Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. III. Sorrow and Consolation
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume III. Sorrow and Consolation.  1904.
V. Death and Bereavement
“The fairest thing in mortal eyes”
Charles, Duke of Orléans (1394–1465)
From the French by Henry Francis Cary

Addressed to his deceased wife, who died in childbed at the age of twenty-two

TO make my lady’s obsequies
  My love a minster wrought,
And, in the chantry, service there
  Was sung by doleful thought;
The tapers were of burning sighs,        5
  That light and odor gave:
And sorrows, painted o’er with tears,
  Enluminèd her grave;
And round about, in quaintest guise,
Was carved: “Within this tomb there lies        10
The fairest thing in mortal eyes.”
Above her lieth spread a tomb
  Of gold and sapphires blue:
The gold doth show her blessedness,
  The sapphires mark her true;        15
For blessedness and truth in her
  Were livelily portrayed,
When gracious God with both his hands
  Her goodly substance made.
He framed her in such wondrous wise,        20
She was, to speak without disguise,
The fairest thing in mortal eyes.
No more, no more! my heart doth faint
  When I the life recall
Of her who lived so free from taint,        25
  So virtuous deemed by all,—
  That in herself was so complete
  I think that she was ta’en
By God to deck his paradise,
  And with his saints to reign,        30
Whom while on earth each one did prize
The fairest thing in mortal eyes.
But naught our tears avail, or cries;
  All soon or late in death shall sleep;
  Nor living wight long time may keep        35
The fairest thing in mortal eyes.

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