Isabella Whitney (ca. 1540-after 1580)
An Order Prescribed, by Is. W., to two of her Younger Sisters Serving in London
1Good sisters mine, when I
2 shall further from you dwell,
3Peruse these lines, observe the rules
4 which in the same I tell.
5So shall you wealth possess,
6 and quietness of mind:
7And all your friends to see the same,
8 a treble joy shall find.
9In mornings when you rise,
10 forget not to commend
11Your selves to God, beseeching him
12 from dangers to defend
13Your souls and bodies both,
14 your parents and your friends,
15Your teachers and your governers.
16 So pray you that your ends
17May be in such a sort
18 as God may pleasèd be:
19To live to die, to die to live,
20 with him eternally.
21Then justly do such deeds
22 as are to you assigned:
23All wanton toys, good sisters now,
24 exile out of your mind.
25I hope you give no cause
26 whereby I should suspect,
27But this I know, too many live
28 that would you soon infect.
29If God do not prevent,
30 or with his grace expell,
31I cannot speak, or write too much,
32 because I love you well.
33Your business soon dispatch
34 and listen to no lies,
35Nor credit every fained tale,
36 that many will devise.
37For words they are but wind,
38 yet words may hurt you so,
39As you shall never brook the same,
40 if that you have a foe.
41God shield you from all such
42 as would by word or bill
43Procure your shame, or never cease
44 till they have wrought you ill.
45See that you secrets seal,
46 tread trifles under ground:
47If to rehearsal oft you come,
48 it will your quiet wound.
49Of laughter be not much,
50 nor over solemn seem,
51For then be sure they'll compt you light
52 or proud will you exteem.
54 be gentle unto all:
55Though cause they give of contrary
56 yet be to wrath no thrall.
57Refer you all to him,
58 that sits above the skies:
59Vengeance is his, he will revenge,
60 you need it not devise.
61And sith that virtue guides,
62 where both of you do dwell:
63Give thanks to God, and painful be
64 to please your rulers well.
66 experience hath me taught:
67The rolling stone doth get no moss
68 your selves have heard full oft.
69Your business being done,
70 and this my scroll perused,
71The day will end, and that the night
72 by you be not abused.
73I something needs must write:
74 take pains to read the same.
75Henceforth my life as well as pen
76 shall your examples frame.
77Your Masters gone to bed,
78 your Mistresses at rest,
79Their daughters all with haste about
80 to get themselves undrest.
81See that their plate be safe,
82 and that no spoon do lack,
83See doors and windows bolted fast
84 for fear of any wrack.
85Then help if need there be,
86 to do some household thing:
87If not, to bed, referring you
88 unto the heavenly King.
89Forgetting not to pray
90 as I before you taught,
91And giving thanks for all that he
92 hath ever for you wrought.
93Good Sisters, when you pray,
94 let me remembered be:
95So will I you, and thus I cease,
96 till I your selves do see.
(quoth) IS. W.
1] Whitney's two unmarried sisters are employed as young servants.
2] further: farther off, more distant.
35] fained: invented, pretended.
42] bill: letter.
47] rehearsal: repeating (tales), gossip, perhaps confession.
51] compt: account. light: frivolous.
52] exteem: esteem.
53] in a mean: in a moderate way, steering clear of excesses.
55] cause they give of contrary: they incite an angry response (in you).
65] fleeting: change, wavering, gadding about.
84] wrack: damage.
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.
Publication date note: Isabella Whitney, A Sweet Nosgay, or Pleasant Posye: Contayning a Hundred and Ten Phylosophicall Flowers (London: Richard Jones, 1593): c3v-d1v.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2003
Recent editing: 1:2003/9/1
Rhyme: abcbdefe ...
Other poems by Isabella Whitney