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Poem by Francis Beaumont
An Elegy on the Death of the Virtuous Lady Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland
I may forget to drink, to eat, to sleep, Remembering thee: but when I do, to weep In well-weighed lines, that men shall at thy hearse Envy the sorrow which brought forth my verse; May my dull understanding have the might Only to know her last was yesternight! Rutland, the fair, is dead! and if to hear The name of Sidney will more force a tear, 'Tis she that is so dead! and yet there be Some more alive profess not poetry; The statesmen and the lawyers of our time Have business still, yet do it not in rhyme. Can she be dead, and can there be of those That are so dull to say their prayers in prose? It is three days since she did feel Death's hand; And yet this isle not feel the poet's land? Hath this no new ones made? and are the old At such a needful time as this grown cold? They all say they would fain; but yet they plead They cannot write, because their muse is dead. Hear me then speak, which will take no excuse; Sorrow can make a verse without a muse. Why didst thou die so soon? O, pardon me, I know it was the longest life to thee, That e'er with modesty was called a span, Since the Almighty left to strive with man; Mankind is sent to sorrow; and thou hast More of the business which thou cam'st for past, Than all those aged women, which, yet quick, Have quite outlived their own arithmetic. As soon as thou couldst apprehend a grief, There were enough to meet thee; and the chief Blessing of women, marriage, was to thee Nought but a sacrament of misery; For whom thou hadst, if we may trust to fame, Could nothing change about thee but thy name: A name which who (that were again to do't) Would change without a thousand joys to boot? In all things else thou rather led'st a life Like a betrothed virgin than a wife. But yet I would have called thy fortune kind, If it had only tried the settled mind With present crosses: not the loathed thought Of worse to come, or past, then might have wrough Thy best remembrance to have cast an eye Back with delight upon thine infancy. But thou hadst, ere thou knew'st the use of tears, Sorrow laid up against thou cam'st to years; Ere thou wert able who thou wert to tell, By a sad war thy noble father fell, In a dull clime, which did not understand What 'twas to venture him to save a land. He left two children, who for virtue, wit, Beauty, were loved of all; thee and his wit: Two was too few; yet death hath from us took Thee, a more faultless issue than his book, Which now the only living thing we have From him, we'll see, shall never find a grave As thou hast done. Alas! 'would it might be That books their sexes had, as well as we, That we might see this married to the worth, And many poems like itself bring forth! But this vain wish divinity controuls; For neither to the angels, nor to souls, Nor anything he meant should ever live, Did the wise God of nature sexes give. Then with his everlasting work alone We must content ourselves, since she is gone; Gone, like the day thou diedst upon; and we May call that back again as soon as thee. Who should have looked to this? Where were you all, That do yourselves the help of nature call, Physicians? I acknowledce you were there To sell such words as one in health would hear: So died she. Curst be he who shall defend Your art of hastening nature to its end! In this you shewed that physic can but be At best an art to cure your poverty. Ye're many of you impostors, and do give To sick men potions that yourselves may live. He that hath surfeited, and cannot eat, Must have a medicine to procure you meat; And that's the deepest ground of all your skill, Unless it be some knowledge how to kill. Sorrow and madness make my verses flow Cross to my understanding; for I know You can do wonders: Every day I meet The looser sort of people in the street From desperate diseases freed; and why Restore you them, and suffer her to die? Why should the state allow you colleges, Pensions for lectures, and anatomies, If all your potions, vomits, letting blood, Can only cure the bad, and not the good, Which only they can do? and I will show The hidden reason, why you did not know The way to cure her: You believed her blood Ran on such courses as you understood; By lectures you believed her arteries Grew as they do in your anatomies: Forgetting that the state allows you none But only ****s and thieves to practise on And every passage 'bout them I am sure You understood, and only them can cure; Which is the cause that both Ч Are noted for enjoying so long lives. But noble blood treads in too strange a path For your ill-got experience, and hath Another way of cure. If you had seen Penelope dissected, or the Queen Of Sheba; then you might have found a way To have preserved her from that fatal day. As 'tis, you have but made her sooner blest, By sending her to Heaven, where let her rest. I will not hurt the peace which she would have, By longer looking in her quiet grave.
Francis Beaumont's other poems:
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