THE POEMS OF SIR FRANCIS BACON

THE LIFE OF MAN

The world’s a bubble; and the life of man less than a span.
In his conception wretched; from the womb so to the tomb:
Curst from the cradle, and brought up to years, with cares and fears.
Who then to frail mortality shall trust,
But limns the water, or but writes in dust.
Yet, since with sorrow here we live oppress’d, what life is best?
Courts are but only superficial schools to dandle fools:
The rural parts are turn’d into a den of savage men:
And where’s a city from all vice so free,
But may be term’d the worst of all the three?

Domestic cares afflict the husband’s bed, or pains his head:
Those that live single, take it for a curse, or do things worse:
Some would have children; those that have them none; or wish them gone.
What is it then to have no wife, but single thralldom or a double strife?
Our own affections still at home to please, is a disease:
To cross the sea to any foreign soil, perils and toil:
Wars with their noise affright us: when they cease,
W’ are worse in peace:
What then remains, but that we still should cry,
Not to be born, or being born, to die.

GUILTLESS HEART

The man of life upright, whose guiltless heart is free
From all dishonest deeds and thoughts of vanity:
The man whose silent days in harmless joys are spent,
Whom hopes cannot delude, nor fortune discontent;
That man needs neither towers nor armor for defense,
Nor secret vaults to fly from thunder’s violence:
He only can behold with unaffrighted eyes
The horrors of the deep and terrors of the skies;
Thus scorning all the care that fate or fortune brings,
He makes the heaven his book, his wisdom heavenly things;
Good thoughts his only friends, his wealth a well-spent age,
The earth his sober inn and quiet pilgrimage.

HELP LORD

Help Lord, for godly men have took their flight,
And left the earth to be the wicked’s den:
Not one that standeth fast to Truth and Right,
But fears, or seeks to please, the eyes of men.
When one with other fall’s to take apart,
Their meaning goeth not with their words in proof;
But fair they flatter, with a cloven heart,
By pleasing words, to work their own behoof.

But God cut off the lips, that are all set,
To trap the harmless soul, that peace hath vow’d;
And pierce the tongues, that seek to counterfeit
The confidence of truth, by lying loud:
Yet so they think to reign, and work their will,
By subtle speech, which enters every where:
And say, our tongues are ours, to help us still,
What need we any higher power to fear?

Now for the bitter sighing of the poor,
The lord hath said, I will no more forbear,
The wicked’s kingdom to invade and scour,
And set at large the men restrain’d in fear.
And sure, the word of God is pure, and fine.
And in the trial never loseth weight;
Like noble gold, which, since it left the mine,
Hath seven times passed through the fiery straight.

And now thou wilt not first thy word forsake,
Nor yet the righteous man, that leans thereto;
But will’t his safe protection undertake,
In spite of all, their force and wiles can do.
And time it is, O Lord, thou didst draw nigh,
The wicked daily do enlarge their bands;
And that, which makes them follow ill a vie,
Rule is betaken to unworthy hands.

SING A NEW SONG

O sing a new song, to our God above,
Avoid profane ones, ’tis for holy choir:
Let Israel sing song of holy love
To him that made them, with their hearts on fire:
Let Zion’s sons life up their voice, and sing
Carols and anthems to their heavenly king.

Let not your voice alone his praise forth tell,
But move withal, and praise him in the dance;
Cymbals and harps, let them be tuned well,
‘Tis he that doth the poor’s estate advance:
Do this not only on the solemn days,
But on your secret beds you spirits raise.

O let the saints bear in their mouth his praise,
And a two-edged sword drawn in their hand,
Therewith for to revenge the former days,
Upon all nations, that their zeal withstand;
To bind their kings in chains of iron strong,
And manacle their nobles for their wrong.

Expect the time, for ’tis decreed in heaven,
Such honor shall unto his saints be given.