Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN EPICED ON MR. FISHBOURNE, by WILLIAM BROWNE (1591-1643)



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

AN EPICED ON MR. FISHBOURNE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: As some, too far inquisitive, would fain
Last Line: You live, and need nor epitaph nor tomb.
Alternate Author Name(s): Browne, William Of Tavistock
Subject(s): Charity; Fishbourne, Richard (d. 1625); Orphans; Philanthropy; Foundlings


AS some, too far inquisitive, would fain
Know how the Ark could so much life contain;
Where the ewe fed, and where the lion lay,
Both having den and pasture, yet all sea:
When fishes had our constellations true,
And how the hawk and partridge had one mew;
So do I wonder, in these looser times,
When men commit more villanies than rhymes,
How honour'd Fishbourne, in his lesser Ark,
Could so much immortality embark;
And take in man too. How his good thoughts lay
With wealth and hazard both of them at sea:
How when his debtors thought of longer owing,
His chiefest care was of that sum's bestowing
In pious uses. But to question all;
Did this rich man come to an hospital
To curb the incomes, or to beg the leads,
Or turn to straw more charitable beds?
Or gaz'd he on a prison with pretence,
More to enthrall than for a prayer thence?
Or on the Levites' part, the churches' living,
Did he e'er look without the thought of giving?
No: as the Angel at Bethesda he
Came never in the cells of charity,
Unless his mind by Heaven had fraughted bin
To help the next poor cripple that came in;
And he came often to them; and withal
Left there such virtue since his funeral,
That, as the ancient prophet's buried bones
Made one to know two resurrections:
So after death it will be said of him,
Fishbourne revived this man, gave that a limb:
Such miracles are done in this sad age,
And yet we do not go in pilgrimage.
When by the graves of men alive he trod,
Prisons where souls and bodies have abode
Before a judgment; and, as there they lie,
Speak their own epitaphs and elegy:
Had he a deaf ear then? threw he on more
Irons or actions than they had before?
Nay: wish'd he not, he had sufficient worth
To bid these men, dead to the world, come forth?
Or since he had not, did not he anon
Provide to keep them from corruption?
Made them new shrouds (their clothes are sure no more,
Such had the desert wanderers heretofore)
Embalm'd them, not with spice and gums, whereby
We may less noisome, not more deadly lie;
But with a charitable food, and then
Hid him from thanks to do the like agen.
Methinks I see him in a sweet repair,
Some walk, not yet infected with the air
Of news or libel, weighing what may be,
After all these, his next good legacy;
Whether the Church that lies within his ken,
With her revenues feeds or beasts or men?
Whether, though it equivocally keep
A careful shepherd and a flock of sheep,
The patron have a soul, and doth entreat
His friends more to a sermon than his meat?
In fine, if church or steeple have a tongue,
Bells by a sexton or a wether rung?
Or where depopulations were begun,
An almshouse were for men by it undone?
Those, Fishbourne, were thy thoughts, the pulse of these
Thou felt'st, and hast prescrib'd for the disease.
Some thou hast cur'd, and this thy Gilead balm
Hath my præludium to thy Angel's Psalm.
And now, ye oracles of Heaven, for whom
He hath prepar'd a candle, stool, and room,
That to St. Mary's, Paul's, or elsewhere come,
To send us sighing, and not laughing home;
Ye, that the hour may run away more free,
Bribe not the clerk, but with your doctrine me;
Keep ye on wing his ever honour'd fame,
And though our learned Mother want his name,
'Twas modesty in him that his dear BROWNE
Might have place for his charity, and crown
Their memories together. And though his
The City got, the Universities
Might have the other's name. You need not call
A herald to proclaim your funeral.
Nor load your graves with marble, nor expend
Upon a statue more than on a friend;
Or make stones tell a lie to after times,
In prose inscriptions, or in hired rhymes.
For whilst there shall a church unruin'd stand,
And five blest souls as yours preserve the land;
Whilst a good preacher in them hath a room,
You live, and need nor epitaph nor tomb.





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