[“Charles the First” was designed in 1818, begun towards the close of 1819 [Medwin, “Life”, 2 page 62], resumed in January, and finally laid aside by June, 1822. It was published in part in the “Posthumous Poems”, 1824, and printed, in its present form (with the addition of some 530 lines), by Mr. W.M. Rossetti, 1870. Further particulars are given in the Editor’s Notes at the end of Volume 3.]
KING CHARLES I.
LAUD, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY.
WENTWORTH, EARL OF STRAFFORD.
WILLIAMS, BISHOP OF LINCOLN.
ARCHY, THE COURT FOOL.
SIR HARRY VANE THE YOUNGER.
GENTLEMEN OF THE INNS OF COURT, CITIZENS, PURSUIVANTS,
MARSHALSMEN, LAW STUDENTS, JUDGES, CLERK.
THE MASQUE OF THE INNS OF COURT.
Place, for the Marshal of the Masque!
What thinkest thou of this quaint masque which turns,
Like morning from the shadow of the night,
The night to day, and London to a place
Of peace and joy?
And Hell to Heaven. 5
Eight years are gone,
And they seem hours, since in this populous street
I trod on grass made green by summer’s rain,
For the red plague kept state within that palace
Where now that vanity reigns. In nine years more 10
The roots will be refreshed with civil blood;
And thank the mercy of insulted Heaven
That sin and wrongs wound, as an orphan’s cry,
The patience of the great Avenger’s ear.
10 now that vanity reigns 1870; now reigns vanity 1824.]
Yet, father, ’tis a happy sight to see, 15
Beautiful, innocent, and unforbidden
By God or man;–’tis like the bright procession
Of skiey visions in a solemn dream
From which men wake as from a Paradise,
And draw new strength to tread the thorns of life. 20
If God be good, wherefore should this be evil?
And if this be not evil, dost thou not draw
Unseasonable poison from the flowers
Which bloom so rarely in this barren world?
Oh, kill these bitter thoughts which make the present 25
Dark as the future!–
When Avarice and Tyranny, vigilant Fear,
And open-eyed Conspiracy lie sleeping
As on Hell’s threshold; and all gentle thoughts
Waken to worship Him who giveth joys 30
With His own gift.
How young art thou in this old age of time!
How green in this gray world? Canst thou discern
The signs of seasons, yet perceive no hint
Of change in that stage-scene in which thou art 35
Not a spectator but an actor? or
Art thou a puppet moved by [enginery]?
The day that dawns in fire will die in storms,
Even though the noon be calm. My travel’s done,–
Before the whirlwind wakes I shall have found 40
My inn of lasting rest; but thou must still
Be journeying on in this inclement air.
Wrap thy old cloak about thy back;
Nor leave the broad and plain and beaten road,
Although no flowers smile on the trodden dust, 45
For the violet paths of pleasure. This Charles the First
Rose like the equinoctial sun,…
By vapours, through whose threatening ominous veil
Darting his altered influence he has gained
This height of noon–from which he must decline 50
Amid the darkness of conflicting storms,
To dank extinction and to latest night…
The apostate Strafford; he whose titles
whispered aphorisms 55
From Machiavel and Bacon: and, if Judas
Had been as brazen and as bold as he–