(28)  Coppinger the Poet


Matthew Coppinger. Whether it is the privilege of the Irish or English Coppingers to claim this eccentric character we are unable to state. There is in existence a printed tract which proffesses to give an account of his birth and parentage, but we have not succeeded in finding a copy. There is no copy in the British Museum, but a Dr. Rimault, in a communication to Notes and Queries in 1877[1]refers to the tract in such a way as to lead one to suppose he had seen a copy. It is entitled "An Account of the Life, Conversation, Birth, Education, Pranks, Projects, Exploits, and Merry Conceits of the Famously Notorious Mat. Coppinger, once a Player in the Bartholomew Fair, and since turned Bully of the Town, who, receiving sentence of death at the Old Bailey on the 23rd of February, was executed at Tyburn on the 27th, 1695. London: Printed for T.Hobs, 1695."

He wrote a volume of adulatory verses, calculated for the meridian in which he lived. This volume, which is of great rarity, is entitled "Poems, Songs, and Love-Verses upon Several Subjects, by Matthew Coppinger, Gent." It was printed in London in 1682, and dedicated to the Duchess of Portsmouth, of whom, amongst a hundred extravagant things, he says: 

"You are the Darling of my King, His Pleasure,
His Indies of incomparable Treasure:
That precious gem, who from your country came,
Too narrow for the limits of your fame,
Into the bosom of a King who knows
What 'tis for to deserve, and to dispose."

He commenced his dedication thus: 

"Madam, it is but just, since you receive
All the delights our Sovereign can give,
That we, in gratitude unto our King,
Shou'd to your Highness bring an offering."

The following are one or two examples of the peculiar lines of this volume:-

De Sacerdote qui Caniculum in Cœmeterio Sepelivit.

A wealthy Thuscan priest, of no mean note,
One who cou'd say his Decalogue by rote,
And Pater-noster too, and, if such need,
Cou'd make a repitition of his creed,
Had a small dog he did so much regard,
That dead, he buried him in the Church-yard;
The Bishop glad that he had got a claw
Whereby to get the Priest into his paw,
Summons him to a strict examination
Of his so irreligious violation
Of Holy ground.  The Priest, who knew his mind,
How much he was to avarice inclin'd,
Appears, and with him brings full fifty pound,
Which we knew well wou'd make the matter sound.
The Bishop urg'd the crime, and so far went,
That he, poor man, must be to prison sent;
To whom the Priest, My Father, did you know
How much to that loving creature owe,
And how in wisdom he did antecede
All that I ever knew was of the breed,
I am sure you wou'd not blame my action then,
Since he deserv'd a burial among men,
For whilst he liv'd, and did enjoy his breath,
He was as wise as men, but more in death.
The Bishop ask't him how.  The Priest reply'd,
He wisely made his Will before he dy'd;
And knowing that it was a pious deed,
He left you fifty pounds to help your need;
With that produc'd the money.  Sure, reply'd
The Bishop, never dog more fairely dy'd;
And God forbid I shou'd detract
From this your zeal in such a pious act.
If you have more, let there be set apart,
A place to bury dogs of such desert."

To Madam Lambert.

Now, Madam, since you have sustain'd a loss,
Which all the pleasures of your life may cross,
And such a loss as all loss doth exceed,
Whose very name may make your heart to bleed;
Yet comfort take, since he is gone before,
To wait your coming at the heavenly door,
Where you shall enter an immortal bride,
With saints and angels to be glorify'd.
Nor let it be a grief that you have none
To pattern your dead Lord, I mean a son.
His vertues have immortaliz'd his name,
And still he lives in perennial fame.

My friend John Clement t'other day,
                Was very sick and like to dye,
And, as 'twas thought, did only stay               
                To bare Tom Flavel company.

He made his Will, and all his lands               
                By testament were mine to spend,
And soon had come into my hands,               
                If death, like him, had been my friend.

But, curse it, unawares
                That wicked rogue Tom Flavel dy'd,
At which my friend John Clement swears
                The rascal did it out of pride.

With that he bid'em fill his grave,
                And (truly) swore he would not dye,
Since the unlucky peevish slave
                Had slighted thus his company.

So, I who half an-hour ago
                Built lofty castles in the air,
Did to my sorow quickly know,
                I was an heir, not worth a hair.

Heredem scripsit me Numa convaluit.


Alas! fond Painter, who dost strive to grace
An unknown goddess with a fancy'd face?
I am the daughter of the Tongue, and Wind
An empty Mother, Voice without a Mind.
I dying sounds fetch back with living tone,
And others mock with words that are my own.
I in thy ears my habitation found,
And if thou mean'st to paint me, paint a Sound.

A Dialogue between an Ethiopian and a White Virgin.

Vir.                Affright me not, you urge your suit in vain,
                More fear than love your hellish looks have bred,
                Eternal terror seize you for your pain;
                Think you I'll take a Devil to my bed?

                Go court the darkness, wed thyself to night;
                Fry in your sands, and search for grains of gold;               
                O sun, how canst thou thus behold a sight
                That will thy glorious beams in darkness fold!

                Sure thou are Pluto, ugly infernal Prince,
                Begone, I say, begone to the Divine
                And beautious creature that didst ravish hence,
                The lovely, fair, and charming Prosperine.

Eth.                Whitest of whites, more lovely than the day,
                Which from the East in radiant beams appears,
                More lovely to my sight than Cynthia,
                Which twice six times a year her beauty clears.

                Despise me not because I am black;
                The sun you speak of lyes so neer our land,
                We have him in our face, you on your back;
                Nay, sometimes with him we walk hand in hand.

                Since then that he who the whole world surveys,
                Doth deal his blessings with partiality,
                You he does warm, us scorcheth with his rays,
                Your beauty works the like effect on me.

Vir.                My beauty, Slave! stop that presumptious word;
                Shall such a harpy ever speak my name?
                Does earth another Cacus yet afford?
                What, was I born to be a sport to fame?

                Thou art that brand the fatal sisters threw
                Into the fire, at Meleager's birth,
                Which half consum'd, in hast Althæa drew
                Out of the flame; begone, thou, Son of Earth!

Eth.                Alas! too cruel Nymph, despise me not;
                A slave I am, but unto none but you.
                Whiteness in you none counteth as a spot;
                And in our Black lies our chief glory too.

                The day is pleasant unto every sight,               
                And all men praise the Glory of the Sun;
                Yet when 'tis gone, how soon they hug the night,
                And sleeping, in its sable bosom run.

                'Tis only fancy moves the sphere of Love;
                No colour wards, where Cupid shoots his dart;
                Thou God, who all things with thy power dost move,
                With one small touch O wound this Virgin's heart.

                That she who doth thy power so much despise,
                May quickly by experience learn to know,
                Thou only giv'st those leave to tyrannize
                That pay submission to thy conquering bow.

                Observe the rainbow, view the colours there,
                Looks it not pleasant unto every eye?
                Diversity of colours makes it fair:
                Discord in musick makes an harmony.
                Since then that I am Black, and you are Fair,
                What a sweet Babe may come from such a pair!

It seems that the author of the above lines was hanged at Tyburn for stealing a watch and seven pounds in money.[2]

[1] 2nd series, vol. vii., page 409.

[2] Merrie England in the Olden Times, vol. i., pp. 280-1.


Contact us by e-mail   mailto:copinger@talktalk.net

This page was last updated on 25-Mar-2002

Copyright © 2000 D. P. & E. Copinger