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All offices of dignity or power
These fivarming locusts greedily devour ;
Preferr'd to all the secrets of the state,
These fenseless sinners in the council fate,
In their unjust deceitful balance laid,
The great concerns of war and peace were weigh’d.
This wise * Lovisius knew, whose mighty mind
Had universal empire long design'd;
And when he all things found were bought and fold,
Thought nothing there impossible to gold :
With mighty sums, through secret channels brought,
On the corrupted counsellors he wrought :
Against the neighbouring Belgians they declare
A hazardous and an expensive war.
Their fresh affronts and matchless infolence
To Cæsar's honour made a fair pretence;
Meer outside this, but, ruling by his pay,
Cunning Lovisius did this project lay,
By mutual damages to weaken those
Who only could his vast designs oppose.
But Cæsar, looking with a just disdain
Upon their bold pretences to the main,
Sent forth his royal brother from his side,
To lash their infolence, and curb their pride :
Britannicus, by whose high virtues grac’d,
The present age contends with all the past;
Him heaven a pattern did for heroes form,
Slow to advise, but eager to perform,
In council calm, fierce as a storm in fight,
Danger his sport, and labour his delight :
To him the fleet and camp, the sea and field,
Did equal harvests of bright glory yield.
No less each civil virtue him commends,
The best of subjects, brothers, masters, friends;
To merit just, to needy virtue kind,
True to his word, and constant to his friend :
What's well resolv'd as bravely he pursues,
Fix'd in his choice, as careful how to chuse.
Honour was born, not planted in his heart,
And Virtue came by nature, not by art :
Where glory calls, and Cæsar gives command,
He flies; his pointed thunder in his hand.
The Belgian fleet endeavour'd, but in vain,
The tempest of his fury to sustain :
Shatter'd and torn, before his fags they fly
Like doves that the exalted eagle fpy,
Ready to stoop and seize them from on high :
He, Neptune like, when, from his watery bed
Above the waves lifting his awful head,
He smiles, and to his chariot gives the rein,
In triumph rides o’er the asserted main;
And now returns, the watery empire won,
At Cæsar's feet to lay his trident down.
But who the shouts and triumphs can relate
Of the glad ifle that his return did wait ?
Rejoicing crowds attend him on the strand,
Loud as the sea, and numerous as the sand.
A joy too great to be by words exprest,
Shines in each eye, and beats in every breast :
So joy the many, but the wiser few
The godlike prince wich silent wonder view.
The grateful senate his high acts confess
In a vast gift, but than his merit less.
Britannicus is all the voice of Fame,
Britannicus ! she knows no other name;
The people's darling, and the court's delight,
Lovely in peace, as dreadful in the fight!
Shall he, fhall ever he, who now commands
many thousand hearts, and tongues, and hands;
Shall ever he, by fome strange crime of fate,
Fall under the ignoble vulgar's hate ?
Who knows? the turns of Fortune who can tell ?
Who fix her globe, or stop the rolling wheel ?
The crowd 's a sea, whose wants run high or low,
According as the winds, their leaders, blow.
All calm and smooth, till from some corner flies
An envious blast, that makes the billows rise :
The blast, that whence it comes, or where it goes,
We know not, but where-e'er it lists it blows.
Was not of old the Jewish rabble's cry
Hosanna first, and after crucify ?
Now Byrsa with full orb illustrious shone, With beams reflected from his glorious fon ; All power his own, but what was given to those That counsellors by him from rebels rose ; But, rais'd so far, each now disdains a first, The taste of power does but infame the thirst.
With envious eyes they Brysa's glories see,
Nor think they can be great, while less than he.
Envy their cunning sharpen'd, and their wit,
Enough before for treacherous councils fit:
T'accuse him openly not yet they dare,
But subtly by degrees his fall prepare :
They knew by long-experienc'd defert
How near he grew rooted to Cæsar's heart;
To move him hence, requir’d no common skill,
But what is hard to a resolved will ?
They found his public actions all confpire,
Wisely apply'd, to favour their desire :
But one they want their venom to suggest,
And make it gently slide to Cæfar's breast :
Who fitter than * Villerius for this part ?
And him to gain requir’d but little art,
For mischief was the darling of his heart.
A compound of such parts as never yet
In any one of all God's creatures met :
Not sick men's dreams so various or so wild,
Or of such disagreeing thapes compild;
Yet, through all changes of his shifting scene,
Still constant to buffoon and harlequin,
As if he 'ad made a prayer, than his of old
More foolish, that turn'd all he touch'd to gold.
God granted him to play th’ eternal fool,
And all he handled turn to ridicule.
Thus a new Midas truly he appears,
And Thews, through all disguise, his asses ears.
Did he the weightiest business of the state
At council or in senate-house debate,
King, country, all, he for a jest would quit,
To catch some little flash of paltry wit :
How full of gravity foe'er he struts,
in robes will scramble for his nuts :
Did he all laws of heaven or earth defy,
Blaspheme his God, or give his king the lye;
Adultery, murders, or ev'n worse, commit,
Still ’twas a jest, and nothing but sheer wit :
At last this edg’d-tool wit, his darling sport,
Wounded himself, and banish'd him the court :
Like common jugglers, or like common whores,
All his tricks shewn, he was kick'd out of doors.
Not chang'd in humour by his change of place,
He still found company to suit his grace;
Mountebanks, quakers, chemists, trading varlets,
Pimps, players, city sheriffs, and suburb harlots ;
War his aversion, once he heard it roar,
But, “ Damn him if he ever hear it more !”
And there you may believe him, though he swore.
But with play-houses, wars, immortal wars,
He wag?d, and ten ycars rage produc'd a
As many rolling years he did employ,
And hands almost as many, to destroy
Heroic rhyme, as Greece to ruin Troy.