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Short poem

Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1582?-1648)

Elegy over a Tomb

              1Must I then see, alas, eternal night
              2    Sitting upon those fairest eyes,
              3And closing all those beams, which once did rise
              4    So radiant and bright
              5That light and heat in them to us did prove
              6    Knowledge and love?

              7Oh, if you did delight no more to stay
              8    Upon this low and earthly stage,
              9But rather chose an endless heritage,
            10    Tell us at least, we pray,
            11Where all the beauties that those ashes ow'd
            12    Are now bestow'd.

            13Doth the sun now his light with yours renew?
            14    Have waves the curling of your hair?
            15Did you restore unto the sky and air
            16    The red, and white, and blue?
            17Have you vouchsaf'd to flowers since your death
            18    That sweetest breath?

            19Had not heav'n's lights else in their houses slept,
            20    Or to some private life retir'd?
            21Must not the sky and air have else conspir'd,
            22    And in their regions wept?
            23Must not each flower else the earth could breed,
            24    Have been a weed?

            25But thus enrich'd may we not yield some cause
            26    Why they themselves lament no more?
            27That must have chang'd the course they held before,
            28    And broke their proper laws,
            29Had not your beauties giv'n this second birth
            30    To heaven and earth.

            31Tell us (for oracles must still ascend
            32    For those that crave them at your tomb),
            33Tell us where are those beauties now become,
            34    And what they now intend;
            35Tell us, alas, that cannot tell our grief,
            36    Or hope relief.

Online text copyright © 2005, 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: Edward Herbert, lord Herbert of Cherbury. Occasional Verses. London: T. Dring, 1665. Facs. edn. Menston: Scolar Press, 1969. PR 2294 H2 O2 1969
First publication date: 1665
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP.1.296; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/28

Composition date: 1617
Rhyme: abbacc

Other poems by Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury