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

By Francis Quarles (1592–1644)

The Threshing Floor

THE WORLD’S a floor, whose swelling heaps retain
  The mingled wages of the ploughman’s toil;
The world’s a heap, whose yet unwinnow’d grain
  Is lodged with chaff and buried in her soil;
All things are mix’d, the useful with the vain;        5
  The good with bad, the noble with the vile;
    The world’s an ark, wherein things pure and gross
    Present their lossful gain, and gainful loss,
Where ev’ry pound of gold contains a pound of dross.
This furnish’d ark presents the greedy view        10
  With all that earth can give, or heav’n can add;
Here lasting joys, here pleasures hourly new,
  And hourly fading, may be wish’d and had:
All points of honour, counterfeit and true,
  Salute thy soul, and wealth both good and bad:        15
    Here may’st thou open wide the two-leaved door
    Of all thy wishes, to receive that store,
Which being empty most, does overflow the more.
Come then, my soul, approach this royal burse,
  And see what wares our great exchange retains;        20
Come, come; here’s that shall make a firm divorce
  Betwixt thy wants and thee, if want complains;
No need to sit in council with thy purse,
  Here’s nothing good shall cost more price than pains:
    But, O my soul, take heed, if thou rely        25
    Upon thy faithless optics, thou wilt buy
Too blind a bargain: know, fools only trade by th’ eye.
The worldly wisdom of the foolish man
  Is like a sieve, that does alone retain
The grosser substance of the worthless bran:        30
  But thou, my soul, let thy brave thoughts disdain
So coarse a purchase: O be thou a fan
  To purge the chaff, and keep the winnow’d grain;
    Make clean thy thoughts, and dress thy mix’d desires:
    Thou art heav’n’s tasker; 1 and thy God requires        35
The purest of thy flour, as well as of thy fires.
Let grace conduct thee to the paths of peace,
  And wisdom bless the soul’s unblemish’d ways;
No matter, then, how short or long’s the lease,
  Whose date determines thy self-number’d days:        40
No need to care for wealth’s or fame’s increase,
  Nor Mars his palm, nor high Apollo’s bays.
    Lord, if thy gracious bounty please to fill
    The floor of my desires, and teach me skill
To dress and choose the corn, take those the chaff that will.        45
Note 1. A tasker is a thresher. [back]