Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN ELEGY ON SIR THOMAS OVERBURY; POISONED IN THE TOWER OF LONDON, by WILLIAM BROWNE (1591-1643)



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AN ELEGY ON SIR THOMAS OVERBURY; POISONED IN THE TOWER OF LONDON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Had not thy wrong, like to a wound ill cur'd
Last Line: An antidote against the silent grave.
Alternate Author Name(s): Browne, William Of Tavistock
Subject(s): Overbury, Sir Thomas (1581-1613); Poisons & Poisoning; Tower Of London


HAD not thy wrong, like to a wound ill cur'd,
Broke forth in death, I had not been assur'd
Of grief enough to finish what I write;
These lines, as those which do in cold blood fight,
Had come but faintly on; for ever he
That shrines a name within an elegy,
Unless some nearer cause do him inspire,
Kindles his bright flame at the funeral fire.
For passion, after less'ning her extent,
Is then more strong, and so more eloquent.
How pow'rful is the hand of Murther now!
Was't not enough to see his dear life bow
Beneath her hate? but crushing that fair frame,
Attempt the like on his unspotted fame?
O base revenge! more than inhuman fact!
Which (as the Romans sometime would enact
No doom for parricide, supposing none
Could ever so offend) the upright throne
Of Justice salves not: leaving that intent
Without a name, without a punishment.
Yet through thy wounded fame, as thorough these
Glasses which multiply the species,
We see thy virtues more; and they become
So many statues sleeping on thy tomb,
Wherein confinement new thou shalt endure,
But so as, when to make a pearl more pure
We give it to a dove, in whose womb pent
Some time, we have it forth most orient.
Such is thy lustre now that venom'd spite
With her black soul dares not behold thy light,
But banning it, a course begins to run
With those that curse the rising of the sun.
The poison, that works upwards now, shall strive
To be thy fair fame's true preservative.
And witchcraft, that can mask the upper shine,
With no one cloud shall blind a ray of thine.
And as the Hebrews in an obscure pit
Their holy fire hid, not extinguish'd it,
And after time, that broke their bondage chain,
Found it, to fire their sacrifice again:
So lay thy worth some while, but being found,
The Muses' altars plentifully crown'd
With sweet perfumes by it new kindled be,
And offer all to thy dear memory.
Nor have we lost thee long: thou art not gone,
Nor canst descend into oblivion.
But twice the sun went round since thy soul fled,
And only that time men shall term thee dead:
Hereafter, rais'd to life, thou still shalt have
An antidote against the silent grave.





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