1622
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thrifts Equipage: Meditation 2. Of Providence.

Thrifts Equipage: viz. Five Divine and Morall Meditations, of 1. Frugalitie. 2. Providence. 3. Diligence. 4. Labour and Care. 5. Death.

Robert Aylett


The first stanza is printed with separate title, "Of Gods Providence." Though the theological substance is Pauline, Robert Aylett presents his discussion of free will and determination in a surprisingly light manner.



Behold! how Birds for morrow take no care;
Secure, God will due food for them prepare:
Can woorthlesse Birds be confident of meate?
And is a farthing-Sparrowes Faith so great,
She knowes, but by Gods will, she cannot fall?
And shall Gods sonnes, Christs images, once call
In doubt their Makers will, to do then good?
No sure: who lends them life, will give them food.

The frugall Husband, which I erst describ'd,
So soone as Titan with his glistring Beames,
Begilds the locks of stately Pines, which hide
The tops of Mountaines from his hotter gleames;
Walkes foorth amongst his cattell, flocks and teames,
His Land to open to Sunnes mellowing heate,
And feed his Herds along the silver streames,
To drinke and bathe, when they their fil have eate,
That fat they him may feed, that now provides them meate.

Thus early rising, as the Proverbe sayes,
Brings Thrift in body, in estate, and mind;
The early riser spends in health his dayes,
And by his diligence doth plenty find;
And in the morning better is inclin'd
To Prayer, and divinest Meditation:
Thus, in a three-fold Cord, he Thrift doth wind;
He driveth Slouth farre from his habitation,
His Soule in Grace, his Body thrives by recreation.

For these respects the Husbands country life
Transcends the Citie trades mechanicall,
Or showes at Court, where reigne Ambition strife,
Or Merchants which on hazzard stand or fall:
For though Thrift in estate these oft befall;
And Thrift in Grace, in many there we finde,
Yet scarce a strong sound Body 'mongst them all,
They want pure aire whereby the bloud's refinde
And wholesome exercise to country life assign'd.

Well as I could, I rich Frugality
Did late, as her beseemed well, array:
I next describe foure of her company,
Which alwayes with this thrifty vertue stay:
The first two well I name the daughters may
Of Prudence, Providence, and Diligence,
Next two themselues from Temperance convay,
Thrifts Sisters, Abstinence and Continence:
Of these foure I would sing, and first of Providence.

Oh! thou by whose most pow'rfull onely Word,
All was of nothing made and finished,
And of this All, mad'st man the little Lord,
That by him All might well be ordered:
Who hayers of our head hast numbred,
Nor lettest the least Sparrow fall to ground,
But as thou hast before determined,
Make heavenly Wisedome in mine heart abound,
That I may wade, not drowne, in Providence profound.

There is Divine and humane Providence,
Divine is infinite, unlimited
Transcending Reason, more than Reason Sense,
And may to glorious Sunne be likened:
The Stars who thence their light have borrowed,
Doth humane Providence resemble right,
Which by divine is aye enlightened,
And though like Starres it oft appeareth bright,
Yet when the heav'nly shines, it is obscured quite.

Then pardon, Reader, if my Muses eye
Dazeled with glory great, and splendour bright
Of Providence divine, heere to descry
Unable is the darke obscured light
Of humane; as indeed I ought by right:
When I come to her Sister Diligence,
I may recover well againe my sight,
My Muse now rapt with heav'nly Providence
Can not descend to highest humane excellence.

But that I may describe her as a Grace,
And linke her in the vertues golden Chaine,
Ther th' Almighties Scepter call or Mace
Which doth all Peace and Order heere maintaine:
The bounteous hand, which al things doth sustaine,
Whose eyes for nourishment up to her looke,
Who just's rewards, and eke the wickeds Paine
Doth register for ever in a booke:
Thus, as Gods Truth and Love, she fer a grace is tooke.

Thus one eternall powrefull Providence
Heere governes all things being by Creation:
The necessary Age is, wanting sense,
Receive their motion by her ordination:
The voluntary by her moderation
Are aye dispos'd, and rul'd by their owne will,
Which will she useth as a Mediation;
No man against his will doth good or ill,
Though without Grace we of our selves no good can will.

Sure Adam in pure innocence was free
To eate the fruit forbidden, or abstaine:
Else justly how could he condemned be,
Except he had a power to refraine?
But since that guilt originall did staine,
With him, all imps which from that stock proceed,
We still retaine freewill, none dares gainesaine,
But it is onely unto evill deed,
Grace onely by New birth a will to good doth breed.

Schooles may dispute; the Truth is plainely this:
As we are men, we power have to will,
As men corrupt, we alwayes will amisse,
As borne againe, to good we have a will.
Thus Nature Freewill gives, Sinne bends to ill;
Grace unto Good: But now I seeme to stray
From Providence divine, to mans freewill,
But this as needfull shew I by the way,
How Providence doth voluntary agents sway.

Her Nature yet more plaine to understand,
We must conceive the worlds great Marischall,
As he made all things by his mighty hand,
So he for ever them disposeth all
By Providence; not onely generall,
By which the Spheres in their due motions ride,
And Summer and the winter seasons fall,
But as he by his speciall doth guide
And orders every thing, that doth on earth betide.

And this we call divine Necessitie,
Free from Coaction, which doth all dispose
To proper ends, yet with free liberty
Of Will, the things we doe to leave or choose:
Thus in respect of God, that future knowes
As present, all effects are necessary,
And, in respect of second causes those,
To us contingent are: Last voluntary,
As they respect mans will, and motion arbitrary.

God wonders sees in Moses weeping face,
When Pharao's Daughter him in Arke doth finde,
As she by chance, did wash her in that place,
And's mother for his nurse, by chance assign'd;
And when to leave the Court hee was inclin'd,
His Brethrens cruell bondages to see,
He went forth with a free and willing mind;
Lo thus in this example all the three,
Divine foresight, man's will, and Chance in one agree:

And therefore when of Fortune you do reade,
With reference to man it understand,
Who most to the event of things take heed,
Not to the Cause, Gods most Almighty hand:
Else Chance and Providence can never stand
Together in th' Almighties government;
Who being Cause of all he doth command,
Them orders all unto a sure event,
Though farre above mans limited intendement.

Of things indeed which seeme by chance to be,
The Order, Cause, Necessity and end
Are hid, in Gods close Counsell and Decree:
We onely able are to apprehend
By the event, how God doth them intend:
Thus Clerk's a threefold working doe observe
Of Providence; which far their reach transcend,
And yet they all to one same end doe serve,
To shew Gods glory, and his creatures to preserve.

Thus meanes and second causes she doth use,
Oft workes without, by power immediate,
And oft to worke against meanes she doth chuse:
Two last men call Necessity or Fate,
Because the Cause they can not calculate:
(Oh richest Wisedome, Knowledge without bound
Of the Almighty! without time, or Date,
Thy Judgements no man able is to sound,
Beyond all mens conceit, thy counsels are profound.)

Like this is that Philosophers assigne
To Counsell, Nature, Chance and Providence;
By Counsell, they meant Will and Reasons line;
By Nature, force of heav'nly influence;
By Chance, when they below beheld events,
But not their Cause: Last when some Grace did fall
Past Natures, Chance, and Counsels evidence,
That Speciall Providence divine they call,
Not but they understood she had her hand in all.

Sweet fruit of Providence to be perswaded,
That all below is ordered by Gods hand,
Nothing by Chance: Thus when we are invaded
By Foes, Death, Hell, we most undanted stand:
We, God prime cause of all things understand,
Respecting yet inferiour in their place,
Which alwayes wait upon the first's command,
And all are to the glory of his grace,
Whereby God his elect doth aye in love embrace.

Oh what inestimable quietnesse!
From hence ariseth to a godly minde,
Though evils without number him oppresse,
Which like so many Deaths he then doth finde,
Knowing not how his wretched selfe to winde
From Cruelty, which him fast followeth,
And doth so fast with cords and fetters binde,
That ev'ry minute threateneth his Death;
And scarcely suffers him to draw his languid breath.

Yet if this Light of heav'nly Providence
Shines to his Soule; then all Anxiety,
Feare, Care, Distrust, are banisht quite fro thence,
And he releev'd in all extremity:
Then knowes he that one gracious Majesty,
Heere by his power so directeth all,
By wisedome rules, and by his Bonity
Disposeth so, that nothing ever shall,
But for Gods glory and his owne good him befall.

To fleshes obloquy, some giving way,
Confesse the highest Powers governe all,
But that with mortals heere they use to play,
As we at hazzard tosse a Tennis-ball:
Some all would have by Chance and Fortune fall;
Some others grant that God doth all incline,
But that mans wit, and will must worke withall,
These men with God in government, doe joyne
And his most constant purpose to mans will confine.

Some, to excuse God, grant that Power divine
Permitteth evill, but not with his will,
And suffreth Satan heere to blind the eyne
Of Reprobates; but no wayes ill doth will,
But sure God willingly permitteth ill,
Since by his power he goodnesse able is,
To draw from ill, his purpose to fulfill;
For thus did Pharaoh wilfully amisse,
Yet God turnes all to's glory, and his chosens blisse.

As Sunnes pure beames exhale from filthy Oose
Foule vapours, which no whit the Sunne defile,
So doth Gods Providence of ill dispose,
Yet of no evill he partakes the while:
And as not in Sunnes Beames, but in the soyle,
The matter of the vapour doth consist,
So in mans heart is Bitternesse and bile,
And not in God, who evill doth resist,
Or turnes such evill into Goodnesse, as he list.

Thus Kings, Priests, Rulers, Elders all combin'd
Against the Lord, and his anointed Sonne:
And Pilate, Herod, Jewes and Gentiles joynd,
To doe what God decreed to be done:
But they ment wickedly ev'n every one,
The people a vaine thing imagined,
To crucifie the Lord of Life they runne,
But God, we see, thereby hath quickened
The members all, whereof he is the glorious head.

As when we see faire Phoebus gentle beames,
United in a burning glasse, enflame,
We use not to accuse Sunnes gracious gleames,
For such offence, but Burning glasse doe blame,
Wherin, without the Sunne,'s nor heat nor flame.
So when we see the wicked man abuse
The fairest gifts of Nature to his shame;
The Author of them we must not accuse,
But wilfull man, that doth them heere unduly use.

Good, Powerfull, Wise, Disposer of all things!
So wise thou all Disorders ordrest right,
So good thy Goodnes good from evill brings,
So pow'rfull all subsist upon thy might:
How should an ignorant, weake, wicked wight,
Conceive thy Wisedome, Power, and Providence?
Much lesse by Simile it more inlight,
It farre surpasseth mine intelligence:
Things knowne I doe admire, the rest I reverence.

But I by Providence divine am led
To passe the bounds of frugall meditation:
Pardon, great Clarkes, that I have meddled
To taste a mysterie, by Contemplation,
Worthy your argument, and disputation:
I was desirous to resolve my minde
In this high point of heav'nly moderation,
Wherein most wondrous comfort I doe find,
To see how things on earth are first in heav'n design'd.

Who can suppose this world so perfect, rare,
Not govern'd by one pow'rfull providence?
Since all which without moderatours are,
Consisting of the foure first elements,
Can not continue; Houses, Tenements,
Without a tenant, ruine and decay:
Unpruned Vines doe loose their excellence,
Mans Body failes, when soule doth passe away;
So would this Universe, should God forbeare a day.

As members of a man aright do move
First by his understanding and his will,
So doth this Universe by God above,
And all concord his pleasure to fulfill:
Who duely wait on Providence, he will
Make happy heere, and blessed evermore:
Not that he doth the carelesse idle fill
With blessings temporall, or heav'nly store.
Who will not row on Sea, shall never come a-shore.

It is a dangerous and impious thing,
Thus to dispute with Providence divine,
Mine arme nor good, nor bad, to passe can bring,
All's done by the Almighties firme designe:
The written Word must be our square and line,
Gods secret purpose, and revealed Will
Confound not by a vaine conceit of thine:
Thus Theeves may, blamelesse, true men rob and kill,
And say they but Gods secret purposes fulfill.

For Providence doth not us mortals tend,
As mothers infants newly brought to light,
Which have no strength themselves then to defend
'Gainst ayers injuries, or forreine might:
But as the Father that his Sonne hath dight
With strength, and weapons 'gainst his enemies,
Directeth him to order them aright,
And to defend himselfe from injuries,

Religion never negligent and idle lyes.
They that are godly and religious,
With Providence sweet Diligence do joyne,
God that without our selves hath fashion'd us,
Without thy selfe saves neither thee nor thine:
And therefore prudent men provide in time,
Against all future want that happen may;
When therefore we for morrow do designe
Things necessary; none can justly say,
Or judge us too much carefull, for the following day.

The Lord of all did needfull things provide,
Therefore the bagge false Judas carried,
The Loaves and Fishes which he did divide
Amongst five thousand which him followed,
Th' Apostles carri'd for their dayly bread:
Paul temp'rall Almes provideth for his Nation,
Where he the spirituall had published:
Joseph from Nile comes to make preparation,
To save alive old Jacob and his generation.

Of these learne to provide things necessary:
Of Beasts to shunne and to avoid all ill;
Who neere things hurtfull to them do not tarry,
Nor nigh unto those places travell will,
Where they into a Ditch have lately fill;
The Bird escapt, eschewes the Fowlers gin,
Nor will be tempted more with all his skill:
The fish that finds the hooke the bait within,
Thence to provide against such danger doth begin.

Things past, for future, are sound documents,
He that is wise, the evill doth foresee,
And hides himselfe from many nocuments,
Which can not by the foole avoided be:
Most admirable, vertuous, wise is he,
That things foreseeing wisely can provide,
Nothing on earth without a cause we see,
Though them the highest Wisdome so doth hide
They can not by our feeble reason be descride.

The World may be compared to a Stage,
We mortals to spectators, they that stay
Without to see her antique equipage;
Doe truely as they ought behold the play:
The curious that about the Stage do stray,
And pry into the secret tyring roome,
Are by Stage-keepers often driv'n away:
All must not into Natures secrets come,
Although she many Mysteries reveale to some.

How dares proud man inquire so curiously
Of Gods hid counsels, and his secret will?
The Bethshemites into the Arke did pry,
And God with sudden vengeance them doth kill.
Provide thee good things, and avoid the ill,
So maist thou many live, and happy dayes,
Presume not to be wise above thy skill,
By Gods revealed will guide all thy wayes,
His secret Counsels search not, but admire and praise.

And yet because God all doth here dispose,
Thou like a senslesse Idol must not stand:
God gave thee not for nought, eares, eyes, hands, nose,
A will to do, a wit to understand:
Employ these alwayes by his just command,
The whole successe leave to his Providence,
Acknowledge all good blessings from his hand,
And labour, with all care and diligence,
To thrive in Goodnesse, Grace, and all Intelligence.

But above all from murmuring refraine,
Or magnifying fleshes arme or might:
So axe may boast, that it along hath laine
The Cedars; and the Plane may claime, as right,
That by it's worke thy roofe so faire was dight:
So may the rod of Moses bragge and boast,
It all the Wonders did in Pharaohs sight:
The Asses Jaw-bone, that it slue an host:
But most the house, when Samson pulled downe the post.

On whom we ought to cast ev'n all our care,
To him we must ascribe the Praise of all:
In his hand both our Soules and Bodies are,
By Power of his Breath we stand and fall:
From him all was, is now, and ever shall:
Of all the things done underneath the Sunne,
The Wiseman sought a reason naturall,
But was as blind, as when he first begunne,
Though first he thought he could discover any one.

Gods counsels shall for evermore indure,
His thoughts stand firme in ev'ry generation;
Our hearts he fashions, and conceiveth sure,
Our workes and secretest imagination:
Who to the Rav'ns gives food and sustentation,
So governes all, they nothing here shall need,
That wait on him with patient expectation:
With temporall and heav'nly he doth feed
All those, that crave aright of him spirituall seed.

In number, measure, weight, he doth dispose
Of all things; He preserves both man and beast:
When care and paines may save thee from thy foes,
Use diligence, to God commit the rest:
And when thou art so mightily distrest,
Thou canst no helpe in arme of flesh behold,
Upon his providence that made thee, rest:
That in thy mothers wombe thy members told,
And in his Booke hath ev'ry one of them inrold.

Good counsell gave that Heathen, Have a care
Unto thy selfe; most of thy selfe take heed:
He meant, Lusts and Corruptions which are
Within us; which to us most danger breed:
With others we deale warily indeed,
Lest they deceive us by their subtilty,
But our owne vile affections little heed,
Although we have no greater enemy;
Thus we escape Gaths sword, and on our owne do die.

The Jewes may with their Oratour conspire
Pauls ruine; nothing shall to him befall,
But to advance his Crowne, and Gospell hier:
So as his bonds in Caesars Judgement hall,
Are manifest and famous 'mongst them all:
To the Elect, and those that truly love,
Nothing but for the best shall ever fall:
This by examples thousand I could prove,
Happy who finds it written in his heart by love.

The Lyons want and hunger may endure;
Who seekes the Lord, wants nothing that is good,
The Angel of the Lord him keepes secure,
From his owne lusts hels fury, wickeds mood.
This of the weakest may be understood.
If ought here passeth thine intelligence,
Sucke thou the milke, and leave the stronger food.
Here ends my song of heav'nly Providence,
Next, followes her attendant humane Diligence.

[pp. 12-19]