Verse > Anthologies > Edward Farr, comp. > Jacobean Poetry
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Edward Farr, ed.  Select Poetry of the Reign of King James the First.  1847.
 
Lines from “A Feast for Wormes”
XXI. Francis Quarles
 
        
The Argument.
The Ninivites beleeve the word,
Their hearts returne unto the Lord;
In him they put their onely trust;
They mourne in sackcloth and in dust.


SECTION IX.
SO said; the Ninivites beleev’d the word,
Beleeved Jonas, and beleev’d the Lord.
They made no pause, nor jested at the newes,
Nor slighted it because it was a Jew’s
Denouncement: no, nor did their gazing eyes        5
(As taken captive with such novelties)
Admire the stranger’s garb, so quaint to theirs;
No idle chat possest their itching eares
The whilst he spake; nor were their tongues on fier
To raile upon, or interrupt the cryer;        10
Nor did they question whether true the message,
Or fals the prophet were that brought th’embassage.
But they gave faith to what he said: relented,
And (changing their miswandred wayes) repented;
Before the searching ayre could coole his word        15
Their hearts returned and beleev’d the Lord;
And they, whose dainty lips were cloy’d while-ere
With cates and viands and with wanton cheare,
Doe now enjoyne their palats not to taste
The offal bread (for they proclaim’d a fast);        20
And they whose looser bodies once did lie
Wrapt up in robes and silkes of princely dye,
Loe, now instead of robes in rags they mourne,
And all their silks doe into sackcloth turne:
They reade themselves sad lectures on the ground,        25
Learning to want as well as to abound.
The prince was not exempted, nor the peere,
Nor yet the richest, nor the poorest there;
The old man was not freed, whose hoary age
Had even almost outronne his pilgrimage;        30
Nor yet the young, whose glasse (but new begun)
By course of nature had an age to runne:
  For when that fatall word came to the king,
(Convay’d with speed, upon the nimble wing
Of flitting fame,) he straight dismounts his throne,        35
Forsakes his chaire of state he sate upon,
Disrob’d his body, and his head discrown’d,
In dust and ashes grov’ling on the ground;
And when he rear’d his trembling corps againe,
(His haire all filthy with the dust he lay in)        40
He, clad in pensive sackcloth, did depose
Himself from state imperiall, and chose
To live a vassall, or a baser thing,
Than to usurpe the scepter of a king:
(Respectlesse of his pompe) he quite forgate        45
He was a monarch, mindelesse of his state;
He neither sought to rule or be obay’d,
Nor with the sword nor with the scepter sway’d.
 
MEDITA IX.
Is fasting then the thing that God requires?
Can fasting expiate or slake those fires        50
That sinne hath blowne to such a mightie flame?
Can sackcloth clothe a fault, or hide a shame?
Can ashes cleanse thy blot, or purge thy offence?
Or doe thy hands make heaven a recompence,
By strowing dust upon thy briny face?        55
Are these the tricks to purchase heavenly grace?
No! though thou pine thyself with willing want,
Or face looke thinne, or carkas nere so gaunt,
Although thou worser weeds than sackcloth weare,
Or naked goe, or sleep in shirts of haire,        60
Or though thou chuse an ash-tub for thy bed,
Or make a daily dunghill on thy head;
Thy labour is not poys’d with equal gaines,
For thou hast nought but labour for thy paines.
Such holy madnesse God rejects, and loathes        65
That sinks no deeper than the skin or clothes:
’Tis not thine eyes which (taught to weepe by art)
Look red with teares (not guilty of thy heart);
’Tis not the holding of thy hands so high,
Nor yet the purer squinting of thine eye;        70
’Tis not your mimick mouthes, your antick faces,
Your scripture phrases or affected graces,
Nor prodigall upbanding of thine eyes,
Whose gashfull bals doe seeme to pelt the skies;
’Tis not the strickt reforming of your haire,        75
So close that all the neighbour skull is bare;
’Tis not the drooping of thy head so low,
Nor yet the low’ring of thy sullen brow,
Nor wolvish howling that disturbs the aire,
Nor repetitions, or your tedious prayer:        80
No, no, ’tis none of this that God regards;
Such sort of fooles their owne applause rewards:
Such puppet plaies to heaven are strange and quaint,
Their service is unsweet and foully taint,
Their words fall fruitlesse from their idle braine.        85
But true repentance runnes in other straine;
Where sad contrition harbours, there the heart
Is truely acquainted with the secret smart
Of past offences, hates the bosome sin
The most which most the soul took pleasure in;        90
No crime unsifted, no sinne unpresented,
Can lurke unseene; and seene, none unlamented.
The trouble soule’s amazed with dire aspects
Of lesser sinnes committed, and detects
The wounded conscience; it cries amaine        95
For mercy, mercy, cries, and cries againe:
It sadly grieves, and soberly laments,
It yernes for grace, reformes, returnes, repents.
I, this is incense, whose accepted favour
Mounts up the heavenly throne and findeth favour:        100
I, this is it whose valour never failes—
With God it stoutly wrestles and prevailes:
I, this is it that pearces heaven above,
Never returning home (like Noah’s dove)
But brings an olive-leafe, or some increase,        105
That workes salvation and eternall peace.
 
 
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