Aemilia Lanyer

(1569-1645 / England)

To The Lady Katherine - Poem by Aemilia Lanyer

Although great Lady. it may seeme right strange
That I a stranger should presume thus farre,
To write to you: yet as the times doe change,
So are we subiect to that Fatall starre,
Vnder the which we were produc'd to breath;
That starre that guides vs euen vntill our death.

And guided me to frame this worke of grace
Nor of it selfe, but by celestiall powres,
To which, both that and wee must needs giue place,
Since what we haue we cannot count it ours: (10)
For health, wealth, honour, sickenesse, death & all,
Is in Gods powre, which makes vs rise and fall.

And since his powre hath giuen me powre to write,
A subiect fit for you to looke vpon,
Wherein your soule may take no small delight,
When her bright eyes beholds that holy one:
By whose great wisedome, loue, and speciall grace,
Shee was created to behold his face.

Vouchsafe sweet Lady, to accept these lines,
Writ by a hand that doth desire to doe
All seruices to you whose worth combines
The worthi'st minds to loue and honour you:
Whose beautie, wisedome, children, high estate,
Doe all concur to make you fortunate.

But chiefly your most honorble Lord,
Whose noble virtues Fame can ne'r forget:
His hand being alwayes ready to afford
Help to the weak, to the unfortunate:
All which begets more honour and respect,
Than Croessus wealth, or Caesars sterne aspect.

And rightly showeth that hee is descended
Of honourable Howards antient house,
Whose noble deedes by former times commended,
Do now remaine in your most loyall Spouse,
On whom God powres all blessings from aboue,
Wealth, honour, children and a worthy Love;

Which is more deare to him than all the rest,
You being the liuing Hinde and pleasant Roe,
Wife of his youth, in whom his soule is blest,
Fountaine from whence his chiefe delights do flow.
Faire tree from which the fruit of Honor springs,
Heere I present to you the King of kings:

Desiring you to take a perfit view,
Of those great torments Patience did indure;
And reape those Comforts that belongs to you,
Which his most painfull death did then assure:
Writing the Couenant with his pretious blood,
That your faire soule might bathe her in that flood.

And let your noble daughters likewise reade
This little Books that I present to you;
On heavenly food let them vouchsafe to feede;
Heere they may see a Lover much more true
Than euer was since first the world began,
This poore rich King that di'd both God and man.

Yea, let those Ladies which do represent
All beauty, wisedome, zeale, and loue,
Receiue this jewell from Iehoua sent,
This spotlesse Lambe, this perfit patient Doue:
Of whom faire Gabriel, Gods bright Mercury,
Brought downe a message from the Deitie.

Here may they see him in a flood of teares,
Crowned with thornes, and bathing in his blood;
Here may they see his feares exceed all feares,
When Heauen in Iustice flat against him stood:
And loathsome death with grim and gastly look
Presented him that blacke infernall booke,

Wherein the sinnes of all the world were writ,
In deepe Characters of due punishment;
And naught but dying breath could cancel it:
Shame, death, and hell must make the attonement:
Shewing their euidence, seizing wrongful Right,
Placing heau'ns Beauty in deaths darkest night.

Yet through the sable Clowdes of Shame & Death,
His beauty showes more clearer than before;
Death lost his strength when he did loose his breath:
As fire supprest doth shine and flame the more,
So in Deaths ashie pale discoloured face,
Fresh beauty shin'd, yeelding farre greater grace.

No Doue, no Swan, nor Iu'rie could compare
With this faire corps, when 'twas by death imbrac'd
No rose, nor no vermillion halfe so faire
As was that pretious blood that interlac'd
His body, which bright Angels did attend,
Waiting on him that must to Heauen ascend.

In whom is all that Ladies can desire;
If Beauty, who hath bin more faire than he?
If Wisedome, doth not all the world admire
The depth of his, that cannot searched be?
If wealth, if honour, fame, or Kingdoms store,
Who euer liu'd that was possest of more?

If zeale, if grace, if loue, if pietie,
If constancie, if faith, if faire obedience,
If valour, patience, or sobrietie;
If chast behauiour, meekenesse, continence,
If iustice, mercie, bountie, charitie,
Who can compare with his Diuinitie?

Whose vertues more than thoughts can apprehend,
I leaue to their more cleere imagination,
That will vouchsafe their borrowed time to spend
In meditating, and in contemplation
Of his rare parts, true honours faire prospect,
The perfect line that goodnesse doth direct.

And vnto you I wish those sweet desires,
That from your perfect thoughts doe daily spring,
Increasing still pure, bright, and holy fires,
Which sparkes of pretious grace, by faith doe spring:
Mounting your soule vnto eternall rest,
There to liue happily among the best.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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