An Elegie Vpon The Death Of The Lady Penelope Clifton

A poem by Michael Drayton

Must I needes write, who's hee that can refuse,
He wants a minde, for her that hath no Muse,
The thought of her doth heau'nly rage inspire,
Next powerfull, to those clouen tongues of fire.
Since I knew ought time neuer did allowe
Me stuffe fit for an Elegie, till now;
When France and England's HENRIES dy'd, my quill,
Why, I know not, but it that time lay still.
'Tis more then greatnesse that my spirit must raise,
To obserue custome I vse not to praise;
Nor the least thought of mine yet ere depended,
On any one from whom she was descended;
That for their fauour I this way should wooe,
As some poor wretched things (perhaps) may doe;
I gaine the end, whereat I onely ayme,
If by my freedome, I may giue her fame.
Walking then forth being newly vp from bed,
O Sir (quoth one) the Lady CLIFTON'S dead.
When, but that reason my sterne rage withstood,
My hand had sure beene guilty of his blood.
If shee be so, must thy rude tongue confesse it
(Quoth I) and com'st so coldly to expresse it.
Thou shouldst haue giuen a shreeke, to make me feare thee;
That might haue slaine what euer had beene neere thee.
Thou shouldst haue com'n like Time with thy scalpe bare,
And in thy hands thou shouldst haue brought thy haire,
Casting vpon me such a dreadfull looke,
As seene a spirit, or th'adst beene thunder-strooke,
And gazing on me so a little space,
Thou shouldst haue shot thine eye balls in my face,
Then falling at my feet, thou shouldst haue said,
O she is gone, and Nature with her dead.
With this ill newes amaz'd by chance I past,
By that neere Groue, whereas both first and last,
I saw her, not three moneths before shee di'd.
When (though full Summer gan to vaile her pride,
And that I sawe men leade home ripened Corne,
Besides aduis'd me well,) I durst haue sworne
The lingring yeare, the Autumne had adiourn'd,
And the fresh Spring had beene againe return'd,
Her delicacie, louelinesse, and grace,
With such a Summer brauery deckt the place:
But now alas, it lookt forlorne and dead;
And where she stood, the fading leaues were shed,
Presenting onely sorrowe to my sight,
O God (thought I) this is her Embleme right.
And sure I thinke it cannot but be thought,
That I to her by prouidence was brought.
For that the Fates fore-dooming, shee should die,
Shewed me this wondrous Master peece, that I
Should sing her Funerall, that the world should know it,
That heauen did thinke her worthy of a Poet;
My hand is fatall, nor doth fortune doubt,
For what it writes, not fire shall ere race out.
A thousand silken Puppets should haue died,
And in their fulsome Coffins putrified,
Ere in my lines, you of their names should heare
To tell the world that such there euer were,
Whose memory shall from the earth decay,
Before those Rags be worne they gaue away:
Had I her god-like features neuer seene,
Poore slight Report had tolde me she had beene
A hansome Lady, comely, very well,
And so might I haue died an Infidell,
As many doe which neuer did her see,
Or cannot credit, what she was, by mee.
Nature, her selfe, that before Art prefers
To goe beyond all our Cosmographers,
By Charts and Maps exactly that haue showne,
All of this earth that euer can be knowne,
For that she would beyond them all descrie
What Art could not by any mortall eye;
A Map of heauen in her rare features drue,
And that she did so liuely and so true,
That any soule but seeing it might sweare
That all was perfect heauenly that was there.
If euer any Painter were so blest,
To drawe that face, which so much heau'n exprest,
If in his best of skill he did her right,
I wish it neuer may come in my sight,
I greatly doubt my faith (weake man) lest I
Should to that face commit Idolatry.
Death might haue tyth'd her sex, but for this one,
Nay, haue ta'n halfe to haue let her alone;
Such as their wrinkled temples to supply,
Cyment them vp with sluttish Mercury,
Such as vndrest were able to affright,
A valiant man approching him by night;
Death might haue taken such, her end deferd,
Vntill the time she had beene climaterd;
When she would haue bin at threescore yeares and three,
Such as our best at three and twenty be,
With enuie then, he might haue ouerthrowne her,
When age nor time had power to ceaze vpon her.
But when the vnpittying Fates her end decreed,
They to the same did instantly proceed,
For well they knew (if she had languish'd so)
As those which hence by naturall causes goe,
So many prayers, and teares for her had spoken,
As certainly their Iron lawes had broken,
And had wak'd heau'n, who clearely would haue show'd
That change of Kingdomes to her death it ow'd;
And that the world still of her end might thinke,
It would haue let some Neighbouring mountaine sinke.
Or the vast Sea it in on vs to cast,
As Seuerne did about some fiue yeares past:
Or some sterne Comet his curld top to reare,
Whose length should measure halfe our Hemisphere.
Holding this height, to say some will not sticke,
That now I raue, and am growne lunatique:
You of what sexe so ere you be, you lye,
'Tis thou thy selfe is lunatique, not I.
I charge you in her name that now is gone,
That may coniure you, if you be not stone,
That you no harsh, nor shallow rimes decline,
Vpon that day wherein you shall read mine.
Such as indeed are falsely termed verse,
And will but sit like mothes vpon her herse;
Nor that no child, nor chambermaide, nor page,
Disturbe the Rome, the whilst my sacred rage,
In reading is; but whilst you heare it read,
Suppose, before you, that you see her dead,
The walls about you hung with mournfull blacke,
And nothing of her funerall to lacke,
And when this period giues you leaue to pause,
Cast vp your eyes, and sigh for my applause.

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