Truth in the Golden Age was healthy, strong,1
But in the Silver Age grew lean and wan;2
I’th’Brazen Age sore sick abed did lie,
And in the last hard Iron Age did die.
Reck’ning and Measuring,3 both being just, 5
She as her two executors did4 trust,
Which did distribute all her goods5 about
To her dear friends, and6 legacies gave out:
First useful arts, the life of man7 to ease,
Then those of pleasure, which the mind do please; 10
Distinguishments from this to that8 to show,
What’s best to take or leave, which way to go;
Experiments to shun, or to apply,
Either for health or peace, or what to fly;
And sympathies, which do9 the world unite, 15
Which else antipathies10 would ruin quite.
This will and testament she left behind,
And as her deed of gift, left to11 mankind.
Mourning she gave to all her friends to wear,
And did appoint that four her hearse should bear; 20
Love at the head did hold the winding-sheet;
On each side, Care and Fear; Sorrow the feet.
This sheet at every corner fast was tied,
Made of oblivion strong, and very wide.
Nat’ral affections, all12 in mourning clad, 25
Went next the hearse, with grief distracted mad:
Their hair, their face, their hands, tore, scratched, and wrung,13
And from their eyes fountains of tears outsprung,14
“For Truth,” said they, “did always with us live.
But now she’s dead, there is no Truth to give.”15 30
After came kings, which all good laws did make,
And power used for Truth and Virtue’s sake.
Next Honor came16 in garments black and long,
With blubbered face, and down her head she hung,17
Who wished to die, for life was now a pain; 35
Since Truth was dead, honor no more could gain.
Then lovers came18 with faces pale as death,
With shamefast eyes, quick pulse, and shortened breath,
And in each hand, a bleeding heart did bring,
Which hearts within the grave19 of truth did fling. 40
And ever since, lovers inconstant prove;
They more profession give than real love.
Next them came counsellors of all degrees,
From courts and countries, and from20 chief cities;
Their wise heads were a guard, and a strong wall, 45
So long as Truth did live amongst them all.
All sorts of tradesmen, using not to swear
So long as Truth, not Oaths, sold off their ware.
Physicians came, not those that try21 for skill
New ways, and for experience22 many kill, 50
But which use simples good, by23 Nature sent,
To strengthen man, and sickness to prevent.
Judges and lawyers came, not wrangling,24 base,
But which for Truth25 did plead, decide each case;
Widows, which26 to their husbands kind had swore 55
That, when they died, they’d27 never marry more;
At last the clergy came, who28 taught Truth’s way,
And how men in devotion ought to pray,
Who did men’s lives by moral laws29 direct,
Persuade to peace, and governors respect. 60
They wept for grief, as prophets did foretell,
That all the world with falsehood would rebel.
“Faction will come,” said30 they, “and bear great sway,
And bribes shall all the innocent31 betray.
Within the church shall controversies rise,32 65
And heresies shall bear away the prize.
Instead of peace, the priests shall discords preach,
And high rebellion in their doctrines teach.
Then shall men learn the laws for to explain,
Which learning only serves for lawyers’ gain. 70
For they do make and spread them like33 a net,
To catch in clients, and their money get.
The laws, which wise men made to keep the34 peace,
Serve only now for quarrels to increase.
All those that sit in Honor’s stately throne 75
Are counterfeits, not any perfect known.
They put on vizards of an honest face,
But all their acts unworthy are, and base.
Friendship in words and compliments will35 live,
But in the heart not one night’s lodging give.36 80
Lovers shall die for lust, yet love not one,
And virtue unregarded sit alone.
Now Truth is dead, no goodness here shall dwell,
But with disorder make each place a hell.”
With that they all did shriek,37 lament, and cry 85
To Nature, for to end their misery.
And now this Iron Age’s so rusty grown,
That all the hearts are turned to hard flintstone.
- was healthy, strong,] had Health and Strength, 1664; had health & strength; 1668
- and wan;] at length; 1664; at length. 1668
- Reck’ning and Measuring,] Measuring, and Reckoning, 1653
- She as her two executors did] Were here Executors, to whom she 1664; Were her Executors, to whom she 1668. In the 1664 Errata list, “here” is corrected back to “her”; this correction is also carried forward into 1668.
- Which did distribute all her goods] Her goods for to distribute all 1653
- and] as 1653
- man] men 1653
- this to that] that to this 1653
- do ] keep 1653
- Which else antipathies] Aversions otherwise 1653
- left to] unto 1664, 1668
- Nat’ral affections, all] Naturall affections 1653
- Their hair, their face, their hands, tore, scratched, and wrung] Did tear their hair, scracht face, and hands did wring, 1653
- outsprung;] did spring. 1653
- there is no Truth to give:] no Truth that we can give. 1653; there is no Trnth to give: 1664
- Honor came] them came Honour, 1653
- down her head she hung,] her head down hung: 1653
- Then Lovers came] Next these, Lovers 1653
- hearts within the grave] they into the Grave 1664, 1668
- and from] and 1653
- not those that try] who try new wayes 1653
- New ways, and for experience] And for Experience sake doe 1653
- which use simples good, by] doe use Simples good, which 1653
- Judges, and lawyers came, not wrangling,] Some Judges were, no wrangling Lawyers 1653
- But which for Truth] For Truth alive 1653
- which] that 1653
- they’d] would 1653
- who] which 1664, 1668
- Who did men’s lives by moral laws] By Morall Lawes the lives of men 1653
- said] say 1653
- shall all the innocent] the Innocent shall all 1653
- Within the church shall controversies rise, ] Controversies within the Church shall rise, 1653
- like] in 1653
- to keep the] for to keep 1664, 1668
- will] shall 1664, 1668
- But in the heart not one night’s lodging give.] Not one nights lodging in the heart shall give. 1653
- did shriek,] shriekt out, 1653