George Wither

11 June 1588 – 2 May 1667 / Bentworth, Hampshire

Rhomboidal Dirge

Ah me!
Am I the swain
That late from sorrow free
Did all the cares on earth disdain?
And still untouched, as at some safer games,
Played with the burning coals of love, and beauty's flames?
Was't I could dive, and sound each passion's secret depth at will?
And from those huge o'erwhelmings rise, by help of reason still?
And am I now, O heavens! for trying this in vain,
So sunk that I shall never rise again?
Then let despair set sorrow's string,
For strains that doleful be;
And I will sing,
Ah me!

But why,
O fatal time,
Dost thou constrain that I
Should perish in my youth's sweet prime?
I, but awhile ago, (you cruel powers!)
In spite of fortune, cropped contentment's sweetest flowers,
And yet unscornèd, serve a gentle nymph, the fairest she,
That ever was beloved of man, or eyes did ever see!
Yea, one whose tender heart would rue for my distress;
Yet I, poor I! must perish ne'ertheless.
And (which much more augments my care)
Unmoanèd I must die,
And no man e'er
Know why.

Thy leave,
My dying song,
Yet take, ere grief bereave
The breath which I enjoy too long,
Tell thou that fair one this: my soul prefers
Her love above my life; and that I died her's:
And let him be, for evermore, to her remembrance dear,
Who loved the very thought of her whilst he remained here.
And now farewell! thou place of my unhappy birth,
Where once I breathed the sweetest air on earth;
Since me my wonted joys forsake,
And all my trust deceive;
Of all I take
My leave.

Sweet groves, to you!
You hills, that highest dwell;
And all you humble vales, adieu!
You wanton brooks, and solitary rocks,
My dear companions all! and you, my tender flocks!
Farewell my pipe, and all those pleasing songs, whose moving strains
Delighted once the fairest nymphs that dance upon the plains!
You discontents, whose deep and over-deadly smart
Have, without pity, broke the truest heart.
Sighs, tears, and every sad annoy,
That erst did with me dwell,
And all other joys,

Fair shepherdesses!
Let garlands of sad yew
Adorn your dainty golden tresses.
I, that loved you, and often with my quill,
Made music that delighted fountain, grove, and hill;
I, whom you loved so, and with a sweet and chaste embrace.
Yea, with a thousand rather favours, would vouchsafe to grace,
I now must leave you all alone, of love to plain;
And never pipe, nor never sing again!
I must, for evermore, be gone;
And therefore bid I you,
And every one,

I die!
For, oh! I feel
Death's horrors drawing nigh,
And all this frame of nature reel.
My hopeless heart, despairing of relief,
Sinks underneath the heavy weight of saddest grief;
Which hath so ruthless torn, so racked, so tortured every vein,
All comfort comes too late to have it ever cured again.
My swimming head begins to dance death's giddy round;
A shuddering chillness doth each sense confound;
Benumbed is my cold sweating brow
A dimness shuts my eye.
And now, oh! now,
I die!
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