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.
 
Of the Miserable State of Man
XXII. Sir John Beaumont
 
IS man, the best of creatures, growne the worst?
He once most blessed was, now most accurst:
His whole felicity is endlesse strife,
No peace, no satisfaction crownes his life:
No such delight as other creatures take,        5
Which their desires can free and happy make:
Our appetites, which seek for pleasing good,
Haue oft their wane and full, their ebbe and floud,
Their calme and stormes: the neuer-constant moone,
The seas, and nimble winds, not halfe so soone,        10
Incline to change, while all our pleasure rests
In things which vary, like our wau’ring brests.
He who desires that wealth his life may blesse,
Like to a sayler, counts it good successe
To haue more pris’ners which increase his care;        15
The more his goods, the more his dangers are.
This sayler sees his ship about to drowne,
And he takes in more wares to presse it downe.
Vaine honour is a play of diuers parts,
Whose fained words and gestures please our hearts;        20
The flatt’red audience are the actor’s friends,
But lose that title when the fable ends.
The faire desire that others should behold
Their clay well featured, their well-temperd mould,
Ambitious mortals make their chiefe pretence,        25
To be the obiects of delighted sense:
Yet oft the shape and hue of basest things
More admiration moues, more pleasure brings.
Why should we glory to be counted strong?
This is the praise of beasts, the pow’r of wrong:        30
And if the strength of many were inclos’d
Within our brest, yet when it is oppos’d
Against that force which art or nature frame,
It melts like waxe before the scorching flame.
We cannot in these outward things be blest;        35
For we are sure to lose them; and the best
Of these contentments no such comforts beares
As may waigh equall with the doubts and feares
Which fixe our minds on that vncertaine day
When these shall faile, most certaine to decay.        40
From length of life no happinesse can come,
But what the guilty feele, who after doome
Are to the lothsome prison sent againe,
And there must stay to die with longer paine.
No earthly gift lasts after death, but fame;        45
This gouerns men more carefull of their name
Then of their soules, which their vngodly taste
Dissolues to nothing, and shall proue at last
Farre worse then nothing: prayses come too late
When man is not, or is in wretched state.        50
But these are ends which draw the meanest hearts:
Let vs search deepe and trie our better parts.
O knowledge, if a heau’n on earth could be,
I would expect to reape that blisse in thee:
But thou art blind, and they that haue thy light        55
More clearely, know they liue in darksome night.
See, man, thy stripes at schoole, thy paines abroad,
Thy watching and thy palenesse well bestow’d:
These feeble helpes can scholers neuer bring
To perfect knowledge of the plainest thing:        60
And some to such a height of learning grow,
They die perswaded that they nothing know.
In vaine swifte houres spent in deepe study slide,
Vnlesse the purchast doctrine curbe our pride.
The soule perswaded that no fading loue        65
Can equall her imbraces, seekes aboue:
And now aspiring to a higher place,
Is glad that all her comforts here are base.
 
 
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