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The Seven Wonders Of England

Sir Philip Sidney

I.

Near Wilton sweet, huge heaps of stones are found,
But so confused, that neither any eye
Can count them just, nor Reason reason try,
What force brought them to so unlikely ground.

To stranger weights my mind’s waste soil is bound,
Of passion-hills, reaching to Reason’s sky,
From Fancy’s earth, passing all number’s bound,
Passing all guess, whence into me should fly
So mazed a mass; or, if in me it grows,
A simple soul should breed so mixed woes.

II.

The Bruertons have a lake, which, when the sun
Approaching warms, not else, dead logs up sends
From hideous depth; which tribute, when it ends,
Sore sign it is the lord’s last thread is spun.

My lake is Sense, whose still streams never run
But when my sun her shining twins there bends;
Then from his depth with force in her begun,
Long drowned hopes to watery eyes it lends;
But when that fails my dead hopes up to take,
Their master is fair warned his will to make.

III.

We have a fish, by strangers much admired,
Which caught, to cruel search yields his chief part:
With gall cut out, closed up again by art,
Yet lives until his life be new required.

A stranger fish myself, not yet expired,
Tho’, rapt with Beauty’s hook, I did impart
Myself unto th’ anatomy desired,
Instead of gall, leaving to her my heart:
Yet live with thoughts closed up, ’till that she will,
By conquest’s right, instead of searching, kill.

IV.

Peak hath a cave, whose narrow entries find
Large rooms within where drops distil amain:
Till knit with cold, though there unknown remain,
Deck that poor place with alabaster lined.

Mine eyes the strait, the roomy cave, my mind;
Whose cloudy thoughts let fall an inward rain
Of sorrow’s drops, till colder reason bind
Their running fall into a constant vein
Of truth, far more than alabaster pure,
Which, though despised, yet still doth truth endure.

V.

A field there is, where, if a stake oe prest
Deep in the earth, what hath in earth receipt,
Is changed to stone in hardness, cold, and weight,
The wood above doth soon consuming rest.

The earth her ears; the stake is my request;
Of which, how much may pierce to that sweet seat,
To honour turned, doth dwell in honour’s nest,
Keeping that form, though void of wonted heat;
But all the rest, which fear durst not apply,
Failing themselves, with withered conscience die.

VI.

Of ships by shipwreck cast on Albion’s coast,
Which rotting on the rocks, their death to die:
From wooden bones and blood of pitch doth fly
A bird, which gets more life than ship had lost.

My ship, Desire, with wind of Lust long tost,
Brake on fair cliffs of constant Chastity;
Where plagued for rash attempt, gives up his ghost;
So deep in seas of virtue, beauties lie:
But of this death flies up the purest love,
Which seeming less, yet nobler life doth move.

VII.

These wonders England breeds; the last remains -
A lady, in despite of Nature, chaste,
On whom all love, in whom no love is placed,
Where Fairness yields to Wisdom’s shortest reins.

A humble pride, a scorn that favour stains;
A woman’s mould, but like an angel graced;
An angel’s mind, but in a woman cased;
A heaven on earth, or earth that heaven contains:
Now thus this wonder to myself I frame;
She is the cause that all the rest I am.

* * *

Thou blind man’s mark; thou fool’s self-chosen snare,
Fond fancy’s scum, and dregs of scattered thought:
Band of all evils; cradle of causeless care;
Thou web of will, whose end is never wrought:

Desire! Desire!  I have too dearly bought,
With price of mangled mind, thy worthless ware;
Too long, too long, asleep thou hast me brought
Who shouldst my mind to higher things prepare;

But yet in vain thou hast my ruin sought;
In vain thou mad’st me to vain things aspire;
In vain thou kindlest all thy smoky fire:
For Virtue hath this better lesson taught,
Within myself to seek my only hire,
Desiring nought but how to kill Desire.
Online text © 1998-2014 Poetry X. All rights reserved.
From A Defence Of Poesie And Poems | Cassell & Company, 1891
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