Table of Contents   Previous Chapter   Next Chapter



286                                 A Contemplation upon Flowers

BRAVE flowers—that I could gallant it like you,
       And be as little vain!
You come abroad, and make a harmless show,
       And to your beds of earth again.
You are not proud: you know your birth:
For your embroider’d garments are from earth.
You do obey your months and times, but I
       Would have it ever Spring:
My fate would know no Winter, never die,
       Nor think of such a thing.
O that I could my bed of earth but view
And smile, and look as cheerfully as you!
O teach me to see Death and not to fear,
       But rather to take truce!
How often have I seen you at a bier,
       And there look fresh and spruce!
You fragrant flowers! then teach me, that my breath
Like yours may sweeten and perfume my death.

287                                             A Renunciation

WE, that did nothing study but the way
To love each other, with which thoughts the day
Rose with delight to us and with them set,
Must learn the hateful art, how to forget.
We, that did nothing wish that Heaven could give
Beyond ourselves, nor did desire to live
Beyond that wish, all these now cancel must,
As if not writ in faith, but words and dust.
Yet witness those clear vows which lovers make,
Witness the chaste desires that never brake
Into unruly heats; witness that breast
Which in thy bosom anchor’d his whole rest—
’Tis no default in us: I dare acquite
Thy maiden faith, thy purpose fair and white
As thy pure self. Cross planets did envày
Us to each other, and Heaven did untie
Faster than vows could bind. Oh, that the stars,
When lovers meet, should stand opposed in wars!
Since then some higher Destinies command,
Let us not strive, nor labour to withstand
What is past help. The longest date of grief
Can never yield a hope of our relief:
Fold back our arms; take home our fruitless loves,
That must new fortunes try, like turtle-doves
Dislodgàd from their haunts. We must in tears
Unwind a love knit up in many years.
In this last kiss I here surrender thee
Back to thyself.—So, thou again art free:
Thou in another, sad as that, re-send
The truest heart that lover e’er did lend.
Now turn from each: so fare our sever’d hearts
As the divorced soul from her body parts.

288                                        Exequy on his Wife

ACCEPT, thou shrine of my dead saint,
Instead of dirges this complaint;
And for sweet flowers to crown thy herse
Receive a strew of weeping verse
From thy grieved friend, whom thou might’st see
Quite melted into tears for thee.
  Dear loss! since thy untimely fate,
My task hath been to meditate
On thee, on thee! Thou art the book,
The library whereon I look,
Tho’ almost blind. For thee, loved clay,
I languish out, not live, the day....
Thou hast benighted me; thy set
This eve of blackness did beget,
Who wast my day (tho’ overcast
Before thou hadst thy noontide past):
And I remember must in tears
Thou scarce hadst seen so many years
As day tells hours. By thy clear sun
My love and fortune first did run;
But thou wilt never more appear
Folded within my hemisphere,
Since both thy light and motion,
Like a fled star, is fall’n and gone,
And ’twixt me and my soul’s dear wish
The earth now interposàd is....
  I could allow thee for a time
To darken me and my sad clime;
Were it a month, a year, or ten,
I would thy exile live till then,
And all that space my mirth adjourn—
So thou wouldst promise to return,
And putting off thy ashy shroud
At length disperse this sorrow’s cloud.
  But woe is me! the longest date
Too narrow is to calculate
These empty hopes: never shall I
Be so much blest as to descry
A glimpse of thee, till that day come
Which shall the earth to cinders doom,
And a fierce fever must calcine
The body of this world—like thine,
My little world! That fit of fire
Once off, our bodies shall aspire
To our souls’ bliss: then we shall rise
And view ourselves with clearer eyes
In that calm region where no night
Can hide us from each other’s sight.
  Meantime thou hast her, Earth: much good
May my harm do thee! Since it stood
With Heaven’s will I might not call
Her longer mine, I give thee all
My short-lived right and interest
In her whom living I loved best.
Be kind to her, and prithee look
Thou write into thy Doomsday book
Each parcel of this rarity
Which in thy casket shrined doth lie,
As thou wilt answer Him that lent—
Not gave—thee my dear monument.
So close the ground, and ’bout her shade
Black curtains draw: my bride is laid.
  Sleep on, my Love, in thy cold bed
Never to be disquieted!
My last good-night! Thou wilt not wake
Till I thy fate shall overtake:
Till age, or grief, or sickness must
Marry my body to that dust
It so much loves; and fill the room
My heart keeps empty in thy tomb.
Stay for me there: I will not fail
To meet thee in that hollow vale.
And think not much of my delay:
I am already on the way,
And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree
And every hour a step towards thee....
  ’Tis true—with shame and grief I yield—
Thou, like the van, first took’st the field;
And gotten hast the victory
In thus adventuring to die
Before me, whose more years might crave
A just precedence in the grave.
But hark! my pulse, like a soft drum,
Beats my approach, tells thee I come;
And slow howe’er my marches be
I shall at last sit down by thee.
  The thought of this bids me go on
And wait my dissolution
With hope and comfort. Dear—forgive
The crime—I am content to live
Divided, with but half a heart,
Till we shall meet and never part.


Table of Contents   Previous Chapter   Next Chapter