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The Lay of the Leveler by F. H.


Among the less known writings of Francis Quarles, author of the once famous Emblems, is a volume, now become very scarce, entitled The Shepheards Oracles, delivered in certain Eglogues. The copy of it to which I have access was published in 1646, or two years after Quarles's death. This spirited poem must have been perused with intense interest by Quarles's contemporaries. But history is constantly repeating itself with more or less of modification, and The Shepheards Oracles, at least here and there, and with reference to England, reads, but for its quaintness of manner and idiom, like a production of the nineteenth century. In the course of it there occur some verses, put into the mouth of Anarchus, which are well worth resuscitating. These verses, to which I have supplied a title as above, are, in a sufficiently exact transcription, as follows:

Know, then, my brethren, heav'n is cleare,

And all the Clouds are gone;

The Righteous now shall flourish, and

Good dais are coming on.

Come, then, my Brethren, and be glad,

And eke rejoyce with me:

Lawn Sleeves and Rochets shall goe down:

And, hey! then up goe we.

Wee'l break the windows which the Whore

Of Babylon hath painted;

And, when the Popish Saints are down,

Then Barow shall be Sainted.

There's neither Crosse nor Crucifixe

Shall stand for man to see:

Romes trash and trump'ries shall goe downe;

And, hey! then up goe we.

What ere [sic] the Popish hands have built,

Our Hammers shall undoe;

Wee'l breake their Pipes, and burn their Copes,

And pull downe Churches, too:

Wee'l exercise within the Groves,

And teach beneath a Tree;

Wee'l make a Pulpit of a Cart;

And, hey! then up goe we.

Wee'l down with all the Varsities,

Where Learning is profest,

Because they practise and maintain

The language of the Beast:

Wee'l drive the Doctors out of doores,

And Arts, what ere [sic] they be;

Wee'l cry both Arts and Learning down;

And, hey! then up goe we.

Wee'l down with Deans and Prebends, too;

But I rejoyce to tell ye

How then we will eat Pig our fill,

And Capon by the belly:

Wee'l burn the Fathers witty Tomes,

And make the Schoolmen flee;

Wee'l down with all that smels of wit;

And, hey! then up goe we.

If once that Antichristian crew

Be crusht and overthrown,

Wee'l teach the Nobles how to crouch,

And keep the Gentry down:

Good manners have an evil report,

And turn to pride we see:

Wee'l, therefore, cry good manners down;

And, hey! then up goe we.

The name of Lord shall be abhor'd;

For every man's a brother:

No reason why, in Church or State,

One man should rule another.

But, when the change of Government

Shall set our fingers free,

Wee'l make the wanton Sisters stoop:

And, hey! then up goe we.

Our Coblers shall translate their soules

From Caves obscure and shady;

Wee' make Tom T—— as good as my Lord,

And Joan as good as my Lady.

Wee'l crush and fling the marriage Ring

Into the Romane See;

Wee'l ask no bans, but even clap hands;

And, hey! then up goe we.

By "Barow," named in the second stanza, is intended, no doubt, Henry Barrow, the Nonconformist enthusiast who was executed at Tyburn in 1592. A follower of Robert Browne, founder of the Brownists, whence sprang the sect of Independents, he brought upon himself, by his zeal and imprudence, a vengeance which his wary leader contrived  to evade. Browne himself is alluded to punningly in The Shepheards Oracles, where Philorthus, at sight of Anarchus approaching, asks whether he is "in a Browne study." Anarchus replies:

"Man, if thou be'st a Babe of Grace,

And of an holy Seed,

I will reply incontinent,

And in my words proceed;

But, if thou art a child of wrath,

And lewd in conversation,

I will not, then, converse with thee,

Nor hold communication."

Philorthus rejoins, referring by his "we all three" to Philarchus, with whom he had just been conversing:

"I trust, Anarchus, we all three inherit

The selfe same gifts, and share the selfe same Spirit."

Then follow the stanzas which I have first quoted. There is certainly ground to surmise that Lord Macaulay had in mind what I have called "The Lay of the Leveler" when in 1820 he wrote "A Radical War-song." In support of this opinion, I subjoin, for comparison, its last stanza but one:

Down with your sheriffs and your mayors,

Your registrars and proctors!

We'll live without the lawyer's cares,

And die without the doctor's.

No discontented fair shall pout

To see her spouse so stupid:

We'll tread the torch of Hymen out,

And live content with Cupid.