Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
 
Extract from The Induction
By Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset (1536–1608)
 
[Sorrow guides the poet to the realms of the dead.]

THEN looking upward to the heaven’s leams,
With nighted stars thick powder’d every where,
Which erst so glisten’d with the golden streams,
That cheerful Phoebus spread from down his sphere,
Beholding dark oppressing day so near,        5
The sudden sight reduced to my mind,
The sundry changes that in earth we find.
 
That musing on this worldly wealth in thought,
Which comes, and goes, more faster than we see
The flickering flame that with the fire is wrought,        10
My busy mind presented unto me
Such fall of peers as in the realms had be,
That oft I wish’d some would their woes descrive,
To warn the rest whom fortune left alive.
 
And straight forth stalking with redoubled pace,        15
For that I saw the night draw on so fast,
In black all clad, there fell before my face
A piteous wight, whom woe had all forewaste:
Forth from her eyen the crystal tears out brast:
And sighing sore her hands she wrung and fold,        20
Tare all her hair, that ruth was to behold.
*        *        *        *        *
I stood aghast, beholding all her plight,
’Tween dread and dolour, so distrain’d in heart,
That, while my hairs upstarted with the sight,
The tears outstream’d for sorrow of her smart:        25
But, when I saw no end that could apart
The deadly dewle which she so sore did make,
With doleful voice then thus to her I spake:
*        *        *        *        *
‘O Sorrow, alas, sith Sorrow is thy name,
And that to thee this drear doth well pertain,        30
In vain it were to seek to cease the same:
But, as a man himself with sorrow slain,
So I, alas, do comfort thee in pain,
That here in sorrow art foresunk so deep,
That at thy sight I can but sigh and weep.’
*        *        *        *        *
        35
For forth she paced in her fearful tale:
‘Come, come,’ quoth she, ‘and see what I shall show,
Come, hear the plaining and the bitter bale
Of worthy men by Fortune overthrow:
Come thou and see them rueing all in row,        40
They were but shades that erst in mind thou roll’d:
Come, come with me, thine eyes shall them behold.’
*        *        *        *        *
Flat down I fell, and with all reverence
Adored her, perceiving now that she,
A goddess, sent by godly providence,        45
In earthly shape thus show’d herself to me,
To wail and rue this world’s uncertainty:
And, while I honour’d thus her godhead’s might,
With plaining voice these words to me she shright.
 
‘I shall thee guide first to the grisly lake,        50
And thence unto the blissful place of rest,
Where thou shalt see, and hear, the plaint they make
That whilom here bare swing among the best:
This shalt thou see: but great is the unrest
That thou must bide, before thou canst attain        55
Unto the dreadful place where these remain.’
*        *        *        *        *
Thence come we to the horrour and the hell,
The large great kingdoms, and the dreadful reign
Of Pluto in his throne where he did dwell,
The wide waste places, and the hugy plain,        60
The wailings, shrieks, and sundry sorts of pain,
The sighs, the sobs, the deep and deadly groan:
Earth, air, and all, resounding plaint and moan.
 
Here pul’d the babes, and here the maids unwed
With folded hands their sorry chance bewail’d,        65
Here wept the guiltless slain, and lovers dead,
That slew themselves when nothing else avail’d:
A thousand sorts of sorrows here, that wail’d
With sighs, and tears, sobs, shrieks, and all yfear,
That, oh, alas, it was a hell to hear.
*        *        *        *        *
        70
Lo here, quoth Sorrow, princes of renown,
That whilom sat on top of fortune’s wheel,
Now laid full low, like wretches whirled down,
Ev’n with one frown, that stay’d but with a smile:
And now behold the thing that thou, ere while,        75
Saw only in thought: and what thou now shalt hear,
Recount the same to kesar, king and peer.’
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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