Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN ELEGY OF HENRY, PRINCE OF WALES, by WILLIAM BROWNE (1591-1643)



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AN ELEGY OF HENRY, PRINCE OF WALES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: What time the world, clad in a mourning robe
Last Line: Cut off our thread and left us all in mourning.
Alternate Author Name(s): Browne, William Of Tavistock
Subject(s): Henry, Prince Of Wales (1584-1612); Mourning; Bereavement


WHAT time the world, clad in a mourning robe,
A stage made for a woful tragedy,
When showers of tears from the celestial globe
Bewail'd the fate of sea-lov'd Brittany;
When sighs as frequent were as various sights,
When Hope lay bed-rid, and all pleasures dying,
When Envy wept,
And Comfort slept,
When Cruelty itself sat almost crying;
Nought being heard but what the mind affrights:
When Autumn had disrob'd the Summer's pride,
Then England's Honour, Europe's Wonder, died.

O saddest strain that e'er the Muses sung!
A text of woe for Grief to comment on;
Tears, sighs and sobs, give passage to my tongue,
Or I shall spend you till the last is gone;
And then my heart, in flames of burning love,
Wanting his moisture, shall to cinders turn.
But first by me,
Bequeathed be,
To strew the place wherein his sacred urn
Shall be enclos'd. This might in many move
The like effect: who would not do it when
No grave befits him but the hearts of men?

The man whose mass of sorrows have been such,
That, by their weight, laid on each several part,
His fountains are so dry, he but as much
As one poor drop hath left, to ease his heart:
Why should he keep it, since the time doth call
That he ne'er better can bestow it in?
If so he fears
That other tears
In greater number greatest prizes win,
Know, none gives more than he who giveth all:
Then he which hath but one poor tear in store,
Oh, let him spend that drop and weep no more!

Why flows not Helicon beyond her strands?
Is Henry dead, and do the Muses sleep?
Alas! I see each one amazed stands;
Shallow fords mutter, silent are the deep:
Fam would they tell their griefs, but know not where.
All are so full, nought can augment their store.
Then how should they
Their griefs display
To men so cloy'd they fain would hear no more,
Though blaming those whose plaints they cannot hear?
And with this wish their passions I allow,
May that Muse never speak that's silent now!

Is Henry dead? alas! and do I live
To sing a screech-owl's note that he is dead?
If any one a fitter theme can give,
Come, give it now, or never to be read:
But let him see it do of horror taste,
Anguish, destruction; could it rend in sunder
With fearful groans
The senseless stones,
Yet should we hardly be enforc'd to wonder,
Our former griefs would so exceed their last:
Time cannot make our sorrows ought completer,
Nor add one grief to make our mourning greater.

England stood ne'er engirt with waves till now,
Till now it held part with the Continent.
Aye me! some one, in pity, show me how
I might in doleful numbers so lament,
That any one, which lov'd him, hated me,
Might dearly love me for lamenting him.
Alas, my plaint
In such constraint
Breaks forth in rage, that though my passions swim,
Yet are they drowned ere they landed be.
Imperfect lines: oh, happy were I hurl'd
And cut from life as England from the world.

O! happier had we been if we had been
Never made happy by enjoying thee.
Where hath the glorious eye of Heaven seen
A spectacle of greater misery?
Time, turn thy course, and bring again the spring!
Break Nature's laws! search the records of old!
If ought e'er fell
Might parallel
Sad Albion's case: then note when I unfold
What seas of sorrow she is plunged in:
Where storms of woe so mainly have beset her,
She hath no place for worse, nor hope for better.

Britain was whilom known, by more than fame,
To be one of the islands fortunate:
What frantic man would give her now that name,
Lying so rueful and disconsolate?
Hath not her wat'ry zone, in murmuring,
Fill'd every shore with echoes of her cry?
Yes, Thetis raves,
And bids her waves
Bring all the nymphs within her Empery
To be assistant in her sorrowing.
See where they sadly sit on Isis' shore,
And rend their hairs as they would joy no more.

Isis, the glory of the Western world,
When our heröe, honour'd Essex, died,
Strucken with wonder, back again she hurl'd,
And fill'd her banks with an unwonted tide.
As if she stood in doubt if it were so,
And for the certainty had turn'd her way.
Why do not now
Her waves reflow?
Poor nymph, her sorrows will not let her stay,
Or flies to tell the world her country's woe.
Is that the cause, fair maid? then stay and know
Bad news are swift of wing, the good are slow.

Sometime a tyrant held the reins of Rome,
Wishing to all the city but one head,
That all at once might undergo his doom,
And by one blow from life be severed.
Fate wish'd the like on England, and 'twas given,
(O miserable men enthrall'd to Fate!)
Whose heavy hand,
That never scann'd
The misery of kingdoms ruinate:
(Minding to leave her of all joy bereaven)
With one sad blow (alas! can worser fall?)
Hath given this little Isle her funeral.

O! come, ye blessed imps of Memory,
Erect a new Parnassus on his grave.
There tune your voices to an elegy,
The saddest note that e'er Apollo gave:
Let every accent make the stander-by
Keep time unto your songs with dropping tears,
Till drops that fell
Have made a well
To swallow him which still unmoved hears:
And though myself prove senseless of your cry,
Yet gladly should my light of life grow dim
To be entomb'd in tears are wept for him.

When last he sicken'd then we first began
To tread the Labyrinth of Woe about,
And by degrees we further inward ran,
Having his thread of life to guide us out.
But Destiny no sooner saw us enter
Sad Sorrow's maze, immured up in night,
Where nothing dwells
But cries and yells
Thrown from the hearts of men depriv'd of light,
When we were almost come into the centre,
Fate, cruelly to bar our joys returning,
Cut off our thread and left us all in mourning.





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