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TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE AND VERTUOUS LADY,
HELENA, MARQUESSE OF NORTH HAMPTON.
HAVE the rather presumed humbly to offer unto your Honour the dedication of this little Poëme, for that the noble and vertuous Gentlewoman of whom it is written, was by match neere alied, and in affection greatly devoted, unto your Ladiship. The occasion why I wrote the same, was as well the great good fame which I heard of her deceassed, as the particular goodwill which I bear unto her husband Master Arthur Gorges, a lover of learning and vertue, whose house, as your Ladiship by marriage hath honoured, so doe I find the name of them, by many notable records, to be of great antiquitie in this realme, and such as have ever borne themselves with honourable reputation to the world, and unspotted loyaltie to their Prince and countrey: besides, so lineally are they descended from the Howards, as that the Lady Anne Howard, eldest daughter to John Duke of Norfolke, was wife to Sir Edmund, mother to Sir Edward, and grandmother to Sir William and Sir Thomas Gorges, Knightes: and therefore I doe assure my selfe that no due honour done to the White Lyon, but will be most gratefull to your Ladiship, whose husband and children do so neerely participate with the bloud of that noble family. So in all dutie I recommend this Pamphlet, and the good acceptance thereof, to your honourable favour and protection. London, this first of Januarie, 1591. Your Honours humbly ever.
WHAT-EVER man he be whose heavie mynd,
With griefe of mournefull great mishap opprest,
Fit matter for his cares increase would fynd,
Let reade the rufull plaint herein exprest,
Of one, I weene, the wofulst man alive,
Even sad Alcyon, whose empierced brest
Sharpe sorrowe did in thousand peeces rive.
But whoso else in pleasure findeth sense,
Or in this wretched life doeth take delight,
Let him be banisht farre away from hence;
Ne let the Sacred Sisters here be hight,
Though they of sorrowe heavilie can sing ;
For even their heavie song would breede delight;
But here no tunes, save sobs and grones, shall ring.
In stead of them, and their sweet harmonie,
Let those three Fatall Sisters, whose sad hands
Doe weave the direfull threeds of Destinie,
And in their wrath break off the vitall bands,
Approach hereto; and let the dreadfull Queene
Of Darknes deepe come from the Stygian strands,
And grisly Ghosts, to heare this dolefull teene.
In gloomy evening, when the wearie Sun,
After his dayes long labour drew to rest,
And sweatie steedes, now having overrun
The compast skie, gan water in the West,
I walkt abroad to breathe the freshing ayre
In open fields, whose flowring pride, opprest
With early frosts, had lost their beautie faire.
There came unto my mind a troublous thought,
Which dayly doth my weaker wit possesse,
Ne lets it rest untill it forth have brought
Her long borne infant, fruit of heavinesse,
Which she conceived hath through meditation
Of this worlds vainnesse and life's wretchednesse,
That yet my soule it deepely doth empassion.
So as I muzed on the miserie
In which men live, and I of many most,
Most miserable man; I did espie
Where towards me a sory wight did cost,
Clad all in black, that mourning did bewray,
And Jacob staffe in hand devoutly crost,
Like to some Pilgrim come from farre away.
His carelesse locks, uncombed and unshorne,
Hong long adowne, and beard all overgrowne,
That well he seem'd to be some wight forlorne:
Downe to the earth his heavie eyes were throwne,
As loathing light; and ever as he went
He sighed soft, and inly deepe did grone,
As if his heart in peeces would have rent.
Approaching nigh, his face I vewed nere,
And by the semblant of his countenaunce
Me seemd I had his person seene elsewhere,
Most like Alcyon seeming at a glaunce;
Alcyon he, the jollie Shepheard swaine,
That wont full merrilie to pipe and daunce,
And fill with pleasance every wood and plaine.
Yet halfe in doubt, because of his disguize,
I softlie sayd, Alcyon! There-withall
He lookt aside as in disdainefull wise,
Yet stayed not, till I againe did call:
Then, turning back, he saide, with hollow sound,
"Who is it that dooth name me, wofull thrall,
The wretchedst man that treads this day on ground?"
"One, whom like wofulnesse, impressed deepe,
Hath made fit mate thy wretched case to heare,
And given like cause with thee to waile and weepe;
Griefe finds some ease by him that like does beare.
Then stay, Alcyon, gentle Shepheard! stay,
(Quoth I) till thou have to my trustie eare
Committed what thee dooth so ill apay."
"Cease, foolish Man!" (saide he, halfe wrothfully)
"To seeke to heare that which cannot be told,
For the huge anguish, which doeth multiply
My dying paines, no tongue can well unfold;
Ne doo I care that any should bemone
My hard mishap, or any weepe that would,
But seeke alone to weepe, and dye alone."
"Then be it so," quoth I, " that thou are bent
To die alone, unpitied, unplained;
Yet, ere thou die, it were convenient
To tell the cause which thee thereto constrained,
Least that the world thee dead accuse of guilt,
And say, when thou of none shalt be maintained,
That thou for secret crime thy blood hast spilt."
"Who life does loath, and longs to be unbound
From the strong shackles of fraile flesh," quoth he,
"Nought cares at all what they, that live on ground,
Deem the occasion of his death to bee;
Rather desires to be forgotten quight,
Than question made of his calamitie;
For harts deep sorrow hates both life and light.
"Yet since so much thou seemst to rue my griefe,
And car'st for one that for himselfe cares nought,
(Sign of thy love, though nought for my reliefe,
For my reliefe exceedeth living thought;)
I will to thee this heavie case relate:
Then harken well till it to end be brought,
For never didst thou heare more haplesse fate.
“Whilome I usde (as thou right well doest know)
My little flocke on Westerne downes to keep,
Not far from whence Sabrinaes streame doth flow,
And flowrie bancks with silver liquor steepe;
Nought carde I then for worldly change or chaunce,
For all my joy was on my gentle sheepe,
And to my pype to caroll and to daunce.
"It there befell, as I the fields did range
Fearlesse and free, a faire young Lionesse,
White as the native Rose before the chaunge
Which Venus blood did in her leaves impresse,
I spied playing on the grassie plaine
Her youthfull sports and kindlie wantonnesse,
That did all other Beasts in beawtie staine.
"Much was I moved at so goodly sight,
Whose like before mine eye had seldome seene,
And gan to cast how I her compasse might,
And bring to hand that yet had never beene:
So well I wrought with mildnes and with paine,
That I her caught disporting on the greene,
And brought away fast bound with silver chaine.
"And afterwardes I handled her so fayre,
That though by kind shee stout and salvage were,
For being borne an auncient Lions hayre,
And of the race that all wild beastes do feare,
Yet I her fram'd, and wan so to my bent,
That shee became so meeke and milde of cheare,
As the least lamb in all my flock that went:
"For shee in field, where-ever I did wend,
Would wend with me, and waite by me all day;
And all the night that I in watch did spend,
If cause requir'd, or els in sleepe, if nay,
Shee would all night by me or watch or sleepe;
And evermore when I did sleepe or play,
She of my flock would take full warie keepe.