Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
A Fancy
By Sir Edward Dyer (1543–1607)
 
    HE 1 that his mirth hath lost,
    Whose comfort is dismayed,
Whose hope is vain, whose faith is scorned,
    Whose trust is all betrayed,
 
    If he have held them dear,        5
    And cannot cease to moan,
Come, let him take his place by me;
    He shall not rue alone.
 
    But if the smallest sweet
    Be mixed with all his sour;        10
If in the day, the month, the year,
    He feel one lightening hour,
 
    Then rest he by himself;
    He is no mate for me,
Whose hope is fallen, whose succour void,        15
    Whose hap his death must be.
 
    Yet not the wishèd death,
    Which hath no plaint nor lack,
Which, making free the better part,
    Is only nature’s wrack.        20
 
    O no! that were too well;
    My death is of the mind,
Which always yields extremest pains,
    And leaves the worst behind.
 
    As one that lives in show,        25
    But inwardly doth die,
Whose knowledge is a bloody field
    Where all hope slain doth lie;
 
    Whose heart the altar is;
    Whose spirit, the sacrifice        30
Unto the powers, whom to appease
    No sorrow can suffice.
 
    My fancies are like thorns,
    On which I go by night;
Mine arguments are like an host        35
    Which force hath put to flight.
 
    My sense is passion’s spy;
    My thoughts like ruins old
Of famous Carthage, or the town
    Which Sinon bought and sold;        40
 
    Which still before mine eyes
    My mortal fall do lay,
Whom love and fortune once advanced,
    And now hath cast away.
 
    O thoughts, no thoughts, but wounds,        45
    Sometime the seat of joy,
Sometime the seat of quiet rest,
    But now of all annoy.
 
    I sowed the soil of peace;
    My bliss was in the spring;        50
And day by day I ate the fruit
    Which my life’s tree did bring.
 
    To nettles now my corn,
    My field is turned to flint,
Where, sitting in the cypress shade,        55
    I read the hyacint. 2
 
    The peace, the rest, the life,
    That I enjoyed before
Came to my lot, that by the loss
    My smart might sting the more.        60
 
    So to unhappy men
    The best frames to the worst;
O time, O place, O words, O looks,
    Dear then; but now accurst:
 
    In was stands my delight;        65
    In is and shall, my woe;
My horror fastens on the yea,
    My hope hangs on the no.
 
    I look for no relief;
Relief would come too late;        70
Too late I find, I find too well,
    Too well stood my estate.
 
    Behold such is the end;
    What thing may there be sure?
O, nothing else but plaints and moans        75
    Do to the end endure.
 
    Forsaken first was I,
    Then utterly forgotten;
And he that came not to my faith,
    Lo, my reward hath gotten.        80
 
    Then, Love, where is the sauce
    That makes thy torment sweet?
Where is the cause that some have thought
    Their death through thee but meet?
 
    The stately chaste disdain,        85
    The secret shamefastness,
The grace reserved, the common light
    Which shines in worthiness.
 
    O would it were not so,
    Or I it might excuse!        90
O would the wrath of jealousy
    My judgment might abuse!
 
    O frail inconstant kind,
    O safe in trust to no man!
No women angels be, and lo!        95
    My mistress is a woman!
 
    Yet hate I but the fault,
    And not the faulty one,
Nor can I rid me of the bands
    Wherein I lie alone.        100
 
    Alone I lie, whose like
    Was never seen as yet;
The prince, the poor, the old, the young,
    The fond, the full of wit.
 
    Hers still remain must I,        105
    By wrong, by death, by shame;
I cannot blot out of my mind
    The love wrought in her name.
 
    I cannot set at nought
    That once I held so dear;        110
I cannot make it seem so far
    That is indeed so near.
 
    Not that I mean henceforth
    This strange will to profess,
As one that would betray such troth,        115
    And build on fickleness.
 
    But it shall never fail
    That my faith bare in hand;
I gave my word, my word gave me;
    Both word and gift must stand.        120
 
    Sith then it must be thus,
    And thus is all-to ill,
I yield me captive to my curse,
    My hard fate to fulfil.
 
    The solitary woods        125
    My city shall become;
The darkest den shall be my lodge,
    Wherein I’ll rest or roam.
 
    Of heben 3 black my board;
    The worms my feast shall be,        130
On which my carcass shall be fed
    Till they do feed on me;
 
    My wine of Niobe,
    My bed of craggy rock,
The serpent’s hiss my harmony,        135
    The shrieking owl my clock.
 
    My exercise nought else
    But raging agonies;
My books of spiteful Fortune’s foils
    And dreary tragedies.        140
 
    My walk the paths of plaint,
    My prospect into hell,
Where wretched Sisyphe and his pheres
    In endless pains do dwell.
 
    And though I seem to use        145
    The poet’s feignèd style,
To figure forth my rueful plight,
    My fall or my exile,
 
    Yet is my grief not feigned,
    In which I starve and pine;        150
Who feels it most shall find it least
    If his compare with mine.
 
    My Muse if any ask,
    Whose grievous case was such?
DY ERE thou let his name be known;        155
    His folly shows so much.
 
    But best ’twere thee to hide,
    And never come to light,
For on the earth may none but I
    This action sound aright.        160
                Miserum est fuisse.
 
Note 1. “This poem,” says Dr. Hannah, Courtly Poets, ed. 1870, “must have been highly esteemed to have obtained the compliment of adaptation and imitation from Robert Southwell and Lord Brooke; and yet I am not aware that it has ever been printed before, except very imperfectly among the Poems of Pembroke and Rudyard, and some extracts by Malone. The MS. copies differ exceedingly, both in various readings and in omissions. I have made out the best text I could, from a careful comparison of all the materials. It is the same piece which Wood erroneously called ‘A Description of Friendship;’ a title which he took by mistake from another poem in the Ashmolean MS.” [back]
Note 2. I read the hyacint: spelt so for the rhyme. Literal meaning, to read the fancied letters on its leaves. [back]
Note 3. Heben: for ebony. Spenser uses the word often. Cf. His spear of heben wood,Faery Queene, Bk. I. vii. st. 37. [back]
 
 
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