Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
Let No Bird Sing
By William Browne (c. 1590–c. 1645)
 
    GLIDE 1 soft, ye silver floods,
        And every spring:
    Within the shady woods
        Let no bird sing! 2
    Nor from the grove a turtle-dove        5
    Be seen to couple with her love;
But silence on each dale and mountain dwell,
Whilst Willy bids his friend and joy farewell.
 
    But of great Thetis’ train,
        Ye mermaids fair,        10
    That on the shores do plain
        Your sea-green hair,
    As ye in trammels knit your locks,
    Weep ye; and so enforce the rocks
In heavy murmurs through the broad shores tell        15
How Willy bade his friend and joy farewell.
 
    Cease, cease, ye murdering winds,
        To move a wave;
    But if with troubled minds
        You seek his grave,        20
    Know ’tis as various as yourselves,
    Now in the deep, then on the shelves,
His coffin toss’d by fish and surges fell,
Whilst Willy weeps and bids all joy farewell.
 
    Had he Arion-like        25
        Been judged to drown,
    He on his lute could strike
        So rare a sown,
    A thousand dolphins would have come
    And jointly strove to bring him home.        30
But he on shipboard died, by sickness fell,
Since when his Willy bade all joy farewell.
 
    Great Neptune, hear a swain!
        His coffin take,
    And with a golden chain        35
        For pity make
    It fast unto a rock near land!
    Where every calmy morn I’ll stand,
And ere one sheep out of my fold I’ll tell,
Sad Willy’s pipe shall bid his friend farewell.        40
 
Note 1. From Britannia’s Pastorals, 1616, Bk. II., Song i., lines 242–280. This song is a tribute to the memory of William Ferrar, third son of Nicholas Ferrar, an eminent London merchant, who was interested in the adventures of Hawkins, Drake and Raleigh, and brother of the well-known Nicholas Ferrar (1592–1637), of Little Gidding, in Huntingdonshire. He died young at sea. Wither introduces him, under the pastoral name of “Alexis,” in The Shepherd’s Hunting. [back]
Note 2. Let no bird sing: Keats was evidently well acquainted with Browne’s poetry; witness how excellently he uses this line in La Belle Dame Sans Merci. [back]
 
 
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