Francis Beaumont

(1584 – 6 March 1616 / Leicestershire)

A Funeral Elegy on the Death of The Lady Penelope Clifton


Since thou art dead, Clifton, the world may see
A certain end of flesh and blood in thee;
Till then a way was left for man to cry,
Flesh may be made so pure it cannot die;
But now thy unexpected death doth strike
With grief the better and the worse alike;
The good are sad they are not with thee there,
The bad have found they must not tarry here.
Death, I confess, 'tis just in thee to try
Thy pow'r on us, for thou thyself must die;
Thou pay'st but wages, Death, yet I would know
What strange delight thou tak'st to pay them so;
When thou com'st face to face thou strik'st us mute
And all our liberty is to dispute
With thee behind thy back, which I will use:
If thou hadst bravery in thee, thou wouldst choose
(Since thou art absolute, and canst controul
All things beneath a reasonable soul)
Some looked for way of killing; if her day
Had ended in a fire, a sword, or sea,
Or hadst thou come hid in a hundred years
To make an end of all her hopes and fears,
Or any other way direct to thee
Which Nature might esteem an enemy,
Who would have chid thee? now it shews thy hand
Desires to cozen where it might command:
Thou art not prone to kill, but where th' intent
Of those that suffer is their nourishment;
If thou canst steal into a dish, and creep
When all is still as though into a sleep,
And cover thy dry body with a draught,
Whereby some innocent lady may be caught,
And cheated of her life, then thou wilt come
And stretch thyself upon her early tomb,
And laugh as pleased, to show thou canst devour
Mortality as well by wit as pow'r.
I would thou hadst had eyes, or not a dart,
That yet at least, the clothing of that heart
Thou struck'st so spitefully might have appear'd
To thee, and with a reverence have been fear'd:
But since thou art so blind, receive from me
Who 'twas on whom thou wrought'st this tragedy;
She was a lady, who for public fame,
Never (since she in thy protection came,
Who sett'st all living tongues at large) received
A blemish; with her beauty she deceived
No man; when taken with it, they agree
'Twas Nature's fault, when from 'em 'twas in thee.
And such her virtue was, that although she
Received as much joy, having pass'd through thee,
As ever any did; yet hath thy hate
Made her as little better in her state,
As ever it did any being here;
She lived with us as if she had been there.
Such ladies thou canst kill no more, but so
I give thee warning here to kill no moe;
For if thou dost, my pen shall make the rest
Of those that live, especially the best,
Whom thou most thirstest for, to abandon all
Those fruitless things, which thou wouldst have us call
Preservatives, keeping, their diet so,
As the long-living poor their neighbours do:
Then shall we have them long, and they at last
Shall pass from thee to her, but not so fast.

Submitted: Tuesday, March 27, 2012

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