Home  »  Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse  »  False World

Henry Charles Beeching, ed. (1859–1919). Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse. 1903.

By Francis Quarles (1592–1644)

False World

FALSE 1 world, thou liest: thou canst not lend
          The least delight:
Thy favours cannot gain a friend,
          They are so slight:
Thy morning pleasures make an end        5
          To please at night:
Poor are the wants that thou supply’st;
And yet thou vaunt’st, and yet thou vy’st 2
With heaven; fond earth, thou boast’st; false world, thou liest.
Thy babbling tongue tells golden tales        10
          Of endless treasure:
Thy bounty offers easy sales
          Of lasting pleasure;
Thou ask’st the conscience what she ails,
          And swear’st to ease her:        15
There’s none can want where thou supply’st,
There’s none can give where thou deny’st,
Alas! fond world, thou boast’st; false world, thou liest.
What well advisèd ear regards
          What earth can say?        20
Thy words are gold, but thy rewards
          Are painted clay:
Thy cunning can but pack the cards,
          Thou canst not play:
Thy game at weakest, still thou vy’st;        25
If seen, and then revy’d, deny’st;
Thou art not what thou seem’st; false world, thou liest.
Thy tinsel bosom seems a mint
          Of new-coin’d treasure;
A Paradise, that has no stint,        30
          No change, no measure;
A painted cask, but nothing in’t,
          Nor wealth, nor pleasure;
Vain earth! that falsely thus comply’st
With man; vain man, that thou rely’st        35
On earth; vain man, thou doat’st; vain earth, thou liest.
What mean dull souls, in this high measure
          To haberdash
In earth’s base wares, whose greatest treasure
          Is dross and trash;        40
The height of whose enchanting pleasure
          Is but a flash?
Are these the goods that thou supply’st
Us mortals with? are these the high’st?
Can these bring cordial peace? False world, thou liest.        45
Note 1. Quarles was a Royalist and Churchman, cup-bearer to the Princess Elizabeth, and secretary to Archbishop Ussher. His verse was immensely popular in his day, but has since fallen into oblivion, from which very little of it is likely to recover. The poems here printed from the “Divine Emblems” are the best of that collection. [back]
Note 2. Line 8.—“To vie was to hazard, to put down a certain sum upon a hand of cards; to revie was to cover it with a larger sum, by which the challenged became the challenger, and was to be revied in his turn with a proportionate increase of stake. This continued till one of the party lost courage and gave up the whole; or obtained for a stipulated sum a discovery of his adversary’s cards; when the best hand swept the table.”—Gifford. [back]