A Poeme

London Printed for Tho. Walkley,and are to be sold at his shop at the Signe of the Flying Horse between York-house and Britaines Burse. 1642.


Coopers Hill.1

Sure we have Poets, that did never dreame
Upon Parnassus, nor did taste the streame 2
Of Helicon, and therefore I suppose 3
Those made not Poets, but the Poets those.
5And as Courts make not Kings, but Kings the Court, 4
So where the Muses and their Troopes resort,
Parnassus stands, if I can be to thee,
A Poet, thou Parnassus art to mee.
Nor wonder, if (advantag'd in my flight,
10By taking wing from thy auspicious height)
I brough untrac't wayes and ayry paths I flye,
More boundlesse in my fancy then my eye,
Exalted to this height, I first looke downe
On Pauls, as men from thence upon the towne. 5Paules. Master Waller.6
15Pauls the late Theme of such a Muse, whose flight
Hath bravely reacht and soard above thy height:
Now shalt thou stand, though Time, or Sword, or Fire,
Or Zeale (more fierce then they) thy fall conspire,7
Secure, while thee the best of Poets sings,
20Preserv'd from ruine by the best of Kings.8
As those who rais'd in body, or in thought
Above the Earth, or the Ayres middle Vault,
Behold how winds, and stormes,and Meteors grow,
How clouds condense to raine,congeale to snow,
25And see the Thunder form'd,before it teare
The ayre, secure from danger and from feare,
So rais'd above the tumult and the crowdLondon.
I see the City in a thicker cloud
Of businesse, then of smoake, where men like Ants
30Toyle to prevent imaginarie wants;
Yet all in vaine, increasing with their store,
Their vast desires, but make their wants the more.
As food to unsound bodies, though it please
The Appetite, feeds onley the disease,
35Where with like haste, though severall wayes they runne
Some to undoe, and some to be undone:
While Luxurie, and wealth, like Warre and Peace,
Are each the others ruine, and increase,
As Rivers lost in Seas some secret veine
40Thence reconveighs, there to be lost againe.
Some study plots, and some those plots t'undoe,
Others to make'em, and undoe'em too,
False to their hopes, affraid to be secure
Those mischiefes onely which they make, endure,
45Blinded with light, and sicke of being well,
In tumults seeke their peace, their heaven in hell.
Oh happinesse of sweet retir'd content!
To be at once secure, and innocent.
Windsor the next (where Mars with Venus dwels,9Windsor.
50Beauty with strength) above the valley swels
Into my eye, as the late married Dame,
(Who proud, yet seems to make that pride her shame)
When Nature quickens in her pregnant wombe
Her wishes past, and now her hopes to come:
55With such an easie, and unforc'd Ascent,
Windsor her gentle bosome doth present;
Where no stupendious Cliffe, no threatening heights
Accesse deny, no horrid steepe affrigts,
But such a Rise, as doth at once invite
60A pleasure, and a reverence from the fight.
Thy Masters Embleme, in whose face I saw 10
A friend-like sweetnesse, and a King-like aw,
Where Majestie and love so mixt appeare,
Both gently kinde,both royally severe.
65So Windsor, humble in it selfe, seemes proud,
To be the Base of that Majesticke load,
Than which no hill a nobler burthen beares,
But Atlas onely, that supports the spheres,
Nature this mount so fitly did advance,
70We might conclude, that nothing is by chance
So plac't, as if she did on purpose raise
The Hill, to rob the builder of his praise.
For none commends his judgement, that doth chuse
That which a blind man onely could refuse;
75Such are the Towers which th'hoary Temples grac'd
Of Cibelo, when all her heavenly race11The Mother of the gods.
Doe homage to her, yet she canot boast
Amongst that Numerous, and Celestiall hoast
More Heroes, than can Windsor, nor doth Fames
80Immortall booke record more noble Names.
Not to looke backe so farre, to whom this Ile
Must owe the glory of so brave a Pile,
Whether to Caesar,12Albanact,13 or Brute,14
The British Arthur,15or the Danish Knute;16
85(Though this of old no lesse contest did move,
Then when for Homers birth seaven Cities strove)
(Like him in birth,thoug shouldst be like in Fame,
As thine his fate,if mine had beene his Flame)
But whosoere it was, Nature designd
90First a brave place, and then as brave a minde.
Nor to recount those severall Kings, to whom
It gave a Cradle, or to whom a Tombe,
But thee (great Edward)and thy greater sonne,Edward the third, and the blacke Prince.
He that the Lyllies wore,17and he that wonne.18
95And thy Bellona19 who deserves her share
In all thy glories, Of that royall paire20Queene Philip.21
Which waited on thy triumph, she brought one,The Kings of France and Scotland.
Thy sonne the other brought, and she that sonne
Nor of lesse hopes could her great off-spring prove,
100A Royall Eagle cannot breed a Dove.
Then didst thou found that Order: whether loveThe Garter.
Or victory thy Royall thoughts did move,
Each was a Noble cause, nor was it lesse
I'th institution, then the great successe,
105Whilst every part conspires to give it grace,
The King,the Cause, the Patron,and the Place,22
Which forraigne Kings,and Emperors esteeme
The second honour to their Diademe.23
Had thy great destiny but given thee skill
110To know as well, as Power to act her will,
That from those Kings, who then thy captives were,
In after-times should spring a Royall paire,24
Who should possesse all that thy mighty power,
Or thy desires more mighty did devoure;
115To whom their better fate reserves what ere
The Victor hopes for,or the vanquisht feare,
That blood, which thou, and thy great Grandsire shed,
And all that since these sister Nations bled,
Had been unspilt, had happy Edward knowne
120That all the blood he spilt, had been his owne,
Thou hadst extended through the conquer'd East,
Thine and the Christian name, and made them blest
To serve thee,while that losse this gaine would bring,
Christ for their God, and Edward for their King;
125When thou that Saint thy Patron didst designe,St.George
In whom the Martyr, and the Souldier joyne;
And when thou didst within the Azure round,
(Who evill thinks may evill him confound )
The English Armes encircle, thou didst seeme25
130But to foretell, and Prophecie of him,
Who has within that Azure round confin'd
These Realmes, which Nature for their bound design'd.
That bound which to the worlds extreamest ends,
Endlesse her selfe, her liquid armes extends ;
135In whose Heroicke face I see the Saint
Better exprest then in the liveliest paint,
That fortitude which made him famous here,
That heavenly piety, which Saints him there,
Who when this Order he forsakes, may he
140Companion of that sacred Order be.
Here could I fix my wonder, but our eyes,
Nice as our tastes, affect varieties;
And though one please him most, the hungry guest
Tasts every dish,and runs through all the feast;
145So having tasted Windsor, casting round
My wandring eye, an emulous Hill doth bound,St. Annes Hill.
My more contracted sight, whose top of late
A Chappel crown'd, till in the common fate,
The neighbouring Abbey fell, 26 (may no such stormeChertsey Abbey.
150Fall on our times, where ruine must reforme)
Tell me (my Muse) what monstrous dire Offence?
What crime could any Christian King incense
To such a rage? Wast Luxurie, or Lust?
Was he so temperate, so chast, so just?
155Were these their crimes; they were his owne, much more
But they (alas) were rich, and he was poore;
And having spent the treasures of his Crowne,
Condemnes their Luxurie, to feed his owne;
And yet this act, to varnish o're the shame
160Of sacriledge, must beare devotions name,
And he might thinke it just the cause, and time
Considered well, for none commits a crime
Appearing such, but as 'tis understood,
A reall, or at least a seeming good.
165While for the Church his learned Pen disputes27
His much more learned sword his Pen confutes.
Thus to the Ages past he makes amends,
Their charity destroyes, their faith defends.28
Then did Religion in a lazie Cell,
170In emptie, ayrie contemplations dwell ,
And like the block unmoved lay, but ours
As much too active like the Storke devours.
Is there no temperate Region can be knowne,
Betwixt their frigid, and our Torrid Zone?
175Could we not wake from that Lethargick dreame,
But to be restlesse in a worse extreame?
And for that Lethargy was there no cure,
But to be cast into a Calenture?29
Can knowledge have no bound,but must advance
180So farre,to make us wish for ignorance?
And rather in the darke to grope our way,
Then led by a false guide to erre by day?
Parting from thence 'twixt anger,shame,and feare
Those for what's past, and this for what's too neare:
185My eye discending from the Hill, survayes
Where Thames amongst the wanton valleyes strayesThames.
Thames the most loud of all the Oceans sonnes,
By his old fire to his imbraces runnes,
Hasting to pay his tribute to the Sea,
190Like mortall life to meet Eternity,
And though his clearer sand no golden veynes,
Like Tagus,30and Pactolus31 streames containe,
His genuine, and less guilty wealth t'explore,
Search not his bottome, but behold his shore;
195O're which he kindly spreads his spacious wing,
And hatches plenty for th'ensuing Spring,
Nor with a furious, and unruly wave,
Like profuse Kings, resumes the wealth he gave,
No unexpected Inundations spoyle,
200The Mowers hopes, nor mocke the Plough-mans toyle;
Then like a Lover he forsakes his shores,
Whose stay with jealous eyes his spouse implores;
Till with a parting kisse he saves her teares,
And promising returne, secures her feares;
205As a wise King first settles fruitfull peace
In his owne Realmes, and with their rich increase,
Seeks warre abroad, and then in triumph brings
The spoyles of Kingdomes, and the Crownes of Kings.
So Thames to London doth at first present
210Those tributes, which the neighbouring countries sent,
But as his second visit from the East,
Spices he brings, and treasures from the West.
Findes wealth where 'tis, and gives it where it wants
Cities in Desarts, woods in Cities plants,
215Rounds the whole Globe, and with his flying towers
Brings home to us, and makes both Indies ours32
So that to us no thing, no place is strange
Whilst thy faire bosome is the worlds Exchange:33
O could my verse freely and smoothly flow,
220As thy pure flood, heaven should no longer know
Her old Eridanus,34 thy purer streams
Should bathe the gods, and be the Poets Theame.
Here Nature whether more intent to pleaseThe Forest.
Us or her selfe with strange varieties,
225(For things of wonder more, no less delight
To the wise makers, then beholders sight.
Though these delights from severall causes move,
For so our children thus our friends we love)
Wisely she knew the harmony of things
230Aswell, as that of sounds from discords springs,
Such was the discord, which did first disperse
Forme, order, beauty through the universe;
While drinesse, moysture; coldnesse heat resists;35
All that we have, and that we are subsists:
235While the steepe horrid roughnesse of the wood
Strives with the gentle calmnesse of the flood.
Such huge extremes, when Nature doth unite
Wonder from thence results, from thence delight,
The streame is so transparent, pure, and cleare,
240That had the self-enamourd youth gaz'd here, Narcissus.36
So fatally deceiv'd he had not beene,
While he the bottome, not his face had seene.
And such the roughnesse of the Hill, on which
Dyana37 her toyles,and Mars38 his tents might pitch.
245And as our surly supercilious Lords,
Bigge in their frownes, and haughty in their words,
Look downe on those, whose humble fruitfull paine
Their proud, and barren greatnesse must susteine:
So lookes the Hill upon the streame, betweene
250There lies a spatious, and a fertile Greene,Egham Meade.39
Where from the woods,the Dryades40 oft meet
The Nayades,41 and with their nimble feet,
Soft dances lead, although their airie shape
All but a quicke Poeticke sight escape,
255There Faunus42 and Sylvanus43 keepe their Courts,
And thither all the horrid44 hoast resorts.
(When like the Elixar,45 with his evening beames,
The Sunne has turn'd to gold the silver streames)
To graze the ranker Meade, that noble heard,
260On whose sublime, and shady fronts is rear'd
Natures great Master-piece, to shew how soone
Great things are made, but sooner much undone.
Here have I seene our Charles,46 when great affaires
Give leave to slacken, and unbend his cares,
265Chacing the royall Stagge,47 the gallant beast,
Rowz'd with the noyse 'twixt hope and feare distrest,
Resolv's 'tis better to avoyd, then meet
His danger, trusting to his winged feet:
But when he sees the dogs, now by the view
270Now by the scent his speed with speed pursue,
He tries his friends, amongst the lesser Heard,
Where he but lately was obey'd, and feard,
Safety he seekes, the heard unkindly wise,48
Or chases him from thence, or from him flies,
275Like a delcining Statesman, left forlorne
To his friends pitty, and pursuers scorne.
Wearied, forsaken, and pursude at last
All safety in despaire of safety plac't.
Courage he thence assumes, resolv'd to beare
280All their assaults, since 'tis in vaine to feare,
But when he sees the eager chase renu'd
Himselfe by dogs, the dogs by men pursu'd;
When neither speed, nor art, nor friends, nor force
could helpe him, towards the streame he bends his course.
285Hoping those lesser beasts49 would not assay
An Element, more mercilesse then they.
But fearlesse they pursue, nor can the flood
Quench their dire thirst (alas) they thirst for blood.
As some brave Hero, whom his base foes
290In troops surround, now these assaile, now those
Though prodigall of life, disdains to die
By vulgar hands, but if he can descry
Some Nobler foes approach, to him he cals
And begs his fate, and then contented fals:
295So the tall Stagge, amids the lesser hounds
Repels their force, and wounds returne for wounds,
Till Charles from his unerring hand lets flie
A mortall shaft, then glad, and proud to dye
By such a wound he fals, the Christall flood
300Dying he dyes, and purples50 with his blood:
This a more Innocent, and happy chase
Then when of old, but in the self-same place, Runny Mead where the great Charter51 was first sealed.
Faire liberty pursude, and meant a Prey
To tyranny, here turn'd, and stood at bay.
305When in that remedy all hope was plac't
Which was, or should have been at least the last.
For armed subjects can have no pretence
Against their Princes, but their just defence,
And whether then, or no, I leave to them
310To justifie, who else themselves condemnes
Yet might the fact be just, if we may guesse
The justnesse of an action from successe
Here was that Charter seal'd, wherein the CrowneMagna Charta.
All markes of Arbitrary power layes downe:
315Tyrant and Slave, those names of hate and feare,
The happier style of King and Subject beare:
Happy when both to the same Center move,
When Kings give liberty, and Subjects love.
Therefore not long in force this Charter stood
320Wanting that seale, it must be seal'd in blood.
The subjects arm'd, the more their Princes gave,
But this advantage tooke, the more to crave:
Till Kings by giving, give themselves away,
And even that power, that should deny, betray,
325"Who gives constrain'd, but his owne feare reviles
"Not thank't, but scorn'd, nor are they gifts, but spoyles.
And they, whom no denyall can withstand,
Seeme but to aske, while they indeed command.
Thus all to limit Royalty conspire,
330While each forgets to limit his desire.
Till Kings like old Anteus52 by their fall,
Being forc't, their courage from despaire recall.
When a calme River rais'd with sudden raines,
Or Snowes dissolv'd o'reflowes th'adjoyning Plaines
335The Husbandmen53 with high rais'd bankes secure
Their greedy hopes, and this he can endure.
But if with Bogs, and Dammes they strive to force,
His channell to a new, or narrow course.
No longer then within his bankes he dwels,
340First to a Torrent, then a Deluge swels
Stronger, and fiercer by restraint he roares,
And knowes no bound, but makes his powers his shores:
Thus Kings by grasping more then they can hold,
First made their Subjects by oppressions bold,
345And popular sway by forcing Kings to give
More, then was fit for Subjects to receive,
Ranne to the same extreame, and one excesse
Made both by stirring to be greater, lesse.
Nor any way, but seeking to have more
350Makes either loose, what each possest before.
Therefore their boundlesse power tell Princes draw
Within the Channell, and the shores of Law,
And may that Law, which teaches Kings to swat
Their Scepters, teach their Subjects to obey.


  1. A small hill (c. 220 ft) in Egham, near Windsor. Coopers Hill overlooks Runnymeade, Windsor and the River Thames. Although relatively close to central London and across the river from Heathrow Airport, it is unlikely (though not entirely impossible) that any observer could actually spot the spire of St. Paul's Cathedral, as Denham claims.
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  3. Mount Parnassus, in Greece, the home of the Muses.
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  5. Mount Helicon, in Greece, where two springs sacred to the Muses were located, the Aganippe and the Hippocrene. The waters of the Hippocrene were supposed to bring poetic inspiration.
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  7. Possibly a topical allusion to the High Court of Parliament, though more likely simply alluding to the royal court, i.e., the extended household of the monarch.
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  9. Old St. Paul's Cathedral, that burned down in the Great Fire of London (1666).
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  11. Cf. Edmund Waller's 'Upon His Majesties repairing of Pauls'
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  13. Specifically Puritan zeal, that rebelled against the trappings of old religion.
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  15. Charles I.
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  17. Partly symbols of strength and beauty, as Windsor castle, partly symbols for Charles I and Henrietta Maria, his queen consort. It was common to represent reigning monarchs and their consorts as Mars and Venus in Renaissance painting.
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  19. The master is Charles I, the castle his emblem.
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  21. The goddess Cybele, Phrygian mother of the gods, later adopted into Greek mythology.
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  23. Julius Caesar, who first invaded Britain.
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  25. Albanactus, mythical founding king of the kingdom of Albania, roughly modern-day Scotland
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  27. Brutus of Troy, the legendary founder and first king of Britain.
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  29. King Arthur, legendary Celtic king who fought against the Saxon invasion of Britain; central character in the medieval romances that make up the Matter of Britain.
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  31. King Canute, Danish king of Denmark, England and Norway (the North Sea Empire). Famously portrayed in an anecdote in which he demonstrates the futility of 'trying to stop the tide.'
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  33. The fleurs-de-lis, that is, the French crown. Edward III was the first English king to claim the French throne.
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  35. Edward the Black Prince had a famous victory at Poitiers in 1356 in which he captured his father's rival, King John of France.
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  37. Roman goddess of war
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  39. At one time, Edward III held captive the kings of France and Scotland simultaneously.
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  41. Phillipa of Hainault, Queen consort of Edward III.
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  43. St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle is the chapel of the Order of the Garter.
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  45. Foreign kings and princes, particularly those who were connected to the English royal family through marriage or alliance, were often made knights of the Garter.
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  47. Charles I, descendent of the Scottish Stuarts, and Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henri IV of France.
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  49. A description of the Garter badge.
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  51. The dissolution of the monasteries, ordered by Henry VIII.
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  53. A reference to Henry VIII's treaty Assertio Septem Sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum against the Lutheran reformation, which earned him the title of 'Defender of the Faith' given to him by Pope Leo X, before Henry himself left the Roman Church and created the Anglican Church.
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  55. Allusion to Henry's title as 'Defender of the Faith.'
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  57. Feverish delirium.
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  59. River Tagus that flows through the Iberian Peninsula towards the Atlantic, meeting near Lisbon, Portugal.
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  61. Now known as the river Sart Çayı, runs near the Aegean coast of Turkey. Both rivers were celebrated in antiquity for their golden sands.
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  63. The 'west indies' (America) and India proper.
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  65. As in 'Royal Exchange,' i.e., a place of trade and wealth.
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  67. A classical name for the river Po, in the Italian Alps, but also a name for a constellation in the southern celestial hemisphere.
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  69. Dryness, Moisture, Coldness and Heat are the four 'roots' of all things according to Empedocles. The four elements (fire, water, air, and earth) are formed of pairs of these root qualities.
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  71. In Greek mythology, Narcissus was famed for his beauty and his disdain for those who love him. In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Echo, a nymph falls in love with him. Narcissus shuns her love and for that is punished by Aphrodite, who makes him fall in love with his own reflection and transforms him into a flower
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  73. In Roman mythology, Diana is the goddess of hunting and chastity.
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  75. Roman god of war.
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  77. Referring to a broad grassland between the village of Egham and the Thames which includes Runny Meade and Long Mead.
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  79. Tree nymphs in Greek mythology
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  81. Fresh water nymphs in Greek mythology.
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  83. Roman god of animals.
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  85. Roman god of woodlands.
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  87. Possibly a misprint of 'horned,' as the forest gods are usually represented with horns.
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  89. In alchemy, an elixir is a liquid thought to be able to transform base metals into gold; may also refer to the 'Elixir of Life', a substance thought to grant immortality.
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  91. Charles I
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  93. Stags were amongst the most prized and most noble game. 'Royal' might also refer to his origin in a 'Royal Forest:' only the king and other permitted members of the nobility could hunt in a royal forest.
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  95. Wise beyond their kind (i.e., against their nature), or possibly wise in an unkind manner.
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  97. In the hierarchy of animals, dogs are 'less noble' than stags.
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  99. The colour purple has long been associated with royalty. During the early modern period, sumptuory laws forbade the use of purple by anyone but the highest members of the aristocracy (the monarch, their immediate family, and Dukes).
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  101. The Magna Carta, signed at Runny Meade.
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  103. In Greek mythology, Antaeus was a giant, son of Poseidon and Gaia. Antaeus would challenge passers-by to wrestling matches until eventually he was defeated by Heracles.
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  105. Farmers
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This edition of John Denham's Coopers Hill was prepared for SEL2218: Research Project in English and History by Dr. Tiago Sousa Garcia. It does not constitute a critical edition but rather an enhanced transcript. The notes are partly derived from Brendan O Hehir's Expans'd hieroglyphicks: a critical edition of Sir John Denham's Coopers Hill (Berkeley, University of California Press: 1969). The text was encoded in TEI-XML and transformed into HTML using an XSLT transformation (ask Tiago if you want to know more). You can find the source TEI files here and the XSLT transformation here.

Laste update: Wednesday, 22nd January 2020