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- 17/02/2013 at 2:29 am #10864ShakespeareBrKeymaster
W.S., "A Funeral Elegy." Edited by Donald W. Foster
from W.S., A Funerall Elegye in memory of the late vertuous Maister
William Peeter (London: G. Eld for T. Thorpe, 1612). [4,600 words.]
Common nouns capitalized and italicized in Q are here capitalized but not
italicized; italicized quotations in Q are rendered in quotation marks.
Participial endings and ellisions may be normalized for use with a private
text archive. DWF (1/15/96)
TO MASTER JOHN PETER
of Bowhay in Devon, Esquire.
The love I bore to your brother, and will do to his memory, hath crav'd
from me this last duty of a friend; I am herein but a second to the
privilege of Truth, who can warrant more in his behalf than I undertook to
deliver. Exercise in this kind I will little affect, and am less addicted
to, but there must be miracle in that labor which, to witness my
remembrance to this departed gentleman, I would not willingly undergo.
Yet whatsoever is here done, is done to him, and to him only. For whom and
whose sake I will not forget to remember any friendly respects to you, or
to any of those that have lov'd him for himself, and himself for his
A FUNERAL ELEGY
Since Time, and his predestinated end,
Abridg'd the circuit of his hopeful days,
Whiles both his Youth and Virtue did intend
The good endeavors of deserving praise,
5 What memorable monument can last
Whereon to build his never-blemish'd name
But his own worth, wherein his life was grac'd-
Sith as [that] ever he maintain'd the same?
Oblivion in the darkest day to come,
10 When sin shall tread on merit in the dust,
Cannot rase out the lamentable tomb
Of his short-liv'd deserts; but still they must,
Even in the hearts and memories of men,
Claim fit Respect, that they, in every limb
15 Rememb'ring what he was, with comfort then
May pattern out one truly good, by him.
For he was truly good, if honest care
Of harmless conversation may commend
A life free from such stains as follies are,
20 Ill recompensed only in his end.
Nor can the tongue of him who lov'd him least
(If there can be minority of love
To one superlative above the rest
Of many men in steady faith) reprove
25 His constant temper, in the equal weight
Of thankfulness and kindness: Truth doth leave
Sufficient proof, he was in every right
As kind to give, as thankful to receive.
The curious eye of a quick-brain'd survey
30 Could scantly find a mote amidst the sun
Of his too-short'ned days, or make a prey
Of any faulty errors he had done-
Not that he was above the spleenful sense
And spite of malice, but for that he had
35 Warrant enough in his own innocence
Against the sting of some in nature bad.
Yet who is he so absolutely blest
That lives encompass'd in a mortal frame,
Sometime in reputation not oppress'd
40 By some in nothing famous but defame?
Such in the By-path and the Ridgeway lurk
That leads to ruin, in a smooth pretense
Of what they do to be a special work
Of singleness, not tending to offense;
45 Whose very virtues are, not to detract
Whiles hope remains of gain (base fee of slaves),
Despising chiefly men in fortunes wrack'd-
But death to such gives unrememb'red graves.
Now therein liv'd he happy, if to be
50 Free from detraction happiness it be.
His younger years gave comfortable hope
To hope for comfort in his riper youth,
Which, harvest-like, did yield again the crop
Of Education, better'd in his truth.
55 Those noble twins of heaven-infused races,
Learning and Wit, refined in their kind
Did jointly both, in their peculiar graces,
Enrich the curious temple of his mind;
Indeed a temple, in whose precious white
60 Sat Reason by Religion oversway'd,
Teaching his other senses, with delight,
How Piety and Zeal should be obey'd-
Not fruitlessly in prodigal expense
Wasting his best of time, but so content
65 With Reason's golden Mean to make defense
Against the assault of youth's encouragement;
As not the tide of this surrounding age
(When now his father's death had freed his will)
Could make him subject to the drunken rage
70 Of such whose only glory is their ill.
He from the happy knowledge of the wise
Draws virtue to reprove secured fools
And shuns the glad sleights of ensnaring vice
To spend his spring of days in sacred schools.
75 Here gave he diet to the sick desires
That day by day assault the weaker man,
And with fit moderation still retires
From what doth batter virtue now and then.
But that I not intend in full discourse
80 To progress out his life, I could display
A good man in each part exact and force
The common voice to warrant what I say.
For if his fate and heaven had decreed
That full of days he might have liv'd to see
85 The grave in peace, the times that should succeed
Had been best-speaking witnesses with me;
Whose conversation so untouch'd did move
Respect most in itself, as who would scan
His honesty and worth, by them might prove
90 He was a kind, true, perfect gentleman-
Not in the outside of disgraceful folly,
Courting opinion with unfit disguise,
Affecting fashions, nor addicted wholly
To unbeseeming blushless vanities,
95 But suiting so his habit and desire
As that his Virtue was his best Attire.
Not in the waste of many idle words
Car'd he to be heard talk, nor in the float
Of fond conceit, such as this age affords,
100 By vain discourse upon himself to dote;
For his becoming silence gave such grace
To his judicious parts, as what he spake
Seem'd rather answers which the wise embrace
Than busy questions such as talkers make.
105 And though his qualities might well deserve
Just commendation, yet his furnish'd mind
Such harmony of goodness did preserve
As nature never built in better kind;
Knowing the best, and therefore not presuming
110 In knowing, but for that it was the best,
Ever within himself free choice resuming
Of true perfection, in a perfect breast;
So that his mind and body made an inn,
The one to lodge the other, both like fram'd
115 For fair conditions, guests that soonest win
Applause; in generality, well fam'd,
If trim behavior, gestures mild, discreet
Endeavors, modest speech, beseeming mirth,
True friendship, active grace, persuasion sweet,
120 Delightful love innated from his birth,
Acquaintance unfamiliar, carriage just,
Offenseless resolution, wish'd sobriety,
Clean-temper'd moderation, steady trust,
Unburthen'd conscience, unfeign'd piety;
125 If these, or all of these, knit fast in one
Can merit praise, then justly may we say,
Not any from this frailer stage is gone
Whose name is like to live a longer day-
Though not in eminent courts or places great
130 For popular concourse, yet in that soil
Where he enjoy'd his birth, life, death, and seat
Which now sits mourning his untimely spoil.
And as much glory is it to be good
For private persons, in their private home,
135 As those descended from illustrious blood
In public view of greatness, whence they come.
Though I, rewarded with some sadder taste
Of knowing shame, by feeling it have prov'd
My country's thankless misconstruction cast
140 Upon my name and credit, both unlov'd
By some whose fortunes, sunk into the wane
Of plenty and desert, have strove to win
Justice by wrong, and sifted to embane
My reputation with a witless sin;
145 Yet time, the father of unblushing truth,
May one day lay ope malice which hath cross'd it,
And right the hopes of my endangered youth,
Purchasing credit in the place I lost it.
Even in which place the subject of the verse
150 (Unhappy matter of a mourning style
Which now that subject's merits doth rehearse)
Had education and new being; while
By fair demeanor he had won repute
Amongst the all of all that lived there,
155 For that his actions did so wholly suit
With worthiness, still memorable here.
The many hours till the day of doom
Will not consume his life and hapless end,
For should he lie obscur'd without a tomb,
160 Time would to time his honesty commend;
Whiles parents to their children will make known,
And they to their posterity impart,
How such a man was sadly overthrown
By a hand guided by a cruel heart,
165 Whereof as many as shall hear that sadness
Will blame the one's hard fate, the other's madness;
Whiles such as do recount that tale of woe,
Told by remembrance of the wisest heads,
Will in the end conclude the matter so,
170 As they will all go weeping to their beds.
For when the world lies winter'd in the storms
Of fearful consummation, and lays down
Th' unsteady change of his fantastic forms,
Expecting ever to be overthrown;
175 When the proud height of much affected sin
Shall ripen to a head, and in that pride
End in the miseries it did begin
And fall amidst the glory of his tide;
Then in a book where every work is writ
180 Shall this man's actions be reveal'd, to show
The gainful fruit of well-employed wit,
Which paid to heaven the debt that it did owe.
Here shall be reckon'd up the constant faith,
Never untrue, where once he love profess'd;
185 Which is a miracle in men, one saith,
Long sought though rarely found, and he is best
Who can make friendship, in those times of change,
Admired more for being firm than strange.
When those weak houses of our brittle flesh
190 Shall ruin'd be by death, our grace and strength,
Youth, memory and shape that made us fresh
Cast down, and utterly decay'd at length;
When all shall turn to dust from whence we came
And we low-level'd in a narrow grave,
195 What can we leave behind us but a name,
Which, by a life well led, may honor have?
Such honor, O thou youth untimely lost,
Thou didst deserve and hast; for though thy soul
Hath took her flight to a diviner coast,
200 Yet here on earth thy fame lives ever whole,
In every heart seal'd up, in every tongue
Fit matter to discourse, no day prevented
That pities not thy sad and sudden wrong,
Of all alike beloved and lamented.
205 And I here to thy memorable worth,
In this last act of friendship, sacrifice
My love to thee, which I could not set forth
In any other habit of disguise.
Although I could not learn, whiles yet thou wert,
210 To speak the language of a servile breath,
My truth stole from my tongue into my heart,
Which shall not thence be sund'red, but in death.
And I confess my love was too remiss
That had not made thee know how much I priz'd thee,
215 But that mine error was, as yet it is,
To think love best in silence: for I siz'd thee
By what I would have been, not only ready
In telling I was thine, but being so,
By some effect to show it. He is steady
220 Who seems less than he is in open show.
Since then I still reserv'd to try the worst
Which hardest fate and time thus can lay on me.
T' enlarge my thoughts was hindered at first,
While thou hadst life; I took this task upon me,
225 To register with mine unhappy pen
Such duties as it owes to thy desert,
And set thee as a president to men,
And limn thee to the world but as thou wert-
Not hir'd, as heaven can witness in my soul,
230 By vain conceit, to please such ones as know it,
Nor servile to be lik'd, free from control,
Which, pain to many men, I do not owe it.
But here I trust I have discharged now
(Fair lovely branch too soon cut off) to thee,
235 My constant and irrefragable vow,
As, had it chanc'd, thou mightst have done to me-
But that no merit strong enough of mine
Had yielded store to thy well-abled quill
Whereby t'enroll my name, as this of thine,
240 How s'ere enriched by thy plenteous skill.
Here, then, I offer up to memory
The value of my talent, precious man,
Whereby if thou live to posterity,
Though't be not as I would, 'tis as I can:
245 In minds from whence endeavor doth proceed,
A ready will is taken for the deed.
Yet ere I take my longest last farewell
From thee, fair mark of sorrow, let me frame
Some ampler work of thank, wherein to tell
250 What more thou didst deserve than in thy name,
And free thee from the scandal of such senses
As in the rancor of unhappy spleen
Measure thy course of life, with false pretenses
Comparing by thy death what thou hast been.
255 So in his mischiefs is the world accurs'd:
It picks out matter to inform the worst.
The willful blindness that hoodwinks the eyes
Of men enwrapped in an earthy veil
Makes them most ignorantly exercise
260 And yield to humor when it doth assail,
Whereby the candle and the body's light
Darkens the inward eyesight of the mind,
Presuming still it sees, even in the night
Of that same ignorance which makes them blind.
265 Hence conster they with corrupt commentaries,
Proceeding from a nature as corrupt,
The text of malice, which so often varies
As 'tis by seeming reason underpropp'd.
O, whither tends the lamentable spite
270 Of this world's teenful apprehension,
Which understands all things amiss, whose light
Shines not amidst the dark of their dissension?
True 'tis, this man, whiles yet he was a man,
Sooth'd not the current of besotted fashion,
275 Nor could disgest, as some loose mimics can,
An empty sound of overweening passion,
So much to be made servant to the base
And sensual aptness of disunion'd vices,
To purchase commendation by disgrace,
280 Whereto the world and heat of sin entices.
But in a safer contemplation,
Secure in what he knew, he ever chose
The ready way to commendation,
By shunning all invitements strange, of those
285 Whose illness is, the necessary praise
Must wait upon their actions; only rare
In being rare in shame (which strives to raise
Their name by doing what they do not care),
As if the free commission of their ill
290 Were even as boundless as their prompt desires;
Only like lords, like subjects to their will,
Which their fond dotage ever more admires.
He was not so: but in a serious awe,
Ruling the little ordered commonwealth
295 Of his own self, with honor to the law
That gave peace to his bread, bread to his health;
Which ever he maintain'd in sweet content
And pleasurable rest, wherein he joy'd
A monarchy of comfort's government,
300 Never until his last to be destroy'd.
For in the Vineyard of heaven-favored learning
Where he was double-honor'd in degree,
His observation and discreet discerning
Had taught him in both fortunes to be free;
305 Whence now retir'd home, to a home indeed
The home of his condition and estate,
He well provided 'gainst the hand of need,
Whence young men sometime grow unfortunate;
His disposition, by the bonds of unity,
310 So fast'ned to his reason that it strove
With understanding's grave immunity
To purchase from all hearts a steady love;
Wherein not any one thing comprehends
Proportionable note of what he was,
315 Than that he was so constant to his friends
As he would no occasion overpass
Which might make known his unaffected care,
In all respects of trial, to unlock
His bosom and his store, which did declare
320 That Christ was his, and he was Friendship's Rock:
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