Sir John Suckling's Campaigne.
When the Scottish Covenanters rose up in arms, and advanced to the English borders in 1639, many of the courtiers complimented the king by raising forces at their own expense. Among these none were more distinguished than the gallant Sir John Suckling, who raised a troop of horse so richly accoutred, that it cost him 12,000l. The like expensive equipment of other parts of the army, made the king remark, that "the Scots would fight stoutly, if it were but for the Englishmen's fine cloaths." [Lloyd's Memoirs.] When they came to action, the rugged Scots proved more than a match for the fine showy English: many of whom behaved remarkably ill, and among the rest this splendid troop of Sir John Suckling's.
This humorous pasquil has been generally supposed to have been written by Sir John as a banter upon himself. Some of his contemporaries, however, attributed it to Sir John Mennis, a wit of those times, among whose poems it is printed in a small poetical miscellany, intitled, "Musarum Deliciae: or the Muses' Recreation, containing several pieces of poetique wit," 2d edition. By Sir J. M. [Sir John Mennis] and Ja. S. [James Smith]. London, 1656, I2mo. (See Wood's Athenę, ii. 397, 418.) In that copy is subjoined an additional stanza, which probably was written by this Sir John Mennis, viz.
But now there is peace, he's return'd to increase,
His money, which lately he spent-a,
But his lost honour must lye still in the dust;
At Barwick away it went-a.
SIR John he got him an ambling nag,
To Scotland for to ride-a,
With a hundred horse more, all his own he swore,
To guard him on every side-a.
No Errant-knight ever went to fight
With halfe so gay a bravado,
Had you seen but his look, you'ld have sworn on a book,
Hee'ld have conquer'd a whole armado.
The ladies ran all to the windows to see
So gallant and warlike a sight-a,
And as he pass'd by, they said with a sigh,
Sir John, why will you go fight-a?
But he, like a cruel knight, spurr'd on;
His heart would not relent-a,
For, till he came there, what had he to fear?
Or why should he repent-a?
The king (God bless him!) had singular hopes
Of him and all his troop-a,
The borderers they, as they met him on the way,
For joy did hollow, and whoop-a.
None lik'd him so well, as his own colonell,
Who took him for John de Wert-a;[ 1]
But when there were shows of gunning and blows,
My gallant was nothing so pert-a.
For when the Scots army came within sight,
And all prepared to fight-a,
He ran to his tent, they ask'd what he meant,
He swore he must needs goe sh*te-a.
The colonell sent for him back agen,
To quarter him in the van-a,
But Sir John did swear, he would not come there,
To be kill'd the very first man-a.
To cure his fear, he was sent to the reare,
Some ten miles back and more-a;
Where Sir John did play at trip and away,
And ne'er saw the enemy more-a.
1. John de Wert was a German general of great reputation, and the terror of the French in the reign of Louis XIII. Hence his name became proverbial in France, where be was called De Vert.-- See Bayle's Dictionary.