Verse > Anthologies > Edward Farr, comp. > Elizabethan Poetry
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Edward Farr, ed.  Select Poetry of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth.  1845.
 
Stanzas from “The Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased”
CXXVII. Thomas Middleton
 
A Jove surgit opus.

CHAPTER I.
WISEDOME, 1 elixer of the purest life,
Hath taught hir lesson to iudicial views,
To those that iudge a cause and end a strife,
Which sits in iudgement’s seat, and iustice use;
  A lesson worthy of diuinest care,        5
  Quintessence of a true diuinest feare.
 
Vnwilling that exordium should retaine,
Her life-infusing speech doth thus begin:
You (quoth shee) that giue remedy or paine,
Love iustice; for iniustice is a sin.        10
  Giue vnto God his due, his reuerent stile;
  And rather vse simplicity then guile.
 
For him that guides the radiant eie of day,
Sitting in his star-chamber of the skie,
The horizons and hemespheres obay,        15
And windes, the fillers of vacuitie:
  Much lesse shuld man tempt God, when all obay,
  But rather be a guide and leade the way.
 
For temting argues but a sin’s attempt;
Temptation is to sin associate:        20
So doing, thou from God art cleane exempt,
Whose loue is neuer placde in his loue’s hate:
  He will be found not of a tempting minde,
  But found of those which he doth faithfull finde.
 
Temptation rather seperates from God,        25
Conuerting goodnes from the thing it was;
Heaping the indignation of his rod
To bruse our bodies like a brittle glasse:
  For wicked thoughts haue still a wicked end,
  In making God our foe, which was our frend.        30
 
They muster up reuenge, encamp our hate,
Vndoing what before they meant to do,
Stirring up anger and vnluckie fate;
Making the earth their friend, the heauen their foe:
  But when heauen’s Guide makes manifest his power,        35
  The earth, their frinds, doth them like foes deuoure.
 
O foolish men, to warre against your blisse!
O hatefull harts, where wisedome neuer raign’d!
O wicked thoughts, which euer thought amisse!
What have you reapt? what pleasure haue you gain’d?        40
  A finite in shew, a pleasure to decay;
  This haue you got by keeping follie’s way.
 
For wisedome’s haruest is with follie nipt,
And with the winter of your vice’s frost
Her fruite all scattered, her implanting ript,        45
Her name decayed, her fruition lost:
  Nor can she prosper in a plot of vice,
  Gaining no summer’s warmth, but winter’s ice.
 
Thou barren earth, where vertues neuer bud,
Thou fruitles wombe, where neuer fruits abide;        50
And thou, drie-withered sap, which bears no good,
But the dishonor of thy prowd heart’s pride;
  A seate of al deceit, deceit deceaude,
  Thy blisse a woe, thy woe of blisse bereaude.
 
This place of night hath left no place for day;        55
Here neuer shines the sunne of discipline:
But mischiefe clad in sable night’s array,
Thought’s apparition, euill angell’s signe;
  These raigne enhoused with their mother night,
  To cloude the day of clearest wisedom’s light.        60
 
CHAPTER IX.
O GOD of fathers, Lord of heau’n and earth,
Mercie’s true soueraigne, pittie’s portraiture,
King of all kings, a birth surpassing birth,
A life immortall, essence euer pure;
  Which with a breath ascending from thy thought        65
  Hast made the heau’ns of earth, the earth of nought.
 
Thou which hast made mortalitie for man,
Beginning life to make an end of woe,
Ending in him what in himselfe began,
His earth’s dominion, through thy wisedome’s flow;        70
  Made for to rule according to desart,
  And execute reuenge with upright heart.
 
Behold a crowne, but yet a crowne of care;
Behold a scepter, yet a sorrowe’s guise;
More than the ballance of my head can beare,        75
More than my hands can hold, wherein it lies:
  My crowne doth want supportance for to beare,
  My scepter wanteth empire for to weare.
 
A leglesse body is my kingdome’s mappe,
Limping in follie, halting in distresse:        80
Giue me thy wisedome, Lord, my better happe,
Which may my follie cure, my griefe redresse:
  O let me not fall in obliuion’s caue;
  Let wisedome be my baile, for her I craue.
 
Behold thy seruant pleading for his hire,        85
As an apprentice to thy gospel’s word;
Behold his poore estate, his hot-cold fire,
His weake-strong limmes, his mery woes record:
  Borne of a woman, woman-like in woe;
  They weake, they feeble are, and I am so.        90
 
My time of life is as an houre of day,
’Tis as a day of months, a month of yeeres;
It neuer comes againe, but fades away,
As one morne’s sunne about the hemispheres:
  Little my memory, lesser my time,        95
  But least of all my vnderstanding’s prime.
 
Say that my memory should neuer die:
Say that my time should neuer loose a glide:
Say that myselfe had earthly maiestie,
Seated in all the glory of my pride:        100
  Yet if discretion did not rule my minde,
  My raigne would be like fortune’s, follie-blind;
 
My memory a pathway to my shame,
My time the looking-glasse of my disgrace,
My selfe resemblance of my scorned name,        105
My pride the puffed shadow of my face:
  Thus should I be remembered, not regarded;
  Thus should my labours end, but not rewarded.
 
What were it to be shadow of a king?
A vanitie: to weare a shadow’d crowne?        110
A vanitie: to loue an outward thing?
A vanitie: vaine shadowes of renowne:
  This king is king of shades, because a shade;
  A king in shew, though not in action made.
 
His shape haue I, his cognisance I weare,        115
A smoaky vapour hem’d with vanitie;
Himselfe I am, his kingdome’s crowne I beare,
Vnlesse that wisedome change my liuerie:
  A king I am, God hath inflamed me,
  And lesser than I am I cannot be.        120
 
CHAPTER XIX.
THE BIRDS forsooke the ayre, the sheepe the fould,
The eagle pitched low, the swallow hie,
The nightingale did sleepe, and vncontrouled
Forsoke the prickle of her nature’s eie:
  The seely worme was friends with all her foes,        125
  And suckt the dew-teares from the weeping rose.
 
The sparrow tunde the larke’s sweet melody,
The larke in silence sung a dirge of dole,
The linnet helpt the larke in malady,
The swans forsooke the quire of billow-roule;        130
  The drie-land foule did make the sea their nest,
  The wet-sea fish did make the land their rest.
 
The swans, the queristers which did complaine
In inward feeling of an outward losse,
And filde the quire of waues with lauing paine,        135
(Yet dauncing in their waile with surges tosse,)
  Forsooke her cradle-billow-mountaine bed,
  And hies her vnto land there to be fed.
 
Her sea-fare now is land-fare of content;
Olde change is changed new, yet all is change;        140
The fishes are her food, and they are sent
Vnto drie land, to creep, to feed, to range:
  Now coolest water cannot quench the fire,
  But makes it proud in hottest hot desire.
 
The eu’ning of a day is morne to night,        145
The eu’ning of a night is morne to day;
The one is Phœbe’s clime, which is pale-bright,
The other Phœbus’, in more light array:
  Shee makes the mountaines limp in chil-cold snowe;
  Hee melts their eies, and makes them weep for woe.        150
 
His beames, ambassadors of his hot will,
Through the transparent element of aire
Doth only his warme embassage fulfill,
And melts the icie iaw of Phœbe’s heyre:
  Yet these, though firie flames, could not thaw cold,        155
  Nor breake the frosty glew of winter’s mould.
 
Here nature slue herselfe, or at the least
Did take the passage of her hot aspects:
All things haue nature to be worst or best,
And must encline to that which she affects:        160
  But nature mist herselfe in this same part,
  For she was weake, and had not nature’s hart.
 
’Twas God which made her weake, and made her strong,
Resisting vice, assisting righteousness;
Assisting and resisting right and wrong,        165
Making this epilogue in equallness:
  ’Twas God, his people’s aid, their wisedome’s frend,
  In whom I did begin, with whom I end.
A Iove surgit opus: de Iove finit opus.
 
Note 1. CXXVII. Thomas Middleton.—He was a celebrated writer in the reign of Elizabeth. His productions are chiefly secular, but he wrote “The Wisdome of Solomon paraphrased,” from which our extracts are derived. This volume was published in 1597, and was dedicated to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. [back]
 
 
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