George Wither

(11 June 1588 – 2 May 1667 / Bentworth, Hampshire)

The Contented Man's Morice - Poem by George Wither

False world, thy malice I espie
With what thou hast designed;
And therein with thee to comply,
Who likewise are combined:
But, do thy worst, I thee defie,
Thy mischiefs are confined.

From me, thou my estate hast torn,
By cheatings me beguiled:
Me thou hast also made thy scorn;
With troubles me turmoiled:
But to an heritage I'm born,
That never can be spoiled.

So wise I am not, to be mad,
Though great are my oppressions;
Nor so much fool as to be sad,
Though robb'd of my possessions:
For, cures for all sores may be had,
And grace for all transgressions.

These words in youth my motto were,
And mine in age I'll make them, -
I neither have, nor want, nor care;
When also first I spake them,
I thought things would be as they are,
And meekly therefore take them.

The riches I possess this day
Are no such goods of fortune
As kings can give or take away,
Or tyrants make uncertain:
For hid within myself are they
Behinde an unseen curtain.

Of my degree, but few or none
Were dayly so frequented;
But now I'm left of every one,
And therewith well contented:
For, when I am with God alone,
Much folly is prevented.

Then, why should I give way to grief?
Come, strike up pipe and tabor
He that affecteth God in chief,
And as himself his neighbour,
May still enjoy a happy life,
Although he lives by labor.

Not me alone have they made poor,
By whom I have been cheated;
But very many thousands more
Are of their hopes defeated;
Who little dreamed heretofore
Of being so ill treated.

Then, if my courage should be less
Than theirs who never prized
The resolutions I profess
(And almost idolized),
I well deserv'd in my distress
To be of all despised.

Our sad complaints, our sighs and tears,
Make meat nor clothing cheaper:
Vain are our earthly hopes and fears,
This life is but a vapor;
And therefore, in despight of cares,
I'll sing, and dance, and caper.

Though food nor raiment left me were,
I would of wants be dreadless;
For when I quickly should be there
Where bread and cloth are needless;
And in those blessings have my share,
Whereof most men are heedless.

I then should that attain unto
For which I now endeavour;
From my false lovers thither go,
Where friendship faileth never:
And, through a few short pangs of woe,
To joys that last for ever.

For service done, and love exprest,
(Though very few regard it)
My country owes me bread, at least;
But if I be debarr'd it,
Good conscience is a dayly feast
And sorrow never marr'd it.

My grand oppressors had a thought,
When riches they bereaved,
That then, my ruine had been wrought;
But, they are quite deceived:
For them the devil much mis-taught
When that weak snare they weaved.

If in those courses I had gone
Wherein they are employed,
Till such achievements had been won
As are by them enjoyed,
They might have wager'd ten to one
I should have been destroyed.

But proofs have now confirmed me
How much our vice offendeth,
And what small helps our virtues be
To that which God intendeth,
Till he himself shall make us free,
And our defects amendeth.

Not one is from corruption clear;
Men are depraved wholly,
Mere cruelties their mercies are
Their wisdom is but folly;
And, when most righteous they appear,
Then are they most unholy.

There is no trust in temp'ral things,
For they are all unsteady:
That no assurance from them springs,
Too well I find already;
And that ev'n parliaments and kings
Are frail, or false, or giddy.

All stands upon a tott'ring wheel,
Which never fixt abideth;
Both commonweals and kingdoms reel:
He that in them confideth,
(Or trusts their faith) shall mischiefs feel,
With which soe'er he sideth.

This wit I long ago was taught,
But then I would not heed it:
Experience must by fools be bought,
Else they'll not think they need it.
By this means was my ruin wrought;
Yet they are knaves who did it.

When to the ground deprest I was,
Our mushrooms and our bubbles,
Whom neither truth, nor wit, nor grace,
But wealth and pride ennobles
As cruel were as they are base,
And jeer'd me in my troubles.

And when their hate these had made known,
New mischiefs it begat me:
For ev'ry rascal durty clown
Presumed to amate me;
And all the curs about the town
Grinn'd, snarl'd, and barked at me.

Since, therefore, 'tis not in my power,
(Though oft I fore-discern them)
To shun the world's despights one hour,
Thus into mirth I'll turn them;
And neither grieve, nor pout, nor lowre,
But laugh, and sing, and scorn them.

This fit, at sev'nty years and two,
And thus to spend my hours,
The world's contempt inclines me to,
Whilst she my state devours;
If this be all that she can do,
A fig for all her powers.

Yet I and shee, my well agree,
Though we have much contented;
Upon as equal terms are we
As most who have offended:
For, I sleight her, and she sleights me,
And there's my quarel ended.

This only doth my mirth allay,
I am to some engaged,
Who sigh and weep, and suffer may,
Whilst thus I sing incaged:
But I've a God, and so have they
By whom that care's asswaged.

And he that gives us in these days
New lords, may give us new laws;
So that our present puppet-plays,
Our whimsies, brauls, and gew-gaws,
May turned be to songs of praise,
And holy hallelujahs.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010



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