An Order Prescribed, by Is. W., to two of her Younger Sisters Serving in London

3Peruse these lines, observe the rules
4        which in the same I tell.
5So shall you wealth possess,
6        and quietness of mind:
7And all your friends to see the same,
8        a treble joy shall find.
9In mornings when you rise,
10        forget not to commend
11Your selves to God, beseeching him
12        from dangers to defend
13Your souls and bodies both,
14        your parents and your friends,
15Your teachers and your governers.
16        So pray you that your ends
17May be in such a sort
18        as God may pleasèd be:
19To live to die, to die to live,
20        with him eternally.
21Then justly do such deeds
22        as are to you assigned:
23All wanton toys, good sisters now,
24        exile out of your mind.
25I hope you give no cause
26        whereby I should suspect,
27But this I know, too many live
28        that would you soon infect.
29If God do not prevent,
30        or with his grace expell,
31I cannot speak, or write too much,
32        because I love you well.
33Your business soon dispatch
34        and listen to no lies,
36        that many will devise.
37For words they are but wind,
38        yet words may hurt you so,
39As you shall never brook the same,
40        if that you have a foe.
41God shield you from all such
43Procure your shame, or never cease
44        till they have wrought you ill.
45See that you secrets seal,
46        tread trifles under ground:
48        it will your quiet wound.
49Of laughter be not much,
50        nor over solemn seem,
54        be gentle unto all:
56        yet be to wrath no thrall.
57Refer you all to him,
58        that sits above the skies:
59Vengeance is his, he will revenge,
60        you need it not devise.
61And sith that virtue guides,
62        where both of you do dwell:
63Give thanks to God, and painful be
64        to please your rulers well.
66        experience hath me taught:
67The rolling stone doth get no moss
68        your selves have heard full oft.
69Your business being done,
70        and this my scroll perused,
71The day will end, and that the night
72        by you be not abused.
73I something needs must write:
74        take pains to read the same.
75Henceforth my life as well as pen
76        shall your examples frame.
77Your Masters gone to bed,
78        your Mistresses at rest,
79Their daughters all with haste about
80        to get themselves undrest.
81See that their plate be safe,
82        and that no spoon do lack,
83See doors and windows bolted fast
85Then help if need there be,
86        to do some household thing:
87If not, to bed, referring you
88        unto the heavenly King.
89Forgetting not to pray
90        as I before you taught,
91And giving thanks for all that he
92        hath ever for you wrought.
93Good Sisters, when you pray,
94        let me remembered be:
95So will I you, and thus I cease,
96        till I your selves do see.
(quoth) IS. W.


1] Whitney's two unmarried sisters are employed as young servants. Back to Line
2] further: farther off, more distant. Back to Line
35] fained: invented, pretended. Back to Line
42] bill: letter. Back to Line
47] rehearsal: repeating (tales), gossip, perhaps confession. Back to Line
51] compt: account. light: frivolous. Back to Line
52] exteem: esteem. Back to Line
53] in a mean: in a moderate way, steering clear of excesses. Back to Line
55] cause they give of contrary: they incite an angry response (in you). Back to Line
65] fleeting: change, wavering, gadding about. Back to Line
84] wrack: damage. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
Isabella Whitney, A Sweet Nosgay, or Pleasant Posye: Contayning a Hundred and Ten Phylosophicall Flowers (London: Richard Jones, 1593): c3v-d1v.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: