Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke



Antonius, 1592           


Alas, with what tormenting fire
Us martyreth this blind desire
    To stay our life from flying ;
How ceaselessly our minds doth rack,
How heavy lies upon our back
    This dastard fear of dying !
Death rather healthful succor gives,
Death rather all mishaps relieves
    That life upon us throweth ;
And ever to us doth unclose
The door whereby from cureless woes
    Our weary soul out goeth.
What goddess else more mild than she
To bury all our pain can be?
    What remedy more pleasing?
Our painëd hearts, when dolor stings
And nothing rest or respite brings,
    What help have we more easing?
Hope, which to us doth comfort give
And doth our fainting hearts revive,
    Hath not such force in anguish ;
For, promising a vaine relief,
She oft us fails in midst of grief
    And helpless lets us languish.
But death, who call on her at need,
Doth never with vain semblant feed,
    But, when them sorrow paineth,
So rids their souls of all distress
Whose heavy weight did them oppress,
    That not one grief remaineth.

.        .        .        .              

How abject him, how base !  think I,
Who, wanting courage, cannot die
    When need him thereto calleth ;
From whom the dagger drawn to kill
The cureless griefs that vex him still,
    For fear and faintness falleth.
O Antony, with thy dear mate,
Both in misfortunes fortunate,
    Whose thoughts, to death aspiring,
Shall you protect from victor's rage,
Who on each side doth you encage,
    To triumph much desiring.
That Cæsar may you not offend
Nought else but death can you defend,
    Which his weak force derideth ;
And all in this round earth contained,
Powerless on them whom, once enchained,
    Avernus' prison hideth
Where great Psammetic's ghost doth rest,
Not with infernal pain possessed
    But in sweet fields detainëd ;
And old Amasis' soul likewise
And all our famous Ptolemies
    That whilom on us reignëd.


Poetry of the English Renaissance 1509-1660.
J. William Hebel and Hoyt H. Hudson, Eds.
New York: F. S. Crofts & Co., 1941. 143-144.

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