Bishop John Prideaux – Poetry

Among the friends and associates of John Prideaux were poets and writers. Some of these recorded in beautiful prose, the events of his life.  Of course, this was before A A Prideaux decided to do that too…

His beloved daughter Mary who was baptised on the 10th February 1617 and buried on the 9th December 1624. She died of an unrecorded illness. However, the following  poem  suggests that Mary was born with birth abnormalities which may have led to her early death. The poet refers to her now straightened body after death. John’s son Robert was baptised on the 14th May 1624 and buried in Exeter College on September 17th 1627. He had accidentally swallowed some poison and took ten agonising hours to die. It was only one month after his mother had died. The second poem is about his sad death.
The following two  poems were published in 1656 as ‘Musarum Deliciæ or the Muses’s Recreation’. They were taken from the dueling muses written between two wits of the day, Archdeacon of Barnstaple Dr. James Smith and Sir John Mennis.

Epitaph on Mistrisse Mary Prideaux.

Happy Grave thou dost enshrine
That which makes thee a rich Myne,
Yet remember, ’tis but loane,
And we look for back our owne.
The very same, marke me, the same,
Thou shalt not cheat us with a Lame
Deformed Carcasse ; this was faire,
Fresh as morning, soft as Ayre ;
Purer then other flesh as faire
As other Soules their bodies are :
And that thou maist the better see
To finde her out, two starres there be
Eclipsed now ; uncloud but those,
And they will point thee to the Rose
That dy’d each Cheek, now pale and wan,
But will be, when she wakes againe
Fresher then ever ; and how ere
Her long sleep may alter her,
Her Soul will know her Body streight,
‘Twas made so fit for’t, no deceipt
Can suit another to it, none
Cloath it so neatly as its owne

An Epitaph upon Doctor Prideaux’s Son.

Here lyes his Parents hopes and fears,
Once all their joyes, now all their tears,
He’s now past sence, past fear of paine,
‘Twere sin to wish him here againe.
Had it liv’d to have been a Man,
This Inch had grown but to a span;
And now he takes up the lesse room,
Rock’d from his Cradle to his Tomb.
Tis better dye a child, at four,
Then live and dye so at fourscore.
View but the way by which we come,
Thou’lt say, he’s best, that’s first at home.

Further poetry was written about Mary’s death by William Strode, a former student of John and associate. They were not always on the same side.

Mr Stroud for Prideux young daughter

Sleep pretty one, O sleep whilst I
Sing thee thy latest lullaby,
And may my song be but as thee,
Ne’er was sweeter harmony.
Thus whilst our prayers were at strife,
Thine for thy death, ours for thy life,
thine did prevail, and on their wings
Transport thy soul, where now it sings
And ne’er shall complain any more
But for not being there before.

Consolatorium ad parentes

Let her parents now confess
That they believe her happiness
Which tears question. Think as you
Lento her the world, heaven lent you,
And is it just then to complain
When each hath but its own again?
Then think that both your glories are
For her preferment. for ’tis far
Nobler to get a saint, and bear
A child to heaven, than an heir
To a large empire.

Weep Not

Weep not because this child hath died so young
But weep because yourselves have lived so long,

Ripeness is from ourselves, and then we die
When nature hath obtained maturity.
Summer and Winter fruits there be, and all
Not at one time, but being ripe do fall.
Death did not err, the mourners are beguiled,
She died, more like a mother than a child.

Add only to her growth some inches more,
She took up now what due was at three score.

 Couplet found by Thomas Fuller after John Prideaux’s death

Is Prideaux dead? he lives after his death by his writings
Death removes the mitre, which is replaced by a crown.

Obsequies by John Cleveland written on the death of John Prideaux

On that Right Reverend Father in God John Prideaux late Bishop of Worcester deceased

If by the fall of Luminaries we
may safely guess the world’s catasrophe
The signs are all fulfilled, the tokens shown
That scarce man has any of his own
Only the Jew’s conversion some doubt bred
But that’s confused now the Doctor’s dead.
Great Atlas of Religion since thy fate
Proclaims our loss too soon out tears too late
Where shall our bleeding Church a Champion
to grasp with Heresie? Or to maintain gain
Her conflict with the Devil? For the ods
Runs by byased fix to four against the gods.
Hell lifts again and the engagements flies
With winged zeal throng all the Sectaries
That should the soundly into question fall
We were within a vote of none at all
But this can hap upon a single death?
Yes for thou were the treasure of our breath
That pious Arch whereupon the building stood
Which broke, the whole’s devolved into a flood,
An inundation that ore bears the bancks
And bounds of all religion. If some flancks
Shew their emergent heads Like Seth’s famed
Th’are monuments of thy devotion gone
No wonder then the rambling Spirit stray
In thee the body fell and slipt away
Hence tis the pulpit swells with exhalations
Intricate Nonsense travell’d from all Nations
Notions refin’d to doubts and maxims squeez’d
With tedious hick-ups till the sence grows’ freez’d
If ought shall chance to drop we may call good.
Tis thy distinction makes it understood
Thy glorious sun made ours a perfect day
Our influence took its being from thy ray
Thine was that Gideon’s fleece when all stood dry
Pearl’d with celestial dew shower’d from O’n high if spread
But now thy night is come our shades are
And living here we move among the dead
Perhaps an Ignis fatuus now and then
Starts up in holes, stinks and goes out agen.
Such Kicksee Winsee flames shew but how dear
Thy great lights would be here
A Brother with five loaves and two small fishes
A table book of sighs books and wishes.
Startles Religion more at one strong doubt
Than what they mean as the candle’s out
But I profane thy ashes (gracious soul)
Thy spirit flew too high to trust these foul
Gnostick opinions. Thou desired to meet
Such tenents that durst stand upon their feet
And beard the truth with as intens’d a zeal
As Saint, upon fall night quilt a meal
Rome never tremblled till thy piercing eye
Darted her through and crushed the mystery
Thy revealation made St Johns compleat
Babylon fell indeed but twas thy sweat
And oyl perfomed the work, to what we see,
Foretold in misty types foretold in thee
Some shallow lines were drawn and sconces made
By smatteters in the arts to drive a trade
Of words between us, but that proved no more
Then threats in cowing feathers to give ore
Thy fancy laid the siege that wrought her fall
Thy batteries commanded around the wall
Not poor loop hole error could sneak by
No not the Abbess to the Friery
Though her disguise as close and subtely good
As when she wore Monk’s hose for hood
And if perhaps their French or Spanish wine
Had filled them full of beads and Bellarmine
That they durst salley or attempta guard
Oh how thy busy brain would beat and ward
Rally and reinforce! rout! and relieve!
Double reserves and then an onset give
Like marshalled thunder backed with flames of fire!
Storms mixed with storms! Passions with globes of ire!
Yet so well disciplined that judgment still
Sway’d and not rash commissionated will
No, words in thee knew order, time and place.
The instant of a charge or when to face
When to pursue advantage where to halt
When to draw off and where to re-assault
Such sure commands stream’d from thee, that twas one
With thee to vanquish as to look upon
So tht they ruined foes grovelling confess
Thy conquests were their fate and happiness
Npr was it all their busniess here to war
With foreign forces. But thy active star
Could course a home bred mist a native sin
And shew it’s guilt’s degrees, how and wherein
Then sentence and expell it. Thus thy Sun
An everlasting strage in labour run
So that its motion to an eye of man
Wav’d still in compleat Meridian
But these are but fair comments of our loss
The Glory of a Church now on the Cross
The transcript of that beauty once we had.
Whilest with the lustre of thy presence clad
But tho art gone (Brave Soul)  and with thee all
The gallantry of Arts Polemical
Nothing remains as primitive but talk
But that our priests in Leather walk
A flying ministry of horse and foot
Things that can start a text and ne’er come to o’t
Teazers of doctrines which in long sleeved
Run down a sermon all upon the nose (prose
These like dull glow worms twinckle in the
The frightened Land Skips of an absent light
But thy rich flames withdrawn, Heaven caught
thee hence
Thy glories were grown ripe for recompense
And therefore to prevent our weak effaies
Th’art crewn’d an Angel with coelestial Ba’yes
And there thy ravished soul meets field and fire
Beauties enough to fill it’s strong desire
The contemplation of a present God
Perfections in the womb the very road
and Essences of vertues as they be
Streaming and mixing in Eternity
Whilst we possess a soul but in a vail
Like earth confined, catch Heaven by retail
Such a dark Panthorn age, such jealous dayes
Men tread on snakes, sleep in Battaliaes
Walk like conessors, hear but must not lay
What the bold world dares act and what may
And yet here all votes Commons and Lords agree
The Crosier fell in Laud, the Cross in thee.

I have read and reread the above poem and Cleveland either knew John Prideaux well, or listened to his friends. He knew so many things about him. The poem also illustrates how well the Bishop was thought of and how pious he was. John really understood the meaning of his Bible.

His son William Prideaux who described himself as a chatterbox and a talkative boy, had four of his own lines included in Epithalamia Oxoniensia in 1625, on the marriage of Charles I and Henrietta. A great honour for an eleven year old boy.

Epithalamia Oxoniensia

Garrule, si quaeras. tibi quis, puer, addidit alas,
Inter tot Charites, ut tua Musa volet?
Cum sponsam constet Carolum duxisse Mariam,
Inde Tui similis quilibet esse cupit.

Guilielmus Prideaux, Doctoris fil e Col. Exon.

If you ask, you talkative boy, who amongst so many Graces
has added wings to you, so that your Muse may fly,
since it ius well known that Charles has married Maria,
his bride, then everybody wants to be like you.

William Prideaux, son of Doctor Prideaux of Exeter College

William became a Colonel in the King’s Troop and was killed at Marston Moor in 1644.
William Stukeley wrote in his memoirs of him.

He (William) raised a Regiment in favour of the Royal Party, and maintained it at his own Charge.
He was a very valiant man, and slew 14 or 16 of the Rebels with his own hand at the Battle of Marston Moor, where he received his Death’s wound.

The grandfather of this William Stukeley, took Ellen Crossland as a second wife. Ellen was William’s widow.

John Prince wrote of William Prideaux,

the Doctor was wont pleasantly to say, He maintained free-will.

Mathias Prideaux- Epitaph

Are you trying to make out what the little child is saying? Read, you will die as did Mathias Prideaux, the Rector’s son, who was the first one to be buried in this chapel after its foundation.