Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
Loss in Delay
By Robert Southwell (c. 1561–1595)
SHUN delays, they breed remorse;
  Take thy time while time is lent thee;
Creeping snails have weakest force,
  Fly their fault lest thou repent thee.
Good is best when soonest wrought,        5
Linger’d labours come to nought.
Hoist up sail while gale doth last,
  Tide and wind stay no man’s pleasure;
Seek not time when time is past,
  Sober speed is wisdom’s leisure.        10
After-wits are dearly bought,
Let thy forewit guide thy thought.
Time wears all his locks before,
  Take thy hold on his forehead;
When he flies he turns no more,        15
  And behind his scalp ’s naked.
Works adjourn’d have many stays,
Long demurs breed new delays.
Seek thy salve while sore is green,
  Fester’d wounds ask deeper lancing;        20
After-cures are seldom seen,
  Often sought, scarce ever chancing.
Time and place give best advice,
Out of season, out of price.
Crush the serpent in the head,        25
  Break ill eggs ere they be hatch’d;
Kill bad chickens in the tread,
  Fledged, they hardly can be catch’d.
In the rising stifle ill,
Lest it grow against thy will.        30
Drops do pierce the stubborn flint,
  Not by force but often falling;
Custom kills with feeble dint,
  More by use than strength and vailing.
Single sands have little weight,        35
Many make a drawing freight.
Tender twigs are bent with ease,
  Aged trees do break with bending;
Young desires make little prease, 1
  Growth doth make them past amending        40
Happy man, that soon doth knock
Babel’s babes against the rock!
Note 1. press, crowd. [back]

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