For Advent: Fulke Greville’s Chorus Sacerdotum

Here is an inspired text for Advent ‘meditation’ from Fulke Greville, who became the Earl […]

Mockingbird / 12.7.10
Here is an inspired text for Advent ‘meditation’ from Fulke Greville, who became the Earl of Warwick, and lived from 1554 to 1628.  He regarded the chief point in his life as having been the bosom friend of Sir Philip Sidney.  Almost no one knew about Greville’s poems, some of the them distinctly ‘Calvinist’, until after he died.  I am a great admirer of them.  Only recently did I find out that James Gould Cozzens was also a fan.  
Line six of the following passage, from Fulke Greville’s ‘closet’ or ‘Senecan’ play “Mustapha” (i.e., not to be performed but rather read), occurs in at least two of Cozzens’ novels, and in one of them, By Love Possessed, it is understood to distill the message of the book.  For myself, I have always favored lines one through five, as well as the last two.  I think these lines tie in with the thoughts and hopes of Mockingbird:
Chorus Sacerdotum  (i.e., Chorus of Priests)

Oh, wearisome condition of humanity!
Born under one law, to another bound:
Vainly begot, and yet forbidden vanity,
Created sick, commanded to be sound:
What meaneth nature by these divers laws?
Passion and reason self-division cause:
Is it the mark or majesty of power
To make offences that it may forgive?
Nature herself doth her own self deflower
To hate those errors she herself doth give.
For how should man think that he may not do
If nature did not fail, and punish too?
Tyrant to others, to herself unjust,
Only commands things difficult and hard.
Forbids us all things, which it knows we lust,
Makes easy pains, unpossible reward.
If nature did not take delight in blood,
She would have made more easy ways to good.
We that are bound by vows, and by promotion,
With pomp of holy sacrifice and rites,
To teach belief in God and stir devotion,
To preach of heaven’s wonders and delights:
Yet when each of us in his own heart looks,
He finds the God there far unlike his books.
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2 responses to “For Advent: Fulke Greville’s Chorus Sacerdotum”

  1. Michael Cooper says:

    I do not think Greville's work has been the subject of many embroidery efforts.

  2. Ken says:

    Tough stuff, beautiful stuff. Thank you Mr. "Mockingbird." It's a treat to find so much poetry on this blog.

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