Poetry about Elizabeth Sidney, Francis Beaumont 2


Francis Beaumont
Francis Beaumont

An Elergy on the Death of the Virtuous Lady Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland, 1612

I may forget to drink, to eat, to sleep,

Remembering thee: but when I do, to weep

In well-weighed lines, that men shall at thy hearse

Envy the sorrow which brought forth my verse;

May my dull understanding have the might

Only to know her last was yesternight!

Rutland, the fair, is dead! and if to hear

The name of Sidney will more force a tear,

‘Tis she that is so dead! and yet there be

Some more alive profess not poetry;

The statesmen and the lawyers of our time

Have business still, yet do it not in rhyme.

Can she be dead, and can there be of those

That are so dull to say their prayers in prose?

It is three days since she did feel Death’s hand;

And yet this isle not feel the poet’s land?

Hath this no new ones made? and are the old

At such a needful time as this grown cold?

They all say they would fain; but yet they plead

They cannot write, because their muse is dead.

Hear me then speak, which will take no excuse;

Sorrow can make a verse without a muse.

Why didst thou die so soon? O, pardon me,

I know it was the longest life to thee,

That e’er with modesty was called a span,

Since the Almighty left to strive with man;

Mankind is sent to sorrow; and thou hast

More of the business which thou cam’st for past,

Than all those aged women, which, yet quick,

Have quite outlived their own arithmetic.

As soon as thou couldst apprehend a grief,

There were enough to meet thee; and the chief

Blessing of women, marriage, was to thee

Nought but a sacrament of misery;

For whom thou hadst, if we may trust to fame,

Could nothing change about thee but thy name:

A name which who (that were again to do’t)

Would change without a thousand joys to boot?

In all things else thou rather led’st a life

Like a betrothed virgin than a wife.

But yet I would have called thy fortune kind,

If it had only tried the settled mind

With present crosses: not the loathed thought

Of worse to come, or past, then might have wrough

Thy best remembrance to have cast an eye

Back with delight upon thine infancy.

But thou hadst, ere thou knew’st the use of tears,

Sorrow laid up against thou cam’st to years;

Ere thou wert able who thou wert to tell,

By a sad war thy noble father fell,

In a dull clime, which did not understand

What ’twas to venture him to save a land.

He left two children, who for virtue, wit,

Beauty, were loved of all; thee and his wit:

Two was too few; yet death hath from us took

Thee, a more faultless issue than his book,

Which now the only living thing we have

From him, we’ll see, shall never find a grave

As thou hast done. Alas! ‘would it might be

That books their sexes had, as well as we,

That we might see this married to the worth,

And many poems like itself bring forth!

But this vain wish divinity controuls;

For neither to the angels, nor to souls,

Nor anything he meant should ever live,

Did the wise God of nature sexes give.

Then with his everlasting work alone

We must content ourselves, since she is gone;

Gone, like the day thou diedst upon; and we

May call that back again as soon as thee.

Who should have looked to this? Where were you all,

That do yourselves the help of nature call,

Physicians? I acknowledce you were there

To sell such words as one in health would hear:

So died she. Curst be he who shall defend

Your art of hastening nature to its end!

In this you shewed that physic can but be

At best an art to cure your poverty.

Ye’re many of you impostors, and do give

To sick men potions that yourselves may live.

He that hath surfeited, and cannot eat,

Must have a medicine to procure you meat;

And that’s the deepest ground of all your skill,

Unless it be some knowledge how to kill.

Sorrow and madness make my verses flow

Cross to my understanding; for I know

You can do wonders: Every day I meet

The looser sort of people in the street

From desperate diseases freed; and why

Restore you them, and suffer her to die?

Why should the state allow you colleges,

Pensions for lectures, and anatomies,

If all your potions, vomits, letting blood,

Can only cure the bad, and not the good,

Which only they can do? and I will show

The hidden reason, why you did not know

The way to cure her: You believed her blood

Ran on such courses as you understood;

By lectures you believed her arteries

Grew as they do in your anatomies:

Forgetting that the state allows you none

But only whores and thieves to practise on

And every passage ’bout them I am sure

You understood, and only them can cure;

Which is the cause that both –

Are noted for enjoying so long lives.

But noble blood treads in too strange a path

For your ill-got experience, and hath

Another way of cure. If you had seen

Penelope dissected, or the Queen

Of Sheba; then you might have found a way

To have preserved her from that fatal day.

As ’tis, you have but made her sooner blest,

By sending her to Heaven, where let her rest.

I will not hurt the peace which she would have,

By longer looking in her quiet grave.

This page was added on 01/12/2007.

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