Verse > Anthologies > Edward Farr, comp. > Jacobean Poetry
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Edward Farr, ed.  Select Poetry of the Reign of King James the First.  1847.
 
Custome
LXX. John Norden
 
FOR 1 custome is not simply dangerous,
Best actions may by custome waxe farre worse;
Yet custome is not simply dangerous,
Though in the worser part suspitious.
Of slender sparke ariseth mighty flame,        5
But not vnless fit matter feed the same;
So where as Custome sets its foote to rise
In ill, subdue her, lest she tyrannize.
While she is young she may be managed,
But growing olde she will be strong in head;        10
But ever weakest is she found to bee,
When she should worke the mindes of men to mee.
And when she frames her will to aide my foe,
She’s prest; the hag needs not constraine her goe;
Yet not of her selfe-inclination,        15
But as men’s minds haue preparation.
For though she seeme a princesse by her law,
She is not absolute, but under awe;
She doth command the mindes she can surprise,
(The seeming so), but not the truly wise:        20
By nature men are proanest to doe ill,
Without an outward prompter of the will;
And where she finds the will prepared so,
She feeds affection as fond fansies goe;
She offers still occasion of her aide,        25
Stil building more upon the plot she laide.
  Thus custome alters, or begins anew,
A nature which at first her self withdrew;
Both good and ill she can transforme and make,
As is the heart apt good or ill to take.        30
  She’s agent both for that foule hag and me,—
Regards not much whose instrument she bee;
But that my foe hath her attendance most,
She brings me only those that hag hath lost,—
Decrepite, feeble, aged, impotent,        35
The wrong’d, oppressed, lowly, indigent,
They that, by her despite and pleasing charmes,
Have found her whichcraft, and doe feel their harmes,
Not yet by nature, but b’ instinct of grace,
That only light bewraies her vgly face.        40
  Flie her, her pleasures and false instruments,
And set thy heart right on my rudiments:
I am delite, my wayes and workes delite,
My pleasures please not carnall appetite.
Heroicke acts, that make men honorable,        45
Are only sweet and most inestimable;
The rest are false, found mere scurrilitie,
By which some loose both fame and dignitie;
But such as have me patronesse and guide
Shall never fall, howso they seeme to slide:        50
They shall withstand, and get the victorie
Ouer that hagge and hellish companie;
Whose conquest farre exceedes the manli’st hand
That swaies a sword, none stronger can withstand.
 
Note 1. LXX. John Norden.—Extracts from this author are included in the “Select Poetry of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth.” His name appears here as the author of “The Labyrinth of Man’s Life: or Vertue’s Delight and Enuie’s opposite;” which was published in 1614. [back]
 
 
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