Samuel Daniel. Poem. To the Lady Margaret, Countess of Cumberland.
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<--Samuel Daniel

Margaret, Countess of Cumberland

To the Lady Margaret, Countess of Cumberland

HE that of such a height hath built his mind,
And rear'd the dwelling of his thoughts so strong,
As neither fear nor hope can shake the frame
Of his resolved powers ;  nor all the wind
Of vanity or malice pierce to wrong
His settled peace, or to disturb the same ;
What a fair seat hath he, from whence he may
The boundless wastes and wilds of man survey?

And with how free an eye doth he look down
Upon these lower regions of turmoil?
Where all the storms of passions mainly beat
On flesh and blood :  where honour, power, renown,
Are only gay afflictions, golden toil ;
Where greatness stands upon as feeble feet,
As frailty doth ;  and only great doth seem
To little minds, who do it so esteem.

He looks upon the mightiest monarchs' wars
But only as on stately robberies ;  
Where evermore the fortune that prevails
Must be the right ;  the ill-succeeding mars
The fairest and the best-fac'd enterprise.
Great pirate Pompey lesser pirates quails :  
Justice, he sees, as if seduced, still
Conspires with power, whose cause must not be ill.

He sees the face of right t'appear as manifold
As are the passions of uncertain man ;  
Who puts it in all colours, all attires,
To serve his ends and make his courses hold.
He sees, that let deceit work what it can,
Plot and contrive base ways to high desires ;  
That the all-guiding Providence doth yet
All disappoint, and mocks the smoke of wit.

Nor is he mov'd with all the thunder-cracks
Of tyrants' threats, or with the surly brow
Of Pow'r, that proudly sits on others' crimes,
Charg'd with more crying sins than those he checks.
The storms of sad confusion, that may grow
Up in the present for the coming times,
Appal not him ;  that hath no side at all,
But of himself, and knows the worst can fall.

Although his heart so near allied to earth,
Cannot but pity the perplexed state
Of troublous and distress'd mortality,
That thus make way unto the ugly birth
Of their own sorrows, and do still beget
Affliction upon imbecility ;  
Yet seeing thus the course of things must run,
He looks thereon not strange, but as fore-done.

And whilst distraught ambition compasses,
And is encompass'd ;  whilst as craft deceives,
And is deceived ;  whilst man doth ransack man,
And builds on blood, and rises by distress ;  
And th' inheritance of desolation leaves
To great-expecting hopes ;  he looks thereon,
As from the shore of peace, with unwet eye,
And bears no venture in impiety.

Thus, madam, fares that man, that hath prepar'd
A rest for his desires ;  and sees all things
Beneath him ;  and hath learn'd this book of man,
Full of the notes of frailty ;  and compar'd
The best of glory with her sufferings ;  
By whom, I see, you labour all you can
To plant your heart ;  and set your thoughts as near
His glorious mansion, as your powers can bear.

Which, madam, are so soundly fashioned
By that clear judgment, that hath carried you
Beyond the feeble limits of your kind,
As they can stand against the strongest head
Passion can make ;  inur'd to any hue
The world can cast ;  that cannot cast that mind
Out of her form of goodness, that doth see
Both what the best and worst of earth can be.

Which makes, that whatsoever here befalls,
You in the region of yourself remain :
Where no vain breath of th' impudent molests,
That hath secur'd within the brazen walls
Of a clear conscience, that without all stain
Rises in peace, in innocency rests ;  
Whilst all what Malice from without procures,
Shows her own ugly heart, but hurts not yours.

And whereas none rejoice more in revenge,
Than women use to do ;  yet you well know,
That wrong is better check'd by being contemn'd,
Than being pursu'd ;  leaving to Him t' avenge,
To whom it appertains.   Wherein you show
How worthily your clearness hath condemn'd
Base malediction, living in the dark,
That at the rays of goodness still doth bark.

Knowing the heart of man is set to be
The center of this world, about the which
These revolutions of disturbances
Still roll ;  where all th' aspects of misery
Predominate ;  whose strong effects are such
As he must bear, being pow'rless to redress :
And that unless above himself he can
Erect himself, how poor a thing is man.

And how turmoil'd they are that level lie
With earth and cannot lift themselves from thence ;  
That never are at peace with their desires,
But work beyond their years ;  and ev'n deny
Dotage her rest, and hardly will dispense
With death.   That, when ability expires,
Desire lives still—So much delight they have,
To carry toil and travail to the grave.

Whose ends you see ;  and what can be the best
They reach unto, when they have cast the sum
And reck'nings of their glory.   And you know,
This floating life hath but this port of rest,
A heart prepar'd that fears no ill to come.
And that man's greatness rests but in his show,
The best of all whose days consumed are,
Either in war, or peace conceiving war.

This concord, madam, of a well-tun'd mind
Hath been so set by that all-working hand
Of Heaven, that though the world hath done his worst
To put it out by discords most unkind ;  
Yet doth it still in perfect union stand
With God and man ;  nor ever will be forc'd
From that most sweet accord ;  but still agree,
Equal in fortune's inequality.

And this note, madam, of your worthiness
Remains recorded in so many hearts,
As time nor malice cannot wrong your right,
In th' inheritance of fame you must possess :
You that have built you by your great deserts
Out of small means, a far more exquisite
And glorious dwelling for your honor'd name,
Than all the gold that leaden minds can frame.  

Selections from the Poetical Works of Samuel Daniel.
John Morris, Ed. Bath: Charles Clark, 1855.  28-32.

Back to Works of Samuel Daniel

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