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Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517–47).  The Poetical Works.  1880.
 
Ecclesiastes
Chapter III
 
LIKE to the steerless boat that swerves with every wind,
The slipper top of worldly wealth, by cruel proof I find.
Scarce hath the seed, whereof that nature formeth man,
Received life, when death him yields to earth where he began!
The grafted plants with pain, whereof we hoped fruit,        5
To root them up, with blossoms spread, then is our chief pursuit.
That erst we reared up, we undermine again;
And shred the sprays whose growth sometime we laboured with pain.
Each froward threat’ning chere of fortune makes us plain;
And every pleasant show revives our woful hearts again.        10
Ancient walls to rase is our unstable guise;
And of their weather-beaten stones, to build some new device.
New fancies daily spring, which vade, 1 returning mo’;
And now we practise to obtain that straight we must forego.
Some time we seek to spare that afterward we waste;        15
And that we travail’d sore to knit, for to unloose as fast.
In sober silence now our quiet lips we close;
And with unbridled tongues forthwith our secret hearts disclose.
Such as in folded arms we did embrace, we hate;
Whom straight we reconcile again, and banish all debate.        20
My seed with labour sown, such fruit produceth me,
To waste my life in contraries that never shall agree.
From God these heavy cares are sent for our unrests;
And with such burdens for our wealth he fraughteth full our breasts.
All that the Lord hath wrought, hath beauty and good grace;        25
And to each thing assigned is the proper time and place.
And granted eke to man of all the world’s estate,
And of each thing wrought in the same, to argue and debate.
Which art, though it approach the heavenly knowledge most,
To search the natural ground of things,—yet all is labour lost.        30
But then the wandering eyes that long for surety sought,
Found that by pain no certain wealth might in this world be bought.
Who liveth in delight and seeks no greedy thrift,
But freely spends his goods, may think it is a secret gift.
Fulfilled shall it be what so the Lord intend;        35
Which no device of man’s wit may advance, nor yet defend;
Who made all things of nought, that Adam’s children might
Learn how to dread the Lord, that wrought such wonders in their sight.
The grisly wonders past, which time wears out of mind,
To be renewed in our days the Lord hath so assign’d.        40
Lo! thus his careful scourge doth steal on us unware;
Which, when the flesh hath clean forgot, he doth again repair.
When I in this vain search had wander’d sore my wit,
I saw a royal throne eke where as Justice should have sit.
Instead of whom I saw, with fierce and cruel mood,        45
Where wrong was set; that bloody beast that drank the guiltless blood:
Then thought I thus: ‘One day the Lord shall sit in doom,
To view his flock, and choose the pure; the spotted have no room.’
Yet be such scourges sent, that each aggrieved mind
Like the brute beasts that swell in rage and fury by their kind,        50
His error may confess when he hath wrestled long;
And then with patience may him arm: the sure defence of wrong.
For death, that of the beast the carrion doth devour,
Unto the noble kind of man presents the fatal hour.
The perfect form that God hath given to either man,        55
Or other beast, dissolve it shall to earth, where it began.
And who can tell if that the soul of man ascend;
Or with the body if it die, and to the ground descend.
Wherefore each greedy heart that riches seeks to gain,
Gather may he that savoury fruit that springeth of his pain.        60
A mean convenient wealth I mean to take in worth;
And with a hand of largess eke in measure pour it forth.
For treasure spent in life the body doth sustain;
The heir shall waste the hoarded gold, amassed with much pain.
Nor may foresight of man such order give in life,        65
For to foreknow who shall enjoy their gotten good with strife.
 
Note 1. Pass away. [back]
 
 
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