Verse > Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey > Poetical Works
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Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517–47).  The Poetical Works.  1880.
 
Songs and Sonnets
How no Age is content with his own Estate, and how the Age of Children is the happiest if they had Skill to understand it
 
LAID in my quiet bed, in study as I were,
I saw within my troubled head a heap of thoughts appear.
And every thought did shew so lively in mine eyes,
That now I sigh’d, and then I smiled, as cause of thought did rise.
I saw the little boy in thought how oft that he        5
Did wish of God to scape the rod, a tall young man to be.
The young man eke that feels his bones with pains opprest,
How he would be a rich old man, to live and lie at rest.
The rich old man that sees his end draw on so sore,
How he would be a boy again, to live so much the more.        10
Whereat full oft I smiled, to see how all these three,
From boy to man, from man to boy, would chop and change degree.
And musing thus I think, the case is very strange,
That man from wealth, to live in woe, doth ever seek to change.
Thus thoughtful as I lay, I saw my wither’d skin,        15
How it doth shew my dented chews, the flesh was worn so thin.
And eke my toothless chaps, the gates of my right way,
That opes and shuts as I do speak, do thus unto me say:
‘Thy white and hoarish hairs, the messengers of age,
That shew, like lines of true belief, that this life doth assuage;        20
Bid thee lay hand, and feel them hanging on thy chin;
The which do write two ages past, the third now coming in.
Hang up therefore the bit of thy young wanton time:
And thou that therein beaten art, the happiest life define.’
Whereat I sigh’d, and said: ‘Farewell! my wonted joy;        25
Truss up thy pack, and trudge from me to every little boy;
And tell them thus from me; their time most happy is,
If, to their time, they reason had, to know the truth of this.’
 
 
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