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John Milton. (1608–1674).  Complete Poems.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
An Epitaph on the marchioness of Winchester
 
 
THIS rich marble doth inter
The honoured wife of Winchester,
A viscount’s daughter, an earl’s heir,
Besides what her virtues fair
Added to her noble birth,        5
More than she could own from earth.
Summers three times eight save one
She had told; alas! too soon,
After so short time of breath,
To house with darkness and with death!        10
Yet, had the number of her days
Been as complete as was her praise,
Nature and Fate had had no strife
In giving limit to her life.
Her high birth and her graces sweet        15
Quickly found a lover meet;
The virgin quire for her request
The god that sits at marriage-feast;
He at their invoking came,
But with a scarce well-lighted flame;        20
And in his garland, as he stood,
Ye might discern a cypress-bud.
Once had the early Matrons run
To greet her of a lovely son,
And now with second hope she goes,        25
And calls Lucina to her throes;
But, whether by mischance or blame,
Atropos for Lucina came,
And with remorseless cruelty
Spoiled at once both fruit and tree.        30
The hapless babe before his birth
Had burial, yet not laid in earth;
And the languished mother’s womb
Was not long a living tomb.
So have I seen some tender slip,        35
Saved with care from Winter’s nip,
The pride of her carnation train,
Plucked up by some unheedy swain,
Who only thought to crop the flower
New shot up from vernal shower;        40
But the fair blossom hangs the head
Sideways, as on a dying bed,
And those pearls of dew she wears
Prove to be presaging tears
Which the sad morn had let fall        45
On her hastening funeral.
Gentle Lady, may thy grave
Peace and quiet ever have!
After this thy travail sore,
Sweet rest seize thee evermore,        50
That, to give the world encrease,
Shortened hast thy own life’s lease!
Here, besides the sorrowing
That thy noble House doth bring,
Here be tears of perfect moan        55
Wept for thee in Helicon;
And some flowers and some bays
For thy hearse, to strew the ways,
Sent thee from the banks of Came,
Devoted to thy virtuous name;        60
Whilst thou, bright Saint, high sitt’st in glory,
Next her, much like to thee in story,
That fair Syrian Shepherdess,
Who, after years of barrenness,
The highly-favoured Joseph bore        65
To him that served for her before,
And at her next birth, much like thee,
Through pangs fled to felicity,
Far within the bosom bright
Of blazing Majesty and Light:        70
There with thee, new-welcome Saint,
Like fortunes may her soul acquaint,
With thee there clad in radiant sheen,
No Marchioness, but now a Queen.
 

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