Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WOES OF EAY, by HENRY KING (1592-1669)



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THE WOES OF EAY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Woe to the worldly men, whose covetous
Last Line: Than dark'ned skies above, and hell below.


WOE to the worldly men, whose covetous
Ambition labours to join house to house,
Lay field to field, till their enclosures edge
The plain, girdling a country with one hedge:
That leave no place unbought, no piece of earth
Which they will not engross, making a dearth
Of all inhabitants, until they stand
Unneighbour'd, as unblest, within their land.

This sin cries in God's ear, who hath decreed
The ground they sow shall not return the seed.
They that unpeopled countries to create
Themselves sole Lords, -- made many desolate
To build up their own house, -- shall find at last
Ruin and fearful desolation cast
Upon themselves. Their mansion shall become
A desert, and their palace prove a tomb.
Their vines shall barren be, their land yield tares;
Their house shall have no dwellers, they no heirs.

Woe unto those, that with the morning Sun
Rise to drink wine, and sit till he have run
His weary course; not ceasing until night
Have quench'd their understanding with the light:
Whose raging thirst, like fire, will not be tam'd,
The more they pour, the more they are inflam'd.
Woe unto them that only mighty are
To wage with wine; in which unhappy war
They who the glory of the day have won,
Must yield them foil'd and vanquish'd by the tun.
Men that live thus, as if they liv'd in jest,
Fooling their time with music and a feast;
That did exile all sounds from their soft ear
But of the harp, must this sad discord hear
Compos'd in threats. The feet which measures tread
Shall in captivity be fettered:
Famine shall scourge them for their vast excess;
And Hell revenge their monstrous drunkenness;
Which hath enlarg'd itself to swallow such,
Whose throats ne'er knew enough, though still too much.

Woe unto those that countenance a sin,
Siding with vice, that it may credit win
By their unhallow'd vote: that do benight
The truth with error, putting dark for light,
And light for dark; that call an evil good,
And would by vice have virtue understood:
That with their frown can sour an honest cause,
Or sweeten any bad by their applause.
That justify the wicked for reward;
And, void of moral goodness or regard,
Plot with detraction to traduce the fame
Of him whose merit hath enroll'd his name
Among the just. Therefore God's vengeful ire
Glows on his people, and becomes a fire,
Whose greedy and exalted flame shall burn,
Till they like straw or chaff to nothing turn.
Because they have rebell'd against the right,
To God and Law perversely opposite,
As plants which Sun nor showers did ever bless,
So shall their root convert to rottenness;
And their succession's bud, in which they trust,
Shall (like Gomorrah's fruit) moulder to dust.

Woe unto those that, drunk with self-conceit,
Value their own designs at such a rate
Which human wisdom cannot reach; that sit
Enthron'd, as sole monopolists of wit;
That outlook reason, and suppose the eye
Of Nature blind to their discovery,
Whilst they a title make to understand
Whatever secret's bosom'd in the land.
But God shall imp their pride, and let them see
They are but fools in a sublime degree:
He shall bring down and humble those proud eyes,
In which false glasses only they look'd wise;
That all the world may laugh, and learn by it,
There is no folly to pretended wit.

Woe unto those that draw iniquity
With cords, and by a vain security
Lengthen the sinful trace, till their own chain
Of many links, form'd by laborious pain,
Do pull them into Hell; that, as with lines
And cart-ropes, drag on their unwilling crimes:
Who, rather than they will commit no sin,
Tempt all occasions to let it in.
As if there were no God, who must exact
The strict account for every vicious fact;
Nor judgement after death. If any be,
Let him make speed (say they), that we may see.
Why is his work retarded by delay?
Why doth himself thus linger on the way?
If there be any judge, or future doom,
Let It and Him with speed together come.

Unhappy men, that challenge and defy
The coming of that dreadful Majesty!
Better by much for you, he did reverse
His purposed sentence on the Universe;
Or that the creeping minutes might adjourn
Those flames in which you, with the earth, must burn;
That time's revolting hand could lag the year,
And so put back his day which is too near.

Behold his signs advanc'd like colours fly,
To tell the world that his approach is nigh;
And in a furious march, he's coming on
Swift as the raging inundation,
To scour the sinful world; 'gainst which is bent
Artillery that never can be spent:
Bows strung with vengeance, and flame-feather'd darts
Headed with death, to wound transgressing hearts;
His chariot wheels wrapp'd in the whirlwind's gyre,
His horses hoov'd with flint, and shod with fire:
In which amaze, where'er they fix their eye,
Or on the melting earth, or up on high,
To seek Heaven's shrunk lights, nothing shall appear,
But night and horror in their hemisphere:
Nor shall th' affrighted sense more objects know
Than dark'ned skies above, and Hell below.





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