Old Fortunatus (?1598)
by Thomas Dekker
[The Choice of Fortunatus]
Fortunat. O, whither am I rapt beyond myself ?
More violent conflicts fight in every thought
Than his whose fatal choice Troy's downfall wrought.
Shall I contract myself to Wisdom's love ?
Then I lose Riches ; and a wise man poor
Is like a sacred book that's never read ;
To himself he lives and to all else seems dead.
This age thinks better of a gilded fool,
Than of a threadbare saint in Wisdom's school.
I will be strong : then I refuse long life ;
And though mine arm should conquer twenty worlds,
There's a lean fellow beats all conquerors :
The greatest strength expires with loss of breath,
The mightiest in one minute stoop to death.
Then take long life, or health ; should I do so,
I might grow ugly, and that tedious scroll
Of months and years much misery may enroll :
Therefore I'll beg for beauty ; yet I will not :
That fairest cheek hath oftentimes a soul
Leprous as sin itself, than hell more foul.
The wisdom of this world is idiotism ;
Strength a weak reed ; health sickness' enemy,
And it at length will have the victory.
Beauty is but a painting ; and long life
Is a long journey in December gone,
Tedious and full of tribulation.
Therefore, dread sacred empress, make me rich :
Mv choice is store of gold ; the rich are wise :
He that upon his back rich garments wears
Is wise, though on his head grow Midas' ears.
Gold is the strength, the sinews of the world,
The health, the soul, the beauty most divine ;
A mask of gold hides all deformities ;
Gold is heaven's physic, life's restorative ;
O, therefore make me rich !
English Literature: An Illustrated Record. Vol II, part II.
Richard Garnett and Edmund Gosse, Eds.
New York: The MacMillan Company, 1904. 331.
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Anniina Jokinen on December 26, 1999.