Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
 
Christ’s Victory in Heaven
By Giles Fletcher (1586?–1623)
 
BUT Justice had no sooner Mercy seen
Smoothing the wrinkles of her Father’s brow,
But up she starts, and throws her self between:
As when a vapour, from a moory slough,
Meeting with fresh Eoüs, that but now        5
  Open’d the world, which all in darknesse lay,
  Doth heav’n’s bright face of his rayes disarray,
And sads the smiling Orient of the springing day.
 
She was a Virgin of austere regard;
Not as the world esteems her, deaf and blind;        10
But as the eagle, that hath oft compar’d
Her eye with Heav’n’s, so, and more brightly shin’d
Her lamping sight; for she the same could wind
  Into the solid heart, and with her ears
  The silence of the thought loud speaking hears,        15
And in one hand a paire of even scales she wears.
 
No riot of affection revel kept
Within her brest, but a still apathy
Possessèd all her soule, which softly slept
Securely, without tempest; no sad cry        20
Awakes her pity, but wrong’d poverty,
  Sending her eyes to heav’n swimming in tears,
  With hideous clamours ever struck her ears,
Whetting the blazing sword, that in her hand she bears.
 
The wingèd lightning is her Mercury,        25
And round about her mighty thunders sound:
Impatient of himself lies pining by
Pale Sickness with his kercher’d head upwound,
And thousand noisome plagues attend her round;
  But if her cloudy brow but once grow foul,        30
  The flints do melt, and rocks to water roll,
And airy mountaines shake, and frighted shadows howl.
 
Famine, and bloodless Care, and bloody War,
Want, and the want of knowledge how to use
Abundance; Age, and Fear that runs afar        35
Before his fellow Grief, that aye pursues
His wingèd steps; for who would not refuse
  Grief’s company, a dull and rawboned sprite,
  That lanks the cheeks, and pales the freshest sight,
Unbosoming the cheerful breast of all delight?        40
 
Before this cursed throng goes Ignorance,
That needs will lead the way he cannot see:
And, after all, Death doth his flag advance,
And, in the midst, Strife still would roguing be,
Whose ragged flesh and clothes did well agree:        45
  And round about amazèd Horror flies,
  And ouer all, Shame veils his guilty eyes,
And underneath, Hell’s hungry throat still yawning lies.
 
Upon two stony tables, spread before her,
She lean’d her bosom, more than stony hard;        50
There slept th’ unpartial Judge, and strict restorer
Of wrong or right, with pain or with reward;
There hung the score of all our debts, the card
  Where good, and bad, and life, and death were painted:
  Was never heart of mortal so untainted,        55
But when that scroll was read, with thousand terrors fainted.
 
Witness the thunder that mount Sinai heard,
When all the hill with fiery clouds did flame,
And wandering Israel, with the sight afeard,
Blinded with seeing, durst not touch the same,        60
But like a wood of shaking leaves became.
  On this dead Justice, she, the Living Law,
  Bowing herself with a majestic awe,
All heav’n, to hear her speech, did into silence draw.
 
 
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