Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, EPITHALAMION, by GEORGE WITHER



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

EPITHALAMION, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Bright northern star, and great minerva's peer
Last Line: I'le find a meanes to make it knowne for ever.
Subject(s): Wedding Song; Epithalamium


Bright Northerne Starre, and great Minervoes peere,
Sweete Lady of this Day: Great Britaines deere.
Loe thy poore Vassall, that was erst so rude,
With his most Rusticke Satyrs to intrude,
Once more like a poore Silvan now drawes neare;
And in thy sacred Presence dares appeare.
Oh let not that sweete Bowe thy Brow be bent,
To scarre him with a Shaft of discontent:
One looke with Anger, nay thy gentlest Frowne,
Is twice enough to cast a Greater downe.
My Will is ever, never to offend,
These that are good; and what I here intend,
Your Worth compels me to. For lately greev'd,
More then can be exprest, or well beleev'd;
Minding for ever to abandon sport,
And live exilde from places of resort;
Carelesse of all, I yeelding to securitie,
Thought to shut up my Muse in darke obscuritie:
And in content, the better to repose,
A lonely Grove upon a Mountaine chose.
East from Caer Winn, mid-way twixt Arle and Dis,
True Springs, where Britains true Arcadia is.
But ere I entred my entended course,
Great AEolus began to offer force.
The boisterous King was growne so mad with rage,
That all the Earth, was but his furies stage.
Fire, Ayre, Earth, Sea, were intermixt in one:
Yet Fire, through Water, Earth and Ayre shone.
The Sea, as if she ment to whelme them under,
Beat on the Cliffes, and rag'd more loud then thunder:
And whil'st the vales she with salt waves did fill,
The Aire showr'd flouds, that drencht our highest hill;
And the proud trees, that would no dutie know,
Lay over-turned, twenties in a Row.
Yea, every Man for feare, fell to Devotion;
Lest the whole Ile should have bin drencht in th'Ocean.
Which I perceiving, conjur'd up my Muse,
The Spirit, whose good helpe I sometime use:
And though I ment to breake her rest no more,
I was then faine her aide for to implore.
And by her helpe indeed, I came to know,
Why, both the Ayre and Seas were troubled so.
For having urg'd her, that she would unfold
What cause she knew: Thus much at last she told.
Of late (quoth she) there is by powers Divine
A match concluded, twixt Great Thame and Rhine.
Two famous Rivers, equall both to Nile:
The one, the pride of Europes greatest Ile.
Th'other disdaining to be closely pent;
Washes a great part of the Continent.
Yet with abundance, doth the Wants supply,
Of the still-thirsting Sea, that's never dry.
And now, these, being not alone endear'd,
To mightie Neptune, and his watrie Heard:
But also to the great and dreadfull Jove,
With all his sacred Companies above,
Both have assented by their Loves inviting:
To grace (with their owne presence) this Uniting.
Jove call'd a Summons to the Worlds great wonder,
'Twas that we heard of late, which we thought thunder.
A thousand Legions he intends to send them,
Of Cherubins and Angels to attend them:
And those strong Windes, that did such blustring keepe,
Were but the Tritons, sounding in the Deepe;
To warne each River, petty Streame and Spring,
Their aide unto their Soveraigne to bring.
The Floods and Showres that came so plenteous downe,
And lay entrencht in every Field and Towne,
Were but retainers to the Nobler sort,
That owe their Homage at the Watrie Court:
Or else the streames not pleas'd with their owne store,
To grace the Thames, their Mistris, borrowed more.
Exacting from their neighbouring Dales and Hills,
But by consent all (nought against their wills.)
Yet now, since in this stirre are brought to ground
Many faire buildings, many hundreds drown'd,
And daily found of broken Ships great store,
That lie dismembred upon every shore:
With divers other mischiefes knowne to all,
This is the cause that those great harmes befall.
Whilst other, things in readinesse, did make,
Hells hatefull Hags from out their prisons brake:
And spighting at this hopefull match, began
To wreake their wrath on Ayre, Earth, Sea, and Man.
Some having shapes of Romish shavelings got,
Spew'd out their venome; and began to plot
Which way to thwart it: others made their way
With much distraction thorough Land and Sea
Extreamely raging. But Almightie Jove
Perceives their Hate and Envie from above:
He'le checke their furie, and in yrons chain'd,
Their libertie abus'd, shall be restrain'd:
Hee'le shut them up, from comming to molest
The Meriments of Hymens holy feast.
Where shall be knit that sacred Gordian knot,
Which in no age to come shall be forgot.
Which Policie nor Force shall nere untie,
But must continue to eternitie:
Which for the whole Worlds good was fore-decree'd,
With Hope expected long; now come indeed.
And of whose future glory, worth, and merit
Much I could speake with a prophetike spirit.
Thus by my Muses deare assistance, finding
The cause of this disturbance, with more minding
My Countries welfare, then my owne content,
And longing to behold this Tales event:
My lonely life I suddenly forsooke,
And to the Court againe my Journey tooke.
Meane-while I saw the furious Windes were laid;
The risings of the swelling Waters staid.
The Winter gan to change in every thing,
And seem'd to borrow mildnesse of the Spring.
The Violet and Primrose fresh did grow;
And as in Aprill, trim'd both Cops and rowe.
The Citie, that I left in mourning clad,
Drouping, as if it would have still beene sad,
I found deckt up in roabes so neat and trimme,
Faire Iris would have look't but stale and dimme
In her best colours, had she there appear'd;
The Sorrowes of the Court I found well cleer'd,
Their wofull habits quite cast off, and ty'rd
In such a glorious fashion: I admir'd.
All her chiefe Peeres and choisest beauties to,
In greater pompe, then Mortals use to doe,
Wait as attendants. Juno's come to see;
Because she heares that this solemnitie
Exceeds faire Hippodamia's (where the strife
'Twixt her, Minerva, and lame Vulcans wife
Did first arise,) and with her leades along
A noble, stately, and a mighty throng.
Venus, (attended with her rarest features,
Sweet lovely-smiling, and heart-moving creatures,
The very fairest Jewels of her treasure,
Able to move the senceles stones to pleasure.)
Of all her sweetest Saints, hath robd their shrines;
And brings them for the Courtiers Valentines.
Nor doth Dame Pallas, from these triumphs lurke;
Her noblest wits, she freely sets on worke.
Of late she summond them unto this place,
To doe your maskes and Revels better grace.
Here* Mars himselfe to, clad in Armour bright,
Hath showne his furie in a bloudless fight;
And both on land and water, sternely drest,
Acted his bloudy Stratagems in jest:
Which (to the people, frighted by their error,)
With seeming wounds and death did ad more terror,
Besides, to give the greater cause of wonder,
Jove did vouchsafe a ratling peale of thunder:
Comets and Meteors by the starres exhald,
Were from the Middle-Region lately cald;
And to a place appointed made repaire,
To show their fierie Friscols in the aire,
People innumerable doe resort,
As if all Europe here would keepe one Court:
Yea, Hymen in his Safferon-coloured weed,
To celebrate his rites is full agreed.
All this I see: which seeing, makes me borrow
Some of their mirth a while, and lay downe sorrow.
And yet not this: but rather the delight
My heart doth take in the much hoped sight
Of these thy glories, long already due;
And this sweet comfort, that my eyes doe view
Thy happy Bridegroome, Prince Count Palatine,
Now thy best friend and truest Valentine.
Upon whose brow, my minde doth reade the storie
Of mightie fame, and a true future glorie.
Me thinkes I doe foresee already, how
Princes and Monarchs at his stirrop bow:
I see him shine in steele; the bloudy fields
Already won, and how his proud foe yeelds.
God hath ordaind him happinesse great store:
And yet in nothing is he happy more,
Then in thy love (faire Princesse:) For (unlesse
Heaven, like to Man, be prone to ficklenesse)
Thy Fortunes must be greater in effect,
Then time makes show of, or men can expect.
Yet, notwithstanding all those goods of fate,
Thy Minde shall ever be above thy state:
For over and beside thy proper merit,
Our last Eliza grants her Noble spirit
To be re-doubled on thee; and your names
Being both one, shall give you both one fames.
Oh blessed thou! and they to whom thou giv'st
The leave for to be attendants where thou liv'st:
And haplesse we, that must of force let goe,
The matchlesse treasure we esteeme of so.
But yet we trust 'tis for our good and thine;
Or else thou shouldst not change thy Thame for Rhyne.
We hope that this will the uniting prove
Of Countries and of Nations by your love:
And that from out your blessed loynes, shall come
Another terror to the Whore of Rome:
And such a stout Achilles, as shall make
Her tottering Walls and weake foundation shake:
For Thetis-like, thy fortunes doe require,
Thy Issue should be greater then his sire.
But (Gracious Princesse) now since thus it fares,
And God so well for you and us prepares:
Since he hath daign'd such honours for to doe you,
And showne himselfe so favourable to you:
Since he hath chang'd your sorrowes, and your sadnes,
Into such great and unexpected gladnesse:
Oh now remember you to be at leasure,
Sometime to thinke on him amidst your pleasure:
Let not these glories of the world deceave you,
Nor her vaine favours of your selfe bereave you.
Consider yet for all this Jollitie,
Y'are mortall, and must feele mortalitie:
And that God can in midst of all your Joyes,
Quite dash this pompe, and fill you with annoyes.
Triumphes are fit for Princes; yet we finde
They ought not wholly to take up the minde,
Nor yet to be let passe; as things in vaine:
for out of all things, wit will knowledge gaine.
Musique may teach of difference in degree,
The best tun'd Common-Weales will framed bee:
And that he moves, and lives with greatest grace,
That unto Time and Measure ties his pace.
Then let these things be Emblemes, to present
Your minde with a more lasting true content.
When you behold the infinite resort,
The glory and the splendor of the Court;
What wondrous favours God doth here bequeath you,
How many hundred thousands are beneath you;
And view with admiration your great blisse,
Then with your selfe you may imagine this.
'Tis but a blast, or transitory shade,
Which in the turning of a hand may fade.
Honours, which you your selfe did never winne,
And might (had God been pleas'd) anothers binne.
And thinke, if shadowes have such majestie,
What are the glories of eternitie;
Then by this image of a fight on Sea,
Wherein you heard the thundring Canons plea;
And saw flames breaking from their murthering throts,
Which in true skirmish, fling resistlesse shots;
Your wisedome may (and will no doubt) begin,
To cast what perill a poore Souldiers in:
You will conceave his miseries and cares,
How many dangers, deaths, and wounds he shares:
Then though the most pass't over, and neglect them,
That Rethericke will move you to respect them.
And if hereafter, you should hap to see
Such Mimick Apes (that Courts disgraces be:)
I meane such Chamber-combatants; who never
Weare other Helmet, then a Hat of Bever:
Or nere board Pinnace but in silken saile;
And in the steed of boysterous shirts of maile,
Goe arm'd in Cambrick: If that such a Kite
(I say) should scorne an Eagle in your sight;
Your wisedome judge (by this experience) can,
Which hath most worth, Hermaphrodite, or Man.
The nights strange *prospects, made to feed the eies,
with Artfull fiers, mounted in the skies:
Graced with horred claps of sulphury thunders
May make you minde th'Almighties greater wonders.
Nor is there any thing, but you may thence
Reape inward gaine; as well as please the Sense.
But pardon me (oh fairest) that am bold,
My heart thus freely, plainely, to unfold.
What though I know, you knew all this before:
My love this showes, and that is something more.
Doe not my honest service here disdaine,
I am a faithfull, though an humble Swaine.
I'me none of those that have the meanes or place,
With showes of cost to doe your Nuptials grace:
But onely master of mine owne desire,
Am hither come with others to admire.
I am not of those Heliconian wits,
Whose pleasing straines the Courts knowne humour fits.
But a poore rurall Shepheard, that for need,
Can make sheepe Musique on an Oaten reed:
Yet for my love (Ile this be bold to boast)
It is as much to you, as his that's most.
Which, since I no way else can now explaine,
If you'l in midst of all these glories daigne
To lend your eares unto my Muse so long,
She shall declare it in a Wedding song.

Epithalamion
Valentine, good morrow to thee,
Love and service both I owe thee:
And would waite upon thy pleasure;
But I cannot be at leasure:
For, I owe this day as debter,
To (a thousand times) thy better.

Hymen now will have effected
What hath been so long expected:
Thame thy Mistris, now unwedded;
Soone, must with a Prince be bedded.
If thou'lt see her Virgin ever,
Come, and doe it now, or never.

Where art thou, oh faire Aurora?
Call in Ver and Lady Flora:
And you daughters of the Morning,
In your neat'st, and feat'st adorning:
Cleare your fore-heads, and be sprightfull,
That this day may seeme delightfull.

All you Nimphs that use the Mountaines,
Or delight in groves and fountaines;
Shepheardesses, you that dally,
Either upon Hill or Valley:
And you daughters of the Bower,
That acknowledge Vestaes power.

Oh you sleepe too long; awake yee,
See how Time doth overtake yee.
Harke, the Larke is up and singeth,
And the house with ecchoes ringeth.
Pretious howers, why neglect yee,
Whil'st affaires thus expect yee?

Come away upon my blessing,
The Bride-chamber lies to dressing:
Strow the wayes with leaves of Roses,
Some make garlands, some make poses:
'Tis a favour, and't may joy you,
That your Mistris will employ you.

Where's Sabrina, with her daughters,
That doe sport about her waters:
Those that with their lockes of Amber,
Haunt the fruitfull hills of Camber:
We must have to fill the number,
All the Nimphs of Trent and Humber.

Fie, your haste is scarce sufficing,
For the Bride's awake and rising.
Enter beauties, and attend her;
All your helpes and service lend her:
With your quaint'st and new'st devises,
Trim your Lady, faire Thamisis.

See; shee's ready: with Joyes greet her,
Lads, goe bid the Bride-groome meet her:
But from rash approach advise him,
Lest a too much Joy surprize him,
None I ere knew yet, that dared,
View an Angell unprepared.

Now unto the Church she hies her;
Envie bursts, if she espies her:
In her gestures as she paces,
Are united all the Graces:
Which who sees and hath his senses,
Loves in spight of all defences.

O most true majestick creature!
Nobles did you note her feature?
Felt you not an inward motion,
Tempting Love to yeeld devotion;
And as you were even desiring,
Something check you for aspiring?

That's her Vertue which still tameth
Loose desires, and bad thoughts blameth:
For whil'st others were unruly,
She observ'd Diana truly:
And hath by that meanes obtained
Gifts of her that none have gained.

Yon's the Bride-groome, d'yee not spie him?
See how all the Ladies eye him.
Venus his perfection findeth,
And no more Adonis mindeth.
Much of him my heart divineth:
On whose brow all Vertue shineth.

Two such Creatures Nature would not
Let one place long keepe: she should not:
One shee'l have (she cares not whether,)
But our Loves can spare her neither.
Therefore ere we'le so be spighted,
They in one shall be united.

Natures selfe is well contented,
By that meanes to be prevented.
And behold they are retired,
So conjoyn'd, as we desired:
Hand in hand, not onely fixed,
But their hearts, are intermixed.

Happy they and we that see it,
For the good of Europe be it.
And heare Heaven my devotion,
Make this Rhyne and Thame an Ocean:
That it may with might and wonder,
Whelme the pride of Tyber under.

Now yon Hall their persons shroudeth,
Whither all this people croudeth:
There they feasted are with plenty,
Sweet Ambrosia is no deinty.
Groomes quaffe Nectar; for theres meeter,
Yea, more costly wines and sweeter.

Young men all, for joy goe ring yee,
And your merriest Carols sing yee.
Here's of Damzels many choices,
Let them tune their sweetest voyces.
Fet the Muses to, to cheare them;
They can ravish all that heare them.

Ladies, 'tis their Highnesse pleasures,
To behold you foot the Measures:
Lovely gestures addeth graces,
To your bright and Angell faces.
Give your active mindes the bridle:
Nothing worse then to be idle.

Worthies, your affaires forbeare yee,
For the State a while may spare yee:
Time was, that you loved sporting,
Have you quite forgot your Courting?
Joy the heart of Cares beguileth:
Once a yeere Apollo smileth.

Fellow Shepheards, how I pray you,
Can your flocks at this time stay you?
Let us also hie us thither,
Let's lay all our wits together,
And some Pastorall invent them,
That may show the love we ment them.

I my selfe though meanest stated,
And in Court now almost hated,
Will knit up my Scourge, and venter
In the midst of them to enter;
For I know, there's no disdaining,
Where I looke for entertaining.

See, me thinkes the very season,
As if capable of Reason,
Hath laine by her native rigor,
The faire Sun-beames have more vigor.
They are AEols most endeared:
For the Ayre's still'd and cleared.

Fawnes, and Lambs and Kidds doe play,
In the honour of this day:
The shrill Black-Bird, and the Thrush
Hops about in every bush:
And among the tender twigs,
Chaunt their sweet harmonious jigs.

Yea, and mov'd by this example,
They doe make each Grove a temple:
Where their time the best way using,
They their Summer loves are chusing,
And unlesse some Churle do wrong them,
There's not an od bird among them.

Yet I heard as I was walking,
Groves and hills by Ecchoes talking:
Reeds unto the small brooks whistling,
Whil'st they danc't with pretty rushling.
Then for us to sleepe 'twere pitty;
Since dumb creatures are so witty.

But oh Titan, thou dost dally,
Hie thee to thy Westerne Valley:
Let this night one hower borrow:
She shall pay't againe to morrow:
And if thou'lt that favor do them,
Send thy sister Phoebe to them.

But shee's come her selfe unasked,
And brings Gods and Heroes masked.
None yet saw, or heard in storie,
Such immortall, mortall glorie.
View not, without preparation;
Lest you faint in admiration.

Say my Lords, and speake truth barely,
Mov'd they not exceeding rarely?
Did they not such praises merit,
As if flesh had all beene spirit?
True indeed, yet I must tell them,
There was One did farre excell them.

But (alas) this is ill dealing,
Night unawares away is stealing:
Their delay the poore bed wrongeth,
That for Bride with Bride-groome longeth:
And above all other places,
Must be blest with their embraces.

Revellers, then now forbeare yee,
And unto your rests prepare yee:
Let's a while your absence borrow,
Sleep to night, and dance to morrow.
We could well allow your Courting:
But 'twill hinder better sporting.

They are gone, and Night all lonely,
Leaves the Bride with Bridegroome onely.
Muse now tell; (for thou hast power
To flie thorough wall or tower:)
What contentments their hearts cheareth;
And how lovely she appeareth.

And yet doe not; tell it no man,
Rare conceits may so grow common:
Doe not to the Vulgar show them,
('Tis enough that thou dost know them.)
Their ill hearts are but the Center,
Where all misconceivings enter.

But thou Luna that dost lightly,
Haunt our downes and forrests nightly:
Thou that favour'st generation,
And art helpe to procreation:
See their issue thou so cherish,
I may live to see it flourish.

And you Planets, in whose power
Doth consist these lives of our;
You that teach us Divinations,
Helpe with all your Constellations,
How to frame in Her, a creature,
Blest in Fortune, Wit, and Feature.

Lastly, oh you Angels ward them,
Set your sacred Spels to gard them;
Chase away such feares or terrors,
As not being, seeme through errors:
Yea, let not a dreames molesting,
Make them start when they are resting.

But THOU chiefly, most adored,
That shouldst onely be implored:
Thou to whom my meaning tendeth,
Whether er'e in show it bendeth:
Let them rest to night from sorrow,
And awake with joy to morrow.

Oh, to my request be heedfull,
Grant them that, and all things needfull.
Let not these my straines of Folly,
Make true prayer be unholy:
But if I have here offended:
Helpe, forgive, and see it mended.

Daigne me this. And if my Muses
Hastie issue she peruses,
Make it unto her seeme gratefull,
Though to all the World else hatefull.
But how er'e, yet Soule persever
Thus to wish her good for ever.

Thus ends the Day, together with my Song;
Oh may the Joyes thereof continue long!
Let Heavens just, all-seeing, sacred power
Favour this happy marriage day of your;
And blesse you in your chast embraces so,
We Britains may behold before you goe
The hopefull Issue we shall count so deare,
And whom (unborne) his foes already feare.
Yea, I desire, that all your sorrowes may
Never be more, then they have been to day.
Which hoping; for acceptance now I sue,
And humbly bid your Grace and Court adue.
I saw the sight I came for; which I know
Was more then all the world beside could show.
But if amongst Apolloes Layes, you can
Be pleas'd to lend a gentle eare to Pan;
Or thinke your Country Shepheard loves as deare,
As if he were a Courtier, or a Peere:
Then I, that else must to my Cell of paine,
Will joyfull turne unto my flocke againe:
And there unto my fellow Shepheards tell,
Why you are lov'd; wherein you doe excell.
And when we drive our flocks a field to graze them,
So chaunt your praises, that it shall amaze them:
And thinke that Fate hath new recald from death
Their still-lamented, sweete Elizabeth.
For though they see the Court but now and then,
They know desert as well as Greater men:
And honord Fame in them doth live or die,
As well as in the mouth of Majestie.
But taking granted what I here intreat,
At heaven for you my devotions beat:
And though I feare, fate will not suffer me
To doe you service, where your Fortunes be:
How ere my skill hath yet despised seem'd,
(And my unripened wit been misesteem'd:)
When all this costly Showe away shall flit,
And not one live that doth remember it;
If Envies trouble let not to persever;
I'le find a meanes to make it knowne for ever.





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