Verse > Anthologies > Edward Farr, comp. > Elizabethan Poetry
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Edward Farr, ed.  Select Poetry of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth.  1845.
 
Speculum Humanum
LI. Stephen Gosson
 
O WHAT 1 is man? or whereof might he vaunt?
From earth and aire and ashes first he came:
His tickle state his courage ought to daunt;
His life shall flit when most he trusts the same.
Then keepe in minde thy moolde and fickle stame:        5
Thyself a naked Adam shalt thou finde;
A babe by birth both borne and brought forth blind;
A drie and withered reede, that wanteth sap,
Whose rotten roote is refte euen at a clap;
A signe, a shew of greene and pleasant grasse,        10
Whose glyding glorie sodeinlie doth passe:
 
A lame and lothsome limping-legged wight,
That daily doth God’s frowne and furie feel;
A crooked cripple, voide of all delight,
That haleth after him an haulting heele,        15
And from Hieruselem on stilts doth reele:
A wretch of wrath, a sop in sorrow sowst,
A brused barke with billows all bedowst;
A filthie cloth, a stinking clod of clay;
A sacke of sinne that shall be swallowed aye        20
Of thousand hels, except the Lord do lend
His helping hand, and lowring browes vnbend.
 
The prime of youth, whose greene vnmellowd yeres
With hoised head doth check the loftie skies,
And set vp saile, and sternlesse ships ysteares,        25
With wind and wave at pleasure sure he flies:
On euery side then glance his rolling eies,
Yet hoary haires do cause them downe to drowp,
And stealing steps of age do make him stoup.
Our health that doth the web of wo begin,        30
And pricketh forth our pampred flesh to sin,
By sicknesse soakt in many maladies,
Shall turne our mirth to mone and howling cries.
 
The wreathed haire of perfect golden wire,
The christall eies, the shining angel’s face,        35
That kindles coales to set the heart on fire,
When we doe thinke to runne a royall race,
Shall sodeinlie be gauled with disgrace:
Our goods, our beautie, and our braue araie,
That seemes to set our hearts on hoigh for aie,        40
Much like the tender floure in fragrant fields,
Whose sugred sap sweet-smelling sauour yeelds,
Though we therein doe dailie laie our lust,
By dint of death shall vanish vnto dust.
 
Why seeke ye then this lingring life to saue,        45
A hugie heape of bale and miserie?
Why loue we longer daies on earth to craue,
Where carke, and care, and all calamitie,
Where nought we finde but bitter ioylitie?
The longer that we liue, the more we fall;        50
The more we fall, the greater is our thrall:
The shorter life doth make the lesse account;
To lesse account the reckning soone doth mount;
And then the reckning brought to quiet end
A ioyfull state of better life doth lend.        55
 
Thou, God, therefore, that rules the rolling skie,
Thou, Lord, that lends the props whereon we staie,
And turnes the spheares, and tempers all on hie,
Come, come in hast, to take vs hence awaie!
Thy goodnesse shall we then engraue for aie,        60
And sing a song of endlesse thankes to thee,
That deignest so from death to set vs free,
Redeeming vs from depth of dark decaie:
With foure and twentie elders shall we saie,
“To him be glorie, power, and praise alone,        65
That with the Lambe doth sit in loftie throne.”
 
Note 1. LI. Stephen Gosson.—He appears to have enjoyed considerable poetic reputation in the age of Elizabeth. By Francis Meres his name is mentioned in conjunction with that of Spenser; and Wood also bears testimony that he was celebrated “for his admirable penning of pastorals.” Among other poems he wrote one entitled Speculum Humanum, which is printed in Kirton’s “Mirror of Man’s Life,” which was dedicated to Anne Countess of Pembroke, and published in 1580. This latter poem is reprinted here. [back]
 
 
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