Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, UPON THE IMAGE OF DEATH, by ROBERT SOUTHWELL



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UPON THE IMAGE OF DEATH, by         Recitation     Poet's Biography
First Line: Before my face the picture hangs
Last Line: My life may mend, sith I must die.
Subject(s): Death; Mortality; Dead, The


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 sometime 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 turn'd 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.





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