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.
 
Scorn Not the Least
By Robert Southwell (c. 1561–1595)
 
WHERE 1 wards are weak and foes encount’ring strong,
  Where mightier do assault than do defend,
The feebler part puts up enforcèd wrong,
  And silent sees that speech could not amend.
Yet higher powers must think, though they repine,        5
When sun is set, the little stars will shine.
 
While pike doth range the seely trench 2 doth fly,
  And crouch in privy creeks with smaller fish;
Yet pikes are caught when little fish go by,
  These fleet afloat while those do fill the dish.        10
There is a time even for the worm to creep,
And suck the dew while all her foes do sleep.
 
The merlin cannot ever soar on high,
  Nor greedy greyhound still pursue the chase;
The tender lark will find a time to fly,        15
  And fearful hare to run a quiet race:
He that high growth on cedars did bestow,
Gave also lowly mushrumps 3 leave to grow.
 
In Aman’s pomp poor Mardocheus wept, 4
  Yet God did turn his fate upon his foe;        20
The lazar pined while Dives’ feast was kept,
  Yet he to heaven, to hell did Dives go.
We trample grass, and prize the flowers of May,
Yet grass is green when flowers do fade away.
 
Note 1. Where wards are weak and foes encount’ring strong.  From Poems, 1595. [back]
Note 2. Seely trench: i.e., innocent, harmless. [back]
Note 3. Mushrumps: mushrooms; both forms were used in Southwell’s day. [back]
Note 4. In Aman’s pomp poor Mardocheus wept: “When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and bitter cry.” (Esther, chap. IV. 1.) Aman: Haman. Mardocheus: Mordecai. [back]
 
 
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