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Retired thoughts enjoy their own delights,

As beauty doth in self-beholding eye ;

Man's mind a mirror is of heavenly sights,

A brief wherein all marvels summëd lie,

Of fairest forms and sweetest shapes the store,

Most graceful all, yet thought may grace them more.

The mind a creature is, yet can create,

To nature's patterns adding higher skill ;

Of finest works with better could the state

If force of wit had equal power of will.

Device of man in working hath no end,

What thought can think, another thought can mend.

Man's soul of endless beauty image is,

Drawn by the work of endless skill and might ;

This skillful might gave many sparks of bliss

And, to discern this bliss, a native light ;

To frame God's image as his worths required

His might, his skill, his word and will conspired.

All that he had his image should present,

All that it should present it could afford,

To that he could afford his will was bent,

His will was followed with performing word.

Let this suffice, by this conceive the rest,—

He should, he could, he would, he did, the best.

Life is but Loss

By force I live, in will I wish to die;
In plaints I pass the length of ling'ring days;
Free would my soul from mortal body fly,
And tread the track of death's desired ways:
Life is but loss where death is deemed gain,
And loathed pleasures breed displeasing pain.

Who would not die to kill all murd'ring griefs?
Or who would live in never-dying fears?
Who would not wish his treasure safe from thieves,
And quit his heart from pangs, his eyes from tears?
Death parteth but two ever-fighting foes,
Whose civil strife doth work our endless woes.

Life is a wandering course to doubtful rest;
As oft a cursed rise to damning leap,
As happy race to win a heavenly crest;
None being sure what final fruits to reap:
And who can like in such a life to dwell,
Whose ways are strict to heaven, but wide to hell?

Come, cruel death, why lingerest thou so long?
What doth withhold thy dint from fatal stroke?
Now prest I am, alas! thou dost me wrong,
To let me live, more anger to provoke:
Thy right is had when thou hast stopp'd my breath,
Why shouldst thou stay to work my double death ?

If Saul's attempt in falling on his blade
As lawful were as eth to put in ure,
If Samson's lean a common law were made,
Of Abel's lot if all that would were sure,
Then, cruel death, thou shouldst the tyrant play
With none but such as wished for delay.

Where life is loved thou ready art to kill,
And to abridge with sudden pangs their joys ;
Where life is loathed thou wilt not work their will,
But dost adjourn their death to their annoy.
To some thou art a fierce unbidden guest,
But those that crave thy help thou helpest least.

Avaunt, O viper! I thy spite defy:
There is a God that overrules thy force,
Who can thy weapons to His will apply,
And shorten or prolong our brittle course.
I on His mercy, not thy might, rely;
To Him I live, for Him I hope to die.

Upon the Image of Death

Before my face the picture hangs
That daily should put me in mind
Of those cold names and bitter pangs
That shortly I am like to find;
But yet, alas, full little I
Do think hereon that I must die.

I often look upon a face
Most ugly, grisly, bare, and thin;
I often view the hollow place
Where eyes and nose had sometimes been;
I see the bones across that lie,
Yet little think that I must die.

I read the label underneath,
That telleth me whereto I must;
I see the sentence eke that saith
Remember, man, that thou art dust!
But yet, alas, but seldom I
Do think indeed that I must die.

Continually at my bed's head
A hearse doth hang, which doth me tell
That I ere morning may be dead,
Though now I feel myself full well ;
But yet, alas, for all this, I
Have little mind that I must die.

The gown which I do use to wear,
The knife wherewith I cut my meat,
And eke that old and ancient chair
Which is my only usual seat,-
All these do tell me I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.

My ancestors are turned to clay,
And many of my mates are gone;
My youngers daily drop away,
And can I think to 'scape alone?
No, no, I know that I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.

Not Solomon for all his wit,
Nor Samson, though he were so strong,
No king nor person ever yet
Could 'scape but death laid him along;
Wherefore I know that I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.

Though all the East did quake to hear
Of Alexander's dreadful name,
And all the West did likewise fear
To hear of Julius Caesar's fame,
Yet both by death in dust now lie;
Who then can 'scape but he must die?

If none can 'scape death's dreadful dart,
If rich and poor his beck obey,
If strong, if wise, if all do smart,
Then I to 'scape shall have no way.
Oh, grant me grace, O God, that I
My life may mend, sith I must die.

Man's Civil War

MY hovering thoughts would fly to heaven
  And quiet nestle in the sky,
Fain would my ship in Virtue's shore
  Without remove at anchor lie.

But mounting thoughts are haled down
  With heavy poise of mortal load,
And blustring storms deny my ship
  In Virtue's haven secure abode.

When inward eye to heavenly sights
  Doth draw my longing heart's desire,
The world with jesses of delights
  Would to her perch my thoughts retire,

Fon Fancy trains to Pleasure's lure,
  Though Reason stiffly do repine;
Though Wisdom woo me to the saint,
  Yet Sense would win me to the shrine.

Where Reason loathes, there Fancy loves,
  And overrules the captive will;
Foes senses are to Virtue's lore,
  They draw the wit their wish to fill.

Need craves consent of soul to sense,
  Yet divers bents breed civil fray ;
Hard hap where halves must disagree,
  Or truce halves the whole betray !

O cruel fight ! where fighting friend
  With love doth kill a favoring foe,
Where peace with sense is war with God,
  And self-delight the seed of woe !

Dame Pleasure's drugs are steeped in sin,
  Their sugared taste doth breed annoy ;
O fickle sense ! beware her gin,
  Sell not thy soul to brittle joy !

Times Go by Turns

The lopped tree in time may grow again,

Most naked plants renew both fruit and flower;

The sorriest wight may find release of pain,

The driest soil suck in some moistening shower.

Times go by turns, and chances change by course,

From foul to fair, from better hap to worse.

The sea of Fortune doth not ever flow,

She draws her favours to the lowest ebb.

Her tides hath equal times to come and go,

Her loom doth weave the fine and coarsest web.

No joy so great but runneth to an end,

No hap so hard but may in fine amend.

Not always fall of leaf, nor ever spring,

No endless night, yet not eternal day;

The saddest birds a season find to sing,

The roughest storm a calm may soon allay.

Thus, with succeeding turns, God tempereth all,

That man may hope to rise, yet fear to fall.

A chance may win that by mischance was lost;

The net, that holds no great, takes little fish;

In some things all, in all things none are crossed;

Few all they need, but none have all they wish.

Unmeddled joys here to no man befall;

Who least, hath some; who most, hath never all.

The Burning Babe

As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,

Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;

And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,

A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;

Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed

As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.

“Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,

Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!

My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,

Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;

The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,

The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,

For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,

      So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.”

      With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,

      And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.