To My Noble Friend Master William Browne, Of The Euill Time

A poem by Michael Drayton

Deare friend, be silent and with patience see,
What this mad times Catastrophe will be;
The worlds first Wisemen certainly mistooke
Themselues, and spoke things quite beside the booke,
And that which they haue of said of God, vntrue,
Or else expect strange iudgement to insue.
This Isle is a meere Bedlam, and therein,
We all lye rauing, mad in euery sinne,
And him the wisest most men use to call,
Who doth (alone) the maddest thing of all;
He whom the master of all wisedome found,
For a marckt foole, and so did him propound,
The time we liue in, to that passe is brought,
That only he a Censor now is thought;
And that base villaine, (not an age yet gone,)
Which a good man would not haue look'd vpon;
Now like a God, with diuine worship follow'd,
And all his actions are accounted hollow'd.
This world of ours, thus runneth vpon wheeles,
Set on the head, bolt vpright with her heeles;
Which makes me thinke of what the Ethnicks told
Th' opinion, the Pythagorists vphold,
That the immortall soule doth transmigrate;[1]
Then I suppose by the strong power of fate,
And since that time now many a lingering yeare,
Through fools, and beasts, and lunatiques haue past,
Are heere imbodyed in this age at last,
And though so long we from that time be gone,
Yet taste we still of that confusion.
For certainely there's scarse one found that now,
Knowes what t' approoue, or what to disallow,
All arsey varsey, nothing is it's owne,
But to our prouerbe, all turnd vpside downe;
To doe in time, is to doe out of season,
And that speeds best, thats done the farth'st from reason,
Hee 's high'st that 's low'st, hee 's surest in that 's out,
He hits the next way that goes farth'st about,
He getteth vp vnlike to rise at all,
He slips to ground as much vnlike to fall;
Which doth inforce me partly to prefer,
The opinion of that mad Philosopher,[2]
Who taught, that those all-framing powers aboue,
(As 'tis suppos'd) made man not out of loue
To him at all, but only as a thing,
To make them sport with, which they vse to bring
As men doe munkeys, puppets, and such tooles
Of laughter: so men are but the Gods fooles.
Such are by titles lifted to the sky,
As wherefore no man knowes, God scarcely why;
The vertuous man depressed like a stone,
For that dull Sot to raise himselfe vpon;
He who ne're thing yet worthy man durst doe,
Neuer durst looke vpon his countrey's foe,
Nor durst attempt that action which might get
Him fame with men: or higher might him set
Then the base begger (rightly if compar'd;)
This Drone yet neuer braue attempt that dar'd,
Yet dares be knighted, and from thence dares grow
To any title Empire can bestow;
For this beleeue, that Impudence is now
A Cardinall vertue, and men it allow
Reuerence, nay more, men study and inuent
New wayes, nay, glory to be impudent.
Into the clouds the Deuill lately got,
And by the moisture doubting much the rot,
A medicine tooke to make him purge and cast;
Which in short time began to worke so fast,
That he fell too 't, and from his backeside flew,
A rout of rascall a rude ribauld crew
Of base Plebeians, which no sooner light,
Vpon the earth, but with a suddaine flight,
They spread this Ile, and as Deucalion once
Ouer his shoulder backe, by throwing stones
They became men, euen so these beasts became,
Owners of titles from an obscure name.
He that by riot, of a mighty rent,
Hath his late goodly Patrimony spent,
And into base and wilfull beggery run
This man as he some glorious acte had done,
With some great pension, or rich guift releeu'd,
When he that hath by industry atchieu'd
Some noble thing, contemned and disgrac'd,
In the forlorne hope of the times is plac'd,
As though that God had carelessely left all
That being hath on this terrestriall ball,
To fortunes guiding, nor would haue to doe
With man, nor aught that doth belong him to,
Or at the least God hauing giuen more
Power to the Deuill, then he did of yore,
Ouer this world: the feind as he doth hate
The vertuous man; maligning his estate,

All noble things, and would haue by his will,
To be damn'd with him, vsing all his skill,
By his blacke hellish ministers to vexe
All worthy men, and strangely to perplexe
Their constancie, there by them so to fright,
That they should yeeld them wholely to his might.
But of these things I vainely doe but tell,
Where hell is heauen, and heau'n is now turn'd hell;
Where that which lately blasphemy hath bin,
Now godlinesse, much lesse accounted sin;
And a long while I greatly meruail'd why
Buffoons and Bawdes should hourely multiply,
Till that of late I construed it that they
To present thrift had got the perfect way,
When I concluded by their odious crimes,
It was for vs no thriuing in these times.
As men oft laugh at little Babes, when they
Hap to behold some strange thing in their play,
To see them on the suddaine strucken sad,
As in their fancie some strange formes they had,
Which they by pointing with their fingers showe,
Angry at our capacities so slowe,
That by their countenance we no sooner learne
To see the wonder which they so discerne:
So the celestiall powers doe sit and smile
At innocent and vertuous men the while,
They stand amazed at the world ore-gone,
So farre beyond imagination,
With slauish basenesse, that the silent sit
Pointing like children in describing it.
Then noble friend the next way to controule
These worldly crosses, is to arme thy soule
With constant patience: and with thoughts as high
As these be lowe, and poore, winged to flye
To that exalted stand, whether yet they
Are got with paine, that sit out of the way
Of this ignoble age, which raiseth none
But such as thinke their black damnation
To be a trifle; such, so ill, that when
They are aduanc'd, those few poore honest men
That yet are liuing, into search doe runne
To finde what mischiefe they haue lately done,
Which so preferres them; say thou he doth rise,
That maketh vertue his chiefe exercise.
And in this base world come what euer shall,
Hees worth lamenting, that for her doth fall.

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