Adhortatio Ad Carolum Tertium Regem
John Dryden to his Charles and I to mine,
Since modern Laureates are anodyne.
Not one, since Betjeman had left this earth,
Could put an end to inspiration’s dearth;
Mere academics of the swollen sort,
In place of verse and rhyme, they grunt and snort;
The dozy muse of blank conformity
Inters them in their uniformity;
They write for cliquish journals, not for men:
The briefcase is their symbol, not the pen.
The genius of the past they spurn and chide,
With Monster Ignorance their only guide.
Course creatures of a dead establishment,
They rise in rank through servile blandishment.
Their chopped-up prose and pagan creeds outworn,
But show for England their contempt and scorn.
They serve nor Britain nor her sovereign Crown,
But live to amplify their own renown.
Events of moment in the nation’s life
With grave or happy consequences rife,
Are lost upon their mercenary hearts,
And fail to animate their stagnant arts.
Thy kingdom’s casting off of Europe’s chain,
Could not inspire the current Cretin’s brain.
Thy father’s death he marked with mockery,
In lines of condescending wokery:
A cynic’s satire on the men who won
The world’s salvation from the tyrant’s gun;
Thy mother’s reign he purposed to demean,
By separating queenhood from the Queen
In broken stanzas, vague and recondite,
He stripped a monarch of her proper might;
Upon her death, no hint of grief, but glee
Is veiled in his sarcastic “elegy.”
And yet he takes an underservèd cheque,
And butts of sherry for his bovine dreck.
The world now shudders at the ghastly thought
Of how thy reign might suffer by his rot.
Son of Elizabeth! Do not constrain
Thy nation’s harp, let song return again
To lift the heavy heart, to rest the hand,
As when bright minstrels roamed Northumberland,
Upon their seven-coursèd lutes to sing
The valiant gests of commoner and king.
The rustic ballad to thy realms restore,
With bards to sing them as in days of yore.
Bestow the lustre of thy storied Crown
On poets worthy of thy great renown;
From honour’s roll strike off the names of those
Who mock the Muse, their emptiness oppose;
The glory of our ancient tongue preserve,
In patronizing only those who serve;
And fill the chambers of thy gilded court
With loyal poets who thy realm support.
Let not thy regal triumphs fade unsung,
Nor England’s golden harp remain unstrung.
O thou, who in thy pure, resounding voice,
Can make the shade of Hopkins to rejoice,
Or send on wings of melody most high
The verses of a Dylan through the sky;
Who let us look into thy heart that yearns
For Highland summits in a song of Burns;
Thyself most reverent of those olden bards
Whose honour and prestige thy crown yet guards;
Shall dim committees choose thy rhapsodists
From knabs of misanthropic modernists?
Or “literary” agents, hirelings all,
Put forward Marxists with their bitter gall?
Shall pudgy deviants the laurels wear,
Or crass conformists lacking style and flair?
How long must stretch the miserable train
Of Larkin’s mimics, slavish and mundane?
Shall swindlers of that obsolescent crowd
The splendor of thy country’s verse becloud?
T’were better not to make a laureate,
Than crown one from the professoriate.
Let this one principle inform thy choice:
A poet is both priest and people’s voice;
Both harbinger and maker of the nation’s spring,
The servant, friend, and conscience of the king;
If armies march in honour of thy name,
The poet crowns it with immortal fame;
Thy people’s loyalty his pen secures,
Thy throne’s integrity his harp ensures;
Nor all the mighty instruments of state
Can match his words in influence or weight;
Dame History, when all is done and said,
Shall keep the poems, but leave the rest unread.
If thou wouldst seal thy reign with truth and grace,
Give proper English verse a proper place;
Enrich true poets from thy bounteous purse,
Not for their résumés but for their verse;
On changing sand, the modern poet carves
His rancid nonsense, and the nation starves.
Choose one instead who honours Britain’s past,
Who spins his timeless lines from things that last,
Whose verses take their shape from forms divine,
Who quaffs the deeper draught, the nobler wine,
Who lifts his eyes above the grumbling sod
To see in Man the likeness of his God;
Who draws from heaven food to fill the heart,
And light to guide the mind, ennoble art;
Expressing not himself but Man’s desire
To rise from dust to realms forever higher.
© Joseph Charles MacKenzie. All Rights Reserved.