Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
Extracts from The Vanity of Human Wishes: The Rise and Fall of Wolsey
By Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)
 
  IN full-flown dignity see Wolsey stand,
Law in his voice, and fortune in his hand:
To him the church, the realm, their powers consign,
Through him the rays of regal bounty shine,
Turned by his nod the stream of honour flows,        5
His smile alone security bestows:
Still to new heights his restless wishes tower,
Claim leads to claim and power advances power;
Till conquest unresisted ceased to please,
And rights submitted left him none to seize:        10
At length his sovereign frowns—the train of state
Mark the keen glance, and watch the sign to hate.
Where’er he turns, he meets a stranger’s eye,
His suppliants scorn him, and his followers fly;
Now drops at once the pride of awful state,        15
The golden canopy, the glittering plate,
The regal palace, the luxurious board,
The liveried army, and the menial lord.
With age, with cares, with maladies oppress’d,
He seeks the refuge of monastic rest.        20
Grief aids disease, remembered folly stings,
And his last sighs reproach the faith of kings.
  Speak thou whose thoughts at humble peace repine,
Shall Wolsey’s wealth with Wolsey’s end be thine?
Or liv’st thou now, with safer pride content,        25
The wisest Justice on the banks of Trent?
For, why did Wolsey, near the steeps of fate,
On weak foundations raise the enormous weight?
Why but to sink beneath misfortune’s blow,
With louder ruin to the gulfs below?        30
 
 
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