Sunday, May 16, 2010

Upon the Death of Sir Albert Morton’s Wife - Sir Henry Wotton

 Sir Henry Wotton  (1568 - 1639) was an English writer and diplomat.  His life had many twists and turns, and though well-educated, it was not until his later years that he was free of financial worry.  (At one point, he declined the ambassadorship to either France or Spain because the personal cost would have impoverished him.  He chose instead to be Ambassador to Venice.)  There is no requirement that a poem be long in order to say express something meaningful.  This one - and a couple of others that will be here - are pefect examples.  Spousal love and loyalty are often given short shrift in love poetry - not much romance in a relationship that's "settled" - yet, perhaps even more so in this age of so many divorces,  they have their place and should be better appreciated....   As a bonus ("But wait!  There's more!" ), I am also including one of his best known poems, "The Character of A Happy Life".  Though the language sounds stilted to our modern ears, the observations are ageless (and accurate): we could do worse than heed them.
Upon the Death of Sir Albert Morton’s Wife

He first deceased: she for a little tried
To live without him, liked it not, and died.

                                                                                  Sir Henry Wotton - English

The Character of a Happy Life

How happy is he born or taught,
That serveth not another's will;
Whose armour is his honest thought,
And simple truth his highest skill;

Whose passions not his masters are;
Whose soul is still prepar'd for death
Untied unto the world with care
Of princes' grace or vulgar breath;

Who envies none whom chance doth raise,
Or vice; who never understood
The deepest wounds are given by praise,
By rule of state, but not of good;

Who hath his life from rumours freed;
Whose conscience is his strong retreat;
Whose state can neither flatterers feed,
Nor ruins make accusers great;

Who God doth late and early pray,
More of his grace than goods to send,
And entertains the harmless day
With a well-chosen book or friend.

This man is free from servile bands
Of hope to rise or fear to fall;
Lord of himself, though not of lands;
And having nothing, yet hath all.
                                                                                   Sir Henry Wotton - English

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