Verse > Anthologies > Edward Farr, comp. > Elizabethan Poetry
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Edward Farr, ed.  Select Poetry of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth.  1845.
 
Sonnets
VIII. Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke
 
I.
WHEN 1 as man’s life, the light of humane lust,
In soacket of his early lanthorne burnes,
That all this glory vnto ashes must,
And generations to corruption turnes;
  Then fond desires, that onely feare their end,        5
  Doe vainely wish for life but to amend.
 
But when this life is from the body fled,
To see itselfe in that eternall glasse,
Where time doth end, and thoughts accuse the dead,
Where all to come is one with all that was;        10
  Then liuing men aske how he left his breath,
  That while he liued never thought of death!
 
II.
Man, dreame no more of curious mysteries,
And what was here before the world was made;
The first man’s life, the state of Paradise,        15
Where heauen is, or hell’s eternal shade:
  For God’s works are, like him, all infinite,
  And curious search but craftie shines delight.
 
The flood that did, and dreadfull fire that shall,
Drowne and burne vp the malice of the earth,        20
The diuers tongues and Babylon’s downefall,
Are nothing to the man’s renewed birth:
  First, let the Law plough vp thy wicked heart,
  That Christ may come, and all these types depart.
 
When thou hast swept the house that all is cleare;        25
When thou the dust hast shaken from thy feete;
When God’s All-might doth in thy flesh appeare,
Then seas with streames aboue the skye do meete:
  For goodnesse onely doth God comprehend,
  Knowes what was first, and what shall be the end.        30
 
III.
The Manicheans did no idolls make
Without themselues, nor worship gods of wood;
Yet idolls did in their ideas take,
And figur’d Christ as on the cross he stood:
  Thus did they when they earnestly did pray,        35
  Till clearer faith this idoll tooke away.
 
We seeme more inwardly to knowe the Sonne,
And see our owne saluation in his blood:
When this is said, we thinke the worke is done,
And with the Father hold our portion good:        40
  As if true life within these words were laid
  For him that in life neuer words obey’d.
 
If this be safe, it is a pleasant way;
The crosse of Christ is very easily borne:
But sixe dayes’ labour makes the Sabboth-day;        45
The flesh is dead before grace can be borne:
  The heart must first beare witnesse with the booke,
  The earth must burne, ere we for Christ can looke.
 
IV.
Eternall Truth, almighty, infinite,
Onely exiled from man’s fleshly heart,        50
  Where ignorance and disobedience fight,
In hell and sinne which shall haue greatest part;
  When thy sweet mercy opens forth the light
Of grace, which giueth eyes vnto the blinde,
And with the Law euen plowest up our sprite        55
To faith, wherein flesh may saluation finde,
  Thou bidst vs pray; and wee doe pray to thee:
But as to power and God without vs plac’d,
Thinking a wish may weare out vanity,
Or habits be by miracles defac’d,        60
  One thought to God wee giue, the rest to sinne:
Quickly vnbent is all desire of good;
True words passe out, but haue no being within;
Wee pray to Christ, yet helpe to shed his blood:
  For while we say beleeve, and feele it not,        65
Promise amends, and yet despaire in it,
Heare Sodom iudg’d, and goe not out with Lot,
Make Law and Gospell riddles of the wit;
  Wee with the Jewes euen Christ still crucifie,
  As not yet come to our impiety.        70
 
V.
Wrapt vp, O Lord, in man’s degeneration,
The glories of thy truth, thy ioyes eternall,
Reflect vpon my soule darke desolation
And vgly prospects ore the sp’rits infernall:
  Lord, I haue sinn’d, and mine iniquity        75
  Deserues this hell; yet, Lord, deliuer me.
 
Thy power and mercy neuer comprehended
Rest, liuely imag’d in my conscience wounded;
Mercy to grace, and power to feare extended,
Both infinite, and I in both confounded:        80
  Lord, I haue sinn’d, and mine iniquity
  Deserues this hell; yet, Lord, deliuer me.
 
If from this depth of sinne, this hellish graue,
And fatall absence from my Sauiour’s glory,
I could implore his mercy who can saue,        85
And for my sinnes, not paines of sinne, be sorry;
  Lord, from this horror of iniquity,
  And hellish graue, thou wouldst deliuer me.
 
VI.
Downe in the depth of mine iniquity,
That vgly center of infernall spirits,        90
Where each sinne feeles her own deformity,
In those peculiar torments she inherits—
  Depriu’d of human graces and diuine,
  Euen there appeares this sauing God of mine.
 
And in this fatall mirrour of transgression,        95
Shewes man, as fruit of his degeneration,
The errours vgly infinite impression,
Which beares the faithlesse down to desperation—
  Depriu’d of human graces and diuine,
  Euen there appeares this sauing God of mine.        100
 
In power and birth, Almighty and Eternall,
Which on the sinne reflects strange desolation,
With glory scourging all the spirits infernall,
And vncreated hell with vnpriuation,
  Depriu’d of human graces and diuine,        105
  Euen there appeares this sauing God of mine.
 
For on this spirituall Crosse, condemned, lying,
To paines infernall by eternal doome,
I see my Sauiour for the same sinnes dying,
And from that hell I fear’d to free me come;        110
  Depriu’d of human graces, not diuine,
  Thus hath his death rais’d vp this soule of mine.
 
VII.
The serpent Sinne, by shewing humane lust
Visions and dreames, inticed man to doe
Follies, in which exceed his God he must,        115
And know more than he was created to:
  A charme which made the vgly sinne seeme good,
  And is by falne spirits onely vnderstood.
 
Now man no sooner from his meane creation
Trode this excesse of vncreated sinne,        120
But straight he chaung’d his being to priuation,
Horrour and death at this gate passing in;
  Whereby immortall life, made for man’s good,
  Is since become the hell of flesh and blood.
 
But grant that there were no eternity;        125
That life were all, and pleasure life of it:
In sinne’s excesse there yet confusions be,
Which spoyle his place, and passionate his wit;
  Making his nature lesse, his reason thrall
  To tyranny of vice vnnaturall.        130
 
And as hell-fires, not wanting heat, want light,
So these strange witchcrafts, which like pleasures be,
Not wanting faire inticements, want delight,
Inward being nothing but deformity,
  And doe at open doores let fraile powers in        135
  To that straight bidding Little Ease of sinne.
 
Is there ought more wonderfull than this—
That man, euen in the state of his perfection,
All things vncurst, nothing yet done amisse,
And so in him no base of his defection,        140
  Should fall from God, and breake his Maker’s will,
  Which could haue no end, but to know the ill?
 
I aske the rather, since in Paradise
Eternity was obiect to his passion,
And hee in goodnesse like his Maker, wise        145
As from his spirit taking life and fashion;
  What greater power there was to master this,
  Or how a less could worke, my question is?
 
For who made all, ’tis sure yet could not make
Any aboue himselfe, as princes can,        150
So as against his will no power could take
A creature from him, nor corrupt a man;
  And yet who thinks he marr’d that made vs good,
  As well may think God lesse than flesh and blood.
 
Where did our being then seeke out priuation?        155
Aboue, within, without vs, all was pure;
Onely the angels from their discreation,
By smart declar’d no being was secure,
  But that transcendent goodnesse, which subsists
  By forming and reforming what it lists.        160
 
So as within the man there was no more
But possibility to worke upon,
And in these spirits which were faln before
An abstract curst eternity alone;
  Refined by their high places in creation,        165
  To adde more craft and malice to temptation.
 
Now with what force upon these middle spheares
Of Probable and Possibility;
Which no one constant demonstration beares,
And so can neither bind, nor bounded be;        170
  What those could work, that, hauing lost their God,
  Aspire to be our tempters and our rod,
 
Too well is witness’d by this fall of ours:
For wee, not knowing yet that there was ill,
Gaue easie credit to deceiuing powers,        175
Who wrought vpon vs onely by our will;
  Perswading, like it, all was to it free,
  Since, where no sinne was, there no law could be.
 
And as all finite things seeke infinite,
From thence deriuing what beyond them is,        180
So man was led by charmes of this dark sp’rit,
Which hee could not know till hee did amisse,
  To trust those serpents, who learn’d since they fell,
  Knew more than we did, euen their own made hell:
 
Which crafty oddes made vs those clouds imbrace,        185
Where sinne in ambush lay to ouerthrow
Nature, that would presume to fadome grace,
Or could beleeue what God said was not so.
  Sinne, then we knew thee not, and could not hate;
  And now we know thee, now it is too late.        190
 
VIII.
O false and treacherous probability,
Enemy of truth, and friend to wickednesse,
With whose bleare eyes opinion learnes to see
Truth’s feeble party here, and barrennesse:
  When thou hast thus misled humanity,        195
  And lost obedience in the pride of wit,
  With reason dar’st thou iudge the Deity,
  And in thy flesh make bold to fashion it?
 
Vaine thought! the word of power a riddle is,
And till the vayles be rent, the flesh new borne,        200
Reueales no wonders of that inward blisse,
Which, but where faith is, euery where findes scorne:
  Who therefore censures God with fleshly sp’rit,
  As well in Time may wrap vp Infinite.
 
IX.
Syon lyes waste, and thy Jerusalem,
        205
O Lord, is falne to vtter desolation:
Against thy prophets and thy holy men
The sinne hath wrought a fatall combination;
  Prophan’d thy name, thy worship ouerthrowne,
  And made thee, liuing Lord, a God vnknowne.        210
 
Thy powerfull lawes, thy wonders of creation,
Thy Word incarnate, glorious heauen, darke hell,
Lye shadowed vnder man’s degeneration,
Thy Christ still crucifi’d for doing well:
  Impiety, O Lord, sits on thy throne,        215
  Which makes thee, liuing Light, a God vnknowne.
 
Man’s superstition hath thy truths entomb’d,
His atheisme againe her pomps defaceth;
That sensuall, vnsatiable, vast wombe
Of thy seene Church thy unseene Church disgraceth:        220
  There liues no truth with them that seem thine owne,
  Which makes thee, liuing Lord, a God vnknowne.
 
Yet vnto thee, Lord, (mirrour of transgression,)
Wee, who for earthly idols haue forsaken
Thy heauenly Image, (sinlesse pure impression,)        225
And so in nets of vanity lye taken;
  All desolate, implore that to thine owne,
  Lord, thou no longer liue a God vnknowne.
 
Yet, Lord, let Israel’s plagues be not eternall,
Nor sinne for euer cloud thy sacred mountaines;        230
Nor with false flames, spirituall but infernall,
Dry vp thy mercies euer-springing fountaines:
  Rather, sweete Jesus, fill vp time, and come,
  To yeeld the sinne her euerlasting doome.
 
Note 1. VIII. Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke.—Sir Fulke Greville, afterwards Lord Brooke, and on whose monument it is inscribed that he was “Servant to Queen Elizabeth, counsellor to King James, and friend to Sir Philip Sidney,” was the author of several works, among which was one entitled “Cælia,” containing CIX Sonnets, from whence those under his name are derived. [back]
 
 
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