Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Garter Poetry Blogging: A Nuptial Ring

I'm willing to bet my entire fortune (heh) that whoever invented blogging did not conceive it would be used to disseminate poems written about the Order of the Garter. And who amongst us would have thought the genre would be so much fun?

Today's poem comes from the reign of James I. It's memorable for its excruciating syntax — "Catcht up the ribbon had a leg imbract/That never capor’d with a step unchast"; its unabashed avowal of the Order's homosocial bonds being like marriage — "A poesye in’t, as in a nuptiall ring"; and for its triumphal protestantism: "God keepe our King and them from Rome’s black pen".


The Originall and Continuance of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, as it was Spoken before the King’s Majestie on Saint George’s Day Last, anno domn. 1616. By W.Fennor.

Edward the Third, that truly potent King,
Whose temples worthily wore England’s Crowne,
This Noble Order, of whose fame I’ll sing,
Invents for Britaine’s trophy of renowne.
Salsburie’s Countesse hath all Ladies grac’t
That loose their garter, yet keepe honour chast.

From honor’d chastitie the Garter fell,
And in a moment rose to Royaltie;
King Edward grac’t this Ladie’s favour well,
Who humbly bends his Kingly Majesty,
Catcht up the ribbon had a leg imbract
That never capor’d with a step unchast.

The Lady dies her cheekes with tell-tale redde,
Which blabs she blushes that her garter’s found,
By him that had advanct it to a head
Which with Imperiall dignity was crown’d;
The Nobles murmur, and the King, by chance
Perceived, spoke, Hony soit qui mal y pense!

Exchanges lawlesse love for lawfull armes,
Buckles on armour, weells [wields] his warlike sword,
Beats his brac’t drums, with trumpets sounds alarms;
Thus like old Hector rode he to the field,
Subdued his foes, and for his deeds in fight,
Of the rich Garter was instal’d a Knight.

Which bred such luster in each noble brest,
As if new Troy had mustred up the sonnes
Of strong-back’t Priam, and amongst the rest,
The bold Blacke Prince to th’ field most fiercely runs,
And with his sword hammer’d in Vulcan’s forge,
Made the French Dennys kneele to English George.

For which he with the Garter was instal’d,
And made a Knight of that most Noble Order;
With many other Nobles that were call’d
Worthy by Fame, that ancient true recorder.
The Garter bred such luster in great hearts,
Each strove for excellence in armes and arts.

Saint Patrick’s Crosse did to the Garter vayle,
Saint Jaques’ Order was with anger pale;
Saint David’s leeke began to droupe i’th’tale [tail] ,
Saint Dennys he sate mourning in a dale;
Saint Andrew lookt with cheereful appetite,
As though to th’Garter he had future right.

But dragon-killing George, that still depends
Upon the Garter since Third Edward’s dayes,
In this age present hath as many friends,
As well deserving high eternall praise;
As many ages ever had before,
Never at one time better, never more.

Hannibal strove for Rome’s triumphant bayes,
Scipio for the Carthaginians’ bough;
But thanklesse Senators did dimme the rayes
Of these two worthies, and would not allow,
Nor wreath, nor branch; they died and left their fame.
Unto the glory of the Garter’s name.

Impartially a Royall King bestowes, it,
Upon some subject worthy of the wearing;
His armes advanct within a church that owes it,
The oath administred in publique hearing,
Which being falsifyed, the Honor’s crost
By heraldry, the Armes and Garter lost.

Say that a man long languishing in love,
Whose heart with hope and feare grows cold and warme;
Admit some pitty should his sweethearte move,
To knit a favour on his feeble arme;
All parts would joyne to make that one joint strong,
To oppose any that his love should wrong.

The Garter is the favour of a King,
Clasping the leg on which man’s best part stands;
A poesye in’t, as in a nuptiall ring,
Binding the heart to their liege Lord in bands;
That whilst the leg hath strength, or the arme power,
To kill that serpent would their King devoure.

For which the George is as a trophy worne,
And may it long, and long remaine with those,
Which to that excellent dignitie are borne,
As opposites unto their country’s foes.
God keepe our King and them from Rome’s black pen,
Let all that love the Garter say, Amen!

1 comment:

Philip said...

Clasping the leg on which man’s best part stands?

This poem is fantastic!