James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

June 24

The Death of Hampden

By Pakenham Beatty (1855–1930)

  • One of the “five members” impeached by Charles I. He was mortally wounded at Chalgrove Field and died a week after on June 24, 1643.

  • Scene.—A tent in the Parliamentary camp. Hampden lies wounded, and Cromwell is bending over him.

    Hampden.—Spare all who yield; alas, that we must pierce one English heart for England!

    Cromwell.—How he raves! The fever is at height.

    Hampden.—I thank you, sir. My wound is nothing; a little loss of blood;

    I fear much more must flow from worthier veins

    Ere England’s hurt be healed.

    Crom.—How powerful are base things to destroy!

    The brute’s part in them kills the god’s in us,

    And robs the world of many glorious deeds;

    In all the histories of famous men

    We never find the greatest overthrown

    Of such as were their equals, but the head,

    Screened of its laurels from the lightning’s flash,

    Falls by some chance blow of an obscure hand,

    And glory cannot guard the hero’s heart

    Against the least knave’s dagger.

    Hamp.—You cannot help me.

    Save yourself, sir; my best prayers keep you safe—

    I fain would win as far as yonder house;

    It was my dear dead wife’s; such shapes are there

    As I would see about my dying bed,

    To make me sure of heaven—Forgive me, love,

    That I am loath to come yet to thy heart;

    I have only lived without thee, O my best,

    That I might live for England! Is Cromwell come?

    Crom.—How it is with you, cousin?

    Hamp.—Very well.

    With hope to be soon better; gentle cousin,

    I have scant time to speak and much to say,

    That thou must hear—Men’s eyes more clearly see,

    Ere the long darkness; and thus plagues, and wars,

    Earthquake, and overthrow of prosperous states,

    Have been foretold by lips of dying men,

    Who saw their country’s end before their own;

    But I die happy; with a joy too keen

    For this weak wounded body, and delight

    Of eager youth that dreams of noble deeds;

    Knowing the greatness in thee, which occasion

    Has not yet shown the world, and thine own self

    Hast only dimly guessed at—These hands I hold

    Shall bear the weight of England’s greatness up;

    Thy name, mine own dear kinsman’s, shall have sound

    More royal than all crowned kings’; the slave

    Shall murmur it in dreams of liberty.

    The patriot in his dungeon, and endure,

    The tyrant, and grow merciful for fear;

    And when thou hast done high and song-worthy deeds,

    At length shall come thy poet, whose purer eyes

    God shall exclude from sight of our gross Earth,

    And for the dull light of our darker day

    Give all heaven to his vision, star with star

    Shining, and splendid and sonorous spheres

    To make him music; and those sacred lips,

    More eloquent than the Mantuan’s, praising thee,

    Shall make thy fame a memory for all time,

    And set a loftier laurel on thy head

    Than any gathered from red fields of war;

    So great shall England’s great need make thee, Cromwell;

    Whom thou forget not still to love and serve,

    Holding thy greatness given to make her great,

    Thy strength to keep her strong; then (since oblivion

    Is what men chiefly fear in death), dear cousin,

    I would not be forgotten of thy love.

    And now I am loath the last words I shall speak

    Must be of strife—yet I must utter them;

    Be not of those that vex the angry times

    With meek-mouthed proffers of rejected peace;

    When men have set the justice of their cause

    To sharp arbitrament of answering arms,

    Tongues should keep mute, and steel hold speech with steel,

    Till victory can plead the conquered’s cause,

    And make soft mercy no more dangerous.

    We must o’ercome our foes to make them friends……

    Thy hand, dear cousin…… Sweet, I hear thy voice

    That calls me, and leave England for thy sake;

    Kiss me, dear love, and take my soul to God!……

    Receive my soul, Lord Jesus! O God, save

    My country…… God be merciful to….

    Crom.—O Lord of Hosts, if thou wilt only give me

    An England with but three such Englishmen,

    My life shall be as noble as this man’s……

    Farewell, dear cousin, perfect heart that beats

    No more for England…… Think of me in Heaven,

    And help to make me all thou saidst I should be,……
    [Kneels down by the bed. Rising, and looking steadfastly at the dead body of Hampden.]

    Yea, and I shall be.