1610
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elisa, or An Elegie upon the unripe Decease of Sr. Antonie Irby.

The Purple Island, or the Isle of Man: together with Piscatorie Eclogs and other Poeticall Miscellanies. By P. F.

Rev. Phineas Fletcher


100 rhyme-royal Spenserians (ababbcC) in two cantos, "composed at the request (and for a Monument) of his surviving Ladie." Phineas Fletcher's elegiac poem on the death of Anthony Irby takes the form of a narrative describing the good man's death and his wife's visionary experience, which allows her to overcome her strong sensations of guilt and grief. The poem was printed in 1633 with its own title-page with an emblematic rendering of Irby's "monument" (containing the anagram "Antonius Irbcus | An virtus obiens?"); the pagination is continuous.

Rowland Freeman: "The Miscellanies will not detain us long. The most extensive of these, but in point of general merit and interest the most unequal, is entitled — Eliza, an Elegy upon the unripe decease of Sir Antony Irby composed at the request (and for a monument) of big surviving Lady. Many of the stanzas abound in true pathos, and the most exalted piety, as well as in poetic excellence: the address from the dying Knight to him Lady can scarcely be parallelled" Kentish Poets (1821) 1:308.

Frank Kastor speculates that Elizabeth Irby, the subject of this poem, is also the lady of Fletcher's lecherous Venus and Anchises (Brittain's Ida), and that the two were having an elicit love affair. Whatever the case, when "Elisa" remarried in 1614, it was not to Phineas Fletcher. There is a certain appeal to regarding this elegy as companion poem to Venus and Anchises, though the two poems are not composed in the same stanza and the elegy does not refer to an adulterous relationship. Langdale is inclined to identify the Eliza of Brittain's Ida with Elizabeth Colepepper.

Fletcher's elegy opens with Irby on his deathbed, his wife by his side: "At length lowd Grief thus with a fearfull shriek | (His trumpet) sounds a battell, joy defying; | Spreading his colours in Elisa's cheek" p. 106. Suffering from a guilty conscience, Elisa prays for forgiveness: "now some comfort lend me; | Oh let thy softest mercies rest contented: | Though late, I most repent, that I so late repented" p. 108. Irby expresses his willingness to die, and contentment that he has led a blameless life; he has been blessed in his marriage: "Thus long I liv'd, and yet have never prov'd | Whether I lov'd her more, or more by her was lov'd" p. 111. He enjoins Elisa to look after his five children, one yet unborn, and concludes with an echo of the Faerie Queene: "Night after day, sleep after labour's best; | Port after storms, joy after long distressing: | So weep thy losse, as knowing 'tis my blessing" p. 114 — the passage, rather oddly, is paraphrased from the Despair episode (1.9.40). He dies, leaving Elisa to her grief.

The second canto opens with a description of Elisa in mourning: "Her dark-gold locks hung loosly unrespected; | As if those fairs, which he alone deserv'd, | With him had lost their use, and now for nothing serv'd" p. 119. There follows a dialogue between Elisa and her sister Alicia, in which the widow refuses to be comforted: "Whither, ah whither shall I turn my head, | Since thou my God so sore my heart hast beaten? | Thy rods yet with my bloud are warm and red" p. 122. Left alone, Elisa falls into a strange fancy, imagining her head severed from her body: "Vile trunk (saies she) thy head is ever gone; | Vile headlesse trunk, why art thou not engraved?" p. 124. In this condition she speculates in a long speech on the mutability of worldly joys and cares: "Go then, vain life; for I will trust no more | Thy flattering dreams: death, to thy resting take me: | Thou sleep without all dreams, lifes quiet shore, | When wilt thou come?" p. 127. She protests to those bearing away the coffin that "It is not he, 'tis I must be interred" p. 128. She is carried to her bed, where she imagines her husband is returned, comforted by this vision, she falls to sleep.

Abram Barnett Langdale: "Sir Anthony was the scion of an ancient Lincolnshire family and frequently had sat as a Member of Parliament for Boston. His death was the subject of Fletcher's important elegy, Elisa, and the woe, manifest in every stanza, is adequate proof that the author was no passive onlooker doing a piece of journeyman's work. Some years prior to 1610, Sir Anthony married Elisa, the third daughter of Sir John Peyton of Isleham, Cambridgeshire. In his poem Fletcher shows greater affection for the widow than for the deceased. Isleham was only nineteen miles distant from the university and Lady Irby's brother, Robert Peyton, matriculated at Kings in 1609. Probably it was through the young scholar that Fletcher made Elisa Irby's acquaintance" Phineas Fletcher (1937) 56.

Frank S. Kastor: "This most assuredly is Phineas Fletcher's strangest poem, as well as his worst; for everything about it seems misguided and difficult to explain. First, the poem is not an 'elegy' in the usual literary sense but a narrative poem; second, both the title and the attention are focused not on the dead man but on his wife; third, instead of elegizing the death and providing perspective on it, this poem narrates and dramatizes it and thereby involves the reader in all the emotions of the dying moments; fourth and finally, Elisa's grief, suffering, and sensibilities are what mainly interest Phineas" Giles and Phineas Fletcher (1978) 97.



CANTO I.
Look as a stagge, pierc'd with a fatal bow,
(As by a wood he walks securely feeding)
In coverts thick conceales his deadly blow,
And feeling death swim in his endles bleeding,
(His heavy head his fainting strength exceeding)
Bids woods adieu, so sinks into his grave;
Green brakes and primrose sweet his seemly herse embrave:

So lay a gentle Knight now full of death,
With clowdie eyes his latest houre expecting;
And by his side, sucking his fleeting breath,
His weeping Spouse Elisa; life neglecting,
And all her beauteous faires with grief infecting:
Her cheek as pale as his; 'twere hard to scanne,
If death or sorrows face did look more pale or wanne.

Close by, her sister, fair Alicia, sits;
Fairest Alicia, to whose sweetest graces
His teares and sighs a fellow passion fits:
Upon her eye (his throne) Love sorrow places;
There Comfort Sadnesse, Beautie Grief embraces:
Pitie might seem a while that face to borrow,
And thither now was come to comfort death and sorrow.

At length lowd Grief thus with a fearfull shriek
(His trumpet) sounds a battell, joy defying;
Spreading his colours in Elisa's cheek,
And from her eyes (his watch-tower) farre espying
With Hope Delight, and Joy, and Comfort flying,
Thus with her tongue their coward flight pursues,
While sighs, shrieks, tears give chace with never fainting crues:

Thou traitour Joy, that in prosperitie
So lowdly vaunt'st; whither, ah, whither fliest?
And thou that bragg'st never from life to flie,
False Hope, ah whither now so speedy hiest?
In vain thy winged feet so fast thou pliest:
Hope, thou art dead, and Joy in Hope relying
Bleeds in his hopelesse wounds, and in his death lies dying.

But then Alicia (in whose cheerfull eye
Comfort with Grief, Hope with Compassion lived)
Renews the fight; If Joy and Comfort die,
The fault is yours: so much (too much) you grieved,
That Hope could never hope to be relieved.
If all your hopes to one poore hope you binde,
No marvel if one fled, not one remains behinde.

Fond hopes on life, so weak a threed, depending!
Weak, as the threed such knots so weakly tying:
But heav'nly joyes are circular, ne're ending,
Sure as the rock on which they grow; and lying
In heav'n, increase by losse, live best by dying.
Then let your hope on those sure joyes depend,
Which live and grow by death, and waste not when they spend.

Then she; Great Lord, thy judgements righteous be,
To make good ill, when to our ill we use it:
Good leads us to the greatest good, to Thee;
But we to other ends most fond abuse it;
A common fault, yet cannot that excuse it:
We love thy gifts, and take them gladly ever:
We love them (ah too much!) more then we love the giver.

So falling low upon her humbled knees,
And all her heart within her eye expressing;
'Tis true, great Mercy, onely miseries
Teach us our selves, and thee: oh, if confessing
Our faults to thee be all our faults releasing,
But in thine eare, I never sought to hide them:
Ah! thou hast heard them oft, as oft as thou hast ey'd them.

I know the heart knows more then tongue can tell;
But thou perceiv'st the heart his foulnesse telling:
Yet knows the heart not half, so wide an hell,
Such seas of sinne in such scant banks are swelling:
Who sees all faults within his bosome dwelling?
Many my tenants are, and I not know them.
Most dangerous the wounds thou feel'st, and canst not show them.

Some hidden fault, my Father, and my God,
Some fault I know not yet, nor yet amended,
Hath forc't thee frown, and use thy smarting rod;
Some grievous fault thee grievously offended:
But let thy wrath, (ah!) let it now be ended.
Father, this childish plea (if once I know it)
Let stay thy threatning hand, I never more will do it.

If to my heart thou shew this hidden sore,
Spare me; no more, no more I will offend thee;
I dare not say I will, I would no more:
Say thou I shall, and soon I will amend me.
Then smooth thy brow, and now some comfort lend me;
Oh let thy softest mercies rest contented:
Though late, I most repent, that I so late repented.

Lay down thy rod, and stay thy smarting hand;
These raining eyes into thy bottle gather:
Oh see thy bleeding Sonne betwixt us stand;
Remember me a childe, thy self a father:
Or if thou mayst not stay, oh punish rather
The part offending, this rebellious heart.
Why pardon'st thou the worse, and plagu'st my better part?

Was't not thy hand, that ty'd the sacred knot?
Was't not thy hand, that to my hand did give him?
Hast thou not made us one? command'st thou not,
None loose what thou hast bound? if then thou reave him,
How without me by halves dost thou receive him!
Tak'st thou the head, and leav'st the heart behinde?
Ay me! in me alone canst thou such monster finde?

Oh why dost thou so strong me weak assail?
Woman of all thy creatures is the weakest,
And in her greatest strength did weakly fail:
Thou who the weak and bruised never breakest,
Who never triumph in the yeelding seekest;
Pitie my weak estate, and leave me never:
I ever yet was weak, and now more weak then ever.

With that her fainting spouse lifts up his head,
And with some joy his inward griefs refraining,
Thus with a feeble voice, yet cheerfull, s'ed;
Spend not in tears this little time remaining;
Thy grief doth adde to mine, not ease my paining:
My death is life; such is the scourge of God:
Ah, if his rods be such, who would not kisse his rod?

My deare, (once all my joy, now all my care)
To these my words (these my last words) apply thee:
Give me thy hand; these my last greetings are:
Shew me thy face, I never more shall eye thee.
Ah would our boyes, our lesser selves, were by thee!
Those my 'live pictures to the world I give:
So single onely die, in them twice-two I live.

You little souls, your sweetest times enjoy,
And softly spend among your mothers kisses;
And with your prettie sports and hurtlesse joy
Supply your weeping mothers grievous misses:
Ah, while you may, enjoy your little blisses,
While yet you nothing know: when back you view,
Sweet will this knowledge seem, when yet you nothing knew.

For when to riper times your yeares arrive,
No more (ah then no more) may you go play you:
Lancht in the deep farre from the wished hive,
Change of worlds tempests through blinde seas will sway you,
Till to the long-long'd haven they convey you:
Through many a wave this brittle life must passe,
And cut the churlish seas, shipt in a bark of glasse.

How many ships in quick-sands swallow'd been!
What gaping waves, whales, monsters there expect you!
How many rocks, much sooner felt then seen!
Yet let no fear, no coward fright affect you:
He holds the stern, and he will safe direct you,
Who to my sails thus long so gently blew,
That now I touch the shore, before the seas I knew.

I touch the shore, and see my rest preparing.
Oh blessed God! how infinite a blessing
Is in this thought, that through this troubled faring,
Through all the faults this guiltie age depressing
I guiltlesse past, no helplesse man oppressing;
And coming now to thee, lift to the skies
Unbribed hands, cleans'd heart, and never tainted eyes!

Life, life! how many Sylla's dost thou hide
In thy calm streams, which sooner kill then threaten!
Gold, honour, greatnesse, and their daughter, pride!
More quiet lives, and lesse with tempests beaten,
Whose middle state content doth richly sweeten:
He knows not strife, or brabling lawyers brawls;
His love and wish live pleas'd within his private walls.

The King he never sees, nor fears, nor prayes;
Nor sits court-promise and false hopes lamenting:
Within that house he spends and ends his dayes,
Where day he viewed first: his hearts contenting,
His wife, and babes; nor sits new joyes inventing:
Unspotted there, and quiet he remains;
And 'mong his duteous sonnes most lov'd and fearlesse reignes.

Thou God of peace, with what a gentle tide
Through this worlds raging tempest hast thou brought me!
Thou, thou my open soul didst safely hide,
When thousand crafty foes so nearely sought me;
Els had the endlesse pit too quickly caught me;
That endlesse pit, where it is easier never
To fall, then being fall'n to cease from falling ever.

I never knew or want or luxurie,
Much lesse their followers; or cares tormenting,
Or ranging lust, or base-bred flatterie:
I lov'd, and was belov'd with like consenting:
My hate was hers, her joy my sole contenting:
Thus long I liv'd, and yet have never prov'd
Whether I lov'd her more, or more by her was lov'd.

Foure babes (the fift with thee I soon shall finde)
With equall grace in soul and bodie fram'd:
And lest these goods might swell my bladder'd minde,
(Which last I name, but should not last be nam'd)
A sicknesse long my stubborn heart hath tam'd,
And taught me pleasing goods are not the best;
But most unblest he lives, that lives here ever blest.

Ah life, once vertues spring, now sink of evil!
Thou change of pleasing pain, and painfull pleasure;
Thou brittle painted bubble, shop o' th' devil;
How dost thou bribe us with false gilded treasure,
That in thy joyes we finde no mean or measure!
How dost thou witch! I know thou dost deceive me:
I know I should, I must, and yet I would not leave thee.

Ah death! once greatest ill, now onely blessing,
Untroubled sleep, short travel, ever resting,
All sicknesse cure, thou end of all distressing,
Thou one meals fast, usher to endlesse feasting;
Though hopelesse griefs crie out thy aid requesting,
Though thou art sweetned by a life most hatefull;
How is't, that when thou com'st, thy coming is ungratefull?

Frail flesh, why would'st thou keep a hated guest,
And him refuse whom thou hast oft invited?
Life thy tormenter, death thy sleep and rest.
And thou (poore soul) why at his sight art frighted,
Who clears thine eyes, and makes thee eagle-sighted?
Mount now my soul, and seat thee in thy throne:
Thou shalt be one with him, by whom thou first wast one.

Why should'st thou love this star, this borrow'd light,
And not that Sunne, at which thou oft hast guessed,
But guess'd in vain? which dares thy piercing sight,
Which never was, which cannot be expressed?
Why lov'st thy load, and joy'st to be oppressed?
Seest thou those joyes? those thousand thousand graces?
Mount now my soul, and leap to those outstretcht embraces.

Deare countrey, I must leave thee; and in thee
No benefit, which most doth pierce and grieve me:
Yet had not hasty death prevented me,
I would repay my life, and somewhat give thee:
My sonnes for that I leave; and so I leave thee:
Thus heav'n commands; the lord outrides the page,
And is arriv'd before: death hath prevented age.

My dearest Bettie, my more loved heart,
I leave thee now; with thee all earthly joying:
Heav'n knows, with thee alone I sadly part:
All other earthly sweets have had their cloying;
Yet never full of thy sweet loves enjoying,
Thy constant loves, next heav'n I did referre them:
Had not much grace prevail'd, 'fore heav'n I should preferre them.

I leave them, now the trumpet calls away;
In vain thine eyes beg for some times reprieving;
Yet in my children here immortall stay:
In one I die, in many ones am living:
In them, and for them stay thy too much grieving:
Look but on them, in them thou still wilt see
Marry'd with thee again thy twice-two Antonie.

And when with little hands they stroke thy face,
As in thy lap they sit (ah carelesse) playing,
And stammering ask a kisse, give them a brace;
The last from me: and then a little staying,
And in their face some part of me survaying,
In them give me a third, and with a teare
Shew thy deare love to him, who lov'd thee ever deare.

And now our falling house leans all on thee;
This little nation to thy care commend them:
In thee it lies that hence they want not me;
Themselves yet cannot, thou the more defend them;
And when green age permits, to goodnesse bend them:
A mother were you once, now both you are:
Then with this double style double your love and care.

Turn their unwarie steps into the way:
What first the vessel drinks, it long retaineth;
No barres will hold, when they have us'd to stray:
And when for me one asks, and weeping plaineth,
Point thou to heav'n, and say, he there remaineth:
And if they live in grace, grow, and persever,
There shall they live with me: els shall they see me never.

My God, oh in thy fear here let them live;
Thy wards they are, take them to thy protection:
Thou gav'st them first, now back to thee I give;
Direct them thou, and help her weak direction;
That reunited by thy strong election,
Thou now in them, they then may live in thee;
And seeing here thy will, may there thy glorie see.

Bettie, let these last words long with thee dwell:
If yet a second Hymen do expect thee,
Though well he love thee, once I lov'd as well:
Yet if his presence make thee lesse respect me,
Ah do not in my childrens good neglect me:
Let me this faithfull hope departing have;
More easie shall I die, and sleep in carelesse grave.

Farewell, farewell; I feel my long long rest,
And iron sleep my leaden heart oppressing:
Night after day, sleep after labour's best;
Port after storms, joy after long distressing:
So weep thy losse, as knowing 'tis my blessing:
Both as a widow and a Christian grieve:
Still live I in thy thoughts, but as in heav'n I live.

Death, end of old joyes, entrance into new,
I follow thee, I know I am thy debtour;
Not unexpect thou com'st to claim thy due:
Take here thine own, my souls too heavie fetter;
Not life, lifes place I change, but for a better:
Take thou my soul, that bought'st it: cease your tears:
Who sighing leaves the earth, himself and heaven fears.

Thus said, and while the bodie slumbring lay,
(As Theseus Ariadne's bed forsaking)
His quiet soul stole from her house of clay;
And glorious Angels on their wings it taking,
Swifter then lightning flew, for heaven making:
There happie goes he, heav'nly fires admiring,
Whose motion is their bait; whose rest is restlesse giring:

And now the courts of that thrice blessed King
It enters, and his presence sits enjoying;
While in it self it findes an endlesse spring
Of pleasures new, and never weary joying,
Ne're spent in spending; feeding, never cloying:
Weak pen to write! for thought can never feign them:
The minde that all can hold, yet cannot half contain them.

There doth it blessed sit, and looking down,
Laughs at our busie care, and idle paining;
And fitting to it self that glorious crown,
Scorns earth, where even Kings most serve by reigning;
Where men get wealth, and hell; so loose by gaining.
Ah blessed soul! there sit thou still delighted,
Till we at length to him with thee shall be united.

But when at last his Lady sad espies
His flesh of life, her self of him deprived;
Too full of grief, closing his quenched eyes,
As if in him, by him, for him she lived,
Fell dead with him; and once again revived,
Fell once again: pain wearie of his paining,
And grief with too much grief felt now no grief remaining.

Again reliev'd, all silent sat she long;
No word to name such grief durst first adventer:
Grief is but light that floats upon the tongue,
But weightie sorrow presses to the center,
And never rests till th' heavie heart it enter;
And in lifes house was married to life:
Grief made life grievous seem, and life enlivens grief:

And from their bed proceeds a numerous presse,
First shrieks, then tears and sighs the hearts ground renting:
In vain poore Muse would'st thou such dole expresse;
For thou thy self lamenting her lamenting,
And with like grief transform'd to like tormenting,
With heavie pace bring'st forth thy lagging verse,
Which cloath'd with blackest lines attends the mournfull herse.

The cunning hand which that Greek Princesse drew
Readie in holy fires to be consum'd,
Pitie and sorrow paints in divers hue;
One wept, he pray'd, this sigh'd, that chaf'd and fum'd;
But not to limme her fathers look presum'd:
For well he knew his skilfull hand had fail'd:
Best was his sorrow seen, when with a cloth 'twas vail'd.

Look as a nightingale, whose callow young
Some boy hath markt, and now half nak'd hath taken,
Which long she closely kept, and foster'd long,
But all in vain; she now poore bird forsaken
Flies up and down, but grief no place can slaken:
All day, and night her losse she fresh doth rue,
And where she ends her plaints, there soon begins anew:

Thus sat she desolate, so short a good,
Such gift so soon exacted sore complaining:
Sleep could not passe, but almost sunk i' th' floud;
So high her eye-banks swell'd with endlesse raining:
Surfet of grief had bred all meats disdaining:
A thousand times my Antonie, she cried,
Irby a thousand times; and in that name she died.

Thus circling in her grief it never ends,
But moving round back to it self enclineth;
Both day and night alike in grief she spends:
Day shews her day is gone, no sun there shineth:
Black night her fellow mourner she defineth:
Light shews his want, and shades his picture draw:
Him (nothing) best she sees, when nothing now she saw.


CANTO II.
Thou blacker Muse, whose rude uncombed hairs
With fatal eugh and cypresse still are shaded;
Bring hither all thy sighs, hither thy teares:
As sweet a plant, as fair a flower is faded,
As ever in the Muses garden bladed;
While th' owner (haplesse owner) sits lamenting,
And but in discontent and grief, findes no contenting.

The sweet (now sad) Elisa weeping lies,
While fair Alicia's words in vain relieve her;
In vain those wells of grief she often dries:
What her so long, now doubled sorrows give her,
What both their loves (which doubly double grieve her)
She carelesse spends without or end or measure;
Yet as it spends, it grows: poor grief can tell his treasure.

All as a turtle on a bared bough
(A widow turtle) joy and life despises,
Whose trustie mate (to pay his holy vow)
Some watchfull eye late in his roost surprises,
And to his God for errour sacrifices;
She joylesse bird sits mourning all alone,
And being one when two, would now be two, or none:

So sat she gentle Lady weeping sore,
Her desert self and now cold lord lamenting;
So sat she carelesse on the dusty floor,
As if her tears were all her souls contenting:
So sat she, as when speechlesse griefs tormenting
Locks up the heart, the captive tongue enchaining:
So sat she joylesse down in wordlesse grief complaining.

Her chearfull eye (which once the crystall was,
Where Love and Beautie dress'd their fairest faces,
And fairer seem'd by looking in that glasse)
Had now in tears drown'd all their former graces:
Her snow-white arms, whose warm and sweet embraces
Could quicken death, their now dead lord infold,
And seem'd as cold and dead as was the flesh they hold.

The roses in her cheek grow pale and wan;
As if his pale cheeks livery they affected:
Her head, like fainting flowers opprest with rain,
On her left shoulder lean'd his weight neglected:
Her dark-gold locks hung loosly unrespected;
As if those fairs, which he alone deserv'd,
With him had lost their use, and now for nothing serv'd.

Her Lady sister sat close by her side,
Alicia, in whose face Love proudly lorded;
Where Beauties self and Mildnesse sweet reside,
Where every Grace her naked sight afforded,
And Majestie with Love sat well accorded:
A little map of heav'n, sweet influence giving;
More perfect yet in this, it was a heaven living.

Yet now this heav'n with melting clouds was stain'd:
Her starry eyes with sister grief infected
Might seem the Pleiades, so fast they rain'd:
And though her tongue to comfort she directed,
Sighs waiting on each word like grief detected;
That in her face you now might plainly see
Sorrow to sit for Love, Pitie for Majestie.

At length when now those storms she had allay'd,
A league with grief for some short time indenting;
She 'gan to speak, and sister onely said:
The sad Elisa soon her words preventing,

ELISA.
In vain you think to ease my hearts tormenting;
Words, comforts, hope, all med'cine is in vain:
My heart most hates his cure, and loves his pleasing pain.

ALICIA.
As vain to weep, since fate cannot reprieve.

ELISA.
Teares are most due, when there is no reprieving.

ALICIA.
When doom is past, weak hearts that fondly grieve.

ELISA.
A helplesse griefs sole joy is joylesse grieving.

ALICIA.
To losses old new losse is no relieving:
You lose your teares.

ELISA.
When that I onely fear
For ever now is lost, poore losse to lose a teare.

ALICIA.
Nature can teach, that who is born must die.

ELISA.
And Nature teaches teares in griefs tormenting.

ALICIA.
Passions are slaves to Reasons monarchie.

ELISA.
Reason best shews her reason in lamenting.

ALICIA.
Religion blames impatient discontenting.

ELISA.
Not passion, but excesse Religion branded;
Nor ever countermands what Natures self commanded.

ALICIA.
That hand which gave him first into your hand,
To his own hand doth now again receive him:
Impious and fond, to grudge at his command,
Who once by death from death doth ever reave him!
He lives by leaving life, which soon would leave him:
Thus God and him you wrong by too much crying.
Who living dy'd to life, much better lives by dying.

ELISA.
Not him I plain, ill would it fit our loves,
In his best state to shew my hearts repining;
To mourn at others good, fond envy proves:
I know his soul is now more brightly shining
Then all the stars their light in one combining:
No, dearest soul; (so lifting up her eyes,
Which shew'd like watry suns quench't in the moister skies)

My deare, my dearest Irby, (at that name,
As at a well-known watch-word, forth there pressed
Whole flouds of teares, and straight a suddain quame
Seizing her heart, her tongue with weight oppressed,
And lockt her grief within her soul distressed;
There all in vain he close and hidden lies:
Silence is sorrows speech; his tongue speaks in her eyes:

Till grief new mounted on uneven wings
Of loud-breath'd sighs, his leaden weight up sending,
Back to the tongue his heavie presence brings,
His usher teares, deep grones behinde attending,
And in his name her breath most gladly spending,
As if he gone, his name were all her joying)
Irby, I never grudg'd thee heav'n, and heav'ns enjoying.

'Tis not thy happinesse that breeds my smart,
It is my losse, and cause that made me lose thee;
Which hatching first this tempest in my heart,
Thus justly rages; he that lately chose thee
To live with him, where thou might'st safe repose thee,
Hath found some cause out of my little caring,
By spoiling thine to spare, and spoil my life by sparing.

Whither, ah whither shall I turn my head,
Since thou my God so sore my heart hast beaten?
Thy rods yet with my bloud are warm and red:
Thy scourge my soul hath drunk, my flesh hath eaten.
Who helps, when thou my Father so dost threaten?
Thou hid'st thy eyes; or if thou dost not hide them,
So dost thou frown, that best I hidden may abide them.

I weeping grant, what ever may be dreaded,
All ill thou canst inflict, I have deserved;
Thy mercy I, I mercie onely pleaded.
Most wretched men, if all that from thee swerved,
By merit onely in just weight were served!
If nought thou giv'st, but what desert doth get me,
Oh give me nothing then; for nothing I intreat thee.

Ah wherefore are thy mercies infinite,
If thou dost hourd them up, and never spend them?
Mercy's no mercy hid in envious night:
The rich mans goods, while in his chest he penn'd them,
Were then no goods; much better to misspend them.
Why mak'st thou such a rod? so fierce dost threat me?
Thy frowns to me were rods; thy forehead would have beat me.

Thou seiz'd my joy; ah he is dead and gone,
That might have dress'd my wounds, when thus they smarted:
To all my griefs I now am left alone;
Comfort's in vain to hopelesse grief imparted:
Hope, comfort, joy with him are all departed.
Comfort, hope, joy, lifes flatterers, most I flie you,
And would not deigne to name, but naming to defie you.

ALICIA.
Sister, too farre your passions violent heat
And griefs too headlong in your plaint convay you:
You feel your stripes, but mark not who does beat;
'Tis he that takes away, who can repay you:
This grief to other rods doth open lay you:
He bindes your grief to patience, not dejection.
Who bears the first not well, provokes a new correction.

ELISA.
I know 'tis true; but sorrows blubber'd eye
Fain would not see, and cannot well behold it:
My heart surround with grief is swoll'n so high,
It will not sink, till I alone unfold it;
But grows more strong, the more you do withhold it:
Leave me a while alone; griefs tide grows low,
And ebs, when private tears the eye-banks overflow.

She quickly rose, and readie now to go,
Remember measure in your griefs complaining;
His last, his dying words command you so:
So left her; and Elisa sole remaining,
Now every grief more boldly entertaining,
They flock about her round; so one was gone,
And twentie fresh arriv'd. 'Lone grief is least alone.

Thus as she sat with fixt and setled eye,
Thousand fond thoughts their wandring shapes depainted:
Now seem'd she mounted to the crystall skie,
And one with him, and with him fellow-sainted;
Straight pull'd from heav'n: and then again she fainted:
Thus while their numerous thoughts each fancie brought,
The minde all idle sat: much thinking lost her thought.

And fancy, finding now the dulled sight
Idle with businesse, to her soul presented
(While th' heavy minde obscur'd his shaded light)
Her wofull body from her head absented;
And suddain starting, with that thought tormented,
A thing impossible too true she found:
The head was gone, and yet the headlesse body sound.

Nor yet awake she cries; ah this is wrong,
To part what Natures hand so neare hath tied;
Stay oh my head, and take thy trunk along:
But then her minde (recall'd) her errour spied;
And sigh'd to see how true the fancy lied,
Which made the eye his instrument to see
That true, which being true it self must nothing be.

Vile trunk (saies she) thy head is ever gone;
Vile headlesse trunk, why art thou not engraved?
One wast thou once with him, now art thou none;
Or if thou art, or wert, how art thou saved?
And livest still, when he to death is slaved?
But (ah) when well I think, I plainly see,
That death to him was life, and life is death to me.

Vile trunk, if yet he live; ah then again
Why seek'st thou not with him to be combined?
But oh since he in heav'n doth living reigne,
Death wer't to him in such knots to be twined;
And life to me with him to be confined:
So while I better think, I eas'ly see
My life to him were death, his death were life to me.

Then die with him, vile trunk, and dying live;
Or rather with him live, his life applying;
Where thou shalt never die, nor ever grieve:
But ah, though death thou feel'st within thee lying,
Thou ne're art dead, though still in sorrow dying:
Most wretched soul, which hast thy seat and being,
Where life with death is one, and death with life agreeing!

He lives and joyes; death life to him hath bred:
Why is he living then in earth enwombed?
But I, a walking coarse, in life am dead:
'Tis I, my friends, 'tis I must be entombed;
Whose joy with grief, whose life with death's benummed:
Thou coffin art not his, nor he is thine;
Mine art thou: thou the dead, and not the livings shrine.

You few thinne boards, how in so scanted room
So quiet such great enemies contain ye?
All joy, all grief lies in this narrow tombe:
You contraries, how thus in peace remain ye,
That one small cabin so should entertain ye?
But joy is dead, and here entomb'd doth lie,
While grief is come to moan his dead-lov'd enemie.

How many vertues in this little space
(This little little space) lie buried ever!
In him they liv'd, and with them every grace:
In him they liv'd, and di'd, and rise will never.
Fond men! go now, in vertues steps persever;
Go sweat, and toil; thus you inglorious lie:
In this old frozen age vertue it self can die.

Those petty Northern starres do never fall;
The unwasht Beare the Ocean wave despises;
Ever unmov'd it moves, and ever shall:
The Sun, which oft his head in night disguises,
So often as he falls, so often rises;
And stealing backward by some hidden way,
With self same light begins and ends the yeare and day.

The flowers, which in the absence of the Sunne
Sleep in their winter-houses all disarm'd,
And backward to their mothers wombe do runne;
Soon as the earth by Taurus horns is warm'd,
Muster their colour'd troups; and freshly arm'd,
Spreading their braving colours to the skie,
Winter and winters spight, bold little elves, defie.

But Vertues heav'nly and more glorious light,
Though seeming ever sure, yet oft dismounteth;
And sinking low, sleeps in eternall night,
Nor ever more his broken spheare remounteth:
Her sweetest flower, which other flowers surmounteth
As farre as roses nettles, soonest fadeth:
Down falls her glorious leaf, and never more it bladeth.

And as that dainty flower, the maiden rose,
Her swelling bosome to the Sunne discloses;
Soon as her lover hot and fiery grows,
Straight all her sweets unto his heat exposes,
Then soon disrob'd her sweet and beautie loses;
While hurtfull weeds, hemlocks, and nettles stinking
Soon from the earth ascend, late to their graves are sinking.

All so the vertuous bud in blooming falls,
While vice long flourishing late sees her ending:
Vertue once dead no gentle spring recalls;
But vice springs of it self; and soon ascending,
Long views the day, late to his night descending.
Vain men, that in this life set up your rest,
Which to the ill is long, and short unto the best!

And as a dream, where th' idle fancie playes,
One thinks that fortune high his head advances;
Another spends in woe his weary dayes;
A third seems sport in love, and courtly dances;
A fourth to finde some glitt'ring treasure chances;
Soon as they wake, they see their thoughts were vain,
And either quite forget, or laugh their idle brain:

Such is the world, and such lifes quick-spent play:
This base, and scorn'd; that great, in high esteeming;
This poore, and patched seems; that rich, and gay;
This sick, that sound; yet all is but a seeming:
So like that waking oft we fear w' are dreaming;
And think we wake oft, when we dreaming play.
Dreams are as living nights; life as a dreaming day.

Go then, vain life; for I will trust no more
Thy flattering dreams: death, to thy resting take me:
Thou sleep without all dreams, lifes quiet shore,
When wilt thou come? when wilt thou overtake me?
Enough I now have liv'd; loath'd life forsake me:
Thou good mens endlesse fight, thou ill mens feast;
That at the best art bad, and worst art to the best.

Thus as in teares she drowns her swollen eyes,
A suddain noise recalls them; backward bending
Her weary head, there all in black she spies
Six mournfull bearers, the sad hearse attending,
Their feet and hands to that last dutie lending:
All silent stood she, trembling, pale, and wan;
The first grief left his stage, a new his part began.

And now the coffin in their arms they take,
While she with weight of grief sat still amazed;
As do sear leaves in March, so did she quake,
And with intented eyes upon them gazed:
But when from ground the doleful hearse they raised,
Down on the beer half dead she carelesse fell;
While teares did talk apace, and sighs her sorrows tell.

At last, Fond men (said she) you are deceiv'd;
It is not he, 'tis I must be interred:
Not he, but I of life and soul bereav'd;
He lives in heav'n, among the saints referred:
This trunk, this headlesse body must be buried.
But while by force some hold her, up they reare him,
And weeping at her tears, away they softly beare him.

But then impatient grief all passion proves,
She prayes and weeps; with teares she doth intreat them:
But when this onely fellow passion moves,
She storms and raves, and now as fast doth threat them;
And as she onely could, with words doth beat them;
Ah cruell men, ah men most cruell, stay:
It is my heart, my life, my soul, you beare away.

And now no sooner was he out of sight,
As if she would make good what she had spoken,
First from her hearts deep centre deep she sigh'd;
Then, (as if heart, and life, and soul were broken)
Down dead she fell; and once again awoken,
Fell once again; so to her bed they bore her:
While friends (no friends) hard love to life and grief restore her.

Unfriendly friends, (saith she) why do ye strive
To barre wisht death from his so just ingression?
Your pitie kills me; 'tis my death to live,
And life to die: it is as great oppression
To force out death, as life from due possession;
'Tis much more great: better that quickly spills
A loathed life, then he that with long torture kills.

And then, as if her guiltlesse bed offended;
Thou trait'rous bed, when first thou didst receive me,
Not single to thy rest I then ascended:
Double I came, why should I single leave thee?
Why of my better part dost thou bereave me?
Two prest thee first: why should but one depart?
Restore, thou trait'rous bed, restore that better part.

Thus while one grief anothers place inherits,
And one yet hardly spent, a new complained:
Griefs leaden vapour dulls the heavy spirits,
And sleep too long from so wisht seat restrained,
Now of her eyes un'wares possession gained;
And that she might him better welcome give,
Her lord he new presents, and makes him fresh to live.

She thinks he lives, and with her goes along;
And oft she kiss'd his cheek, and oft embraced;
And sweetly askt him where he staid so long,
While he again her in his arms enlaced;
Till strong delight her dream and joy defaced:
But then she willing sleeps; sleep glad receives her;
And she as glad of sleep, that with such shapes deceives her.

Sleep widow'd eyes, and cease so fierce lamenting;
Sleep grieved heart, and now a little rest thee:
Sleep sighing words, stop all your discontenting;
Sleep beaten breast; no blows shall now molest thee:
Sleep happy lips; in mutuall kisses nest ye:
Sleep weary Muse, and do not now disease her:
Fancie, do thou with dreams and his sweet presence please her.

[pp. 105-30]