The Abraham Cowley
Text and Image Archive


When the Worm Turns / The Theater of England's Miseries
(St. George Under the Dragon)



Valentinian III, AV solidus, RIC 2010 (425-55 AD).
Obv.: Valentinian III diademed head r., D N PLA VALENTINIANVS PF AVG
Rev.: Valentinian facing holding cross and Victory on globe, r. foot on human-headed serpent, VICTORIA AVGGG

Charles I, Posthumous AR medallion (1650-51) = Hawkins, no. 209.
Obv.: Charles I and Henrietta Maria r., Charles wearing his Garter medallion of St. George overcoming the dragon,CAROLVS ET MARIA D G MAG BRITAN FRA NE ET HIBER RX ET RA
Rev.: Seven-headed dragon rampant r. over crown, scepter, and severed head of Charles I, HEV QVAENAM HAEC INSANIA VVLGI! ("What popular madness is this, alas!")


Le Theatre des Miseres Angloises

Vn Dragon, de sept Chefs, de Queüe monstrueuse
Et
Deux Ailes fourny, pour se nourrir de chair,
Du profond des enfers, par Source caverneuse,
Difficile à boucher, à
Londres rompe en l'air.
La monstre bat soudain, et ses griffes imprime,
Luy abatant la
Teste, au col du grand Strafford:
Et u'a presque immolé l'
Evesque, sa victime,
Ou regarde le
Roy, et hurle fier et fort.
l'
Innocence s'estonne et abbaise l'esprit:
Il l'assaille aussy-tost, et luy mord au gosier.
Cruauté, se mocquant de
Majesté sacrée,
Et
Couronne, luy va versant le sang si chere.
Le Ciel semble attristé de ce fait execrable,
Dieu monstre son courroné par foudres, la clairté
Du soleil se termit; le Ciel (chose admirable!)
Se crevasse et enfante vn ost tout-equipé.

Roy Charles le second oit ce tonnant nuage,
Avec Dame Marie à Table, et voit pallier
De l'
Orenge la Rose, il eschape l'orage,
Le
Droit de la Courone empoignant, va choisir
Le sente des heros. l''
Escossois, mis en terre,
Luy renforce la gauche auec leur
Vltion
Irritée, l' Yrlande, accrüe dans la guerre,
Les armes luy emboucle, et prisa sa raison.
l'On vuit l'
Harnois, serré au Corp Royal, reluire,
Comme vn cristal poli, à l'aspect du soleil.
Le grand Dragon, embeu du sang de grand martire,
En lion furieus, mugit au lac vermeil.
Nul Basilic vomit tant de venin en terre,
Qu'icy, par tous ses becqs, ce monstre plein d'effroy:
Mais le Prince heritier des vertus de son
Pere,
Passe oultre a ceste voix:
Que Dieu garde le Roy.
Que la
Tamise, alors que l'Espée Royale
Perce la cur monstreux, fumera de dépit!
Quels bruits s'iront bruillants à
Withal en la salle,
Quand la grand
Majesté par son droit, s'aggrandit!

The Theater of England's Miseries [from the French (tr. DK)]

A seven-headed dragon monstrous-tailed
with brace of wings arrayed to feast on flesh
sprung from a cavern in the depths of hell,
hard to repress, in London bursts abroad.
The monster strikes apace and sinks his claws
in the great Strafford's neck, strikes off his head,
next all but immolates his bishop-victim,
faces the king, and bellows fierce and loud.
Innocence is thunderstruck and loses heart;
the beast forthwith attacking bites his throat.
Cruelty, derisive of his sacred highness
and crown, goes scattering his precious blood.
Heaven looks saddened at this cursed deed;
God shows his crowned by lightning; the sun darkens,
and-wonder to relate!-the heavens gestate
and bear an army fully armed for battle.
King Charles the Second hears this storm of thunder
with Lady Mary at table, and sees darting
the flicker of storm's fire, but scapes the tempest;
his right to crown inciting, he embraces
the hero's path. To reinforce his left
the Scot, obeisant; with irate revenge
matured by way of war, the Irishman
fits him with arms, and he defends his reason.
On regal limbs one sees the harness gleaming
like polished crystal in the sun's bright luster.
The great Dragon, dyed in great martyr's blood,
over the blood-bath roars like raging lion.
No basilisk on earth spews so much venom
as here from all his maws this frightful monster;
but the prince heir to all his father's virtues
goes over with these words; "God save the King!"
How the Thames, once the regal sword transpierces
the monstrous heart, will fume in sheer despite!
What tumults will erupt in Whitehall's chamber
when his great Highness ripens in his birthright!
Het Tooneel der Engelsche Ellenden.

Een Grouwelycken Draeck, versien mit seuen Koppen,
Twee Vleugels, en een Steert, zeer zelzaem van fatsoen,
Quam yyt den afgront, door een
Wel niet wel te stoppen,
In' t
Machtich Londen op, om sich met vleesch, te vóen.
Het
Monster sloech terstont de klauwen van syn pooten
In Strafforts hals, en scheurd'het
Wyse hooft van't lyf
t'Had
Bisschop Willems bloet noch nauwelycx, vergoten.
Of't sach den
Kouninck aen, en brulde stout, en styf.
l'Onnooselheyt verschrickt', en liet et Slach-sweert sincken,
Met schoot' et
Monster toe, en beet'em in de strot.
De
Wreetheyt gaf aen t'dier het dierbaer blot te trinken,
En dreef zoo, met de
Croon en t'Hooghgesagde spot.
Den Hemel scheen terstont, om dit bedryf te treuren,
Godt blixemd' op' et slach en liet syn gramschap sien,
De Son wiert peersch, en blauw. De locht begon te scheuren,
En baerd', o wonder werck! een leger Ys're lien
De
Tweede Karel hoor' all dese donderslaeghen,
Ter-wyl hy, aenden
Disch, by Vrouw Marie sat.
d'Oranje
Roos wiert bleeck, den Vorst ontweekde vlaeghen
En greep'et
Kroon Recht aen, en koos'et helde padt.
d'Onstelde Schot komt voort, voor syn gesicht geboghen,
En styft syn slincke hant met hun
Geterghde Wraeck:
Den tayen Hybernyn, in't oorlogh opgetoghen,
Gespt hem de waepens aen, en pryst des Koninckx saeck:
Het Staelen harnas, aen
Karels lyf gekloncken,
Blinckt, als een spiegel-glas, in't aensien vande Son.
Het Monster, van'et bloet der Martelaeren droncken,
Brult als een dolle leeuw, ontrent de roode bron.
Geen Basilisck blies oyt soo veel vergiss op aerden,
Als dit afgryslyek beest, vyt'all syn becken doet:
Doch't Prinschelycke hert, dat Vaeders deught aenvaerden,
Gaet voort op dese stem:
Dat God den Koninxck hoed:
Hoe sal de Dolle Theems, van speet en gramshap roocken,
Als
Karels blancke stael den Draeckhet hert af-stoot!
Hoe wil'et in de Zael te
Withal nach eens spoocken,
Als Stuarts oud gesach door't
Kroon Recht sich vergroot!


From an anonymous Dutch-French broadside with artist Peeter Huybrechts' engraving, shelfmark C III.308, from the Sutherland Collection, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, with a close general kinship to the folio imprint (Dutch poem only; a different recension) in the British Library, Thomason 669f12 (88) = Jan Zoet, Het Tooneel der Engelsche elende (EEBO 122153; Amsterdam, Hugo Allard, "n. d.," though the poem seems to predate the failure of Charles II's Scots expedition of 1651). Glancing at Charles I's St. George persona (on which see A. Patterson, Censorship and Interpretation [New Haven, 1984], 168-70), a seven-headed monster which resembles a Cerberus-Hydra also treads on Charles I's severed head, crown, and scepter in two Continental medals of 1649 (see E. Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations of the History of Great Britain and Ireland, 2 vols. [London, 1885-1911], 1.350-52, nos. 209-10, with a snake-haired Medusa as the Parliament party in no. 208; no. 209 also features in John Peacock's "The Visual Image of Charles I," in The Royal Image: Representations of Charles I [Oxford, 1999], 198-99). Along with Cowley's reference (Pl. 6.953), also see Lovelace's bitter "Mock-Song" 28 ("For our Dragon hath vanquish'd the St. George"). Snake-haired Rebellion came mounted on a Hydra in a coronation-pageant for Charles II; see John Ogilby's The Entertainment of his Most Excellent Majestie Charles II (London, 1662; repr. Binghamton, NY, 1988), 13-15, 17, 28, 47. The many-headed "Hydra multitude" was proverbial in sixteenth-century English; see Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (1643) 2.1 (on the multitude as "a monstrosity more prodigious than Hydra") with the Chadwick-Healey English poetry database s. vv.
Related links:
Charles I on the Scaffold and as Royal Martyr (Emblematic frontispiece, Eikon Basilike)
Orpheus his Descerpcion (On Charles I's Beheading)
Charles II in 1651: A Luciferan Dawnstar's Return
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