Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN ELEGY ON THE COUNTESS DOWAGER OF PEMBROKE, by WILLIAM BROWNE (1591-1643)



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AN ELEGY ON THE COUNTESS DOWAGER OF PEMBROKE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Time hath a long course run since thou wert clay
Last Line: Till this shall perish in the whole world's flame.
Alternate Author Name(s): Browne, William Of Tavistock
Subject(s): Herbert, Mary Sidney (1561-1621); Pembroke, Countess Of; Sidney, Mary (1561-1621); Dudley, Mary


TIME hath a long course run since thou wert clay;
Yet hadst thou gone from us but yesterday,
We in no nearer distance should have stood,
Than if thy fate had call'd thee ere the flood;
And I that knew thee, shall no less cause have
To sit me down and weep beside thy grave
Many a year from hence than in that hour
When, all amazed, we had scarce the power
To say that thou wert dead. My latest breath
Shall be a sigh for thee; and when cold death
Shall give an end to my just woes and me,
I consecrate to thy dear memory
So many tears, if on thy marble shed,
Each hand might write with them, who there lies dead:
And so much grief, that some from sickness free
Would gladly die to be bewail'd like thee.
Yet (could I choose) I would not any knew
That thou wert lost but as a pearl of dew,
Which in a gentle evening mildly cold
Fall'n in the bosom of a marigold,
Is in her golden leaves shut up all night,
And seen again when next we see the light.
For should the world but know that thou wert gone,
Our age, too prone to irreligion,
Knowing so much divinity in thee,
Might thence conclude no immortality.
And I believe the Puritans themselves
Would be seduc'd to think, that ghosts and elves
Do haunt us yet in hope that thou wouldst deign
To visit us, as when thou liv'd'st again.
But more, I fear, (since we are not of France,
Whose gentry would be known by ignorance)
Such wits and nobles as could merit thee,
And should read this, spite of all penalty
Might light upon their studies, would become
Magicians all, and raise thee from thy tomb.
Nay, I believe, all are already so;
And now half mad or more with inward woe,
Do think great Drake maliciously was hurl'd
To cast a circle round about the world,
Only to hinder the magicians' lore,
And frustrate all our hopes to see thee more.
Pardon my sorrow: is that man alive,
Who for us first found out a prospective
To search into the moon, and hath not he
Yet found a further skill to look on thee?
Thou goodman, who thou be'st, that e'er hast found
The means to look on one so good, so crown'd,
For pity find me out! and we will trace
Along together to that holy place
Which hides so much perfection; there will we
Stand fix'd and gaze on her felicity.
And should thy glass a burning one become
And turn us both to ashes on her tomb;
Yet to our glory, till the latter day,
Our dust shall dance like atoms in her ray.
And when the world shall in confusion burn,
And kings with peasants scramble at an urn;
Like tapers new blown out, we, blessed then
Will at her beams catch fire and live again.
But this is sense, and some one (may be) glad
That I so true a cause of sorrow had,
Will wish all those whom I affect might die,
So I might please him with an elegy.
O let there never line of wit be read
To please the living, that doth speak thee dead;
Some tender-hearted mother, good and mild,
Who on the dear grave of her only child
So many sad tears hath been known to rain,
As out of dust could mould him up again;
And with her plaints enforce the worms to place
Themselves like veins so neatly on his face
And every limb; as if that they were striving
To flatter her with hope of his reviving:
She should read this; and her true tears alone
Should copy forth these sad lines on the stoneWhich hides thee dead. And every
gentle heart
That passeth by should of his tears impart
So great a portion, that (if after times
Ruin more churches for the clergy's crimes,)
When any shall remove thy marble hence,
Which is less stone than he that takes it thence,
Thou shalt appear within thy tearful cell,
Much like a fair nymph bathing in a well:
But when they find thee dead so lovely fair,
Pity and Sorrow then shall straight repair,
And weep beside thy grave with cypress crown'd,
To see the second world of beauty drown'd;
And add sufficient tears, as they condole,
Would make thy body swim up to thy soul.
Such eyes should read the lines are writ on thee;
But such a loss should have no elegy
To palliate the wound we took in her.
Who rightly grieves admits no comforter.
He that had ta'en to heart thy parting hence,
Should have been chain'd in Bethlem two hours thence;
And not a friend of his e'er shed a tear,
To see him for thy sake distracted there;
But hugg'd himself for loving such as he,
That could run mad with grief for losing thee.
I, hapless soul, that never knew a friend
But to bewail his too untimely end;
Whose hopes, cropp'd in the bud, have never come,
But to sit weeping on a senseless tomb,
That hides not dust enough to count the tears,
Which I have fruitless spent, in so few years:
I, that have trusted those that would have given
For our dear Saviour and the Son of heaven,
Ten times the value Judas had of yore,
Only to sell him for three pieces more:
I that have lov'd and trusted thus in vain,
Yet weep for thee: and till the clouds shall deign
To shower on Egypt more than Nile e'er swell'd,
These tears of mine shall be unparallel'd.
He that hath love enjoy'd, and then been cross'd,
Hath tears at will to mourn for what he lost;
He that hath trusted, and his hope appears
Wrong'd but by death, may soon dissolve in tears;
But he, unhappy man, whose love and trust
Ne'er met fruition, nor a promise just:
For him, unless, like thee, he deadly sleep,
'Tis easier to run mad than 'tis to weep.
And yet I can! Fall then, ye mournful showers;
And as old Time leads on the winged hours,
Be you their minutes: and let men forget
To count their ages from the Plague of Sweat,
From Eighty-eight, the Powder Plot, or when
Men were afraid to talk of it again;
And in their numeration, be it said,
Thus old was I, when such a tear was shed,
And when that other fell a comet rose,
And all the world took notice of my woes.
Yet, finding them past cure, as doctors fly
Their patients past all hope of remedy,
No charitable soul will now impart
One word of comfort to so sick a heart;
But as a hurt deer beaten from the herd,
Men of my shadow almost now afear'd,
Fly from my woes, that whilom wont to greet me,
And well-nigh think it ominous to meet me.
Sad lines, go ye abroad: go, saddest Muse:
And as some nation formerly did use
To lay their sick men in the streets, that those
Who of the same disease had 'scap'd the throes,
Might minister relief as they went by
To such as felt the selfsame malady;
So, hapless lines, fly through the fairest land;
And if ye light into some blessed hand,
That hath a heart as merry as the shine
Of golden days, yet wrong'd as much as mine;
Pity may lead that happy man to me,And his experience work a remedy
To those sad fits which, spite of Nature's laws,
Torture a poor heart that outlives the cause.
But this must never be, nor is it fit
An ague or some sickness less than it,
Should glory in the death of such as he,
That had a heart of flesh, and valued thee.
Brave Roman! I admire thee, that wouldst die
At no less rate than for an empery:
Some massy diamond from the centre drawn
For which all Europe were an equal pawn,
Should, beaten into dust, be drunk by him,That wanted courage good enough to
swim
Through seas of woe for thee; and much despise
To meet with death at any lower price.
Whilst grief alone works that effect in me;
And yet no grief but for the loss of thee.
Fortune, now do thy worst, for I have got
By this her death so strong an antidote,
That all thy future crosses shall not have
More than an angry smile. Nor shall the grave
Glory in my last day. These lines shall give
To us a second life, and we will live
To pull the distaff from the hands of Fate;
And spin our own threads for so long a date,
That death shall never seize upon our fame,
Till this shall perish in the whole world's flame.





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