Katherine Philips

On the Death of my First and Dearest Child, Hector Philips,
born the 23rd of April, and died the 2nd of May 1655.
Set by Mr. Lawes

Twice forty months in wedlock I did stay,
    Then had my vows crowned with a lovely boy.
And yet in forty days he dropped away;
    O swift vicissitude of human joy!

I did but see him, and he disappeared,
    I did but touch the rosebud, and it fell;
A sorrow unforeseen and scarcely feared,
    So ill can mortals their afflictions spell.

And now (sweet babe) what can my trembling heart
    Suggest to right my doleful fate or thee?
Tears are my muse, and sorrow all my art,
    So piercing groans must be thy elegy.

Thus whilst no eye is witness of my moan,
    I grieve thy loss (ah, boy too dear to live!)
And let the unconcerned world alone,
    Who neither will, nor can refreshment give.

An offering too for thy sad tomb I have,
    Too just a tribute to thy early hearse;
Receive these gasping numbers to thy grave,
    The last of thy unhappy mother's verse.

[AJ Notes:
Hector Philips, her firstborn, who died six weeks from birth.
    Katherine Philips later had a daughter, Katherine, who survived her.
Henry Lawes, composer of both church music and court masques.
The last...verse, did not of course remain her last.]

Early Modern Women's Writing.
Paul Salzman, Ed.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 270-271.

backto Early 17th Century English Literature

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