“Chaste, pious, prudent”: to which British king does the poem below the break refer?

Part of the series Crazy Shit AMA Recites.

Charles II, obviously, and the subject of one of the best, though little-known, pieces of political satire in English. Your man knows the first verse, but the rest of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester’s “The RESTORATION, or The History of INSIPIDS, a LAMPOON” will also be of value to anyone in need of a succinct, forthright, and fucking funny introduction to the first half of Charles II’s reign (more info as usual in the WP links below):

I.

Chaste, pious, prudent Charles the Second,
The miracle of thy restoration,
May like to that of quails be reckon’d,
Rain’d on the Israelitish nation;
The wish’d for blessing which Heaven sent,
Became their curse and punishment.

II.

The virtues in thee, Charles, inherent
Altho’ thy count’nance be an odd piece,
Proves thee as true a God’s Viceregent,
As e’er was Harry with the cod-piece:
For chastity, and pious deeds,
His grandsire Harry Charles exceeds.

III.

Our Romish bondage-breaker Harry,
Espoused half a dozen wives.
Charles only one resolv’d to marry,
And other mens he never [swives: fucks];
Yet hath he sons and daughters more
Than e’er had Harry by threescore.

IV.

Never was such a faith’s defender;
He like a politic prince, and pious,
Gives liberty to conscience tender,
And does to no religion tie us;
Jews, Christians, Turks, Papists, he’ll please us
With Moses, Mahomet, [Pope,] or Jesus.

V.

In all affairs of church and state
He very zealous is, and able,
Devout at pray’rs, and sits up late
At the cabal and council-table.
His very dog, at council-board
Sits grave and wise as any lord.

VI.

Let Charles’s policy no man flout,
The wisest Kings have all some folly;
Nor let his piety any doubt;
Charles, like a Sov’reign, wise and holy,
Makes young men judges of the bench,
And bishops, those that love a wench.

VII.

His father’s foes he doth reward,
Preserving those that cut off’s head;
Old cavaliers, the crown’s best guard,
He lets them starve for want of bread.
Never was any king endow’d
With so much grace and gratitude.

VIII.

Blood, that wears treason in his face,
Villain compleat in parson’s gown,
How much is he at court in grace,
For stealing Ormond and the crown!
Since loyalty does no man good,
Let’s steal the King, and out-do Blood.

IX.

A Parliament of knaves and sots,
(Members by name you must not mention)
He keeps in pay, and buys their votes,
Here with a place, there with a pension:
When to give money he can’t cologue them
He does with scorn prorogue, prorogue them.

X.

But they long since, by too much giving,
Undid, betray’d, and sold the nation,
Making their memberships a living,
Better than e’er was sequestration.
God give thee, Charles, a resolution
To damn the knaves by dissolution.

XI.

Fame is not founded on success,
Tho’ victories were Caesar’s glory;
Lost battles made not Pompey less,
But left him stiled great in story.
Malicious fate doth oft devise
To beat the brave, and fool the wise.

XII.

Charles in the first Dutch War stood fair
To have been Sov’reign of the deep,
When Opdam blew up in the air,
Had not his Highness gone to sleep:
Our fleet slack’d sails, fearing his waking,
The Dutch had else been in sad taking.

XIII.

The Bergen business was well laid,
Tho’ we paid dear for that design;
Had we not three days parling staid,
The Dutch fleet there, Charles, had been thine:
Tho’ the false Dane agreed to sell ’em,
He cheated us, and saved Skellum.

XIV.

Had not Charles sweetly chous’d the States,
By Bergen baffle grown more wise;
And made ’em shit as small as rats,
By their rich Smyrna fleet’s surprise:
Had haughty Holmes, but call’d in Spragg,
Hans had been put into a bag.

XV.

Mists, storms, short victuals, adverse winds,
And once the navy’s wise division,
Defeated Charles’s best designs,
Till he became his foe’s derision:
But he had swing’d the Dutch at Chatham,
Had he had ships but to come at ’em.

XVI.

Our Black-Heath host without dispute,
(Rais’d, put on board, why? no man knows)
Must Charles have render’d absolute,
Over his subjects, or his foes:
Had not the French King made us fools,
By taking Maestricht with our tools?

XVII.

But Charles, what could thy policy be,
To run so many sad disasters;
To join thy Fleet with false D’Estrees?
To make the French of Holland masters?
Was’t Carwell, brother James, or Teague,
That made thee break the Triple League?

XVIII.

Could Robin Viner have foreseen
The glorious triumphs of his master;
The Wool-Church statue Gold had been,
Which now is made of Alabaster.
But wise men think had it been wood,
T’were for a bankrupt King too good.

XIX.

Those that the fabric well consider,
Do of it diversely discourse;
Some pass their censure on the rider,
Others their judgment on the horse.
Most say, the steed’s a goodly thing,
But all agree, ’tis a lewd king.

XX.

By the Lord Mayor and his grave coxcombs,
Freeman of London, Charles is made;
Then to Whitehall a rich Gold box comes,
Which was bestow’d on the French jade:
But wonder not it should be so, Sirs,
When Monarchs rank themselves with Grocers!

XXI.

Cringe, scrape no more, ye city-fops,
Leave off your feasting and fine speeches;
Beat up your drums, shut up your shops,
The courtiers then will kiss your breeches.
Arm’d, tell that Popish Duke that rules,
You’re free-born subjects, not French mules.

XXII.

New upstarts, bastards, pimps, and whores,
That, locust-like, devour the land,
By shutting up th’Exchequer doors,
When there our money was trapann’d,
Have render’d Charles’s restoration
But a small blessing to the nation.

XXIII.

Then, Charles, beware thy brother York,
Who to thy government gives law;
If once we fall to the old sport [sic: work?],
You must again both to Breda;
Where, spite of all that would restore you,
Grown wise by wrongs, we should abhor you.

XXIV.

If, of all Christian blood the guilt
Cries loud for vengeance unto Heav’n;
That sea by treach’rous Louis spilt,
Can never be by God forgiv’n:
Worse scourge unto his subjects, lord!
Than pest’lence, famine, fire, or sword.

XXV.

That false rapacious wolf of France,
The scourge of Europe, and its curse
Who at his subjects cries does dance,
And studies how to make them worse;
To say such Kings, Lord, rule by thee,
Were most prodigious blasphemy.

XXVI.

Such know no law, but their own lust;
Their subjects substance, and their blood,
They count it tribute due and just,
Still spent and spilt for subjects good.
If such Kings are by God appointed,
The Devil may be the Lord’s anointed.

XXVII.

Such Kings! curs’d be the pow’r and name,
Let all the earth henceforth abhor ’em;
Monsters, which knaves sacred proclaim,
And then, like slaves, fall down before ’em.
What can there be in Kings divine?
The most are wolves, goats, sheep, or swine.

XXVIII.

Then farewel, sacred Majesty,
Let’s pull all brutish tyrants down;
Where men are born, and still live free,
There ev’ry head doth wear a crown:
Mankind, like miserable frogs,
Prove wretched, king’d by storks and logs.

He also does the anticipatory epitaph attributed to Wilmot:

We have a pretty witty king,
And whose word no man relies on,
He never said a foolish thing,
And never did a wise one

Whence? Well, a 19th century forefather was a Congregationalist ranter, and a noisy Cromwellian until Welsh nationalism came into fashion. But the most likely route is surely some radical publication in the 1920s or 30s, when Wilmot was rediscovered. He remained excluded from establishment anthologies, a disgraceful state of affairs which I think largely continues to this day.

Theophilus Cibber or whoever’s Lives of the poets contains, apart from the satire, an enjoyable biography of Wilmot, the anecdotes beginning here (NB two pages are interspersed between 287 and 288). I loathe Dryden’s Aeneid so much – Robert Fagle’s the other day was the first time I’d really enjoyed Virgil – that my favourite was the story of Wilmot sending men with cudgels after the Laureate.

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Last updated 14/04/2019

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Comments

  1. A Dutchman here wonders if the Exodus quail rain incident is related to the Dutch roast chickens which proverbially fly into your mouth – another mixed blessing.

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