A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Discontent" by Mrs. Anne Killigrew (c.1660-1685).
From Killigrew, Anne. Poems 1686. Facs. edn., ed. R. E. Morton. Gainesville, Florida: Scholars, 1967. pp. 51-56.

[Page 51]

The Discontent.

I.

HEre take no Care, take here no Care, my Muse,
  Nor ought of Art or Labour use:
  But let thy Lines rude and unpolisht go,
Nor Equal be their Feet, nor Num'rous let them flow.
  The ruggeder my Measures run when read,
They'l livelier paint th'unequal Paths fond Mortals tread.
  Who when th'are tempted by the smooth Ascents,
    Which flatt'ring Hope presents,
  Briskly they clime, and Great Things undertake;
 But Fatal Voyages, alas, they make:
    For 'tis not long before their Feet,
    Inextricable Mazes meet,
    Perplexing Doubts obstruct their Way,
    Mountains with-stand them of Dismay;
  Or to the Brink of black Dispaire them lead,
    Where's nought their Ruine to impede,

[Page 52]

  In vain for Aide they then to Reason call,
  Their Senses dazle, and their Heads turn round,
    The sight does all their Pow'rs confound,
And headlong down the horrid Precipice they fall:
    Where storms of Sighs for ever blow,
    Where raped streams of Tears do flow,
    Which drown them in a Briny Floud.
My Muse pronounce aloud, there's nothing Good,
      Nought that the World can show,
      Nought that it can bestow.

II.

  Not boundless Heaps of its admired Clay,
    Ah, too successful to betray,
    When spread in our fraile Vertues way:
  For few do run with so Resolv'd a Pace,
That for the Golden Apple will not loose the Race.
  And yet not all the Gold the Vain would spend,
    Or greedy Avarice would wish to save;
  Which on the Earth refulgent Beams doth send,
    Or in the Sea has found a Grave,
  Joyn'd in one Mass, can Bribe sufficient be,
  The Body from a stern Disease to free,

[Page 53]

    Or purchase for the Minds relief
One Moments sweet Repose, when restless made by grief,
But what may Laughter, more than Pity, move:
  When some the Price of what they Dear'st Love
  Are Masters of, and hold it in their Hand,
  To part with it their Hearts they can't command:
  But chose to miss, what miss't does them torment,
  And that to hug, affords them no Content.
  Wise Fools, to do them Right, we these must hold,
  Who Love depose, and Homage pay to Gold.

III.

   Nor yet, if rightly understood,
   Does Grandeur carry more of Good;
  To be o'th' Number of the Great enroll'd,
  A Scepter o're a Mighty Realm to hold.
       For what is this?
       If I not judge amiss.
  But all th'Afflicted of a Land to take,
  And of one single Family to make?
    The Wrong'd, the Poor, th'Opprest, the Sad,
    The Ruin'd, Malecontent, and Mad?

[Page 54]

  Which a great Part of ev'ry Empire frame,
  And Interest in the common Father claime.
  Again what is't, but always to abide
  A Gazing Crowd? upon a Stage to spend
  A Life that's vain, or Evil without End?
And which is yet not safely held, nor laid aside?
And then, if lesser Titles carry less of Care,
Yet none but Fools ambitious are to share
Such a Mock-Good, of which 'tis said, 'tis Best,
When of the least of it Men are possest.

IV.

  But, O, the Laurel'd Fool! that doats on Fame,
  Whose Hope's Applause, whose Fear's to want a Name;
      Who can accept for Pay
      Of what he does, what others say;
  Exposes now to hostile Arms his Breast,
To toylsome Study then betrays his Rest;
  Now to his Soul denies a just Content,
  Then forces on it what it does resent;
  And all for Praise of Fools: for such are those,
  Which most of the Admiring Crowd compose.
  O famisht Soul, which such Thin Food can feed!
  O Wretched Labour crown'd with such a Meed!

[Page 55]

  Too loud, O Fame! thy Trumpet is, too shrill,
      To lull a Mind to Rest,
      Or calme a stormy Breast,
     Which asks a Musick soft and still.
     'Twas not Amaleck's vanquisht Cry,
     Nor Israels shout of Victory,
     That could in Saul the rising Passion lay,
'Twas the soft strains of David's Lyre the Evil Spirit chace't away.

V.

  But Friendship fain would yet it self defend,
     And Mighty Things it does pretend,
  To be of this Sad Journey, Life, the Baite,
The Sweet Refection of our toylsome State.
  But though True Friendship a Rich Cordial be,
     Alas, by most 'tis so alay'd,
     Its Good so mixt with Ill we see,
     That Dross for Gold is often paid.
  And for one Grain of Friendship that is found,
  Falshood and Interest do the Mass compound,
Or coldness, worse than Steel, the Loyal heart doth wound.
  Love in no Two was ever yet the same,
  No Happy Two ere felt an Equal Flame.

[Page 56]

VI.

  Is there that Earth by Humane Foot ne're prest?
  That Aire which never yet by Humane Breast
  Respir'd, did Life supply?
     Oh, thither let me fly!
     Where from the World at such a distance set,
All that's past, present, and to come I may forget:
  The Lovers Sighs, and the Afflicted Tears,
  What e're may wound my Eyes or Ears.
     The grating Noise of Private Jars,
     The horrid sound of Publick Wars,
     Of babling Fame the Idle Stories,
     The short-liv'd Triumphs Noysy-Glories,
     The Curious Nets the subtile weave,
     The Word, the Look that may deceive.
No Mundan Care shall more affect my Breast,
     My profound Peace shake or molest:
But Stupor, like to Death, my Senses bind,
     That so I may anticipate that Rest,
Which only in my Grave I hope to find.

[Page 57]

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom