1622
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thrifts Equipage: Meditation 4. Of Labour and Care.

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

Robert Aylett


234 Spenserians. "In the course of the meditation, 'Of Care and Labour,' Aylett takes occasion to heap extravagant praise on James for his zealous care in protecting the church against Roman Catholics and Puritans and his wisdom in the choice of men for high positions" F. M. Padelford, "Robert Aylett" (1936) 10.

Though rather a Puritan himself, Aylett was in the employ of Robert Laud.



My freer Muse now like a Faulcon flies,
Who having stoup't a Mallard at the Brooke,
Remounts againe up to the azure skies,
And for a second Souse at him doth looke:
But suddenly she hath that prey forsooke,
And towreth at a Heron in the Ayre:
So though at first my Muse had undertooke
Faire Abstinence; yet seeing Thrift doth pray her,
To sing of Care and Labour next, I will obay her.

This Booke indeed I wholly did intend
Unto the honour of Frugality,
And morall vertues that her Grace attend:
But so my Muse doth love her libertie,
And at the fairest is so usde to flie;
She will not leave her heav'nly Meditation,
For any Flower of Humanity:
Her food divine of holy Contemplation,
For any earthly Good, Content, or Delectation.

I grant indeed, that morall Meditation
May much amend our manners, and our mind,
But no such pleasing taste and sustentation,
As in divine, the soule of man can find:
And therefore though I often am inclin'd,
The Praise of morall Vertues here to sing,
My freer Muse that will not be confin'd,
Runs straight on heav'nly Contemplations string,
Else I, in others Harvests, love not meddeling.

And yet I hope no wiser Clerkes will blame
My boldnesse, here to taste, by meditation,
The Mysteries, whose knowledge they proclaime
To us, as necessary for Salvation:
Thereby to square our Lives and Conversation.
And though indeed my Writings I intend,
For others minds and manners reformation,
Yet if hereby I may mine owne amend,
I have attained more then halfe my wished end.

It is no part of holy Contemplation,
To seeke revenge for undeserved wrong;
Meeknesse and Patiences meditation
Have taught my Muse to sing another song:
God send me more Wit, them a better Tong.
Now Thou, that Adam in his uprightnesse,
(To shew, that Labour doth to man belong)
Didst place in Eden, it to plant and dresse,
Helpe me, the praise of Care and Labour to expresse.

Care's an attent intention of the mind,
To any thing that's needfull to be done,
Which good and honest for our selves we find,
And may unto the publike profit come:
Labour put's Care in execution,
And is our minds and bodies Enargy,
In any businesse by Care begun:
For when to Businesse we do apply
Our selves, we call that Labour, Paines, and Industry.

Care comes from Wits chiefe Vigor, Strength, and Light,
And ready, watchfull evermore doth stand:
Labour, the Bodies Faculty is hight,
Which doth performe the thing we have in hand:
Where these two powr's of action do band,
We Actors and Directors call them may;
One doth what worke the other doth command:
For as the Body doth the Soule obay,
So Labour is to noble Care obedient ay.

Labour and Care, simply considered,
Nor good, nor ill are, but indifferent,
And not amongst those Vertues numbered,
Which in the Court of Love are eminent:
But for they nothing, that is excellent,
Can without Care and Labours helpe attaine,
All in their Company take great content,
And honour much amongst Loves royall traine:
And glad is she, that can their best acquaintance gaine.

Care's like an old experienc't Generall,
Too weake to fight, yet orders all the Hoste:
Labour is lusty, valiant, young, and tall,
And strikes, where foes he may indanger most:
Care hath an eye about to every Coast,
With all aduantages to win the day:
And though more sweat and blood it Labour cost,
Yet which deserveth best, 'tis hard to say;
Neither had wonne the field, had one but beene away.

When Jupiter an Hercules would frame,
Three nights at once he with Alcmena lay:
Thus to beget one that should Monsters tame,
Men lost, to lengthen out the night, a day:
Besides, the pangs of Birth her so dismay,
It little fail'd, but she had borne her last.
By witty Fictions, Poets thus bewray,
How it Joves ordinary strength surpast,
A true Idea of high Labour here to cast.

And thus they make Jove, Hercules his Sire,
Who must on earth all Labours undertake;
And clense worlds Stables from impurest mire,
And Jove of him a mighty god should make.
To tell what for immortall Honors sake
He did, were too long for a Meditation:
He made the yron-gates of Hell to quake,
And Atlas-like, bare up the worlds foundation,
What can be more for Care and Labours commendation?

He was not fostred in his younger yeeres,
With Pleasures, wanton Ease, and Idlenesse,
But fought with Lyons, Tygres, Goats, and Beares,
Lust, Rapine, Tyranny, Unrighteousnesse.
No high thing is attain'd by Slouthfulnesse.
Then spake great Alexander like a King,
By calling servile Slouth and Lazinesse,
But Care and Labour highly honouring,
Which in small time to him worlds Monarchy did bring.

No good thing without Care and Labour growes,
With them is Thrift, without a barren Soile:
Labour increaseth strength, and who her knowes,
Doth passe through hardest journeys without toile.
Labour our fiercenesse naturall may spoile,
But raiseth Vertue: Labour doth restore
Those that are fall'n: things hardest reconcile,
She Vertue by employment furthers more.
In all atchievements Captaine Labour goes before.

And Pleasure followes: for observe these two,
Delight and Labour though much differing
In nature, yet they link't together go;
Delight, I say, still Labour following:
For things we labour most to passe to bring,
We joy in more, then those which us befall
By Chance, and without Paines and labouring.
That conquest is most glorious of all,
Which hath indanger'd most the Hoste and Generall.

No solace without Labour: no man gaines
The Hony, without danger of the Sting:
He that will have the Kernell, must take paines
To breake the shell: who, sweetest Rose in Spring
Will gather, feares not Bushes prickeling:
But he that in his bosome hides his hand,
Whom honor, profit, feare, nor shame can bring
To action, but doth all day idle stand,
He hates all Vertue, and is hated by their Band.

The Roots of Arts are bitter, but they beare
The sweetest fruits: we can no Good obtaine
But by hard Labour. Thus if we prepare
Us quiet Peace, what happinesse we gaine?
The Minds and Bodies rest, them fits againe
For Cares and Labours new: as Bow unbent,
Or Lute-string loosed to a lower straine,
That it may be up to a higher pent,
And that the Bow may shoot the stronger newly bent.

God here hath placed on our either hand,
Commodities and Discommodities:
These neere, those far, Labor 'twixt both doth stand:
To these a way prone and precipite lies,
Who comes to those, great difficulties tries,
Which they by Labour onely overcome.
Labour which wise mens wishes here supplies,
And doth to them the trustiest Guide become,
Ev'n from their infancie, unto their resting Tombe.

Worse than the vilest Infidell is he,
That will not care nor labour for his owne:
How many goods and benefits there be,
To men on earth by Care and Labour knowne;
So many ills by Carelesnesse are sowne:
Base Carelesnesse and Slouth! But I before
In Diligence their Pedigree have showne:
I sing the vertue of the vice no more,
She to my Muse yeelds matter most abundant store.

For Care and Labour is the very horne
Of Amalthea, and all plenteous store:
She brings good-husbands store of grasse and corne,
And plentifully feeds the hungry poore:
She makes the Shepherds lambes grow great and more,
She is the stay of Trades and Merchandize;
As good on surging seas, as on the shore:
All needfull things she by her hand supplies:
Labour most active is, Care politique and wise.

Like Abishai and Joab when they fought
With Ammon, and the Syrians on the plaine,
Both constant, noble, resolute, and stout,
Both striving, that they may the day obtaine:
If that the Syrians ground on Moab gaine,
Then Abishai must helpe: if th' Ammonite
Prevaile against Abishai: Joab againe
Must succour him, with all his force and might.
Care, Labour thus, from losse, each mutually acquite.

Labour betweene the Graces and the Mind,
Is as the light 'twixt colours and the sight:
As without light the Eye is alwaies blind,
So without Labour dwels the mind in night.
And as the Lord ordained hath the Light,
To be the meane here colours to discerne,
So Labour, he appoints the medium right,
Whereby the mind may Grace and Vertue learne,
And joyne them fast together by a force interne.

And as all life and active strength proceed
From feeding, so from Labour all our good:
And as Men, to prolong their life, do feed,
So good-men have for good to Labour stood.
As necessary to our life is food,
So unto honesty is exercise;
And as none will expect fruit from the wood,
Except he blossoms first thereon espies,
So there's no hope of Age, that paines in Youth despise.

As is a womans fruit without a man,
So fairest hopes are without Labour vaine:
Many have hotly at the first began,
But Courage want to th' end it to maintaine:
Like some rash Summers storme, or dash of raine,
That corne beats downe with sudden inundation,
But soakes not halfe so deepe in flowrie plaine,
As showres that fall with sober moderation:
Things violent incline to sudden alteration.

And as we nothing to our healths do find
More dangerous, than Ayers alteration,
So nought more hurts the Body and the Mind,
Than change to sluggishnesse from recreation.
Delight or Labour, without moderation,
Destroy mens bodies, and their wits confound,
Like Nightingales, that take such delectation,
Sweet notes above their fellowes to propound,
Their spirits faile, and they are dead with singing found.

Many will labour, but they soare too hie,
Or else most basely sinke downe to the deepe;
They either will into Gods secrets pry,
Or downe into Earths baser bowels creepe:
A few or none true moderation keepe;
They either dive for profits base and vaine,
Or clime up to Gods secret Mountaine steepe:
In both their steps no longer do remaine,
Then way of Bird in th' ayre, or ships upon the Maine.

You that the Muses Secretaries are,
And pen the counsels of the King of Kings,
I know your Labour, Industry, and Care,
To understand and publish holy things:
Which unto you such Joy and Pleasure brings,
As we that feele it onely understand.
Yet mount you high, Sol fries your waxen Wings;
If low, them Neptune wets with waving hand:
The golden Meane 'twixt two Extremes doth alwayes stand.

Fraile mortall man! if thou with fleshly Eye
Behold'st the Sunne, thy sight is dazeled,
Much more with brightnesse of Divinity,
Is thy Minds weaker Eye astonished:
Glory shall him amaze, that will aread
The Splendour of eternall Majestie:
Mans Mind, here with corruption limited,
Hath no such ample large capacitie:
No mortall seeth me (saith God) but he must die.

Some Meates the appetite do more provoke
To eating, we of them must take most heed;
Such are the Labours which are undertooke
For too high Knowledge, or worlds baser meed:
For these provoke our appetites indeed
Unto Extremes, from that faire golden Meane,
Which do our Callings here so farre exceed,
To which corrupted minds so much do leane,
They alwaies fall into a curious Extreme.

Base wretched Cares! whose Labour is in sinne,
Which bring us terrours in true pleasures steed,
Uncessantly here taking paines to win
Base Mammon, and this worlds unrighteous meed,
Or an ambitious humour base to feed,
Or their meane House to highest pitch to rayse,
Or for Revenge, or lustfull wicked Deed,
Or to gaine popular applause or prayse,
And be a precedent unto succeeding dayes.

As greater Fowles, though they be strong of wing,
With bodies burthen are so weighed downe,
They cannot mount like nimble Larke in Spring:
So minds of men to these worlds Cares fast sowne,
Soone like this world, are grosse and heavy growne:
And though they might, by noble Industry,
Be raisd againe to understand their owne;
Yet stupid, senslesse on the dunghill lie,
Drunke with foule Ease, and this worlds base Commodity.

These lovers of the world though they wax strong
In things terrene, in heav'nly weaker grow;
For worldly honour they will sweat and throng,
But to win Crownes in heav'n are dull and slow:
For worldly Gaine they ought will undergo,
From heav'nly, least reproach or shame will bend:
For Princes favours they whole dayes will woo,
But not one howre to God in Prayer spend:
Thus present Shewes, not future Glory, all intend.

What Labour hard, what time can we thinke long,
Which doth to us eternall glory gaine?
To have our wils no labour seemes too strong:
For Vertue, wee'l not least delight refraine.
Thinke but what holy Labour may obtaine,
A certaine hope, and sweet remuneration,
Of which, the Saints, forsaking Pleasures vaine,
Have by their lives giv'n plenteous commendation,
Here labouring all, whilst they liv'd, in their Vocation.

Here Plenty makes me sparing: read the acts
Of all the holy Fathers till the Flood,
From thence, to Egypts Bondage: next, the facts
Of Moses, Josuah, Kings and Judges good:
Have they not all for Labour stoutly stood?
This shunning Labour by a Hermits Cell,
A late device is of Romes lazie brood,
To mumble Prayers, and their Beades to tell,
But take no Care for neighbour, Church, or Commonweale.

Is this Pauls Watching, Paine, and Wearinesse,
Thirst, Hunger, Scourgings, Nakednes, and Cold,
Perils by land, by water sore Distresse?
Besides, his outward labours manifold,
His inward Cares the Church in Peace to hold?
A living man lye buried in a tombe,
Lest worldly cares and labours him withhold
From contemplation of that heav'nly roome,
Where never such a slouthfull, idle wretch shall come.

Brave active spirits! though in Contemplation
I spend much time, yet I your lives do hold
To be more worthy praise and admiration,
You bring to us all good, and ill withhold:
You, whose great cares and labours do uphold,
Like Atlas shoulders, civill Government:
Your Splendors we, your cares cannot behold,
Who know the Care and Weight of Regiment,
Would never envy them, their glory and content.

O Muses Darlings! do not then abuse
Your heav'nly Numbers, (which the Muses lend
To honour of Authority to use)
Their names with blots and infamy to blend.
Your Muse not able is to apprehend
Their deepe Foresight, that States and Kingdomes sway:
With care and labour they at Helme attend,
That sleepe and sing in ship you safely may:
No gentle Dogge will at his Keeper barke and bay.

Great Keeper of this famous Brittish Ile!
How dost thou care and labour for our ease?
Besides Kings ordinary Paynes and Toyle
In Governement, thy Writings do increase
To largest Volumes, for the Churches Peace:
For Christs pure Spouse, and thy deare Kingdomes weale:
Thy Watchings, Prayers, Labours, never cease,
Else blos'mes of Vines, the Foxes soone would steale,
Or wild Bore root up all thy Church and Commonweale.

When in his large, wise, understanding heart,
We, for our Good, such cares continuall see,
What secret Malice can a man pervert,
To deeme that in his Love, and Wisedome he
Advance will any to Authoritie;
But whom he ev'ry way doth able finde,
To care and labour for the safety
Of Church and Kingdome, to his care assign'd?
Wise Masters best discerne how Servants are inclin'd.

Great Peeres appointed, by this Master wise,
To Rule his Kingdome, and adorne his Hall,
Of him learne Labour and brave exercise,
And doe not unto idle gaming fall:
The Bane of Court, Towne, Country, Church and all:
Oh spend the time you from emploiment spare,
In Tilting, Hunting, Armes, Arts Liberall,
And so with Piety your minds prepare,
To labour in your charge, and have of heav'n a care.

Besides examples of your earthly King,
Looke on our Lord that sits in heav'n above:
Who heere on earth was alwayes labouring,
Now as our Head himselfe he doth approve,
Most carefull for his Spouse and dearest Love.
See his Disciples, Saints and Martyrs all,
How carefull and laborious they prove,
In Writings, Preachings Counsels generall,
Relieving poore in want, redeeming Saints from thrall.

Amongst these Lights of Labour, with me looke
On one, though little, yet of wondrous might,
Who, David-like, takes stones out of the Brooke,
The proud Goliah in the front to smite:
Oh how do'st thou most valiantly acquite!
God and his Church, against Rome's railing Host,
And that Augean stable purgest quite,
Though it thee mickle care and labour cost:
Of this would Herc'les more, than all his labours boast.

Could Sloth her selfe that sweet Delight but taste,
Which comes of Paines and honest exercise,
Her precious time and strength she would not waste,
In Idlenesse and worldly vanities.
But like to nimble Larke would early rise,
Who mounting first to heav'n Devotions sings,
And afterwards her businesse applyes,
So long as Light lends use of eyes or wings,
And then in rest enjoyes fruit of her travellings.

Most sweet Delight! at night when wearied,
We end the Cares and Troubles of the day,
When private, publique having profited,
We down our selves with Peace and Comfort lay:
Not like rich Mizers, to their Soules, that say,
In this abundance lye thee downe and rest,
When ah! Who knowes but ev'n that night away,
His Soule forth from his Body may be prest,
And he all unawares o're taken in his nest?

Unnecessary Labours, worldly Cares,
Which on themselves, not Providence depend,
My Muse to them no such great favour beares,
As heere amongst the Graces to commend.
All things created serve unto their end,
For which God at the first did them ordaine,
And all unto his Glory doe intend:
Why then should man be slothfull, idle, vaine,
So long as heere on earth he doth in health remaine?

He hath a minde firme, valid, rais'd on high,
Able to soare above the Firmament,
And by sweet Contemplation to descry
The heav'ns swift motion, Order, Government:
All things are subject to his Regiment,
In squallid Slouth and ease yet downe he lyes,
Till thou who first didst frame his earthly tent,
Dost raise his mind to heav'nly exercise,
Which may by Care and Labour him immortalize.

Not anxious, unprofitable cares,
Base off-spring of Distrust and Diffidence:
With present, alwayes, discontent; and feares
Vaine, future wants, or childrens Indigence,
Distrusting thus Gods gracious Providence,
Which fils with open hands the mouthes of all,
Whose eyes looke up to his Beneficence,
And Lillies clads in colours naturall,
More faire than Salomons rich robes imperiall.

He that this all did first of nought ordaine,
And now it governes by wise Providence,
Is by his Bounty able to sustaine,
All those that labour with true Diligence:
Sure he will give aboundant recompence
To all, who carefull, faithfully doe heere
Rely on him, without least Diffidence:
He for his Foes did spend his bloud most deare,
Why then should Friends distrust his Providence and Care?

Kindle thy Love then in my frozen brest,
Frame in my minde a study and desire,
To follow thee, that canst direct me best,
By thy command to march on or retire.
Awake me from Slouth's filthy durt and mire,
Lest darknesse me fast-sleeping apprehend,
From which to Light againe is no retire,
Let me no houre unprofitably spend,
Nor passe one day unfruitfully unto mine end!

That faithfull servants blessing on him light!
Whom Thou so doing, when thou com'st shalt find,
Grant, whatsoever hower of the night
My Lord and Master comes, my soule and mind
May to continuall watching be inclin'd:
But lest I labour heere too long in vaine,
I next will passe unto my Port assign'd,
To Death; the end of all my Care and Paine,
To grave, where, till the finall doome, I must remaine.

There quiet I shall sleepe and be at rest,
With Kings, which heere their houses fill'd with gold,
And Emperours, which all the world possest,
Yet all too streight ambitious thoughts to hold:
There small and great, free, bond, rich, poore, young, old,
Oppressors, prisoners have like fruition
Of rest: All turne againe to dust and mould,
As small an Urne then limits the Ambition
Of Popes, and Caesars, as of Beggers meane condition.

[pp. 35-48]