The Exequy

Original Text: 
Henry King, Poems, Elegies, Paradoxes and Sonnets (London: J. G. for Richard Marriot, 1657). Facs.edn. Menston: Scolar Press, 1973. PR 3539 K65 1664a
2Instead of dirges, this complaint;
3And for sweet flow'rs to crown thy hearse,
4Receive a strew of weeping verse,
6Quite melted into tears for thee.
7Dear loss! since thy untimely fate
8My task hath been to meditate
9On thee, on thee; thou art the book,
10The library whereon I look,
11Though almost blind. For thee (lov'd clay)
12I languish out, not live, the day,
13Using no other exercise
14But what I practise with mine eyes;
15By which wet glasses I find out
16How lazily time creeps about
17To one that mourns; this, only this,
18My exercise and bus'ness is.
19So I compute the weary hours
20With sighs dissolved into showers.
21    Nor wonder if my time go thus
22Backward and most preposterous;
24This eve of blackness did beget,
25Who wast my day (though overcast
26Before thou hadst thy noon-tide past)
27And I remember must in tears,
28Thou scarce hadst seen so many years
29As day tells hours. By thy clear sun
30My love and fortune first did run;
32Folded within my hemisphere,
33Since both thy light and motïon
34Like a fled star is fall'n and gone;
35And 'twixt me and my soul's dear wish
36An earth now interposed is,
37Which such a strange eclipse doth make
38As ne'er was read in almanac.
39    I could allow thee for a time
40To darken me and my sad clime;
41Were it a month, a year, or ten,
42I would thy exile live till then,
43And all that space my mirth adjourn,
44So thou wouldst promise to return,
45And putting off thy ashy shroud,
46At length disperse this sorrow's cloud.
47    But woe is me! the longest date
48Too narrow is to calculate
49These empty hopes; never shall I
50Be so much blest as to descry
51A glimpse of thee, till that day come
52Which shall the earth to cinders doom,
53And a fierce fever must calcine
55(My little world!). That fit of fire
56Once off, our bodies shall aspire
57To our souls' bliss; then we shall rise
58And view ourselves with clearer eyes
59In that calm region where no night
60Can hide us from each other's sight.
61    Meantime, thou hast her, earth; much good
62May my harm do thee. Since it stood
63With heaven's will I might not call
64Her longer mine, I give thee all
65My short-liv'd right and interest
66In her whom living I lov'd best;
67With a most free and bounteous grief,
68I give thee what I could not keep.
69Be kind to her, and prithee look
70Thou write into thy doomsday book
71Each parcel of this rarity
72Which in thy casket shrin'd doth lie.
73See that thou make thy reck'ning straight,
74And yield her back again by weight;
75For thou must audit on thy trust
76Each grain and atom of this dust,
77As thou wilt answer Him that lent,
78Not gave thee, my dear monument.
80Black curtains draw, my bride is laid.
81    Sleep on my love in thy cold bed
82Never to be disquieted!
83My last good-night! Thou wilt not wake
84Till I thy fate shall overtake;
85Till age, or grief, or sickness must
86Marry my body to that dust
87It so much loves, and fill the room
88My heart keeps empty in thy tomb.
89Stay for me there, I will not fail
90To meet thee in that hollow vale.
92I am already on the way,
93And follow thee with all the speed
94Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
95Each minute is a short degree,
96And ev'ry hour a step towards thee.
97At night when I betake to rest,
98Next morn I rise nearer my west
99Of life, almost by eight hours' sail,
100Than when sleep breath'd his drowsy gale.
101    Thus from the sun my bottom steers,
103Nor labour I to stem the tide
104Through which to thee I swiftly glide.
105'Tis true, with shame and grief I yield,
106Thou like the van first took'st the field,
107And gotten hath the victory
108In thus adventuring to die
109Before me, whose more years might crave
110A just precedence in the grave.
111But hark! my pulse like a soft drum
112Beats my approach, tells thee I come;
113And slow howe'er my marches be,
114I shall at last sit down by thee.
115    The thought of this bids me go on,
116And wait my dissolutïon
117With hope and comfort. Dear (forgive
118The crime) I am content to live
119Divided, with but half a heart,
120Till we shall meet and never part.

Notes

1] Written in the memory of his first wife Anne, and having in some manuscripts the subtitle: "To his matchless never to be forgotten friend."
exequy: funeral ceremony. Back to Line
5] strew: a number of things scattered about. Back to Line
23] preposterous: placing the last first, inverted in order or position. Back to Line
31] love: in some MSS "life." Back to Line
54] calcine: figuratively, to purify or refine by consuming the grosser part. Back to Line
79] monument: something to be kept in mind. Back to Line
91] hollow: mss read "hallow." Back to Line
102] bottom: boat. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1657
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.313; RPO 1996-2000.
Form: