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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Elizabethan Verse. 1907.

Exequy on His Wife

Henry King (1592–1669)

ACCEPT, thou shrine of my dead saint,

Instead of dirges this complaint;

And for sweet flowers to crown thy herse

Receive a strew of weeping verse

From thy grieved friend, whom thou might’st see

Quite melted into tears for thee.

Dear loss! since thy untimely fate,

My task hath been to meditate

On thee, on thee! Thou art the book,

The library whereon I look,

Tho’ almost blind. For thee, loved clay,

I languish out, not live, the day….

Thou hast benighted me; thy set

This eve of blackness did beget,

Who wast my day (tho’ overcast

Before thou hadst thy noontide past):

And I remember must in tears

Thou scarce hadst seen so many years

As day tells hours. By thy clear sun

My love and fortune first did run;

But thou wilt never more appear

Folded within my hemisphere,

Since both thy light and motion,

Like a fled star, is fall’n and gone,

And ’twixt me and my soul’s dear wish

The earth now interposèd is….

I could allow thee for a time

To darken me and my sad clime;

Were it a month, a year, or ten,

I would thy exile live till then,

And all that space my mirth adjourn—

So thou wouldst promise to return,

And putting off thy ashy shroud

At length disperse this sorrow’s cloud.

But woe is me! the longest date

Too narrow is to calculate

These empty hopes: never shall I

Be so much blest as to descry

A glimpse of thee, till that day come

Which shall the earth to cinders doom,

And a fierce fever must calcine

The body of this world—like thine,

My little world! That fit of fire

Once off, our bodies shall aspire

To our souls’ bliss: then we shall rise

And view ourselves with clearer eyes

In that calm region where no night

Can hide us from each other’s sight.

Meantime thou hast her, earth: much good

May my harm do thee! Since it stood

With Heaven’s will I might not call

Her longer mine, I give thee all

My short-lived right and interest

In her whom living I loved best.

Be kind to her, and prithee look

Thou write into thy Doomsday book

Each parcel of this rarity

Which in thy casket shrined doth lie,

As thou wilt answer Him that lent—

Not gave—thee my dear monument.

So close the ground, and ’bout her shade

Black curtains draw: my bride is laid.

Sleep on, my Love, in thy cold bed

Never to be disquieted!

My last good-night! Thou wilt not wake

Till I thy fate shall overtake;

Till age, or grief, or sickness must

Marry my body to that dust

It so much loves; and fill the room

My heart keeps empty in that tomb.

Stay for me there: I will not fail

To meet thee in that hollow vale.

And think not much of my delay:

I am already on the way,

And follow thee with all the speed

Desire can make, or sorrows breed.

Each minute is a short degree

And every hour a step towards thee….

’Tis true—with shame and grief I yield—

Thou, like the van, first tookst the field;

And gotten hast the victory

In thus adventuring to die

Before me, whose more years might crave

A just precedence in the grave.

But hark! my pulse, like a soft drum,

Beats my approach, tells thee I come;

And slow howe’er my marches be

I shall at last sit down by thee.

The thought of this bids me go on

And wait my dissolution

With hope and comfort. Dear—forgive

The crime—I am content to live

Divided, with but half a heart,

Till we shall meet and never part.