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 IV
 
WHEN I bethought me well, under the restless Sun
By folk of power what cruel works unchastised were done;
I saw where stood a herd by power of such opprest,
Out of whose eyes ran floods of tears, that bayned 1 all their breast;
Devoid of comfort clean, in terrors and distress;        5
In whose defence none would arise such rigour to repress.
Then thought I thus: ‘Oh Lord! the dead whose fatal hour
Is clean run out more happy are; whom that the worms devour:
And happiest is the seed that never did conceive;
That never felt the wailful wrongs that mortal folk receive.’        10
And then I saw that wealth, and every honest gain
By travail won, and sweat of brows, ’gan grow into disdain,
Through sloth of careless folk, whom ease so fat doth feed;
Whose idle hands do nought but waste the fruit of other’s seed.
Which to themselves persuade—that little got with ease        15
More thankful is, than kingdoms won by travail and misease.
Another sort I saw without both friend or kin,
Whose greedy ways yet never sought a faithful friend to win.
Whose wretched corpse no toil yet ever weary could;
Nor glutted ever were their eyes with heaps of shining gold.        20
But, if it might appear to their abused eyen,
To whose avail they travail so, and for whose sake they pine;
Then should they see what cause they have for to repent
The fruitless pains and eke the time that they in vain have spent.
Then gan I thus resolve—‘More pleasant is the life        25
Of faithful friends that spend their goods in common, without strife.’
For as the tender friend appeaseth every grief,
So, if he fall that lives alone, who shall be his relief?
The friendly feeres 2 lie warm in arms embraced fast;
Who sleeps alone, at every turn doth feel the winter blast:        30
What can he do but yield, that must resist alone?
If there be twain, one may defend the t’other overthrown.
The single twined cords may no such stress endure
As cables braided threefold may, together wreathed sure.
In better far estate stand children, poor and wise,        35
Than aged kings, wedded to will, that work without advice.
In prison have I seen, or this, a woful wight
That never knew what freedom meant, nor tasted of delight;
With such unhoped hap in most despair hath met,
Within the hands that erst wore gyves to have a sceptre set.        40
And by conjures 3 the seed of kings is thrust from state,
Whereon a grieved people work ofttimes their hidden hate.
Other, without respect, I saw a friend or foe
With feet worn bare in tracing such, whereas the honours grew.
And at death of a prince great routs revived strange,        45
Which fain their old yoke to discharge, rejoiced in the change.
But when I thought, to these as heavy even or more
Shall be the burden of his reign, as his that went before;
And that a train like great upon the dead attend,
I gan conclude, each greedy gain hath its uncertain end.        50
In humble spirit is set the temple of the Lord;
Where if thou enter, look thy mouth and conscience may accord!
Whose Church is built of love, and deckt with hot desire,
And simple faith; the yolden ghost his mercy doth require.
Where perfectly for aye he in his word doth rest;        55
With gentle ear to hear thy suit, and grant thee thy request.
In boast of outward works he taketh no delight,
Nor waste of words; such sacrifice unsavoureth in his sight.
 
Note 1. Bathed. [back]
Note 2. Companions. [back]
Note 3. Conspiracies. [back]
 
 
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