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Poem by Robert Southey

Queen's Mary Christening

The first wish of Queen Marys heart 
    Is, that she may bear a son, 
Who shall inherit in his time 
    The kingdom of Aragon. 
She hath put up prayers to all the Saints 
    This blessing to accord, 
But chiefly she hath calld upon 
    The Apostles of our Lord. 
The second wish of Queen Marys heart 
    Is to have that son calld James, 
Because she thought for a Spanish King 
    Twas the best of all good names. 
To give him this name of her own will 
    Is what may not be done, 
For having applied to all the Twelve 
    She may not prefer the one. 
By one of their names she hath vowd to call 
    Her son, if son it should be; 
But which, is a point whereon she must let 
    The Apostles themselves agree. 
Already Queen Mary hath to them 
    Contracted a grateful debt, 
And from their patronage she hoped 
    For these farther blessings yet. 
Alas! it was not her hap to be 
    As handsome as she was good; 
And that her husband King Pedro thought so 
    She very well understood. 
She had lost him from her lawful bed 
    For lack of personal graces, 
And by prayers to them, and a pious deceit, 
    She had compassd his embraces. 
But if this hope of a son should fail, 
    All hope must fail with it then, 
For she could not expect by a second device 
    To compass the King again. 
Queen Mary hath had her first hearts wish-- 
    She hath brought forth a beautiful boy; 
And the bells have rung, and masses been sung, 
    And bonfires have blazed for joy. 
And manys the cask of the good red wine, 
    And many the cask of the white, 
Which was broachd for joy that morning, 
    And emptied before it was night. 
But now for Queen Marys second hearts wish, 
    It must be determined now, 
And Bishop Boyl, her Confessor, 
    Is the person who taught her how. 
Twelve waxen tapers he hath had made, 
    In size and weight the same; 
And to each of these twelve tapers, 
    He hath given an Apostles name. 
One holy Nun had bleachd the wax, 
    Another the wicks had spun; 
And the golden candlesticks were blest, 
    Which they were set upon. 
From that which should burn the longest, 
    The infant his name must take; 
And the Saint who ownd it was to be 
    His Patron for his names sake. 
A godlier or a goodlier sight 
    Was nowhere to be seen, 
Methinks, that day, in Christendom, 
    Than in the chamber of that good Queen. 
Twelve little altars have been there 
    Erected, for the nonce; 
And the twelve tapers are set thereon, 
    Which are all to be lit at once. 
Altars more gorgeously drest 
    You nowhere could desire; 
At each there stood a ministring Priest 
    In his most rich attire. 
A high altar hath there been raised, 
    Where the crucifix you see; 
And the sacred Pix that shines with gold 
    And sparkles with jewelry. 
Bishop Boyl, with his precious mitre on, 
    Hath taken there his stand, 
In robes which were embroidered 
    By the Queens own royal hand. 
In one part of the ante-room 
    The Ladies of the Queen, 
All with their rosaries in hand, 
    Upon their knees are seen. 
In the other part of the ante-room 
    The Chiefs of the realm you behold, 
Ricos Omes, and Bishops and Abbots, 
    And Knights and Barons bold. 
Queen Mary could behold all this 
    As she lay in her state bed; 
And from the pillow needed not 
    To lift her languid head. 
One fear she had, though still her heart 
    The unwelcome thought eschewd, 
That haply the unlucky lot 
    Might fall upon St. Jude. 
But the Saints, she trusted, that ill chance 
    Would certainly forefend; 
And moreover there was a double hope 
    Of seeing the wishd-for end: 
Because there was a double chance 
    For the best of all good names; 
If it should not be Santiago himself, 
    It might be the lesser St. James. 
And now Bishop Boyl hath said the mass; 
    And as soon as the mass was done, 
The priests who by the twelve tapers stood 
    Each instantly lighted one. 
The tapers were short and slender too, 
    Yet to the expectant throng, 
Before they to the socket burnt, 
    The time, I trow, seemd long. 
The first that went out was St. Peter, 
    The second was St. John; 
And now St. Matthias is going, 
    And now St. Matthew is gone. 
Next there went St. Andrew, 
    There goes St. Philip too; 
And see! there is an end 
    Of St. Bartholomew. 
St. Simon is in the snuff; 
    But it was a matter of doubt 
Whether he or St. Thomas could be said 
    Soonest to have gone out. 
There are only three remaining, 
    St. Jude, and the two St. James; 
And great was then Queen Marys hope 
    For the best of all good names. 
Great was then Queen Marys hope, 
    But greater her fear, I guess, 
When one of the three went out, 
    And that one was St. James the Less. 
They are now within less than quarter-inch, 
    The only remaining two! 
When there came a thief in St. James, 
    And it made a gutter too! 
Up started Queen Mary, 
    Up she sate in her bed: 
I never can call him Judas! 
    She claspt her hands and said. 
I never can call him Judas! 
    Again did she exclaim; 
Holy Mother preserve us! 
    It is not a Christian name! 
She spread her hands and claspt them again, 
    And the Infant in the cradle 
Set up a cry, an angry cry, 
    As loud as he was able. 
Holy Mother preserve us! 
    The Queen her prayer renewd; 
When in came a moth at the window 
    And flutterd about St. Jude. 
St. James hath fallen in the socket 
    But as yet the flame is not out, 
And St. Jude hath singed the silly moth 
    That flutters so blindly about. 
And before the flame and the molten wax 
    That silly moth could kill, 
It hath beat out St. Jude with its wings, 
    And St. James is burning still! 
Oh, that was a joy for Queen Marys heart; 
    The babe is christened James; 
The Prince of Aragon hath got 
    The best of all good names! 
Glory to Santiago, 
    The mighty one in war! 
James he is calld, and he shall be 
    King James the Conqueror! 
Now shall the Crescent wane, 
    The Cross be set on high 
In triumph upon many a Mosque; 
    Woe, woe to Mawmetry! 
Valencia shall be subdued; 
    Majorca shall be won; 
The Moors be routed every where; 
    Joy, joy, for Aragon! 
Shine brighter now, ye stars, that crown 
    Our Lady del Pilar. 
And rejoice in thy grave, Cid Campeador, 
    Ruydiez de Bivar! 

Robert Southey

Robert Southey's other poems:
  1. For the Cenotaph at Ermenonville
  2. St. Bartholomews Day
  3. For a Tablet at Penshurst
  4. For a Tablet at Silbury Hill
  5. For a Monument in the Vale of Ewias

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