Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Amurath, an Example of the Vanity of Worldly Honour
By Richard Knolles (c. 15501610)
From the Generall Historie of the Turkes
THUS lieth great Amurath, erst not inferior unto the greatest monarchs of that age, dead almost in despair: a worthy mirror of honours frailty; yielding unto the worldly man in the end, neither comfort nor relief. Who had fought greater battles? who had gained greater victories, or obtained more glorious triumphs than had Amurath? Who by the spoils of so many mighty kings and princes, and by the conquest of so many proud and warlike nations, again restored and established the Turks kingdom, before by Tamerlane and the Tartars in a manner clean defaced. He it was that burst the heart of the proud Grecians, establishing his empire at Hadrianople, even in the centre of their bowels: from whence have proceeded so many miseries and calamities into the greatest part of Christendom, as no tongue is able to express. He it was that first brake down the Hexamile or wall of separation on the Strait of Corinth, and conquered the greater part of Peloponesus. He it was that subdued unto the Turks so many great countries and provinces in Asia; that in plain field and set battle overthrew many puissant kings and princes, and brought them under his subjection; who having slain Vladislaus the King of Polonia and Hungary, and more than once chased out of the field Huniades, that famous and redoubted warrior, had in his proud and ambitious heart, promised unto himself the conquest of a great part of Christendom. But O how far was he now changed from the man he then was! how far did these his last speeches differ from the course of his forepassed life! full of such base passionate complaints and lamentations, as beseemed not a man of his place and spirit; but some vile wretch overtaken with despair, and yet afraid to die. Where were now those haughty thoughts, those lofty looks, those thundering and commanding speeches, whereat so many great commanders, so many troops and legions, so many thousands of armed soldiers were wont to tremble and quake? Where is that head, before adorned with so many trophies and triumphs? Where is that victorious hand that swayed so many sceptres? Where is the majesty of his power and strength, that commanded over so many nations and kingdoms? O how is the case now altered! He lieth now dead, a ghastly carcase, a clod of clay unregarded, his hands closed, his eyes shut, and his feet stretched out, which erst proudly traced the countries by him subdued and conquered. And now of such infinite riches, such unmeasurable wealth, such huge treasures, such stately honours and vain-glorious praises as he in his lifetime enjoyed; his frail body enjoyeth nothing, but left all behind it. O the weak condition of mans nature! O the vain glory of mortal creatures! O the blind and perverse thoughts of foolish men! Why do we so magnify ourselves? Why are we so puffed up with pride? Why do we so much set our minds upon riches, authority, and other vanities of this life? Whereof never man had yet one days assurance, and at our most need and when we least think, quite forsake us; leaving even them that most sought after them, and most abounded in them, shrouded oftentimes in the sheet of dishonour and shame.