Saturday

A Litany in Time of Plague (Poem by Thomas Nashe) 1600


Interesting Facts:
  • A Litany in Time of Plague was written by Thomas Nashe (1567-1601).
  • The poem was published in 1600, shortly before Nashe's death.
  • The poem lyric originally came from A Pleasant Comedy, Called Summer's Last Will and Testament., which was performed for the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1592.
  • The 16th century was a time of many plagues, so the sentiments of the poem would likely have been widely held in the population.
  • The litany of the poem title describes the inability to escape death - the witty, the rich, the beautiful, the strong - have no special claim to plague immunity.
  • The refrain, "I am sick, I must die. / Lord, have mercy on us, " reminds the reader to prepare for their destiny in heaven.
  • Some critics have suggested that the inevitability, & the social indifference, of death in the poem could be seen as a plague itself.
A Litany in Time of Plague

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 open 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!

by Thomas Nashe


Posted by ALCHEssMIST.
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