Verses Written of Twenty Good Precepts, at the Request of Master Robert Cudden, of Gray’s Inn by George Whetstone

Old friendship binds (though fain I would refuse!),
In this discourse, to please your honest mind!
For trust me, friend! the counselling words I use,
Are rather forced of cause, than come of kind!

Your Themes are short! and yet in substance large,
As of the least, some would a volume write!
The first, Serve GOD! a service of such charge
As should not be forslowèd day or night!

For what we do, is present in his eye;
Well-doing, then, He must with grace regard!
And, using course, if He ill-doing spy,
He cannot but the lewd with wrath reward!

Obey thy Prince! or Tyburn cool thy pride!
The head commands the feet to go, or stay;
So we, our Prince, even as our head and guide,
In what she wills, of duty must obey!

Like well thy friend! but try him ere thou love!
For friends, we may, to Æsop’s tongues compare!
The faithful friend, no fortune can remove!
The fair-mouth foe, in need doth feed thy care!

Shun many words! A sentence short and sweet!
For lavish speech is cause of much unrest.
It makes men oft their friends in sorrow meet;
And best applied, fair words seld ‘bide the test!

Avoid anger! or look to live in woe!
The harebrained jade is far more spurred and beat
Than cooler horse, which meaner metal shows.
The like reward the hasty man doth get!

Appease debate! An honest work in truth!
Much physic oft increaseth sickly qualms.
Recounting wrongs so many makes so wroth
As lives, legs, arms, are often dealt for alms!

Be merciful! Have Dives’ scourge in mind!
None lives so just but some way doth offend!
Then, cruel man! what favour shouldst thou find,
When thou thy ears, to pity will not bend?

Slander no man! Mirth is a leech to moan!
Health, physic helps, Fortune restoreth wealth;
But honest fame, by slander spoiled and gone,
Health, Wealth, nor Mirth can satisfy the stealth!

Report the truth! Once there, one trial stands.
Note well, the fall of good Susanna’s foes!
Upon thy life oft lieth life and lands!
A weighty charge, lest thou the truth disclose.

Take heed of drink! Therein much mischief lies!
It doth disclose the secrets of the breast!
What worse account than for none to be wise;
When none is past to be esteemed a beast!

Disdain no man! Misjudgement often blinds!
All is not fire like flame, that seems to blaze!
Once homely weeds oft hide more gallant minds
Than gaudy coats, which set each eye to gaze.

Thy secrets keep! or make thyself a slave!
The babbling fool is made a jesting stock!
When closely men account, and credit have;
Then best that thou thy tongue with silence lock!

Try, ere thou trust thy faith, lest falsehood ‘quite!
The crocodile, with tears doth win her prey!
The Flatterer so, doth seem a Saint in sight;
To cut thy throat, in absence, if he may!

Cherish the poor! A work in Nature due.
Brute beasts relieve the feeble of their kind.
Then, Man! for shame, with succour, see thou rue
Of Man distressed, the sick, the lame, or blind!

Aid honest minds! and praise shall be thy meed!
The subtle wretch, for pence, with fraud will fish!
The honest man had rather starve in need,
Than, by deceit, to feed dishonest wish!

Shun wanton Dames! as Sirens they entice!
Both body and purse, they witch, wound, and waste!
And, in the end (for all this saucy price!),
Their sweet delights, of sour repentance taste!

Succour Soldiers! They watch to keep thy wealth!
In wars they serve, that thou in peace mayst feed!
Then if, through lack, the soldier live by stealth,
I wish a Churl fair hanged in his stead!

Strangers favour! Thy fortune is unknown!
In Youth, or Age, none lives but needs a friend!
And, using grace, if thou be overthrown,
Thou yet mayst hope, thy grief with grace to end!

Provide for age! or look to die with grief!
Some, forced through shame, their aged friends do aid.
But Oh! sour looks so salve this sweet relief,
As, day and night, with sighs they are dismayed!

Think on thy end! The tide for none doth wait!
Even so, pale Death, for no man’s will doth stay!
Then, while thou mayst, thy worldly reck’ning straight!
Lest, when thou wouldst, Death doth good will dismay!

From: Arber, Edward (ed.), The Spenser Anthology. 1548-1591 A.D., 1899, Henry Frowde: London, pp. 138-141.

Date: 1580

By: George Whetstone (?1544-1587)

One Comment to “Verses Written of Twenty Good Precepts, at the Request of Master Robert Cudden, of Gray’s Inn by George Whetstone”

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