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

Epistle to the Countess of Cumberland

Samuel Daniel (1562–1619)

HE that of such a height hath built his mind,

And reared the dwelling of his thoughts so strong,

As neither fear nor hope can shake the frame

Of his resolvèd powers; nor all the wind

Of vanity or malice pierce to wrong

His settled peace, or to disturb the same:

What a fair seat hath he, from whence he may

The boundless wastes and wealds of man survey!

And with how free an eye doth he look down

Upon these lower regions of turmoil!

Where all the storms of passion mainly beat

On flesh and blood: where honour, power, renown,

Are only gay afflictions, golden toil;

Where greatness stands upon as feeble feet

As frailty doth; and only great doth seem

To little minds, who do it so esteem.

He looks upon the mightiest monarch’s wars

But only as on stately robberies;

Where evermore the fortune that prevails

Must be the right: the ill-succeeding mars

The fairest and the best fac’d enterprise.

Great pirate Pompey lesser pirates quails:

Justice, he sees (as if seducèd) still

Conspires with power, whose cause must not be ill.

He sees the face of right t’appear as manifold

As are the passions of uncertain man;

Who puts it in all colours, all attires,

To serve his ends, and make his courses hold.

He sees, that let deceit work what it can,

Plot and contrive base ways to high desires,

That the all-guiding Providence doth yet

All disappoint, and mocks the smoke of wit.

Nor is he mov’d with all the thunder cracks

Of tyrants’ threats, or with the surly brow

Of Power, that proudly sits on others’ crimes;

Charg’d with more crying sins than those he checks.

The storms of sad confusion, that may grow

Up in the present for the coming times

Appal not him; that hath no side at all,

But of himself, and knows the worst can fall.

Although his heart (so near allied to Earth)

Cannot but pity the perplexèd state

Of troublous and distress’d Mortality,

That thus make way unto the ugly birth

Of their own sorrows, and do still beget

Affliction upon imbecility:

Yet seeing thus the course of things must run,

He looks thereon not strange, but as fore-done.

And whilst distraught ambition compasses,

And is encompass’d; whilst as craft deceives,

And is deceiv’d: whilst man doth ransack man

And builds on blood, and rises by distress;

And th’ inheritance of desolation leaves

To great-expecting hopes: he looks thereon,

As from the shore of peace, with unwet eye,

And bears no venture in impiety.