John Milton

An Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester

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John Milton (1608-1674)

An Epitaph on the
Marchioness of Winchester

This rich Marble doth inter
The honoured Wife of Winchester,
A Viscount’s daughter, an Earl’s heir,
Besides what her virtues fair
Added to her noble birth,
More than she could own from Earth.
Summers three times eight save one
She had told, alas too soon,
After so short time of breath,
To house with darkness, and with death.
Yet had the number of her days
Been as complete as was her praise,
Nature and fate had had no strife
In giving limit to her life.
Her high birth, and her graces sweet,
Quickly found a lover meet;
The Virgin choir for her request
The God that sits at marriage feast;
He at their invoking came
But with a scarce-well-lighted flame;
And in his Garland as he stood,
Ye might discern a Cypress bud.
Once had the early Matrons run
To greet her of a lovely son,
And now with second hope she goes,
And calls Lucina to her throws;
But whether by mischance or blame
Atropos for Lucina came;
And with remorseless cruelty,
Spoiled at once both fruit and tree:
The hapless Babe before his birth
Had burial, yet not laid in earth,
And the languisht Mother’s Womb
Was not long a living Tomb.
So have I seen some tender slip
Saved with care from Winter’s nip,
The pride of her carnation train,
Pluck’t up by some unheedy swain,
Who only thought to crop the flow’r
New shot up from vernal show’r;
But the fair blossom hangs the head
Sideways as on a dying bed,
And those Pearls of dew she wears,
Prove to be presaging tears
Which the sad morn had let fall
On her hast’ning funeral.
Gentle Lady may thy grave
Peace and quiet ever have;
After this thy travail sore
Sweet rest cease thee evermore,
That to give the world increase,
Short’ned hast thy own life’s lease;
Here besides the sorrowing
That thy noble House doth bring,
Here be tears of perfect moan
Wept for thee in Helicon,
And some Flowers, and some Bays,
For thy Hearse to strew the ways,
Sent thee from the banks of Came,
Devoted to thy virtuous name;
Whilst thou bright Saint high sit’st in glory,
Next her much like to thee in story,
That fair Syrian Shepherdess,
Who after yeers of barrenness,
The highly favored Joseph bore
To him that served for her before,
And at her next birth much like thee,
Through pangs fled to felicity,
Far within the bosom bright
Of blazing Majesty and Light,
There with thee, new welcome Saint,
Like fortunes may her soul acquaint,
With thee there clad in radiant sheen,
No Marchioness, but now a Queen.

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