Abraham Holland, Extract from An Elegy: or, Some Posthume Tears upon the Royal Hearse of Our Late Sovereign King James (1626)

Abraham Holland was the son of the translator Philemon Holland (1552-1637). His brother, Henry Holland (1583-1650) was an established printer, and printed much of Holland’s work. Holland began his literary career while a student at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1622 he achieved recognition with Naumachia, a poetic description of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The poem was published with commendatory verses by Michael Drayton (1563-1631), and was dedicated to George Gordon, Earl of Enzie (1592-1649), who had earlier acted as schoolmaster to the young Prince Henry (1594-1612) and Prince Charles (1600-1649). Holland died of plague in 1626.

The following extract comes from Holland’s An Elegy: or, Some Posthume Tears upon the Royal Hearse of Our Late Sovereign King James (1626). Earlier in the poem Holland lamented the death of the king. By this later stage in the poem, though, he has moved on to celebrating Charles’s accession. He discusses the new king in prophetic language, with multiple references to pretentious stars, the zodiac, and the moon. However, in the last section of the poem, Holland returns once more to James. References to ‘slippery crowns’ and, in the final line, ‘Charles, what er’e he minds’ betrays unease about Charles’s accession. Holland seems unclear about what sort of ruler Charles will be. The elegy is partly an attempt to resolve this problem by suggesting that Charles will follow his father: thatthe embryos of policies’ under James will reach maturity under Charles.


I do confess, the gain of such a king
We now enjoy, may well some solace bring
For our dead James: yet as we often see
In a religious grove some aged tree,
As a long-lived oak, or bald-head elm,
Which not so many storms could overwhelm,
So many keen and surly winters rage,
But there it stands respected for the age,
Although the arms and seared boughs do fade,
And that it with the trunk doth make a shade
Rather than leaves: yet underneath the fawns
And sylvan gods from far-removed lawns
Shelter themselves; and when it fall’s the sweet
And gentle nymphs, and horn-hoofed satyrs meet
To wail their loved shed, which oft did tame
The rage of July, and the dog-stars flame.
Could we suppose another sun would rise,
And make his zodiac from the southern skies
And set in the north, leaving the east as chill
As the Orcades, yet we should think on still
Our ancient friend the former sun, whose power
So many a spring, so many a joyful hour
Produced before: O! it is hard to say,
When customary virtue’s taken away
How great the grief is, though perhaps the bliss
That doth ensue to the other equal is.
There is an old wives proverb that the spring
May make an ague physic for a king,
And God this medicine did to him apply,
To cure him of diseased mortality,
And settle him eternal: where, nor age
Doth follow time, as in this pilgrimage
Of our sad life, nor sickness, pain, or fear,
Or decrement of beauty doth appear,
But health eternal, and felicities
Without impair, and life that never dies.
What man hereafter that partaketh sense,
But much more, reason, will wish residence
In this dark vale of life, where every hour
Is spent or lost, or subject to the power
Of domineering sin, especially
When thus good kings, our gods tutelar die·
Alas, while wee in this life travail fare,
Wee are but wretches hovering in the air
With waxen plumes, where fear still leads the trace,
And too much heaven brings vs to earth apace,
To bring us unto heaven: we comers are
Whose sudden lustre and prodigious hair
Affrights the world with wonderment, if we
Placed too high, or too inferior be.
Ah! who would trust on the deceiving state
Of slippery crowns, held at as dear a rate
As often purchased, and again resigned,
Always with cares and anguish of the mind.
This great, good, wise, and learned monarch, whom
The world affirmed the light of Christendom:
The Northern Star and wonder of his time,
Who was the moment of this western clime,
And held it in just poise: who did devise,
But now the embryos of policies
Which fate is still a teeming: this good king
Alas, is come unto his evening;
And after souls and bodies last divorce,
Lies in the grave a cold unlived corpse.
Good soul sleep sweet, and quiet, and do thou
That does revive, our king, smooth up that brow
That gives thy people life, doe thou appease
Thy grief, and the contagion will cease
Of too much care: But if thou still does keep
Sorrow I’ll swear he’s dead that does not weep.
Almighty God assist thee, and the winds.
Be champions for Charles, what er’e he minds.