Verse > Anthologies > Henry Charles Beeching, ed. > Lyra Sacra
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Henry Charles Beeching, ed. (1859–1919).  Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse.  1903.
 
Man’s Civil War
By Robert Southwell (1561?–1595)
 
MY 1 hovering thoughts would fly to heaven,
  And quiet nestle in the sky;
Fain would my ship in Virtue’s shore
  Without remove at anchor lie.
 
But mounting thoughts are haled down,        5
  With heavy poise of mortal load;
And blustering storms deny my ship
  In Virtue’s haven secure abode.
 
When inward eye to heavenly sights
  Doth draw my longing heart’s desire,        10
The world with jesses of delights
  Would to her perch my thoughts retire.
 
Fond Fancy trains to Pleasure’s lure,
  Though Reason stiffly do repine;
Though Wisdom woo me to the saint,        15
  Yet Sense would win me to the shrine.
 
Need craves consent of soul to sense,
  Yet divers bents breed civil fray;
Hard hap where halves must disagree,
  Or truce of halves the whole betray!        20
 
O cruel fight! where fighting friend
  With love doth kill a favouring foe;
Where peace with sense is war with God,
  And self-delight the seed of woe!
 
Note 1. Southwell was a Jesuit priest who was executed under Elizabeth’s Acts against the Romanists after being “thirteen times most cruelly tortured” to make him confess with whom he had been hiding. His best-known poems are “The Burning Babe,” and others upon the Nativity, where his quaintness is less out of place than in penitential verse. His longest effort, “St Peter’s Complaint,” though by no means without genuine feeling, is hard to read, owing to the merciless coruscation of conceits, and the monotony arising from over-elaborate balance and want of variety in the pause. There are also occasional lapses in taste. But, compared with Crashaw, his sentimental peccadilloes are inconsiderable. Now and then he writes a perfect epigram, as in the final couplet of “Scorn not the Least”—
    “We trample grass, and prize the flowers of May,
Yet grass is green when flowers do fade away.”
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