The duell of the stags a poem
Howard, Robert, Sir, 1626-1698.
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Page  [unnumbered] THE DUELL OF THE STAGS: A Poem.

Written by the Honourable Sir ROBERT HOWARD.

In the SAVOY, Printed for Henry Herringman, at the Sign of the Anchor, on the Lower Walk of the New-Exchange. 1668.

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I Shou'd beg your pardon, cou'd I apprehend it were an error to present any thing to your Grace which comes from me, to whom I have made so entire a Dedication of my self; but this advantage appears in all real esteems and friendships, they are as much above the Ceremonies of the world, as the usual Practise of it; but your Grace has a farther Title to this, being more yours than Mine; as much as an Image made well shap't and polish't, is more properly due to him that gave it that perfection, then to him that first dig'd the stone out of the Quarry; it was an ill contriv'd House within, full of Entries and Page  [unnumbered] unuseful passages, till your Grace was pleas'd to take them away, and make it Habitable for any Candid opinion.

At the same time when your Grace made this your own, you made me more justly yours; 'twas in your Confinement, where after some Conceal∣ment of your self, to weigh the Circumstances and Causes of your persecution, you generously expos'd your self to stand all hazards and try∣als, from the assurance of your Courage, and advise of your Innocence; and as your Grace in your adversity has found the advantage of an unshaken Honour, I doubt not but your Prince and Nation will find an equal be∣nefit in your better Fortunes, by your Council and Service, which will always be directed by such a steady vertue; and may all advantages that you encrease in, and all the Nation re∣ceives by you, be equal'd by nothing but the Content of

My Lord,

Your Graces most Humble and faithful Servant ROBERT HOVVARD.

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IN Windsor Forest, before Warr de∣stroy'd,
The harmless Pleasures which soft Peace injoy'd;
A mighty Stagg grew Monarch of the Heard,
By all his savage Slaves obey'd, and fear'd:
And while the Troops about their Soveraign fed,
They watch't the awfull nodding of his head.
Page  2 Still as he passeth by, they all remove,
Proud in Dominion, Prouder in his Love:
[And while with pride and appetite he swells;]
He courts no chosen object, but compels:
No Subject his lov'd Mistress dares deny,
But yields his hopes up to his tyranny.
Long had this Prince imperiously thus sway'd,
By no set Laws, but by his will obey'd;
His fearful slaves, to full obedience grown,
Admire his strength, and dare not use their own.
One subject most did his suspicion move,
That show'd lest fear, and counterfeited love;
In the best Pastures by his side he fed,
Arm'd with two large Militia's on his head:
As if he practic'd Majesty, he walk't,
And at his nod, he made not haste, but stalk't.
By his large shade, he saw how great he was,
And his vast Layers on the bended grass.
His thoughts as large as his proportion grew,
And judg'd himself, as fit for Empire too.
Page  3 Thus to rebellious hopes he swell'd at length,
Love and Ambition growing with his strength.
This hid ambition his bold Passion showes
And from a Subject to a Rival grows.
Sollicits all his Princes, fearful Dames,
And in his sight Courts with rebellious flames.
The Prince sees this with an inflamed eye,
But looks are only signes of Majesty:
When once a Prince's Will meets a restraint,
His power is then esteem'd but his complaint.
His Head then shakes, at which th'affrighted Heard,
Start to each side; his Rival not afear'd,
Stands by his Mistress side, and stirs not thence,
But bids her own his Love, and his Defence.
The Quarrel now to a vast height is grown,
Both urg'd to fight by Passion, and a Throne;
But Love has most excuse, for all we find
Have Passions, though not Thrones alike assign'd.
Page  4 The Soveraign Stagg shaking his loaded head,
On which his Scepters with his Arms were spread,
Wisely by Nature, there together fix't,
Where with the Tytle, the Defence was mixt.
The Pace which he advanc'd with to engage,
Became at once his Majesty, and Rage:
T'other stands still with as much confidence,
To make his part seem only his defence.
Their heads now meet, and at one blow each strikes,
As many strokes, as if a rank of Pikes
Grew on his brows, as thick their Antlers stand
Which every year kind Nature does disband.
Wild Beasts sometimes in peace and quiet are,
But Man no season free's from love or warr.
With equal strength they met, as if two oakes
Had fell, and mingled with a thousand stroaks.
One by Ambition urg'd, t'other Disdain,
One to Preserve, the other fought to Gain:
The Subjects, and the Mistresses stood by,
With Love and Duty to crown Victory:
Page  5 For all Affections wait on prosperous Fame,
Not he that climbs, but he that falls, meets shame.
While thus with equall Courages they meet,
The wounded Earth yields to their strugling feet;
And while one slydes, t'other pursues the fight,
And thinks that forc't Retreat looks like a Flight:
But then asham'd of his retreat, at length
Drives his Foe back, his rage renews his strength.
As even weights into a motion thrown,
By equall turns, drive themselves up and down;
So somtimes one, then t'other Stag prevails,
And Victory yet doubtfull holds the scales.
The Prince asham'd to be oppos'd so long,
With all his strengh united rushes on;
The Rebel weaker, then at first appears,
And from his courage sinks unto his fears.
Not able longer to withstand his might,
From a Retreat at last steals to a Flight.
Page  6 The mighty Stagg pursues his flying Foe,
Till his own pride of Conquest made him slow;
Thought it enough to scorn a thing that flyes,
And only now persu'd him with his eyes.
The Vanquish'd as he fled, turn'd back his sight
Asham'd to flye, and yet affraid to fight:
Sometimes his wounds, as his excuse survay'd,
Then fled again, and then look back and stay'd:
Blush't that his wounds so slight should not deny
Strength for a fight, that left him strength to flye.
Calls thoughts of Love and Empire to his ayd,
But fears more powerful then all those perswade,
And yet in spight of them retains his shame,
His Cool'd ambition, and his half-quench'd flame.
There's none from their own sense of shame can flye,
And dregs of passions dwell with misery.
Now to the Shades he bends his feeble course,
Despis'd by those, that once Admir'd his force:
The wretch that to a scorn'd condition's thrown,
With the Worlds favour, looses too his own.
Page  7 While fawning Troops their Conquering Prince enclos'd
Now render'd absolute by being oppos'd;
Princes by disobedience get Command,
And by new quench'd Rebellions firmer stand;
Till by the boundless offers of successe,
They meet their Fate in ill-us'd happinesse.
The vanquish't Stagg to thickest shades repaires,
Where he finds safety punish't with his cares;
Thorough the Woods he rushes not, but glides,
And from all searches but his own he hides;
Asham'd to live, unwilling yet to loose,
That wretched life he knew not how to use.
In this retirement thus he liv'd conceal'd,
Till with his wounds, his fears were almost heal'd;
His antient passions now began to move,
He thought again of Empire, and of Love:
Then rouz'd himself, and stretch'd at his full length,
Took the large measure of his mighty strength;
Then shook his loaded head; the shadow too,
Shook like a tree, where leaveless branches grew.
Page  8 Stooping to drink, he sees it in the streams,
And in the Woods hears clashing of his Beams;
No accident but does alike proclaim
His growing strength, and his encreasing shame.
Now once again, resolves to try his Fate,
(For Envy always is importunate;)
And in the Mind perpetually does move,
A fit Companion for unquiet Love.
He thinks upon his Mighty Enemy
Circl'd about with Pow'r, and Luxury.
And hop'd his strength might sink in his desires,
Remembring he had wasted in such Fires.
Yet while he hop'd by them to overcome,
He wisht the others fatal joys his own.
Thus the unquiet Beast in safety lay,
Where nothing was to fear, nor to obey;
Where he alone Commanded, and was Lord,
Of every Bounty, Nature did afford,
Choose feasts for every Arbitrary sense,
An Empire in the state of Innocence.
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But all the Feasts, Nature before him plac't,
Had but faint relishes to his lost taste.
Sick minds, like Bodies in a Feaver spent,
Turns Food to the Disease, not Nourishment.
Sometimes he stole abroad, and shrinking stood,
Under the shelter of the friendly Wood;
Casting his envious eyes towards those Plains
Where with Crown'd Joys, his Mighty Rival Reigns.
He saw th' obeying Herd marching along,
And weigh'd his Rivals Greatness by the Throng.
Want, takes false measures, both of power, and joys,
And envy'd Greatness is but Crowd, and Noise.
Not able to endure this hated sight,
Back to the Shades he flies to seek out Night.
Like exiles from their Native soils, though sent
To better Countreys, think it Banishment.
Here he enjoy'd, what 'tother could have there,
The Woods as Shady, and the Streams as Cleer,
The Pastures more untainted where he fed,
And every night, chose out an unprest Bed.
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But then his lab'ring soul with Dreams was prest,
And found the greatest wearyness in Rest;
His dreadful Rival in his sleep appears,
And in his Dreams again, he fights, and fears:
Shrinks at the stroaks of t'others Mighty Head,
Feels every wound, and dreams how fast he fled.
At this he wakes, and with his fearful eyes,
Salutes the Light, that Fleet the Eastern Skies.
Still half amaz'd, looks round, and held by fear,
Scarce can Believe, no Enemy was neer.
But when he saw his heedless fears were brought,
Not by a Substance, but a drowzy Thought,
His ample sides he shakes, from whence the Dew
In scatter'd showers, like driven Tempests flew.
At which, through all his Breast new boldness spread,
And with his Courage, rais'd his Mighty Head.
Then by his Love inspir'd, resolves to try
The Combat now, and overcome, or die.
Every weak Passion sometimes is above
The fear of Death, much more the Noblest Love.
By Hope 'tis scorn'd, and by dispair 'tis sought,
Persu'd by Honour, and by sorrow brought.
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Resolv'd the paths of danger now to tread,
From his scorn'd shelter, and his fears, he fled.
With a brave haste now seeks a second Fight,
Redeems the base one by a Noble flight.
In the mean time, the Conqueror injoy'd
That Power by which he was to be destroy'd.
How hard 'tis for the Prosperous to see,
That Fate which waits on Power, and Victory.
Thus he securely Raign'd, when in a Rout,
He saw th▪ affrighted Heard flying about;
As if some Huntsmen did their Chase Pursue,
About themselves in scatter'd Rings they flew.
He like a careful Monarch, rais'd his Head,
To see what Cause that strange disturbance bred;
But when the searcht-out Cause appear'd no more,
Then from a Slave, he had o'recome before,
A bold disdain did in his Looks appear,
And shook his Aweful Head to chide their Fear.
The Herd afraid of Friend and Enemy,
Shrink from the one, and from the other Fly;
Page  12 They scarce know which they should obey, or trust,
Since Fortune only makes it safe and just.
Yet in despight of all his Pride, he staid,
And this unlookt for Chance with trouble weigh'd.
His Rage, and his Contempt alike, swell'd high,
And onely fear'd his Enemy should Flie;
He thought of former Conquest, and from thence
Couzn'd himself into a Confidence.
T'other that saw his Conqueror so neer,
Stood still and listned to a whisp'ring fear;
From whence he heard his Conquest, and his shame;
But new-born Hopes his antient fears o'recame.
The Mighty Enemies now met at length,
With equal Fury, though not equal Strength;
For now, too late, the Conqueror did find,
That all was wasted in him but his Mind.
His Courage in his Weakness yet prevails,
As a bold Pilot steers with tatter'd Sails;
Page  13 And Cordage crackt, directs no steddy Course,
Carry'd by Resolution, more then Force.
Before his once scorn'd Enemy he reels,
His Wounds encreasing with his Shame, he feels
The others strength, more from his weakness grows,
And with one furious push, his Rival throws.
So a tall Oak, the pride of all the Wood,
That long th'Assault of several storms had stood;
Till by a Mighty Blast more pow'rfully pusht,
His Root's torn up, and to the Earth he rusht.
Yet then he rais'd his Head, on which there Grew
Once, all his Power, and all his Title too;
Unable now to rise, and less to fight,
He rais'd those Scepters to demand his Right:
But such weak Arguments prevail with none,
To plead their Titles, when their Power is gone.
His Head now sinks, and with it all defence,
Not only rob'd of Power, but Pretence.
Wounds upon wounds, the Conqueror still gives,
And thinks himself unsafe, while t'other lives:
Page  14 Unhappy State of such as wear a Crown
Fortune can never lay 'em gently down.
Now to the most scorn'd Remedy he flies,
And for some pitty seems to move his Eyes;
Pitty, by which the best of virtue's Try'd,
To wretched Princes ever is deny'd.
There is a Debt to Fortune, which they pay
For all their Greatness, by no Common way.
The flatt'ring Troops unto the Victor fly,
And own his Tytle to his Victory;
The faith of most, with Fortune does decline,
Duty's but Fear, and Conscience but Design.
The Victor now, proud in his great success,
Hastes to enjoy his fatal Happiness;
Forgot his Mighty Rival was destroy'd
By that, which he so fondly now enjoy'd.
In Passions, thus Nature her self enjoys,
Sometimes preserves, and then again destroys;
Yet all destruction which revenge can move,
Time or Ambition, is supyly'd by Love.
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