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Poem by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey


The Ages of Man


Laid in my quiet bed, in study as I were,
I saw within my troubled head a heap of thoughts appear,
And every thought did show so lively in mine eyes,
That now I sigh'd, and then I smil'd, as cause of thought did rise.
I saw the little boy, in thought how oft that he
Did wish of God to scape the rod, a tall young man to be;
The young man eke, that feels his bones with pains oppress'd,
How he would be a rich old man, to live and lie at rest;
The rich old man, that sees his end draw on so sore,
How he would be a boy again, to live so much the more.
Whereat full oft I smil'd, to see how all these three,
From boy to man, from man to boy, would chop and change degree.
And musing thus, I think the case is very strange
That man from wealth, to live in woe, doth ever seek to change.
Thus thoughtful as I lay, I saw my wither'd skin,
How it doth show my dinted jaws, the flesh was worn so thin;
And eke my toothless chaps, the gates of my right way,
That opes and shuts as I do speak, do thus unto me say:
"Thy white and hoarish hairs, the messengers of age,
That show like lines of true belief that this life doth assuage,
Bids thee lay hand and feel them hanging on thy chin,
The which do write two ages past, the third now coming in.
Hang up, therefore, the bit of thy young wanton time,
And thou that therein beaten art, the happiest life define."
Whereat I sigh'd and said: "Farewell, my wonted joy,
Truss up thy pack and trudge from me to every little boy,
And tell them thus from me: their time most happy is,
If to their time they reason had to know the truth of this." 



Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey


Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey's other poems:
  1. The Sun Hath Twice
  2. Geue Place Ye Louers, Here Before
  3. Of The Death of Sir T.W. the Elder
  4. Alas! So All Things Now Do Hold Their Peace
  5. Complaint of the Absence of Her Lover Being upon the Sea


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