The Miseries of Man

Original Text: 
Anne Killigrew, Poems (1686). Facs. edn., ed. R. E. Morton (Gainesville, Florida: Scholars, 1967): 32. PR 3539 K3 1686A Robarts Library
1In that so temperate Soil Arcadia nam'd,
2For fertile Pasturage by Poets fam'd;
3Stands a steep Hill, whose lofty jetting Crown,
4Casts o'er the neighbouring Plains, a seeming Frown;
5Close at its mossie Foot an aged Wood,
6Compos'd of various Trees, there long has stood,
7Whose thick united Tops scorn the Sun's Ray,
8And hardly will admit the Eye of Day.
9By oblique windings through this gloomy Shade,
10Has a clear purling Stream its Passage made,
11The Nimph, as discontented seem'd t'ave chose
12This sad Recess to murmur forth her Woes.
13    To this Retreat, urg'd by tormenting Care,
14The melancholly Cloris did repair,
15As a fit Place to take the sad Relief
16Of Sighs and Tears, to ease oppressing Grief.
17Near to the Mourning Nimph she chose a Seat,
18And these Complaints did to the Shades repeat.
19    Ah wretched, trully wretched Humane Race!
20Your Woes from what Beginning shall I trace,
21Where End, from your first feeble New-born Cryes,
22To the last Tears that wet your dying Eyes?
23Man, Common Foe, assail'd on ev'ry hand,
24Finds that no Ill does Neuter by him stand,
25Inexorable Death, Lean Poverty,
26Pale Sickness, ever sad Captivity.
27Can I, alas, the sev'ral Parties name,
28Which, muster'd up, the Dreadful Army frame?
29And sometimes in One Body all Unite,
30Sometimes again do separately fight:
31While sure Success on either Way does waite,
32Either a Swift, or else a Ling'ring Fate.
33    But why 'gainst thee, O Death! should I inveigh,
34That to our Quiet art the only way?
35And yet I would (could I thy Dart command)
36Crie, Here O strike! and there O hold thy Hand!
37The Lov'd, the Happy, and the Youthful spare,
38And end the Sad, the Sick, the Poor Mans Care.
39But whether thou or Blind, or Cruel art,
40Whether 'tis Chance, or Malice, guides thy Dart,
41Thou from the Parents Arms dost pull away
42The hopeful Child, their Ages only stay:
43The Two, whom Friendship in dear Bands hs ty'd,
44Thou dost with a remorseless hand devide;
45Friendship, the Cement, that does faster twine
46Two Souls, than that which Soul and Body joyn:
47Thousands have been, who their own Blood did spill,
48But never any yet his Friend did kill.
49Then 'gainst thy Dart what Armour can be found,
50Who, where thou do'st not strike, do'st deepest wound?
51Thy Pitty, than thy Wrath's more bitter far,
52Most cruel, where 'twould seem the most to spare:
53Yet thou of many Evils art but One,
54Though thou by much too many art alone.
55    What shall I say of Poverty, whence flows?
56To miserable Man so many Woes?
57Rediculous Evil which too oft we prove,
58Does Laughter cause, where it should Pitty move;
59Solitary Ill, into which no Eye,
60Though ne're so Curious, ever cares to pry,
61And were there, 'mong such plenty, onely One
62Poor Man, he certainly would live alone.
63    Yet Poverty does leave the Man entire,
64But Sickness nearer Mischiefs does conspire;
65Invades the Body with a loath'd Embrace,
66Prides both its Strength, and Beauty to deface;
67Nor does it Malice in these bounds restrain,
68But shakes the Throne of Sacred Wit, the Brain,
69And with a ne're enough detested Force
70Reason disturbs, and turns out of its Course.
71Again, when Nature some Rare Piece has made,
72On which her Utmost Skill she seems t'ave laid,
73Polish't, adorn'd the Work with moving Grace,
74And in the Beauteous Frame a Soul doth place,
75So perfectly compos'd, it makes Divine
76Each Motion, Word, and Look from thence does shine;
77This Goodly Composition, the Delight
78Of ev'ry Heart, and Joy of ev'ry sight,
79Its peevish Malice has the Power to spoyle,
80And with a Sully'd Hand its Lusture soyle.
81The Grief were Endless, that should all bewaile,
82Against whose sweet Repose thou dost prevail:
83Some freeze with Agues, some with Feavers burn,
84Whose Lives thou half out of their Holds dost turn;
85And of whose Sufferings it may be said,
86They living feel the very State o' th' Dead.
87Thou in a thousand sev'ral Forms are drest,
88And in them all dost Wretched Man infest.
89    And yet as if these Evils were too few,
90Men their own Kind with hostile Arms pursue;
91Not Heavens fierce Wrath, nor yet the Hate of Hell,
92Not any Plague that e're the World befel,
93Not Inundations, Famines, Fires blind rage,
94Did ever Mortals equally engage,
95As Man does Man, more skilful to annoy,
96Both Mischievous and Witty to destroy.
97The bloody Wolf, the Wolf doe not pursue;
98The Boar, though fierce, his Tusk will not embrue
99In his own Kind, Bares, not on Bares do prey:
100Then art thou, Man, more savage far than they.
101    And now, methinks, I present do behold
102The Bloudy Fields that are in Fame enroll'd,
103I see, I see thousands in Battle slain,
104The Dead and Dying cover all the Plain,
105Confused Noises hear, each way sent out,
106The Vanquishts Cries joyn'd with the Victors shout;
107Their Sighs and Groans whho draw a painful Breath,
108And feel the Pangs of slow approaching Death:
109Yet happier these, far happier are the Dead,
110Than who into Captivity are led:
111What by their Chains, and by the Victors Pride,
112We pity these, and envy those that dy'd.
113And who can say, when Thousands are betray'd,
114To Widdowhood, Orphants or Childless made.
115Whither the Day does draw more Tears or Blood
116A greater Chrystal, or a Crimson Floud.
117The faithful Wife, who late her Lord did Arm,
118And hop'd to shield, by holy Vows, from Harm,
119Follow'd his parting-steps with Love and Care,
120Sent after weeping Eyes, while he afar
121Rod heated on, born by a brave Disdain,
122May now go seek him, lying 'mong the Slain:
123Low on the Earth she'l find his lofty Crest,
124And those refulgent Arms which late his Breast
125Did guard, by rough Encounters broke and tore,
126His Face and Hair, with Brains all clotted ore.
127And Warlike Weeds besmeer'd with Dust and Gore.
128    And will the Suffering World never bestow
129Upon th'Accursed Causers of such Woe,
130A vengeance that may parallel their Loss,
131Fix Publick Thieves and Robbers on the Cross?
132Such as call Ruine, Conquest, in their Pride,
133And having plagu'd Mankind, in Triumph ride.
134Like that renounced Murder who staines
135In these our days Alsatias fertile Plains,
136Only to fill the future Tomp of Fame,
137Though greater Crimes, than Glory it proclame.
138Alcides, Scourge of Thieves, return to Earth,
139Which uncontrolled gives such Monsters birth;
140On Scepter'd-Cacus let thy Power be shown,
141Pull him not from his Den, but from his Throne.
142    Clouds of black Thoughts her further Speech here broke,
143Her swelling Grief too great was to be spoke,
144Which strugl'd long in her tormented Mind,
145Till it some Vent by Sighs and Tears did find.
146And when her Sorrow something was subdu'd,
147She thus again her sad Complaint renewed.
148    Most Wretched Man, were th'Ills I nam'd before
149All which I could in thy sad State deplore,
150Did Things without alone 'gainst thee prevail,
151My Tongue I'de chide, that them I did bewaile:
152But, Shame to Reason, thou are seen to be
153Unto thy self the fatall'st Enemy,
154Within thy Breast the Greatest Plagues to bear,
155First them to breed, and then to cherish there;
156Unmanag'd Passions which the Reins have broke
157Of Reason, and refuse to bear its Yoke.
158But hurry thee, uncurb'd, from place to place,
159A wild, unruly, and an Uncouth Chace.
160Now cursed Gold does lead the Man astray,
161False flatt'ring Honours do anon betray,
162Then Beauty does as dang'rously delude,
163Beauty, that vanishes, while 'tis pursu'd,
164That, while we do behold it, fades away,
165And even a Long Encomium will not stay.
166    Each one of these can the Whole Man employ,
167Nor knows he anger, sorrow, fear, or joy,
168But what to these relate; no Thought does start
169Aside, but tends to its appointed Part,
170No Respite to himself from Cares he gives,
171But on the Rack of Expectation lives.
172If crost, the Torment cannot be exprest,
173Which boyles within his agitated Breast.
174Musick is harsh, all Mirth is an offence,
175The Choicest Meats cannot delight his Sense,
176Hard as the Earth he feels his Downy Bed,
177His Pillow stufft with Thornes, that bears his Head,
178He rolls from side to side, in vain seeks Rest;
179For if sleep come at last to the Distrest,
180His Troubles then cease not to vex him too,
181But Dreams present, what does waking do.
182On th'other side, if he obtains the Prey,
183And Fate to his impetuous Sute gives way,
184Be he or Rich, or Amorous, or Great,
185He'll find this Riddle still of a Defeat,
186That only Care, for Bliss, he home has brought,
187Or else Contempt of what he so much sought.
188So that on each Event if we reflect,
189The Joys and Sufferings of both sides collect,
190We cannot say where lies the greatest Pain,
191In the fond Pursuit, Loss, or Empty Gain.
192    And can it be, Lord of the Sea and Earth,
193Off-spring of Heaven, that to thy State and Birth
194Things so incompatible should be joyn'd,
195Passions should thee confound, to Heaven assign'd?
196Passions that do the Soul unguarded lay,
197And to the strokes of Fortune ope' a way.
198Were't not that these thy Force did from thee take,
199How bold, how brave Resistance would'st thou make?
200Defie the Strength and Malice of thy Foes,
201Unmoved stand the Worlds United Blows?
202For what is't, Man, unto thy Better Part,
203That thou or Sick, or Poor, or Captive art?
204Since no Material Stroke the Soul can feel,
205The smart of Fire, or yet the Edge of Steel.
206As little can it Worldly Joys partake,
207Though it the Body does its Agent make,
208And joyntly with it Servile Labour bear,
209For Things, alas, in which it cannot share.
210Surveigh the Land and Sea by Heavens embrac't,
211Thou'lt find no sweet th'Immortal Soul can tast:
212Why dost thou then, O Man! thy self torment
213Good here to gain, or Evils to prevent?
214Who only Miserable or Happy art,
215As thou neglects, or wisely act'st thy Part.
216    For shame then rouse thy self as from a Sleep,
217The long neglected Reins let Reason keep,
218The Charret mount, and use both Lash and Bit,
219Nobly resolve, and thou wilt firmly sit:
220Fierce Anger, boggling Fear, Pride prauncing still,
221Bound-hating Hope, Desire which nought can fill,
222Are stubborn all, but thou may'st give them Law;
223Th'are hard-Mouth'd Horses, but they well can draw.
224Lash on, and the well govern'd Charret drive,
225Till thou a Victor at the Goal arrrive,
226Where the free Soul does all her burden leave,
227And Joys commensurate to her self receive.
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1996-2000.