Wednesday 11 December 2013

'His just fame waking, though his loved dust sleep'

I came across this beautiful epitaph while browsing in an anthology the other day. It was written by Lady Catherine Dyer for her husband, Sir William, who died in 1641, and can be seen in the church of St Denis at Colmworth in Bedfordshire.
The epitaph looks like a sonnet, but  its 14 lines are made up simply of seven rhymed couplets, some of them elegantly enjambed. It is in fact the second half of a two-part epitaph, the first part of which (16 lines long) is rather more formal and lacks the intimacy and direct emotional power of the grief-stricken continuation. 'His just fame waking, though his loved dust sleep' is a beautiful line though. Both parts can be read here, with a little background information.
This (the second part) is surely one of the great English epitaphs...

My dearest dust, could not thy hasty day
Afford thy drowzy patience leave to stay
One hower longer: so that we might either
Sate up, or gone to bedd together?
But since thy finisht labor hath possest
Thy weary limbs with early rest,
Enjoy it sweetly: and thy widdowe bride
Shall soone repose her by thy slumbring side.
Whose business, now, is only to prepare
My nightly dress, and call to prayre:
Mine eyes wax heavy and ye day growes old.
The dew falls thick, my beloved growes cold.
Draw, draw ye closed curtaynes: and make room:
My dear, my dearest dust; I come, I come.

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