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Poems

A Fig For Thee, Oh! Death

Thou king of terrors with thy gastly eyes,
With butter teeth, bare bones, grim looks likewise,
And grizzly hide, and clawing talons fell,
Op’ning to sinners vile, trap door of hell,
That on in sin impenitently trip,
The downfall art of the infernal pit,
Thou struck’st thy teeth deep in my Lord’s bless’d side:
Who dashed it out, and all its venom ‘stroyed
That now thy pounderall shall only dash
My flesh and bones to bits, and cask shall clash.
Thou’rt not so frightful now to me, thy knocks
Do crack my shell. Its heavenly kernel’s box
Abides most safe. Thy blows do brake its shell,
Thy teeth its nut. Cracks are that on it fell.
Thence out its kernel fair and nut, by worms
Once vitiated out, new formed forth turns
And on the wings of some bright angel flies
Out to bright glory of God’s blissful joys.
Hence thou to me with all thy gastly face
Art not so dreadful unto me through Grace.
I am resolved to fight thee, and ne’er yield,
Blood up to th’ears; and in the battlefield
Chasing thee hence. But not for this, my flesh;
My body, my vile harlot, it’s thy mess,
Laboring to drown me into sin’s disguise
By eating and by drinking, such evil joys —
Though Grace preserved me that I ne’er have
Surpriséd been nor tumbled in such grave.
Hence from my strumpet I’ll ne’er draw my sword,
Nor thee restrain at all by iron curb,
Nor for her safety will I ’gainst thee strive,
But let thy frozen grips take her captive
And her imprison in thy dungeon cave
And grind to powder in thy mill the grave,
Which powder in thy van thou’st safely keep
Till she hath slept out quite her fatal sleep.
When the last cock shall crow the Last Day in,
And the archangel’s trumpet’s sound shall ring,
Then th’eye omniscient seek shall all there round,
Each dust death’s mill had very finely ground,
Which in death’s smoky furnace well refined
And each to’ts fellow hath exactly joined,
Is raised up anew and made all bright
And crystallized; all top full of delight,
And entertains its soul again in bliss,
And holy angels waiting all on this,
The soul and body now, as two true lovers,
E’ry night how do they hug and kiss each other.
And going hand in hand thus through the skies
Up to eternal glory glorious rise.
Is this the worst thy terrors then canst, why
Then should this grimace at me terrify?
Why cams’t thou then so slowly? Mend thy pace.
Thy slowness me detains from Christ’s bright face.
Although thy terrors rise to th’ highest degree,
I still am where I was. A fig for thee.

 

l. 3: talons fell; deadly claws
l. 9: pounderall; pestle
l. 12: heavenly kernel; the speaker¡¦s soul
l. 24: mess; food, dinner
l. 29: my strumpet; my body (literally, my whore)
l. 35: van; winnowing basket
l. 40: Each dust; each dead body
l. 53: Mend thy pace; Go faster