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(28 November 1628 – 31 August 1688 / Elstow, Bedfordshire, England.)

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Of Death

Death, as a king rampant and stout
The world he dare engage;
He conquers all, yea, and doth rout
The great, strong, wise, and sage.

No king so great, nor prince so strong,
But death can make to yield,
Yea, bind and lay them all along,
And make them quit the field.

Where are the victors of the world,
With all their men of might?
Those that together kingdoms hurl'd,
By death are put to flight.

How feeble is the strongest hand,
When death begins to gripe!
The giant now leaves off to stand,
Much less withstand and fight.

The man that hath a lion's face
Must here give place and bend,
Yea, though his bones were bars of brass,
'Tis vain here to contend.

Submit he must to feeble ones,
To worms who will enclose
His skin and flesh, sinews and bones,
And will thereof dispose

Among themselves, as merchants do
The prizes they have got;
Or as the soldiers give unto
Each man the share and lot,

Which they by dint of sword have won,
From their most daring foe;
While he lies by as still as stone,
Not knowing what they do.

Beauty death turns to rottenness,
And youth to wrinkled face;
The witty he brings to distress,
And wantons to disgrace.

The wild he tames, and spoils the mirth
Of all that wanton are,
He takes the worldling from his worth,
And poor man from his care.

Death favours none, he lays at all,
Of all sorts and degree;
Both old and young, both great and small,
Rich, poor, and bound, and free.

No fawning words will flatter him,
Nor threat'nings make him start;
He favours none for worth or kin,
All must taste of his dart.

What shall I say? the graves declare
That death shall conquer all;
There lie the skulls, dust, bones, and there
The mighty daily fall.

The very looks of death are grim
And ghastly to behold;
Yea, though but in a dead man's skin,
When he is gone and cold.

How 'fraid are some of dead men's beds,
And others of their bones;
They neither care to see their heads,
Nor yet to hear their groans.

Now all these things are but the shade
And badges of his coat;[3]
The glass that runs, the scythe and spade,
Though weapons more remote:

Yet such as make poor mortals shrink
And fear, when they are told,
These things are signs that they must drink
With death; O then how cold.

It strikes them to the heart! how do
They study it to shun!
Indeed who can bear up, and who
Can from these shakings run?

But how much more then when he comes
To grapple with thy heart;
To bind with thread thy toes and thumbs,[4]
And fetch thee in his cart?

Then will he cut thy silver cord,
And break thy golden bowl;
Yea, break that pitcher which the Lord
Made cabin for thy soul.

Thine eyes, that now are quick of sight,
Shall then no way espy
How to escape this doleful plight,
For death will make thee die.

Those legs that now can nimbly run,
Shall then with faintness fail
To take one step, death's dart to shun,
When he doth thee assail.

That tongue that now can boast and brag
Shall then by death be tied
So fast, as not to speak or wag,
Though death lies by thy side.

Thou that didst once incline thine ear
Unto the song and tale,
Shall only now death's message hear,
While he, with face most pale,

Doth reason with thee how thy days
Hath hitherto been spent;
And what have been thy deeds and ways,
Since God thee time hath lent.

Then will he so begin to tear
Thy body from thy soul,
And both from life, if now thy care
Be not on grace to roll.

Death puts on things another face
Than we in health do see:
Sin, Satan, hell, death, life and grace
Now great and weighty be.

Yea, now the sick man's eye is set
Upon a world to come:
He also knows too without let[5]
That there must be his home.

Either in joy, in bliss and light,
Or sorrow, woe, and grief;
Either with Christ and saints in white,
Or fiends, without relief.

But, O! the sad estate that then
They will be in that die
Both void of grace and life! poor men!
How will they fear and cry.

Ha! live I may not, though I would
For life give more than all;
And die I dare not, though I should
The world gain by my fall.

No, here he must no longer stay,
He feels his life run out,
His night is come, also the day
That makes him fear and doubt.

He feels his very vitals die,
All waxeth pale and wan;
Nay, worse, he fears to misery
He shortly must be gone.

Death doth already strike his heart
With his most fearful sting
Of guilt, which makes his conscience start,
And quake at every thing.

Yea, as his body doth decay
By a contagious grief,
So his poor soul doth faint away
Without hope or relief.

Thus while the man is in this scare,
Death doth still at him lay;
Live, die, sink, swim, fall foul or fair,[6]
Death still holds on his way.

Still pulling of him from his place,
Full sore against his mind;
Death like a sprite stares in his face,
And doth with links him bind.

And carries him into his den,
In darkness there to lie,
Among the swarms of wicked men
In grief eternally.

For only he that God doth fear
Will now be counted wise:
Yea, he that feareth him while here,
He only wins the prize.

'Tis he that shall by angels be
Attended to that bliss
That angels have; for he, O he,
Of glory shall not miss.

Those weapons and those instruments
Of death, that others fright:
Those dreadful fears and discontents
That brings on some that night.

That never more shall have a day,
Brings this man to that rest
Which none can win but only they
Whom God hath called and blest

With the first fruits of saving grace,
With faith, hope, love, and fear
Him to offend; this man his face
In visions high and clear,

Shall in that light which no eye can
Approach unto, behold
The rays and beams of glory, and
Find there his name enroll'd,

Among those glittering starts of light
That Christ still holdeth fast
In his right hand with all his might,
Until that danger's past,

That shakes the world, and most hath dropt
Into grief and distress,
O blessed then is he that's wrapt
In Christ his righteousness.

This is the man death cannot kill,
For he hath put on arms;
Him sin nor Satan hath not skill
To hurt with all their charms.

A helmet on his head doth stand,
A breastplate on his heart:
A shield also is in his hand,
That blunteth every dart.

Truth girds him round the reins, also
His sword is on his thigh;
His feet in shoes of peace do go
The ways of purity.

His heart it groaneth to the Lord,
Who hears him at his call,
And doth him help and strength afford,
Wherewith he conquers all.

Thus fortified, he keeps the field
While death is gone and fled;
And then lies down upon his shield
Till Christ doth raise the dead.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004


Read poems about / on: death, grief, fear, world, hope, light, sick, silver, faith, strength, sorrow, sad, together, truth, song, beauty, joy, home, angel, soldier

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