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I. TO THE MOST PUISSANT SOVEREIGN HENRY VIII, KING OF ENGLAND, FRANCE AND IRELAND
Each of the ancient kings had his noble virtue, an individual point of praise existed for each one. A certain glory of empire adorned Agamemnon, and his strong hand conferred honor on warlike Achilles. Canny Ulysses cunningly got the better of his enemies, and grave counsel flowed from Nestor’s mouth. Some boast of their wealth, as did Croesus, and Caesar always relied on his good fortune. The Ethiopians refused to crown any king who was not ennobled by a comely frame. To you alone, Henry, nature as granted all these endowments, in you she instilled all her power. Your majesty is worthy of empire, Venus has given you a countenance worthy of rule, and comeliness worthy of a god. You surpass every Lycurgus with your mature judgment, and your golden scepter has shattered all your enemies. If a well-knit body is the mark of a king, the Ethiopians would have had none other for a leader. But in you there is no place for fortune, all chance is absent, and noble virtue alone holds the rudder. After Christ, wretched mankind has deemed it right to regard no majesty on this earth as more sacred than yours. By its auspices the Babylonian plague, which had ravaged your realm so long, England, has been put to rout, the dire power of the Pope of Rome has been shattered. Your bad faith has been defeated, depraved Pope, and you are ruined. You are ruined, depraved Pope, we have all of us cast off your chains, and all England shudders at your name. And by its auspices Christ’s sacred Scripture, which long lay in darkness, has been returned. Now that the war has been fought, let those ancient tyrants fall silent, Hercules, Bacchus, and the rest of that crew of captains. Hercules belonged to Jupiter, but your right hand serves Christ, everything you have done has been accomplished under His auspices. The stratagems of our king surpass those to the extent that You, excellent Christ, surpass Jove. Christ is your empire, Christ is your all, Christ sits on your sword and on your lips. So long may you live, oh prince, you glory and guardian of the English name, you protection of its soil. And long live Katherine, your royal lady, and may both of you see the years of the old man of Pylos. And long live Prince Edward, the second hope of the realm, the supreme darling of Henry his father. This, Henry, your whole nation prays for you, pray have a regard for the zeal of your people.
II. ON PRINCE EDWARD’S BIRTHDAY
How my mind yearns to feel new joys and pour forth new hymns in happy songs! My brows are bound with linden leaves, my heart is bound by the sound of lyres. Let everything be filled with elegant graces. Depart, you profane, now let dirges, complaints, laments and hatreds be gone. Let everything be full of jokes and sallies, story-telling, cups of wine, and feasting. As the year rolls around with its passage of days, the birthday of noble Prince Edward has returned. It renews fresh times, it restores fresh joys, removing the sadness from our hearts. Under you, Prince, oh noble and great Prince Edward, let tranquility flourish. Now let the times return, that Golden Age. Now splendid happiness returns for the English. May the Roman beast and his dogmatic dregs go far, far away from here. Now Quiet and noble Peace, Salvation and a harmonious Mind are pitching their tents in England. O glory of England, oh fear of Scotland, oh terror of France, oh greatest Prince, long may you live as a consolation to your father and your nation, to Henry and to England, oh excellent Prince. May you be a patron of learning and a sponsor of studies, of the leisure of the Muses and of Cambridge. Thus is your excellent father Henry, that right noble sovereign, wont to do. Oh hope and darling of your father and your nation, oh unique salvation for your times, long may you flourish in prosperity. Long may you thrive undiminished for perpetual ages. Let us beg in our prayers, with our hands and hopes uplifted to heaven, that God three in one, Who alone is good and powerful, preserve Prince Edward.
ΙIΙ. A FUNEREAL DIALOGUE ON THE DEATH OF THAT RIGHT NOBLE MAN ANTHONY DENNY
STR. Who is this sad women clad in mourning?
ENG. I am England, once blessed but now most sad.
STR. Speak better!
ENG. This is the way it is.
STR. Tell me the reason.
ENG. A heaven-sent ill gravely oppresses me.
STR. A famine?
STR. The plague?
ENG. No, not that.
STR. Then war?
ENG. Not at all.
STR. There’s no worse evil.
ENG. Oh yes, as the prophet and Plato tell us.
STR. Then what is it?
ENG. When God takes away the best of men, then He shows himself at his angriest.
STR. Whom has he taken away?
ENG. Woe’s me, alas! Lately the best man the sun looked down that has died, a fine man, Anthony Denny, the glory of England.
STR. What was he like?
ENG. Patriotic and God-fearing, understanding what was needful and saying what he understood, wealthy yet abstemious, free from fault, bountiful to all others, but very reluctant to help himself.
STR. What are you doing now?
ENG. What? To die along with him, having a share of the goods he is experiencing.
STR. And what next?
ENG. To return to life along with him, something for which England yearns.
STR. What is your prayers for your dearest friends?
ENG. That they have his faith in God, his loyalty towards his sovereign, his care for the commonwealth, and that my friends have his manners in life, and his ending when they die.
IV. A FUNERAL DIALOGUE ON THE DEATH OF THAT CHOICEST OF WOMEN MARY CECIL, WIFE OF THE RIGHT WORTHY WILLIAM CECIL AND SISTER OF JOHN CHEKE
LIFE, DEATH, MARY CECIL
Why do you lie, doubtful whether you should choose life or death? Banish this care, I shall soon put an end to this dispute. I am blessed, but death will bring you a mixture of all evils. I am happy, but death his grave, cruel, and horrible. Shall you thus depart at your flourishing age? Shall the glory of your splendid beauty this perish? Rather look to me and learn what advantages you will gain from me. First, a long time and a bounty of wealth will bless you, and a sweet band of children will crowd around your sides. You have a husband such as Haemon was to his Antigone, and a brother who surpasses the tribe of the learned just as the sun does the lesser stars. Your venerable mother thrives, as do your sisters. So, since so many advantages attend on you, if you are wise you should not abandon such great good things.
Life will not fulfill its promises to you. What could a shadow, dust, a bubble or smoke have to give? Should uncertain goods take precedence over certain ones? In this life the things which are vain, transitory, mutable and treacherous, such as strength, pleasure, beauty, profit and glory, ebb and flow like the sea when roiled by a darkling storm. Fortune, hope, deceit, care, and anxieties agitate and impel all the times of human life. Relying on these guides, life will always take stumbling steps and always wantonly wander off in the direction it is most led by its affections. This troubles men’s minds all the more with its miseries, and a new crop of ills grows daily. Therefore wise Menander tells us that he is beloved to God who is taken away from his mother’s sweet lap on the very first day of his life. You therefore, destined to go on breathing this deceitful and fleeting breath of life, having been entrusted to Mother Nature, let your heart trouble you no further. Behold, am here, certain death, bestowing certain goods, to put an end to your miseries. I am the end of your great sufferings, the welcome harbor of final peace, the predestined order of the road which all flesh will walk with equal paces, the final physician for all ill, the ending of this fleeting life and the stairway to life everlasting, the key of salvation whereby, with the prison of perpetual life burst open, Christ, the rescue of all men, opens up the highway of salvation to all the pious. So you should prefer certain goods to uncertain ones and happily embrace me. For I shall soon grant you a life which this life will not.
MARY CECIL GIVES HER ANSWER
Enough has been said on both sides. Hold your silence, I have lived enough. You please me, death, but I take no pleasure in life. For this life I have lived is nol live, but rather a bubble floating in thin air. What life has to offer, power, wealth, years, and glory are pure delusions of this deceitful existence. Christ alone is my life. He is my everything, my husband, father, brother, sisters and children, so that, Christ, I shall leave each one of these in your bosom. Thus I want to live, thus it is a great profit to die. Nor will care for this fleeting life detain me: I have lived enough, Christ, because I have lived enough for you.
V. TO HIS VERY FAIR FRIEND WILLIAM BILL
Oh my beloved Bill, hail, my most beloved friend! From ancient times there has been handed down a tradition (observed even by countryside yokels) that, when the sun leaves the snow-clad horns of the Goat and plunges his bright face in the water, renewing the year in its annual cycle, friendships should be renewed by the exchanging of tokens of affection. So are we, my most beautiful, whose hearts are joined by tight bonds, who share the same mind and will, to scorn these sacred rites inherited from antiquity and let them lie in neglect? Let those do this, Bill, who like the goddess Discord and who are torn asunder by a mindless mind and corrosive malice (a crowd that grows greater day by day). Alas, the great crime! Alas the evil, heavy to hear of! Should Discord separate those whom Christ unities? Should a bilious mind come between men decorated by learning? Bill, we enjoy a better fate. Both of us rejoice in the Muses’ band, the Latin and Greek goddesses cherish and love us, and pleases more each day. We both love Cheke, Cheke loves us both, and this I would account among our greatest goods. And thus let us, joined together by such strong bonds and a supreme alliance of affection, bind our hearts together all the stronger. Thus the songs my Muse pours forth (unkempt, crude, uncouth, harsh, and bloodless) serve as a pledge of my love. If you accept these with a smile, as is your wont, I ask no more, I shall thus gave my all. Farewell, my beloved Bill, my most beloved friend!
VI. R. A. ON THE MIGRATION OF DOMINUS BUCER FROM THE EXILE OF THIS LIFE TO HIS TRUE HOMELAND
When her rival England grew jealous of the German nation, she abducted Bucer. Angry heaven exclaimed at the deed, saying, “He’s mind, she stole him, she absconded.” Now let all the astonished Papists growl and roar, because against the will of all their furies Bucer is set loose from that exile. At length he is freed and gone aloft on high, to his true homeland. He seeks the sky, where he has been made a celestial, to reign as co-heir to Christ.
VII. ON THE SAME
While our mind groans, weighed down by this mass of flesh, while this world’s dire thunderbolts roar, while Satan attempts his wiles and threatens us with his chains, there is no homeland, no city, no home for the pious. Whatever men driven by their bellies and foolish Papists think in their dementia, this is your teaching Paul, this is your life, Bucer. Let the Babylonian crew cease carping at your exile, has no citizen every gone into exile before? There is no citizen of heaven who has not previously been an exile: oh welcome exile, being wont to grant such great things! So let your homeland defer to exile, and life to death, they will grant what this homeland and life do not. Therefore Bucer endured exile with a grateful mind, since exile gave him the homeland for which he longed.
VIII. TO THE DIVINE ELIZABETH,
HOPING FOR A HAPPY NEW YEAR
Hail, divine one, glory of your nation. Hall, excellent sovereign Elizabeth, the great goddess of your Britons. Now open up the prosperous new times of a new age for your subjects, a peaceful realm and a kindly world. Grant happy times for our time, goddess. You are the sole salvation and pillar of the Britons, the teacher of Christ’s true doctrine and a holy life, you are the unsullied law of upright living. You are our defence in war, you are a daughter of perpetual peace, the governess of our manners, the rule of your laws. For under you as our sovereign the sacrosanct power of the law governs all, so that now counsel rather than force holds sway, reason rather than blind will. Neither does the violence of harsh laws oppress us, nor does favor absolve guilt, and there is no tolerance for committed crime. You are such a rare devotee of due measure and the Golden Mean that it is doubtful whether you are more vigilant for justice or a lover of justice, thus you preside over everything with such great moderation. There is neither any fear of your sword for the just, nor must they dread the unrighteousness. You do not oppress your subjects with hatred, but rather lead them with love, and wherever fear is less, reverence is the greater. Your subjects both fear you and love you, you are equally dreaded and adored, nor do you mistrust being loved nor desire to act as does the dire violence of a tyrant. And though your power has reached the apex, yet the almighty Creator of all that exists has uniquely bestowed on you things greater than the greatest. Your gifts of nature are superior to your gifts of fortune, but your virtue is all-surpassing, so that all men must confess you are worthy to govern this great world and have the reins of all things entrusted into your hands.
Why do fools gawk at the scepters of masculine sovereigns? Why should the French continue to boast of their agreements? Other peoples have a Mars for their king, but you, a woman, rule us as a Pallas, and long may you govern, you learned Minerva. If England should bear many like you, why should England henceforth be concerned to seek seek masculine scepters? Where a man rules, there rules violence. This is attested by the Kings of Sweden and Denmark, by the nations of Belgium, the rulers of France and Spain, who have no other thought and aim than to consume their wretched peoples in wretched war. For such is masculine virtue and the crew of great men: courageous, stout, high-spirited splendors of kings. Cyrus, Alexander, Pompey, Caesar and all their ilk were thunderbolts of war, weights wearing down the sad world. Behold the sad whirlwind in which they involve human affairs. Exile, despoliations, and a sad confusion of things follow upon masculine government and scepters; steel, fire, famine, bloodshed and gore, and a long series of domestic evils. England has often endured these things and wept at their sight, but you, you virginal flower, you glory of womankind, you excellent sovereign, are now bringing back the Golden Age of ancient Saturn. Under your virginal guidance, most noble virgin, virginal virtues return, and the foremost virtue is public justice, the surest guardian of the realm. This is followed by goodness, by happy clemency and chaste moderation, that excellent companion of a chaste life. And, having those virtues to guide you, you strengthen your government and wield it when it has been strengthened, that no power, be he an ingrate of a subject or a foreign foe, can harm us while you reign. This present age is so superior to the past that, if you reflect on the thousand years of our history when England was subject to masculine rule, the glory of men must yield to that of a woman, and our present virgin queen surpasses many male ones to the same degree that the sun outshines all else, or that you, as the moon, outshine the lesser lights. At home all is safe, and no external force is to be feared.
But, alas (criminal to speak!) impious fury harries other men, pious men of our kidney, our neighbors, who are bound to us by Christ’s covenant, a single faith, a single safety, and dire peril. The Roman sow is raging, her Babylonian madness is waxing savage, issuing bloodthirsty threats, now hoping to sate its desires with pious blood, and the blood shed by the pious calls out with pious prayers and entreaties for revenge. Now Holofernes and unholy Haman conspire together; Cacus and Geryon, those horrible monsters of the sad world, they join together their counsel, their strength, their deceits, and all else. so that all men who have enlisted in your ranks, Christ, may be put to death and that kings and they might compel everything in the world and its kings to submit to the Pope’s harsh yoke. And to achieve these crimes they attempt all misdeeds. How sad the prayers of the pious now are in all quarters, since they are surrounded by so many dangers! The horrendous torch of sad war flies about. Our neighbors are afire, and now it is not the property of the pious that is at stake but their very lives, and madness is arming itself against all the pious. Though in actuality it is attacking them, in its hopes it is already devouring everybody joined together by the pious league of faith. These people are violating the laws of the nature, they break the bonds of holy matrimony and dissolve all the rights of law. This one kills his own child, that one murders her husband. They do not spare their own, how can they spare others? They kill babes not yet born, they put to death the moribund: old age has no reverence, tender infancy offers no protection. Oh this sad aspect of things! Death itself looks on it in amazement, and with averted eyes indignantly regards this horrid tyranny. Our neighbors are afire. Why are we looking on in idleness, spectators at the moment but, perhaps, destined to act in the play? The smoke is flying this way, there can be no doubt the fire will follow. Even if we have no concern for someone else’s safety, yet care for our own should move us not to disdain these upheavals. For amidst this wretched upheaval, amidst this wretched danger which is tearing apart the entire world with its dire hatreds, there is no king, people, race, nation, city, private household, woman, man, sex, age that is not divided into different camps by these discords and distracted minds.
But where is this discord headed? In these times, the single point of contention is whether the Pope, impiety, force, anger, and the fury of bad men, or Christ, piety, life, and the safety of good men is to enjoy power. He who does not see this sees nothing, but is blind as he looks on, and casts shadows on obvious things. He who thinks differently either has a bad opinion, or none at all. Although he might boast of the dutiful title of a citizen, he is an enemy, not a citizen, who with his voice deceitfully feigns peacefulness with a specious pretext of tranquility, but in his heart bawls out for horrible wars. Although in his face he may seem at ease, in his hope he craves commotions. Nor do evil crimes bear a single, simple appearance. This wickedness has a thousand hands, a thousand feet, a thousand arts for mischiefmaking. Nor does open force work so much harm as fraud wrapped in veiled deceits. If steel cannot compel, fraud offers gold. You beast who lurks in a cave defended by seven hills, you Babylonian harlot of the world, who subjects kings to herself, who now so frightens the world, who is now opening up the cages of all your evils thanks to the protection of the gold furnished by America, that impious nation, you have never been heard of any previous age of the world. Oh if you were not known in our times! Oh how many men your prosperity has impoverished, how many your wealth turns into wretches! For the fraud of your gold is great, it deceives the world: if there is anything upright or useful, your gold either saps its strength, or diminishes it, or tears it asunder. If any man is faithful, if any man is a friend to another, if he cannot be killed by steel, he will be undone by gold. If gold can work harm, it makes its attempt against yet greater things, public councils and the private chambers of kings. The halls of great men, what is not sold for gold, wherever gold can penetrate? O happy the palace, in which gold does not hold sway or work its deception, in which a queen stores up wealth for humane purposes. This is altogether too much a Golden Age, and it would be better and safer were it an Age of Clay. Now gold has much too much power, now it throws everything into confusion, it disturbs public affairs with anxious cares, it destroys all the good joys of private life, and fills the hearts of many a man with wretched torments.
But where are you rushing, my complaining Muse, saying these sad things at an inappropriate time? Happy things should be bestowed on happy times. This was my intention, excellent sovereign, this was my desire, that my pious complaint should not plunge you into gloom, but that it should awaken your wrath so that this harsh aspect and sad fate of the world should be goads to your virtues and seeds of your praise, that they should procure you a lasting name and enduring reputation. For what is more praiseworthy than for you to give consolation to the wishes of the pious, either happily by your advice or with your powers as an avenger, either pacifying their enemies by your counsel or shattering them with your might. This our sole ultimate hope for consolation, and we place all our trust in this hope alone.