To ‘truck for trade with darksome things’:
Faithful Teate’s ‘Epithalamium’ (1655) and Cromwell’s ‘Western Design’
University College Dublin
Angelina Lynch. "To ‘truck for trade with darksome things’: Faithful Teate’s ‘Epithalamium’ (1655) and Cromwell’s ‘Western Design’". Early Modern Literary Studies 14.3 (January, 2009) 7.1-32 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/14-3/Lyncteat.html>.
I cannot but apprehend that the words of my text bear respect to Israels coming up from the Wildernesse of the land of Egypt by Josuahs conduct. (sig. a2)In Teate’s discourse, therefore, the Song of Solomon becomes yoked to the narrative of exploration and occupation found in the book of Joshua rather than the trope of marriage and / or sexual consummation. The ‘Epithalamium’, then, is Teate’s dramatisation of the hermeneutical paradigm established in the prefaces to A Scripture-map – indeed in his introduction to the poem he refers to it as ‘but a Contraction of that Discourse’ – and consequently represents a divergence from the poetic model of the love lyric of the Song of Solomon and a move towards the epic narratives of Exodus and Joshua, and the prophetic visions of Revelation. Teate’s eschewing of the imagery of Canticles for that contained in the more violent and apocalyptic biblical books not only allowed him to dispense with a disquietingly ‘carnal’ metaphor for spiritual love, it also provided him with tropological language more suited to alluding to the Anglo-Spanish conflict taking place in the Atlantic colonies.
in the capacity of Israel, upon the Borders of Canaan, lately brought out of Egyptian Bondage. They are entred the Land, and the Walls of Jericho, are fallen by Faith, they have got footing and what now must be done. They must proceed according to command, to destroy the inhabitants of the Land which God hath promised to give them.24
After the Peace concluded in the Year 1605, a Ship called the Mary, Ambrose Birch, being Master, was in Trade upon the North-side of Hispaniola in the West Indies; and the Master with six of his Company being enticed on Shore by a priest called Father John, to see some Merchandize, under promise of secure and fair Trading, and twelve Spaniards going aboard the Ship to view the English Wares; whilst the English merchants were shewing them their Merchandize, nothing doubting of any fraud, the Watch-word being given from the shore by the Priest, every Spaniard drew out a great Knife, and stabbed all the English men aboard, except two that leaped into the Sea, and the rest on shore were put to strange deaths, and the Master himself was stripped naked, and bound to a tree with cords, and so pinched and stung to death, being naked, by Mosqueto’s; where continuing about twenty hours, a Negro hearing a man roar, and cry in that extremity, and finding him, ran him through with his Lance.26The passage incorporates many of the pernicious traits assigned to the Spanish in Protestant propaganda of the time. The Spaniard is inherently treacherous and mercenary, in thrall to the priest and he would, given the opportunity, enslave or murder every freeborn, godly Englishman alive. It is also a classic example of puritan historiography for its suggestive conflation of the historical and the biblical, in this case the gospel narrative of Christ’s crucifixion. The ‘Master’, Ambrose Birch, is ‘enticed’ on to the shore by the Spanish priest under false pretences, betrayed and then ‘stripped naked and bound to a tree’ where he is left in agony for twenty hours before a Negro stabs him ‘through with his Lance’. Birch is never compared to Christ directly but enough parallels are suggested for readers to make the connection for themselves. This genre of ‘historical’ writing, which was predicated on its readers recognising the victimization of Protestants by Catholics as the contemporary antitype of the suffering of the Israelites and of Christ himself, underpins the ‘Epithalamium’.
The realm of subjectivity, what Kristeva calls the symbolic world, is dominated by Lacan’s law of the Father: it is a world of Self and Other, subjectivity and objectivity, law and government, paternity. The pre-symbolic world, what Kristeva calls the semiotic modality, is identified with the maternal, the abjected, the pre-verbal and the rhythmic. Crucially, these two worlds do not remain apart. Although for the symbolic world of paternity to exist it must abject the maternal, this pre-symbolic modality remains necessary for the continued existence of the symbolic, and often erupts into the world and destabilizes it.27This process, as Killeen goes on to state, provides a useful model for examining the development of the Protestant sense of self after the Reformation: in order for Protestantism to establish itself, it must continually evoke the ‘mother’ church only to recast and reject it as a ‘whore’.
In Ezekiel 29.3, when God announces the punishment of Pharaoh, “the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers,” he does so in terms that strongly suggest a crocodile, which is in any case associated with the Nile: “I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales” (Ezek. 29.3). God speaks of the Leviathan in Job 41.1 in similar terms: “Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? Or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?” he asks.28Sightings of ‘crocodiles’ (which were in fact alligators) also appeared in accounts of the New World that were written and reprinted throughout the late sixteenth and seventeenth century. The following account of Captain John Hawkins, who came across crocodiles on his way to the West Indies in 1565, echoes Teate’s description almost one hundred years later:
In this River we saw Crocodiles of sundry bignesses, but some as big as a boat, with 4 feete, a long broad mouth, and a long taile, whose skin is so hard, that a sword will not pierce it … His nature is ever when hee would have his prey, to cry and sobbe like a Christian body, to provoke them to come to him, and then hee snatcheth at them, and thereupon came this proverbe that is applied unto women when they weepe, Lachrymae Crocodili, the meaning whereof is, that as the Crocodile when he crieth goeth then about most to deceive, so doeth a woman most commonly when shee weepeth.29In the ‘Epithalamium’ Teate is, in effect, conflating the speaker of the poem set afloat in his ‘Bulrush-Ark’ with men such as John Hawkins and the unfortunate Ambrose Birch: godly English captains of perilous voyages to the colonies whose stories took on a powerful resonance in the context of the Western Design and England’s renewed hostilities against Spain. The crocodile, as we have already seen, was associated with the ‘dragon’ Pharaoh, a tyrant who was in turn identified by Protestant commentators as a biblical type of the Catholic Church and its supporters.
’Tis clear to me that the late war (in this Nation) was not an accidental War (as some seem to judge it) but the absolute appearances of God (by his spirit in his people) against the powers of the world, which are Antichristian. Now if it be lawful for the spirit to war against the flesh (which is granted of all) then it must be so in the general, as well betwixt people of several Nations, as betwixt the people of one Nation, one against the other.35The ‘war’ between spirit and flesh – the ostensible theme of the ‘Epithalamium’ – is presented by the author of the A Dialogue as a microcosm for the actual war between the ‘darkness’ of popery and the ‘spiritual light’ of Protestantism taking place in the West Indies, and it is conceivable that Teate’s readers too would have ‘match[ed] inner and outer frames of awareness’, associating the ‘wildernesse’ of his poem with the Atlantic colonies – both those under Spanish rule, and those under English jurisdiction – that refused to give whole-hearted support to Cromwell’s military campaign in the region.
May pride of life, the lusts of flesh and eye,For the manner in which it equates the spiritual war against the ‘pride of life, the lusts of flesh and eye’ with the actual war against ‘Austria, Spain [and] the Pope’, Jenkyn’s poem could easily serve as a coda to the ‘Epithalamium’, as well as a preface to Ter Tria.
Be poison’d by these leaves of thine, and die.
If any other three, I’de with were down,
’Tis Austria, Spain, the Pope with’striple Crown.
This latter Vote if th’ King of Kings would make
An Act, I’de willingly the Earth forsake.37
Epithalamium, or a Love-Song of the Leaning-Soul
An Orphan, in a Bulrush-Ark bound fast,
(Vain Childhoods Emblem) when I h’d suck’d a while,
Like cruell stepdame Nature did me cast,
By Miry Banks afloat the sides of Nile.
Here crawl’s a Tearfull Crocodile:
There comes a woman with a smile.
The Crocodile creeps after me apace,
And weeps as’t creeps, and cries, thy friend, thy friend,
I look’d and list’ned, but soon turn’d my face;
Jealous at first: but whilst I did attend, 
Did Educations Eccho send
A Counter-Cry, thy end, thy end.
And now my fear hav’ng put me on my flight,
Poor wretch! what hast I might I made away.
No sooner was I gotten out of sight
Of that Pursuer, and into’ther Bay,
But th’ woman comes, in bright array,
Unto that Creek, and makes her stay.
In curious curles her Locks division’d are
To Captivate beholders, Golden wire 
Made into snares: Her breasts are all made bare.
(Naked Temptation’s more, shee counts, than tire)
The hills where wantons make their fire
In sacrifice to Lusts desire.
(I since have heard that she belong’d to th’ Court:
A darling Minion of th’ Egyptian King’s,
That Syre of Negroes, to whose Coasts resort
Such as will truck for Trade with darksome things,
Whose soule’s at sale; whole Egypt rings
Oth’ Custom that such Traffique brings)
This was her Haunt, here Natures high-tide spring 
The Children of Gods Israel (secured
From the birth-perill) all afloat doth bring:
Whom she by lying Vanities allur’d,
And of full fleshpots first Ensur’d,
To Brick-kiln-bake’-meats oft inured.
My son, said she, how cam’st thou thus afloat
In a Cold Ark, and Colder Element?
Behold my Bosom warmer than thy Boat:
What more restorative for Nutriment?
Here Bed and Board: My Breasts are pent, 
I’le give thee all to give them vent.
Look, look you, here’s whole Worlds divided Treasure!
This Breast’s the one half-globe, and that the other:
What one can suck them both, and want for pleasure?
Honor distills from th’ one, and Wealth from th’other
If busie Conscience make a poother,
Suck hard and that shall quickly smother.
With that my foolish heart began to dream
(When I saw milk run down her Breasts so fast)
Of housing in her Bosom; and the Theme 
How sweet to thought, to sense how gratefull was’t?
Affections clos’d and Mind embrac’t:
And all towards her made too much hast.
But just as I was stretching forth mine Hand,
Having in heart quite sold my self that day,
Me thought I spi’d some Negroes on the strand,
That fast by, in close posture, lurking lay;
And streight bethought what I h’d heard say
Of spirits stealing youth away.
Mine Heart draws in, suspitious of some Craft, 
Mine hand it recollects, evades the while:
Meantime, Afflictions Hurricanos Waft
Me crosse that Channell; sounding all the while,
Trust thou no more this Womans smile
Than the tears of the Crocodile.
Transported thus, and landed safe ashore,
I find my soul transported in my Breast;
This Land being so remote from that before,
I thought those foes in earnest, Friends in jest
Could never more my soul infest; 
This is, said I, the Land of Rest.
Shod with self-confidence, and girt in mind
I trac’t about, not doubting but to light
Soon on such lodging as I long’d to find:
But stumbled on the left and on the right,
Yea this and that did cast me quite,
So that more Waies, more Woe’s in sight.
Seeking, alas! my self was quickly Lost,
Yet found full many a path where Beasts had bin
Thwarting each other, Each by th’other crost: 
And I ’midst all perplex’t: intangled in
Thickets: it seems ’twas Desert-SIN,
And this, or none, must be mine Inne.
Thus housed in this dark and shady Bowre,
Yet having here and there an hole for light,
The sunsets in a cloud, and half an hour
Draws round the sable Curtains of the night:
This dark damps hope, and fills with fright,
Thus to see nothing, O sad sight!
My passion now breaks out in flings and throwes, 
No bread, No bed, whereon to feed, to lie!
I rush’t amidst the Bowre and streight arose
A Circling sound, a wind went whistling by,
And as it came it seem’d to cry
No food, no food, no food but I.
Thus having giv’n a rush in discontent
Whilst passion did weak Reason overbear,
I heard, and felt as well as heard, a Rent;
(Oh! the sad Bed, the bed of Thornes was there.)
Sounding as Cloaths and flesh did teare, 
No bed but here, but here, but here.
I heard the Lions roar, the Dragons howl,
Fierce Wolves and Leopards ranging to and fro;
Next lit upon my Lodge a flaming scroul;
By th’ light it cast I read th’ Inscription, Wo.
I sate on thorns, yet thence nor go,
Nor durst I cry, my fears were so.
These howling hunt, and hunting howl the more;
And yet as though the saddest sound did misse
In this confused consort, Heavens roar 
With thunder-claps: A fiery Worm there is
Just in my bed makes such an Hisse,
Out-fears are small compar’d to this,
Which when I heard, and look’d but saw no aid,
What self-tormentings worry, tear, and bait?
I am a Prey by a Prolepsis made:
Mine heart doth Death and Doomes-day antedate;
Fear first doth kill, then re-create;
Thus Horrour Hell doth imitate.
At length through Crannies of my black bed-tester 
Breaks in the lightsom star of long’d for day:
You never saw a Rising Sun at Easter
So drest on its (suppos’d) best Holy-day.
Said I, if such be th’ Day-star’s Ray,
What Glory, Lord! shall Noon display?
My God, said I, let me but see that sun:
Break day; break heart; Rise Sun of Righteousnesse!
Lo yonder’s He! wo’s me, I am undone!
Unclean in heart and lips! yet must confesse
I (then the least of Mercies lesse) 
Have seen that Sun, ’midst dark Distresse.
Let the remembrance never quit my Breast
How seav’n daies light the first appearance brings;
And as a mighty Eagle on her Nest,
This mighty Sun doth spread his beaming wings:
Mine heart was full of thorns and stings,
But O these raies were healing things!
Whilst such delights exiled all my fears,
Clos’d up my Rents, compos’d my troubled breast,
Fed busie sight, like glory fil’d mine Eares 
A voice that cannot yet must be exprest:
That joyful sound for ever blest
May’t with mine heart for ever rest.
Bewildred long, but not Deserted one
Come with me from the Lions Den away,
From Leopards Mountains, and from Lebanon;
Chosen of old, in Desert found today;
While grace makes wildernesse its Way,
For thee doth Love-pav’d Chariot stay.
Then answer’d I (and answ’ring brake mine heart): 
Satan’s a Crocodile; the world’s a whore;
Sin is a Wildernesse: Cut off my part
In this Black Trinity that fooles adore.
My god, Chief good, sole guide, thou art:
Here let me lean, hence never start.
If my Desert kept not thy Love from me,
Sure’ts thy Desert that I should Lean on thee.
My Christ, this is my Groan, my cry.
Let me Lean on thee, Live or die.
Live, oh! how can I live so Love-sickly? 
Hold head or heart breaks: Let me Lean or Dye:
Who dies and Leans not, doth in Dying Dye:
Who Leans and dies not, leans too sparingly.
Who leans and dies doth in the Bosom lie.
Oh! my heart breaks Lord, let me lean and die!
Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.
© 2009-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).