Poem for the Month of April, 2001

An excerpt from
"Hieroglyphikes of the Life of Man"
by Francis Quarles
c1638, London

 

 

XV
Psalm 90. 10.

The dayes of our years are threescore years
and tenne.

1.
So have I seen th' illustrious Prince of Light
Rising in glory from his Crocean bed,
And trampling down the horrid shades of night,
Advancing more and more his conqu'ring head :
Pause first, decline, at length begin to shroud
His fainting brows within a cole-black cloud.

2.
So have I seen a well built Castle stand
Upon the tiptoes of a loftie hill ;
Whose active pow'r commands both sea and land,
And curbs the pride of the beleag'rers' will :
At length her ag'd foundation fails her trust,
And layes her tott'ring ruines in the dust.

3.
So have I seen the blazing Tapour shoot
Her golden head into the feeble air ;
Whose shadow-gilding ray spread round about,
Makes the foul face of black-brow'd darknesse fair ;
Till at the length her wasting glory fades,
And leaves the night to her invet'rate shades.

 

4.
Ev'n so this little world of living Clay,
The pride of Nature, glorified by Art,
Whom earth adores, and all her hosts obey,
Ally'd to Heav'n by his Diviner part ;
Triumphs a while, then droops, and then decayes,
And worn by age, death cancels all his dayes.

5.
That glorious Sun, that whilom shone so bright,
Is now ev'n ravisht from out darkened eyes :
That sturdy Castle, mann'd with so much might,
Lies now a Monument of her own disguise :
That blazing Tapour, that disdain'd the puff
Of troubled Air, scarce owns the name of snuff.

6.
Poor bedrid Man! where is that glory now,
Thy Youth so vaunted? where that Majesty
Which sat enthron'd upon thy manly brow ?
Where, where that braving arm ? that daring eye ?
Those buxom tunes ? Those Bacchanalian tones ?
Those swelling veins? those marrow-flaming bones?

7.
Thy drooping glory's blurr'd, and prostrate lies
Grov'ling in dust ; and frightfull horrour, now,
Sharpens the glaunces of thy gashfull eyes,
Whilst fear perplexes thy distracted brow :
Thy panting breast vents all her breath by groans,
And death enerves thy marrow-wasted bones.

8.
Thus Man that's born of woman can remain
But a short time : his dayes are full of sorrow ;
His life's a penance and his death's a pain,
Springs like a flow'r to-day, and fades to-morrow ;
His breath's a bubble, and his dayes a span :
'T is glorious misery to be born a Man.

Illustrations by Graham Sutherland, c1943
Lithographs inspired by Francis Quarles "Hieroglyphikes".
Originally published in the journal "Poetry London", May, 1943.
These were part of a limited edition of 50 sets of lithographs.

Submitted by Freespiri

 

 
     

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