Friday, May 20, 2011
(Thomas Shadwell, poet laureate, 1689-1692)
Appointed by William III and Mary II, Thomas Shadwell (1642-1692) was more popular for his plays than for his poetry, which was of little consequence. John Dryden, his predecessor as poet laureate, had even mocked him in a satirical poem, “MacFlecknoe”:
Shadwell alone, of all my sons, is he
Who stands confirm’d in full stupidity.
The rest to some faint meaning make pretence,
But Shadwell never deviates into sense.
Shadwell wrote this ode below for Queen Mary on her birthday on April 30, 1689. The poem sounds much better, fulsome as it is, as lyrics that are slightly altered and sung to the melody composed for the occasion by Henry Purcell (1659-1695).
from AN ODE ON THE QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY
Now does the glorious Day appear,
The mightiest Day of all the Year,
Not any one such joy could bring,
Not that which ushers in the Spring.
That of ensuing Plenty hopes does give,
This did the hope of Liberty retrieve;
This does our Fertile Isle with Glory Crown,
And all the Fruits it yields we now can call our own.
On this blest day was our Restorer born,
Farr above all let this the Kalendar adorn.
Now, now with our united Voice
Let us aloud proclaim our Joys;
“Io Triumphe” let us sing
And make Heav’ns mighty concave ring.
. . .
By Beauteous softness mixed with majesty,
An empire over heart she gains;
And from her awful power none could be free,
She with such sweetness and such justice reigns.
To listen to a beautiful performance by Robin Blaze of Purcell’s version of one of the verses, entitled “By Beauteous Softness Mixed with Majesty,” click on this link (you may have to cut and paste):