Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Thomas Heyrick: On the Death of a Monkey


Here Busy and yet Innocent lyes Dead,
       Two things, that seldom meet:
No Plots nor Stratagems disturb'd his head,
       Or's his merry Soul did fret:
He shew'd like Superannuated Peer,
Grave was his look, and Politick his Air;
And he for Nothing too spent all his care.

But that he died of Discontent, 'tis fear'd,
       Head of the Monkey Rout;
To see so many Brother Apes preferr'd,
       And he himself left out:
On all below he did his Anger show'r,
Fit for a Court did all above adore,
H'had Shows of Reason, and few Men have more.


Published 1691. The theme that humans are no better than apes may have started to flourish at times of public cynicism. Heyrick (who must be one of the few British writers not to have a Wikipedia page yet) wrote another poem on the same theme, and was fascinated by exotic animals: his oeuvre covers the peacock, the crocodile, the whale, the phoenix and the "Indian Tomineios" (hummingbird).