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John Cleveland

John Cleveland (1613 – 1658), was born on this day in 1613, Loughborough, UK, he was an English poet, very popular in his time, but in later years an abused Metaphysical poet, many considering his poems merely intellectual gymnastics, he was well known for throwing in words in his poems not because they actually made sense, but because they rhymed with a previous word he wanted to use. Cleveland’s real achievement lay in his political poems, which were mostly written in heroic couplets and satirized contemporary people and issues.

Educated at Cambridge, Cleveland became a fellow there before joining the Royalist army at Oxford in 1643. In 1645–46 he was judge advocate with the garrison at Newark until it surrendered to the Parliamentary forces. When King Charles I put himself in the hands of the Scots’ army and they turned him over to the Parliamentary forces, Cleveland condemn his enemies in a famous satire, “The Rebel Scot.” Imprisoned for “delinquency” in 1655, Cleveland was released on appeal to Oliver Cromwell, however he did not renounce his royalist convictions.

Cleveland’s poems first appeared in The Character of a London Diurnal (1647) and thereafter in some 20 other collections. His achievement lay in political, satirical verses written mainly in heroic couplets. Here is his elegy for BenJonson:

An Elegy On Ben Jonson

WHO first reform’d our Stage with justest Lawes,

And was the first best Judge in his owne Cause?

Who (when his Actors trembled for Applause)

Could (with a noble Confidence) preferre

His owne, by right, to a whole Theater;

From Principles which he knew could not erre.

Who to his FABLE did his Persons fitt,

With all the Properties of Art and Witt,

And above all (that could bee Acted) writt.

Who publique Follies did to covert drive,

Which hee againe could cunningly retrive,

Leaving them no ground to rest on, and thrive.

Heere IONSON lies, whom had I nam’d before

In that one word alone, I had paid more

Then can be now, when plentie makes me poore.


Published by poetisatinta

I was born and live in rural North Wales (UK) and found poetry again after a lifetime, so grateful I did :)

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