September 16, 2014
Poem in support of British union up for sale
by Nick Davies
As Scotland prepares to vote on a referendum on breaking off from the United Kingdom to become an independent country, a poem that champions the case for union between England and Scotland has come to light. Alison Flood writes for the Guardian that a unique copy of a poem by Restoration-era playwright Elkanah Settle, titled “Carmen irenicum: The Union of the Imperial Crowns of Great Britain,” has gone on sale.
Written in 1707, the poem is dedicated to Queen Anne, who was monarch when the Acts of Union first established the Kingdom of Great Britain. It depicts her, Flood writes, as “a proud, jealous defender of a united Britain,” and ultimately triumphant. Part of the poem reads, “How shall She deck the proud Imperial Robe, / And how, how tune her whole Harmonious Globe; / Not only hush Ambition into Peace: / She can ev’n make Religious Discord cease.”
Antiquarian bookseller Bernard Quaritch revealed the 300-year-old book; the binding features emblems of England and Scotland — a rose and thistle, respectively — above a dove representing peace between the countries. Bernard Quaritch staffer Mark James explains that the union sparked a good deal of poetry when it passed, both in favor and opposed, and “Settle’s is one of the better known.”
Bernard Quaritch has priced the unique books at £3,250 (about $5,275), and James says that they already have a prospective buyer in an American library.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.