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ΤΗΕ ΒΙRTHDAY POEM OF THE THE ILLUSTRIOUS EDWARD
PRINCE OF WALES, DUKE OF CORNWALL, EARL PALATINE,
A LITTLE BOOK BEGUN SOME YEARS AGO, AND NOW
COMPLETED AND PUBLISHED
BY JOHN LELAND
1. THE BOOK ADDRESSES THE CANDID READER
I am tardy in coming to light, dearest reader. The reason was my master’s lazy Muse. Be friendly and forgive a book asking your pardon for a legitimate cause, and it will yield to you unconditionally. Now I come forth far more polished, and I am the first to take care to restore to the British their ancient glory.
These festive feathers are the badge of Prince Edward, whose splendor, honor, titles, name and praises will (God willing) endure as long as swans delight in their watery streams, as long as milk-white lilies grow in well-tended gardens.
2. PRINCE EDWARD’S FEATHER SPEAKS
Here I am, Prince, whiter than snow, than milk, than privet, and gladly I submit to the yoke of your government. As often as you brandish the peaceful olive I shall stand up conspicuous in your cap. As long as the Zephyr fills my sail with its longed-for breeze, you will never feel the blazing sun’s heat. If perchance your laurels summon you to noble wars, I shall stand proud atop your helm. Long may you live, Prince, glory of our noble youth, for me you will eternally be divine.
3. TO THE RIGHT INVINCIBLE HENRY, THE EIGHTH OF THAT NAME, KING OF ENGLAND, FRANCE, AND IRELAND, DEFENDER OF THE FAITH, AND (NEXT TO CHRIST) SUPREME HEAD OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND AND IRELAND
I have written of the birth of Prince Edward, and by the arrival of this babe the island of Britain, great in its wealth and accomplishments, feels itself thrice, four times blessed. This is a very small book, but deals with things most illustrious, and with its earnest wishes and prayers it cherishes the ambition, King Henry, greatest of kings, of coming into your hands. Divine man, show favor to your bard. May the Scotsman, broken in war, adore you thus as his master, and hail you as his king.
4. HIS PURPOSE WHEN HE MAKES HIS INVOCATION
My Muse wonderfully yearns to celebrate in song Prince Edward’s natal day, and the right notable displays with which all England shone at the prayed-for rising of his happy star. What gods should I invoke? Christ is my Apollo, the sacred spirit of His divine mouth my Helicon, bright heaven’s shining lights my Parnassus, albeit the delightful bevy of Nymphs and the inventions of fabulous poetry earn medals for eloquence. Relying on these with a trusting heart, I shall embark on the vast ocean of speaking and, having gained fair weather, I shall entrust my sails to favoring winds.
5. BRITAIN’S LONGING
For a long time, alas, the royal palace had been wearing a gloomy face, nor was any tiny Aeneas playing at Court such as would be able to wield his father’s lofty scepter with a firm hand sit on his ancestral throne. God, from His etherial citadel having mercy on the British, has expunged all this sadness, and by a happy marriage has in His goodness promised the sure hope of an excellent Iulus.
6. THE PEDIGREE OF QUEEN JANE
The fertile land of Severia stretches towards the west. There Seymour, a man energetic in war, inhabits a large manor named Lupinus. This man was presented by his noble wife with Jane, an unsullied daughter of virginal modesty, and noble Henry (that glory of great kings) joined her to himself as his beloved, and filled her pregnant womb with the longed-for babe.
7. THE BIRTHING OF QUEEN JANE
The moon had completed its tenth full orb, and the eve of the day sacred to Edward, in whose reign the English had thrown off the Danish yoke, had dawned, when the Queen, suffering great pangs in her womb, cried out, “Help me, Christ, in my misery. I pray you preserve me as I am about to give birth, spare me out of Your kindness.” And the pretty little babe came into this world, destined to gladden the gloomy hearts of many a man.
A trusty messenger, sent to the high city of Trenovant, revealed the good news, filling all its streets with joy’s sweet nectar. Immediately everything took on a new color and aspect, and the unwonted cheering of men rose to the golden stars.
9. BELLINUS’ CASTLE
There is a mighty ancient citadel, set on the bank of the Thames, the immortal glory of the ruler Bellinus. Hence its brass monstrosities, those terrible basilisks, thundered with countless volleys, and brightened the sky with their lightning, though their smoke, rising in clouds, plunged the air into darkness anew and breathed forth a foul odor. Everywhere houses shook at the thunder, and throughout the city there was a great massacre of glass windows. Thus an intermixture of fear did a fine job of tempering their happy ears.
10. THE RUTUPINE SHORE
Without delay, ambassadors took ship on the Rutupine shore to bear the news of the Prince’s fair birth. Some went to Boulogne, to the truculent Dutch and the mighty Belgians, and others sought the far-distant Spanish.
On the cliffy top of a steep hill stands an impregnable work, the castle of Arviragus, a brave men whom Roman power could never cast down from his British chariot. Bitter Doris provided the ancient name of this citadel and its city. When this castle had learned of the new joys of this great birth it unfurled bright banners on its high walls, and the gentle zephyr fluttered red crosses on white linen, likewise the emblems of brave George. Next it belched forth great blasts frequently from all its towers, spiritedly thundering with friendly threats. The sea resounded, sailors sung their chanteys.
12. ICCIUS PORTUS
As soon as it heard this rumble, Iccius readily comprehended the honorable cause for this rejoicing. Every enclosure of the restored city flashed its lightning, as its artillery serpents were cautiously touched with the match. Thenceforth the thunderstruck shores resounded and, with their rafters shaken, roof-tiles were wrenched off and fell to the ground. The citizens of Boulogne armed themselves, imagining that enemies had appeared for a fight, but after learning the true reason they raised their hands to high heaven and rejoiced in celebration, pouring forth sweet songs. One man among the citizens, more fervent than the rest, sang these words: “Edward the Third, as they do the counting, that martial hero, took this city in battle when the gods gave him prosperity. I prophecy (and I pray there be great weight in this omen), that a sixth sovereign Edward of happy name may rule here and serve as a bulwark against our enemy.”
There is a place, proud with unusual splendor, washed by the flowing streams of the River Thames, from antiquity called by the name of Avonia . Here King Henry VIII raised such a house such as the golden sun sees nowhere else in all the world, and yet it will garner no greater praise than for having witnessed the birth of the serene Prince. Let happy Avona always cheer for its child, let it thus long keep its sky-high turrets intact, raising its noble crest to heaven.
There is a palace famed for its thronged market place and held up it head, being widely famous for the triple crowns set on kings’ heads. At that time what was Avona but a rural manor, happy to submit to its nearby mistress? Now, thanks to a reversal of fortune, it rises to high heaven and menaces the sky and, a free place, dictates just laws to its former mistress. And yet you have lost nothing of your royal name, but rather have gained much. You will be called a friend of Prince Edward, and happily gain the fruit of having such a great patron, when he has grown to maturity.
15. HIS BAPTISM
Now the day was at hand, fit to be marked with a white stone, when the holy prelate would raise the boy from the salvation-bearing font and offer up his prayers. The leading men of the realm met together, as did its holy Parliament, and the boy was named in honor of St. Edward. Mary, that unsullied glory of chaste piety, took up this pledge of her father’s true love in her hands, quietly shining like night-wandering Cynthia. The Archbishop of Durovernum [Canterbury] performed the same service, and the third Duke of the Iceni performed this fostering duty, a formidable Achilles in battle whose notable victory had smashed the Caledonian Scots and compelled them to obey their English master. The chapel resounded as Edward’s name was repeated, and the tuneful choir lifted up to heaven its shimmering song.
16. LADY JANE’S PIETY
Then the Queen took the boy from the living font, reborn, in her pious arms, and next she spoke such words as these: “Acknowledge your mother with a smile, dear boy. Regard me with happy eyes, my sweetest child. Grow, boy, the world expects every great thing from you. Rejoice in your virtue, boy: I believe you are destined to be a special glory of the British realm, this is an assured hope. Always strive to serve our supreme Christ. From this let a firm start for your reign be taken. The rest I confidently entrust to favorable fortune.” She made an ending, kissed the little child, made a worshipful sign of the cross on his brow, and entrusted the sweet babe to the care of his nursemaid.
HIS CAREFUL NURSE
The nurse performed her excellent duties for the boy, a nurse of distinguished family, lacking all harshness, handsome and kindly. And she offered her breast, swollen with white milk. With greedy lips he sucked this life-giving gift. Meanwhile his friendly wet nurse sang a pleasant song: “Suck, boy. Rest, boy. Sleep most sweetly. This honeyed breast will always be at your service. Don’t fuss, both of these breasts will be given you, fair one. I have pretty rattles, given me for your hand. Are you asleep, sweet boy? You are beginning to be most beloved. ”
QUEEN JANE’S DEATH
Jane had high hopes for numerous children, for being fruitful and making King Henry a father. But the gods above decided otherwise. With its deadly torment a sharp pain wrenched at her empty womb. I would imagine the reason was a chill unadvisedly caught. The power of the disease prevailed, and now, wholly despairing for her health, she said these words to her helpful handmaidens: “I am unconcerned about death, I realize the Almighty created me mortal, I shall die. Earth, I owe you my earthly part, but my pious mind will walk in the Elysian gardens. I pray for this alone, that my son might live out his mature years, and at length give laws to his paternal realm.” She spoke, and closed her eyes in eternal darkness. No day oppressed Britain with a greater loss.