Page images


METuinks I see the nimble aged sire
Pass swiftly by, with feet unapt to tire ;
Upon his head an hour-glass he wears,
And in his wrinkled hand* a scythe he bears,
(Both instruments, to take the lives from men)
Th' one shows with what, the other showeth when.
Methinks I hear the doleful passing-bell,
Setting an onset on his louder knell ;
(This moody music of impartial Death
Who dances after, dances out of breath).
Methinks I see my dearest friends lament,
With sighs and tears, and woeful dryriment,
My tender wife and children standing by,
Dewing the death-bed whereupon I lie:

[merged small][ocr errors]

vating every reader of true taste. We may justly apply on this occasion a sentence of Dryden, who says, “ The sweetest essences are always confined in the smallest glasses.” Dedication to his Æneid.

* And in his wrinkled hand.] What a degree of animation and life is often thrown into a line by a single picturesque and natural epithet ! In this respect, Shakspeare leaves all other poets far behind. To instance only in a single passage. Henry the Fifth, in his prayer before the battle of Agincourt, says,

Five hundred poor I have in yearly pay,
Who twice a day their wither'd hands hold up

Toward heaven, to pardon blood. Act IV. Sc. v.
Alter the epithet withered to almost any other, and you instantly de-
stroy the picture. For an epithet equally striking, see Vol. XVIII.
P. , applied to old age :

His wither'd fist still knocking at Death's door.


n Greek

of capti


Methinks I hear a voice (in secret) say,
* Thy glass is run, and thou must die to-day*!

Pentelogia, by F. Quarles, Edit. 1630.




Great, good, and just! could I but rate
My grief to thy too rigid fate,

the world to such a strain,
As it should deluge once again.
But since thy loud-tongu'd blood demands supplies,
More from Briareus' hands, than Argus' eyes,
I'll sing thee obsequies with trumpet sounds,
And write thy epitaph in blood and wounds.

[ocr errors]


Printed amongst Poems by J. Cleaveland,

Edit. 1665. See likewise A Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems. Edinb. 1713.

* Methinks I hear a voice, &c.] There is an alarming solemnity in the conclusion of these lines, that reminds us of Tickell's justly popular ballad :

I hear a voice you cannot hear,
Which says I must not stay, &c. Lucy and Colin.




It's false arithmetic to say thy breath
Expir'd too soon, or irreligious death
Profan'd thy holy youth; for if thy years
Be number'd by thy virtues or our tears *,
Thou didst the old Methusalem outlive.
Though Time but twenty years account can give
Of thy abode on earth, yet every hour
Of thy brave youth by virtue's wondrous power
Was lengthen'd to a year; each well-spent day
Keeps young the body, but the soul makes

Such miracles work goodness; and behind
Thou'st left to us such stories of thy mind
Fit for example ; that when them we read,
We envy earth the treasure of the dead.
Why do the sinful riot, and survive
The fevers of their surfeits ? Why alive
Is yet disorder'd greatness, and all they
Who the loose laws of their wild blood obey ?
Why lives the gamester, who doth black the night
With cheats and imprecations ? Why is light

for if thy years Be number'd by thy virtues or our tears, &c.] So Young:

Methusalems may die at twenty-one.

Look'd on by those whose breath may poison it;
Who sold the vigour of their strength and wit
To buy diseases : and thou, who fair truth
And virtue didst adore, lost in thy youth?

But I'll not question fate : heaven doth convey
Those first from the dark prison of their clay
Who are most fit for heaven. Thou in war
Hadst ta’en degrees, those dangers felt, which are
The props on which peace safely dost subsist,
And through the cannons' blue and horrid mist
Hadst brought her light; and now wert so complete,
That nought but death did want to make thee great.

Thy death was timely then bright soul to thee,
And in thy fate thou suffer’dst not ; 'twas we
Who died, robb’d of thy life: in whose increase
Of real glory, both in war and peace,
We all did share: and thou
Didst with thee the whole stock of honour bear.
Each then be his own mourner: we'll to thee
Write hymns, upon the world an elegy.

Castara, by W. Habington.

away we fear

[ocr errors]


ACCEPT, thou shrine of my dead saint,
Instead of dirges, this complaint ;
And for sweet flowers to crown thy hearse,
Receive a strew of weeping verse
From thy griev'd friend, whom thou might'st see
Quite melted into tears for thee.

Dear loss! since thy untimely fate My task hath been to meditate On thee, on thee: thou art the book, The library whereon I look Though almost blind, for thee (lov'd clay) I languish out, not live the day, Using no other exercise But what I practise with mine eyes : By which wet glasses I find out How lazily Time creeps about To one that mourns: this, only this My exercise and bus'ness is : So I compute the weary hours With sighs dissolved into showers.

Nor wonder if my time go thus
Backward and most preposterous;
Thou hast benighted me; thy set,
This eve of blackness did beget,
Who wast my day, (though overcast
Before thou hadst thy noontide past)
And I remember must, in tears,
Thou scarce hadst seen so many years
As day tells hours; by thy clear sun
My love and fortune first did run;
But thou wilt never more appear
Folded within my hemisphere,
Since both thy light and motion
Like a fled star is fall'n and gone,
And 'twixt me and my soul's dear wish
The earth now interposed is,
Which such a strange eclipse doth make
As ne'er was read in almanack.

I could allow thee for a time
To darken me and my sad clime,


« PreviousContinue »