Funeral Elegy by W.S. by William Shakespeare Full Text

Funeral Elegy by W.S. by William Shakespeare Full Text

W.S., "A Funeral Elegy."  Edited by Donald W. Foster
from W.S., A Funerall Elegye in memory of the late vertuous Maister
William Peeter (London: G. Eld for T. Thorpe, 1612).  [4,600 words.]
Common nouns capitalized and italicized in Q are here capitalized but not
italicized; italicized quotations in Q are rendered in quotation marks. 
Participial endings and ellisions may be normalized for use with a private
text archive.  DWF (1/15/96)

                      TO MASTER JOHN PETER
                  of Bowhay in Devon, Esquire.
The love I bore to your brother, and will do to his memory, hath crav'd
from me this last duty of a friend; I am herein but a second to the
privilege of Truth, who can warrant more in his behalf than I undertook to
deliver.  Exercise in this kind I will little affect, and am less addicted
to, but there must be miracle in that labor which, to witness my
remembrance to this departed gentleman, I would not willingly undergo. 
Yet whatsoever is here done, is done to him, and to him only. For whom and
whose sake I will not forget to remember any friendly respects to you, or
to any of those that have lov'd him for himself, and himself for his
                                                        W. S.

                        A FUNERAL ELEGY
     Since Time, and his predestinated end,
     Abridg'd the circuit of his hopeful days,
     Whiles both his Youth and Virtue did intend
     The good endeavors of deserving praise,
5    What memorable monument can last
     Whereon to build his never-blemish'd name
     But his own worth, wherein his life was grac'd-
     Sith as [that] ever he maintain'd the same?
     Oblivion in the darkest day to come,
10   When sin shall tread on merit in the dust,
     Cannot rase out the lamentable tomb
     Of his short-liv'd deserts; but still they must,
     Even in the hearts and memories of men,
     Claim fit Respect, that they, in every limb
15   Rememb'ring what he was, with comfort then
     May pattern out one truly good, by him.
     For he was truly good, if honest care
     Of harmless conversation may commend
     A life free from such stains as follies are,
20   Ill recompensed only in his end.
     Nor can the tongue of him who lov'd him least
     (If there can be minority of love
     To one superlative above the rest
     Of many men in steady faith) reprove
25   His constant temper, in the equal weight
     Of thankfulness and kindness: Truth doth leave
     Sufficient proof, he was in every right
     As kind to give, as thankful to receive.
     The curious eye of a quick-brain'd survey
30   Could scantly find a mote amidst the sun
     Of his too-short'ned days, or make a prey
     Of any faulty errors he had done-
     Not that he was above the spleenful sense
     And spite of malice, but for that he had
35   Warrant enough in his own innocence
     Against the sting of some in nature bad.
     Yet who is he so absolutely blest
     That lives encompass'd in a mortal frame,
     Sometime in reputation not oppress'd
40   By some in nothing famous but defame?
     Such in the By-path and the Ridgeway lurk
     That leads to ruin, in a smooth pretense
     Of what they do to be a special work
     Of singleness, not tending to offense;
45   Whose very virtues are, not to detract
     Whiles hope remains of gain (base fee of slaves),
     Despising chiefly men in fortunes wrack'd-
     But death to such gives unrememb'red graves.
       Now therein liv'd he happy, if to be
50     Free from detraction happiness it be.
     His younger years gave comfortable hope
     To hope for comfort in his riper youth,
     Which, harvest-like, did yield again the crop
     Of Education, better'd in his truth.
55   Those noble twins of heaven-infused races,
     Learning and Wit, refined in their kind
     Did jointly both, in their peculiar graces,
     Enrich the curious temple of his mind;
     Indeed a temple, in whose precious white
60   Sat Reason by Religion oversway'd,
     Teaching his other senses, with delight,
     How Piety and Zeal should be obey'd-
     Not fruitlessly in prodigal expense
     Wasting his best of time, but so content
65   With Reason's golden Mean to make defense
     Against the assault of youth's encouragement;
     As not the tide of this surrounding age
     (When now his father's death had freed his will)
     Could make him subject to the drunken rage
70   Of such whose only glory is their ill.
     He from the happy knowledge of the wise
     Draws virtue to reprove secured fools
     And shuns the glad sleights of ensnaring vice
     To spend his spring of days in sacred schools.
75   Here gave he diet to the sick desires
     That day by day assault the weaker man,
     And with fit moderation still retires
     From what doth batter virtue now and then.
     But that I not intend in full discourse
80   To progress out his life, I could display
     A good man in each part exact and force
     The common voice to warrant what I say.
     For if his fate and heaven had decreed
     That full of days he might have liv'd to see
85   The grave in peace, the times that should succeed
     Had been best-speaking witnesses with me;
     Whose conversation so untouch'd did move
     Respect most in itself, as who would scan
     His honesty and worth, by them might prove
90   He was a kind, true, perfect gentleman-
     Not in the outside of disgraceful folly,
     Courting opinion with unfit disguise,
     Affecting fashions, nor addicted wholly
     To unbeseeming blushless vanities,
95     But suiting so his habit and desire
       As that his Virtue was his best Attire.
     Not in the waste of many idle words
     Car'd he to be heard talk, nor in the float
     Of fond conceit, such as this age affords,
100  By vain discourse upon himself to dote;
     For his becoming silence gave such grace
     To his judicious parts, as what he spake
     Seem'd rather answers which the wise embrace
     Than busy questions such as talkers make.
105  And though his qualities might well deserve
     Just commendation, yet his furnish'd mind
     Such harmony of goodness did preserve
     As nature never built in better kind;
     Knowing the best, and therefore not presuming
110  In knowing, but for that it was the best,
     Ever within himself free choice resuming
     Of true perfection, in a perfect breast;
     So that his mind and body made an inn,
     The one to lodge the other, both like fram'd
115  For fair conditions, guests that soonest win
     Applause; in generality, well fam'd,
     If trim behavior, gestures mild, discreet
     Endeavors, modest speech, beseeming mirth,
     True friendship, active grace, persuasion sweet,
120  Delightful love innated from his birth,
     Acquaintance unfamiliar, carriage just,
     Offenseless resolution, wish'd sobriety,
     Clean-temper'd moderation, steady trust,
     Unburthen'd conscience, unfeign'd piety;
125  If these, or all of these, knit fast in one
     Can merit praise, then justly may we say,
     Not any from this frailer stage is gone
     Whose name is like to live a longer day-
     Though not in eminent courts or places great
130  For popular concourse, yet in that soil
     Where he enjoy'd his birth, life, death, and seat
     Which now sits mourning his untimely spoil.
     And as much glory is it to be good
     For private persons, in their private home,
135  As those descended from illustrious blood
     In public view of greatness, whence they come.
     Though I, rewarded with some sadder taste
     Of knowing shame, by feeling it have prov'd
     My country's thankless misconstruction cast
140  Upon my name and credit, both unlov'd
     By some whose fortunes, sunk into the wane
     Of plenty and desert, have strove to win
     Justice by wrong, and sifted to embane
     My reputation with a witless sin;
145  Yet time, the father of unblushing truth,
     May one day lay ope malice which hath cross'd it,
     And right the hopes of my endangered youth,
     Purchasing credit in the place I lost it.
     Even in which place the subject of the verse
150  (Unhappy matter of a mourning style
     Which now that subject's merits doth rehearse)
     Had education and new being; while
     By fair demeanor he had won repute
     Amongst the all of all that lived there,
155  For that his actions did so wholly suit
     With worthiness, still memorable here.
     The many hours till the day of doom
     Will not consume his life and hapless end,
     For should he lie obscur'd without a tomb,
160  Time would to time his honesty commend;
     Whiles parents to their children will make known,
     And they to their posterity impart,
     How such a man was sadly overthrown
     By a hand guided by a cruel heart,
165    Whereof as many as shall hear that sadness
       Will blame the one's hard fate, the other's madness;
     Whiles such as do recount that tale of woe,
     Told by remembrance of the wisest heads,
     Will in the end conclude the matter so,
170  As they will all go weeping to their beds.
     For when the world lies winter'd in the storms
     Of fearful consummation, and lays down
     Th' unsteady change of his fantastic forms,
     Expecting ever to be overthrown;
175  When the proud height of much affected sin
     Shall ripen to a head, and in that pride
     End in the miseries it did begin
     And fall amidst the glory of his tide;
     Then in a book where every work is writ
180  Shall this man's actions be reveal'd, to show
     The gainful fruit of well-employed wit,
     Which paid to heaven the debt that it did owe.
     Here shall be reckon'd up the constant faith,
     Never untrue, where once he love profess'd;
185  Which is a miracle in men, one saith,
     Long sought though rarely found, and he is best
       Who can make friendship, in those times of change,
       Admired more for being firm than strange.
     When those weak houses of our brittle flesh
190  Shall ruin'd be by death, our grace and strength,
     Youth, memory and shape that made us fresh
     Cast down, and utterly decay'd at length;
     When all shall turn to dust from whence we came
     And we low-level'd in a narrow grave,
195  What can we leave behind us but a name,
     Which, by a life well led, may honor have?
     Such honor, O thou youth untimely lost,
     Thou didst deserve and hast; for though thy soul
     Hath took her flight to a diviner coast,
200  Yet here on earth thy fame lives ever whole,
     In every heart seal'd up, in every tongue
     Fit matter to discourse, no day prevented
     That pities not thy sad and sudden wrong,
     Of all alike beloved and lamented.
205  And I here to thy memorable worth,
     In this last act of friendship, sacrifice
     My love to thee, which I could not set forth
     In any other habit of disguise.
     Although I could not learn, whiles yet thou wert,
210  To speak the language of a servile breath,
     My truth stole from my tongue into my heart,
     Which shall not thence be sund'red, but in death.
     And I confess my love was too remiss
     That had not made thee know how much I priz'd thee,
215  But that mine error was, as yet it is,
     To think love best in silence: for I siz'd thee
     By what I would have been, not only ready
     In telling I was thine, but being so,
     By some effect to show it.  He is steady
220  Who seems less than he is in open show.
     Since then I still reserv'd to try the worst
     Which hardest fate and time thus can lay on me.
     T' enlarge my thoughts was hindered at first,
     While thou hadst life; I took this task upon me,
225  To register with mine unhappy pen
     Such duties as it owes to thy desert,
     And set thee as a president to men,
     And limn thee to the world but as thou wert-
     Not hir'd, as heaven can witness in my soul,
230  By vain conceit, to please such ones as know it,
     Nor servile to be lik'd, free from control,
     Which, pain to many men, I do not owe it.
     But here I trust I have discharged now
     (Fair lovely branch too soon cut off) to thee,
235  My constant and irrefragable vow,
     As, had it chanc'd, thou mightst have done to me-
     But that no merit strong enough of mine
     Had yielded store to thy well-abled quill
     Whereby t'enroll my name, as this of thine,
240  How s'ere enriched by thy plenteous skill.
     Here, then, I offer up to memory
     The value of my talent, precious man,
     Whereby if thou live to posterity,
     Though't be not as I would, 'tis as I can:
245    In minds from whence endeavor doth proceed,
       A ready will is taken for the deed.
     Yet ere I take my longest last farewell
     From thee, fair mark of sorrow, let me frame
     Some ampler work of thank, wherein to tell
250  What more thou didst deserve than in thy name,
     And free thee from the scandal of such senses
     As in the rancor of unhappy spleen
     Measure thy course of life, with false pretenses
     Comparing by thy death what thou hast been.
255    So in his mischiefs is the world accurs'd:
       It picks out matter to inform the worst.
     The willful blindness that hoodwinks the eyes
     Of men enwrapped in an earthy veil
     Makes them most ignorantly exercise
260  And yield to humor when it doth assail,
     Whereby the candle and the body's light
     Darkens the inward eyesight of the mind,
     Presuming still it sees, even in the night
     Of that same ignorance which makes them blind.
265  Hence conster they with corrupt commentaries,
     Proceeding from a nature as corrupt,
     The text of malice, which so often varies
     As 'tis by seeming reason underpropp'd.
     O, whither tends the lamentable spite
270  Of this world's teenful apprehension,
     Which understands all things amiss, whose light
     Shines not amidst the dark of their dissension?
     True 'tis, this man, whiles yet he was a man,
     Sooth'd not the current of besotted fashion,
275  Nor could disgest, as some loose mimics can,
     An empty sound of overweening passion,
     So much to be made servant to the base
     And sensual aptness of disunion'd vices,
     To purchase commendation by disgrace,
280  Whereto the world and heat of sin entices.
     But in a safer contemplation,
     Secure in what he knew, he ever chose
     The ready way to commendation,
     By shunning all invitements strange, of those
285  Whose illness is, the necessary praise
     Must wait upon their actions; only rare
     In being rare in shame (which strives to raise
     Their name by doing what they do not care),
     As if the free commission of their ill
290  Were even as boundless as their prompt desires;
     Only like lords, like subjects to their will,
     Which their fond dotage ever more admires.
     He was not so: but in a serious awe,
     Ruling the little ordered commonwealth
295  Of his own self, with honor to the law
     That gave peace to his bread, bread to his health;
     Which ever he maintain'd in sweet content
     And pleasurable rest, wherein he joy'd
     A monarchy of comfort's government,
300  Never until his last to be destroy'd.
     For in the Vineyard of heaven-favored learning
     Where he was double-honor'd in degree,
     His observation and discreet discerning
     Had taught him in both fortunes to be free;
305  Whence now retir'd home, to a home indeed
     The home of his condition and estate,
     He well provided 'gainst the hand of need,
     Whence young men sometime grow unfortunate;
     His disposition, by the bonds of unity,
310  So fast'ned to his reason that it strove
     With understanding's grave immunity
     To purchase from all hearts a steady love;
     Wherein not any one thing comprehends
     Proportionable note of what he was,
315  Than that he was so constant to his friends
     As he would no occasion overpass
     Which might make known his unaffected care,
     In all respects of trial, to unlock
     His bosom and his store, which did declare
320  That Christ was his, and he was Friendship's Rock:
     A Rock of Friendship figured in his name,
     Fore-shewing what he was, and what should be,
     Most true presage; and he discharg'd the same
     In every act of perfect amity-
325  Though in the complemental phrase of words
     He never was addicted to the vain
     Of boast, such as the common breath affords;
     He was in use most fast, in tongue most plain,
     Nor amongst all those virtues that forever
330  Adorn'd his reputation will be found
     One greater than his Faith, which did persever,
     Where once it was protested, alway sound.
     Hence sprung the deadly fuel that reviv'd
     The rage which wrought his end, for had he been
335  Slacker in love, he had been longer liv'd
     And not oppress'd by wrath's unhappy sin-
     By wrath's unhappy sin, which unadvis'd
     Gave death for free good will, and wounds for love.
     Pity it was that blood had not been priz'd
340  At higher rate, and reason set above
     Most unjust choler, which untimely Drew
     Destruction on itself; and most unjust,
     Robb'd virtue of a follower so true
     As time can boast of, both for love and trust:
345    So henceforth all (great glory to his blood)
       Shall be but seconds to him, being good.
       The wicked end their honor with their sin
       In death, which only then the good begin.
     Lo, here a lesson by experience taught
350  For men whose pure simplicity hath drawn
     Their trust to be betray'd by being caught
     Within the snares of making truth a pawn;
     Whiles it, not doubting whereinto it enters,
     Without true proof and knowledge of a friend,
355  Sincere in singleness of heart, adventers
     To give fit cause, ere love begin to end:
       His unfeign'd friendship where it least was sought,
       Him to a fatal timeless ruin brought;
     Whereby the life that purity adorn'd
360  With real merit, by this sudden end
     Is in the mouth of some in manner scorn'd,
     Made questionable, for they do intend,
     According to the tenor of the saw
     Mistook, if not observ'd (writ long ago
365  When men were only led by Reason's law),
     That "Such as is the end, the life proves so."
     Thus he, who to the universal lapse
     Gave sweet redemption, off'ring up his blood
     To conquer death by death, and loose the traps
370  Of hell, even in the triumph that it stood:
     He thus, for that his guiltless life was spilt
     By death, which was made subject to the curse,
     Might in like manner be reprov'd of guilt
     In his pure life, for that his end was worse.
375  But O far be it, our unholy lips
     Should so profane the deity above
     As thereby to ordain revenging whips
     Against the day of Judgment and of Love.
     The hand that lends us honor in our days
380  May shorten when it please, and justly take
     Our honor from us many sundry ways,
     As best becomes that wisdom did us make.
     The second brother, who was next begot
     Of all that ever were begotten yet,
385  Was by a hand in vengeance rude and hot
     Sent innocent to be in heaven set-
     Whose fame the angels in melodious choirs
     Still witness to the world.  Then why should he,
     Well-profited in excellent desires,
390  Be more rebuk'd, who had like destiny?
     Those saints before the everlasting throne
     Who sit with crowns of glory on their heads,
     Wash'd white in blood, from earth hence have not gone
     All to their joys in quiet on their beds,
395  But tasted of the sour-bitter scourge
     Of torture and affliction ere they gained
     Those blessings which their sufferance did urge,
     Whereby the grace fore-promis'd they attained.
     Let then the false suggestions of the froward,
400  Building large castles in the empty air,
     By suppositions fond and thoughts untoward
     (Issues of discontent and sick despair)
     Rebound gross arguments upon their heart
     That may disprove their malice, and confound
405  Uncivil loose opinions which insert
     Their souls into the roll that doth unsound
     Betraying policies, and show their brains,
     Unto their shame, ridiculous; whose scope
     Is envy, whose endeavors fruitless pains,
410  In nothing surely prosperous, but hope-
     And that same hope, so lame, so unprevailing,
     It buries self-conceit in weak opinion;
     Which being cross'd, gives matter of bewailing
     Their vain designs, on whom want hath dominion.
415  Such, and of such condition, may devise
     Which way to wound with defamation's spirit
     (Close-lurking whisper's hidden forgeries)
     His taintless goodness, his desertful merit.
     But whiles the minds of men can judge sincerely,
420  Upon assured knowledge, his repute
     And estimation shall be rumor'd clearly
     In equal worth--time shall to time renew 't.
     The Grave-that in his ever-empty womb
     Forever closes up the unrespected
425  Who, when they die, die all-shall not entomb
     His pleading best perfections as neglected.
     They to his notice in succeeding years
     Shall speak for him when he shall lie below;
     When nothing but his memory appears
430  Of what he was, then shall his virtues grow.
     His being but a private man in rank
     (And yet not rank'd beneath a gentleman)
     Shall not abridge the commendable thank
     Which wise posterity shall give him then;
435  For Nature, and his therein happy Fate.
     Ordain'd that by his quality of mind
     T' ennoble that best part, although his state
     Were to a lower blessedness confin'd.
     Blood, pomp, state, honor, glory and command,
440  Without fit ornaments of disposition,
     Are in themselves but heathenish and [profaned],
     And much more peaceful is a mean condition
     Which, underneath the roof of safe content,
     Feeds on the bread of rest, and takes delight
445  To look upon the labors it hath spent
     For its own sustenance, both day and night;
     Whiles others, plotting which way to be great,
     How to augment their portion and ambition,
     Do toil their giddy brains, and ever sweat
450  For popular applause and power's commission.
     But one in honors, like a seeled dove
     Whose inward eyes are dimm'd with dignity,
     Does think most safety doth remain above,
     And seeks to be secure by mounting high:
455    Whence, when he falls, who did erewhile aspire,
       Falls deeper down, for that he climbed higher.
     Now men who in a lower region live
     Exempt from danger of authority
     Have fittest times in Reason's rules to thrive,
460  Not vex'd with envy of priority,
       And those are much more noble in the mind
       Than many that have nobleness by kind.
     Birth, blood, and ancestors, are none of ours,
     Nor can we make a proper challenge to them,
465  But virtues and perfections in our powers
     Proceed most truly from us, if we do them.
     Respective titles or a gracious style,
     With all what men in eminence possess,
     Are, without ornaments to praise them, vile:
470  The beauty of the mind is nobleness.
     And such as have that beauty, well deserve
     Eternal characters, that after death
     Remembrance of their worth we may preserve,
     So that their glory die not with their breath.
475  Else what avails it in a goodly strife
     Upon this face of earth here to contend,
     The good t'exceed the wicked in their life,
     Should both be like obscured in their end?
     Until which end, there is none rightly can
480  Be termed happy, since the happiness
     Depends upon the goodness of the man,
     Which afterwards his praises will express.
     Look hither then, you that enjoy the youth
     Of your best days, and see how unexpected
485  Death can betray your jollity to ruth
     When death you think is least to be respected!
     The person of this model here set out
     Had all that youth and happy days could give him,
     Yet could not all-encompass him about
490  Against th'assault of death, who to relieve him
     Strook home but to the frail and mortal parts
     Of his humanity, but could not touch
     His flourishing and fair long-liv'd deserts,
     Above fate's reach, his singleness was such-
495  So that he dies but once, but doubly lives,
     Once in his proper self, then in his name;
     Predestinated Time, who all deprives,
     Could never yet deprive him of the same.
     And had the Genius which attended on him
500  Been possibilited to keep him safe
     Against the rigor that hath overgone him,
     He had been to the public use a staff,
     Leading by his example in the path
     Which guides to doing well, wherein so few
505  The proneness of this age to error hath
     Informed rightly in the courses true.
     As then the loss of one, whose inclination
     Strove to win love in general, is sad,
     So specially his friends, in soft compassion
510  Do feel the greatest loss they could have had.
     Amongst them all, she who those nine of years
     Liv'd fellow to his counsels and his bed
     Hath the most share in loss:  for I in hers
     Feel what distemperature this chance hath bred.
515  The chaste embracements of conjugal love,
     Who in a mutual harmony consent,
     Are so impatient of a strange remove
     As meager death itself seems to lament,
     And weep upon those cheeks which nature fram'd
520  To be delightful orbs in whom the force
     Of lively sweetness plays, so that asham'd
     Death often pities his unkind divorce.
     Such was the separation here constrain'd
     (Well-worthy to be termed a rudeness rather),
525  For in his life his love was so unfeign'd
     As he was both an husband and a father-
     The one in firm affection and the other
     In careful providence, which ever strove
     With joint assistance to grace one another
530  With every helpful furtherance of love.
     But since the sum of all that can be said
     Can be but said that "He was good" (which wholly
     Includes all excellence can be display'd
     In praise of virtue and reproach of folly).
535     His due deserts, this sentence on him gives,
       "He died in life, yet in his death he lives."
     Now runs the method of this doleful song
     In accents brief to thee, O thou deceas'd!
     To whom those pains do only all belong
540  As witnesses I did not love thee least.
     For could my worthless brain find out but how
     To raise thee from the sepulcher of dust,
     Undoubtedly thou shouldst have partage now
     Of life with me, and heaven be counted just
545  If to a supplicating soul it would
     Give life anew, by giving life again
     Where life is miss'd; whereby discomfort should
     Right his old griefs, and former joys retain
     Which now with thee are leap'd into thy tomb
550  And buried in that hollow vault of woe,
     Expecting yet a more severer doom
     Than time's strict flinty hand will let 'em know.
     And now if I have level'd mine account
     And reckon'd up in a true measured score
555  Those perfect graces which were ever wont
     To wait on thee alive, I ask no more
     (But shall hereafter in a poor content
     Immure those imputations I sustain,
     Learning my days of youth so to prevent
560  As not to be cast down by them again)-
     Only those hopes which fate denies to grant
     In full possession to a captive heart
     Who, if it were in plenty, still would want
     Before it may enjoy his better part;
565  From which detain'd, and banish'd in th' exile
     Of dim misfortune, has none other prop
     Whereon to lean and rest itself the while
     But the weak comfort of the hapless, Hope.
     And Hope must in despite of fearful change
570  Play in the strongest closet of my breast,
     Although perhaps I ignorantly range
     And court opinion in my deep'st unrest.
     But whether doth the stream of my mischance
     Drive me beyond myself, fast friend, soon lost,
575  Long may thy worthiness thy name advance
     Amongst the virtuous and deserving most,
       Who herein hast forever happy prov'd:
       In life thou liv'dst, in death thou died'st belov'd.

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