Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
An Honest Man’s Fortune
By John Fletcher (1579–1625)
 
YOU that can look through Heaven, and tell the stars,
Observe their kind conjunctions, and their wars;
Find out new lights, and give them where you please,
To these men honors, pleasures, to those ease;
You that are God’s surveyors, and can show        5
How far, and when, and why the wind doth blow;
Know all the charges of the dreadful thunder,
And when it will shoot over, or fall under:
Tell me, by all your art I conjure ye,
Yes, and by truth, what shall become of me?        10
Find out my star, if each one, as you say,
Have his peculiar Angel, and his way;
Observe my fate, next fall into your dreams,
Sweep clean your houses, and new line your seams,
Then say your worst: or have I none at all?        15
Or is it burnt out lately? or did fall?
Or am I poor, not able, no full flame?
My star, like me, unworthy of a name?
Is it, your art can only work on those
That deale with dangers, dignities, and cloathes?        20
With love, or new opinions? you all lye,
A fishwife hath a fate, and so have I,
But far above your finding; He that gives,
Out of his providence, to all that lives;
He that made all the stars, you daily read,        25
And from thence filch a knowledge how to feed;
Hath hid this from you, your conjectures all
Are drunken things, not how, but when they fall;
Man is his own star, and the soul that can
Render an honest, and a perfect man        30
Commands all light, all influence, all fate,
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our Angels are, or good, or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still,
And when the stars are laboring we believe        35
It is not that they govern, but they grieve
Our stubborn ignorance; all things that are
Made for our general uses are at war,
Even we among ourselves, and from the strife
Your first unlike opinions got a life.        40
O man, thou image of thy Maker’s good,
What canst thou fear, when breathed into thy blood
His spirit is, that built thee? what dull sense
Makes thee suspect, in need, that providence?
Who made the morning, and who placed the light        45
Guide to thy labors? who called up the night,
And bid her fall upon thee, like sweet showers
In hollow murmurs, to lock up thy powers?
Who gave thee knowledge? who so trusted thee,
To let thee grow so near himself, the Tree?        50
Must he then be distrusted? shall his frame
Discourse with him, why thus, and thus I am?
He made the Angels thine, thy fellows all,
Nay, even thy servants, when devotions call.
Oh canst thou be so stupid then, so dim,        55
To seek a saving influence, and lose him?
Can Stars protect thee? or can poverty,
Which is the light to Heaven, put out his eye?
He is my star; in him all truth I find,
All influence, all fate, and when my mind        60
Is furnished with his fullnesse, my poor story
Shall outlive all their Age, and all their glory.
The hand of danger cannot fall amiss,
When I know what, and in whose power it is.
Nor want, the cause of man, shall make me groan;        65
A holy hermit is a mind alone.
Doth not experience teach us all we can
To work ourselves into a glorious man?
Love’s but an exhalation to best eyes
The matter’s spent, and then the fool’s fire dyes?        70
Were I in love, and could that bright star bring
Increase to wealth, honor, and every thing:
Were she as perfect good as we can aim,—
The first was so, and yet she lost the Game.
My mistress then be knowledge and faire truth;        75
So I enjoy all beauty and all youth,
And though to Time her lights and laws she lends,
She knows no Age that to corruption bends.
Friends’ promises may lead me to believe,
But he that is his own friend knows to live.        80
Affliction, when I know it, is but this,
A deep alloy whereby man tougher is
To bear the hammer; and the deeper still,—
We still arise more image of his will.
Sickness an humorous cloud ’twixt us and light,        85
And Death, at longest but another night.
Man is his own Star, and that soul that can
Be honest is the only perfect man.
 
 
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