Helmut, Breast-plate, Shield,
305:      Which Charls in all Attaques did wield:
And all the Weapons Malice e're could try,
Of all the severall makes of wicked Policy,
Against this Armour struck, but at the stroke,
Like Swords of Ice, in thousand pieces broke.
310: To Angells and their Brethren Spirits above,
No show on Earth can sure so pleasant prove,
As when they great misfortunes see
With Courage born and Decencie.
So were they born when Worc'ster's dismall Day
315: Did all the terrors of black Fate display.
So were they born when no Disguises clowd
His inward Royalty could shrowd,
And one of th'Angels whom just God did send
To guard him in his noble flight,
320: (A Troop of Angels did him then attend)
Assur'd me in a Vision th'other night,
That He (and who could better judge than He?)
Did then more Greatness in him see,
More Lustre and more Majesty,
325: Than all his Coronation Pomp can shew to Human Eye.


Him and his Royall Brothers when I saw
New marks of honor and of glorie,
From their affronts and sufferings draw,
And look like Heavenly Saints even in their Purgatory.
340: Me-thoughts I saw the three Jud'an Youths,
(Three unhurt Martyrs for the noblest Truths)
In the Chald'an Furnace walk;
How chearfully and unconcern'd they talk!
No hair is sindg'd, no smallest beauty blasted,
345:      Like painted Lamps they shine unwasted.
The greedy fire it self dares not be fed
With the blest Oyl of an Anoynted Head.
The honorable Flame
(Which rather Light we ought to name)
350: Does, like a Glory, compasse them around,
And their whole Body's crown'd.
What are those Two Bright Creatures which we see
Walk with the Royall Three
In the same Ordeall fire,
355:      And mutuall Joys inspire?
Sure they the beauteous Sisters are,
Who whilst they seek to bear their share,
Will suffer no affliction to be there.
Lesse favour to those Three of old was shown,
360:      To solace with their company.
The fiery Trialls of Adversity;
Two Angels joyn with these, the others had but One.


Come forth, come forth, ye men of God beloved,
And let the power now of that flame,
365: Which against you so impotent became,
On all your Enemies be proved.
Come, mighty Charls, desire of Nations, come:
Come, you triumphant Exile, home.
He's come, he's safe at shore; I hear the noise
370: Of a whole Land which does at once rejoyce,
I hear th'united People's sacred voice.
The Sea which circles us around,
Ne're sent to Land so loud a sound;
The mighty showr sends to the Sea a Gale,
380:      And swells up every sail;
The Bells and Guns are scarcely heard at all;
The Artificiall Joy's drown'd by the Naturall.
All England but one Bonefire seems to be,
One 'tna shooting flames into the Sea.
385: The Starry Worlds which shine to us afar,
Take ours at this time for a Star.
With Wine all rooms, with Wine the Conduits flow;
And We, the Priests of a Poetick rage,
Wonder that in this Golden Age
390:      The Rivers too should not do so.
There is no Stoick sure who would not now,
Even some Excesse allow:
And grant that one wild fit of chearfull folly
Should end our twenty years of dismall Melancholly.


395:      Where's now the Royall Mother, where,
To take her mighty share
In this so ravishing sight,
And with the part she takes to add to the Delight?
Ah! why are Thou not here,6
400: Thou always Best, and now the Happiest Queen,
To see our Joy, and with new Joy be seen?
God has a bright Example made of Thee,
To shew that Woman-kind may be
Above that Sex, which her Superior seems,
405: In wisely manageing the wide Extreams
Of great Affliction, great Felicitie.
How well those different Vertues Thee become,
Daughter of Triumphs, Wife of Martyrdom!
Thy Princely Mind with so much Courage bore
410: Affliction, that it dares return no more;
With so much Goodnesse us'd Felicitie,
That it cannot refrain from comming back to Thee;
'Tis come, and seen to day in all its Braverie.


415: Who's that Heroique Person leads it on,
And gives it like a glorious Bride
(Richly adorn'd with Nuptiall Pride)
Into the hands now of thy Son?
'Tis the good Generall, the Man of Praise,
420:      Whom God at last in gracious pitty
Did to th'enthralled Nation raise,
Their great Zerubabel to be,7
To lose the Bonds of long Captivitie,
And to rebuild their Temple and their City.
425: For ever blest may He and His remain,
Who, with a vast, though less-appearing gain,
Preferr'd the solid Great above the Vain,
And to the world this Princely Truth has shown,
That more 'tis to Restore, than to Usurp a Crown.
430: Thou worthyest Person of the Brittish Story,
(Though 'tis not small the Brittish glory.)
Did I not know my humble Verse must be
But ill proportion'd to the Heighth of Thee,
Thou, and the World should see,
435: How much my Muse, the Foe of Flatterie,
Does make true Praise her Labour and Designe;
An Iliad or an 'neid should be Thine.


And ill should We deserve this happy day,
If no acknowledgments we pay
440:      To you, great Patriots, of the Two
Most truly Other Houses now,
Who have redeem'd from hatred and from shame
A Parliament's once venerable name.
And now the Title of a House restore
445: To that, which was but slaughter-house before.
If my advice, ye Worthies, might be ta'ne,
Within those reverend places,
Which now your living presence graces,
Your Marble-Statues always should remain,
450: To keep alive your usefull Memorie,
And to your Successors th'Example be
Of Truth, Religion, Reason, Loyaltie.
For though a firmly setled Peace
May shortly make your publick labours cease,
455: The gratefull Nation will with joy consent,
That in this sense you should be said,
(Though yet the Name sounds with some dread)
To be the Long, the Endlesse Parliament.
'Twould be the richliest furnish'd House (no doubt)
If your Heads always stood within, and the Rump-heads without.


[1]In July 1659, Sir George Booth captured Chester as the start of his attempt to reintroduce monarchy. he was shortly after defeated and captured by Lambert's troops who recovered the city.

[2] President of the High Court of Justice which tried Charles I, John Bradshaw had died in 1659.

[3]pieces] pieecs O, LT, L, OB, OW

[4]Henrietta Maria bore six children to Charles I; a son who died shortly after birth, then Charles, Mary, James, Elizabeth, Henry and Henriette-Anne. At the time of the Restoration, Charles had two brothers and two sisters: Cowley lines 150-56 speak of pairs of brothers and sisters. Hutton gives two sisters: "Mary, who had married the Prince of Orange, and Henrietta, a child still in the keeping of their mother, the widowed Queen Henrietta Maria" (1985: 149). Henry died 13 Sept 1660; Mary died 24 December 1660. What happened to Elizabeth? The woodcut to England's Joy in a Lawful Triumph illustrates the following: James, Duke of York (born 13 Oct 1633), Henry, Duke of Gloucester (born 0000), Mary (born 4 Nov 1631), Elizabeth (born 19 Dec 1635), and Anne (born 17 March 1636).

[5]literarally the chimera, a frequent motif in these poems; cf Dryden's Religio Laici

[6]Having spent the years in exile trying to link the royalist cause with Catholicism, Henrietta Maria did not accompany Charles to England. She came over from France in October to try to prevent a scandal involving Hyde's daughter Anne, who claimed her pregnancy was the result of a secret marriage to James, Duke of York. HM returned to France in January. (Hutton, 1989: 156; Hutton 1985: 149-50).

[7]Zerubabel, or Zerubbabel (literally "born in Babylon"), was a govenor of Judah whom God, through the prophecies of Haggai, called upon to restore the temple; see Haggai passim, and Zech. 4.6-7.