George Wither

11 June 1588 – 2 May 1667 / Bentworth, Hampshire

Song I

Lordly gallants! tell me this
(Though my safe content you weigh not),
In your greatness, what one bliss
Have you gained, that I enjoy not?
You have honours, you have wealth;
I have peace, and I have health:
All the day I merry make,
And at night no care I take.

Bound to none my fortunes be,
This or that man's fall I fear not;
Him I love that loveth me,
For the rest a pin I care not.
You are sad when others chaff,
And grow merry as they laugh;
I that hate it, and am free,
Laugh and weep as pleaseth me.

You may boast of favours shown,
Where your service is applied:
But my pleasures are mine own,
And to no man's humour tied.
You oft flatter, sooth, and feign;
I such baseness do disdain;
And to none be slave I would,
Though my fetters might be gold.

By great titles, some believe,
Highest honours are attained;
And yet kings have power to give
To their fools, what these have gained.
Where they favour there they may
All their names of honour lay;
But I look not raised to be,
'Till mine own wing carry me.

Seek to raise your titles higher;
They are toys not worth my sorrow;
Those that we to-day admire,
Prove the age's scorn to-morrow.
Take your honours; let me find
Virtue in a free born mind--
This, the greatest kings that be
Cannot give, nor take from me.

Though I vainly do not vaunt
Large demesnes, to feed my pleasure;
I have favours where you want,
That would buy respect with treasure.
You have lands lie here and there,
But my wealth is everywhere;
And this addeth to my store--
Fortune cannot make me poor.

Say you purchase with your pelf
Some respect, where you importune;
Those may love me for myself,
That regard you for your fortune.
Rich or born of high degree,
Fools as well as you may be;
But that peace in which I live
No descent nor wealth can give.

If you boast that you may gain
The respect of high-born beauties;
Know I never wooed in vain,
Nor preferrèd scornèd duties.
She I love hath all delight,
Rosy-red with lily-white,
And whoe'er your mistress be,
Flesh and blood as good as she.

Note of me was never took,
For my woman-like perfections;
But so like a man I look,
It hath gained me best affections.
For my love as many showers
Have been wept as have for yours:
And yet none doth me condemn
For abuse, or scorning them.

Though of dainties you have store,
To delight a choicer palate,
Yet your taste is pleased no more
Than is mine in one poor sallet.
You to please your senses feed
But I eat good blood to breed;
And am most delighted then
When I spend it like a man.

Though you lord it over me,
You in vain thereof have braved;
For those lusts my servants be
Whereunto your minds are slaved.
To yourselves you wise appear,
But, alas! deceived you are;
You do foolish me esteem,
And are that which I do seem.

When your faults I open lay,
You are moved, and mad with vexing;
But you ne'er could do or say
Aught to drive me to perplexing.
Therefore, my despisèd power
Greater is, by far, than your.
And, whate'er you think of me,
In your minds you poorer be.

You are pleasèd, more or less,
As men well or ill report you;
And show discontentedness,
When the times forbear to court you.
That in which my pleasures be,
No man can divide from me;
And my care it adds not to,
Whatso others say or do.

Be not proud, because you view
You by thousands are attended;
For, alas! it is not you,
But your fortune that's befriended.
Where I show of love have got,
Such a danger fear I not:
Since they nought can seek of me,
But for love, beloved to be.

When your hearts have everything,
You are pleasantly disposed:
But I can both laugh and sing,
Though my foes have me enclosed.
Yea, when dangers me do hem,
I delight in scorning them,
More than you in your renown,
Or a king can in his crown.

You do bravely domineer,
Whilst the sun upon you shineth:
Yet, if any storm appear,
Basely, then, your mind declineth.
But, or shine, or rain, or blow,
I my resolutions know--
Living, dying, thrall, or free,
At one height my mind shall be.

When in thraldom I have lain,
Me not worth your thought you prized;
But your malice was in vain,
For your favours I despised.
And, howe'er you value me,
I with praise shall thought on be
When the world esteems you not
And your names shall be forgot.

In these thoughts my riches are;
Now, though poor or mean you deem me,
I am pleased, and do not care
How the times or you esteem me.
For those toys that make you gay
Are but play-games for a day:
And when nature craves her due,
I as brave shall be as you.
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