Why must I thus forever be confined
Against the noble freedom of my mind—
hoary moth, and gaudy fly
Within their spheres enjoy their liberty?
The virgin bee her luscious cell forsakes
And on a thousand flowers pleasure takes;
casts her stag-like horns,
The next year new her stately
She rolls her
unctuous embryo east and west
To call great Nature, who hears her behest;
The silkworm feeds, then works, then she
Herself, then breeds, then flies till she
The basilisk, that kills by fascination,
Is not like me tied to one habitation;
No, nor the
catablepe whose pois’nous eye,
Where’er she goes, makes grass and flowers die:
Though these destroy, yet may they freely range
Whilst I am shut up in a
looks, though sad, would make my friend revive;
Why must I then be buried thus alive?
amphisbaena, that at both ends kill,
Doth freely slide about wheree’er she will;
dipsas that doth make men die with quaffing,
tarantula, that kills with laughing,
With that bold
worm which killed the
All freely crawling ’bout the world are seen.
Thus insects, reptiles that
From such a solitude as mine are freed,
And I (O my sad heart) and only I
Must in this sad confinement living die.
The swiftest dolphin and the vastest whale
immured as I, in wall or
But every sort of fish, even as they please,
Do dive and swim about the spacious seas;
Though the dull oyster from a rock is torn,
Yet she with sails, and wind, and tide is borne
O’er all the swelling billows at her pleasure
Until the cunning crab on her takes seizure;
The flying fish, though she doth oft despair,
Yet she commands the seas and vaster air;
those fair birds which hover still above,
Which are so far indulgent to their love
To let their females lay upon their back:
No noble freedom surely they can lack,
Nor do they fear the terriblest tyrant’s
Should shut them in a
bastille or a tower,
For they disdain to touch this
Thus they enjoy the freedom of their birth,
But I to solitude am still confined:
The cruelest curb unto a noble mind.
halcyon that calms the ruffling seas
Is not restrained, but flies where’er she please;
Nor doth the swan, on
Ask leave to rise off from her downy nest;
rav’nous ravens, deaf to their young ones’ cry,
May in the spacious air most freely fly;
But I above my life my children love,
Yet I, to comfort them,
foolish ostrich doth her eggs expose
To thousand dangers ere they do
Yet proudly she by wind and wing is born;
The swiftest horse and rider she doth scorn.
for mine, would willingly
Yet sad obscurity doth me
The mild and tenderhearted turtledove
That was so constant to her only love,
Though she resolves to have no second
Yet she her flight about the air doth take;
But I, that am more constant than this dove,
Unto my first and last and only love
Cannot from this sad place (ay me) remove.
cuckoo that doth put her eggs to nurse,
Then eats their foster brothers, which is worse,
Yet this cursed emblem of ingratitude
Is not like me enslaved to solitude.
volatiles, from the eagle to the dove,
Their freedom freely both enjoy and love,
But I no liberty expect to have
Until I find my freedom in my grave.
su no liberty can lack
That bears her sprightly offspring on her back;
canibal, when she the huntsman hears,
Her pretty younglings in a
Thus from pursuers they are all secure,
these sad shades doth me (ay me) immure,
That I cannot assist
mine in their sorrow,
Which makes me sigh and weep both eve and morrow.
The lion, tiger, elephant, and bear,
And thousands more, do no confinement fear.
Thus beasts, birds, fishes, equivocal worm and fly
Enjoy more liberty (woe’s me!) than I.
Wer’t for my God, King, country, or my friend,
My love, my children, ’twere a noble end;
Or wer’t for sin, my guilty head I would hide
And patiently the stroke of death abide;
Or wer’t my venial slips to
Then my restraint would have a happy
Or wer’t for debt, I soon could pay that score:
But ’tis, O my sad soul—I’ll say no more.
To God alone my suff’rings I’ll