Saturday, December 15, 2012

Frances Quarles (May 8, 1592-Sept 8, 1644)

by Tess St. John

For the holidays, I wanted to showcase a poem or story written long ago, so I researched and came up with a beautiful poem written by Frances Quarles.

That led me to learning about the man himself. Frances was born in Romford, Essex (now called London Borough of Havering). He was a descendant from an Essex family that had a long history in royal service, but he was left orphaned.

Frances was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge, as a youngster and then entered Lincoln's Inn. He became cupbearer to Princess Elizabeth, was then appointed secretary to Ussher (a Church of Ireland Archbishop), and later the primate of Ireland. He married Ursula Woodgate in 1618 and they had eighteen children (that isn't a typo). He was often very poor, and turned his energies toward writing.

He was said to be a cheerful, morally-earnest, and sincere in wanting to serve God, his King, and his family. His best known work was an emblem book (a category of didactic illustrated books, containing a number of emblematic images and explanatory text), titled EMBLEMS. William Marshall illustrated the book to go along with Frances's text. While the critics disliked and were disrespectful of the work, it became immensely popular with the common people.

Frances was a determined royalist. His political writings (particularly ENCHIRIDION) were highly regarded by royalists while his poetry was loved by puritans. Frances died of natural causes in 1644.

When I found his poem "On the Infancy of Our Savior", I first couldn't believe how well it's written and how I was able to understand it so readily (without the cliff notes)! It's hard to believe it was written in Shakespearean time...because often I have problems with Sir William's work.

Having been a Catholic all my life might have something to do with how I related to this poem also, because while growing up Christmas was all about Jesus coming.

While I will not take on the religious or secular ramifications of his works, I would like to share this lovely poem with you. I do hope it brightens your holiday.

"On the Infancy of Our Savior"

Hail! blessed Virgin, full of heavenly grace,
Blest above all that sprang from human race,
Whose heaven-saluted woulb brought forth in one
A blessed Savior and blessed Son.
O what a ravishment't had been to see
They little Savior perking on they knee!
To see Him nuzzle in they virgin breast,
His milk-white body all unclad, undressed;
To see they busy fingers clothe and wrap
His spraddling limbs in they indulgent lap;
To see His desperate eyes with childish grace
Smiling upon His smiling mother's face;
And when His forward strength began to bloom
To see Him diddle up and down the room.
O who would think so sweet a Babe as this
Had I a rage, if sure They body wore it,
Pardon, sweet Babe, I think I should adore it,
Till then, O grant this boon, a boon far dearer:
The weed not being, I may adore the Wearer.

You can find out more about Tess St. John and her works at her website!

1 comment:

  1. Emblem books are rather fascinating
    This is a good sample of them:

    and this is Quarles' work:

    I assume the Archbishop Ussher is the same who calculated the date for Creation at 4004BC


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