With a preface addressed to Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke.
Thomas Birch: "In his Ruines of Time, written after the Death of Sir PHILIP SIDNEY, and publish'd in 1591, he makes the following Exclamation, as it stands in that first Edition, for in the subsequent ones there are some Alterations in the Lines, which make the Invective more general, "him" being chang'd to "such": 'O Grief of Griefs! O Gall of all good Hearts! | To see, that Virtue should despised be | Of him, that first was rais'd for virtuous Parts, | And now broad spreading like an aged Tree, | Lets none shoot up, that nigh him planted be'" Life of Spenser in Faerie Queene (1751) 1:xiii-xiv.
William Oldys?: "His Ruines of Time he dedicates with all the gratitude imaginable to that most amiable Lady the Countess of Pembroke, Sister to Sir Philip Sidney: whose memory in particular, and that of his Relations on both sides, he has there embalmed, in a manner worthy of himself and his great Friend" Faerie Queene, ed. Church (1758) 1:xxv.
John Aikin: "The "Ruins of Time" is a fine idea, inadequately executed. The Roman colony of Verulam was never of consequence enough to be selected as the leading example of change of fortune; and the adulatory lamentation of the death of a private nobleman is unworthy of the high theme of the poem. In the scenery of this piece Spenser has adopted the ancient notion that the Thames once ran by Verulam; an improbable fable, by which more is lost in point of reality, than is gained in description" Works of Spenser (1802) 1:xlvii.
Retrospective Review: "The piece, entitled The Ruins of Time, discloses its subject in its name. Its principal feature is the lamentation of the city of Verulam, under the emblematical representation of a female over the decay of her towers and palaces; in the course of which, the lady takes occasion to moralize on the transitory nature of human things, and, afterwards, adverts to the death of the Earl of Leicester. To the commendation of this nobleman and his family, the poem is, in fact, especially devoted. The general subject is undoubtedly a fine one, but the poet has made but little of it, the poem containing neither grandeur, sublimity, nor pathos. His reflections on the instability of terrestrial institutions and human affairs are not to be compared to the eloquent and imaginative moralizations of Jeremy Taylor, in his Holy Dying" 12 (1825) 154.
John Payne Collier: "It is not possible to determine how much of Spenser's Stemmata Dudleiana, mentioned in his Letter to Harvey of April 1580, is included in the first poem in this collection, and there called The Ruins of Time; but as it is dedicated to Lady Pembroke, 'Sidney's Sister,' and is mainly devoted to the honour of the Earl of Leicester and other members of that family, we may feel pretty confident that it embraces the substance of what Spenser had written at a considerably earlier date, with such additions and emendations as the poet afterwards saw reason to introduce. Sidney and Leicester are both spoken of as dead; and of the latter Spenser reproachfully says, — 'His name is worne alreadie out of thought, | Ne anie Poet seekes him to revive, | Yet manie Poets honour'd him alive.' If there were no other proof (and there is abundant) the praise of Camden, as 'the nourice of Antiquitie,' would show that this part of The Ruins of Time was written after the first edition of Britannia came from the press" Poetical Works of Spenser (1862; 1875) 1:lxxviii-ix.
It chaunced me one day beside the Shore
Of silver streaming Thamesis to be,
Nigh where the goodly Verlame stood of yore,
Of which there now remains no Memory,
Nor any little Monument to see;
By which the Traveller, that fares that way,
This once was she, may warned be to say.
There, on the other side, I did behold
A Woman sitting sorrowfully wailing,
Rending her yellow Locks, like wiry Gold,
About her Shoulders carelesly down trailing,
And Streams of Tears from her fair Eyes forth railing:
In her right Hand a broken Rod she held,
Which towards Haven she seem'd on high to weld.
Whether she were one of that River's Nymphs,
Which did the Loss of some dear Love lament,
I doubt; or one of those three fatal Imps,
Which draw the Days of Men forth in Extent;
Or th' ancient Genius of that city brent:
But seeing her so piteously perplexed,
I (to her calling) ask'd what her so vexed.
Ah! what Delight (quoth she) in earthly thing,
Or Comfort can I wretched Creature have?
Whose Happiness the Heavens envying,
From highest Stair to lowest Step me drave,
And have in mine own Bowels made my Grave:
That of all Nations now I am forlorn,
The World's sad Spectacle, and Fortune's Scorn.
Much was I moved at her piteous Plaint,
And felt my Heart nigh riven in my Breast
With tender Ruth to see her sore Constraint,
That shedding Tears awhile, I still did rest,
And after, did her Name of her request.
Name have I none (quoth she) nor any Being,
Bereft of both by Fates unjust decreeing.
I was that City, which the Garland wore
Of Britain's Pride, delivered unto me
By Roman Victors, which it won of yore;
Though nought at all but Ruines now I be,
And lie in mine own Ashes, as ye see:
Verlame I was; what boots it that I was,
Sith now I am but Weeds and wasteful Grass?
O vain World's Glory, and unstedfast State
Of all that lives on face of sinful Earth!
Which from their first until their utmost Date,
Taste no one hour of Happiness or Mirth;
But like as at the Ingate of their Birth,
They crying creep out of their Mother's Womb;
So wailing, back go to their woeful Tomb.
Why then doth Flesh, a Bubble-glass of Breath,
Hunt after Honour and Advauncement vain,
And rear a Trophee for devouring Death,
With so great Labour and long-lasting Pain,
As if his Days for ever should remain?
Sith all that in this World is great or gay,
Doth as a Vapour vanish and decay.
Look back who list unto the former Ages,
And call to count what is of them become:
Where be those learned Wits and antique Sages,
Which of all Wisdom knew the perfect Sum?
Where those great Warriors, which did overcome
The World with Conquest of their Might and Main,
And made one Mear of th' Earth, and of their Reign?
What now is of th' Assyrian Lioness,
Of whom no Footing now on Earth appears?
What of the Persian Bear's Outrageousness,
Whose Memory is quite worn out with Years?
Who of the Grecian Libbard now ought hears,
That over-ran the East with greedy Powre,
And left his Whelps their Kingdoms to devour?
And where is that same great seven-headed Beast,
That made all Nations Vassals of her Pride,
To fall before her Feet at her Beheast,
And in the Neck of all the World did ride?
Where doth she all that wondrous Wealth now hide?
With her own Weight down pressed now she lies,
And by her Heaps her Hugeness testifies.
O Rome! thy Ruin I lament and rue,
And in thy Fall, my fatal Overthrow,
That whilom was, whilst Heavens with equal View
Deign'd to behold me, and their Gifts bestow,
The Picture of thy Pride in pompous Show:
And of the whole World as thou wast the Empress,
So I of this small Northern World was Princess.
To tell the Beauty of my Buildings fair,
Adorn'd with purest Gold, and precious Stone;
To tell my Riches, and Endowments rare,
That by my Foes are now all spent and gone:
To tell my Forces, matchable to none,
Were but lost Labour, that few would believe,
And with rehearsing, would me more agrieve.
High Towers, fair Temples, goodly Theaters,
Strong Walls, rich porches, princely palaces,
Large Streets, brave Houses, sacred Sepulchers,
Sure Gates, sweet Gardens, stately Galleries,
Wrought with fair Pillors, and fine Imageries:
All those (O pity!) now are turn'd to Dust,
And overgrown with black Oblivion's Rust.
Thereto for warlike Power, and Peoples Store,
In Britanny was none to match with me,
That many often did aby full sore:
Ne Troynovant, though elder Sister she,
With my great Forces may compared be;
That stout Pendragon to his Peril felt,
Who in a Siege seven Years about me dwelt.
But long e'er this, Bunduca, Britonness,
Her mighty Hoast against my Bulwarks brought;
Bunduca, that victorious Conqueress,
That lifting up her brave heroick Thought
'Bove Womens Weakness, with the Romans fought,
Fought, and in Field against them thrice prevailed;
Yet was she foil'd, whenas the me assailed.
And though at last by Force I conquer'd were
Of hardy Saxons, and became their Thrall;
Yet was I with much Bloodshed bought full dear,
And priz'd with Slaughter of their General:
The Monument of whose sad Funeral,
For Wonder of the World, long in me lasted,
But now to nought through Spoil of Time is wasted.
Wasted it is, as if it never were;
And all the rest that me so honour'd made,
And of the World admired every where,
Is turn'd to Smoak, that doth to nothing fade:
And of that Brightness now appears no Shade,
But griesly Shades, such as do haunt in Hell,
With fearful Fiends, that in deep Darkness dwell.
Where my high Steeples whilom us'd to stand,
On which the lordly Faulcon wont to towre,
There now is but an Heap of Lime and Sand,
For the Skriech-Owl to build her baleful Bowre:
And where the Nightingale wont forth to pour
Her restless Plaints, to comfort wakeful Lovers,
There now haunt yelling Mews and whining Plovers.
And where the chrystal Thamis wont to slide
In silver Channel, down along the Lee,
About whose flowry Banks on either side,
A thousand Nymphs, with mirthful Jollitee,
Were wont to play, from all Annoyance free;
There now no River's Course is to be seen,
But moorish Fens, and Marshes ever green.
Seems, that the gentle River for great Grief
Of my Mishap, which oft I to him plained;
Or for to shun the horrible Mischief,
With which he saw my cruel Foes me pained,
And his pure Streams with guiltless Blood oft stained,
From my unhappy Neighbourhood far fled,
And his sweet Waters away with him led.
There also where the winged Ships were seen,
In liquid Waves to cut their foamy way,
And thousand Fishers numbred to have been
In that wide Lake, looking for plenteous Prey
Of Fish, which they with Baits us'd to betray;
Is now no Lake, nor any Fisher's Store,
Nor ever Ship shall sail there any more.
They are all gone, and all with them is gone,
Ne ought to me remains, but to lament
My long Decay, which no Man else doth mone,
And mourn my Fall with doleful Dreriment.
Yet is it Comfort in great Languishment,
To be bemoned with Compassion kind,
And mitigates the Anguish of the Mind.
But me no Man bewaileth, but in Game,
Ne sheddeth Tears from lamentable Eye;
Nor any lives that mentioneth my Name
To be remembred of Posterity,
Save one, that maugre Fortune's Injury,
And Time's Decay, and Envy's cruel Tort,
Hath writ my Record in true-seeming sort.
Cambden, the Nourice of Antiquity,
And Lanthorn unto late succeeding Age,
To see the Light of simple Verity,
Buried in Ruines, through the great Outrage
Of her own People, led with warlike Rage;
Cambden, though Time all Monuments obscure,
Yet thy just Labours ever shall endure.
But why (unhappy Wight!) do I thus cry,
And grieve that my Remembrance quite is raced
Out of the Knowledge of Posterity,
And all my antique Monuments defaced?
Sith I do daily see things highest placed,
So soon as Fates their vital Thred have shorn,
Forgotten quite, as they were never born.
It is not long since these two Eyes beheld
A mighty Prince, of most renowned Race,
Whom England high in count of Honour held,
And greatest ones did sue to gain his Grace;
Of greatest ones he greatest in his Place,
Sate in the Bosom of his Sovereign,
And Right and Loyal did his Word maintain.
I saw him die, I saw him die, as one
Of the mean People, and brought forth on Bier;
I saw him die, and no Man left to mone
His doleful Fate, that late him loved dear:
Scarce any left to close his Eye-lids near;
Scarce any left upon his Lips to lay
The sacred Sod, or Requiem to say.
O trustless State of miserable Men,
That build your Bliss on hope of earthly Thing,
And vainly think your selves half happy then,
When painted Faces with smooth flattering
Do fawn on you, and your wide Praises sing;
And when the courting Masker louteth low,
Him true in Heart and trusty to you trow!
All is but feigned, and with Oaker dide,
That every Shower will wash and wipe away;
All things do change that under Heaven abide,
And after Death all Friendship doth decay.
Therefore what-ever Man bears worldly sway,
Living, on God, and on thy self rely,
For, when thou dies, all shall with thee die.
He now is dead, and all is with him dead,
Save what in Heaven's Storehouse he uplaid;
His Hope is fail'd, and come to pass his dread,
And evil Men (now dead) his Deeds upbraid;
Spight bites the dead, that living never baid.
He now is gone, the whiles the Fox is crept
Into the Hole, the which the Badger swept.
He now is dead, and all his Glory gone,
And all his Greatness vapoured to nought,
That as a Glass upon the Water shone,
Which vanisht quite, so soon as it was sought:
His Name is worn already out of thought,
Ne any Poet seeks him to revive;
Yet many Poets honour'd him alive.
Ne doth his Colin, careless Colin Clout,
Care now his idle Bagpipe up to raise,
Ne tell his Sorrow to the listning Rout
Of shepherd Grooms, which wont his Songs to praise:
Praise whoso list, yet I will him dispraise,
Until he quit him of this guilty Blame:
Wake Shepherd's Boy, at length awake for shame.
And whoso else did Goodness by him gain,
And where else his bounteous Mind did try,
Whether he Shepherd be, or Shepherd's Swain,
(For many did, which do it now deny)
Awake, and to his Song a part apply:
And I, the whilst you mourn for his decease,
Will with my mourning Plaint your Plaint increase.
He dyde, and after him his Brother dyde,
His Brother Prince, his Brother noble Peer,
That whilst he lived, was of none envyde,
And dead is now as living, counted dear,
Dear unto all that true Affection bear:
But unto thee most dear, O dearest Dame,
His noble Spouse, and Paragon of Fame.
He, whilst he lived, happy was through thee,
And being dead, is happy now much more;
Living, that linked chaunst with thee to be,
And dead, because him dead thou doost adore
As living, and thy lost dear Love deplore:
So whilst that thou, fair Flower of Chastity,
Doost live, by thee thy Lord shall never die.
Thy Lord shall never die, the whiles this Verse
Shall live, and surely it shall live for ever:
For ever it shall live, and shall rehearse
His worthy Praise, and Vertues dying never,
Though Death his Soul do from his Body sever.
And thou thy self herein shalt also live;
Such Grace the Heavens do to my Verses give.
Ne shall his Sister, ne thy Father die,
Thy Father that good Earl of rare Renown,
And noble Patron of weak Poverty,
Whose great good Deeds in Country and in Town,
Have purchast him in Heaven a happy Crown:
Where he now liveth in eternal Bliss,
And left his Son t' ensue those Steps of his.
He noble Bud, his Grandsire's lively Heir,
Under the shadow of thy Countenance,
Now gins to shoot up fast, and flourish fair
In learned Arts, and goodly Governance,
That him to highest Honour shall advance.
Brave Imp of Bedford, grow apace in Bounty,
And count of Wisdom more than of thy County.
Ne may I let thy Husband's Sister die,
That goodly Lady, sith she eke did spring
Our of this Stock, and famous Family;
Whose Praises I to future Age do sing,
And forth out of her happy Womb did bring
The sacred Brood of Learning and all Honour:
In whom the Heavens pour'd all their Gifts upon her.
Most gentle Spirit breathed from above,
Out of the Bosom of the Maker's Bliss,
In whom all Bounty and all vertuous Love
Appeared in their native Propertis,
And did enrich that noble Breast of his,
With Treasure passing all this Worldes worth,
Worthy of Heaven it self, which brought it forth.
His blessed Spirit full of Power divine,
And Influence of all celestial Grace,
Loathing this sinful Earth and earthly Slime,
Fled back too soon unto his native Place;
Too soon for all that did his Love embrace,
Too soon for all this wretched World, whom he
Robb'd of all Right, and true Nobility.
Yet ere his happy Soul to Heaven went
Out of this fleshly Goal, he did devise
Unto his heavenly Maker to present
His Body, as a spotless Sacrifice;
And chose, that guilty Hands of Enemies
Should pour forth th' Offring of his guiltless Blood:
So Life exchanging for his Country's Good.
O noble Spirit, live there ever blessed,
The World's late Wonder, and the Heaven's new Joy,
Live ever there, and leave me here distressed
With mortal Cares, and cumbrous World's Annoy.
But where thou doost that Happiness enjoy,
Bid me, O bid me quickly come to thee,
That happy there I may thee always see.
Yet whilst the Fates afford me vital Breath,
I will it spend in speaking of thy praise,
And sing to thee, until that timely Death
By Heaven's Doom do end my earthly Days:
Thereto do thou my humble Spirit raise,
And into me that sacred Breath inspire,
Which thou there breathest, perfect and entire.
Then will I Sing: but who can better sing,
Than thine own Sister, peerless Lady bright,
Which to thee sings with deep Hearts sorrowing,
Sorrowing tempered with dear Delight?
That her to hear, I feel my feeble Spright
Robbed of Sense, and ravished with Joy,
O sad Joy, made of Mourning and Annoy!
Yet will I sing: but who can better sing,
Than thou thy self, thine one self's Valiance,
That whilst thou livedst, madest the Forrests ring,
And Fields resound, and Flocks to leap and dance,
And Shepherds leave their Lambs unto mischance,
To run thy shrill Arcadian Pipe to hear?
O happy were those Lays, thrice happy were.
But now more happy thou, and wretched we
Which want the wonted Sweetness of thy Voice
Whiles thou now in Elysian Fields so free,
With Orpheus, with Linus, and the choice
Of all that ever did in Rimes rejoyce,
Conversest, and doost hear their heavenly Lays,
And they hear thine, and thine do better praise.
So there thou livest, singing evermore,
And here thou livest, being ever song
Of us, which living, loved thee afore,
And now thee worship, mongst that blessed Throng
Of heavenly Poets, and Heroes strong.
So thou both here and there immortal art,
And every where through excellent Desart.
But such as neither of themselves can sing,
Nor yet are sung of others for reward,
Die in obscure Oblivion, as the thing
Which never was; ne ever with regard,
Their Names shall of the later Age be heard
But shall in rusty Darkness ever lie,
Unless they mention'd be with Infamy.
What booteth it to have been rich alive?
What to be great? what to be gracious?
When after Death no Token doth survive,
Of former being in this mortal House,
But sleeps in Dust dead and inglorious;
Like Beast, whose Breath but in his Nostrils is,
And hath not hope of Happiness or Bliss.
How many great ones may remembred be,
Which in their Days most famously did flourish;
Of whom no word we hear, nor sign now see,
But as things wip'd out with a Spunge do perish,
Because they living, cared not to cherish
No gentle Wits, through Pride or Covetize,
Which might their Names for ever memorize?
Provide therefore (ye Princes) whilst ye live,
That of the Muses ye may friended be;
Which unto Men eternity do give:
For they be Daughters of Dame Memory,
And Jove, the Father of Eternity;
And do those Men in golden Thrones repose,
Whose Merits they to glorify do chose.
The seven-fold yron Gates of grisly Hell,
And horrid House of sad Proserpina,
They able are with power of mighty Spell
To break, and thence the Souls to bring away
Our of drad Darkness, to eternal Day;
And them immortal make, which else would die
In foul Forgetfulness, and nameless lie.
So whylom raised they the puissant Brood
Of golden-girt AIcmena, for great Merit,
Out of the Dust, to which the Oetaean Wood
Had him consum'd, and spent his vital Spirit
To highest Heaven, where now he doth inherit
All Happiness in Hebe's silver Bow'r,
Chosen to be her dearest Paramour.
So rais'd they eke fair Leda's warlike Twins,
And interchanged Life unto them lent,
That when th' one dies, th' other then begins
To shew in Heaven his Brightness orient;
And they, for pity of the sad Wayment,
Which Orpheus for Eurydice did make,
Her back again to Life sent for his sake.
So happy are they, and so fortunate,
Whom the Pierian sacred Sisters love,
That freed from Bands of impacable Fate,
And powre of Death, they live for ay above,
Where mortal Wreaks their Bliss may not remove:
But with the Gods, for former Vertue's Meed,
On Nectar and Ambrosia do feed.
For Deeds do die, however nobly done,
And Thoughts of Men do in themselves decay;
But wise Words taught in Numbers for to run,
Recorded by the Muses, live for ay,
Ne may with storming Showers be washt away;
Ne bitter breathing Winds with harmful Blast,
Nor Age, nor Envy shall them ever wast.
In vain do earthly Princes then, in vain
Seek with Pyramides to Heaven aspired;
Or huge Colosses built with costly pain;
Or brasen Pillows, never to be fired,
Or Shrines made of the Metal most desired,
To make their Memories for ever live;
For how can mortal Immortality give?
Such one Mausolus made, the World's great wonder,
But now no remnant doth thereof remain:
Such one Marcellus, but was torn with Thunder:
Such one Lisippus, but is worn with Rain:
Such one King Edmond, but was rent for gain.
All such vain Monuments of earthly Mass,
Devour'd of Time, in time to nought do pass.
But Fame with golden Wings aloft doth fly,
Above the reach of ruinous Decay,
And with brave Plumes doth beat the azure Sky.
Admir'd of base-born Men from far away:
Then whoso will with vertuous Deeds assay
To mount to Heaven, on Pegasus must ride,
And with sweet Poets Verse be glorifide.
For not to have been dipt in Lethe Lake,
Could save the Son of Thetis from to die;
But that blind Bard did him immortal make,
With Verses, dipt in Dew of Castalie:
Which made the Eastern Conquerour to cry,
O fortunate Young-man, whose Vertue found
So brave a Tromp, thy noble Acts to sound.
Therefore in this half happy I do read
Good Melibae, that hath a Poet got
To sing his living Praises, being dead,
Deserving never here to be forgot,
In spight of Envy, that his Deeds would spot:
Since whose Decease, Learning lies unregarded,
And Men of Arms do wander unrewarded.
These two be those two great Calamities,
That long ago did grieve the noble Spright
Of Salomon, with great Indignities;
Who whilom was alive the wisest Wight.
But now his Wisdom is disproved quight:
For He, that now welds all things at his Will,
Scorns th' one and th' other in his deeper Skill.
O Grief of Griefs! O Gall of all good Hearts!
To see that Vertue should despised be
Of such as first were rais'd for vertuous Parts,
And now broad spreading, like an aged Tree,
Let none shoot up that nigh them planted be:
O! let not those, of whom the Muse is scorned,
Alive nor dead, be of the Muse adorned!
O vile World's Trust, that with such vain Illusion,
Hath so wise Men bewitcht, and overkest,
That they see not the way of their Confusion!
O Vainness to be added to the rest,
That doth my Soul with inward Grief infest!
Let them behold the piteous Fall of me,
And in my case their own ensample see.
And whoso else that sits in highest Seat
Of this World's Glory, worshipped of all,
Ne feareth Change of Time, nor Fortune's Threat;
Let him behold the Horror of my Fall,
And his own End unto remembrance call;
That of like Ruine he may warned be,
And in himself be mov'd to pity me.
Thus having ended an her piteous Plaint,
With doleful Shrieks she vanished away,
That I through inward Sorrow wexen faint,
And, all astonished with deep Dismay
For her Departure, had no word to say:
But sate long time in sensless sad Affright,
Looking still, if I might of her have sight.
Which when I missed, having looked long,
My Thought returned grieved, home again,
Renewing her Complaint with Passion strong,
For ruth of that same Woman's piteous Pain;
Whose Words recording in my troubled Brain,
I felt such Anguish wound my feeble Heart,
That frozen Horror ran through every part.
So inly grieving in my groaning Breast,
And deeply musing at her doubtful Speech,
Whose Meaning much I laboured forth to wrest,
Being above my slender Reason's reach
At length, by Demonstration me to teach,
Before mine Eyes strange Sights presented were,
Like tragick Pageants seeming to appear.
I Saw an Image, all of massie Gold,
Placed on high upon an Altar fair,
That all, which did the same from far behold,
Might worship it, and fall on lowest Stair.
Not that great Idol might with this compare,
To which th' Assyrian Tyrant would have made
The holy Brethren falsly to have praid.
But th' Altar, on the which this Image staid,
Was (O great pity!) built of brittle Clay,
That shortly the Foundation decaid,
With Show'rs of Heaven and Tempest worn away:
Then down it fell, and low in Ashes lay,
Scorned of every one, which by it went;
That I it seeing, dearly did lament.
Next unto this, a stately Towre appear'd,
Built all of richest Stone that might be found,
And nigh unto the Heavens in height uprear'd,
But placed on a Plot of sandy Ground.
Nor that great Towre, which is so much renown'd
For Tongues Confusion in Holy Writ,
King Ninus' Work, might be compar'd to it.
But O vain Labours of terrestrial Wit,
That builds so strongly on so frail a Soil,
As with each Storm does fall away, and flit,
And gives the Fruit of all your Travail's Toil
To be the Prey of Time, and Fortune's Spoil!
I saw this Towre fall suddenly to dust,
That nigh with Grief thereof my Heart was brust.
Then did I see a pleasant Paradise,
Full of sweet Flowres and daintiest Delights,
Such as on Earth Man could not more devise,
With Pleasures choice to feed his chearful Sprights.
Not that, which Merlin by his Magick Slights
Made for the gentle Squire to entertain
His fair Belphoebe, could this Garden stain.
But O short Pleasure, bought with lasting Pain,
Why will hereafter any Flesh delight
In earthly Bliss, and joy in Pleasures vain;
Since that I saw this Garden wasted quight,
That where it was, scarce seemed any sight?
That I, which once that Beauty did behold,
Could not from Tears my melting Eyes with-hold.
Soon after this, a Giant came in place,
Of wondrous Powre, and of exceeding Stature,
That none durst view the Horror of his Face,
Yet was he mild of Speech, and meek of Nature.
Not he, which in despight of his Creatour
With railing Terms defy'd the Jewish Hoast,
Might with this mighty one in Hugeness boast.
For from the one he could to th' other Coast,
Stretch his strong Thighs, and th' Ocean overstride,
And reach his Hand into his Enemies Hoast.
But see the end of Pomp and fleshly Pride!
One of his Feet unwares from him did slide,
That down he fell into the deep Abyss,
Where dround with him is all his earthly Bliss.
Then did I see a Bridge, made all of Gold,
Over the Sea, from one to th' other side,
Withouten Prop or Pillour it t' uphold,
But like the coloured Rainbow arched wide.
Not that great Arch, which Trajan edifide,
To be a Wonder to all Age ensuing,
Was matchable to this in equal viewing.
But (ah!) what boots it to see earthly thing
In Glory, or in Greatness to excel,
Sith Time doth greatest things to ruin bring?
This goodly Bridge, one Foot not fastned well,
'Gan fail, and all the rest down shortly fell;
Ne of so brave a Building ought remained,
That Grief thereof my Spirit greatly pained.
I saw two Bears, as white as any Milk,
Lying together in a mighty Cave,
Of mild Aspect, and Hair as soft as Silk,
That salvage Nature seemed not to have,
Nor after greedy Spoil of Blood to crave:
Two fairer Beasts might not else-where be found,
Although the compast World were sought around.
But what can long abide above this Ground
In state of Bliss, or stedfast Happiness?
The Cave, in which these Boars lay sleeping sound,
Was but of Earth, and with her Weightiness
Upon them fell, and did unwares oppress;
That for great sorrow of their sudden Fate,
Henceforth all World's Felicity I hate.
Much was I troubled in my heavy Spright,
At sight of these sad Spectacles forepast,
That all my Senses were bereaved quight,
And I in mind remained sore agast,
Distraught 'twixt Fear and Pity; when at last
I heard a Voice, which loudly to me call'd,
That with the suddain Shrill I was appall'd.
Behold (said it) and by ensample see,
That all is Vanity and Grief of Mind,
Ne other Comfort in this World can be,
But Hope of Heaven, and Heart to God inclin'd;
For all the rest must needs be left behind.
With that it bade me, to the other side
To cast mine Eye, where other sights I spide.
Upon that famous River's further Shore
There stood a snowy Swan of heavenly Hue,
And gentle Kind, as ever Fowl afore;
A fairer one in all the goodly Crew
Of white Strimonian Brood might no Man view:
There he most sweetly sung the Prophecy
Of his own Death in doleful Elegy.
At last when all his mourning Melody
He ended had, that both the Shores resounded
Feeling the Fit that him forewarn'd to die,
With lofty Flight about the Earth he bounded,
And out of sight to highest Heaven mounted:
Where now he is become an heavenly Sign;
There now the Joy is his, here Sorrow mine.
Whilst thus I looked, loe, adown the Lee
I saw an Harp strung all with silver Twine,
And made of Gold and costly Ivory,
Swimming, that whilom seemed to have been
The Harp, on which Dan Orpheus was seen
Wild Beasts and Forrests after him to lead;
But was th' Harp of Phillisides now dead.
At length, out of the River it was rear'd,
And borne about the Clouds to be divin'd,
Whilst all the way most heavenly Noise was heard
Of the Strings, stirred with the warbling Wind,
That wrought both Joy and Sorrow in my Mind:
So now in Heaven a Sign it doth appear,
The Harp well known beside the Northern Bear.
Soon after this, I saw on th' other side
A curious Coffer made of Heben Wood,
That in it did most precious Treasure hide,
Exceeding all this baser Worldes good
Yet through the overflowing of the Flood
It almost drowned was, and done to nought,
That sight thereof much griev'd my pensive Thought.
At length, when most in peril it was brought,
Two Angels down descending with swift Flight,
Out of the swelling Stream it lightly caught,
And 'twixt their blessed Arms it carried quight
Above the reach of any living sight:
So now it is transform'd into that Star,
In which all heavenly Treasures locked are.
Looking aside, I saw a stately Bed,
Adorned all with coldly Cloth of Gold,
That might for any Prince's Couch be red,
And deckt with dainty Flowres, as if it should
Be for some Bride, her joyous Night to hold;
Therein a goodly Virgin sleeping lay;
A fairer Wight saw never Summers day.
I heard a Voice that called far away,
And her awaking, bad her quickly dight,
For loe, her Bridegroom was in ready Ray
To come to her, and seek her Love's Delight:
With that she started up with cheerful sight,
When suddenly both Bed and all was gone,
And I in Langour left there all alone.
Still as I gazed, I beheld where stood
A Knight all arm'd, upon a winged Steed,
The same that bred was of Medusa's Blood,
On which Dan Perseus born of heavenly Seed,
The fair Andromeda from Peril freed:
Full mortally this Knight ywounded was,
That Streams of Blood forth flowed on the Grass.
Yet was he deckt (small joy to him alas!)
With many Garlands for his Victories,
And with rich Spoils, which late he did purchase
Through brave Atchievements from his Enemies.
Fainting at last through long Infirmities,
He smote his Steed, that straight to Heaven bore,
And left me here his Loss for to deplore.
Lastly, I saw an Ark of purest Gold
Upon a brazen Pillour standing high,
Which th' Ashes seemed of great Prince to hold,
Enclos'd therein for endless Memory
Of him, whom all the World did glorify:
Seemed the Heavens with th' Earth did disagree,
Whether should of those Ashes Keeper be.
At last, me seem'd, wing-footed Mercury,
From Heaven descending to appease their Strife,
The Ark did bear with him above the Sky,
And to those Ashes gave a second Life,
To live in Heaven, where Happiness is rife:
At which, the Earth did grieve exceedingly,
And I for Dole was almost like to die.
Immortal Spirit of Phillisides,
Which now art made the Heaven's ornament.
That whilom was't the World's chiefest Riches;
Give leave to him that lov'd thee, to lament
His Loss by lack of thee, to Heaven hent;
And with last Duties of this broken Verse,
Broken with Sighs, to deck thy sable Herse.
And ye, fair Lady, th' Honour of your Days,
And Glory of the World, your high Thoughts scorn;
Vouchsafe this Moniment of his last Praise,
With some few silver-dropping Tears t' adorn:
And as ye be of heavenly Off-spring born,
So unto Heaven let your high Mind aspire,
And loath this Dross of sinful World's Desire.
[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 6:1461-81]