Another Lesser-Known Poet We have


Another Lesser-Known Poet

We have much to learn from Rachel Speght. Her magnificent work, an excerpt presented below, examines parts and portions of the human condition and provides some insight in to how to live within these limitations. Below three excerpts:

from Mortalities Memorandum (1621) Rachel Speght

The Hauen of my voyage is remote
I haue not yet attain'd my iourneyes end;
Yet know I not, nor can I giue a guesse,
How short a time I in this place shall spend.
For that high power, which sent me to this place,
Doth onely know the period of my race.

The reason of my sadnesse at this time,
Is, 'cause I feele my selfe nor very well,
Vnto you I shall much obliged bee,
If for my griefe a remedie you'le tell.
Quoth shee, if you your maladie will show,
My best aduise I'le willingly bestow.

My griefe, quoth I, is called Ignorance,
Which makes me differ little from a brute:
For animals are led by natures lore,
Their seeming science is but customes fruit;
When they are hurt they haue a sense of paine;
But want the sense to cure themselues againe.

And euer since this griefe did me oppresse,
Instinct of nature is my chiefest guide;
I feele disease, yet know not what I ayle,
I finde a sore, but can no salue prouide;
I hungry am, yet cannot seeke for foode;
Because I know not what is bad or good.


I met my old acquaintance, Truth by name;
Whom I requested briefely to declare,
The vertue of that plant I found so rare.

Quoth shee, by it Gods image man doth beare,
Without it he is but a humane shape,
Worse then the Deuill; for he knoweth much;
Without it who can any ill escape?
By vertue of it euils are withstood;
The minde without it is not counted good.

Who wanteth Knowledge is a Scripture foole,
Against the Ignorant the Prophets pray;
And Hosea threatens iudgement vnto those,
Whom want of Knowledge made to runne astray.
Without it thou no practique good canst show,
More then by hap, as blind men hit a Crow.

True Knowledge is the Window of the soule,
Through which her obiects she doth speculate;
It is the mother of faith, hope, and loue;
Without it who can vertue estimate?
By it, in grace thou shalt desire to grow;
'Tis life eternall God and Christ to Know.

[A Memento Mori]
The manner of Deaths comming, How 'twill be,
God hath conceal'd to make vs vigilant.
Some die by sicknesse, others by mishap,
Some die with surfeit, other some with want:
Some die by fire, some perish by the Sword,
Some drown'd in Water swim vnto the Lord.

Pope Adrian was stifeled with a Gnatt,
Old Anacreon strangled with a Grape,
A little hayre did choake great Fabius,
Saphira could not sodeine Death escape.
Into this life we all but one way came,
But diuers wayes we goe out of the same.

If God from perill did not vs protect,
Our daily food might stop our vitall breath,
The things we neither doubt, nor feare, may proue
The instruments of an vntimely Death.
And in a moment worke our liues decay,
When we least thinke vpon our ending day.

'Tis God omniscient which doth onely know
The time of life, that man on earth must liue,
At his appoyntment Moses must goe die,
Who bounds and limmit vnto time doth giue:
Man happen may to aske Where, When, and How,
Death will surprize, but God sayth Thus, here, now.

The Memorandum itself is a somewhat sobering document, well worth the time and effort to study it.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 1, 2002 9:38 AM.

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