Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NOSCE TEIPSUM: AFFLICTION, by JOHN DAVIES (1569-1626)



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NOSCE TEIPSUM: AFFLICTION, by            
First Line: If aught can teach us aught, affliction's looks
Last Line: Which is a proud, and yet a wretched thing.
Subject(s): Affliction


If aught can teach us aught, Affliction's looks,
Making us look into ourselves so near,
Teach us to know ourselves beyond all books,
Or all the learned schools that ever were.

This mistress lately plucked me by the ear,
And many a golden lesson hath me taught;
Hath made my senses quick, and reason clear,
Reformed my will, and rectified my thought.

So do the winds and thunders cleanse the air;
So working seas settle and purge the wine;
So lopped and pruned trees do flourish fair;
So doth the fire the drossy gold refine.

Neither Minerva nor the learned Muse,
Nor rules of art, nor precepts of the wise,
Could in my brain those beams of skill infuse,
As but the glance of this dame's angry eyes.

She within lists my ranging mind hath brought,
That now beyond myself I list not go;
Myself am centre of my circling thought,
Only myself I study, learn, and know.

I know my body's of so frail a kind
A force without, fevers within, can kill;
I know the heavenly nature of my mind,
But 'tis corrupted both in wit and will;

I know my soul hath power to know all things,
Yet is she blind and ignorant in all;
I know I am one of nature's little kings,
Yet to the least and vilest things am thrall.

I know my life's a pain and but a span,
I know my sense is mocked with everything;
And to conclude, I know myself a man,
Which is a proud, and yet a wretched thing.





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