Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN ELEGY ON THE UNTIMELY DEATH OF THOMAS AYLEWORTH, SLAIN AT CROYDON, by WILLIAM BROWNE (1591-1643)



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AN ELEGY ON THE UNTIMELY DEATH OF THOMAS AYLEWORTH, SLAIN AT CROYDON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Is goodness shortest liv'd? Doth nature bring
Last Line: Thou canst not lie without a monument.
Alternate Author Name(s): Browne, William Of Tavistock
Subject(s): Ayleworth, Thomas (D. 1615); Murder; Virtue


IS goodness shortest liv'd? doth Nature bring
Her choicest flowers but to adorn the spring?
Are all men 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?
Will Nature ever to things fleeting bow?
Doth she but, like the toiling hind at plough,
Sow to be in'd? then I'll begin a lore
Hard to be learn'd, love still to wail no more;
I ever will affect that good, which he
Made the firm steps to his eternity.
I will adore no other light than shines
From my best thoughts, to read his life; the mines
Of richest India shall not buy from me
That book one hour wherein I study thee.
A book, wherein men's lives so taxed bin
That all men labour'd death to call it in.
What now as licens'd is dispers'd about,
Is no true copy, or the best left out.
No ornaments I'll love brought from the Change,
But what's in it, and in the Court more strange,
Virtue; which clad thee well, and I may have,
Without the danger of a living grave.
I will not wish Fortune should make of me
A worshipp'd golden calf, as most rich be;
But let her, for all lands else, grant me this,
To be an inmate in that house now his.
One stone will serve, one epitaph above,
So one shall be our dust, as was our love.
O, if privation be the greatest pain,
Which wretched souls in endless night sustain,
What mortal torment can be worse than his,
That by enjoying, knows what losing is?
Yet such is mine. Then if with sacred fire
A passion ever did a Muse inspire;
Or if a grief-sick heart hath writ a line
Than Art or Nature could more genuine,
More full of accents sad; let it appear
In what I write, if any drop a tear,
To this small payment of my latest debt
He witness is, that 'twas not counterfeit.
May this be never known to hearts of stone,
That measure all men's sorrows by their own;
And think no flood should ever drown an eye,
That hath not issue from an injury
Of some misfortune, tending more the loss
Of goods than goodness. Let this hapless cross
Alone be read, and known by such as be
Apt to receive that seal of misery,
Which his untimely death prints on my heart.
And if that fatal hand, which did the part
That Fate should have perform'd, shall ever chance,
Either of purpose or through ignorance,
To touch this paper may it rose-like wither;
Or as the plant sentida shrink together!
Let him not read it; be the letters dim,
Although the ordinary give it him!
Or let the words transpose them and impart
A crying anagram for his desert.
Or may this ink, now dry, grow green again,
As wounds, before the murd'rer, of the slain.
So these sad lines shall, in the Judge's eye,
Be his accuser and mine elegy.
But vain are imprecations. And I fear
Almost to show him in a character,
Lest some accursed hand the same should stain,
Or by depraving murder him again.
Sleep then, sweet soul; and if thy virtues be
In any breast, by him we'll portrait thee.
If thou hadst liv'd where heathen gods have reign'd,
Thy virtues thee a deity had gain'd.
But now more blest! And though thy honour'd shrine
Be unadorn'd by stone, or Indian mine:
Yet whilst that any good to earth is lent,
Thou canst not lie without a monument.





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