Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
From “Bothwell”
 
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)
 
 
John Knox’s Indictment of the Queen
 
 
  GOD ye hear not, how shall ye hear me?
Or if your eyes be seal’d to know not her,
If she be fit to live or no, can I
With words unseal them? None so young of you
But hath long life enough to understand        5
And reason to record what he hath seen
Of hers and of God’s dealings mutually
Since she came in. Then was her spirit made soft,
Her words as oil, and with her amorous face
She caught men’s eyes to turn them where she would,        10
And with the strong sound of her name of queen
Made their necks bend; that even of God’s own men
There were that bade refuse her not her will,
Deny not her, fair woman and great queen,
Her natural freedom born, to give God praise        15
What way she would, and pray what prayers; though these
Be as they were, to God abominable
And venomous to men’s souls. So came there back
The cursed thing cast forth of us, and so
Out of her fair face and imperious eyes        20
Lighten’d the light whereby men walk in hell.
And I that sole stood out and bade not let
The lightning of this curse come down on us
And fly with feet as fire on all winds blown
To burn men’s eyes out that beheld God’s face,        25
That being long blind but now gat sight, and saw
And prais’d him seeing—I that then spake and said,
Ten thousand men here landed of our foes
Were not so fearful to me on her side
As one mass said in Scotland—that with-stood        30
The man to his face I lov’d, her father’s son,
Then master’d by the pity of her, and made
Through that good mind not good—who then but I
Was tax’d of wrongful will, and for hard heart
Miscall’d of men? And now, sirs, if her prayer        35
Were just and reasonable, and unjust I
That bade shut ears against it—if the mass
Hath brought forth innocent fruit, and in this land
Wherein she came to stablish it again
Hath stablish’d peace with honor—if in her        40
It hath been found no seed of shame, and she
That lov’d and serv’d it seem now in men’s sight
No hateful thing nor fearful—if she stand
Such a queen proven as should prove honorable
The rule of women, and in her that thing        45
Be shown forth good that was call’d evil of me,
Blest and not curst—then have I sinn’d, and they
That would have cross’d me would have cross’d not God:
Whereof now judge ye. Hath she brought with her
Peace, or a sword? and since her incoming        50
Hath the land sat in quiet, and the men
Seen rest but for one year? or came not in
Behind her feet, right at her back, and shone
Above her crown’d head as a fierier crown,
Death, and about her as a raiment wrapt        55
Ruin? and where her foot was ever turn’d
Or her right hand was pointed, hath there fallen
No fire, no cry burst forth of war, no sound
As of a blast blown of an host of men
For summons of destruction? Hath God shown        60
For sign she had found grace in his sight, and we
For her sake favor, while she hath reign’d on us,
One hour of good, one week of rest, one day?
Or hath he sent not for an opposite sign
Dissensions, wars, rumors of wars, and change,        65
Flight and return of men, terror with power,
Triumph with trembling?
 
God is not mock’d; and ye shall surely know
What men were these, and what man he that spake
The things I speak now prophesying, and said        70
That if ye spare to shed her blood for shame,
For fear or pity of her great name or face,
God shall require of you the innocent blood
Shed for her fair face’ sake, and from your hands
Wring the price forth of her bloodguiltiness.        75
Nay, for ye know it, nor have I need again
To bring it in your mind if God ere now
Have borne me witness; in that dreary day
When men’s hearts fail’d them for pure grief and fear
To see the tyranny that was, and rule        80
Of this queen’s mother, where was no light left
But of the fires wherein his servants died,
I bade those lords that clave in heart to God
And were perplex’d with trembling and with tears
Lift up their hearts, and fear not; and they heard        85
What some now hear no more, the word I spake
Who have been with them, as their own souls know,
In their most extreme danger; Cowper Moor,
Saint Johnston, and the Crags of Edinburgh,
Are recent in my heart; yea, let these know,        90
That dark and dolorous night wherein all they
With shame and fear were driven forth of this town
Is yet within my mind; and God forbid
That ever I forget it. What, I say,
Was then my exhortation, and what word        95
Of all God ever promis’d by my mouth
Is fallen in vain, they live to testify
Of whom not one that then was doom’d to death
Is perish’d in that danger; and their foes,
How many of these hath God before their eyes        100
Plague-stricken with destruction! lo the thanks
They render him, now to betray his cause
Put in their hands to stablish; even that God’s
That kept them all the darkness through to see
Light, and the way that some now see no more,        105
But are gone after light of the fen’s fire
And walk askant in slippery ways; but ye
Know if God’s hand have ever when I spake
Writ liar upon me, or with adverse proof
Turn’d my free speech to shame; for in my lips        110
He put a word, and knowledge in my heart,
When I was fast bound of his enemies’ hands
An oarsman on their galleys, and beheld
From off the sea whereon I sat in chains
The walls wherein I knew that I there bound        115
Should one day witness of him; and this pledge
Hath God redeem’d not? Nay then, in God’s name,
If that false word fell unfulfill’d of mine,
Heed ye not now nor hear me when I say
That for this woman’s sake shall God cut off        120
The hand that spares her as the hand that shields,
And make their memory who take part with her
As theirs who stood for Baal against the Lord
With Ahab’s daughter; for her reign and end
Shall be like Athaliah’s, as her birth        125
Was from the womb of Jezebel, that slew
The prophets, and made foul with blood and fire
The same land’s face that now her seed makes foul
With whoredoms and with witchcrafts; yet they say
Peace, where is no peace, while the adulterous blood        130
Feeds yet with life and sin the murderous heart
That hath brought forth a wonder to the world
And to all time a terror; and this blood
The hands are clean that shed, and they that spare
In God’s just sight spotted as foul as Cain’s.        135
If then this guilt shall cleave to you or no,
And to your children’s children, for her sake,
Choose ye; for God needs no man that is loth
To serve him, and no word but his own work
To bind and loose their hearts who hear and see        140
Such things as speak what I lack words to say.
 

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