William Alexander

(1567-1640 / Scotland)

Elegie I - Poem by William Alexander

Even as the dying Swan almost bereft of breath,
Sounds dolefull notes and drearie songs, a presage of her death:
So since my date of life almost expir'd I find,
My obsequies I sadly sing, as sorrow tunes my mind,
And as the rarest Bird a pile of wood doth frame,
Which, being fir'd by Phœbus rayes, she fals into the flame:
So by two sunnie eyes I giue my fancies fire,
And burne my selfe with beauties raies, euen by mine owne desire.
Thus th'angry Gods at length begin for to relent,
And once to end my deathfull life, for pitie are content.
For if th'infernall powers, the damned souls would pine,
Then let them send them to the light, to leade a life like mine.

O if I could recount the crosses and the cares,
That from my cradle to my Beare conduct me with despairs;
Then hungrie Tantalus pleas'd with his lot would stand:
I famish for a sweeter food, which still is reft my hand,
Like Ixions restlesse wheele my fancies rowle about;
And like his guest that stole heau'ns fires, they teare my bowels out.
I worke an endles task and loose my labor still:
Euen as the bloudie sisters do, that emptie as they fill,
As Sisiph's stone returnes his guiltie ghost t'appall,
I euer raise my hopes so high, they bruise me with their fall.
And if I could in summe my seuerall griefes relate,
All would forget their proper harms, & only waile my state.
So grieuous is my paine, so painfull is my griefe,
That death which doth the world affright, wold yeeld to me releefe.
I haue mishaps so long, as in a habit had,
I thinke I looke not like my selfe, but when that I am sad.
As birds flie but in th'aire, fishes in seas do diue,
So sorrow is as th'Element by which I onely liue:
Yet this may be admir'd as more then strange in me,
Although in all my Horoscope not one cleare point I see.
Against my knowledge, yet I many a time rebell,
And seeke to gather grounds of hope, a heau'n amidst a hell.
O poyson of the mind, that doest the wits bereaue:
And shrouded with a cloke of loue dost al the world deceiue.
Thou art the rocke on which my comforts ship did dash,
It's thou that daily in my wounds thy hooked heades dost wash.
Blind Tyrant it is thou by whom my hopes lye dead:
That whiles throwes forth a dart of gold, & whiles a lumpe of lead.
Thus oft thou woundest two, but in two diffrent states,
Which through a strange antipathy, th'one loues, & th'other hates.
O but I erre I grant, I should not thee vpbraid,
It's I to passions tyrrannie that haue my selfe betraid:
And yet this cannot be, my iudgements aymes amisse:
Ah deare Aurora it is thou that ruin'd hast my blisse:
A fault that by thy sexe may partly be excus'd,
Which stil doth loath what proferd is, affects what is refus'd.
Whil'st my distracted thoughts I striu'd for to controule,
And with fain'd gestures did disguise the anguish of my soule,
Then with inuiting lookes and accents stampt with loue,
The mask that was vpon my mind thou labordst to remoue.
And when that once ensnar'd thou in those nets me spide,
Thy smiles were shadowd with disdaines, thy beauties clothd with pride.
To reattaine thy grace I wot not how to go:
Shall I once fold before thy feete, to pleade for fauour so?
No, no, Ile proudly go my wrath for to asswage,
And liberally at last enlarge the raines vnto my rage.
Ile tell what we were once, our chast (yet feruent) loues,
Whil'st in effect thou seem'd t'affect that which thou didst disproue.
Whil'st once t'engraue thy name vpon a rock I sat,
Thou vow'd to write mine in a mind, more firme by far then that:
The marble stone once stampt retaines that name of thine:
But ah, thy more then marble mind, it did not so with mine:
So that which thral'd me first, shall set me free againe;
Those flames to which thy loue gaue life, shall die with thy disdaine.
But ah, where am I now, how is my iudgment lost!
I speak as it were in my power, like one that's free to bost:
Haue I not sold my selfe to be thy beauties slaue?
And when thou tak'st all hope from me, thou tak'st but what thou gaue.
That former loue of thine, did so possesse my mind,
That for to harbor other thoughts, no roome remains behind.
And th'only means by which I mind t'auenge this wrong,
It is, by making of thy praise the burden of my song.
Then why shouldst thou such spite for my goodwil returne?
Was euer god as yet so mad to make his temple burne?
My brest the temple was, whence incense thou receiu'd,
And yet thou set'st the same a fire, which others would haue sau'd.
But why should I accuse Aurora in this wise?
She is as faultlesse as she's faire, as innocent as wise.
It's but through my mis-lucke, if any fault there be:
For she who was of nature mild, was cruell made by me.
And since my fortune is, in wo to be bewrapt,
Ile honour her as oft before, and hate mine owne mishap.
Her rigorous course shall serue my loyall part to proue,
And as a touch-stone for to trie the vertue of my loue.
Which when her beautie fades, shall be as cleare as now,
My constancie it shall be known, when wrinkled is her brow:
So that such two againe, shall in no age be found,
She for her face, I for my faith, both worthy to be crownd.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 17, 2010



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