Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
Henry King, Bishop of Chichester. 1592–1669
280. Exequy on his Wife
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 thy 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 took'st 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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