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dearest affections, or of whatever else the amorous Spring-time gave his thoughts of contentment, then unvaluable; and he shall find that all the Art which his elder years have, can draw no other vapour out of these dissolutions than heavy, secret, and sad sighs. He shall find nothing remaining but those sorrows which grow up after our fast-springing youth, overtake it when it is at a stand, and overtop it utterly when it begins to wither; insomuch as looking back from the very instant time and from our now being, the poor, diseased, and captive creature hath as little sense of his former miseries and pains as he that is most blessed in common Opinion hath of his forepast pleasures and delights. For whatsoever is cast behind us is just nothing; and what is to come, deceitful hope hath it. Omnia quae ventura sunt in incerto jacent. Only those few black Swans I must except, who, having had the grace to value worldly vanities at no more than their own price, do, by retaining the comfortable memory of a well-acted life, behold death without dread, and the grave without fear, and embrace both as necessary guides to endless glory.1

EDMUND SPENSER (1553-1599)
WHE
THEN I bethinke me on that speech why-leare

Of Mutabilitie, and well it way!
Me seemes, that though she all unworthy were
Of the Heav'ns Rule: yet, very sooth to say,
In all things else she beares the greatest sway:
Which makes me loath this state of life so tickle,

1 From the preface to the History of the World.

And love of things so vaine to cast away:
Whose flowring pride, so fading and so fickle,
Short Time shall soon cut down with his consuming

sickle.
Then gin I thinke on that which Nature sayd,
Of that same time when no more Change shall be,
But stedfast rest of all things, firmely stayd
Upon the pillours of Eternity,
That is contrayr to Mutabilitie;
For all that moveth doth in Change delight;
But thenceforth all shall rest eternally
With Him that is the God of Sabaoth hight:
0! that great Sabaoth God, grant me that Sabaoth's

sight."

SIR PHILIP SIDNEY (1554–1586) I

WOULD not change my joy for the empire of

the world. All things in my former life have been vain, vain,

vain.2

FRANCIS BACON (1561-1626)

(VISCOUNT Sr. Albans)
THE World's a bubble, and the life of man

Less than a span :
In his conception wretched; from the womb,

So to the tomb ;

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Curst from the cradle, and brought up to years

With cares and fears.
Who then to frail Mortality shall trust,
But limns the water, or but writes in dust.

Yet since with sorrow here we live

opprest,
What life is best?
Courts are but only superficial Schools

To dandle fools :
The rural parts are turned into a den

Of savage men:
And where's a city from all vice so free,
But may be term'd the worst of all the three?

Domestic cares afflict the husband's bed,

Or pains his head :
Those that live single, take it for a curse,

Or do things worse :
Some would have children: those that have them, none,

Or wish them gone:
What is it then to have or have no wife,
But single thraldom or a double strife?

Our own affections still at home to please

Is a disease :
To cross the sea to any foreign soil,

Perils and toil :
Wars with their noise affright us; when they cease,

We're worse in peace ;-
What then remains, but that we still should cry
Not to be born, or, being born, to die? 1

1 From “ Poems of Francis Bacon” (1870).

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

(1564-1616) [There are those who hold that all the sonnets of Shakespeare were dramatic, in the sense of giving voice to thoughts and emotions not his own. On the other hand, Wordsworth declared that in the sonnets the poet had “unlocked his heart”; and we find Dr. Dowden writing — “ With Wordsworth, Sir Henry Taylor, and Mr. Swinburne, with François Victor Hugo, with Kreyssig, Ulrici, Gervinus, and Herman Isaac, with Boaden, Armitage Brown, and Hallam, with Furnivall, Spalding, Rossetti, and Palgrave, I believe that Shakespeare's Sonnets express his own feelings in his own person.” In the following passages, therefore, Shakespeare may perhaps be giving utterance to his own views of Life and Death.]

IKE as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

, Each changing place with that which goes before, In sequent toil all forwards do contend. Nativity, once in the main of light, Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd, Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight, And Time that gave doth now his gift confound. Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth And delves the parallels in beauty's brow, Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth, And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.l ...

1 From Sonnet lx.

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang,

28

This Life and the Dert

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.? .

No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change :
Thy pyramids built up with newer might

To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
They are but dressings of a former sight.
Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old,
And rather make them born to our desire
Than think that we before have heard them told.
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wondering at the present nor the past,
For thy records and what we see doth lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste.

This I do vow, and this shall ever be;
I will be true, despite thy scythe and thee.2

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth, [Press’d by] these rebel powers that thee array, Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth, 1 From Sonnet lxxiii.

2 Sonnet cxxiii.

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