08 May 2009

'When This Life Is From the Body Fled'

Although I already possessed copies of many of its poems, the lure of the Penguin Classic, the melancholy painting by John Souch, 'Sir Thomas Aston at the Deathbed of his First Wife' (1635), which forms the cover illustration, and, finally, the promise of an introduction by editor Helen Gardner, succeeded in inducing me last July to purchase Penguin's The Metaphysical Poets (London: Penguin, 1985) for $4.50 at Aladdin Books. A casual browse one evening brought to my attention the following poem (p. 35.), which hearkens back to my old post on the 'Memento Mori' theme. The poet is Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke (1554-1628).

Sonnet 87 (from Sonnets from Caelica)

When as Mans life, the light of human lust,
In socket of his earthly lanthorne burnes,
That all this glory unto ashes must,
And generation to corruption turnes;
Then fond desires that onely feare their end,
Doe vainely wish for life, but to amend.
But when this life is from the body fled,
To see it selfe in that eternall Glasse,
Where time doth end, and thoughts accuse the dead,
Where all to come, is one with all that was;
Then living men aske how he left his breath,
That while he lived never thought of death.


Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

What a sad and haunting painting. The black-draped crib is especially moving.

Aaron Taylor said...

I know. Like I said, I found it quite compelling as cover art for a poetry anthology.