The Prey of Thoughts

If thoughts be the mind’s creatures, as some say,
Then, like the rest,1 they on each other2 prey,
Ambitious thoughts, like to a hawk, fly high,
In circles of desires mount the3 sky.
And when a covey of young hopes up springs,4                             5
They strive to catch them with their swiftest wings.5
Thus as the hawk on partridges doth6 eat,
So hopeful thoughts are for ambitions7 meat.
Thoughts of self love do swim in self conceit.
Imaginary thoughts of8 praises bait,9                                               10
Which baits10 the thoughts of pride do catch and11 eat,
Thinking it high and most12 delicious meat.
Thoughts of revenge are like to lions strong,
Which whet the appetite with thoughts of wrong.
With subtle thoughts they couch and leap for prey,13                   15
But bloody thoughts carry the flesh away.14
The15 spiteful thoughts, like cats which16 mice do catch,
At each17 corner of imperfections watch.
When spite perceives detracting thoughts to18 speak,
It straight leaps on, no other meat doth seek.                                 20
Suspicious thoughts like hounds do hunt about
To find and eat the hare19 of timorous doubt.
Observing thoughts do smell20 which way to trace,
And hateful thoughts do follow close the chase.
But thoughts of patience like to dormice live,                                 25
Eat little: sleep them21 nourishment doth give.
And when they feed, they thoughts of sorrows crack,22
Which nuts being23 hard, their24 teeth against them knack.25
But26 grateful thoughts on thoughts of thanks do feed,27
And, by their industry, like ants they speed.28                                30
But thoughts of love do live on several meat,
Of hopes, and fears, and jealousies they29 eat,
And30 like as bees do fly on several flowers31
To suck out honey,32 so thoughts do of lovers.33

  1. Then, like the rest,] Like other Creatures 1653
  2. other] do 1653
  3. the] to the 1664, 1668
  4. up springs,] do spring, 1653
  5. They strive to catch them with their swiftest wings.] To catch them strive they with the swiftest Wing. 1653
  6. doth] do 1653
  7. The word “ambitions” could also have been modernized as “ambition’s.”
  8. of] on 1664, 1668
  9. i.e., Imagined praised are like bait.
  10. Which baits] By which 1653
  11. and] to 1653
  12. Thinking it high and most] And thinke it most high, and 1653
  13. and leap for prey,] to leap along, 1653
  14. carry the flesh away.] like Flesh they feed upon. 1653
  15. The] And 1653
  16. which] they 1653
  17. each] every 1653
  18. to] do 1664, 1668
  19. and eat the hare] the Hare, to eat 1653
  20. smell] swell 1653
  21. them] most 1653
  22. they feed, they thoughts of sorrows crack,] it feeds, a Thought of Sorrow cracks 1653
  23. Which nuts being] A Nut so 1653
  24. their] its 1653
  25. them knack.] it knacks. 1653
  26. But] The 1664, 1668
  27. on thoughts of thanks do feed,] do feed on Thoughts of thanks, 1653
  28. by their industry, like ants they speed.] are industrious, as prudent Ants. 1653
  29. hopes, and fears, and jealousies they] Feares, of Hopes, and of Suspition 1653
  30. And] For 1664; For, 1668
  31. do fly on several flowers] to several Flowers go, 1664, 1668
  32. To suck out honey,] Honey to Suck, 1664; Honey to suck; 1668
  33. do of lovers.] of Lovers do. 1664; of Lovers do. 1668