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A SONG OF REJOICING ON THE MOST HAPPY RESCUE OF KING JAMES, MONARCH OF GREAT BRITAIN, THE FRENCH AND IRELAND, FROM A BRUTAL CONSPIRACY OF MEN OF THE PAPIST FACTION
TO THAT MOST SERENE, MOST INVINCIBLE MONARCH, JAMES, MOST CHRISTIAN KING OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE AND IRELAND
Great heaven’s child, James, glory of this earth, model of rare virtues, light of the gods, accept with favorable countenance these songs due to you, tokens of a mind grateful for your salvation. This is rude stuff, to be sure, unfit for the eye of a learned sovereign, from whose speaking mouth the Muses receive mellifluous streams, and make fresh waters of Acrea’s Aganippe. But pray condescend to animate my meager scratchings by your illumination, fostering the paintings of my humble Muses.
Most devoted to your majesty,
Professor of Philosophy in the
University of Glasgow
For a long time my mind and heart, driven by their new-found fervor, have craved to drink the waters of Hippocrene and Bacchus’ liquor, to be wholly inspired by Phoebus. Tongue strives to surpass mind in the telling, hand rivals tongue in the writing, that I may hymn with happy voice, felicitate with happy mouth, my king, a king by whose conjoined scepters are united Britain, France, and Ireland, whose legitimate reins are obeyed by each island that lies scattered in the sea off Scotland, a king invincible in arms, not to be conquered by this world’s orb or by Orcus; for he has been snatched from the monstrous snares of a savage enemy, snares at which the brutal Hun would shudder, snares the like of which have not been heard of by the Phoenicians, ill-reputed for perfidy, nor the cruel Scythian, the Turk, the dire Sarmatian, nor the cannibals, those sons of unclean savagery, nor any barbaric race at the ends of the earth; snares such as canny Circe never devised, or Medea, savage with her Aeaetian philters.
Tell me, Muses, from what beginning these great machinations of malice first erupted, the horror of such a peril. When the The Duke of Erebus, obeyed by centuries of wickedness, seeing peaceful cities far and wide, kingdoms pacified, whole peoples living their lives in tranquility, each man beneath his own vine, under the shade of his own tree (all this by your auspices, James, most glorious of rulers), he quickly grew heated, incensed by the provocative passion of envy, and, in a rage, convoked a cruel council of his infernal subjects at his foul home. So there gathered together the countless plagues of Erebus, and the harmful Furies, Savagery, Treason, Deceptions and Tricks, Perfidy and Murder, Suffering, mindless Discord, Envy, and bold Audacity with her blind face, as well as many other monstrosities of assorted savage species. In the midst stood black Avernus’ ruler himself, horrible, and give vent to his wrath in rabid words:
“Are the centuries to be dragged on thus in their tranquil course? Are we thus to suffer these nations to live in happiness? What novel mercy has changed our ways? Now our arts perish, our ancient hatred: now it is in vain that we encircle the globe with our industrious patrols. See how this British king, so greatly enamored with peace, has banished us from the western world. See how, under his auspices, a golden age is born, ancient peace and concord are returning to the world. See how piety and venerable faith now range freely, and they are singing hymns of victory over our kind. He has brought holy justice, law and right back to earth, with vices pruned from their branch. Indeed, the nations dwelling under the world’s pivots and the distant lands encircled by the oceanic streams where lie Thule and far-off Scia, the wild Irish who inhabit hilly badlands, who have employed might in place of right, who were accustomed to live by thievery, he has made familiar with his government, abolishing their rebellious rioting, exchanging tumult for peaceful quietude. Removing error’s shadows and all barbarism, he has assiduously devoted himself to kindling Christ’s heavenly Light and overthrowing our rule. Alas, his hateful line, the destiny of the man, running contrary to our own! How often have I laid traps for him by land and by sea? Could he be contained at Perth by Ruthven’s hand? Could he, betrayed, be taken by treason? Killed by a kinsman’s steel? In the midst of battle he found an escape by driving through the midst of his enemies. I think my spirits are prostrated in exhaustion, or lie quiescent, glutted with hatred. Indeed, when he had left his nation, seeking the court of Denmark’s king across the chill waters out of love for his dear consort, I dared pursue him across the ocean deep, opposing him throughout his crossing. What have the devices of the Grays, Raleigh and Cobham availed me? What have his thousand enemies availed? What profit in my thousand hurtful arts? He still lives, a foe to me and mine, he grows in power, wealth, and honor. I have been able to destroy great nations and warlike peoples, lay low notable towns, their walls pulled down, and fill the world with fearful tumult: but in my great confrontations with him on any matter at all, it is not granted me to enmesh him in any snares whatsoever. Thus the supreme Thunderer’s care is vigilant on his behalf. Are we thus to suffer ourselves to be banished from his lands unavenged? In future, who will worship the name of the Beast or place honors on our altars? Therefore take counsel on how to succor our tottering kingdom, devise a crime worthy of such a great assembly. Now I would mix heaven with Tartarus, wrap all in Stygian shadows, unbind the elements from their proper stations, loosen the bonds of the deep ocean, pour rivers into the sundered earth, change the orderings of things, and rip the globe from its station by sudden war and death, so that all nature would plunge back into its ancient chaos.”
Thus he spoke with hideous voice and bloody rant. But in the crowd an uncertain murmur arose, as when rocks obstruct the currents of a fast-running stream. The majority was for declaring war against the heavenly powers and mankind, against heaven and earth. And straightway they would have rushed forth, had not Jove’s reins contained them.
Thereupon Abaddon arose from his baleful seat, horrid in his monstrous rage; dear to his heart were sorrowful wars, feuds, plots, and fatal crimes. He was able to arm brother against brother for fraternal strife and overturn households with contentions; a thousand words, a thousand harmful skills were planted in his malevolent breast. He has driven the mother to stain her hands with the blood of her babes; he has disgraced brother with brother’ blood; he has driven sons against their father and the savage father against his children; he arms and incites the sovereign against his people, the people against their sovereign; the has encompassed the death of many a prince by deceit, snares, steel, and treachery; he has undone famous realms with his disturbances, overwhelming great cities.
Now he laid the foundations of monstrous plans, commencing with these words: “Indeed it is forbidden to raise our standards against the great Thunderer: lo, we would first feel His hand as we were thrust into Tartarus. But if we wish to impose heavy cares on poor humanity, and on entire peoples, and arrange the death of the British king, source of the deepest peace, I shall briefly explain how this can transpire; give me a hearing.
“There is a race issued from our bosom, more savage than hydras, a race of triple Geryon, which dwells in the high citadels of the seven-hilled city, and to it we have entrusted the rights and confidence of an eldest child, which is to say mendacity, misrepresentations, thefts, all manner of impostures and manufactured miracles. This nation, clasped to my bosom as my unique care, has learnt from me tricks, posturings, the art of harming, of simulating faith, weaving deceits, betraying those who trust, cheating gullible minds, disrupting close friendships by mutual hatred, as it seethes with all savagery and blood-lust. These servants are ready to perform any evil acts you choose. How many kings and great monarchs have they done in by treason, deceit, treachery, and stealthy poison? How many of our enemies have they killed by steel and by fire? A witness to this is that grand crime, a massacre most welcome to us, by which Paris was made infamous to all the world, when the Seine’s current was obstructed by the mass of the corpses, and washed its banks with the blood of saints. Whatever is in any one of us, whatever we all possess, all criminality and savagery inheres in them. I shall bring one of these (and not a man unacquainted with deceits) to the court of King James: let them be graver than Solomon, greater than David, he will fall, and succumb to the wiles of our son.”
He spoke, and they received his words with applause; everyone raised his hands, praising these baleful inventions. He therefore pressed forward his cruel enterprise, and flew aloft, quickly departing the horrible caverns of gloomy Cocytus. As companions followed Deceit and Treason; Crime, Evil, and Audacity clung to his side. Emerging, he tainted the rays of a sun that grew wan in mid-summer, and split the welkin with his horrendous shrieking. The waves resounded, and in their hollow caves the mountains groans. Britain had a presentiment of this bestial murmuring; with its floods rolling backward the Thames ran sluggish, and all the clouds grew ruddy in the blood-red air.
Then, his hair turned white from its usual blackness, he adopted the visage and appearance of a member of that unhappy regiment first founded by fire and Madness, her face fouled with the shit of the fierce dragon, a regiment named with the lying name of Jesus, and prowling along in a long, thick cloak, he sought a man he could select as fit for so great a crime.
It chanced that there was a most brutal Englishman, haling from York, Fawkes, who had spent many years in Belgium, enduring Mars’ heavy work under Spanish generals: an upholder of the Papist sect, and its most dedicated avenger, devoted to the hostile hatreds of this sincere religion, bursting with wickedness and frenzy, disposed like no other to working deceit and every manner of evil deed. And as soon as he saw this fellow peering around at everything, he flew to him and pleasantly embraced him with both arms, planting poison in his mind with a kiss. With a feigned expression, he spoke such words as these: “What good does it do to wreck your health with such protracted labors, sad Guido? Why squander your strength and the flower of your youth, inglorious in foreign fields, while Fortune offers you greater rewards at home, and while the Fates and the stars are preparing greater honors for you? If you choose to obey, do not scorn this fatherly advice. For I am one of that holy brotherhood to which Jesus has given His name, and the mysteries of His sacred sect, an adherent of our great pontiff, and to me religion and reverence for our holy Mother is dearer than life itself. A great downfall faces her (oh the sorrow!), Fortune urgently bears down on her with the hostile terror of the British king, who has recently succeeded to the governance of your nation. Nor does any respite for our faith or any resting-place reveal itself, wherever the power of his scepter extends, unless some ready remedy for this ill is prepared, unless he is first removed, who is preparing to remove our ancient religion from the world, and introduce his recent errors. Can your heart endure such audacity? Will not such piety, such love of religion, move your heart? Oh that you would undertake the laudable task of a deed by which you would immediately earn a home in heaven’s court and extend the honor of immortal fame down to the future centuries of our later descendants! Nor is the way difficult by which you can wholly exterminate the king himself, his consort, and all his brood. Give ear, and in a few words I shall explain how you may readily accomplish this:
“There is a stately building, large, whose portals rise above many stairs, supported by lofty columns, and this edifice lies open in the western part of London; and here is the seat of sacred Parliament, where the kingdom’s council and fathers are wont to hold session for entire months. And a high assembly of the nation is to be held here, appointed for winter’s first days on the following year. All the Peers of the realm, the sacred Parliament, those who preside over holy matters, the king himself, the royal consort, and royal offspring will gather at this place. During this time (carefully store up my injunctions in your memory), joined by like-minded confederates placed on the same level by criminality, whom I shall give you as partners in life and in death, hide yourselves in mines deep underground, which you must drive beneath the building’s foundations. Next leave the foundation loosely resting on its props, and when these are knocked out with ease, convulsed by a grand explosion, the entire House will collapse from its high perch; with a horrendous loss of life it will bury these impious times, just as once the palace demolished by Samson’s might brought lethal doom upon the Philistines. Or if the Fates happen to deny you this easy way, rent a chamber beneath the great hall. Then with all your strength and stealthy effort, fill it full with gunpowder, stone, and iron. When these are touched with fire, as soon as the prince has come into the high hall, escorted by all orders of the realm, of a sudden they will be laid low; the great building’s foundations, now torn apart, will f;y upward from their underground locations, taking everybody with them, and will rake the sky. Thus let them die who oppose the teachings of holy Rome, just as the Sodomites were once destroyed by fire let down from heaven. Nor would your reputation be slight, whether you succumb to fate or triumph, and the grace of this great deed will not vanish. As long as the all-powerful Pope inhabits the Capitoline’s immovable rock and our mitered Father possesses his empire, your honor, name, and praise will endure. Nor you your soul be burned by Aetna, bringing conflagration with its sulphuric fumes, or by purifying flame with its dire heat, which can only be subdued by prayer and holy water; rather, the kingdom of heaven, which you have preferred, will joyously receive you as soon as you quit your earthly abode, you will be added to the number of the Saints and pontiffs will devote shrines to you, strewing many offerings on their altars.”
He spoke, placing burning goads in the man’s heart. And he, his mind overwhelmed, said, “I shall follow, most holy brother, wherever you call, and for the sake of gaining such a name I do not fear to die a thousand deaths, undergo a thousand perils.” Without delay he departed Belgium’s shore and made the ill-omened journey to his native land. And with comrades joined to him, masters of crime, into whom Avernus had crept with similar savagery and inflamed them, and whom the Whore of Babylon had seduced with her philters. First they had the audacity to sanctify this monstrous crime, this foul misdeed, with the sacrament of consecrated bread; then they put their hands to the job, and applied themselves to the thorough undermining of the building’s mass on all sides. And so our humble workmen patiently toiled for six months, not an hour of leisure was granted them. And now they had nearly arrived at the footings of the walls, driving their tunnels, when unhappy chance offered them the use of the chamber for which they had hoped, lying beneath the columns of the hall. Assuming the false title of merchants, they filled this with heaps of stone, iron, cording, smokeless fuses, and thirty-six casks of gunpowder. And so he might apply to these a spark from smoldering punk at the first dawning of Parliament’s convention, Fawkes concealed himself in an interior arch of the building, right prayerfully awaiting the fateful hour appointed for the removal of king, peerage, and parliamentarians — alas that such evil could enter into a mortal heart! Thus with the nation deprived of its ruler and all its strength, everything would be thrown into lamentation and fearful chaos, and with the splendor of the serene Light removed everything would be wrapped once more in Papist shadows.
Now the dread day was at hand, and Phoebus was driving his team across the sky on the fifth day of his winter rising, mounting the heaven slower than Nature’s fixed decree commanded, and turned back his car though the sky demanded it: by this sudden eclipse and failure of the light, the unwonted pallor of his face, he revealed the unspeakable crime, issuing clear signals of danger, when King James appeared at the council chamber, gleaming in his regalia, shining in his high majesty and the glory of his serene countenance, just as when, at the dawning of the new day, the sun lifts up his face to heaven, banishing the darkness; next to him was Henry, his father’s most legitimate concern, a prince of sterling character, the other hope of our scepter, possessed of an intelligence beyond his years and a manly bearing; then there was the little Duke of York, a noble lad of comely appearance, Charles, and the fairest mother of such a brood, escorted by a massive throng of Peers and Parliamentarians; next followed those entrusted with the care of our sacred Church and those charged with the management of our civil law; and moreover there was a crowd of young and old alike, eager to hear the first outpouring of nectar from James’ Nestor-like mouth in Parliament assembled, to drink in his introductory remarks, the wisdom of his fertile mind, and to learn the greatness of his fluent tongue’s eloquence. Undoubtedly all were approaching their death with incautious step (a sad sight), had the Fates permitted.
But the almighty Father, to Whose eyes on high are revealed all mortal affairs, Who from of old appoints the time of life and of death, governing the world by eternal reason, discerned these hidden plottings from heaven. Misliking these harsh attempts at savage evildoing, and the idea of so many notable men, the brightest luminaries of all Christendom, dying a miserable death together, and the demise of a blameless prince and downfall of his kingdom, and taking pity on the bitter misfortune of His people, he rendered undone the impious undertakings of this pestilential gang, Himself banishing each child of Night and Erebus to the darkness.
For before they arrived at the portal of the decked-out House, Lord Monteagle, prompted by divine inspiration, came forth in the interim, placing a letter he had received in the royal hands. It was uncertain by what hand it had been sent or by what fist it had been written (sure proof it originated among the conspirators); this letter offering friendly warning to Monteagle to depart unless he cared to meet certain death: he should not mingle with this profane mob on which a black day was about to descent, swifter than the East wind’s mad gusts and wings of lightning, for an inevitable doom of judgment was hanging over them, as when a piece of paper rapidly catches fire.
Others heard this with indifference, but our high-minded sovereign himself, so often familiar with hostile deception and unspeakable conspiracies, had been made adept by his dangers, so that he could imagine the terror of a sudden misfortune befalling, and so he pondered in his sagacious heart. As a man endowed by heaven with the power of guessing the truth, he finally concluded that such a sudden collapse could only occur by a stroke of gunpowder. And so straightway he bade chosen followers from his retinue explore the rooms under the hall and the basement of the House again and again. And at length the truth came to light: the dark plots were revealed, Guido, the agent of this crime, was dragged out of hiding, a burning fuse clutched in his hand, by which he was to touch off the powder. Wearing a truculent expression, at first he affirmed that he had planned this attack out of love for the religion of Rome, as she was lost to his sorrow; but after being put to the question, he revealed all the details, how the conspirators had plotted ruination against king and kingdom with this mad attempt. And so Percy and many others whose consciences were guilty of such great wickedness were either executed or locked up in jail.
Oh wonderful goodness of God, oh justice, this great salvation shown the king and the British people! For their savage deception was caught out by deception, there arts were forestalled by clever arts. And so you, who now learn of a king virtually snatched from the jaws of Orcus, to whom no prince in this world can compare himself in piety, works of justice, spirit, mind, eloquence, endowments of intellect, or illustrious feats of deep wit, a man in whom alone Nature has exhausted herself, by whose peace is given you, by whose tranquillity is granted you, land of Britain, if you have any care for your security, if you are touched by any reverence for his scepter, or if you dwell closer to the fields of the warm southland or nearer to Boreas’ icy climes, or far across the flowing sea, celebrate that day by which this world’s light is preserved, that day by which hope for a peaceful life is preserved, that day to be marked by a white stone down through the ages, always honored and worthy of our solemn prayers, memorable in its fame for time immortal.
For if you ponder your lot should he have died, who could express the loss of life, the chaos involved in such a fate? Or who could equal its sorrows with his tears? Stricken with terrifying upheavals the world would have groaned, nor would any peace or quiet have endured: everything would have blazed with external and civil warfare. Piety, right, and venerable religion would have been laid low, each man’s might would have served as his law. The nobility would have fallen along with he common folk, house walls would have hung half-destroyed, great stones of fallen battlements would be strewn about. Our fields bereft of their tillers, our cities robbed of their townsmen would be shuddering, and invincible British lands would be given in subjection to all our neighboring peoples. How immense therefore, how immense is the mercy of our great Father! How great is His love! From on high is He not intent on His chosen sovereign, the safety of his realm, Who averted this tearful lot, this deadly doom? Wherefore let all celebrate Him with praise and sacred hymnody, with remembering reputation: mothers and husbands, ancient graybeards, lads, unwed girls, humble commoners and those of high degree.
And you, King James, at whom the citadels and walls of Rome quake, at whom their deadly weapons tremble, who are thus the recipient of heaven’s generous largesse, rescued from the terror of so great a peril by the hand of God, the Fates are reserving you for greater things. Acknowledge him as our guide, the author of our salvation, Who, far above the contagion of our human lot, dwelling in heaven’s shining temple, moves all mortal affairs by His will, making them turn in subjection to His great will, whence comes glory for pious kings and ruin for tyrants. In your eyes may His name always be honored and adorable, broadcast it among all the peoples. And so that wrongdoing and impiety might shudder the more at unclean enterprises, use your scepter to cut off this unspeakable race which, infected by the dire poisons of the three-headed monster, plunges into crime and evil, driven by blind madness — this race scornful of heaven, a Fury for the earth at large, daring to lay hands on rulers and sacred crowns so that, the splendor of the serene Light removed, it might envelop the world in looming night. Attack these people with ardor, rip them out root and branch. But those to whom piety and uprightness of life are dear, these you should take to heart and embrace with friendly countenance, join them to yourself as comrades, heap them with honors. Thus your scepter will govern true right and justice, under whose guidance your honor will increase, by their actions your distinguished reputation will be celebrated over boundless spaces.
Let us meanwhile, enjoying tranquil peace and all happiness because of your salvation, sing a joyous paean, nor shall we ever abandon our hopes and righteous prayers that He, Who has now granted manifest signs of His favor, the Father on Whom all things depend, with a sudden breath might consume all men striving to do harm to your consecrated head by treachery, deceit, or naked steel. Leading you far from the fear of all danger and slowly drawing out the thread of your lengthy life, may He support your government with wealth and all good things, and as long as the pole wheels its golden stars, let Him confirm your seed on their ancestral throne.