George Wither

11 June 1588 – 2 May 1667 / Bentworth, Hampshire

Sonnet: Philarete

Now that my body, dead aliue,
Bereau'd of comfort, lies in thrall,
Doe thou, my soul, begin to thriue,
And unto honie turne this gall;
So shall we both, through outward wo,
The way to inward comfort know.

For as that foode my flesh I giue
Doth keepe in me this mortall breath
So souls on meditations hue,
And shunne thereby immortall death:
Nor art thou euer neerer rest
Than when thou find'st me most opprest.

First thinke, my soule, if I haue foes
That take a pleasure in my care,
And to procure these outward woes,
Haue thus enwrapt me vnaware,
Thou should'st by much more carefull bee,
Since greater foes lay waite for thee.

Then when mew'd vp in grates of Steele,
Minding those ioyes mine eyes do misse,
Thou find'st no torment thou dost feele
So grieuous as privation is
Muse how the damn'd in flames that glow
Pine in the loss of bliss they know.

Thou seest there's giuen so great might
To some that are but clay as I,
Their very anger can affright
Which if in any thou espie,
Thus thinke : if mortal's frownes strike feare,
How dreadfull will God's wrath appeare !

By my late hopes, than none are crost,
Consider those that firmer bee ;
And make the freedome I have lost
A meanes that may remember thee;
Had Christ not thy redeemer bin,
What horrid thrall thou hadst been in !

These iron chaines, the bolts of Steele,
Which other poore offenders griend,
The wants and cares which they do feele
May bring some greater thing to mind;
For by their griefe thou shalt doe well
To thinke upon the paines of hell.

Or when through me thou seest a man
Condemned vnto a mortall death,
How sad he lookes, how pale, how Wan,
Drawing with fear his panting breath;
Thinke if in that such griefe thou see,
How sad will, Go, yee cursed ! bee.

Againe, when he that fear'd to dye,
Past hope, doth see his pardon brought,
Reade but the joy that's in his eye,
And then conuey it to thy thought;
There thinke betwixt my heart and thee
How sweet will, Come, yee blessed! bee.

Thus if thou doe, though closed here,
My bondage I shall deem the lesse;
I neither shall have cause to feare,
Nor yet bevvaile my sad distresse:
For whether Hue, or pine, or dye,
We shall haue blisse eternally.

Trust me ! I see the cage doth some birds good ;
And if they do not suffer too much wrong,
Will teach them sweeter descants than the wood.
Beleeu't ! I like the subiect of thy song,
It showes thou art in no distempered mood;
But cause to heare the residue I long,
My sheep to-morrow I will nearer bring,
And spend the day to heare thee talk and sing.

Yet ere we part, Roget to, areed
Of whom thou learn'dst to make such songs as these ;
I neuer yet heard any shepheard's reede
Tune in mishap a straine that more could please.
Surely thou dost inuoke at this thy need
Some power that we neglect in other layes:
For here's a name and words that but few swaines
Haue mentioned at their meeting on the plaines.

Indeed 'tis true ; and they are sore to blame
That doe so much neglect it in their songs;
For thence proceedeth such a worthy fame
As is not subject vnto enue's wrongs ;
That is the most to be respected name
Of our true Pan, whose worth sits on all tongues,
And what the ancient shepheards vse to prayse
In sacred anthems sung on holy dayes.

Hee that first taught his musike such a straine,
Was that sweet shepheard who, vntill a king,
Kept sheepe upon the hony, milky plaine,
That is inricht by Jordan's watering:
He in his troubles eased the bodie's paines
By measures raised to the souJe's rauishing;
And his sweet numbers onely, most diuine,
Gaue first the being to this song of mine.

Let his good spirit euer with thee dwell,
That I might hear such musicke every day.

Thankes ! but would now it pleased thee to play.
Yet sure 'tis late, thy weather rings his bell,
And swaines to fold or homeward drive away.

And yon goes Cuddy, therefore fare thou well!
Fie make his sheepe for me a little stay ;
And if thou thinke it fit I'll bring him too
Next morning hither. * * *

* * * Prithee, Willy ! do.
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