Verse > Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey > Poetical Works
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Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517–47).  The Poetical Works.  1880.
 
Ecclesiastes
Chapter I
 
I, SOLOMON, David’s son, King of Jerusalem,
Chosen by God to teach the Jews, and in his laws to lead them,
Confess, under the Sun that every thing is vain;
The world is false; man he is frail, and all his pleasures pain.
Alas! what stable fruit may Adam’s children find        5
In that they seek by sweat of brows and travail of their mind!
We, that live on the earth, draw toward our decay;
Our children fill our place a while, and then they vade 1 away.
Such changes makes the earth, and doth remove for none;
But serves us for a place to play our tragedies upon.        10
When that the restless sun westward his course hath run,
Towards the east he hastes as fast to rise where he begun.
When hoary Boreas hath blown his frozen blast,
Then Zephyrus, with his gentle breath, dissolves the ice as fast.
Floods that drink up small brooks, and swell by rage of rain,        15
Discharge in seas; which them repulse, and swallow straight again.
These worldly pleasures, Lord! so swift they run their race,
That scarce our eyes may them discern; they bide so little space.
What hath been but is now; the like hereafter shall:
What new device grounded so sure, that dreadeth not the fall!        20
What may be called new, but such things in times past
As Time buried, and doth revive; and Time again shall waste.
Things past right worthy fame, have now no bruit at all;
Even so shall die such things as now the simple wonders call.
I, that in David’s seat sit crowned, and rejoice,        25
That with my sceptre rule the Jews, and teach them with my voice,
Have searched long to know all things under the sun;
To see how in this mortal life a surety might be won.
This kindled will to know; strange things for to desire,
God hath graft in our greedy breasts a torment for our hire.        30
The end of each travail forthwith I sought to know;
I found them vain, mixed with gall, and burthen’d with much woe.
Defaults of nature’s work no man’s hand may restore,
Which be in number like the sands upon the salt floods shore.
Then vaunting in my wit, I gan call to my mind        35
What rules of wisdom I had taught, that elders could not find.
And, as by contraries to try most things we use,
Men’s follies, and their errors eke I gan them all peruse;
Thereby with more delight to knowledge for to climb:
But this I found an endless work of pain, and loss of time.        40
For he to wisdom’s school that doth apply his mind,
The further that he wades therein, the greater doubts shall find.
And such as enterprise to put new things in ure,
Of some that shall scorn their device, may well themselves assure.
 
Note 1. Go, or pass. [back]
 
 
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