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Short poem

William Byrd (1543-1623)

Care for Thy Soul as Thing of Greatest Price

              1Care for thy soul as thing of greatest price,
              2    Made to the end to taste of power divine,
              3Devoid of guilt, abhorring sin and vice,
              4    Apt by God's grace to virtue to incline.
              5Care for it so as by thy retchless train
              6It be not brought to taste eternal pain.

              7  Care for thy corse, but chiefly for soul's sake;
              8    Cut off excess, sustaining food is best;
              9To vanquish pride but comely clothing take;
            10    Seek after skill, deep ignorance detest.
            11Care so, I say, the flesh to feed and clothe
            12That thou harm not thy soul and body both.

            13  Care for the world to do thy body right;
            14    Rack not thy wit to win thy wicked ways;
            15Seek not to oppress the weak by wrongful might;
            16    To pay thy due do banish all delays.
            17Care to dispend according to thy store,
            18And in like sort be mindful of the poor.

            19  Care for thy soul, as for thy chiefest stay;
            20    Care for thy body for thy soul's avail;
            21Care for the world for body's help alway;
            22    Care yet but so as virtue may prevail.
            23Care in such sort that thou be sure of this:
            24Care keep thee not from heaven and heavenly bliss.

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: William Byrd, Psalmes, sonets, & and songs of sadnes and pietie, made into musicke of fiue parts (London: T. East, 1588). STC 4253.
First publication date: 1588
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP.1.236; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/1/16

Rhyme: ababcc

Other poems by William Byrd