IN TIME OF PESTILENCE BY THOMAS NASHE

In “In Time of Pestilence” Thomas Nashe muses on the brevity of existence in the context of the pestilence or plague. All worldly vanaties will pass away: riches, bodily strength, wit and beauty. As Nashe puts it “Death proves them all but toys”.  Death has taken the beautiful Helen of Troy and the brave Hector of Greek legend, he will, likewise take us.

The simplicity and power of this poem never fails to affect me. We (especially when we are young and healthy) tend to believe that we will live forever. We won’t and Nashe’s poem reminds us of this salutory fact.

IN TIME OF PESTILENCE

ADIEU, farewell earth’s bliss!
This world uncertain is:
Fond are life’s lustful joys,
Death proves them all but toys.
None from his darts can fly;
I am sick, I must die–
   Lord, have mercy on us!

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade;
All things to end are made;
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die–
   Lord, have mercy on us!

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye;
I am sick, I must die–
   Lord, have mercy on us!

Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector brave;
Swords may not fight with fate;
Earth still holds ope her gate;
Come, come! the bells do cry;
I am sick, I must die–
   Lord, have mercy on us!

Wit with his wantonness
Tasteth death’s bitterness;
Hell’s executioner
Hath no ears for to hear
What vain art can reply;
I am sick, I must die–
   Lord, have mercy on us!

Haste therefore each degree
To welcome destiny;
Heaven is our heritage,
Earth but a player’s stage.
Mount we unto the sky;
I am sick, I must die–
   Lord, have mercy on us!

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About kevinmorris101

I live and work in London and blog as a hobby. If you would like to contact me please send an email to animalia at shiftmail.com (the address is rendered in this manner in order to try and defeat spammers)!
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