William Shakespeare, "A Funeral Elegy for Master William Peter,"
(London: G.Eld for T.Thorpe, 1612). Normalized text, ed. Donald Foster.
To master John Peter of Bowhay in Devon, Esquire.

The love I bore to your brother, and will do to his memory, hath craved from me this last duty of a friend; I am herein but a second to the privilege of truth, who can warrant more in his behalf than I undertook to deliver. Exercise in this kind I will little affect, and am less addicted to, but there must be miracle in that labor which, to witness my remembrance to this departed gentleman, I would not willingly undergo. Yet whatsoever is here done, is done to him and to him only. For whom and whose sake I will not forget to remember any friendly respects to you, or to any of those that have loved him for himself, and himself for his deserts.

William Shakespeare

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 Since time, and his predestinated end,
 Abridged the circuit of his hopeful days,
 Whiles both his youth and virtue did intend
 The good endeavors of deserving praise,
5What memorable monument can last
 Whereon to build his never-blemished name
 But his own worth, wherein his life was graced. . .
 Sith as that ever he maintained the same?
 Oblivion in the darkest day to come,
10When sin shall tread on merit in the dust,
 Cannot rase out the lamentable tomb
 Of his short-lived deserts; but still they must,
 Even in the hearts and memories of men,
 Claim fit respect, that they, in every limb
15Remembering what he was, with comfort then
 May pattern out one truly good, by him.
 For he was truly good, if honest care
 Of harmless conversation may commend
 A life free from such stains as follies are,
20Ill recompensed only in his end.
 Nor can the tongue of him who loved him least
 (If there can be minority of love
 To one superlative above the rest
 Of many men in steady faith) reprove
25His constant temper, in the equal weight
 Of thankfulness and kindness: Truth doth leave
 Sufficient proof, he was in every right
 As kind to give, as thankful to receive.
 The curious eye of a quick-brained survey
30Could scantly find a mote amidst the sun
 Of his too-shortened days, or make a prey
 Of any faulty errors he had done.
 Not that he was above the spleenful sense
 And spite of malice, but for that he had
35Warrant enough in his own innocence
 Against the sting of some in nature bad.
 Yet who is he so absolutely blest
 That lives encompassed in a mortal frame,
 Sometime in reputation not oppressed
40By some in nothing famous but defame?
 Such in the bypath and the ridgeway lurk
 That leads to ruin, in a smooth pretense
 Of what they do to be a special work
 Of singleness, not tending to offense;
45Whose very virtues are, not to detract
 Whiles hope remains of gain (base fee of slaves),
 Despising chiefly men in fortunes wracked.
 But death to such gives unremembered graves.
 Now therein lived he happy, if to be
50Free from detraction happiness it be.
 His younger years gave comfortable hope
 To hope for comfort in his riper youth,
 Which, harvest-like, did yield again the crop
 Of education, bettered in his truth.
55Those noble twins of heaven-infused races,
 Learning and wit, refined in their kind
 Did jointly both, in their peculiar graces,
 Enrich the curious temple of his mind;
 Indeed a temple, in whose precious white
60Sat reason by religion overswayed,
 Teaching his other senses, with delight,
 How piety and zeal should be obeyed.
 Not fruitlessly in prodigal expense
 Wasting his best of time, but so content
65With reason's golden mean to make defense
 Against the assault of youth's encouragement;
 As not the tide of this surrounding age
 (When now his father's death had freed his will)
 Could make him subject to the drunken rage
70Of such whose only glory is their ill.
 He from the happy knowledge of the wise
 Draws virtue to reprove secured fools
 And shuns the glad sleights of ensnaring vice
 To spend his spring of days in sacred schools.
75Here gave he diet to the sick desires
 That day by day assault the weaker man,
 And with fit moderation still retires
 From what doth batter virtue now and then.
 But that I not intend in full discourse
80To progress out his life, I could display
 A good man in each part exact and force
 The common voice to warrant what I say.
 For if his fate and heaven had decreed
 That full of days he might have lived to see
85The grave in peace, the times that should succeed
 Had been best-speaking witnesses with me;
 Whose conversation so untouched did move
 Respect most in itself, as who would scan
 His honesty and worth, by them might prove
90He was a kind, true, perfect gentleman.
 Not in the outside of disgraceful folly,
 Courting opinion with unfit disguise,
 Affecting fashions, nor addicted wholly
 To unbeseeming blushless vanities,
95But suiting so his habit and desire
 As that his virtue was his best attire.
 Not in the waste of many idle words
 Cared he to be heard talk, nor in the float
 Of fond conceit, such as this age affords,
100By vain discourse upon himself to dote;
 For his becoming silence gave such grace
 To his judicious parts, as what he spake
 Seemed rather answers which the wise embrace
 Than busy questions such as talkers make.
105And though his qualities might well deserve
 Just commendation, yet his furnished mind
 Such harmony of goodness did preserve
 As nature never built in better kind;
 Knowing the best, and therefore not presuming
110In knowing, but for that it was the best,
 Ever within himself free choice resuming
 Of true perfection, in a perfect breast;
 So that his mind and body made an inn,
 The one to lodge the other, both like framed
115For fair conditions, guests that soonest win
 Applause; in generality, well famed,
 If trim behavior, gestures mild, discreet
 Endeavors, modest speech, beseeming mirth,
 True friendship, active grace, persuasion sweet,
120Delightful love innated from his birth,
 Acquaintance unfamiliar, carriage just,
 Offenseless resolution, wished sobriety,
 Clean-tempered moderation, steady trust,
 Unburthened conscience, unfeigned piety;
125If these, or all of these, knit fast in one
 Can merit praise, then justly may we say,
 Not any from this frailer stage is gone
 Whose name is like to live a longer day. . .
 Though not in eminent courts or places great
130For popular concourse, yet in that soil
 Where he enjoyed his birth, life, death, and seat
 Which now sits mourning his untimely spoil.
 And as much glory is it to be good
 For private persons, in their private home,
135As those descended from illustrious blood
 In public view of greatness, whence they come.
 Though I, rewarded with some sadder taste
 Of knowing shame, by feeling it have proved
 My country's thankless misconstruction cast
140Upon my name and credit, both unloved
 By some whose fortunes, sunk into the wane
 Of plenty and desert, have strove to win
 Justice by wrong, and sifted to embane
 My reputation with a witless sin;
145Yet time, the father of unblushing truth,
 May one day lay ope malice which hath crossed it,
 And right the hopes of my endangered youth,
 Purchasing credit in the place I lost it.
 Even in which place the subject of the verse
150(Unhappy matter of a mourning style
 Which now that subject's merits doth rehearse)
 Had education and new being; while
 By fair demeanor he had won repute
 Amongst the all of all that lived there,
155For that his actions did so wholly suit
 With worthiness, still memorable here.
 The many hours till the day of doom
 Will not consume his life and hapless end,
 For should he lie obscured without a tomb,
160Time would to time his honesty commend;
 Whiles parents to their children will make known,
 And they to their posterity impart,
 How such a man was sadly overthrown
 By a hand guided by a cruel heart,
165Whereof as many as shall hear that sadness
 Will blame the one's hard fate, the other's madness;
 Whiles such as do recount that tale of woe,
 Told by remembrance of the wisest heads,
 Will in the end conclude the matter so,
170As they will all go weeping to their beds.
 For when the world lies wintered in the storms
 Of fearful consummation, and lays down
 Th' unsteady change of his fantastic forms,
 Expecting ever to be overthrown;
175When the proud height of much affected sin
 Shall ripen to a head, and in that pride
 End in the miseries it did begin
 And fall amidst the glory of his tide;
 Then in a book where every work is writ
180Shall this man's actions be revealed, to show
 The gainful fruit of well-employed wit,
 Which paid to heaven the debt that it did owe.
 Here shall be reckoned up the constant faith,
 Never untrue, where once he love professed;
185Which is a miracle in men, one saith,
 Long sought though rarely found, and he is best
 Who can make friendship, in those times of change,
 Admired more for being firm than strange.
 When those weak houses of our brittle flesh
190Shall ruined be by death, our grace and strength,
 Youth, memory and shape that made us fresh
 Cast down, and utterly decayed at length;
 When all shall turn to dust from whence we came
 And we low-leveled in a narrow grave,
195What can we leave behind us but a name,
 Which, by a life well led, may honor have?
 Such honor, O thou youth untimely lost,
 Thou didst deserve and hast; for though thy soul
 Hath took her flight to a diviner coast,
200Yet here on earth thy fame lives ever whole,
 In every heart sealed up, in every tongue
 Fit matter to discourse, no day prevented
 That pities not thy sad and sudden wrong,
 Of all alike beloved and lamented.
205And I here to thy memorable worth,
 In this last act of friendship, sacrifice
 My love to thee, which I could not set forth
 In any other habit of disguise.
 Although I could not learn, whiles yet thou wert,
210To speak the language of a servile breath,
 My truth stole from my tongue into my heart,
 Which shall not thence be sundered, but in death.
 And I confess my love was too remiss
 That had not made thee know how much I prized thee,
215But that mine error was, as yet it is,
 To think love best in silence: for I sized thee
 By what I would have been, not only ready
 In telling I was thine, but being so,
 By some effect to show it. He is steady
220Who seems less than he is in open show.
 Since then I still reserved to try the worst
 Which hardest fate and time thus can lay on me.
 T' enlarge my thoughts was hindered at first,
 While thou hadst life; I took this task upon me,
225To register with mine unhappy pen
 Such duties as it owes to thy desert,
 And set thee as a president to men,
 And limn thee to the world but as thou wert. . .
 Not hired, as heaven can witness in my soul,
230By vain conceit, to please such ones as know it,
 Nor servile to be liked, free from control,
 Which, pain to many men, I do not owe it.
 But here I trust I have discharged now
 (Fair lovely branch too soon cut off) to thee,
235My constant and irrefragable vow,
 As, had it chanced, thou mightst have done to me. . .
 But that no merit strong enough of mine
 Had yielded store to thy well-abled quill
 Whereby t' enroll my name, as this of thine,
240How s'ere enriched by thy plenteous skill.
 Here, then, I offer up to memory
 The value of my talent, precious man,
 Whereby if thou live to posterity,
 Though 't be not as I would, 'tis as I can:
245In minds from whence endeavor doth proceed,
 A ready will is taken for the deed.
 Yet ere I take my longest last farewell
 From thee, fair mark of sorrow, let me frame
 Some ampler work of thank, wherein to tell
250What more thou didst deserve than in thy name,
 And free thee from the scandal of such senses
 As in the rancor of unhappy spleen
 Measure thy course of life, with false pretenses
 Comparing by thy death what thou hast been.
255So in his mischiefs is the world accursed:
 It picks out matter to inform the worst.
 The willful blindness that hoodwinks the eyes
 Of men enwrapped in an earthy veil
 Makes them most ignorantly exercise
260And yield to humor when it doth assail,
 Whereby the candle and the body's light
 Darkens the inward eyesight of the mind,
 Presuming still it sees, even in the night
 Of that same ignorance which makes them blind.
265Hence conster they with corrupt commentaries,
 Proceeding from a nature as corrupt,
 The text of malice, which so often varies
 As 'tis by seeming reason underpropped.
 O, whither tends the lamentable spite
270Of this world's teenful apprehension,
 Which understands all things amiss, whose light
 Shines not amidst the dark of their dissension?
 True 'tis, this man, whiles yet he was a man,
 Soothed not the current of besotted fashion,
275Nor could disgest, as some loose mimics can,
 An empty sound of overweening passion,
 So much to be made servant to the base
 And sensual aptness of disunioned vices,
 To purchase commendation by disgrace,
280Whereto the world and heat of sin entices.
 But in a safer contemplation,
 Secure in what he knew, he ever chose
 The ready way to commendation,
 By shunning all invitements strange, of those
285Whose illness is, the necessary praise
 Must wait upon their actions; only rare
 In being rare in shame (which strives to raise
 Their name by doing what they do not care),
 As if the free commission of their ill
290Were even as boundless as their prompt desires;
 Only like lords, like subjects to their will,
 Which their fond dotage ever more admires.
 He was not so: but in a serious awe,
 Ruling the little ordered commonwealth
295Of his own self, with honor to the law
 That gave peace to his bread, bread to his health;
 Which ever he maintained in sweet content
 And pleasurable rest, wherein he joyed
 A monarchy of comfort's government,
300Never until his last to be destroyed.
 For in the vineyard of heaven-favored learning
 Where he was double-honored in degree,
 His observation and discreet discerning
 Had taught him in both fortunes to be free;
305Whence now retired home, to a home indeed
 The home of his condition and estate,
 He well provided 'gainst the hand of need,
 Whence young men sometime grow unfortunate;
 His disposition, by the bonds of unity,
310So fastened to his reason that it strove
 With understanding's grave immunity
 To purchase from all hearts a steady love;
 Wherein not any one thing comprehends
 Proportionable note of what he was,
315Than that he was so constant to his friends
 As he would no occasion overpass
 Which might make known his unaffected care,
 In all respects of trial, to unlock
 His bosom and his store, which did declare
320That Christ was his, and he was friendship's rock:
 A rock of friendship figured in his name,
 Foreshowing what he was, and what should be,
 Most true presage; and he discharged the same
 In every act of perfect amity.
325Though in the complemental phrase of words
 He never was addicted to the vain
 Of boast, such as the common breath affords;
 He was in use most fast, in tongue most plain,
 Nor amongst all those virtues that forever
330Adorned his reputation will be found
 One greater than his faith, which did persever,
 Where once it was protested, alway sound.
 Hence sprung the deadly fuel that revived
 The rage which wrought his end, for had he been
335Slacker in love, he had been longer lived
 And not oppressed by wrath's unhappy sin. . .
 By wrath's unhappy sin, which unadvised
 Gave death for free good will, and wounds for love.
 Pity it was that blood had not been prized
340At higher rate, and reason set above
 Most unjust choler, which untimely drew
 Destruction on itself; and most unjust,
 Robbed virtue of a follower so true
 As time can boast of, both for love and trust:
345So henceforth all (great glory to his blood)
 Shall be but seconds to him, being good.
 The wicked end their honor with their sin
 In death, which only then the good begin.
 Lo, here a lesson by experience taught
350For men whose pure simplicity hath drawn
 Their trust to be betrayed by being caught
 Within the snares of making truth a pawn;
 Whiles it, not doubting whereinto it enters,
 Without true proof and knowledge of a friend,
355Sincere in singleness of heart, adventers
 To give fit cause, ere love begin to end:
 His unfeigned friendship where it least was sought,
 Him to a fatal timeless ruin brought;
 Whereby the life that purity adorned
360With real merit, by this sudden end
 Is in the mouth of some in manner scorned,
 Made questionable, for they do intend,
 According to the tenor of the saw
 Mistook, if not observed (writ long ago
365When men were only led by reason's law),
 That "Such as is the end, the life proves so."
 Thus he, who to the universal lapse
 Gave sweet redemption, offering up his blood
 To conquer death by death, and loose the traps
370Of hell, even in the triumph that it stood:
 He thus, for that his guiltless life was spilt
 By death, which was made subject to the curse,
 Might in like manner be reproved of guilt
 In his pure life, for that his end was worse.
375But O far be it, our unholy lips
 Should so profane the deity above
 As thereby to ordain revenging whips
 Against the day of judgment and of love.
 The hand that lends us honor in our days
380May shorten when it please, and justly take
 Our honor from us many sundry ways,
 As best becomes that wisdom did us make.
 The second brother, who was next begot
 Of all that ever were begotten yet,
385Was by a hand in vengeance rude and hot
 Sent innocent to be in heaven set.
 Whose fame the angels in melodious choirs
 Still witness to the world. Then why should he,
 Well-profited in excellent desires,
390Be more rebuked, who had like destiny?
 Those saints before the everlasting throne
 Who sit with crowns of glory on their heads,
 Washed white in blood, from earth hence have not gone
 All to their joys in quiet on their beds,
395But tasted of the sour-bitter scourge
 Of torture and affliction ere they gained
 Those blessings which their sufferance did urge,
 Whereby the grace fore-promised they attained.
 Let then the false suggestions of the froward,
400Building large castles in the empty air,
 By suppositions fond and thoughts untoward
 (Issues of discontent and sick despair)
 Rebound gross arguments upon their heart
 That may disprove their malice, and confound
405Uncivil loose opinions which insert
 Their souls into the roll that doth unsound
 Betraying policies, and show their brains,
 Unto their shame, ridiculous; whose scope
 Is envy, whose endeavors fruitless pains,
410In nothing surely prosperous, but hope. . .
 And that same hope, so lame, so unprevailing,
 It buries self-conceit in weak opinion;
 Which being crossed, gives matter of bewailing
 Their vain designs, on whom want hath dominion.
415Such, and of such condition, may devise
 Which way to wound with defamation's spirit
 (Close-lurking whisper's hidden forgeries)
 His taintless goodness, his desertful merit.
 But whiles the minds of men can judge sincerely,
420Upon assured knowledge, his repute
 And estimation shall be rumored clearly
 In equal worth--time shall to time renew 't.
 The grave, that in his ever-empty womb
 Forever closes up the unrespected,
425Who when they die, die all, shall not entomb
 His pleading best perfections as neglected.
 They to his notice in succeeding years
 Shall speak for him when he shall lie below;
 When nothing but his memory appears
430Of what he was, then shall his virtues grow.
 His being but a private man in rank
 (And yet not ranked beneath a gentleman)
 Shall not abridge the commendable thank
 Which wise posterity shall give him then;
435For nature, and his therein happy fate.
 Ordained that by his quality of mind
 T' ennoble that best part, although his state
 Were to a lower blessedness confined.
 Blood, pomp, state, honor, glory and command,
440Without fit ornaments of disposition,
 Are in themselves but heathenish and profaned,
 And much more peaceful is a mean condition
 Which, underneath the roof of safe content,
 Feeds on the bread of rest, and takes delight
445To look upon the labors it hath spent
 For its own sustenance, both day and night;
 Whiles others, plotting which way to be great,
 How to augment their portion and ambition,
 Do toil their giddy brains, and ever sweat
450For popular applause and power's commission.
 But one in honors, like a seeled dove
 Whose inward eyes are dimmed with dignity,
 Does think most safety doth remain above,
 And seeks to be secure by mounting high:
455Whence, when he falls, who did erewhile aspire,
 Falls deeper down, for that he climbed higher.
 Now men who in lower region live
 Exempt from danger of authority
 Have fittest times in reason's rules to thrive,
460Not vexed with envy of priority,
 And those are much more noble in the mind
 Than many that have nobleness by kind.
 Birth, blood, and ancestors, are none of ours,
 Nor can we make a proper challenge to them
465But virtues and perfections in our powers
 Proceed most truly from us, if we do them.
 Respective titles or a gracious style,
 With all what men in eminence possess,
 Are, without ornaments to praise them, vile:
470The beauty of the mind is nobleness.
 And such as have that beauty, well deserve
 Eternal characters, that after death
 Remembrance of their worth we may preserve,
 So that their glory die not with their breath.
475Else what avails it in a goodly strife
 Upon this face of earth here to contend,
 The good t' exceed the wicked in their life,
 Should both be like obscured in their end?
 Until which end, there is none rightly can
480Be termed happy, since the happiness
 Depends upon the goodness of the man,
 Which afterwards his praises will express.
 Look hither then, you that enjoy the youth
 Of your best days, and see how unexpected
485Death can betray your jollity to ruth
 When death you think is least to be respected!
 The person of this model here set out
 Had all that youth and happy days could give him,
 Yet could not all-encompass him about
490Against th' assault of death, who to relieve him
 Strook home but to the frail and mortal parts
 Of his humanity, but could not touch
 His flourishing and fair long-lived deserts,
 Above fate's reach, his singleness was such.
495So that he dies but once, but doubly lives,
 Once in his proper self, then in his name;
 Predestinated time, who all deprives,
 Could never yet deprive him of the same.
 And had the genius which attended on him
500Been possibilited to keep him safe
 Against the rigor that hath overgone him,
 He had been to the public use a staff,
 Leading by his example in the path
 Which guides to doing well, wherein so few
505The proneness of this age to error hath
 Informed rightly in the courses true.
 As then the loss of one, whose inclination
 Stove to win love in general, is sad,
 So specially his friends, in soft compassion
510Do feel the greatest loss they could have had.
 Amongst them all, she who those nine of years
 Lived fellow to his counsels and his bed
 Hath the most share in loss; for I in hers
 Feel what distemperature this chance hath bred.
515The chaste embracements of conjugal love,
 Who in a mutual harmony consent,
 Are so impatient of a strange remove
 As meager death itself seems to lament,
 And weep upon those cheeks which nature framed
520To be delightful orbs in whom the force
 Of lively sweetness plays, so that ashamed
 Death often pities his unkind divorce.
 Such was the separation here constrained
 (Well-worthy to be termed a rudeness rather),
525For in his life his love was so unfeigned
 As he was both an husband and a father. . .
 The one in firm affection and the other
 In careful providence, which ever strove
 With joint assistance to grace one another
530With every helpful furtherance of love.
 But since the sum of all that can be said
 Can be but said that "He was good" (which wholly
 Includes all excellence can be displayed
 In praise of virtue and reproach of folly).
535His due deserts, this sentence on him gives,
 "He died in life, yet in his death he lives."
 Now runs the method of this doleful song
 In accents brief to thee, O thou deceased!
 To whom those pains do only all belong
540As witnesses I did not love thee least.
 For could my worthless brain find out but how
 To raise thee from the sepulcher of dust,
 Undoubtedly thou shouldst have partage now
 Of life with me, and heaven be counted just
545If to a supplicating soul it would
 Give life anew, by giving life again
 Where life is missed; whereby discomfort should
 Right his old griefs, and former joys retain
 Which now with thee are leaped into thy tomb
550And buried in that hollow vault of woe,
 Expecting yet a more severer doom
 Than time's strict flinty hand will let 'em know.
 And now if I have leveled mine account
 And reckoned up in a true measured score
555Those perfect graces which were ever wont
 To wait on thee alive, I ask no more
 (But shall hereafter in a poor content
 Immure those imputations I sustain,
 Learning my days of youth so to prevent
560As not to be cast down by them again);
 Only those hopes which fate denies to grant
 In full possession to a captive heart
 Who, if it were in plenty, still would want
 Before it may enjoy his better part:
565From which detained, and banished in th' exile
 Of dim misfortune, has none other prop
 Whereon to lean and rest itself the while
 But the weak comfort of the hapless, "hope".
 And hope must in despite of fearful change
570Play in the strongest closet of my breast,
 Although perhaps I ignorantly range
 And court opinion in my deep'st unrest.
 But whether doth the stream of my mischance
 Drive me beyond myself, fast friend, soon lost,
575Long may thy worthiness thy name advance
 Amongst the virtuous and deserving most,
 Who herein hast forever happy proved:
 In life thou lived'st, in death thou died'st beloved.