To The Lady Anne - Poem by Aemilia Lanyer
To you I dedicate this worke of Grace,
This frame of Glory which I haue erected,
For your faire mind I hold the fittest place,
Where virtue should be setled & protected;
If highest thoughts true honor do imbrace,
And holy Wisdom is of them respected:
Then in this Mirrour let your faire eyes looke,
To view your virtues in this blessed Booke.
Blest by our Sauiours merits, not my skil,
Which I acknowledge to be very small;
Yet if the least part of his blessed Will
I haue perform'd, I count I haue done all:
One sparke of grace sufficient is to fill
Our Lampes with oyle, ready when he doth call
To enter with the Bridegroome to the feast,
Where he that is the greatest may be least.
Greatnesse is no sure frame to build vpon,
No worldly treasure can assure that place;
God makes both euen, the Cottage with the Throne,
All worldly honours there are counted base;
Those he holds deare, and reckneth as his owne,
Whose virtuous deeds by his especially [sic] grace
Haue gain'd his loue, his kingdome, and his crowne,
Whom in the booke of Life he hath set downe.
Titles of honour which the world bestowes,
To none but to the virtuous doth belong;
As beauteous bowres where true worth should repose,
And where his dwellings should be built most strong:
But when they are bestow'd vpon her foes,
Poore virtues friends indure the greatest wrong:
For they must suffer all indignity,
Vntill in heau'n they better graced be.
What difference was there when the world began,
Was it not Virtue that distinguisht all?
All sprang but from one woman and one man,
Then how doth Gentry come to rise and fall?
Or who is he that very rightly can
Distinguish of his birth, or tell at all,
In what meane state his Ancestors haue bin,
Before some one of worth did honour win?
Whose successors, although they beare his name,
Possessing not the riches of his minde,
How doe we know they spring out of the same
True stocke of honour, beeing not of that kind?
It is faire virtue gets immortall fame,
Tis that doth all loue and duty bind:
If he that much enjoyes, doth little good,
We may suppose he comes not of that blood.
Nor is he fit for honour, or command,
If base affections ouer-rules his mind;
Or that selfe-will doth carry such a hand,
As worldly pleasures haue the powre to blind
So as he cannot see, nor vnderstand
How to discharge that place to him assign'd:
Gods Stewards must for all the poore prouide,
If in Gods house they purpose to abide.
To you, as to Gods Steward I doe write,
In whom the seeds of virtue haue bin sowne,
By your most worthy mother, in whose right,
All her faire parts you challenge as your owne;
If you, sweet Lady, will appeare as bright
As euer creature did that time hath knowne,
Then weare this Diadem I present to thee,
Which I haue fram'd for her Eternitie.
You are the Heire apparant of this Crowne
Of goodnesse, bountie, grace, loue, pietie,
By birth its yours, then keepe it as your owne,
Defend it from all base indignitie;
The right your Mother hath to it, is knowne
Best vnto you, who reapt such fruit thereby:
This Monument of her faire worth retaine
In your pure mind, and keepe it from al staine.
And as your Ancestors at first possest
Their honours, for their honourable deeds,
Let their faire virtues neuer be transgrest,
Bind vp the broken, stop the wounds that bleeds,
Succour the poore, comfort the comfortlesse,
Cherish faire plants, suppresse vnwholsom weeds;
Althogh base pelfe do chance to come in place,
Yet let true worth receiue your greatest grace.
So shal you shew from whence you are descended,
And leaue to all posterities your fame,
So will your virtues alwaies be commended,
And euery one will reuerence your name;
So this poore worke of mine shalbe defended
From any scandall that the world can frame:
And you a glorious Actor will appeare
Louely to all, but vnto God most deare.
I know right well these are but needlesse lines,
To you, that are so perfect in your part,
Whose birth and education both combines;
Nay more than both, a pure and godly heart,
So well instructed to such faire designes,
By your deere Mother, that there needs no art:
Your ripe discretion in your tender yeares,
By all your actions to the world appeares.
I doe but set a candle in the sunne,
And adde one drop of water to the sea,
Virtue and Beautie both together run,
When you were borne, within your breast to stay;
Their quarrell ceast, which long before begun,
They liue in peace, and all doe them obey:
In you faire Madame, are they richly plac'd,
Where all their worth by Eternity is grac'd.
You goddesse-like vnto the world appeare,
Inricht with more than fortune can bestowe.
Goodnesse and Grace, which you doe hold more deere
Than worldly wealth, which melts away like snowe;
Your pleasure is the word of God to heare,
That his most holy precepts you may know:
Your greatest honour, faire and virtuous deeds,
Which from the loue and feare of God proceeds.
Therefore to you (good Madame) I present
His louely loue, more worth than purest gold,
Who for your sake his pretious blood hath spent,
His death and passion here you may behold,
And view this Lambe, that to the world was sent,
Whom your faire soule may in her armes infold:
Louing his loue, that did endure such paine,
That you in heauen a worthy place might gaine.
For well you knowe, this world is but a Stage
Where all doe play their parts, and must be gone;
Here's no respect of persons, youth, nor age,
Death seizeth all, he neuer spareth one,
None can preuent or stay that tyrants rage,
But Iesus Christ the Iust: By him alone
He was orecome, He open set the dore
To Eternall life, ne're seene, nor knowne before.
He is the stone the builders did refuse,
Which you, sweet Lady, are to build vpon;
He is the rocke that holy Church did chuse,
Among which number, you must needs be one;
Faire Shepheardesse, tis you that he will vse
To feed his flocke, that trust in him alone:
All wordly [sic] blessings he vouchsafes to you,
That to the poore you may returne his due.
And if deserts a Ladies loue may gaine,
Then tell me, who hath more deseru'd than he?
Therefore in recompence of all his paine,
Bestowe your paines to reade, and pardon me,
If out of wants or weakenesse of my braine,
I haue not done this worke sufficiently;
Yet lodge him in the closet of your heart,
Whose worth is more than can be shew'd by Art.
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