So how many of you know today that name of Thomas Flatman? A writer whose memory has, perhaps, degraded in the march of time, Flatman was nevertheless an influential and clear-cut sample of the poetic skill of his day–as well as a fine painter, at that, as seen by the self-work showcased to the side.
Like many of his contemporaries (bearing in mind that this was the 1600s), religion was something of a center-point for Flatman, and it showed in much of his writing. Whether a factor, or the cause, one also finds in his words a very radiant sort of moral compass–just wait until you see what stuck in his craw in his work today.
It was perhaps that moral code, that engrained sense of loyalty and honor, which led Flatman to declare so staunchly as a Royalist (Cavalier). A royalist, you ask, why–do you mean a supporter of the crown? I most assuredly do, but in his day, the term went so much deeper than that. For his time was the age of the English Civil War, when the English parliament took up arms against King Charles I and his son, and would eventually lead to the brief creation of the Commonwealth of England, under Oliver Cromwell. Despite his views, Flatman survived that turbulent period until Charles II took the throne, and even wrote a poem to commemorate the event.
Now, today’s poem will probably strike a bit of a smirk in you, and it certainly has a fire to it. It prods at something of a common trend of old–and certainly one that still applies today…
Whose life at best is but a span?
When to an inch it dwindles down,
Ice in his bones, snow on his Crown,
That he within his crazy brain,
Kind thoughts of Love should entertain,
That he, when Harvest comes should plow
And when ’tis time to reap, go sowe,
Who in imagination only strong,
Tho’ twice a Child, can never twice grow youngII.
Nature did those design for Fools,
That sue for work, yet have no tools.
What fellow feeling can there be
In such a strange disparity?
Old age mistakes the youthful breast,
Love dwels not there, but interest:
Alas Good Man! take thy repose,
Get ribband for thy thumbs, and toes,
Provide thee flannel, and a sheet of lead,
Think on thy Coffin, not thy bridal bed.