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.
 
In Time of Plague
By Thomas Nashe (1567–1601)
 
ADIEU! 1 farewell earth’s bliss,
This world uncertain is:
Fond are life’s lustful joys,
Death proves them all but toys.
None from his darts can fly:        5
I am sick, I must die—
    Lord have mercy on us!
 
Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade;        10
All things to end are made;
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die—
    Lord have mercy on us!
 
Beauty is but a flower        15
Which wrinkles will devour:
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye:
I am sick, I must die—        20
    Lord have mercy on us!
 
Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector brave:
Swords may not fight with fate:
Earth still holds ope her gate.        25
Come! come! the bells do cry:
I am sick, I must die—
    Lord have mercy on us!
 
Wit with his wantonness
Tasteth death’s bitterness:        30
Hell’s executioner
Hath no ears for to hear
What vain art can reply;
I am sick, I must die—
    Lord have mercy on us!        35
 
Haste therefore each degree
To welcome destiny:
Heaven is our heritage,
Earth but a player’s stage.
Mount we unto the sky:        40
I am sick, I must die—
    Lord have mercy on us!
 
Note 1. From Summer’s Last Will and Testament, 1600. “The songs in Summer’s Last Will and Testament,” says Mr. Bullen (Introduction, Lyrics from Elizabethan Dramatists, p. viii.), “are of a sombre turn. We have, it is true, the delicious verses in praise of spring; and what a pleasure it is to croon them over! But when the play was produced it was sickly autumn, and the plague was stalking through the land…. Very vividly does Nashe depict the feeling of forlorn hopelessness caused by the dolorous advent of the dreaded pestilence. His address to the fading summer (Go not hence, bright soul of the sad year) is no empty rhetorical appeal, but a solemn supplication; and those pathetic stanzas, Adieu! farewell, earth’s bliss, must have had strange significance at a time when on every side the death-bells were tolling.” [back]
 
 
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