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Short poem

Henry King (1592-1669)

The Exequy

              1Accept, thou shrine of my dead saint,
              2Instead of dirges, this complaint;
              3And for sweet flow'rs to crown thy hearse,
              4Receive a strew of weeping verse,
              5From thy griev'd friend, whom thou might'st see
              6Quite melted into tears for thee.
              7Dear loss! since thy untimely fate
              8My task hath been to meditate
              9On thee, on thee; thou art the book,
            10The library whereon I look,
            11Though almost blind. For thee (lov'd clay)
            12I languish out, not live, the day,
            13Using no other exercise
            14But what I practise with mine eyes;
            15By which wet glasses I find out
            16How lazily time creeps about
            17To one that mourns; this, only this,
            18My exercise and bus'ness is.
            19So I compute the weary hours
            20With sighs dissolved into showers.

            21    Nor wonder if my time go thus
            22Backward and most preposterous;
            23Thou hast benighted me; thy set
            24This eve of blackness did beget,
            25Who wast my day (though overcast
            26Before thou hadst thy noon-tide past)
            27And I remember must in tears,
            28Thou scarce hadst seen so many years
            29As day tells hours. By thy clear sun
            30My love and fortune first did run;
            31But thou wilt never more appear
            32Folded within my hemisphere,
            33Since both thy light and motïon
            34Like a fled star is fall'n and gone;
            35And 'twixt me and my soul's dear wish
            36An earth now interposed is,
            37Which such a strange eclipse doth make
            38As ne'er was read in almanac.

            39    I could allow thee for a time
            40To darken me and my sad clime;
            41Were it a month, a year, or ten,
            42I would thy exile live till then,
            43And all that space my mirth adjourn,
            44So thou wouldst promise to return,
            45And putting off thy ashy shroud,
            46At length disperse this sorrow's cloud.

            47    But woe is me! the longest date
            48Too narrow is to calculate
            49These empty hopes; never shall I
            50Be so much blest as to descry
            51A glimpse of thee, till that day come
            52Which shall the earth to cinders doom,
            53And a fierce fever must calcine
            54The body of this world like thine,
            55(My little world!). That fit of fire
            56Once off, our bodies shall aspire
            57To our souls' bliss; then we shall rise
            58And view ourselves with clearer eyes
            59In that calm region where no night
            60Can hide us from each other's sight.

            61    Meantime, thou hast her, earth; much good
            62May my harm do thee. Since it stood
            63With heaven's will I might not call
            64Her longer mine, I give thee all
            65My short-liv'd right and interest
            66In her whom living I lov'd best;
            67With a most free and bounteous grief,
            68I give thee what I could not keep.
            69Be kind to her, and prithee look
            70Thou write into thy doomsday book
            71Each parcel of this rarity
            72Which in thy casket shrin'd doth lie.
            73See that thou make thy reck'ning straight,
            74And yield her back again by weight;
            75For thou must audit on thy trust
            76Each grain and atom of this dust,
            77As thou wilt answer Him that lent,
            78Not gave thee, my dear monument.

            79    So close the ground, and 'bout her shade
            80Black curtains draw, my bride is laid.

            81    Sleep on my love in thy cold bed
            82Never to be disquieted!
            83My last good-night! Thou wilt not wake
            84Till I thy fate shall overtake;
            85Till age, or grief, or sickness must
            86Marry my body to that dust
            87It so much loves, and fill the room
            88My heart keeps empty in thy tomb.
            89Stay for me there, I will not fail
            90To meet thee in that hollow vale.
            91And think not much of my delay;
            92I am already on the way,
            93And follow thee with all the speed
            94Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
            95Each minute is a short degree,
            96And ev'ry hour a step towards thee.
            97At night when I betake to rest,
            98Next morn I rise nearer my west
            99Of life, almost by eight hours' sail,
          100Than when sleep breath'd his drowsy gale.

          101    Thus from the sun my bottom steers,
          102And my day's compass downward bears;
          103Nor labour I to stem the tide
          104Through which to thee I swiftly glide.
          105'Tis true, with shame and grief I yield,
          106Thou like the van first took'st the field,
          107And gotten hath the victory
          108In thus adventuring to die
          109Before me, whose more years might crave
          110A just precedence in the grave.
          111But hark! my pulse like a soft drum
          112Beats my approach, tells thee I come;
          113And slow howe'er my marches be,
          114I shall at last sit down by thee.

          115    The thought of this bids me go on,
          116And wait my dissolutïon
          117With hope and comfort. Dear (forgive
          118The crime) I am content to live
          119Divided, with but half a heart,
          120Till we shall meet and never part.


1] Written in the memory of his first wife Anne, and having in some manuscripts the subtitle: "To his matchless never to be forgotten friend."
exequy: funeral ceremony.

5] strew: a number of things scattered about.

23] preposterous: placing the last first, inverted in order or position.

31] love: in some MSS "life."

54] calcine: figuratively, to purify or refine by consuming the grosser part.

79] monument: something to be kept in mind.

91] hollow: mss read "hallow."

102] bottom: boat.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Henry King, Poems, Elegies, Paradoxes and Sonnets (London: J. G. for Richard Marriot, 1657). Facs.edn. Menston: Scolar Press, 1973. PR 3539 K65 1664a
First publication date: 1657
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP.1.313; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/6

Composition date: 1624
Form: couplets

Other poems by Henry King