Francis Beaumont (1584 – 6 March 1616 / Leicestershire)
An Elegy on the Death of the Virtuous Lady Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland
I may forget to drink, to eat, to sleep,
Remembering thee: but when I do, to weep
In well-weighed lines, that men shall at thy hearse
Envy the sorrow which brought forth my verse;
May my dull understanding have the might
Only to know her last was yesternight!
Rutland, the fair, is dead! and if to hear
The name of Sidney will more force a tear,
'Tis she that is so dead! and yet there be
Some more alive profess not poetry;
The statesmen and the lawyers of our time
Have business still, yet do it not in rhyme.
Can she be dead, and can there be of those
That are so dull to say their prayers in prose?
It is three days since she did feel Death's hand;
And yet this isle not feel the poet's land?
Hath this no new ones made? and are the old
At such a needful time as this grown cold?
They all say they would fain; but yet they plead
They cannot write, because their muse is dead.
Hear me then speak, which will take no excuse;
Sorrow can make a verse without a muse.
Why didst thou die so soon? O, pardon me,
I know it was the longest life to thee,
That e'er with modesty was called a span,
Since the Almighty left to strive with man;
Mankind is sent to sorrow; and thou hast
More of the business which thou cam'st for past,
Than all those aged women, which, yet quick,
Have quite outlived their own arithmetic.
As soon as thou couldst apprehend a grief,
There were enough to meet thee; and the chief
Blessing of women, marriage, was to thee
Nought but a sacrament of misery;
For whom thou hadst, if we may trust to fame,
Could nothing change about thee but thy name:
A name which who (that were again to do't)
Would change without a thousand joys to boot?
In all things else thou rather led'st a life
Like a betrothed virgin than a wife.
But yet I would have called thy fortune kind,
If it had only tried the settled mind
With present crosses: not the loathed thought
Of worse to come, or past, then might have wrough
Thy best remembrance to have cast an eye
Back with delight upon thine infancy.
But thou hadst, ere thou knew'st the use of tears,
Sorrow laid up against thou cam'st to years;
Ere thou wert able who thou wert to tell,
By a sad war thy noble father fell,
In a dull clime, which did not understand
What 'twas to venture him to save a land.
He left two children, who for virtue, wit,
Beauty, were loved of all; thee and his wit:
Two was too few; yet death hath from us took
Thee, a more faultless issue than his book,
Which now the only living thing we have
From him, we'll see, shall never find a grave
As thou hast done. Alas! 'would it might be
That books their sexes had, as well as we,
That we might see this married to the worth,
And many poems like itself bring forth!
But this vain wish divinity controuls;
For neither to the angels, nor to souls,
Nor anything he meant should ever live,
Did the wise God of nature sexes give.
Then with his everlasting work alone
We must content ourselves, since she is gone;
Gone, like the day thou diedst upon; and we
May call that back again as soon as thee.
Who should have looked to this? Where were you all,
That do yourselves the help of nature call,
Physicians? I acknowledce you were there
To sell such words as one in health would hear:
So died she. Curst be he who shall defend
Your art of hastening nature to its end!
In this you shewed that physic can but be
At best an art to cure your poverty.
Ye're many of you impostors, and do give
To sick men potions that yourselves may live.
He that hath surfeited, and cannot eat,
Must have a medicine to procure you meat;
And that's the deepest ground of all your skill,
Unless it be some knowledge how to kill.
Sorrow and madness make my verses flow
Cross to my understanding; for I know
You can do wonders: Every day I meet
The looser sort of people in the street
From desperate diseases freed; and why
Restore you them, and suffer her to die?
Why should the state allow you colleges,
Pensions for lectures, and anatomies,
If all your potions, vomits, letting blood,
Can only cure the bad, and not the good,
Which only they can do? and I will show
The hidden reason, why you did not know
The way to cure her: You believed her blood
Ran on such courses as you understood;
By lectures you believed her arteries
Grew as they do in your anatomies:
Forgetting that the state allows you none
But only whores and thieves to practise on
And every passage 'bout them I am sure
You understood, and only them can cure;
Which is the cause that both —
Are noted for enjoying so long lives.
But noble blood treads in too strange a path
For your ill-got experience, and hath
Another way of cure. If you had seen
Penelope dissected, or the Queen
Of Sheba; then you might have found a way
To have preserved her from that fatal day.
As 'tis, you have but made her sooner blest,
By sending her to Heaven, where let her rest.
I will not hurt the peace which she would have,
By longer looking in her quiet grave.
Comments about this poem (An Elegy on the Death of the Virtuous Lady Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland by Francis Beaumont )
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