Poem: Scorn Not the Least

The turn of the month allows the posting of a poem by Robert Southwell SJ with a reference to May flowers.   The reference to Dives and Lazar in Stanza 4 is a reference to the story in Luke 16: 19-31.  Southwell’s personal history as an aristocratic gentleman (which he used as cover while underground in Elizabeth’s police-state) is evident in the references to nature and country pursuits.

Scorn Not the Least
Where wards are weak and foes encountring strong
Where mightier do assault than do defend,
The feebler part puts up enforcèd wrong
And silent sees that speech could not amend.
Yet higher powers must think, though they repine,
When sun is set, the little stars will shine.
While pike doth range the seely tench doth fly,
And crouch in privy creeks with smaller fish.
Yet pikes are caught when little fish go by,
These fleet afloat while those do fill the dish.
There is a time even for the worm to creep,
And suck the dew while all her foes do sleep.
The merlin cannot ever soar on high,
Nor greedy greyhound still pursue the chase.
The tender lark will find a time to fly,
And fearful hare to run a quiet race.
He that high growth on cedars did bestow,
Gave also lowly mushrumps leave to grow.
In Aman’s pomp poor Mardocheus wept,
Yet God did turn his fate upon his foe.
The Lazar pined while Dives’ feast was kept,
Yet he to Heaven, to Hell did Dives go.
We trample grass, and prize the flowers of May,
Yet grass is green when flowers do fade away.

Christopher Devlin [1956]: The Life of Robert Southwell: Poet and Martyr.  New York, NY, USA:  Farrar, Straus and Cudahy.
Robert Southwell [2007]:  Collected Poems.  Edited by Peter Davidson and Anne Sweeney.  Manchester, UK:  Fyfield Books.
(Note:  I have modernised the spelling where sensible to do so, and added some punctuation.)
A previous poem by Robert Southwell can be found here, and all previous poetry posts here.

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