Thomas Sackville


The Induction - Poem by Thomas Sackville

The wrathful winter, 'proaching on apace,
With blustering blasts had all ybar'd the treen,
And old Saturnus, with his frosty face,
With chilling cold had pierc'd the tender green;
The mantles rent, wherein enwrapped been
The gladsome groves that now lay overthrown,
The tapets torn, and every bloom down blown.

The soil, that erst so seemly was to seen,
Was all despoiled of her beauty's hue;
And soote fresh flowers, wherewith the summer's queen
Had clad the earth, now Boreas' blasts down blew;
And small fowls flocking, in their song did rue
The winter's wrath, wherewith each thing defac'd
In woeful wise bewail'd the summer past.

Hawthorn had lost his motley livery,
The naked twigs were shivering all for cold,
And dropping down the tears abundantly;
Each thing, methought, with weeping eye me told
The cruel season, bidding me withhold
Myself within; for I was gotten out
Into the fields, whereas I walk'd about.

When lo, the night with misty mantles spread,
Gan dark the day and dim the azure skies;
And Venus in her message Hermes sped
To bloody Mars, to will him not to rise,
Which she herself approach'd in speedy wise;
And Virgo, hiding her disdainful breast,
With Thetis now had laid her down to rest.

Whiles Scorpio, dreading Sagittarius' dart,
Whose bow prest bent in fight, the string had slipp'd,
Down slid into the ocean flood apart;
The Bear, that in the Irish seas had dipp'd
His grisly feet, with speed from thence he whipp'd;
For Thetis, hasting from the Virgin's bed,
Pursu'd the Bear, that ere she came was fled.

And Phaethon now, near reaching to his race
With glistering beams, gold streaming where they bent,
Was prest to enter in his resting place:
Erythius, that in the cart first went,
Had even now attain'd his journey's stent;
And, fast declining, hid away his head,
While Titan couch'd him in his purple bed.

And pale Cynthia, with her borrow'd light,
Beginning to supply her brother's place,
Was past the noonstead six degrees in sight,
When sparkling stars amid the heaven's face
With twinkling light shone on the earth apace,
That, while they brought about the night{:e}s chair,
The dark had dimm'd the day ere I was ware.

And sorrowing I to see the summer flowers,
The lively green, the lusty leas forlorn,
The sturdy trees so shatter'd with the showers,
The fields so fade that flourish'd so beforn,
It taught me well all earthly things be born
To die the death, for nought long time may last;
The summer's beauty yields to winter's blast.

Then looking upward to the heaven's leams,
With night{:e}'s stars thick powder'd everywhere,
Which erst so glisten'd with the golden streams
That cheerful Ph{oe}bus spread down from his sphere,
Beholding dark oppressing day so near;
The sudden sight reduced to my mind
The sundry changes that in earth we find.

That musing on this worldly wealth in thought,
Which comes and goes more faster than we see
The flickering flame that with the fire is wrought,
My busy mind presented unto me
Such fall of peers as in this realm had be;
That oft I wish'd some would their woes descrive,
To warn the rest whom fortune left alive.

And straight forth stalking with redoubl'd pace
For that I saw the night drew on so fast,
In black all clad there fell before my face
A piteous wight, whom woe had all forwaste;
Forth from her eyne the crystal tears outbrast,
And sighing sore, her hands she wrung and fold,
Tare all her hair that ruth was to behold.

Her body small, forwither'd and forspent,
As is the stalk that summer's drought oppress'd;
Her welked face with woeful tears besprent,
Her colour pale, and, as it seem'd her best,
In woe and plaint reposed was her rest;
And as the stone that drops of water wears,
So dented were her cheeks with fall of tears.

Her eyes swollen with flowing streams afloat;
Wherewith, her looks thrown up full piteously,
Her forceless hands together oft she smote,
With doleful shrieks that echo'd in the sky;
Whose plaint such sighs did straight accompany,
That, in my doom, was never man did see
A wight but half so woebegone as she.

I stood aghast, beholding all her plight,
'Tween dread and dolour so distrain'd in heart
That, while my hairs upstarted with the sight,
The tears outstream'd for sorrow of her smart;
But when I saw no end that could apart
The deadly dule which she so sore did make,
With doleful voice then thus to her I spake:

"Unwrap thy woes, whatever wight thou be,
And stint betime to spill thyself with plaint;
Tell what thou art, and whence, for well I see
Thou canst not dure, with sorrow thus attaint."
And with that word of sorrow, all forfaint
She looked up, and prostrate as she lay,
With piteous sound, lo, thus she 'gan to say:

"Alas, I wretch whom thus thou seest distrain'd
With wasting woes that never shall aslake,
Sorrow I am, in endless torments pain'd
Among the Furies in the infernal lake,
Where Pluto, god of hell, so grisly black
Doth hold his throne, and Lethe's deadly taste
Doth reave remembrance of each thing forepast.

"Whence come I am, the dreary destiny
And luckless lot for to bemoan of those
Whom Fortune in this maze of misery
Of wretched chance most woeful mirrors chose;
That when thou seest how lightly they did lose
Their pomp, their power, and that they thought most sure,
Thou mayst soon deem no earthly joy may dure."

Whose rueful voice no sooner had out bray'd
Those woeful words wherewith she sorrow'd so,
But out, alas, she shright and never stay'd,
Fell down, and all to-dash'd herself for woe.
The cold pale dread my limbs 'gan overgo,
And I so sorrow'd at her sorrows eft
That, what with grief and fear, my wits were reft.

I stretch'd myself and straight my heart revives,
That dread and dolour erst did so appale,
Like him that with the fervent fever strives,
When sickness seeks his castle health to scale;
With gather'd spirits so forc'd I fear to avale;
And rearing her with anguish all fordone,
My spirits return'd and then I thus begun:

"O Sorrow, alas, sith Sorrow is thy name,
And that to thee this drear doth well pertain,
In vain it were to seek to cease the same;
But as a man himself with sorrow slain,
So I, alas, do comfort thee in pain,
That here in sorrow art forsunk so deep
That at thy sight I can but sigh and weep."

I had no sooner spoken of a sike,
But that the storm so rumbl'd in her breast,
As Aeolus could never roar the like,
And showers down rain'd from her eyne so fast
That all bedrent the place, till at the last
Well eased they the dolour of her mind,
As rage of rain doth swage the stormy wind.

For forth she paced in her fearful tale:
"Come, come," quoth she, "and see what I shall show;
Come hear the plaining and the bitter bale
Of worthy men by Fortune overthrow;
Come thou and see them rueing all in row.
They were but shades that erst in mind thou roll'd;
Come, come with me, thine eyes shall them behold.'

What could these words but make me more aghast,
To hear her tell whereon I mus'd while ere?
So was I maz'd therewith, till at the last,
Musing upon her words and what they were,
All suddenly well lesson'd was my fear;
For to my mind returned how she tell'd
Both what she was and where her wone she held.

Whereby I knew that she a goddess was,
And therewithal resorted to my mind
My thought, that late presented me the glass
Of brittle state, of cares that here we find,
Of thousand woes to silly men assign'd;
And how she now bid me come and behold,
To see with eye that erst in thought I roll'd.

Flat down I fell, and with all reverence
Adored her, perceiving now that she,
A goddess sent by godly providence,
In earthly shape thus show'd herself to me,
To wail and rue this world's uncertainty;
And while I honour'd thus her godhead's might,
With plaining voice these words to me she shright:

"I shall thee guide first to the grisly lake
And thence unto the blissful place of rest,
Where thou shalt see and hear the plaint they make
That whilom here bare swing among the best.
This shalt thou see, but great is the unrest
That thou must bide before thou canst attain
Unto the dreadful place where these remain."

And with these words, as I upraised stood,
And 'gan to follow her that straight forth pac'd,
Ere I was ware, into a desert wood
We now were come, where, hand in hand embrac'd,
She led the way and through the thick so trac'd
As, but I had been guided by her might,
It was no way for any mortal wight.

But lo, while thus amid the desert dark
We passed on with steps and pace unmeet,
A rumbling roar, confus'd with howl and bark
Of dogs, shook all the ground under our feet,
And stroke the din within our ears so deep
As, half distraught, unto the ground I fell,
Besought return, and not to visit hell.

But she, forthwith uplifting me apace,
Remov'd my dread, and with a steadfast mind
Bade me come on, for here was now the place,
The place where we our travail end should find.
Wherewith I arose, and to the place assign'd
Astoin'd I stalk, when straight we 'proached near
The dreadful place, that you will dread to hear.

An hideous hole all vast, withouten shape,
Of endless depth, o'erwhelm'd with ragged stone,
With ugly mouth and grisly jaws doth gape,
And to our sight confounds itself in one.
Here enter'd we, and yeding forth, anon
An horrible loathly lake we might discern,
As black as pitch, that cleped is Averne:

A deadly gulf where nought but rubbish grows,
With foul black swelth in thicken'd lumps that lies,
Which up in the air such stinking vapours throws
That over there may fly no fowl but dies,
Chok'd with the pestilent savours that arise;
Hither we come, whence forth we still did pace,
In dreadful fear amid the dreadful place.

And first, within the porch and jaws of hell,
Sat deep Remorse of conscience, all besprent
With tears; and to herself oft would she tell
Her wretchedness, and cursing never stent
To sob and sigh; but ever thus lament
With thoughtful care as she that, all in vain,
Would wear and waste continually in pain.

Her eyes unsteadfast, rolling here and there,
Whirl'd on each place, as place that vengeance brought,
So was her mind continually in fear,
Toss'd and tormented with the tedious thought
Of those detested crimes which she had wrought;
With dreadful cheer and looks thrown to the sky,
Wishing for death, and yet she could not die.

Next saw we Dread, all trembling how he shook,
With foot uncertain proffer'd here and there,
Benumb'd of speech, and with a ghastly look
Search'd every place, all pale and dead for fear,
His cap borne up with staring of his hair,
'Stoin'd and amaz'd at his own shade for dread,
And fearing greater dangers than was need.

And next, within the entry of this lake,
Sat fell Revenge, gnashing her teeth for ire,
Devising means how she may vengeance take,
Never in rest till she have her desire;
But frets within so far forth with the fire
Of wreaking flames, that now determines she
To die by death, or veng'd by death to be.

When fell Revenge with bloody foul pretence
Had show'd herself as next in order set,
With trembling limbs we softly parted thence,
Till in our eyes another sight we met,
When from my heart a sigh forthwith I fet,
Rueing, alas, upon the woeful plight
Of Misery, that next appear'd in sight.

His face was lean and somedeal pin'd away,
And eke his hands consumed to the bone,
But what his body was I cannot say,
For on his carcass raiment had he none,
Save clouts and patches, pieced one by one;
With staff in hand and scrip on shoulders cast,
His chief defence against the winter's blast.

His food, for most, was wild fruits of the tree,
Unless sometime some crumbs fell to his share,
Which in his wallet long, God wot, kept he
As on the which full daintily would he fare;
His drink, the running stream; his cup, the bare
Of his palm clos'd; his bed, the hard cold ground;
To this poor life was Misery ybound.

Whose wretched state when we had well beheld,
With tender ruth on him and on his fears,
In thoughtful cares forth then our pace we held;
And by and by another shape appears,
Of greedy Care, still brushing up the breres,
His knuckles knobb'd, his flesh deep dented in,
With tawed hands and hard ytanned skin.

The morrow gray no sooner hath begun
To spread his light, even peeping in our eyes,
When he is up and to his work yrun;
But let the night's black misty mantles rise,
And with foul dark never so much disguise
The fair bright day, yet ceaseth he no while,
But hath his candles to prolong his toil.

By him lay heavy Sleep, the cousin of Death,
Flat on the ground and still as any stone,
A very corpse, save yielding forth a breath.
Small keep took he whom Fortune frowned on
Or whom she lifted up into the throne
Of high renown; but as a living death,
So, dead alive, of life he drew the breath.

The body's rest, the quiet of the heart,
The travail's ease, the still night's fere was he,
And of our life in earth the better part;
Reaver of sight, and yet in whom we see
Things oft that tide, and oft that never be;
Without respect esteeming equally
King Croesus' pomp and Irus' poverty.

And next in order sad Old Age we found,
His beard all hoar, his eyes hollow and blind,
With drooping cheer still poring on the ground,
As on the place where nature him assign'd
To rest, when that the sisters had untwin'd
His vital thread and ended with their knife
The fleeting course of fast declining life.

There heard we him with broken and hollow plaint
Rue with himself his end approaching fast,
And all for nought his wretched mind torment
With sweet remembrance of his pleasures past,
And fresh delights of lusty youth forewaste;
Recounting which, how would he sob and shriek,
And to be young again of Jove beseek!

But, and the cruel fates so fixed be
That time forepast cannot return again,
This one request of Jove yet prayed he,
That in such wither'd plight and wretched pain
As eld, accompanied with his loathsome train,
Had brought on him, all were it woe and grief,
He might a while yet linger forth his life;

And not so soon descend into the pit
Where Death, when he the mortal corpse hath slain,
With reckless hand in grave doth cover it,
Thereafter never to enjoy again
The gladsome light, but in the ground ylain,
In depth of darkness waste and wear to nought,
As he had never into the world been brought.

But who had seen him sobbing, how he stood
Unto himself and how he would bemoan
His youth forepast, as though it wrought him good
To talk of youth, all were his youth foregone,
He would have mus'd and marvell'd much, whereon
This wretched Age should life desire so fain,
And knows full well life doth but length his pain.

Crookback'd he was, tooth-shaken, and blear-ey'd,
Went on three feet, and sometime crept on four,
With old lame bones that rattled by his side,
His scalp all pill'd and he with eld forlore;
His wither'd fist still knocking at Death's door,
Fumbling and drivelling as he draws his breath;
For brief, the shape and messenger of Death.

And fast by him pale Malady was plac'd,
Sore sick in bed, her colour all foregone,
Bereft of stomach, savour, and of taste,
Ne could she brook no meat but broths alone;
Her breath corrupt, her keepers every one
Abhorring her, her sickness past recure,
Detesting physic and all physic's cure.

But oh, the doleful sight that then we see!
We turn'd our look and on the other side
A grisly shape of Famine mought we see,
With greedy looks and gaping mouth that cried
And roar'd for meat, as she should there have died;
Her body thin and bare as any bone,
Whereto was left nought but the case alone.

And that, alas, was gnawn on everywhere,
All full of holes, that I ne mought refrain
From tears to see how she her arms could tear,
And with her teeth gnash on the bones in vain,
When all for nought she fain would so sustain
Her starven corpse, that rather seem'd a shade
Than any substance of a creature made.

Great was her force, whom stone wall could not stay,
Her tearing nails snatching at all she saw;
With gaping jaws that by no means ymay
Be satisfied from hunger of her maw,
But eats herself as she that hath no law;
Gnawing, alas, her carcass all in vain,
Where you may count each sinew, bone, and vein.

On her while we thus firmly fix'd our eyes,
That bled for ruth of such a dreary sight,
Lo, suddenly she shright in so huge wise,
As made hell gates to shiver with the might;
Wherewith a dart we saw, how it did light
Right on her breast, and therewithal pale Death
Enthrilling it, to reave her of her breath.

And by and by a dumb dead corpse we saw,
Heavy and cold, the shape of Death aright,
That daunts all earthly creatures to his law;
Against whose force in vain it is to fight;
Ne peers, ne princes, nor no mortal wight,
No towns, ne realms, cities, ne strongest tower,
But all perforce must yield unto his power.

His dart, anon, out of the corpse he took,
And in his hand, a dreadful sight to see,
With great triumph eftsoons the same he shook,
That most of all my fears affrayed me;
His body dight with nought but bones, perdy,
The naked shape of man there saw I plain,
All save the flesh, the sinew, and the vein.

Lastly stood War, in glittering arms yclad,
With visage grim, stern looks, and blackly hu'd;
In his right hand a naked sword he had,
That to the hilts was all with blood imbru'd;
And in his left, that kings and kingdoms ru'd,
Famine and fire he held, and therewithal
He razed towns and threw down towers and all.

Cities he sack'd and realms, that whilom flower'd
In honour, glory, and rule above the best,
He overwhelm'd and all their fame devour'd,
Consum'd, destroy'd, wasted, and never ceas'd,
Till he their wealth, their name, and all oppress'd;
His face forhew'd with wounds, and by his side
There hung his targe, with gashes deep and wide.

In midst of which, depainted there, we found
Deadly Debate, all full of snaky hair,
That with a bloody fillet was ybound,
Out-breathing nought but discord everywhere.
And round about were portray'd, here and there,
The hugy hosts, Darius and his power,
His kings, princes, his peers, and all his flower:

Whom great Macedo vanquish'd there in sight
With deep slaughter, despoiling all his pride,
Pierc'd through his realms and daunted all his might.
Duke Hannibal beheld I there beside,
In Canna's field victor how he did ride,
And woeful Romans that in vain withstood,
And consul Paulus cover'd all in blood.

Yet saw I more: the fight at Thrasimene,
And Trebeie field, and eke when Hannibal
And worthy Scipio last in arms were seen
Before Carthago gate, to try for all
The world's empire, to whom it should befall;
There saw I Pompey and Caesar clad in arms,
Their hosts allied and all their civil harms;

With conquerors' hands, forbath'd in their own blood,
And Caesar weeping over Pompey's head.
Yet saw I Sulla and Marius where they stood,
Their great cruelty and the deep bloodshed
Of friends; Cyrus I saw and his host dead,
And how the queen with great despite hath flung
His head in blood of them she overcome.

Xerxes, the Persian king, yet saw I there
With his huge host that drank the rivers dry,
Dismounted hills, and made the vales uprear,
His host and all yet saw I plain, perdy!
Thebes I saw, all raz'd how it did lie
In heaps of stones, and Tyrus put to spoil,
With walls and towers flat even'd with the soil.

But Troy, alas, methought, above them all,
It made mine eyes in very tears consume,
When I beheld the woeful weird befall
That by the wrathful will of gods was come;
And Jove's unmoved sentence and foredoom
On Priam king and on his town so bent,
I could not lin, but I must there lament.

And that the more, sith destiny was so stern
As, force perforce, there might no force avail,
But she must fall; and by her fall we learn
That cities, towers, wealth, world, and all shall quail.
No manhood, might, nor nothing mought prevail;
All were there prest full many a prince and peer,
And many a knight that sold his death full dear.

Not worthy Hector, worthiest of them all,
Her hope, her joy; his force is now for nought.
O Troy, Troy, Troy, there is no boot but bale;
The hugy horse within thy walls is brought;
Thy turrets fall, thy knights, that whilom fought
In arms amid the field, are slain in bed,
Thy gods defil'd, and all thy honour dead.

The flames upspring and cruelly they creep
From wall to roof till all to cinders waste;
Some fire the houses where the wretches sleep,
Some rush in here, some run in there as fast;
In every where or sword or fire they taste;
The walls are torn, the towers whirl'd to the ground;
There is no mischief but may there be found.

Cassandra yet there saw I how they hal'd
From Pallas' house, with spercled tress undone,
Her wrists fast bound, and with Greeks' rout empal'd;
And Priam eke, in vain how he did run
To arms, whom Pyrrhus with despite hath done
To cruel death, and bath'd him in the baign
Of his son's blood, before the altar slain.

But how can I describe the doleful sight
That in the shield so lifelike fair did shine?
Sith in this world I think was never wight
Could have set forth the half, not half so fine.
I can no more but tell how there is seen
Fair Ilium fall in burning red gledes down,
And from the soil great Troy, Neptunus' town.

Herefrom when scarce I could mine eyes withdraw,
That fill'd with tears as doth the springing well,
We passed on so far forth till we saw
Rude Acheron, a loathsome lake to tell,
That boils and bubs up swelth as black as hell;
Where grisly Charon, at their fixed tide,
Still ferries ghosts unto the farther side.

The aged god no sooner Sorrow spied,
But hasting straight unto the bank apace,
With hollow call unto the rout he cried
To swerve apart and give the goddess place;
Straight it was done, when to the shore we pace,
Where, hand in hand as we then linked fast,
Within the boat we are together plac'd.

And forth we launch full fraughted to the brink,
When with the unwonted weight, the rusty keel
Began to crack as if the same should sink;
We hoise up mast and sail, that in a while
We fet the shore, where scarcely we had while
For to arrive, but that we heard anon
A three-sound bark confounded all in one.

We had not long forth pass'd but that we saw
Black Cerberus, the hideous hound of hell,
With bristles rear'd and with a three-mouth'd jaw
Fordinning the air with his horrible yell,
Out of the deep dark cave where he did dwell;
The goddess straight he knew, and by and by,
He peas'd and couch'd while that we passed by.

Thence come we to the horror and the hell,
The large great kingdoms and the dreadful reign
Of Pluto in his throne where he did dwell,
The wide waste places and the hugy plain,
The wailings, shrieks, and sundry sorts of pain,
The sighs, the sobs, the deep and deadly groan,
Earth, air, and all, resounding plaint and moan.

Here pul'd the babes, and here the maids unwed
With folded hands their sorry chance bewail'd,
Here wept the guiltless slain, and lovers dead,
That slew themselves when nothing else avail'd;
A thousand sorts of sorrows here, that wail'd
With sighs and tears, sobs, shrieks, and all yfere,
That oh, alas, it was a hell to hear.

We stay'd us straight, and with a rueful fear,
Beheld this heavy sight, while from mine eyes
The vapour'd tears down stilled here and there,
And Sorrow eke, in far more woeful wise,
Took on with plaint, upheaving to the skies
Her wretched hands, that with her cry the rout
Gan all in heaps to swarm us round about.

"Lo here," quoth Sorrow, "Princes of renown,
That whilom sat on top of fortune's wheel,
Now laid full low, like wretches whirled down,
Even with one frown, that stay'd but with a smile;
And now behold the thing that thou, erewhile,
Saw only in thought, and what thou now shalt hear,
Recount the same to kesar, king, and peer."

Then first came Henry, Duke of Buckingham,
His cloak of black all pill'd and quite forworn,
Wringing his hands, and fortune oft doth blame,
Which of a duke hath made him now her scorn;
With ghastly looks, as one in manner lorn,
Oft spread his arms, stretch'd hands he joins as fast
With rueful cheer, and vapour'd eyes upcast.

His cloak he rent, his manly breast he beat,
His hair all torn, about the place it lay;
My heart so molt to see his grief so great,
As feelingly methought it dropp'd away;
His eyes they whirl'd about withouten stay,
With stormy sighs the place did so complain,
As if his heart at each had burst in twain.

Thrice he began to tell his doleful tale,
And thrice with sighs did swallow up his voice,
At each of which he shrieked so withal,
As though the heavens rived with the noise;
Till at the last, recovering his voice,
Supping the tears that all his breast berain'd,
On cruel fortune, weeping thus he plain'd.


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Read poems about / on: sorrow, death, fear, summer, pain, dark, winter, fire, grief, hair, destiny, power, flower, howl, rain, joy, sleep, smart, respect, heaven



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



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