Percy's Reliques - The Aged Lover Renounceth Love.

The Aged Lover Renounceth Love.

The grave-digger's song in Hamlet, act v. is taken from three stanzas of the following poem, though greatly altered and disguised, as the same were corrupted by the ballad-singers of Shakspeare's time; or perhaps so designed by the poet himself, the better to suit the character of an illiterate clown. The original is preserved among Surrey's Poems, and is attributed to Lord Vaux, by George Gascoigne, who tells us, it "was thought by some to be made on his death-bed;" a popular error which he laughs at. (See his Epist. to Yong Gent. prefixed to his Posies, 1575, 4to.) It is also ascribed to Lord Vaux in a manuscript copy preserved in the British Museum.[ 1] This lord was remarkable for his skill in drawing feigned manners, &c. for so I understand an ancient writer. "The Lord Vaux his commendation lyeth chiefly in the facilitie of his meetre, and the aptnesse of his descriptions such as he taketh upon him to make, namely in sundry of his songs, wherein he showeth the counterfait action very lively and pleasantly."-- Arte of Eng. Poesie, 1589, p. 51. See another song by this poet in Book iv. no. viii

I LOTHE that I did love,
In youth that I thought swete,
As time requires: for my behove
Me thinkes they are not mete.

My lustes they do me leave,
My fansies all are fled;
And tract of time begins to weave
Gray heares upon my hed.

For Age with steling steps
Hath clawde me with his crowch,
And lusty Youthe awaye he leapes,
As there had bene none such.

My muse doth not delight
Me, as she did before:
My hand and pen are not in plight,
As they have bene of yore.

For Reason me denies,
All youthly idle rime;
And day by day to me she cries,
Leave off these toyes in tyme.

The wrinkles in my brow,
The furrowes in my face,
Say, Limping age will lodge him now,
Where youth must geve him place.

The harbenger of death,
To me I se him ride,
The cough, the cold, the gasping breath,
Doth bid me to provide

A pikeax and a spade,
And eke a shrowding shete,
A house of clay for to be made
For such a guest most mete.

Me thinkes I heare the clarke,
That knoles the carefull knell;
And bids me leave my wearye warke,
Ere nature me compell.

My keepers[ 2] knit the knot,
That youth doth laugh to scorne,
Of me that shall bee cleane forgot,
As I had ne'er bene borne.

Thus must I youth geve up,
Whose badge I long did weare:
To them I yeld the wanton cup,
That better may it beare.

Lo here the bared skull;
By whose balde signe I know,
That stouping age away shall pull
What youthful yeres did sow.

For Beautie with her band,
These croked cares had wrought,
And shipped me into the land,
From whence I first was brought.

And ye that bide behinde,
Have ye none other trust:
As ye of claye were cast by kinde,
So shall ye turne to dust.

NOTES

1. Harl. MSS. Num. 1703, 25. The text is printed from the "Songs, &c. of the Earl of Surrey and others, 1557, 4to."

2. Alluding perhaps to Eccles. xii. 3.

 

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