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A FUNERAL SONG ON THE DEATH OF THE MOST GLORIOUS PRINCE HENRY, STRUCK DOWN IN THE FIRST FLOWER OF HIS YOUTH
Ah, what earth or what funeral monument or mausoleum could be worthy of such a guest? What Parian stone engraved with yellow gold, what chrysolite, what shining sapphire, what tawny jasper will be sufficient to decorate the tomb of such a hero? Whose the gifted artificer's hand, or the skill of what Apelles, that will paint the image of his sacred face, and the beauty of his brow, or the shining nobility of his white neck? What Virgil or Homer will be able to express the virtues of his spirit and the splendours of his mind meetly, with a fitting song, and all the gifts of Nature brought together in his breast, and consecrate his name for ages yet to come? The whole world was scarcely able to contain him, and at his death that selfsame world dies for grief, nor can savage death — o, let it boast its triumphs— claim any greater earthly spoils, that extinguished such a bright light at its first rising, as when, at the first light of the dawning day the daystar, offering its face to heaven and dissolving the darkness, is suddenly wrapped in dark and shadowy cloud. Why then should we weep for the common lot of men, if so uncommon a prince — graced with so many gifts, heir to so many kingdoms, descendant of so many beloved kings, object of so many nations' love, distinguished in war and every kind of art, hope of so many peoples — falls, destroyed by unexpected death in the flowering springtime of his strength and days? Yet by his better part he was borne above all the power of death: for deathless on earth is the brightness of his fame, and in the heavenly Olympus he lives in honour.
Espying Henry in the first flower of youth, rising from the east like a new sun on the earth, heaven was quick to envy earth so bright a light, and made ready to carry him off to the stars. On this side and that, earth and heaven strive in mighty contest; heaven lays claim to him by right, as does the earth. Heaven, deeming him alone worthy, by so many virtues, commands him to reside in the supernal regions; earth, saying she is unable to lack such a glory and such a light, before his due time, seeks to hold him. The upper realm’s strength prevails, carries the light to the stars, and bestows darkness and sorrow on the earth.
3. AN EPITAPH ON THE DEATH OF THE FATHER OF THE SAME HENRY, JAMES, KING OF GREAT BRITAIN &c.
When he saw the nations enjoying long peace under your aegis, o King James, and the tumults of war resolved throughout the globe, fierce Mars himself, fearing for his kingship, and, moved by the Furies of wicked malice, forthwith went to Fate, and unto her thus made his prayers: “Mistress with power of death and life, since the High King has granted you to draw out and break the thread of human life, behold my constant enemy, that King James, under whose sway the land of Britain lies. Everywhere he strives to settle the outbreak of war, so that there will be no place for me on earth. Therefore, o Fate, no longer stay your hand, I beg. Break the thread of his life, already far too long. For this one deed, I shall give you many thousands of soldiers, captains and generals laid low by my weapons. In response to him the goddess Peace said, “James is my king, for he was ever mine. He has ever been given to the arts of peace, and therefore he shall be worthy of living in lasting peace.” Thus, while Mars and Peace strove in mighty contest, The one seeking, O James, death for you, the other, life, the Fate favoured both of them, and said, “The month of Mars, but not Mars’ sword, shall have King Jamesd. And because he was ever the lover of peace, and its servant, and was the guardian of peace throughout the globe, he shall belong to Peace, that he may end his life in peaceful death, and taste the joys of eternal peace on high.”
After King James had graced the Britons with happy rule and long years of peace, and filled the world with his shining merits, not outshone by the monarchs of Rome, or Greece, or the holy kings of Judaea, having lived five decades and nine years as a lover of peace, he calmly rested in placid peace. Happy in his life, happier than all by its last act, since his life was concluded by a happy and holy death, and he was most happy in his high-born offspring, whom he leaves as heir to his father, the throne and country, and as the consort of his virtue, spurred on by his age and his spirit. Filled with by all glorious gifts of character and intelligence, like a new sun from the east, rising on the world, he shall flood the British land with perpetual light. Now the time has come to take up high honours, o Charles, the gods’ dear offspring, earth’s splendid glory. Under your care, o good and blessed man, may your empire be always a blessing to you, and favoured with lasting peace, enlarged with riches and all good things achieved by your hand, and may your ruling hand be celebrated gloriously throughout all lands, with praises and with undying fame unto the ages yet to come.
5. EPITAPH OF MR. ALEXANDER SCRIMGREOUR, PASTOR OF THE KIRK OF IRVINE
Here lies Scrimgeour, born of illustrious forebears, to whose merits he added more splendour. They carried the royal standard in the field of battle, but he wielded the standard of the Most High God. They drove the invading foe from their land with victorious arms, he repelled the enemies of the soul by the sacred sword. Laying low murderous strong hosts of sins by his honeyed mouth, and lifting humble hearts to the stars. Alas, how was our world despoiled of a bright light when that Sun set in the middle of the day!
Here is great Scrimgeour's tomb: who has pronounced his praises? Scarcely Phoebus himself would have sufficient power. This man adorned the town of Irvine, and likewise his native land, with famous praise and his own merits, by preaching the sacred Word, and the gifts Of his high intelligence, shining bright in all places, skilled in all the arts, expert in the tongues of Rome and Syria which he spoke, and learned Greece. O, how many natural gifts, how much grace of mouth and mind has this modest stone now hidden!
7. AN EPITAPH FOR ROBERT BOYD, A MOST NOBLE YOUNG MAN DEAD IN THE VERY FLOWER OF HIS YOUTH
Here lies Robert Boyd, in both his name and in truth reflecting the Roberts who were his forebears, enshrined in fame. He was an ornament to his nation, a pillar of of his ancient family, and the light and splendor of his age. He was a rare example of the virtues, the image of piety, and, in truth, the darling of the common folk and the honor of the nobility. By his means his ancient family was retrieved from its erstwhile ruins and restored, enhanced with new lands and wealth. He was blessed in comeliness, wealth, a choice bride, fair offspring, and all the good endowments of mind and of body. He was blessed in all of his life, but more blessed with his final deed, that his life was ended by such a blessed death.
Albeit souls of the deceased may want the tomfoolery of the tomb, last words and funeral rites, he used to say that he had come naked into the light of this life, and intended to leave it naked. Dispensing with funereal pomp, he gave instructions that the costs thereof be spent on helping the poor: these can profit the living, but do no good for the dead. “I am not dazzled,” he said, “ by the splendor and glory of shadow-like honor. Rather, I pursue the true honors of the heavenly kingdom. This is the glory to which I aspire, for which I hope.” Now, happy Robert, you may enjoy this glory for which you hoped, for which you sought in your mind.
9. EPITAPH OF ROBERT SCOT, MOST ILLUSTRIOUS PREACHER AND PASTOR IN THE KIRK OF GLASGOW
Here lies Robert Scot: though death dissolve his limbs into dust, death will never diminish his name. For he was a light to his native land, and its mighty glory, and in Kentigern’s city, having discharged the sacred office of preacher, blessed the city, the kirk and the high school, to which he devoted himself entirely, while life remained, assiduously governing, teaching, and advising. Therefore, by his immortal fame, he will live on earth unto coming ages, and unto glory in heaven.
1o. ON D. WILLIAM MURE’S DIVINE AND VERY LEARNED POEM ON THE CONTEMPLATION OF CHRIST’S TRUE CROSS
While you, Mure, proffer the true image of the crucified Jesus by the divine art of sacred song, not sculpted in gold or silver, nor bronze nor marble, like the idols which empty superstition devises for itself, the invented products of human hand and mind, but such as is painted by the preaching of the Word of God, not to be seen by the body’s eyes, but by the light of faith, not to be borne round in the neck or in the hand, but in the believer’s heart, on earth, the Muse of the Cross will make you a name more lasting than marble statues or any bronze at all, and the Cross itself will give you the honour of immortal life in heaven.
The Cross of Christ, which is the glory of all Christians, Is not on one score only a glory, o Mure, to you as you yourself embrace Christ’s Cross with a pure mind, and teach others the hard truth of what the Cross is, the subject is worthy of the great genius of a great poet, worthy of being penned in well-honed verse. In vain do others whom Poetry has fawningly inspired waste their ability and eloquence on trifles. But you lift your head higher than human affairs to the heavens, on the sacred wing of divine song. Divinely inspired is the vigour of your verse, its source celestial, and true honour is fitting for true poets. Proceed, raise monuments of high genius: in this way come glory and fame, and this path leads to the stars.
These verses are published in praise of
D. William Mure’s Vision of the Cross by
12. ON THE DEATH OF THE MOST FAMOUS MR. ANDREW BOYD, BISHOP OF ARGYLL, A MAN VERY DEAR TO ALL
What poet is able to bring dirges worthy to celebrate the burial of Boyd, most meritorious, learned and excellent bishop in the coasts of Argyll? What Vergil could relate in fitting verse the virtues of his spirit, the famous glories of his mind, and all the gifts of grace, and the character brought together in that one breast? Scarcely Phoebus himself, for all his power, and the whole chorus of Sisters which frequents Aganippe. Then let him sing himself and adorn himself with his own verses, for he was a famous poet, whether he chose to lead the Roman Muses into song, or sport with his native metre. So his homeland and the Latin Muses weep, in mourning weeds and garments, for the one snatched from them. For this man was the great glory of the Muses and Apollo, accomplished in all the arts. The people and the nobles mourn him, for he was most dear to people and to councillors both. All his fellow-priests lament the blow, Church and state mourn the loss: capably, unstintingly, while life remained, he cared for the good of both. He was to both a great light and glory, by his counsel, merits, teaching and morals. Grievous is his death to all, nor is it more grievous to any man than it has become to me, whom he encouraged from my earliest years with his friendship and a truly fatherly love. And yet there are consolations able to assuage this grief, because with a full sufficiency of praise and years, he brought his extreme old age to a close with a blessed death. In never-fading renown may he live on earth, and may he enjoy life and honour forever among the company of heaven.
13. A BOOK OF POEMS
Famous Scot, by bringing to light and life the poems of Scottish bards searched out everywhere and brought together with great labour from the darkness where they lay squalid and neglected, and apparelling them in new raiment, so that they can take wing on the lips of learned men, you have shouldered a task worthy of celebration in every age, which you have prepared as an eternal honour for the Muses and yourself. As long as these poems live and are read all over the world, your name too will live in all places and for all time.