Excerpt from “The Induction” by Thomas Sackville

By him lay heavy Sleep, the cousin of Death.
Flat on the ground, and still as any stone,
A very corpse, save yielding forth a breath:
Small keep took he, whom Fortune frowned on,
Or whom she lifted up into the throne
Of high renown ; but, as a living death,
So, dead alive, of life he drew the breath.

The body’s rest, the quiet of the heart,
The travail’s ease, the still night’s fear was he,
And of our life in earth the better part;
Reaver of sight, and yet in whom we see
Things oft that tide, and oft that never be;
Without respect, esteeming equally
King Croesus’ pomp, and Irus’ poverty.

And next, in order sad, Old Age we found:
His beard all hoar, his eyes hollow and blind,
With drooping cheer still poring on the ground,
As on the place where Nature him assign’d
To rest, when that the sisters had untwin’d
His vital thread, and ended with their knife
The fleeting course of fast declining life.

There heard we him with broke and hollow plaint
Rue with himself his end approaching fast,
And all for nought his wretched mind torment
With sweet remembrance of his pleasures past,
And fresh delights of lusty youth forewaste;
Recounting which, how would he sob and shriek,
And to be young again of Jove beseek?

But, and the cruel fates so fixed be,
That time forepast cannot return again,
This one request of Jove yet prayed he:
That, in such withered plight, and wretched pain,
As eld, accompanied with his loathsome train,
Had brought on him, all were it woe and grief,
He might a while yet linger forth his life,

And not so soon descend into the pit,
Where Death, when he the mortal corpse hath slain,
With reckless hand in grave doth cover it;
Thereafter never to enjoy again
The gladsome light, but in the ground ylain,
In depth of darkness waste and wear to nought,
As he had never into the world been brought.

But who had seen him sobbing, how he stood
Unto himself, and how he would bemoan
His youth forepast, as though it wrought him good
To talk of youth, all were his youth foregone,
He would have mus’d, and marvell’d much, whereon
This wretched Age should life desire so fain,
And knows full well life doth but length his pain.

Crookback’d he was, tooth- shaken, and blear-eyed,
Went on three feet, and sometime crept on four,
With old lame bones that rattled by his side,
His scalp all pill’d, and he with eld forlore:
His withered fist still knocking at Death’s door,
Fumbling, and drivelling, as he draws his breath;
For brief, the shape and messenger of Death.

From: pp.110-113.

Date: 1563

By: Thomas Sackville (1536-1608)

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