A Discourse of Love, the Parent of Passions


No mind can think, nor2 understanding know,
To what a height and vastness Love can grow.
Love, as a god, all passions doth create,
Besides itself, and those determinate.
To Love bows down and prays devoutly3 Fear;                  5
Sadness and Grief Love’s heavy burdens bear.
Anger makes rage, and4 envy, spleen, and spite,
Like thunder roars,5 and in Love’s quarrels fight.
Th’informing spy of Love is Jealousy,6
And Doubt its guide, to search where th’foes do7 lie.       10
Pity, Love’s child, whose eyes with tears do flow,8
On every object misery doth9 show.
Hate is Love’s champion, which opposeth all
Love’s enemies, their ruin and their fall.

A Discourse of Love Neglected, Burnt up with Grief


Love is the cause, and hate is the effect
Which is produced when love doth find neglect.
For love, as2 fire, doth3 on fuel burn,
And grief, as coals when4 quenched, to blackness turn.
Thence5 pale and melancholy ashes grow,                          5
Which every wind, though weak, dispersing6 blow.
For life and strength from thence7 is gone and past
With th’species, which did cause8 the form to last,
Which ne’er regain the form it had at first;9
So love is lost in melancholy dust.10                                     10

A Discourse of Man’s Pride, or Seeming Prerogative

What creature’s2 in the world, besides mankind,
That can such arts and new inventions find?
Or has such fancies3 as to similize,
Or can so rule and4 govern as the wise?
Or that can by his wit5 his mind indite,                                      5
Can6 numbers set, and subtle letters write?7
What creature else but man can speak true sense?8
At distance give, and take intelligence?
What creature else, by reason can abate
All passions, can raise9 doubts, hopes, love, and hate?           10
And can so many countenances show,10
Which11 are the ground by which affections grow?12
They’re several dresses which the mind puts on;
Some serve as veils, which over it are13 thrown.
What creature is’t, that has14 such piercing eyes,                    15
That mingles souls, and in fast friendship ties?15
What creature else but man has16 such delights,
So various, and such strong, odd appetites?
Man can distill, and is a chymist rare,
Divides and sep’rates17 water, fire, and air.                              20
He can divide, and doth asunder take,18
All Nature’s works, whatever she doth make,19
Can take the breadth, depth, length, and height20 of things,
And know the virtue of each plant21 that springs,
Make22 creatures all submit unto his will,                                 25
And live by fame,23 though death his body kill.
What else but man can Nature imitate,
With pen and pencil24 can new worlds create?
There’s none like man, for like the25 gods is he.
Then let the world his slave and vassal be.                               30

Of Foolish Ambition


Ten thousand pounds a year will make me live;
A kingdom Fortune then to me must2 give.
I’ll conquer all, like Alexander Great,
And, like to Caesar, my opposers beat.
Give me a fame that with the world may last;              5
Let all tongues tell of my great actions past.
Let every child, when first ’tis taught to speak,3
Repeat my name, my memory for to keep.4
And then, great Fortune, give to me thy power
To ruin man, and raise him in an hour.                         10
Let me command the Fates, and spin their thread,
And Death to stay his scythe when I forbid,
And, Destiny, give me your chains to tie,
Effects from causes to produce thereby.
And let me like the gods on high become,5                    15
That nothing can6 but by my will be done.

Of Humility

When with returning thoughts I do1 behold
Myself, I find all creatures2 of that mould,
And for the mind, which some say is like gods,
I do not find ’twixt man and beast such odds.
Only the shape of man3 is fit for use,                                    5
Which makes him seem much wiser than a goose.
For had a goose (which seems of simple kind)4
A shape to form and fit things to her5 mind,
To make such creatures as her would6 obey,
Could hunt and shoot those that would ’scape away,        10
As wise would7 seem as man, be as much feared,
As8 when the goose comes near the man be scared.
Who knows but beasts may wiser than men be?
We no such errors or mistakes can see.
Like quiet men they do enjoy their9 rest;                             15
To eat and drink in peace, they think it best.
Their food is all they seek, the rest think vain
If not unto10 eternity remain.
Despise not beasts,11 nor yet be proud of art,
But Nature thank for forming so each part.                        20
And since all knowledge by your form you gain,12
Then let not pride above your reason reign.13
For if that14 motion in your brain works best,
Despise not beast ’cause motion is15 depressed.
Nor boast16 of speech ’cause reason it17 can show,            25
For beasts18 hath reason too for aught19 we know.
Shape doth inform the mind of what we20 find,
Which being taught, man’s21 wiser than beast-kind.22

Of Riches or Covetousness

What will not riches in abundance do,
And1 make the mind of man submit unto?
They bribe2 out virtue from her strongest hold,
And make3 the coward valorous and bold.
They corrupt4 chastity, melt5 thoughts of ice,               5
And bashful modesty they do6 entice.
They make7 the humble, proud, and meek to swell,
Destroy8 all loyalty, make9 hearts rebel.
They do10 untie the knots of friendship fast;
All natural11 affections forth they12 cast.                       10
They cut th’innocent’s throat, and13 hearts divide,
Buy conscience out, and every14 cause decide.
They make that man doth venture life and health,15
So much desired and dear to him is wealth.16
They buy out Heav’n, and do cast17 souls to Hell,        15
For man to get this muck18 his God will sell.

Of Poverty

My dwelling is a low thatched house,1 my cell
Not2 big enough for pride’s great heart to dwell.
My rooms are not of3 stately cedars built,
No marble chimney-piece, nor4 wainscot gilt,
No statues cut, or carved, or5 cast in brass,                           5
Which, had they life, would Nature’s art surpass,
Nor6 painted pictures which Appelles drew;
There’s nought but lime and hair homely7 to view.
No agate table with a tortoise frame,
Nor stools stuffed with birds’ feathers, wild or tame,         10
But a stump of an old decayèd tree,
And stools that have8 three legs, and half lame be,9
Cut with a hatchet from some broken boughs,
And this is all which poverty allows.
Yet it is10 free from cares, no thieves doth11 fear;                15
The door stands12 open; all are13 welcome there.
Not like the rich, who guests do14 entertain
With cruelty, when birds and beasts15 are slain,
Who oil their bodies with their melted grease,
And by their flesh their body’s fat increase.                          20
We need no cook, nor skill to dress our meat,
For Nature dresses most of what we eat,
As roots and herbs, not such as art doth sow,
But which16 in fields do17 naturally grow.
Our wooden cups we from the spring do fill,                        25
Which is the wine-press of great Nature still.
Rich men, when18 they for to delight their taste
Suck out the juice from th’Earth,19 her strength do20 waste—
For, bearing oft, she’ll21 grow so lean and bare,22
That like a skeleton she will appear—23                                 30
And for24 their drink, the subtle spirits take25
Both from the26 barley and the full-ripe grape.27
Thus by their luxury their life they waste;
All28 their delight is still to please their taste.
This heats the mind with an ambitious fire;                          35
None happy is, but in a low desire.
Their longings do run out, and fix29 nowhere;
For what they have, or can have, nought they30 care,
But long for what they have not, this th’admire,31
Sick for that32 want; so restless is desire.                               40
When we from labors come, we33 quiet sleep;
No restless thoughts our sense awake doth keep.
All’s still and silent in our house and mind;
Our thoughts are cheerful, and our hearts are kind.
And though that life in motion still doth34 dwell,                 45
Yet rest in life a poor man loveth well.

Of Tranquillity

That mind which would in peace and quiet be
Must cast off cares and foolish vanity.
With honest desires a1 house’t2 must build
Upon the ground of honor, and be3 sealed
With constant resolutions, to4 last long,                              5
If it on pillars stands5 of justice strong.
Let nothing dwell there but thoughts right6 holy;
Turn out ignorance7 and rude rash folly.
There will the mind enjoy itself in pleasure,
For to itself it is the greatest treasure.                                 10
For they are poor, whose mind is discontent;
What joy they have, it is but to them8 lent.
The world is like unto a troubled sea,
Life like9 a bark made of a rotten tree,
Where every wave endangers it to split,                             15
And drowned it is, if ’gainst a rock it hit.
But if this bark be made with temp’rance10 strong,
It mounts the waves, and travels far and11 long;
If Prudence it doth as a12 pilot guide,
It scapes all rocks, and13 goes with wind and tide.            20
There14 Love, as15 merchant, traffics up to Heav’n,16
And, for his prayers, mercies him hath17 given.
Conscience, as factor, sets the price of things;
Tranquillity, as buyer,18 money brings.

Of the Shortness of Man’s Life and his Foolish Ambition

In gardens sweet, each flower mark did1 I,
How they2 did spring, bud, blow, wither, and die.
With that, contemplating3 of man’s short stay,
Saw man like to those flowers4 pass away.
Yet build they5 houses thick, and strong, and high,        5
As if they6 should live to eternity,
Hoards7 up a mass of wealth, yet cannot fill
His empty mind, but covet he will still.
To gain and8 keep, such falsehood men do use
’Gainst right and truth, no base ways they9 refuse.        10
I would not blame them, could they death out keep,
Or ease their pains, or cause a quiet sleep,
Or purchase Heav’n, there like the gods to live,10
And to the sun, moon, stars, could orders give,11
Command the winds to blow, seas to obey,                       15
And level all their waves, cause12 winds to stay—
But they no power have, unless to die,
And care in life is a great misery.
This care’s but13 for a word, an empty sound,
In which is14 neither soul nor substance found,15           20
Yet as their heir, they make it to inherit,
And all they have they leave unto this spirit.
To get this child of fame, and this bare word,
They fear no dangers, neither fire nor sword.
All horrid pains and deaths16 they will endure,               25
Or anything, can it17 but fame procure.
O man, O man!18 What high ambition grows
Within his brain,19 and yet how low he goes!
To be contented only with20 a sound,
Where neither life nor body can be found.21                    30

A Moral Discourse of Man and Beast


Man is a creature like2 himself alone;
In him all qualities do join3 as one.
When man4 is injured, and his honor stung,5
He seems a lion, furious, fierce, and strong.
With greedy covetousness, like to6 wolves and bears,           5
Right he devours,7 and truth in pieces tears.
Or like as crafty foxes lie in wait
To catch young novice kids8 by their deceit,
So subtle knaves do watch who errors9 make,
That they thereby advantages might10 take,                             10
Not for examples them to rectify,
But that much mischief they can make thereby.
Others, like crouching spaniels, close will set,
Creeping about the partridge to in-net.
Some humble seem, and lowly bend the knee                        15
To men of11 power and authority,
Not out of love to honor and12 renown,
But to ensnare, and so to pull them down.
For13 as a mastiff flies at every throat,
So spite will fly at all that are14 of note.                                    20
With slanderous words, as teeth, good deeds they15 tear,
No power, strength, nor greatness do they spare,16
And are so mischievous,17 love not to see
Any to live without an infamy.
Most do like18 ravenous beasts in blood delight,                     25
And only to do mischief, love to fight.
But some are like to horses, strong and free,
Will gallop over wrong, and injury,
Who19 fear no foe, nor enemies do dread,20
Will21 fight in battles till they fall down dead.                         30
Their heart with noble rage so hot will grow,
That22 from their nostrils clouds of smoke do blow.
And with their hooves the firm hard ground will strike23
In24 anger, that they cannot go to fight.
Their eyes, like flints,25 will shoot26 out sparks of fire;          35
They’ll27 neigh out loud when combats they desire.
So valiant men their foe aloud will call,
To try their strength, and grapple arms withal.
And in their eyes such courage doth appear,
As if god28 Mars did rule that hemisphere.                               40
Some, like to slow, dull asses, full of fear,
Contented are heavy burdens to29 bear,
And every clown doth beat his back and side
Because he’s slow, and faster30 he would31 ride.
Then will he bray out loud, but dare not bite,                          45
For why he hath not courage for32 to fight.
Base minds will yield their heads under the yoke,
Offer their backs to every tyrant’s stroke.
Like fools they’ll33 grumble, but they34 dare not speak,
Nor strive for liberty, their bonds to break.                              50
So dull will those that live in slav’ry35 grow;
Dejected spirits make the body slow.
Others as swine lie groveling in the mire,
Have no heroic thoughts to rise up higher;
They36 from their birth do never sport nor play,                     55
But eat and drink, and grunting run away,
Of grumbling natures, never doing good,37
And cruel are, as of a boorish brood.38
So gluttons, sluggards care for nought but ease,
In conversations seek no man to39 please,                                60
Ambition none,40 to make their name to41 live,
Nor have they generosity to give,
And42 are so churlish, that if any pray
To help their wants, they’ll43 cursing go away.
So cruel are,44 so far from death to save,                                  65
That they will take away the life they45 have.
Some, as the46 fearful hart, or frighted hare,
Shun every noise, and their own shadows fear.
So cowards, that are47 sent in wars to fight,
Think not to beat, but how to make their flight.                      70
The trumpet, when48 to charge the foe it calls,
Then with that sound49 the heart o’th’coward50 falls.
Others, as harmless sheep, in peace do live,
Contented are, no injury will give,
But on the tender grass they51 gently feed,                               75
And neither52 spite nor rankled malice breed.
They53 never in the ways of mischief stood,
To set their teeth in flesh or drink up blood.
They54 grieve to walk alone, and55 pine away,
Grow fat in flocks, and56 with each other play.                        80
The naked they do57 clothe with their soft wool;
The ewes do feed the hungry stomach full.
So gentle natures and sweet dispositions58
Contented live, and shun foolish ambitions,59
Full of compassion, pitying the distressed,                               85
And with their bounty help they60 the oppressed.
They swell not with the pride of self-conceit,
Nor for their neighbor’s life do lie in wait,
Nor innocence by their extortions tear,
Nor fill the widow’s heart with grief or care,                           90
Nor any bribes do take with cov’tous61 hands,
Nor set they back the mark of th’owners’ lands,
But gratefully all courtesies requite,62
Free from all envy, malice, spleen and spite,63
And in64 their conversation,65 meek and mild,                        95
Without lascivious words or actions wild.
Those men66 are fathers to a commonwealth
Where justice lives,67 and truth may show herself.68
Others, as apes, do imitate the rest,
And when they mischief do, seem but to jest.                          100
So are buffoons, which69 seem for mirth to sport,
Whose liberty makes70 factions in a court.
Those that delight in fools must in good part
Take what they say, although their71 words are smart.
And72 many times they73 rankled thoughts beget                   105
In hearts of princes, and much envy set
By praising rivals, or else do reveal
Those faults they should with privacy conceal.74
For when75 a fool unpleasing truth doth tell—76
Or be it false, if like a77 truth it smell—78                                  110
It gets such hold, e’en79 in a wise man’s brain,
That hardly it will ever out again.
Some are80 like worms, upon which others tread,81
And some like ven’mous vipers do sting dead.82
Some like to83 subtle serpents wind about,                               115
To compass their designs crawl in and out,
And never leave until some nest they find,
Suck out the eggs, and leave the shells behind.
So flatterers with praises wind about
A noble mind, to get a secret out,                                                120
For84 flattery through every ear will glide
Down to the heart, and there some time abide,
And in the breast with feignèd friendship lie,
Till to the death it85 stings it86 cruelly.
Thus some like beasts, and some like worms87 are such,      125
But some do flying birds88 resemble much.
Some, like a89 soaring eagle, mount up high;
Wings of ambition bear them to the sky.
And some, like90 hawks, fly round to catch their prey;
Some,91 like to puttocks, bear the chick away;                        130
Some, are like92 ravens, which on carrion feed,
Feeding on spite, which spite doth93 slanders breed.
And like as peacocks proud their tails do94 show,
So men95 that followers have will haughty grow.
Some melancholy owls that hate the light,                               135
And like as bats fly96 in the shades of night;
So envious men their neighbor97 hate to see,
When that he shines98 in great prosperity,
Keep home in discontent, repine at all,
Until some mischief on the good do fall.                                   140
Others, like99 cheerful larks, sing as they fly,
So they100 are merry and101 have no envy,
And some, like102 nightingales, do sweetly sing,
As messengers when they good news do bring.
Thus men, beasts, birds,103 in humours much agree,             145
But several properties in these there104 be.
’Tis proper for a lively horse to neigh,
And for a slow, dull, foolish ass to bray.
For dogs to bark, bulls roar, wolves howl, pigs squeak,
For men to frown, to weep, to laugh, to speak.                        150
Proper for flies to buzz, birds sing and chatter,
Only for men105 to promise, swear, and flatter.
Thus can man’s shape their properties express,106
Yet they have some which all his skill surpass.107
For men want108 wings to fly up to the sky,                             155
Nor can they like to109 fish in waters lie.
What110 man like roes can run so swift, and long?111
Nor are they like to horse, or lions strong.
Nor have they scent like dogs, a hare to find,
Nor112 sight like swine, to see the subtle wind.                       160
Thus several creatures, by their113 several sense,
Have better far (than man)114 intelligence.

These115 several creatures several arts know116 well,117
But man in gen’ral118 doth them far excel.
For arts in men as well did nature119 give,                               165
As other qualities to beasts120 to live.
And from men’s121 brains such fine inventions flow,
As in his head all other heads do grow.
What creature builds like man such122 stately towers,123
And makes124 such things as time cannot devour?                 170
What creature makes such engines as man’s hand,125
To traffic and to use, at sea and land,126
To kill, or127 spoil, or else alive to take,
Destroying all that other creatures make?
This makes man seem of all the world a king,                         175
Because he power hath of everything.
He’ll teach birds words, in measure beasts128 to go,
Makes passions in the mind to ebb and flow.
And though he cannot fly as birds, with wings,
Yet he can take the height and breadth of things.                   180
He knows the course and number of the stars,
But129 birds and beasts are no astrologers.
And though he cannot like to fishes swim,130
Yet nets he makes to catch those fishes in.131
And with his ships the world he’ll circle132 round;                 185
What beast or bird that doth so is yet133 found?
He’ll fell down woods; with axes sharp he’ll134 strike;
Whole herds of beasts can never do the like.
What beast can plead to save another’s life,
Or by his eloquence can end a strife?                                        190
Or counsels give, great dangers for to135 shun,
Or tell the cause of the eclipsèd sun?136
He’ll turn the current of the waters137 clear,
And make that they do like new seas138 appear;
Where fish do139 only in old waters glide,                                195
Can140 cut new rivers out on any side.
He’ll mountains make, which clouds almost do141 touch,
Mountains142 of moles or ants scarce do so much.
What creature like to man can reasons show,
Which makes him know143 that he thereby doth know?       200
And who but man makes use of everything?144
For145 goodness out of poison he can bring.146
’Tis only man that’s fill’d147 with strong desire,
And by his rhet’rick148 sets the soul on fire.
Beasts no ambition have to get a fame,                                      205
Nor build they tombs t’eternalize149 their name.
They never war, high honor for150 to get,
But to secure themselves, or151 meat to eat.
But men are like to gods; they live152 for ever shall;
And beasts are153 like themselves, to dust shall154 fall.          210