William Alabaster (1568-1640)

From Personal Sonnets

From Divine Meditations

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Upon the Motions of the Fiend

With heat and cold I feel the spiteful fiend
To work one mischief by two contraries,
With lust he doth me scorch, with languor freeze,
But lust and languor both one Christ offend.
Let contraries with contraries contend,
Let fear of blame and love of Christ arise,
Hot love of Christ to melt in tears mine eyes,
Cold fear of just reproach my shame to extend,
That shame with heat may cool my looser thought,
And tears with cold heat my heart's sluggish deep.
O happy I if that such grace were wrought!
Till then, shame blush because tears cannot weep,
And tears weep you because shame cannot blush,
Till shame from tears, and tears from shame do flush.

"My friends, whose kindness doth their judgments blind"

My friends, whose kindness doth their judgments blind,
Know you, say they, the dangers where you run,
Which zeal hides from you, but compassion
Tells us? You feel the blow, the smart we find.
I know it well, and as I call to mind,
This is the bill: dearness, affection,
Friends, fortune, pleasure, fame, hope, life undone,
Want, prison, torment, death, shame--what behind?
Is then my sense transel'mented to steel,
That neither this, nor that, nor all, can feel,
Nor can it bend my mind, which theirs doth break?
Not so, nor so; for I am not insensate,
But feel a double grief that for Christ's sake
I have no more to spend, nor have spent that.

"Lord, I have left all and myself behind"

Lord, I have left all and myself behind:
My state, my hopes, my strength, and present ease,
My unprovokèd studies' sweet disease,
And touch of nature and engrafted kind,
Whose cleaving twist doth distant tempers bind;
And gentle sense of kindness that doth praise
The earnest judgments, others' wills to please;
All and myself I leave, thy love to find.
O strike my heart with lightning from above,
That from one wound both fire and blood may spring;
Fire to transelement my soul to love,
And blood as oil to keep the fire burning;
That fire may draw forth blood, blood extend fire,
Desire possession, possession desire.

"The night, the starless night of passion"

The night, the starless night of passion
From heaven began, on heaven beneath to fall,
When Christ did sound the onset martial,
A sacred hymn, upon his foes to run;
That with the fiery contemplation
Of love and joy, his soul and senses all
Surcharged might not dread the bitter thrall
Of pain and grief and torments all in one.
Then since my holy vows have undertook
To take the portrait of Christ's death in me,
Then let my love with sonnets fill this book,
With hymns to give the onset as did he;
That thoughts inflamèd with such heavenly muse
The coldest ice of fire may not refuse.

"Over the brook of Cedron Christ is gone"

Over the brook of Cedron Christ is gone,
To entertain the combat with his death,
Where David fled beforetime void of breath
To scape the treacheries of Absalon.
Go, let us follow him in passion,
Over this brook, this world that walloweth,
A stream of cares that drown our thoughts beneath,
And wash away all resolution.
Beyond the world he must be passèd clear,
That in the world for Christ will troubles bear:
Leave we, O leave we then this miry flood,
Friends, pleasures, and unfaithful good.
Now we are up, now down, but cannot stand;
We sink, we reel; Jesu, stretch forth thy hand.

"Up to Mount Olivet my soul ascend"

Up to Mount Olivet my soul ascend
The mount spiritual, and there supply
Thy fainting lamp with oil of charity
To make the light of faith the more extend.
Go by this tract which thither right doth tend,
Which Christ did first beat forth to walk thereby,
And sixteen ages of posterity
Have gone it over since from end to end.
But strike not down to any new-found balk,
Which hunters have begun of late to chalk:
For whether 'twere the glow-worm faith went out,
Or want of love did pine them in the way,
Or else the cruel devils rob or slay,
No news comes back of one of all that rout.

"Though all forsake thee, Lord, yet I will die"

Though all forsake thee, Lord, yet I will die;
For I have chainèd so my will to thine
That I have no will left my will to untwine,
But will abide with thee most willingly.
Though all forsake thee, Lord, yet cannot I;
For love hath wrought in me thy form divine
That thou art more my heart than heart is mine:
How can I then from myself, thyself, fly?
Thus thought Saint Peter, and thus thinking, fell;
And by his fall did warn us not to swell.
Yet still in love I say I would not fall,
And say in hope, I trust I never shall;
But cannot say in faith what might I do
To learn to say it, by hearing Christ say so.

"Jesus is risen from the infernal mire"

Jesus is risen from the infernal mire:
But who art thou that say'st Jesus arose?
Such holy words are only fit for those
Whose souls with Christ above the heavens aspire.
But if thou hast not raisèd thy desire
From earth to heaven, but in the world dost close
Thy love which unto heaven thou shouldst dispose,
Say not that Christ is yet ascended higher,
But yet within thy heart he lieth dead,
And by the devil is impoisonèd.
Rejoice not then in vain of his ascent;
For as his glorious rise doth much augment
All good men's hopes, so unto those that tread
False paths, it is a dreadful argument.

"The earth, which in delicious paradise"

The earth, which in delicious paradise
Did bud forth man like cedars stately tall,
From barren womb accursèd by the fall
Doth thrust forth man as thorns in arm&eagrave;d wise,
Darting the points of sin against the skies.
With those thorns plaited was Christ's coronal,
Which crowned him then with grief, but after all
In heaven shall crown him, crown themselves with glory.
For with the purple tincture of his blood,
Which out the furrows of his brows did rain,
He hath transformed us thorns from baser wood
To raise our nature and odórant strain,
That we, who with our thorny sins did wound him,
Hereafter should with roseal virtues crown him.

"Eternity, the womb of things created"

Eternity, the womb of things created,
The endless bottom of duration,
Whose half was always past, yet unbegun,
And half behind still coming unabated;
Whose thread conjoinèd, both unseparated,
Is time, which dated is by motion;
Eternity, whose real thoughts are one
With God, that is everness actuated:
O tie my soul unto this endless clew,
That I may overfathom fate and time
In all my actions which I do pursue,
And bound my thoughts in that unbounded clime:
For soul and thoughts, designs and acts, are evil,
That under compass of this life do level.

"The first beginning of creation"

The first beginning of creation
Was God; the end thereof in man was set;
End and beginning were together met;
So God and man became one person.
Thus nature's circle as a ring doth run,
Christ is the pale within whose circulet
The seal of the divinity is knit,
Which seal doth stand the Godhead's ring upon.
So stand two rings upon one diamond;
The knot of both and either, where are met
Finite and infinite, more and one
Alpha and Omega in that fair tablet
Wherein is drawn the angels' alphabet,
Jesus. If he were learnt, need more be known?

"O wretched man, the knot of contraries"

O wretched man, the knot of contraries,
In whom both heaven and earth doth move and rest,
Heaven of my mind, which with Christ's love is blest,
Death of my heart, which in dull languor lies!
Yet doth my moving will still circulize
My heaven about my earth with thoughts' unrest,
Where reason as a sun from east to west
Darteth his shining beams to melt this ice.
And now with fear it southward doth descend,
Now between both is equinoctial,
And now to joys it higher doth ascend,
And yet continues my sea glacial.
What shall I do, but pray to Christ the Son?
In earth as heaven, Lord, let thy will be done.