1Why must I thus forever be confined
2Against the noble freedom of my mind—
hoary moth, and gaudy fly
4Within their spheres enjoy their liberty?
5The virgin bee her luscious cell forsakes
6And on a thousand flowers pleasure takes;
casts her stag-like horns,
8The next year new her stately
9She rolls her
unctuous embryo east and west
10To call great Nature, who hears her behest;
11The silkworm feeds, then works, then she
12Herself, then breeds, then flies till she
The basilisk, that kills by fascination,
14Is not like me tied to one habitation;
15No, nor the
catablepe whose pois’nous eye,
16Where’er she goes, makes grass and flowers die:
17Though these destroy, yet may they freely range
18Whilst I am shut up in a
looks, though sad, would make my friend revive;
20Why must I then be buried thus alive?
amphisbaena, that at both ends kill,
22Doth freely slide about wheree’er she will;
dipsas that doth make men die with quaffing,
tarantula, that kills with laughing,
25With that bold
worm which killed the
26All freely crawling ’bout the world are seen.
27Thus insects, reptiles that
28From such a solitude as mine are freed,
29And I (O my sad heart) and only I
30Must in this sad confinement living die.
31The swiftest dolphin and the vastest whale
immured as I, in wall or
33But every sort of fish, even as they please,
34Do dive and swim about the spacious seas;
35Though the dull oyster from a rock is torn,
36Yet she with sails, and wind, and tide is borne
37O’er all the swelling billows at her pleasure
38Until the cunning crab on her takes seizure;
The flying fish, though she doth oft despair,
40Yet she commands the seas and vaster air;
those fair birds which hover still above,
42Which are so far indulgent to their love
43To let their females lay upon their back:
44No noble freedom surely they can lack,
45Nor do they fear the terriblest tyrant’s
46Should shut them in a
bastille or a tower,
47For they disdain to touch this
48Thus they enjoy the freedom of their birth,
49But I to solitude am still confined:
50The cruelest curb unto a noble mind.
halcyon that calms the ruffling seas
52Is not restrained, but flies where’er she please;
53Nor doth the swan, on
54Ask leave to rise off from her downy nest;
rav’nous ravens, deaf to their young ones’ cry,
56May in the spacious air most freely fly;
57But I above my life my children love,
58Yet I, to comfort them,
foolish ostrich doth her eggs expose
60To thousand dangers ere they do
61Yet proudly she by wind and wing is born;
62The swiftest horse and rider she doth scorn.
for mine, would willingly
64Yet sad obscurity doth me
65The mild and tenderhearted turtledove
66That was so constant to her only love,
67Though she resolves to have no second
68Yet she her flight about the air doth take;
69But I, that am more constant than this dove,
70Unto my first and last and only love
71Cannot from this sad place (ay me) remove.
cuckoo that doth put her eggs to nurse,
73Then eats their foster brothers, which is worse,
74Yet this cursed emblem of ingratitude
75Is not like me enslaved to solitude.
volatiles, from the eagle to the dove,
77Their freedom freely both enjoy and love,
78But I no liberty expect to have
79Until I find my freedom in my grave.
su no liberty can lack
81That bears her sprightly offspring on her back;
canibal, when she the huntsman hears,
83Her pretty younglings in a
84Thus from pursuers they are all secure,
these sad shades doth me (ay me) immure,
86That I cannot assist
mine in their sorrow,
87Which makes me sigh and weep both eve and morrow.
88The lion, tiger, elephant, and bear,
89And thousands more, do no confinement fear.
90Thus beasts, birds, fishes, equivocal worm and fly
91Enjoy more liberty (woe’s me!) than I.
Wer’t for my God, King, country, or my friend,
93My love, my children, ’twere a noble end;
94Or wer’t for sin, my guilty head I would hide
95And patiently the stroke of death abide;
96Or wer’t my venial slips to
97Then my restraint would have a happy
98Or wer’t for debt, I soon could pay that score:
99But ’tis, O my sad soul—I’ll say no more.
100To God alone my suff’rings I’ll