Robert Fletcher, ‘Our Present Sorrow, and Our Present Joy’ (1603)

Not much is known about Robert Fletcher. He is listed as ‘Yeoman purveyor of carriages’ to Queen Elizabeth and, later, to James VI and I. His literary works include The Nine English Worthies: or, Famous and Worthy Princes of England (1606).

His elegy on Elizabeth, entitled ‘Our Present Sorrow, and Our Present Joy’, was published in A Brief and Familiar Epistle Showing His Majesty’s Most Lawful, Honourable, and Just Title to All His Kingdoms (1603). The poem encapsulates much of the relief felt by the people upon James’s accession, particularly in its focus on James’s ‘true descent and line’ and on his progeny to succeed him. After years of dynastic insecurity under Elizabeth, James’s children provided assurance for the future succession.


Such mirth from moan, such joy from care,
On Britain’s soil was never seen:
True English hearts did all prepare,
To mourn the loss of their good queen.
But now rejoice with hearts content,
For this good king which God hath sent.
Our earthly paragon hath past:
Her glorious days, and happy reign:
No state or sex can longer last,
Then power divine did preordain.
The sun by course, doth set at night,
And in the morning rise more bright.
Our Cynthia in the evening set,
Or after midnight took her rest:
And Phoebus straight did not forget,
To think his mansion must be blest.
With glorious beams sent from above,
Descending down with ardent love.
View then the works of power divine,
Whose hests are just, and never fail:
Maintaining true descent and line,
Which none can cross or countervail,
Then sing, lament, rejoice, complain,
First England’s loss, next England’s gain.
First England hath a lady lost,
A mirror to the worlds of men:
Now found a king, and with no cost,
Just cause therefore to joy again.

Now king, and queen, with daughter, son:
Have England’s joy, and reign begun,
You trembling harts that quaked for fear;
With watch and ward to doubt the worst,
Now here proclaimed every where:
The joyful news of James the first,
Undoubted king, by just descent,
Whose right no title can prevent.
Most worthy prince in Europe bred,
Is now our sovereign lord and king:
Who by God’s wisdom will be led,
To work our weal in every thing.
Religious, wise, of valiant mind,
Who to such subjects will be kind.
Of Britain I’ll in brief to speak,
That now one monarch must maintain:
Conjoining hearts must malice break,
Be reconciled and friends again.
Like Lancaster and York in love,
Must England now and Scotland join:
Such unity God grant may prove,
No foreign power dare then purloin
One foot of ground from Britain’s peace,
But Britain’s may their ground increase,
For this good king then let us pray,
That Nestor’s years amongst us he reign,
His queen and princes, also they,
In like felicity maintain,
O gracious God, defend from those,
All foreign and domestic foes.