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

By Sir John Davies (1569–1626)


O IGNORANT 1 poor man! what dost thou bear,
  Locked up within the casket of thy breast?
What jewels and what riches hast thou here!
  What heavenly treasure in so weak a chest!
Think of her worth and think that God did mean        5
  This worthy mind should worthy things embrace:
Blot not her beauties with thy thoughts unclean,
  Nor her dishonour with thy passion base.
Kill not her quickening power with surfeitings;
  Mar not her sense with sensuality;        10
Cast not her serious wit on idle things;
  Make not her free-will slave to vanity.
And when thou think’st of her eternity,
  Think not that death against her nature is;
Think it a birth; and when thou go’st to die,        15
  Sing like a swan, as if thou went’st to bliss.
And thou my soul, which turn’st thy curious eye
  To view the beams of thine own form divine,
Know, that thou can’st know nothing perfectly,
  While thou are clouded with this flesh of mine.        20
Cast down thyself and only strive to raise
  The glory of thy Maker’s sacred name:
Use all thy powers that blessed Power to praise,
  Which gives thee power to be and use the same.
Note 1. Sir John Davies is one of the more successful of our philosophical poets. The first passage here chosen is from the close of his poem “Of the Soul of Man and the Immortality thereof,” which is the second part of “Nosce Teipsum.” The two verses on “Self-Knowledge” are from the first part. [back]