Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN ELEGY, by WILLIAM BROWNE (1591-1643)



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AN ELEGY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Is death so great a gamester, that he throws
Last Line: Shall send the peaceful dove to call thee forth.
Alternate Author Name(s): Browne, William Of Tavistock
Subject(s): Death; Dead, The


IS Death so great a gamester, that he throws
Still at the fairest, and must I still lose?
Are we all but as tarriers first begun,
Made and together put to be undone?
Will all the rank of friends, in whom I trust,
Like Sodom's trees yield me no fruit but dust?
Must all I love, as careless sparks that fly
Out of a flint, but show their worth and die?
O, where do my for ever losses tend?
I could already by some buried friend
Count my unhappy years; and should the sun
Leave me in darkness, as her loss hath done,
By those few friends I have yet to entomb,
I might, I fear, account my years to come.
What need our canons then be so precise
In registers for our nativities?
They keep us but in bonds, and strike with fears
Rich parents, till their children be of years;
For should they lose and mourn, they might, as I,
Number their years by every elegy.
These books to sum our days might well have stood
In use with those that liv'd before the Flood,
When she indeed that forceth me to write,
Should have been born, had Nature done her right;
And at five hundred years been less decay'd,
Than now at fifteen is the fairest maid.
But Nature had not her perfection then,
Or being loath for such long-living men,
To spend the treasure which she held most pure,
She gave them women apter to endure;
Or providently knowing there were more
Countries and islands which she was to store,
Nature was thrifty, and did think it well,
If for some one part each one did excel:
As this for her neat hand, that for her hair,
A third for her sweet eyes, a fourth was fair:
And 'tis approv'd by him, who could not draw
The Queen of Love till he a hundred saw.
Seldom all beauties met in one, till she,
All other lands else stor'd, came finally
To people our sweet Isle: and seeing now
Her substance infinite, she 'gan to bow
To lavishness in every nuptial bed,
And she her fairest was that now is dead;
Dead as a blossom forced from the tree,
And if a maiden, fair and good as she,
Tread on thy grave. O let her there profess
Herself for evermore an anchoress.
Let her be deathless! let her still be young!
Without this means we have no verse nor tongue
To say how much I lov'd, or let us see
How great our loss was in the loss of thee.
Or let the purple violet grow there,
And feel no revolution of the year;
But full of dew with ever-drooping head,
Show how I live, since my best hopes are dead.
Dead! as the world to virtue. Murd'rers, thieves
Can have their pardons, or at least reprieves.
The sword of Justice hath been often won
By letters from an execution.
Yet vows nor prayers could not keep thee here,
Nor shall I see, the next returning year,
Thee with the roses spring and live again.
Th'art lost for ever, as a drop of rain
Fall'n in a river! for as soon I may
Take up that drop, or meet the same at sea,
And know it there, as e'er redeem thee gone,
Or know thee in the grave, when I have one.
O! had that hollow vault, where thou dost lie,
An echo in it, my strong fantasy
Would draw me soon to think her words were thine,
And I would hourly come, and to thy shrine
Talk as I often used to talk with thee,
And frame my words that thou might'st answer me
As when thou liv'd'st: I'd sigh, and say I love,
And thou should'st do so too, till we had mov d
With our complaints to tears each marble cell
Of those dead neighbours which about thee dwell.
And when the holy father came to say
His orisons, I'd ask him if the day
Of miracles were past, or whether he
Knew any one whose faith and piety
Could raise the dead; but he would answer, none
Can bring thee back to life; though many one
Our cursed days afford, that dare to thrust
Their hands profane to raise the sacred dust
Of holy saints out of their beds of rest.
Abhorred days! O may there none molest
Thy quiet peace! but in thy ark remain
Untouch'd, as those the old one did contain,
Till he that can reward thy greatest worth,
Shall send the peaceful Dove to call thee forth.





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