Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN ELEGIE UPON THE DEATH OF THE LADY PENELOPE CLIFTON, by MICHAEL DRAYTON



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

AN ELEGIE UPON THE DEATH OF THE LADY PENELOPE CLIFTON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Must I needes write, who's he that can refuse
Last Line: Cast up your eyes, and sigh for my applause.
Subject(s): Clifton, Lady Penelope Rich (1590-1613)


Must I needes write, who's he that can refuse,
He wants a minde, for her that hath no Muse,
The thought of her doth heav'nly rage inspire,
Next powerfull, to those cloven tongues of fire.
Since I knew ought time never did allowe
Me stuffe fit for an Elegie, till now;
When France and England's HENRIE's dy'd, my quill,
Why, I know not, but it that time lay still.
'Tis more then greatnesse that my spirit must raise,
To observe custome I use not to praise;
Nor the least thought of mine yet ere depended,
On any one from whom she was descended;
That for their favour I this way should wooe,
As some poore wretched things (perhaps) may doe;
I gaine the end, whereat I onely ayme,
If by my freedome I may give her fame.
Walking then forth being newly up from bed,
O Sir (quoth one) the Lady CLIFTON's dead.
When, but that reason my sterne rage withstood,
My hand had sure beene guilty of his blood.
If shee be so, must thy rude tongue confesse it
(Quoth I) and com'st so coldly to expresse it.
Thou shouldst have given a shreeke, to make me feare thee;
That might have slaine what ever had beene neere thee.
Thou shouldst have com'n like Time with thy scalpe bare,
And in thy hands thou shouldst have brought thy haire,
Casting upon me such a dreadfull looke,
As seene a spirit, or th'adst beene thunder strooke,
And gazing on me so a little space,
Thou shouldst have shot thine eye balls in my face,
Then falling at my feet, thou shouldst have said,
O she is gone, and Nature with her dead.
With this ill newes amaz'd by chance I past,
By that neere Grove, whereas both first and last,
I saw her, not three moneths before shee di'd.
When (though full Summer gan to vaile her pride,
And that I sawe men leade home ripened Corne,
Besides advis'd me well,) I durst have sworne
The lingring yeare, the Autumne had adjourn'd,
And the fresh Spring had beene againe return'd,
Her delicacie, lovelinesse, and grace,
With such a Summer bravery deckt the place:
But now alas, it lookt forlorne and dead;
And where she stood, the fading leaves were shed,
Presenting onely sorrowe to my sight,
O God (thought I) this is her Embleme right.
And sure I thinke it cannot but be thought,
That I to her by providence was brought.
For that the Fates fore-dooming, shee should die,
Shewed me this wondrous Master peece, that I
Should sing her Funerall, that the world should know it,
That heaven did thinke her worthy of a Poet;
My hand is fatall, nor doth fortune doubt,
For what it writes, not fire shall ere race out.
A thousand silken Puppets should have died,
And in their fulsome Coffins putrified,
Ere in my lines, you of their names should heare
To tell the world that such there ever were,
Whose memory shall from the earth decay,
Before those Rags be worne they gave away.
Had I her god-like features never seene,
Poore sleight Report had tolde me she had beene
A hansome Lady, comely, very well,
And so might I have died an Infidell,
As many doe which never did her see,
Or cannot credit, what she was, by mee.
Nature, her selfe, that before Art prefers
To goe beyond all our Cosmographers,
By Charts and Maps exactly that have showne,
All of this earth that ever can be knowne,
For that she would beyond them all descrie
What Art could not, by any mortall eye;
A Map of heaven in her rare features drue,
And that she did so lively and so true,
That any soule but seeing it, might sweare
That all was perfect heavenly that was there.
If ever any Painter were so blest,
To drawe that face, which so much heav'n exprest,
If in his best of skill he did her right,
I wish it never may come in my sight,
I greatly doubt my faith (weake man) lest I
Should to that face commit Idolatry.
Death might have tyth'd her sex, but for this one,
Nay, have ta'n halfe to have let her alone;
Such as their wrinkled temples to supply,
Cyment them up with sluttish mercury,
Such as undrest were able to affright,
A valiant man approching him by night;
Death might have taken such, her end deferd,
Untill the time she had beene climaterd,
When she would have bin at threescore yeares and three,
Such as our best at three and twenty be;
With envie then, he might have overthrowne her,
When age nor time had power to sease upon her.
But when the unpittying Fates her end decreed,
They to the same did instantly proceed,
For well they knew (if she had languish'd so)
As those which hence by naturall causes goe,
So many prayers, and teares for her had spoken,
As certainly their Iron lawes had broken,
And had wak'd heav'n, who clearely would have show'd
That change of Kingdomes to her death it ow'd;
And that the world still of her end might thinke,
It would have let some Neighbouring mountaine sinke,
Or the vast Sea it in on us to cast,
As Severne did about some five yeares past:
Or some sterne Comet his curld top to reare,
Whose length should measure halfe our Hemisphere.
Holding this height, to say some will not sticke,
That now I rave, and am growne lunatique:
You of what sexe so ere you be, you lye,
'Tis thou thy selfe is lunatique, not I.
I charge you in her name that now is gone,
That may conjure you, if you be not stone,
That you no harsh, nor shallow rimes decline,
Upon that day wherein you shall read mine.
Such as indeed are falsely termed verse,
And will but sit like mothes upon her herse;
Nor that no child, nor chambermaide, nor page,
Disturbe the room, the whilst my sacred rage,
In reading is; but whilst you heare it read,
Suppose, before you, that you see her dead,
The walls about you hung with mournfull blacke,
And nothing of her funerall to lacke,
And when this period gives you leave to pause,
Cast up your eyes, and sigh for my applause.





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