? The poem ‘New Prince’

By October 19, 2018 General Studies

The poem ‘New Prince, New Pomp’ was written in the 1500’s by a martyred Jesuit priest named Robert Southwell. ‘New Prince, New Pomp’ is a Christian nativity poem that describes the humble, birth of Christ in a euphuistic tone. The BBC article ‘Japan’s New Prince Seen In Public’ describes Prince Hisahito’s arrival, that unlike the birth of Jesus, has been greatly anticipated and ‘widely celebrated’. Over 2000 years separate the births and unlike the Virgin Mary, Princess Kiko had the advantage of a hospital birth.

Whilst both texts describe the safe arrival of a new born baby of significant importance, Southwell’s piece is clearly one of adoration and worship, whereas the news article assumes a more neutral and informative approach. Southwell’s poem reflects the humility of Christ’s birth through quatrains consisting of an abcb rhyme scheme and alternating tetrameter/trimeter rhythm. The news article is also direct in style, ‘Japan’s new prince seen in public’, although is clearly less emotive than Southwell’s portrayal of Christ’s birth.

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Southwell’s use of caesura, ‘Behold, a seely…’, ‘with joy approach, O…’ is to foreground the imperatives, the pause allowing the significance of the instruction to be understood. Southwell’s use of simple sentences such as the whole of verse one, is to convey the simplicity of his message. The news article, though, aims to inform the audience of details relating to the arrival of the Japanese prince, therefore there are fewer simple sentences and many more complex ones, ‘Prince Hisahito, who was born last Wednesday, is third in line…father.

’ While the article employs a mostly declarative sentence mood, ‘Only men are allowed to be monarchs in Japan’, Southwell chooses to address his adoration ‘The prince himself is come from heaven’, not just in the declarative mood, but through imperatives such as ‘Do homage’ which reinforces the honour he feels Christ deserves, through the biblical tone of religious instruction. Southwell creates a semantic field of innocence and humility through his choice of adjectives, the archaic ‘seely’ meaning pitiable, is used to describe both Christ and the modest animals of the stable, making a clear connection between their insignificance.

Other adjectives such as ‘tender’, ‘homely’ and ‘piteous’ create a sense of vulnerability. The article tells us Prince Hisahito’s name means ‘serene’ and ‘virtuous’. These adjectives suggest a more suitable beginning for a prince. Both texts use the adjective ‘new’ to describe the princes’ arrival, despite the fact that Southwell was writing his poem about an event that had occurred nearly 1600 years earlier. Southwell’s poetry was often euphuistic in style and full of the use of paradox.

In ‘New Prince, New Pomp’, Southwell deliberately compares the extremes of Christ’s arrival and his eventual purpose. Southwell contrasts the ‘stable’ with ‘a prince’s court’, his ‘poor attire’ with ‘royal liveries’ and in the final verse the ultimate juxtaposition, that Christ, the ‘king’, who we should ‘highly prize’ comes with ‘humble pomp’. In many ways the arrival of Prince Hisahito is equally significant as his arrival means an end to the ‘succession crisis’. The noun ‘crisis’ infers that despite the modern context of the article the lack of a male heir is still a serious matter in Japan.

Both texts use plosive alliteration to draw attention to the importance of some sentences. Southwell not only employs this technique in the title of the poem, ‘New Prince, New Pomp’, but also in the phrase ‘parcel of his pomp’ and ‘pomp is prized’. The tone created by these sounds mirrors Southwell’s passion for this miracle. The news article employs a similar technique in the slight sentence used in its headline, ‘Japan’s new prince seen in public’. Sibilance is also used in both texts, ‘Alas, a piteous sight!

Conveys a tone of gentle amazement for the new born babe, with a hint of sadness for his first humble contact with humanity. Mother and baby, in Japan, are described in equally soft, respectful tones ‘serene and virtuous, slept as the smiling princess posed’. The phonological patterning in ‘highly prize his humble pomp’ is a final, breathless instruction from Southwell for humankind to appreciate the miracle that is Christ. Princess Kiko’s excitement and relief, however, is evident in the fact that she is ‘happy… to return home’ with her new born baby.

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