Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Many of the blossoming trees -- cherries, plums, magnolias, dogwoods -- are now at their peak.  Above, below, and all around, it is a pink and white world.  Ah, if this world could freeze in place!  I understand what Wallace Stevens is getting at in "This Solitude of Cataracts":  "He wanted to feel the same way over and over. . . . He wanted his heart to stop beating and his mind to rest/In a permanent realization . . . Just to know how it would feel, released from destruction . . ."  Not in the cards, of course.

             Night Rain -- Worrying About the Flowers

I sigh on this rainy late spring night:
the reds and whites that filled the forest are falling to the dust!
Late at night, my soul in dream becomes a butterfly,
chasing after each falling petal as it flutters to the earth.

Ishikawa Jōzan (1583-1672) (translated by Jonathan Chaves), in J. Thomas Rimer, Jonathan Chaves, Stephen Addiss, and Hiroyuki Suzuki, Shisendo: Hall of the Poetry Immortals (Weatherhill 1991), page 49.

As I have noted here before, during the Edo (or Tokugawa) period (1603-1868) a significant number of Japanese poets devoted themselves to writing poems in Chinese.  The poems they wrote are known as kanshi (a Japanese word meaning -- no surprise -- "Chinese poem").  Ishikawa Jōzan is perhaps the most admired kanshi poet.  He possessed a deep knowledge of both Chinese poetry (including its intricate and demanding prosodic rules) and Chinese philosophy.  Hence, it is not unlikely that he had the following passage from Chuang Tzu in mind when he wrote "Night Rain -- Worrying About the Flowers."

"Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased.  He didn't know he was Chuang Chou.  Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou.  But he didn't know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou."

Chuang Tzu (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings (Columbia University Press 1964), page 45.  A note: Chuang Tzu's family name was "Chuang;" his given name was "Chou."  He later came to be known as "Chuang Tzu" ("Master Chuang") because of his philosophical teachings.

Allusions to Chuang Tzu's butterfly dream appear often in traditional Japanese poetry, particularly in haiku.  Here is one instance:

     O butterfly,
What are you dreaming there,
     Fanning your wings?

Chiyo-ni (1703-1775) (translated by R. H. Bkyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 2: Spring (Hokuseido Press 1950), page 257.

James McIntosh Patrick, "A City Garden" (1940)

When it comes to the seasons, the wistfulness and bittersweetness quotients for spring and autumn are, as I have observed in the past, quite high.  So many reminders of our transience, and of the constancy of change!  Thus arises the irrational (or is it irrational?) desire to freeze things in place.

Here's a thought:  what if we could transform our existence into a spring or an autumn version of a snow globe?  Shake the globe, and you can live in an eternity of fluttering pink and white blossoms or, alternatively, in an eternity of flying and falling yellow, red, and orange leaves.  Would we in time find these eternal worlds monotonous?  I think so.  Wistfulness and bittersweetness are wonderful and essential human things, sorrow and all.

                 Fallen Blossoms on the Eastern Hills

Cherry blossoms filling the ground, sunset filling my eyes:
blossoms vanished, spring old, I feel the passing years.
When blossoms were at their finest I neglected to call.
The blossoms did not betray me.  I betrayed the blossoms.

Ishikawa Jōzan (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, Kanshi: The Poetry of Ishikawa Jōzan and Other Edo-Period Poets (North Point Press 1990), page 16.

Here is an alternative translation:

      Falling Cherry Blossoms at Higashiyama

Filling the ground -- cherry blossoms,
     Filling the eyes -- pink clouds;
the blossoms have faded, spring grown old,
     I feel the passing of years.
When the blossoms were at their peak,
     I did not come to visit:
it's not that the blossoms are unfaithful to me;
     I was unfaithful to them.

Ishikawa Jōzan (translated by Jonathan Chaves), in J. Thomas Rimer, et al., Shisendo:  Hall of the Poetry Immortals, page 43.  A note: Higashiyama is a district in Kyoto.  Higashi means "east."  Yama means "mountain."

James McIntosh Patrick, "Glamis Village" (1939)A

It's funny how life works.  When you are young, an afternoon can seem to last for ever.  But at some point you come to notice that a year -- even a decade! -- can pass in the blink of an eye.  The fluttering petals are trying to tell us something.

             A Contemplation upon Flowers

Brave flowers -- that I could gallant it like you,
          And be as little vain!
You come abroad, and make a harmless shew,
          And to your beds of earth again.
You are not proud:  you know your birth:
For your embroidered garments are from earth.

You do obey your months and times, but I
          Would have it ever spring:
My fate would know no winter, never die,
          Nor think of such a thing.
Oh, that I could my bed of earth but view
And smile, and look as cheerfully as you!

Oh, teach me to see death and not to fear,
          But rather to take truce!
How often have I seen you at a bier,
          And there look fresh and spruce!
You fragrant flowers, then teach me, that my breath
Like yours may sweeten and perfume my death.

Henry King (1592-1669), in Norman Ault (editor), Seventeenth Century Lyrics (William Sloane 1950), page 57.

These lines in King's poem seem to anticipate what Stevens would say three centuries later in "This Solitude of Cataracts":  "You do obey your months and times, but I/Would have it ever spring:/My fate would know no winter, never die,/Nor think of such a thing."  A fond but futile hope.

James McIntosh Patrick, "City Garden" (1979)

It seems to me that the appropriate response to all of this "change and chancefulness" (Thomas Hardy, "The Temporary the All") is gratitude. Gratitude (and joy) amidst the wistfulness and bittersweetness (and sorrow) of this fluttering world.

     Recalling Blossoms After They've Scattered

Once I see
the new green leaves,
my heart may take to them too --
if I think of them as mementos
of blossoms that scattered.

Saigyō (1118-1190) (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, Saigyō: Poems of a Mountain Home (Columbia University Press 1991), page 46.

Is life as complicated as we make it out to be?  Are the particular times in which we live uniquely parlous and complex?  I wonder.

     Simply trust:
Do not also the petals flutter down,
     Just like that?

Issa (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 2: Spring, page 363.

James McIntosh Patrick, "Springtime in Eskdale" (1935)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Souls And Stars

It is always a pleasure to encounter a poet who harbors no doubts about the existence of the human soul, and who writes about it without skepticism and without irony.  This is one of the reasons why I am fond of the poetry of Walt Whitman.

                                       A Clear Midnight

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest           best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1881).

The progression of the final line is lovely, isn't it?  "Night, sleep, death and the stars."  In thinking about the aptness of that progression, it is well to remember that, in Whitman's view, we have nothing to fear from death.  To wit:

Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.

Walt Whitman, from Section 7 of "Song of Myself," Ibid.  "I hasten to inform him or her" is wonderful, as is the certainty of "and I know it."

Or, consider this:

            Gliding o'er All

Gliding o'er all, through all,
Through Nature, Time, and Space,
As a ship on the waters advancing,
The voyage of the soul -- not life alone,
Death, many deaths I'll sing.

Walt Whitman, Ibid.

William Shackleton, "The Mackerel Nets" (1913)

Whitman turns up in unexpected places on the other side of the Atlantic. Here, for instance, is Gerard Manley Hopkins writing to Robert Bridges in 1882:

"I always knew in my heart Walt Whitman's mind to be more like my own than any other man's living.  As he is a very great scoundrel this is not a pleasant confession.  And this also makes me the more desirous to read him and the more determined that I will not."

Gerard Manley Hopkins, letter to Robert Bridges (October 18-19, 1882), in R. K. R. Thornton and Catherine Phillips (editors), The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Volume II: Correspondence 1882-1889 (Oxford University Press 2013), pages 542-543.

As a product of Victorian England who had converted to Catholicism and then become a Jesuit, Hopkins was pretty much obliged to refer to Whitman as "a very great scoundrel."  But I don't think his heart was in it.

                         The Starlight Night

Look at the stars!  look, look up at the skies!
     O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
     The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves!  the elves'-eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!
     Wind-beat whitebeam!  airy abeles set on a flare!
     Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare! --
Ah well!  it is all a purchase, all is a prize.

Buy then!  bid then! -- What? -- Prayer, patience, alms, vows.
Look, look:  a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!
     Look!  March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows!
These are indeed the barn; withindoors house
The shocks.  This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse
     Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, in W. H. Gardner and N. H. MacKenzie (editors), The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Oxford University Press 1967).

"The Starlight Night" was written in 1877.  I do not know whether Hopkins was aware of Whitman's poetry at that time.  (His first reference to Whitman in his correspondence appears in a letter to Robert Bridges dated January 30, 1879.)  However, the octave of the sonnet (rampant exclamation marks and all) sounds like something that Whitman could have written, had he ever taken it upon himself to write a sonnet.  As for the sestet:  well, Walt Whitman was never a Jesuit, but I believe he would understand, and respect, Hopkins's devotion and passion.

Phyllis James (1911-1973), "New Walk at Night, Leicester"

I am not suggesting that Hopkins's poetic technique or themes were directly influenced by Whitman.  (For one, Hopkins was preoccupied with technical matters of prosody that would have been of no interest to Whitman.)   Rather, I think that Hopkins and Whitman were both mystics at heart, and shared an emotional bond that was based upon their deep-felt sense of the capaciousness and timelessness of the human soul as it makes its way through a wondrous universe.

This in turn brings us to Ivor Gurney, a mystic as well, who was influenced by both of them, but particularly by Whitman.

                           To Long Island First

To Long Island first with my tortured verse,
Remember how on a Gloucester book-stall one morning
I saw, brown 'Leaves of Grass' after long hesitation
(For fourpence to me was bankruptcy then or worse).
I bought, what since in book or mind about the dawning
On Roman Cotswold, Roman Artois war stations;
Severn and Buckingham, London after night wanderings,
Has served me, friend or Master on many occasions,
Of weariness, or gloriousness or delight.
At first to puzzle, then grow past all traditions
To be Master unquestioned -- a book that brings the clear
Spirit of him that wrote, to the thought again here.
If I have not known Long Island none has --
Brooklyn is my own City, Manhattan the right of me,
Camden and Idaho -- and all New England's
Two-fold love of honour, honour and comely grace.
If blood to blood can speak or the spirit has inspiring,
Let me claim place there also -- Briton I am also Hers,
And Roman, have more than Virgil for meditations.

Ivor Gurney, Selected Poems (edited by George Walter) (J. M. Dent 1996).

A key phrase in Gurney's poem articulates how I see Whitman's influence at work in both Gurney and Hopkins:  "a book that brings the clear/Spirit of him that wrote, to the thought again here."  It was "the clear spirit" of Whitman that moved both Hopkins and Gurney.

This spirit is manifested in the cascading rushes of images and in the catalogues and lists that are characteristic of all three poets.  Hopkins's "The Starlight Night" is but one example.  Another instance is this poem from Gurney (which has appeared here on more than one occasion, but which is always worth revisiting):

                            The Escape

I believe in the increasing of life whatever
Leads to the seeing of small trifles . . . . .
Real, beautiful, is good, and an act never
Is worthier than in freeing spirit that stifles
Under ingratitude's weight; nor is anything done
Wiselier than the moving or breaking to sight
Of a thing hidden under by custom; revealed
Fulfilled, used, (sound-fashioned) any way out to delight.
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .
Trefoil . . . . . hedge sparrow . . . . . the stars on the edge of night.

Ibid.  All of the ellipses appear in the original manuscript.

In fact, "The Escape" serves well as a description of the essential forces that are at work throughout the poetry of Whitman, Hopkins, and Gurney:  "the increasing of life," "the seeing of small trifles/Real, beautiful," "freeing spirit that stifles/Under ingratitude's weight," and "the moving or breaking to sight/Of a thing hidden under by custom."  Most importantly, all of these activities end in "delight."  If not, why write poetry?

Merlyn Evans, "Window by Night" (1955)

But the last word should go to Walt Whitman, with a return to souls and stars.

                    When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure               them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause           in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman, Drum-Taps (1865).

Harald Sohlberg, "Flower Meadow in the North" (1905)

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Upon reading the following poem for the first time, my reaction was: "What the heck is that all about?"  My next reaction was:  "What a strange and wonderful thing!"  (The "thing" referred to is the poem, not the object that provides the occasion for the poem.  Although, as you will see, that object is a strange and wonderful thing as well.)

                         The Berg
                        (A Dream)

I saw a ship of martial build
(Her standards set, her brave apparel on)
Directed as by madness mere
Against a stolid iceberg steer,
Nor budge it, though the infatuate ship went down.
The impact made huge ice-cubes fall
Sullen, in tons that crashed the deck;
But that one avalanche was all --
No other movement save the foundering wreck.

Along the spurs of ridges pale,
Not any slenderest shaft and frail,
A prism over glass-green gorges lone,
Toppled; or lace of traceries fine,
Nor pendant drops in grot or mine
Were jarred, when the stunned ship went down.
Nor sole the gulls in cloud that wheeled
Circling one snow-flanked peak afar,
But nearer fowl the floes that skimmed
And crystal beaches, felt no jar.
No thrill transmitted stirred the lock
Of jack-straw needle-ice at base;
Towers undermined by waves -- the block
Atilt impending -- kept their place.
Seals, dozing sleek on sliddery ledges
Slipt never, when by loftier edges
Through very inertia overthrown,
The impetuous ship in bafflement went down.

Hard Berg (methought), so cold, so vast,
With mortal damps self-overcast;
Exhaling still thy dankish breath --
Adrift dissolving, bound for death;
Though lumpish thou, a lumbering one --
A lumbering lubbard loitering slow,
Impingers rue thee and go down,
Sounding thy precipice below,
Nor stir the slimy slug that sprawls
Along thy dead indifference of walls.

Herman Melville, John Marr and Other Sailors (1888).

Long-time (and much-appreciated!) readers of this blog are aware by now of one of my fundamental tenets:  Explanation and explication are the death of poetry.  Hence, I do not intend to engage in any metaphysical, theological, or psychological speculations about what "The Berg" may "symbolize."  Melville's works (including, in particular, that book about a whale) have been subjected to far too much symbol-mongering.  Sometimes an iceberg is just an iceberg.  And sometimes a whale is just a whale.  More or less.

However, the lovely particulars certainly deserve our attention.  For instance, my favorite words in the poem are these:  "Hard Berg (methought)."  The capitalization of "Berg" is a fine touch.  And I love the parenthetical "methought."  "Hard Berg":  now what is that supposed to mean?

(An aside:  Melville's use of capitalized words is a topic in itself.  Consider the following passage from Chapter 112 ("The Blacksmith") of Moby-Dick: "but Death is only a launching into the region of the strange Untried; it is but the first salutation to the possibilities of the immense Remote, the Wild, the Watery, the Unshored.")

I also like the repetition and the echoing of "the infatuate ship went down" (line 5), "the stunned ship went down" (line 15), and "the impetuous ship in bafflement went down" (line 27).  "Infatuate," "stunned," and "impetuous":  what are we to make of those word choices?  And there is this intriguing final echo:  "Impingers rue thee and go down" (line 34). "Impingers" is something to mull over.

Finally, there is the pure sound of it.  "Seals, dozing sleek on sliddery ledges/Slipt never."  Or this:  "Though lumpish thou, a lumbering one --/A lumbering lubbard loitering slow."  (Such a comical description of such a portentous, menacing object.)

Samuel Bough, "Edinburgh from Leith Roads" (1854)

I presume that it is not mere happenstance that Melville elected to place the following poem immediately after "The Berg" in John Marr and Other Sailors.

                          The Enviable Isles

Through storms you reach them and from storms are free.
     Afar descried, the foremost drear in hue,
But, nearer, green; and, on the marge, the sea
     Makes thunder low and mist of rainbowed dew.

But, inland, where the sleep that folds the hills
A dreamier sleep, the trance of God, instills --
     On uplands hazed, in wandering airs aswoon,
Slow-swaying palms salute love's cypress tree
     Adown in vale where pebbly runlets croon
A song to lull all sorrow and all glee.

Sweet-fern and moss in many a glade are here,
     Where, strown in flocks, what cheek-flushed myriads lie
Dimpling in dream -- unconscious slumberers mere,
     While billows endless round the beaches die.

Herman Melville, Ibid.

Melville apparently intended to use the poem in a prose and verse narrative he tentatively titled "Rammon."  However, he never completed the larger work.  Howard Vincent (editor), Collected Poems of Herman Melville (Packard and Company 1947), pages 472-473.  In a surviving prose fragment, Rammon, "the unrobust child of Solomon's old age," develops an interest in Buddhism.  Rammon meets Tardi, a merchant who has travelled in Asia, and asks him what he knows of Buddhism:  "Fable me, then, those Enviable Isles."  Ibid, page 416.  The poem constitutes Tardi's response. The description of the Isles seems to be a blending of Melville's memories of the time he spent in the South Seas in his younger years and of a vision of Nirvana.

Samuel Bough, "Dunkirk Harbour" (1863)

What, then, is our destination?  The "hard Berg"?  "The Enviable Isles"? Or is it, perhaps, both?

Thinking about Melville's poems, another possibility occurred to me.  This option is offered to us by an Anglican vicar from Dean Prior, Devon.

     The White Island: or Place of the Blest

In this world (the Isle of Dreams)
While we sit by sorrow's streams,
Tears and terrors are our themes

But when once from hence we fly,
More and more approaching nigh
Unto young Eternity

In that whiter Island, where
Things are evermore sincere;
Candor here, and lustre there

There no monstrous fancies shall
Out of hell an horror call,
To create (or cause at all)

There in calm and cooling sleep
We our eyes shall never steep;
But eternal watch shall keep,

Pleasures, such as shall pursue
Me immortaliz'd, and you;
And fresh joys, as never too
                                        Have ending.

Robert Herrick, His Noble Numbers: or, His Pious Pieces (1647).

Samuel Bough, "Fishing Boats Running into Port: Dysart Harbour" (1854)

In John Marr and Other Sailors, "The Berg," as noted above, immediately precedes "The Enviable Isles," which is the penultimate poem in the volume.  "The Enviable Isles" is in turn followed by a closing sequence titled "Pebbles," which consists of seven short poems.  "The Sea" is the unifying element of the sequence -- "the old implacable Sea" (Poem V), "the inhuman Sea" (Poem VII).  The all-encompassing Sea?

Here is Poem II of "Pebbles":

Old are the creeds, but stale the schools,
     Revamped as the mode may veer,
But Orm from the schools to the beaches strays,
And, finding a Conch hoar with time, he delays
     And reverent lifts it to ear.
That Voice, pitched in far monotone,
     Shall it swerve?  shall it deviate ever?
The Seas have inspired it, and Truth --
     Truth, varying from sameness never.

Herman Melville, from "Pebbles," John Marr and Other Sailors.  A note: commentators suggest that "Orm" (line 3) is an allusion to a 12th-century monk who wrote a manuscript in Middle English verse consisting of homilies intended to explain biblical texts.  The manuscript is titled the "Ormulum" (after its maker).

Melville's thoughts bring to mind a poem that was written by Walt Whitman in 1888 -- the same year in which John Marr and Other Sailors was published.  Melville and Whitman were nearly exact contemporaries: both were born in 1819; Melville died in 1891; Whitman died in 1892.  It is marvelous to think of those two extraordinary American characters passing side-by-side through nearly the whole of the century.

                 The Calming Thought of All

That coursing on, whate'er men's speculations,
Amid the changing schools, theologies, philosophies,
Amid the bawling presentations new and old,
The round earth's silent vital laws, facts, modes continue.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1891-1892).

Perhaps, after all, destinations do not matter.

Samuel Bough, "Shipyard at Dumbarton" (1855)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Earth, Lie Lightly

"Earth, lie lightly."  What a lovely request.  Much more evocative than, say, "rest in peace."  But it is not a phrase that one is apt to encounter first-hand in our times.  Which is a pity.  It is the cumulative tiny losses of such graceful touches that ultimately take their toll on the decency, seemliness, and nobility of civilization, not the day-to-day events of politics or economics, which are nothing but passing distractions.

"Earth, lie lightly."  One is likely to come across this gentle supplication (and variations upon it) in English poetry written prior to the 20th century. For instance, it is found in several translations of poems from The Greek Anthology.

Take to thy bosom, gentle earth, a swain
     With much hard labour in thy service worn.
He set the vines that clothe yon ample plain,
     And he these olives that the vale adorn.
He fill'd with grain the glebe; the rills he led
     Through this green herbage, and those fruitful bowers.
Thou, therefore, earth! lie lightly on his head,
     His hoary head, and deck his grave with flowers.

Anonymous (translated by William Cowper), in Henry Wellesley (editor), Anthologia Polyglotta: A Selection of Versions in Various Languages, Chiefly from the Greek Anthology (1849).

Stanley Spencer, "Bluebells, Cornflowers and Rhododendrons" (1945)

Too sentimental?  Too quaint?  Too old-fashioned?  It depends upon what sort of world you wish to live in.  One can, of course, take the ironic, hard-boiled "modern" approach and say that this sort of thing simply won't do anymore:  we have moved beyond it, we are now more knowing.

Ah, yes, have a look around you at the current state of the world.  What a wonderful place our superior knowingness and our irony have created for us!  I prefer this:

Full oft, of old, the islands changed their name,
And took new titles from some heir of fame:
Then dread not ye the wrath of gods above,
But change your own, and be the Isles of Love;
For Love's own name and shape the infant bore
Whom late we buried on your sandy shore.
Break softly there, thou never-weary wave,
And earth, lie light upon his little grave!

Crinagoras (translated by John William Burgon), Ibid.

Stanley Spencer, "The Roundabout" (1923)

Mind you, I am not suggesting that the essential humanity that one finds in The Greek Anthology has vanished from the world.  The love, hate, joy, sorrow, beauty, and transience of the ancients are ours as well.  Being human has always been a matter of life and death.

                            Life and Death

The two old, simple problems ever intertwined,
Close home, elusive, present, baffled, grappled.
By each successive age insoluble, pass'd on,
To ours to-day -- and we pass on the same.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1891-1892).

"Insoluble."  Yet, it is entirely possible that the acceptance of this insolubility may be the only solution we need in order to pass our days in tranquility.  In any case, solution or no solution, we each have a choice to make:  shall we live in an enchanted world or a disenchanted world?

Earth, lightly press Ausigenes, for he,
Mother, ne'er set a heavy foot on thee.

Meleager (translated by John Besly), Anthologia Polyglotta.

Stanley Spencer, "Garden at Whitehouse, Northern Ireland" (1952)

Yes, we ought to tread softly.  As I have done here on more than one occasion in the past, I can only repeat Philip Larkin's lovely advice:

                . . . we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

Philip Larkin, "The Mower," Collected Poems (Faber and Faber 1988).

A task for a lifetime, never completed.  And, if we are fortunate, a kind soul will request on our behalf, when we have vanished:  "Earth, lie lightly."

Lay a garland on my hearse
     Of the dismal yew;
Maidens, willow branches bear,
     Say I diëd true.

My Love was false, but I was firm
     From my hour of birth.
Upon my buried body lay
     Lightly, gently, earth.

John Fletcher, from The Maid's Tragedy (1622), in Norman Ault (editor), Elizabethan Lyrics (William Sloane 1949).

Stanley Spencer, "Scarecrow, Cookham" (1934)