The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1960 Tuesday, 7 August 2001
Date: Sunday, 05 Aug 2001 15:21:36 -0700
Subject: Funeral Elegy
Here are twelve sets of verse. Four of the stanzas are from the
"Funeral Elegy" by W.S. Four are from John Ford's "Fame's Memorial,"
and four are my own invention. This is a game. It wouldn't be fair to
go to the books on this, but go to your poetic soul instead. If
Shakespeare wrote any of this drivel, which stanzas did he write?
1. True virtue grac'd his mind; be witness ever
The provident forecast of wise discretion;
His wary prudence, which did still endeavor
To hold him from the wreck of spite's impression.
2. Mere envy sought his deeds to draw despite
Upon his youth, which common faults all share,
But manly growth and valor did requite
And frame his excellence beyond compare.
3. What memorable monument can last
Whereon to build his never-blemished name
But his own worth, wherein his life was grac'd
Sith as that ever he maintain'd the same?
4. That is with homage to adore thy name,
As a rich relic of memorial,
A trophy consecrated unto unto fame,
Adding within our hearts historical
High epithets past hyperbolical.
5. Nor can the tongue of him who lov'd him best
(if there be minority of love
To one superlative above the rest
Of many men in steady faith reprove.)
6. Sufficient more than solemn oath can seal,
His saintly temper every fault erase
That would impute some wonted vice unreal;
The record of his goodness lends him praise.
7. Not that he was above the spleenful sense
And spite of malice, but for that he had
Warrant enough in his own innocence
Against the sting of some in nature bad.
8. Noble he was, witness his elate spirit,
Whose unappalled stomach scorn'd compare;
Noble he was, witness his peerless merit,
Which stain'd competitors, witness his rare
Renown'd examples do the same declare.
9. Of Envy's compt to stain his vertuous life,
His enemies, the slander of that voice,
Shall not press down his merit or his strife
To pattern out his life as one who could
Commend his fellow Christians to be good.
10. When sin can tread on merit in the dust,
Cannot rase out the lamentable tomb
Of his short-liv'd deserts; but still they must
Even in the hearts and memories of men.
11. Lo, here the pith of valor molded fast
In curious workmanship of Nature's art:
Lo, here the monuments which ever last
To all succeeding ages of desert,
Noble in all, and all in every part:
Records of fame and characters of brass,
Containing acts, such acts conceit do pass.
12. When Nature call'd on Fortune to give cause
Why wrack'd are some men, some or'passed,
Yet answer gave She not, but made a pause,
The good die young, full worthy as thou wast.
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