On a Melting Beauty

Going into a church my prayers1 to say,
Close by a tomb a mourning beauty lay.
Her knees on marble cold were bowed down low,
And fixed so firm2 as if she there did grow.
Her elbow on the tomb did steady stand;                                 5
Her head hung back, the hind part in her hand,
Turning her eyes up to the heavens high,
Left nothing but the white of either3 eye.
Upon the lower shut4 did hang a tear,
Like to a diamond pendant in an ear.                                     10
Her breast was panting sore,5 as if Life meant
To seek after her6 heart, which way it went.
I, standing there, observèd7 what she did;
At last she from her hand did raise her head,
And casting down her eyes, ne’er look’d about;                   15
Tears pulled8 her eyelids down as they gushed out.
Then9 with a gentle groan at last did speak;
Her words were soft, voice sounded10 low and weak:
“O Heavens!” said she, “O!11 What do you mean?
I dare not think you gods can have a spleen,                        20
And yet I find great torments you do give,
And creatures12 make in misery to live.
You show us joys, but we possess not one;
You give us life, for Death to feed upon.
O cruel Death!13 Thy dart hath made me poor;                     25
Thou struck’st14 that heart my life did most adore.
You gods, delight not thus me to torment,
But strike me dead by this dear monument,
And let our ashes mix both in this urn,
That both into one phoenix we may turn.”15                         30
Hearing her mourn, I went to give relief,
But oh, alas!16 Her ears were stopped with grief.
When I came near, her blood congealed to ice,
And all her body changèd in a trice;
That ice straight melted, into tears did turn,17                      35
And through the Earth’s pores got into the urn.18

  1. prayers] Pray’rs 1664, 1668
  2. And fixed so firm] So firme were fix’d, 1653
  3. either] each her 1664, 1668
  4. A marginal note in 1653 reads, “The under lid.” In 1664 and 1668, it reads, “Under-lid.”
  5. was panting sore,] did pant, 1653
  6. after her] her 1653
  7. observèd] observing 1653
  8. pulled] pull 1653
  9. Then] And 1653
  10. voice sounded] her voyce sound 1653; her Voice sound 1664
  11. “O Heavens!” (said she) “O!] O Heavens (said she) 1653
  12. And creatures] Creatures to 1653
  13. Death!] Death, 1653
  14. Thou struck’st] You struck 1653
  15. That both into one phoenix we may turn.”] So as one Phoenix shall we both become. 1653
  16. But oh, alas!] But, Oh alas, 1653; But oh! alas! 1668
  17. did turn,] down run 1653
  18. And through the Earth’s pores got into the urn.] Through porous earth: so got into that Urne. 1653