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
 
The Jesuits (from the Second Satire upon them)
By John Oldham (1653–1683)
 
[1679]

THESE are the Janissaries of the cause,
The life-guard of the Roman Sultan, chose
To break the force of Huguenots and foes;
The Church’s hawkers in divinity,
Who, ’stead of lace and ribbons, doctrine cry;        5
Rome’s strollers, who survey each continent,
Its trinkets and commodities to vent;
Export the Gospel, like mere ware, for sale,
And truck ’t for indigo, or cochineal,
As the known factors here, the brethren, once        10
Swopped Christ about for bodkins, rings, and spoons.
  And shall these great Apostles be contemned,
And thus by scoffing heretics defamed?
They, by whose means both Indies now enjoy
The two choice blessing, lust and Popery?        15
Which buried else in ignorance had been,
Nor known the worth of beads and Bellarmine? 1
  It pitied holy Mother Church to see
A world so drowned in gross idolatry;
It grieved to see such goodly nations hold        20
Bad errors and unpardonable gold.
Strange! what a fervent zeal can coin infuse,
What charity pieces of eight 2 produce!
So were you chosen the fittest to reclaim
The pagan world, and give ’t a Christian name.        25
And great was the success: whole myriads stood
At font, and were baptized in their own blood;
Millions of souls were hurled from hence to burn
Before their time, be damned in their own turn.
  Yet these were in compassion sent to Hell,        30
The rest reserved in spite, and, worse to feel,
Compelled instead of fiends to worship you,
The more inhuman devils of the two.
Rare way and method of conversion this,
To make your votaries your sacrifice!        35
If to destroy be Reformation thought,
A plague as well might the good work have wrought.
  Now see we why your founder, weary grown,
Would lay his former trade of killing down: 3
He found ’twas dull; he found a crown would be        40
A fitter case, and badge of cruelty.
Each snivelling hero seas of blood can spill,
When wrongs provoke, and honour bids him kill;—
Give me your through-paced rogue, who scorns to be
Prompted by poor revenge, or injury,        45
But does it of true inbred cruelty;
Your cool and sober murderer, who prays
And stabs at the same time, who one hand has
Stretched up to Heaven, the other to make the pass.
  So the late saints of blessèd memory,        50
Cut-throats in godly pure sincerity,
So they with lifted hands, and eyes devout,
Said grace, and carved a slaughtered monarch out.
  When the first traitor Cain (too good to be
Thought patron of this black fraternity)        55
His bloody tragedy of old designed,
One death alone quenched his revengeful mind,
Content with but a quarter of mankind:
Had he been Jesuit, and but put on
Their savage cruelty, the rest had gone;        60
His hand had sent old Adam after too,
And forced the Godhead to create anew.
 
Note 1. Cardinal Bellarmin, the great Jesuit controversialist, opposed by James I. [back]
Note 2. The Spanish pieza de à ocho, a dollar, or eight silver reals. [back]
Note 3. Loyola ceased to be a soldier after the siege of Pampeluna. [back]
 
 
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