15 July 2012

Writers in Churches in Nottinghamshire #2: John Oldham at Holme Pierrepont

This memorial to the poet John Oldham (1653–83), reminiscent of Grinling Gibbons, is one of the first features to greet the visitor to St Edmund church at Holme Pierrepont.

 The Latin inscripton reads:

'M. S.
OLDHAMI poetæ quo nemo
sacro fvrore plenior, nemo rebvs
svblimior avt verbis felicivs
avdax! Cvjvs famam omni ævo
propria ſatis conſecrabvnt carmina
qvem inter primos Honoratiſsimi
amplexvs Variolis correptvm hev!
nimis immatvra mors rapvit et
in cæleſtem tranſtvlit chorvm
Natvs SHIPTON, in agro GLOU
CESTRENSI. in avla Sancti
Obiit 19 April anni Dom
1683 ÆSTATIS 30.'

Essentially, the translation of the above is that the memorial is dedicated to the daring poet Oldham from Shipton, Gloucestershire, a graduate of St Edmunds Hall, Oxford, who was highly esteemed by William, Earl of Kingston, but who died of smallpox on 19 April, 1683, at the age of 30.

A guest of the Earl of Kingston's at Holme Pierrepont Hall, Oldfield died here.

Dryden wrote a poem, 'To the Memory of Mr. Oldman', in 1684:

'Farewell, too little, and too lately known,
Whom I began to think and call my own:
For sure our souls were near allied, and thine
Cast in the same poetic mold with mine.
One common note on either lyre did strike,
And knaves and fools we both abhorred alike.
To the same goal did both our studies drive;
The last set out the soonest did arrive.
Thus Nisus fell upon the slippery place,
While his young friend performed and won the race.
O early ripe! to thy abundant store
What could advancing age have added more?
It might (what nature never gives the young)
Have taught the numbers of thy native tongue.
But satire needs not those, and wit will shine
Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line.
A noble error, and but seldom made,
When poets are by too much force betrayed.
Thy generous fruits, though gathered ere their prime,
Still showed a quickness; and maturing time
But mellows what we write to the dull sweets of rhyme.
Once more, hail and farewell; farewell, thou young,
But ah too short, Marcellus of our tongue;
Thy brows with ivy, and with laurels bound;
But fate and gloomy night encompass thee around.'

(I visited this church because of the Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham's Open Churches Weekends (Saturday and Sunday 14 and 15 July and 21 and 22 July 2012). Details of participating churches and opening times are listed here.)

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