Verse > Anthologies > Edward Farr, comp. > Jacobean Poetry
Edward Farr, ed.  Select Poetry of the Reign of King James the First.  1847.
Christ’s Coming to Judgement
XXVI. Thomas Dekker
AS 1 in an army royall, led by a king,
After the canons’ sulphurous thundering;
Horror on all sides roaring; wings here flying
At wings like armed eagles; here troopes dying
A butcherous execution through the field,        5
Bellowing with fiend-like threats, where yet none yeeld,
Though death stalkes vp and downe, ghastly and pale,
The victor’s wreath lying in a doubtfull scale;—
The king himselfe safe guarded on a hill,
Seeing this black day, yet stirring not vntill        10
He findes fit time to strike; then downe amayne
Whorrying he comes—a glorious dreadful trayne
Of high heroic spirits circling him round,
Who with swift vengeance do their foes confound,
And, slaue-like, drag them at prowd chariot-wheeles,        15
Whilst miseries worse than death tread on their heeles:—
So with great terror, state, and wonder,
Heauen’s Supreme Monarch—one hand griping thunder,
The other stormes of hail, whirlwinds and fire—
(Ensignes of his hot burning, quenchlesse ire,)        20
When the world’s building smothered lay in smoake,
With sparkling eyes maiestically broke,
Out of his pallace nere set ope before,
And stood like a triumphant conqueror,
Trampling on death and hell. About him round,        25
Like petty vizroyes, spirits methought all crownde,
Show’d as if none but kings had bin his guard;
Whole hierarchies of saints were then preferd,
With principalities, powers, and dominations,
Thrones, angels, and archangels, all att once        30
Filling the presence; then, like heauen-born twinnes,
Flew fiery cherubins and seraphins;
Whilst the old patriarches, cloath’d all in white,
Were rap’d with joy to see beames more bright
About the prophets and the apostles runne,        35
Than those whose flames were kindled at the sun.
Martyrs, methought, with selfe same lustre shinde,
As gold which seuen times was by fire refinde;
Virgins whose soules in life from lust liu’d cleare
Had siluer robes, and on their heads did weare        40
Coronets of diamonds.      *      *      *      *
God’s heire-apparent (here once made away)
Triumphed in this his coronation-day,
In which heauen was his kingdome, mercy his throne,
Justice his scepter, a communion        45
Of sanctified souls the courtly peeres,
And his star-chamber lords; who now had yeeres
Which neuer turn’d them gray by time’s rough weather:
Greatness was nowe no more called fortune’s fether,
Nor honour held a fruitlesse golden dreame,        50
Nor riches a bewitching swallowing streame,
Nor learning laughed at, as the begger’s dower,
Nor beauty’s painted cheeke a summer-flower.
No, no: life endlesse was, yet without loathing;
Honor and greatnesse wore immortal cloathing;        55
Riches were subiect to no base consuming,
Learning burnt bright without contentious fuming;
Beauty no painting bought, but still renew’d:
Each one had heere his full beatitude.
  That face whose picture might have ransomed kings,        60
Yet put vp spettings, baffulings, buffetings,—
That head which could a crowne of starres haue worne,
Yet spightfully was wrench’d with wreathes of thorne,—
Those handes and feete where purest stamps were set,
Yet nail’d vp like to pieces counterfet,—        65
Those lippes, which though they had command ore all,
Being thirsty, vinegar had to drinke and gall.
That body scourg’d, and torne with many a wound,
That his deere bloud, like balme, might leaue vs sound;
The well of life which with a speare being tride,        70
Two streames mysterious gush’d out from his side:
Messias, great Jehouah, God on hie,
Yet hail’d King of the Jewes in mockery.
The manger-cradled babe, the beggar borne,
The poorest worme on earth, the heighth of scorne;        75
That Lord by his own subiects crucified,
So at his grand assize comes glorified,
With troopes of angels, who his officers are,
To call by sound of trumpe his foes to a bar.
Thus stood he arm’d—justice his breastplate was,        80
Judgement his helmet, stronger farre than brasse;
On his right arme truth’s shield he did advance:
And turnde his sharpned wrath into a lance;
Out of his mouth a two-edged sword did flie,
To wound body and soule eternally:        85
Armed cap-a-pe thus who gainst him durst fight?
There was no ground for strength, nor yet for flight.
  At this methought all graues that ever held
Dead coarses, yawnd wide open, and compell’d
The bones of dead men up with flesh to rise;        90
Yea, those on whom the seas did tyrannize,
And drown’d in wrackes, and which were peecemeal eaten,
With liuely bodies to the shoares were beaten;
Whom sword or fire, jibbets or wheels had torne,
Had their own limbes againe, and new were borne:        95
From the first man God made to the last that died,
The names of all were here examplified.
Emprours and kings, patriarches, and tribes forgotten,
The conquerors of the world—moldred and rotten—
Lords, beggars, men and women, young and old,        100
Vp at a bar set forth, their hands did hold.
The Judge being set in open court, were layd
Huge books, at sight of which were all dismaid,
Would faine haue shrunck back, and fell downe with feare.
In sheets of brasse all stories written were        105
(Which those great volumes held) charactred deepe
With pens of steele, eternall files to keepe
Of euery nation since the world began,
And every deede, word, thought, of euery man.
Sins hatched in caues, or such whose bawd was night,        110
The minutes of the act were here set right;
Great men, whose secret damned sins vizards wore
So close that none upon their browes could score
The least black line—because none durst—had here
A bill of items in particular,        115
What their soules owed for sin to death and hell;
Or if it happened that they e’er did well,
In these true journals it at large was found,
And with rich promise of reward was crowned.
Note 1. XXVI. Thomas Dekker.—He was a dramatic writer of the reign of King James. Like most of the poets of his age, however, he sometimes touched on holier themes, and the extracts annexed, which are taken from a rare poem entitled “Dekker’s Dream,” and which was published in 1620, bears evidence of great poetic power. The poem is dedicated “to the truly accomplished gentleman, and worthy deserver of all men’s loves, Endymion Porter.” [back]

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