was written by Wentworth Dillon, 4th Earl of Roscommon
, published in February 1681 in two broadside versions (printed on large, single-sided sheets), quite pointedly released in advance of the opening of the Oxford Parliament the following month. The poem's paternity
, as it were, was not acknowledged until 1707, more than two decade
s after Dillon's death
. Unsurprising given its topic
, for it was a round condemnation
of the previous Whig
-led parliament, which had been dissolved by the King to general applause following an effort to summarily try the a Catholic commoner named Fitharris for treason, without benefit of the Englishman
's right to trial by jury
. Whether Dillon would have faced any direct peril had his authorship
then been known is highly a matter of speculation
, though it is without doubt that he would have made powerful enemies
The poem, speaking in the voice
of the dissolved parliament itself, names names -- Lord Maynard (who, in point of fact, objected to the political trial but nonetheless lead the prosecution
as was, he felt, his duty to his office once Parliament had voted to proceed with it), Titus Oates abd Israel Tonge (who had together fabricated word of a "Popish Plot" against the King as an excuse for suppression of Catholics). Many other references in the poem profit only from historical context -- for example, ""driving Eighty back to Forty-Eight" intended to accuse the Earl of Shaftsbury, leader of the Whigs, of seeking to reignite in 1680 the English Civil War of 1648.
The poem was an important form in that age, able to communicate scathing criticism in a manner perhaps more memorable than a mere essay, and at the same time better disposing its intended audiences to read and recite the work far and wide, so as to have its intended effect against those brought low therein. And without further ado, here it is, The Ghost of the Old House of Commons
, to the New One, appointed to meet at Oxford
From deepest Dungeons of Eternal Night,
The Seats of Horror, Sorrow, Pains,and Spite,
I have been sent to tell you, tender Youth,
A seasonable and important Truth.
I feel (but, Oh! too late) that no Disease
Is like a Surfeit of Luxurious Ease:
And of all other, the most tempting Things
Are too much Wealth, and too indulgent Kings.
None ever was superlatively ill,
But by Degrees, with Industry and Skill:
And some, whose Meaning hath at first been fair,
Grow Knaves by Use, and Rebels by Despair.
My Time is past, and yours will soon begin,
Keep the first Blossoms from the Blast of Sin;
And by the Fate of my Tumultuous Ways,
Preserve your selves, and bring serener Days.
The bulie, subtile Serpents of the Law,
Did first my Mind from true Obedience draw:
While I did Limits to the King prescribe,
And took for Oracles that Canting Tribe,
I chang'd true Freedom for the Name of Free,
And grew seditious for Variety:
All that oppos'd me Were to be accus'd,
And by the Laws Illegally abus'd,
The Robe was surmmon'd, Maynard in the Head,
In Legal Murder none so deeply read;
I brought him to the Bar, where once he stood
Stain'd with the (yet unexpiated) Blood
Of the brave Stratford, when three Kingdoms rung
With his Accumulative Hackney-Tongue;
Pris'ners and Witnesses were waiting by,
These had been taught to swear, and those to dye,
And to expect their arbitrary Fates,
Some for ill Faces, some for good Estates.
To fright the People, and alarm the Town,
B---- and Oates employ'd the Reverend Gown.
But while the Triple Mitre bore the Blame,
The King's three Crowns were their rebellious Aim:
I seem'd (and did but seem) to fear the Guards,
And took for mine the Bethels and the Wards:
Anti-Monarchick Hereticks of State,
Immoral Atheists, Rich and Reprobate:
But above all I got a little Guide,
Who ev'ry Foard of Villany had try'd:
None knew so well the Old Pernicious Way,
To ruin Subjects, and make Kings obey;
And my small Jehu, at a furious Rate,
Was driving Eighty, back to Forty Eight.
This the King knew, and was resolv'd to bear,
But I mistook his Patience for his Fear.
All that this happy Island cou'd afford,
Was sacrific'd to my Voluptuous Board.
In his whole Paradise, one only Tree.
He had excepted by a strict Decree;
A Sacred Tree, which Royal Fruit did bear,
Yet it in Pieces I conspir'd to tear;
Beware, my Child! Divinity is there.
This so undid all I had done before,
I cou'd attempt, and he endure no more.
My unprepar'd, and unrepenting Breath
Was snatch'd away by the swift Hand of Death;
And I, with all my Sins about me, hurl'd,
To th'Utter Darkness of the lower World:
A dreadful Place! which you soon will fee.
If you believe Seducers more than me.