Edmund Waller (1606-1687)

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Selected Poems

Edmund Waller, the Poet, was born at Coleshill, 3 March 1606 and died at Beaconsfield 21 Oct 1687" He married, first, Anne Banks of London, 5 Jul 1631, and, second, Mary Breeze (or Breaux). He was educated at Eaton and King’s College, Cambridge, and was returned a member of Parliament for Amersham before he was 18 years old. In 1625 he was returned for Chipping-Wycombe, and sat for other places in several Parliaments, including the Long Parliament.

Edmund and Sir William Waller, the Parliamentary General, were fifth cousins, one generation removed, and, though Sir William was nine years older, they were, essentially, contemporaries.

After Anne Banks’ death in 1634, Edmund courted Lady Dorothea Sydney, whom he celebrated in his verses under the name "Sacharissa" , and Lady Sophia Murray, whom he distinguished by the name of "Amoret", both without success’.

In Parliament, he at first opposed the Roundheads or liberal party, but retained his place in the Long Parliament openly expressing his royalist sentiments after the Civil War began. He was sent as a Commissioner from Parliament to the King.

Edmund again sat in Parliament, at intervals, until the reign of James II (1685-1688). One critic says, "His popularity in Parliament was great, but he did not take pains to understand its business, but only sought to gain applause, being a vain and empty, though a witty man." His poetry was celebrated for elegance and polish at a time when these graces had been largely replaced with moral depravity. Macaulay says, "The verse of Waller still breathed the sentiments which had animated a more chivalrous generation.

About this time occurred the incident called "Waller’s Plot", which failed. It's nature is obscure, though Edmund made an abject confession of all he knew, including the names of his confederates, including his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Tomkins, who was put to death over it. Edmund was imprisoned for a year, fined 10,000 pounds and exiled.

During this exile, the first book of his poems was published in 1645. Oliver Cromwell rose to power in 1644 and was Lord Protector in 1649, so Edmund’s unfortunate political scheme, occurred during the trying times of the Civil War. In 1653 he obtained permission from Cromwell to return to England and in 1654 he addressed a poem of elaborate praises to the Lord Protector. In 1656 he recommended Cromwell to assume the royal title.

Selected Poems

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A Panegyric
Of the Last Verses in the Book
On a Girdle
Song: Go Lovely Rose
The Dancer
The Self Banished
The Story of Phoebus and Daphine
To the King On His Navy
Upon His Majesty's Happy Return
Upon the Late Storm

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A Panegyric

To my Lord Protector, of the Present Greatness, and Joint Interest, of His Highness, and this Nation

While with a strong and yet a gentle hand,
You bridle faction, and our hearts command,
Protect us from ourselves, and from the foe,
Make us unite, and make us conquer too;

Let partial spirits still aloud complain,
Think themselves injured that they cannot reign,
And own no liberty but where they may
Without control upon their fellows prey.

Above the waves as Neptune showed his face,
To chide the winds, and save the Trojan race,
So has your Highness, raised above the rest,
Storms of ambition, tossing us, repressed.

Your drooping country, torn with civil hate,
Restored by you, is made a glorious state;
The seat of empire, where the Irish come,
And the unwilling Scotch, to fetch their doom.

The sea's our own; and now all nations greet,
With bending sails, each vessel of our fleet;
Your power extends as far as winds can blow,
Or swelling sails upon the globe may go.

Heaven, (that has placed this island to give law,
To balance Europe, and her states to awe)
In this conjunction does on Britain smile;
The greatest leader, and the greatest isle!

Whether this portion of the world were rent,
By the rude ocean, from the continent;
Or thus created; it was sure designed
To be the sacred refuge of mankind.

Hither the oppressed shall henceforth resort,
Justice to crave, and succour, at your court;
And then your Highness, not for ours alone,
But for the world's protector shall be known.

Fame, swifter than your winged navy, flies
Through every land that near the ocean lies,
Sounding your name, and telling dreadful news
To all that piracy and rapine use.

With such a chief the meanest nation blessed,
Might hope to lift her head above the rest;
What may be thought impossible to do
For us, embraced by the sea and you?

Lords of the world's great waste, the ocean, we
Whole forests send to reign upon the sea,
And every coast may trouble, or relieve;
But none can visit us without your leave.

Angels and we have this prerogative,
That none can at our happy seat arrive;
While we descend at pleasure, to invade
The bad with vengeance, and the good to aid.

Our little world, the image of the great,
Like that, amidst the boundless ocean set,
Of her own growth has all that Nature craves;
And all that's rare, as tribute from the waves.

As Egypt does not on the clouds rely,
But to her Nile owes more than to the sky;
So what our earth, and what our heaven, denies,
Our ever constant friend, the sea, supplies.

The taste of hot Arabia's spice we know,
Free from the scorching sun that makes it grow;
Without the worm, in Persian silks we shine;
And, without planting, drink of every vine.

To dig for wealth we weary not our limbs;
Gold, though the heaviest metal, hither swims;
Ours is the harvest where the Indians mow;
We plough the deep, and reap what others sow.

Things of the noblest kind our own soil breeds;
Stout are our men, and warlike are our steeds;
Rome, though her eagle through the world had flown,
Could never make this island all her own.

Here the Third Edward, and the Black Prince, too,
France-conquering Henry flourished, and now you;
For whom we stayed, as did the Grecian state,
Till Alexander came to urge their fate.

When for more worlds the Macedonian cried,
He wist not Thetis in her lap did hide
Another yet; a world reserved for you,
To make more great than that he did subdue.

He safely might old troops to battle lead,
Against the unwarlike-Persian, and the Mede,
Whose hasty flight did, from the bloodless field,
More spoil than honour to the victor yield.

A race unconquered, by their clime made bold,
The Caledonians, armed with want and cold,
Have, by a fate indulgent to your fame,
Been from all ages kept for you to tame.

Whom the old Roman wall so ill confined,
With a new chain of garrisons you bind;
Here foreign gold no more shall make them come;
Our English iron holds them fast at home.

They, that henceforth must be content to know
No warmer region, than their hills of snow,
May blame the sun, but must extol your grace,
Which in our senate has allowed them place.

Preferred by conquest, happily o'erthrown,
Falling they rise, to be with us made one;
So kind dictators made, when they came home,
Their vanquished foes free citizens of Rome.

Like favour find the Irish, with like fate,
Advanced to be a portion of our state;
While by your valour and your courteous mind,
Nations, divided by the sea, are joined.

Holland, to gain your friendship, is content
To be our outguard on the continent;
She from her fellow-provinces would go,
Rather than hazard to have you her foe.

In our late fight, when cannons did diffuse,
Preventing posts, the terror and the news,
Our neighbour princes trembled at their roar;
But our conjunction makes them tremble more.

Your never-failing sword made war to cease;
And now you heal us with the arts of peace;
Our minds with bounty and with awe engage,
Invite affection, and restrain our rage.

Less pleasure take brave minds in battles won,
Than in restoring such as are undone;
Tigers have courage, and the rugged bear,
But man alone can, whom he conquers, spare.

To pardon willing, and to punish loath,
You strike with one hand, but you heal with both;
Lifting up all that prostrate lie, you grieve
You cannot make the dead again to live.

When fate, or error. had our age misled,
And o'er these nations such confusion spread,
The only cure, which could from Heaven come down,
Was so much power and clemency in one!

One! whose extraction from an ancient line
Gives hope again that well-born men may shine;
The meanest in your nature, mild and good,
The noble rest secured in your blood.

Oft have we wondered how you hid in peace
A mind proportioned to such things as these;
How such a ruling spirit you could restrain,
And practise first over yourself to reign.

Your private life did a just pattern give,
How fathers, husbands, pious sons should live;
Born to command, your princely virtues slept,
Like humble David's, while the flock he kept.

But when your troubled country called you forth,
Your flaming courage, and your matchless worth,
Dazzling the eyes of all that did pretend,
To fierce contention gave a prosperous end.

Still as you rise, the state, exalted too,
Finds no distemper while 'tis changed by you;
Changed like the world's great scene! when, without noise,
The rising sun night's vulgar light destroys.

Had you, some ages past, this race of glory
Run, with amazement we should read your story;
But living virtue, all achievements past,
Meets envy still, to grapple with at last.

This Cæsar found; and that ungrateful age,
With losing him fell back to blood and rage;
Mistaken Brutus thought to break their yoke,
But cut the bond of union with that stroke.

That sun once set, a thousand meaner stars
Gave a dim light to violence, and wars,
To such a tempest as now threatens all,
Did not your mighty arm prevent the fall.

If Rome's great senate could not wield that sword,
Which of the conquered world had made them lord,
What hope had ours, while yet their power was new,
To rule victorious armies, but by you?

You! that had taught them to subdue their foes,
Could order teach, and their high spirits compose;
To every duty could their minds engage,
Provoke their courage, and command their rage.

So when a lion shakes his dreadful mane,
And angry grows, if he that first took pain
To tame his youth approach the haughty beast,
He bends to him, but frights away the rest.

As the vexed world, to find repose, at last
Itself into Augustus' arms did cast;
So England now does, with like toil oppressed,
Her weary head upon your bosom rest.

Then let the Muses, with such notes as these,
Instruct us what belongs unto our peace;
Your battles they hereafter shall indite,
And draw the image of our Mars in fight;

Tell of towns stormed, or armies overrun,
And mighty kingdoms by your conduct won;
How, while you thundered, clouds of dust did choke
Contending troops, and seas lay hid in smoke.

Illustrious acts high raptures do infuse,
And every conqueror creates a muse.
Here, in low strains, your milder deeds we sing;
But there, my lord; we'll bays and olive bring

To crown your head; while you in triumph ride
O'er vanquished nations, and the sea beside;
While all your neighbour-princes unto you,
Like Joseph's sheaves, pay reverence, and bow.
Edmund Waller

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Of the Last Verses in the Book

When we for age could neither read nor write,
The subject made us able to indite.
The soul, with nobler resolutions deckt,
The body stooping, does herself erect:
No mortal parts are requisite to raise
Her, that unbodied can her Maker praise.

The seas are quiet, when the winds give o'er,
So calm are we, when passions are no more:
For then we know how vain it was to boast
Of fleeting things, so certain to be lost.
Clouds of affection from our younger eyes
Conceal that emptiness, which age descries.

The soul's dark cottage, batter'd and decay'd,
Lets in new light through chinks that time has made;
Stronger by weakness, wiser men become
As they draw near to their eternal home:
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view,
That stand upon the threshold of the new.

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That which her slender waist confin'd,
Shall now my joyful temples bind;
No monarch but would give his crown,
His arms might do what this has done.

It was my heaven's extremest sphere,
The pale which held that lovely deer,
My joy, my grief, my hope, my love,
Did all within this circle move.

A narrow compass, and yet there
Dwelt all that's good, and all that's fair;
Give me but what this ribbon bound,
Take all the rest the sun goes round.

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Song: [Go lovely rose] (c. 1645)

Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.

Tell her that's young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts, where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.

Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retir'd:
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desir'd,
And not blush so to be admir'd.

Then die, that she
The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee;
How small a part of time they share
That are so wondrous sweet and fair.

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The Dancer

Behold the brand of beauty tossed!
See how the motion does dilate the flame!
Delighted love his spoils does boast,
And triumph in this game.
Fire, to no place confined,
Is both our wonder and our fear;
Moving the mind,
As lightning hurled through air.

High heaven the glory does increase
Of all her shining lamps, this artful way;
The sun in figures, such as these,
Joys with the moon to play.
To the sweet strains they all advance,
Which do result from their own spheres,
As this nymph's dance
Moves with the numbers which she hears.

The Book of Living Verse. English and American Poetry from the Thirteenth Century to the Present Day. Louis Untermeyer, ed. New York: Harcourt,
Brace and Company, Inc. (1932).
Sue Anne Waller

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The Self Banished (c. 1645)

It is not that I love you less
Than when before your feet I lay,
But to prevent the sad increase
Of hopeless love, I keep away.

In vain (alas!) for everything
Which I have known belong to you,
Your form does to my fancy bring,
And makes my old wounds bleed anew

Who in the spring from the new sun
Already has a fever got,
Too late begins those shafts to shun,
Which Ph{oe}bus through his veins has shot.

Too late he would the pain assuage,
And to thick shadows does retire;
About with him he bears the rage,
And in his tainted blood the fire.

But vow'd I have, and never must
Your banish'd servant trouble you;
For if I break, you may distrust
The vow I made to love you, too.

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Thyrsis, a youth of the inspired train,
Fair Sacharissa lov'd, but lov'd in vain;
Like Phoebus sung the no less amorous boy;
Like Daphne she, as lovely, and as coy;
With numbers he the flying nymph pursues,
With numbers such as Phoebus' self might use;
Such is the chase when Love and Fancy leads,
O'er craggy mountains, and through flow'ry meads;
Invok'd to testify the lover's care,
Or form some image of his cruel fair:
Urg'd with his fury, like a wounded deer,
O'er these he fled; and now approaching near,
Had reach'd the nymph with his harmonious lay,
Whom all his charms could not incline to stay.
Yet what he sung in his immortal strain,
Though unsuccessful, was not sung in vain;
All but the nymph that should redress his wrong,
Attend his passion, and approve his song.
Like Phoebus thus, acquiring unsought praise,
He catch'd at love, and fill'd his arm with bays.

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To the King On His Navy (c. 1628)

Where'er thy navy spreads her canvas wings,
Homage to thee, and peace to all she brings;
The French and Spaniard, when thy flags appear,
Forget their hatred, and consent to fear.
So Jove from Ida did both hosts survey.
And when he pleased to thunder, part the fray.
Ships heretofore in seas like fishes sped,
The mightiest still upon the smallest fed;
Thou on the deep imposest nobler laws,
And by that justice hast removed the cause
Of those rude tempests, which for rapine sent,
Too oft, alas, involved the innocent.
Now shall the ocean, as thy Thames, be free
>From both those fates of storms and piracy:
But we most happy, who can fear no force
But winged troops or Pegasean horse.
'Tis not so hard for greedy foes to spoil
Another nation as to touch our soil.
Should nature's self invade the world again,
And o'er the center spread the liquid main,
Thy power were safe, and her destructive hand
Would but enlarge the bounds of thy command;
Thy dreadful fleet would style thee lord of all,
And ride in triumph o'er the drowned ball;
Those towers of oak o'er fertile plains might go,
And visit mountains where they once did grow.

The world's restorer never could endure
That finished Babel should those men secure
Whose pride designed that fabric to have stood
Above the reach of any second flood;
To thee, his chosen, more indulgent, he
Dares trust such power with so much piety.
Edmund Waller

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To the King
Upon His Majesty's Happy Return

The rising sun complies with our weak sight,
First gilds the clouds, then shows his globe of light
At such a distance from our eyes, as though
He knew what harm his hasty beams would do.

But your full majesty at once breaks forth
In the meridian of your reign. Your worth,
Your youth, and all the splendour of your state,
(Wrapped up, till now, in clouds of adverse fate!)
With such a flood of light invade our eyes,
And our spread hearts with so great joy surprise,
That if your grace incline that we should live,
You must not, sir! too hastily forgive.
Our guilt preserves us from the excess of joy,
Which scatters spirits, and would life destroy.
All are obnoxious! and this faulty land,
Like fainting Esther, does before you stand,
Watching your sceptre. The revolted sea
Trembles to think she did your foes obey.

Great Britain, like blind Polypheme, of late,
In a wild rage, became the scorn and hate
Of her proud neighbours, who began to think
She, with the weight of her own force, would sink.
But you are come, and all their hopes are vain;
This giant isle has got her eye again.
Now she might spare the ocean, and oppose
Your conduct to the fiercest of her foes.
Naked, the Graces guarded you from all
Dangers abroad; and now your thunder shall.
Princes that saw you, different passions prove,
For now they dread the object of their love;
Nor without envy can behold his height,
Whose conversation was their late delight.
So Semele, contented with the rape
Of Jove disguised in a mortal shape,
When she beheld his hands with lightning filled,
And his bright rays, was with amazement killed.

And though it be our sorrow, and our crime,
To have accepted life so long a time
Without you here, yet does this absence gain
No small advantage to your present reign;
For, having viewed the persons and the things,
The councils, state, and strength of Europe's kings,
You know your work; ambition to restrain,
And set them bounds, as Heaven does to the main.
We have you now with ruling wisdom fraught,
Not such as books, but such as practice, taught.
So the lost sun, while least by us enjoyed,
Is the whole night for our concern employed;
He ripens spices, fruits, and precious gums,
Which from remotest regions hither comes.

This seat of yours (from the other world removed)
Had Archimedes known, he might have proved
His engine's force fixed here. Your power and skill
Make the world's motion wait upon your will.

Much suffering monarch! the first English born
That has the crown of these three nations worn!
How has your patience, with the barbarous rage
Of your own soil, contended half an age?
Till (your tried virtue, and your sacred word,
At last preventing your unwilling sword)
Armies and fleets which kept you out so long,
Owned their great sovereign, and redressed his wrong.
When straight the people, by no force compelled,
Nor longer from their inclination held,
Break forth at once, like powder set on fire,
And, with a noble rage, their King required;
So the injured sea, which from her wonted course,
To gain some acres, avarice did force,
If the new banks, neglected once, decay,
No longer will from her old channel stay;
Raging, the late got land she overflows,
And all that's built upon't, to ruin goes.

Offenders now, the chiefest, do begin
To strive for grace, and expiate their sin.
All winds blow fair, that did the world embroil;
Your vipers treacle yield, and scorpions oil.

If then such praise the Macedonian got,
For having rudely cut the Gordian knot,
What glory's due to him that could divide
Such ravelled interests; has the knot untied,
And without stroke so smooth a passage made,
Where craft and malice such impeachments laid?

But while we praise you, you ascribe it all
To His high hand, which threw the untouched wall
Of self-demolished Jericho so low;
His angel 'twas that did before you go,
Tamed savage hearts, and made affections yield,
Like ears of corn when wind salutes the field.

Thus patience crowned, like Jobs's, your trouble ends,
Having your foes to pardon, and your friends;
For, though your courage were so firm a rock,
What private virtue could endure the shock?
Like your Great Master, you the storm withstood,
And pitied those who love with frailty showed.

Rude Indians, torturing all the royal race,
Him with the throne and dear-bought sceptre grace
That suffers best. What region could be found,
Where your herioc head had not been crowned?

The next experience of your mighty mind
Is how you combat fortune, now she's kind.
And this way, too, you are victorious found;
She flatters with the same success she frowned.
While to yourself severe, to others kind,
With power unbounded, and a will confined,
Of this vast empire you possess the care,

The softer part falls to the people's share.
Safety, and equal government, are things
Which subjects make as happy as their kings.

Faith, law, and piety, (that banished train!)
Justice and truth, with you return again.
The city's trade, and country's easy life,
Once more shall flourish without fraud or strife.
Your reign no less assures the ploughman's peace,
Than the warm sun advances his increase;
And does the shepherds as securely keep
>From all their fears, as they preserve their sheep.

But, above all, the Muse-inspired train
Triumph, and raise their drooping heads again!
Kind Heaven at once has, in your person, sent
Their sacred judge, their guard, and argument.
Edmund Waller

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Upon the Late Storm (c 1628)
And Death of His Highness Ensuing the Same

We must resign! Heaven his great soul does claim
In storms, as loud as his immortal fame;
His dying groans, his last breath, shakes our isle,
And trees uncut fall for his funeral pile.
About his palace their broad roots are tossed
Into the air: So Romulus was lost.
New Rome in such a tempest missed her king,
And from obeying fell to worshipping.
On Oeta's top thus Hercules lay dead,
With ruined oaks and pines about him spread;
The poplar, too, whose bough he wont to wear
On his victorious head, lay prostrate there.
Those his last fury from the mountain rent;
Our dying hero from the continent
Ravished whole towns, and forts from Spaniards reft,
As his last legacy to Britain left.
The ocean, which so long our hopes confined,
Could give no limits to his vaster mind;
Our bounds' enlargement was his latest toil,
Nor hath he left us prisoners to our isle.
Under the tropic is our language spoke,
And part of Flanders hath received our yoke.
>From civil broils he did us disengage,
Found nobler objects for our martial rage:
And, with wise conduct, to his country showed
Their ancient way of conquering abroad.
Ungrateful then, if we no tears allow
To him that gave us peace and empire too.
Princes, that feared him, grieve, concerned to see
No pitch of glory from the grave is free.
Nature herself took notice of his death,
And, sighing, swelled the sea with such a breath
That to remotest shores her billows rolled,
The approaching fate of her great ruler told.
Edmund Waller

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