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.
 
Exequy on His Wife
By Henry King (1592–1669)
 
ACCEPT, thou shrine of my dead saint,
Instead of dirges this complaint;
And for sweet flowers to crown thy herse
Receive a strew of weeping verse
From thy grieved friend, whom thou might’st see        5
Quite melted into tears for thee.
  Dear loss! since thy untimely fate,
My task hath been to meditate
On thee, on thee! Thou art the book,
The library whereon I look,        10
Tho’ almost blind. For thee, loved clay,
I languish out, not live, the day….
Thou hast benighted me; thy set
This eve of blackness did beget,
Who wast my day (tho’ overcast        15
Before thou hadst thy noontide past):
And I remember must in tears
Thou scarce hadst seen so many years
As day tells hours. By thy clear sun
My love and fortune first did run;        20
But thou wilt never more appear
Folded within my hemisphere,
Since both thy light and motion,
Like a fled star, is fall’n and gone,
And ’twixt me and my soul’s dear wish        25
The earth now interposèd is….
  I could allow thee for a time
To darken me and my sad clime;
Were it a month, a year, or ten,
I would thy exile live till then,        30
And all that space my mirth adjourn—
So thou wouldst promise to return,
And putting off thy ashy shroud
At length disperse this sorrow’s cloud.
  But woe is me! the longest date        35
Too narrow is to calculate
These empty hopes: never shall I
Be so much blest as to descry
A glimpse of thee, till that day come
Which shall the earth to cinders doom,        40
And a fierce fever must calcine
The body of this world—like thine,
My little world! That fit of fire
Once off, our bodies shall aspire
To our souls’ bliss: then we shall rise        45
And view ourselves with clearer eyes
In that calm region where no night
Can hide us from each other’s sight.
  Meantime thou hast her, earth: much good
May my harm do thee! Since it stood        50
With Heaven’s will I might not call
Her longer mine, I give thee all
My short-lived right and interest
In her whom living I loved best.
Be kind to her, and prithee look        55
Thou write into thy Doomsday book
Each parcel of this rarity
Which in thy casket shrined doth lie,
As thou wilt answer Him that lent—
Not gave—thee my dear monument.        60
So close the ground, and ’bout her shade
Black curtains draw: my bride is laid.
  Sleep on, my Love, in thy cold bed
Never to be disquieted!
My last good-night! Thou wilt not wake        65
Till I thy fate shall overtake;
Till age, or grief, or sickness must
Marry my body to that dust
It so much loves; and fill the room
My heart keeps empty in that tomb.        70
Stay for me there: I will not fail
To meet thee in that hollow vale.
And think not much of my delay:
I am already on the way,
And follow thee with all the speed        75
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree
And every hour a step towards thee….
  ’Tis true—with shame and grief I yield—
Thou, like the van, first tookst the field;        80
And gotten hast the victory
In thus adventuring to die
Before me, whose more years might crave
A just precedence in the grave.
But hark! my pulse, like a soft drum,        85
Beats my approach, tells thee I come;
And slow howe’er my marches be
I shall at last sit down by thee.
  The thought of this bids me go on
And wait my dissolution        90
With hope and comfort. Dear—forgive
The crime—I am content to live
Divided, with but half a heart,
Till we shall meet and never part.
 
 
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