Katherine Philips

Gabriel Metsu. Sick Child. 1660.
Gabriel Metsu. Sick Child. 1660.

In Memory of F. P. who
died at Acton on the 24 of
May, 1660, at Twelve and
an Half of Age *

IF I could ever write a lasting verse,
It should be laid, dear Saint, upon thy hearse.
But Sorrow is no Muse, and does confess,
That it least can, what it would most express.
Yet that I may some bounds to Grief allow,
I'll try if I can weep in numbers now.
Ah, beauteous blossom, too untimely dead!
Whither, ah, whither is thy sweetness fled?
Where are the charms that always did arise
From the prevailing language of thy eyes?
Where is thy beauteous and lovely mien,
And all the wonders that in thee were seen?
Alas! in vain, in vain on thee I rave;
There is no pity in the stupid grave.
But so the bankrupt sitting on the brim
Of those fierce billows which had ruin'd him,
Begs for his lost estate, and does complain
To the inexorable floods in vain.
As well we may enquire when roses die,
To what retirement their sweet odours fly;
Whither their virtues and their blushes haste,
When the short triumph of their life is past;
Or call their perishing beauties back with tears,
As add one moment to thy finish'd years.
No, thou art gone, and thy presaging mind
So thriftily thy early hours design'd,
That hasty Death was baffled in his pride,
Since nothing of thee but thy body di'd.
Thy soul was up betimes, and so concern'd
To grasp all excellence that could be learn'd,
That finding nothing fill her thirsting here,
To the spring-head she went to quench it there;
And so prepar'd, that being freed from sin
She quickly might become a Cherubin.
Thou wert all Soul, and through thy eyes it shin'd:
Asham'd and angry to be so confin'd,
It long'd to be uncag'd, and thither flown
Where it might know as clearly as 'twas known.
In these vast hopes we might thy change have found,
But that Heav'n blinds whom it decrees to wound.
For parts so soon at so sublime a pitch,
A judgement so mature, fancy so rich,
Never appear unto unthankful Men,
But as a vision to be hid again.
So glorious scenes in masques, spectators view
With the short pleasure of an hour or two;
But that once past, the ornaments are gone,
The lights extinguish'd, and the curtains drawn.
Yet all these gifts were thy less noble part,
Nor was thy head so worthy as thy heart;
Where the Divine Impression shin'd so clear,
As snatch'd thee hence, and yet endear'd thee here:
For what in thee did most command our love,
Was both the cause and sign of thy remove.
Such fools are we, so fatally we choose,
That what we most would keep, we soonest lose.
The humble greatness of thy pious thought,
Sweetness unforc'd, and bashfulness untaught,
The native candour of thine open breast,
And all the beams wherein thy worth was drest,
Thy wit so bright, so piercing and immense,
Adorn'd with wise and lovely innocence,
Might have foretold thou wert not so complete,
But that our joy might be as short as great.
So the poor swain beholds his ripen'd corn
By some rough wind without a sickle torn.
Never, ah! never let sad parents guess
At one remove of future happiness:
But reckon children 'mong those passing joys,
Which one hour gives, and the next hour destroys.
Alas! we were secure of our content;
But find too late that it was only lent,
To be a mirror wherein we may see
How frail we are, how spotless we should be.
But if to thy blest soul my grief appears,
Forgive and pity these injurious tears:
Impute them to Affection's sad excess,
Which will not yield to Nature's tenderness,
Since 'twas through dearest ties and highest trust
Continued from thy cradle to thy dust;
And so rewarded and confirm'd by thine,
That (woe is me!) I thought thee too much mine.
But I'll resign, and follow thee as fast
As my unhappy minutes will make haste.
Till when the fresh remembrances of thee
Shall be my Emblems of Mortality.
For such a loss as this (bright Soul!) is not
Ever to be repaired, or forgot.








[AJ Notes:
    * This is an elegy on her stepdaughter,
Francis Philips, whom she loved deeply.]

Philips, Katherine. Poems, 1678.
in Minor Poets of the Caroline Period.
George Saintsbury, ed.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905. 530-1.

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