Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
 
Chorus of Good and Evil Spirits from Alaham
By Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke (1554–1628)
 
Evil Spirits.
WHY did you not defend that which was once your own?
Between us two, the odds of worth, by odds of power is known.
Besides map clearly out your infinite extent,
Even in the infancy of Time, when man was innocent; 1
Could this world then yield aught to envy or desire,        5
Where pride of courage made men fall, and baseness rais’d them higher?
Where they that would be great, to be so must be least,
And where to bear and suffer wrong, was Virtue’s native crest.
Man’s skin was then his silk; the world’s wild fruit his food;
His wisdom, poor simplicity; his trophies inward good.        10
No majesty for power; nor glories for man’s worth;
Nor any end, but—as the plants—to bring each other forth.
Temples and vessels fit for outward sacrifice,
As they came in, so they go out with that which you call vice.
The priesthood few and poor; no throne but open air;        15
For that which you call good, allows of nothing that is fair.
No Pyramids rais’d up above the force of thunder,
No Babel-walls by greatness built, for littleness a wonder,
No conquest testifying wit, with [dauntless] courage mixt;
As wheels whereon the world must run, and never can be fixt.        20
No arts or characters to read the great God in,
Nor stories of acts done; for these all entered with the sin.
A lazy calm, wherein each fool a pilot is!
The glory of the skilful shines, where men may go amiss.
Till we came in there was no trial of your might,        25
And since we were in men, yourselves presume of little right.
Then cease to blast the Earth with your abstracted dreams,
And strive no more to carry men against Affection’s streams.
*        *        *        *        *
Keep therefore where you are; descend not but ascend:
For, underneath the sun, be sure no brave state is your friend.        30
 
Good Spirits.
What have you won by this, but that curst under Sin,
You make and mar; throw down and raise; as ever to begin;
Like meteors in the air, you blaze but to burn out;
And change your shapes—like phantom’d clouds—to leave weak eyes in doubt.
Not Truth but truth-like grounds you work upon,        35
Varying in all but this, that you can never long be one:
Then play here with your art, false miracle devise;
Deceive, and be deceived still, be foolish and seem wise;
In Peace erect your thrones, your delicacy spread;
The flowers of time corrupt, soon spring, and are as quickly dead:        40
Let War, which—tempest-like—all with itself o’erthrows,
Make of this diverse world a stage of blood-enamelled shows:
Successively both these yet this fate follow will,
That all their glories be no more than change from ill to ill.
 
Note 1. i.e., ‘consider the boundless power you enjoyed in the golden age.’ [back]
 
 
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