Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Robert Southwell, also Saint Robert Southwell

English Roman Catholic Priest of the Jesuit Order, Poet, Clandestine Missionary in Post-Reformation England, hanged, drawn and quartered after being captured, tortured and convicted of high treason by Sir Richard Topcliffe

"Sober speed is wisdom's leisure."

"Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live; Not where I love, but where I am, I die. "

"My mind to me an empire is, While grace affordeth health. "

"O dying souls, behold your living spring; O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace; Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring; Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace. From death, from dark, from deafness, from despair: This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs. "

"Let our adversaries therefore load us with the infamous titles of traitors, and rebels, as the Ariansdid in the persecution of the Vandals, and as the Ethnicswere wont to call Christians sarmentitios, and semasios, because they were tied to halfpenny stakes, and burnt with shrubs: so let them draw us upon hurdles, hang us, unbowel us alive, mangle us, boil us, and set our quarters upon their gates, to be meat for the birds of the air, as they use to handle rebels: we will answer them as the Christians of former persecutions have done. Hic est habitus victoriae nostrae, hec palmata vestis, tali curru triumphamus, merito itaque victis non placemus. Such is the manner of our victory, such our conquerous garment, in such chariots do we triumph. What marvel therefore if our vanquished enemies mislike us?"

"Repentant eyes are the cellars of angels, and penitent tears their sweetest wines, which the savor of life perfumeth, the taste of grace sweeteneth, and the purest colors of returning innocency highly beautifieth. This dew of devotion never falleth, but the sun of justice draweth it up, and upon what face soever it droppeth it maketh it amiable in God's eye.... No, no, the angels must still bathe themselves in the pure streams of thy eyes, and thy face shall still be set with this liquid pearl, that as out of thy tears were stroken the first sparks of thy Lord's love, so thy tears may be the oil, to nourish and feed his flame. Till death dam up the springs, they shall never cease running: and then shall thy soul be ferried in them to the harbor of life, that as by them it was first passed from sin to grace, so in them it may be wafted from grace to glory."

"Divers have been thrown into unsavory and dark dungeons, and brought so near starving, that some for famine have licked the very moisture off the walls; some have so far been consumed that they were hardly recovered to life. What unsufferable agonies we have been put to upon the rack, it is not possible to express, the feeling so far exceedeth all speech. Some with instruments have been rolled up together like a ball, and so crushed that the blood sprouted out at divers parts of their bodies."

"After prayer, on working days, I must go presently about some work or exercise that may be of some profit, and of all other things take heed of idleness, the mother of all vices. Towards eleven (if company and other more weighty causes will permit) I may meditate a little and call to mind how I have spent the morning, asking God grace to spend the afternoon better."

"Passions I allow, and loves I approve,only I would wish that men would alter their object and better their intent."

"Man's mind a mirror is of heavenly sights, A brief wherein all marvels summèd lie, Of fairest forms and sweetest shapes the store, Most graceful all, yet thought may grace them more."

"Plough not the seas, sow not the sands, Leave off your idle pain; Seek other mistress for your minds, Love's service is in vain."

"Shun delays, they breed remorse; Take thy time while time is lent thee; Creeping snails have weakest force, Fly their fault lest thou repent thee. Good is best when soonest wrought, Linger’d labours come to nought."

"Time wears all his locks before, Take thy hold upon his forehead; When he flies he turns no more, And behind his scalp is naked. Works adjourn'd have many stays, Long demurs breed new delays."

"My conscience is my crown, Contented thoughts my rest; My heart is happy in itself, My bliss is in my breast... Enough I reckon wealth; A mean the surest lot, That lies too high for base contempt, Too low for envy's shot... I feel no care of coin, Well-doing is my wealth; My mind to me an empire is, While grace affordeth health... rise by others' fall I deem a losing gain; All states with others' ruins built To ruin run amain... Fortune smiles, I smile to think How quickly she will frown."

"My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns; Love is the fire and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns; The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals; The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defiled souls."

"Times go by turns and chances change by course, From foul to fair, from better hap to worse... No joy so great but runneth to an end, No hap so hard but may in fine amend... The saddest birds a season find to sing, The roughest storm a calm may soon allay; Thus with succeeding turns God tempereth all, That men may hope to rise yet fear to fall."

"Behold the father is his daughter's son, The bird that built the nest is hatched therein, The old of years an hour hath not outrun, Eternal life to live doth now begin, The Word is dumb, the mirth of heaven doth weep, Might feeble is, and force doth faintly creep. O dying souls, behold your living spring; O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace; Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring; Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace. From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs. Gift better than himself God doth not know; Gift better than his God no man can see. This gift doth here the giver given bestow; Gift to this gift let each receiver be. God is my gift, himself he freely gave me; God's gift am I, and none but God shall have me. Man altered was by sin from man to beast; Beast's food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh. Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed As hay, the brutest sinner to refresh. O happy field wherein that fodder grew, Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew. "

"Before my face the picture hangs, That daily should put me in mind Of those cold names and bitter pangs, That shortly I am like to find: But yet, alas! full little I Do think hereon that I must die... Not Solomon, for all his wit, Nor Samson, though he were so strong, No king nor person ever yet Could 'scape, but Death laid him along... Though all the East did quake to hear Of Alexander's dreadful name, And all the West did likewise fear To hear of Julius Cæsar's fame... Grant me grace, O God! that I My life may mend, sith I must die."

"I wealthiest am when richest in remorse."

"SCORN NOT THE LEAST - WHERE wards are weak and foes encount'ring strong, Where mightier do assault than do defend, The feebler part puts up enforcèd wrong, And silent sees that speech could not amend. Yet higher powers must think, though they repine, When sun is set, the little stars will shine. While pike doth range the seely tench doth fly, And crouch in privy creeks with smaller fish ; Yet pikes are caught when little fish go by, These fleet afloat while those do fill the dish. There is a time even for the worm to creep, And suck the dew while all her foes do sleep. The merlin cannot ever soar on high, Nor greedy greyhound still pursue the chase ; The tender lark will find a time to fly, And fearful hare to run a quiet race : He that high growth on cedars did bestow, Gave also lowly mushrumps leave to grow. In Aman's pomp poor Mardocheus wept, Yet God did turn his fate upon his foe ; The lazar pined while Dives' feast was kept, Yet he to heaven, to Hell did Dives go. We trample grass, and prize the flowers of May, Yet grass is green when flowers do fade away. "

"A Child My Choice - Let folly praise that fancy loves, I praise and love that Child Whose heart no thought, whose tongue no word, whose hand no deed defiled. I praise Him most, I love Him best, all praise and love is His; While Him I love, in Him I live, and cannot live amiss. Love's sweetest mark, laud's highest theme, man's most desired light, To love Him life, to leave Him death, to live in Him delight. He mine by gift, I His by debt, thus each to other due; First friend He was, best friend He is, all times will try Him true. Though young, yet wise; though small, yet strong; though man, yet God He is: As wise, He knows; as strong, He can; as God, He loves to bless. His knowledge rules, His strength defends, His love doth cherish all; His birth our joy, His life our light, His death our end of thrall. Alas! He weeps, He sighs, He pants, yet do His angels sing; Out of His tears, His sighs and throbs, doth bud a joyful spring. Almighty Babe, whose tender arms can force all foes to fly, Correct my faults, protect my life, direct me when I die!"

"In some things all, in all things none are crossed; Few all they need, but none have all they wish. Unmeddled joys here to no man befall; Who least, hath some; who most, hath never all."

"Look home - Retirëd thoughts enjoy their own delights, As beauty doth in self-beholding eye ; Man's mind a mirror is of heavenly sights, A brief wherein all marvels summëd lie, Of fairest forms and sweetest shapes the store, Most graceful all, yet thought may grace them more. The mind a creature is, yet can create, To nature's patterns adding higher skill ; Of finest works with better could the state If force of wit had equal power of will. Device of man in working hath no end, What thought can think, another thought can mend. Man's soul of endless beauty image is, Drawn by the work of endless skill and might ; This skillful might gave many sparks of bliss And, to discern this bliss, a native light ; To frame God's image as his worths required His might, his skill, his word and will conspired. All that he had his image should present, All that it should present it could afford, To that he could afford his will was bent, His will was followed with performing word. Let this suffice, by this conceive the rest,— He should, he could, he would, he did, the best."

"Come to your heaven, you heavenly quires! Earth hath the heaven of your desires; Remove your dwelling to your God, A stall is now His best abode; Sith men their homage do deny, Come, angels, all their faults supply."

"LOVE'S SERVILE LOT - LOVE, mistress is of many minds, Yet few know whom they serve ; They reckon least how little Love Their service doth deserve. The will she robbeth from the wit, The sense from reason's lore ; She is delightful in the rind, Corrupted in the core. She shroudeth vice in virtue's veil, Pretending good in ill ; She offereth joy, affordeth grief, A kiss where she doth kill. A honey-shower rains from her lips, Sweet lights shine in her face ; She hath the blush of virgin mind, The mind of viper's race. She makes thee seek, yet fear to find To find, but not enjoy : In many frowns some gliding smiles She yields to more annoy. She woos thee to come near her fire, Yet doth she draw it from thee ; Far off she makes thy heart to fry, And yet to freeze within thee. She letteth fall some luring baits For fools to gather up ; Too sweet, too sour, to every taste She tempereth her cup. Soft souls she binds in tender twist, Small flies in spinner's web ; She sets afloat some luring streams, But makes them soon to ebb. Her watery eyes have burning force ; Her floods and flames conspire : Tears kindle sparks, sobs fuel are, And sighs do blow her fire. May never was the month of love, For May is full of flowers ; But rather April, wet by kind, For love is full of showers. Like tyrant, cruel wounds she gives, Like surgeon, salve she lends ; But salve and sore have equal force, For death is both their ends. With soothing words enthralled souls She chains in servile bands ; Her eye in silence hath a speech Which eye best understands. Her little sweet hath many sours, Short hap immortal harms ; Her loving looks are murd'ring darts, Her song bewitching charms. Like winter rose and summer ice, Her joys are still untimely ; Before her Hope, behind Remorse : Fair first, in fine unseemly. Moods, passions, fancy's jealous fits Attend upon her train : She yieldeth rest without repose, And heaven in hellish pain. Her house is Sloth, her door Deceit, And slippery Hope her stairs ; Unbashful Boldness bids her guests, And every vice repairs. Her diet is of such delights As please till they be past ; But then the poison kills the heart That did entice the taste. Her sleep in sin doth end in wrath, Remorse rings her awake ; Death calls her up, Shame drives her out, Despairs her upshot make. Plough not the seas, sow not the sands, Leave off your idle pain ; Seek other mistress for your minds, Love's service is in vain."

"Upon the Image of Death - Before my face the picture hangs That daily should put me in mind Of those cold names and bitter pangs That shortly I am like to find ; But yet, alas, full little I Do think hereon that I must die. I often look upon a face Most ugly, grisly, bare, and thin ; I often view the hollow place Where eyes and nose had sometimes been ; I see the bones across that lie, Yet little think that I must die. I read the label underneath, That telleth me whereto I must ; I see the sentence eke that saith Remember, man, that thou art dust! But yet, alas, but seldom I Do think indeed that I must die. Continually at my bed's head A hearse doth hang, which doth me tell That I ere morning may be dead, Though now I feel myself full well ; But yet, alas, for all this, I Have little mind that I must die. The gown which I do use to wear, The knife wherewith I cut my meat, And eke that old and ancient chair Which is my only usual seat,— All these do tell me I must die, And yet my life amend not I. My ancestors are turned to clay, And many of my mates are gone ; My youngers daily drop away, And can I think to 'scape alone? No, no, I know that I must die, And yet my life amend not I. Not Solomon for all his wit, Nor Samson, though he were so strong, No king nor person ever yet Could 'scape but death laid him along ; Wherefore I know that I must die, And yet my life amend not I. Though all the East did quake to hear Of Alexander's dreadful name, And all the West did likewise fear To hear of Julius Cæsar's fame, Yet both by death in dust now lie ; Who then can 'scape but he must die? If none can 'scape death's dreadful dart, If rich and poor his beck obey, If strong, if wise, if all do smart, Then I to 'scape shall have no way. Oh, grant me grace, O God, that I My life may mend, sith I must die."

"A VALE OF TEARS - A vale there is, enwrapt with dreadful shades, Which thick of mourning pines shrouds from the sun, Where hanging cliffs yield short and dumpish glades, And snowy flood with broken streams doth run. Where eye-room is from rock to cloudy sky, From thence to dales with stony ruins strew'd, Then to the crushèd water's frothy fry, Which tumbleth from the tops where snow is thaw'd. Where ears of other sound can have no choice, But various blust'ring of the stubborn wind In trees, in caves, in straits with divers noise; Which now doth hiss, now howl, now roar by kind. Where waters wrestle with encount'ring stones, That break their streams, and turn them into foam, The hollow clouds full fraught with thund'ring groans, With hideous thumps discharge their pregnant womb. And in the horror of this fearful quire Consists the music of this doleful place; All pleasant birds from thence their tunes retire, Where none but heavy notes have any grace. Resort there is of none but pilgrim wights, That pass with trembling foot and panting heart; With terror cast in cold and shivering frights, They judge the place to terror framed by art. Yet nature's work it is, of art untouch'd, So strait indeed, so vast unto the eye, With such disorder'd order strangely couch'd, And with such pleasing horror low and high, That who it views must needs remain aghast, Much at the work, more at the Maker's might; And muse how nature such a plot could cast Where nothing seemeth wrong, yet nothing right. A place for mated mindes, an only bower Where everything do soothe a dumpish mood; Earth lies forlorn, the cloudy sky doth lower, The wind here weeps, here sighs, here cries aloud. The struggling flood between the marble groans, Then roaring beats upon the craggy sides; A little off, amidst the pebble stones, With bubbling streams and purling noise it glides. The pines thick set, high grown and ever green, Still clothe the place with sad and mourning veil; Here gaping cliff, there mossy plain is seen, Here hope doth spring, and there again doth quail. Huge massy stones that hang by tickle stays, Still threaten fall, and seem to hang in fear; Some wither'd trees, ashamed of their decays, Bereft of green are forced gray coats to wear. Here crystal springs crept out of secret vein, Straight find some envious hole that hides their grace; Here searèd tufts lament the want of rain, There thunder-wrack gives terror to the place. All pangs and heavy passions here may find A thousand motives suiting to their griefs, To feed the sorrows of their troubled mind, And chase away dame Pleasure's vain reliefs. To plaining thoughts this vale a rest may be, To which from worldly joys they may retire; Where sorrow springs from water, stone and tree; Where everything with mourners doth conspire. Sit here, my soul, main streams of tears afloat, Here all thy sinful foils alone recount; Of solemn tunes make thou the doleful note, That, by thy ditties, dolour may amount. When echo shall repeat thy painful cries, Think that the very stones thy sins bewray, And now accuse thee with their sad replies, As heaven and earth shall in the latter day. Let former faults be fuel of thy fire, For grief in limbeck of thy heart to still Thy pensive thoughts and dumps of thy desire, And vapour tears up to thy eyes at will. Let tears to tunes, and pains to plaints be press'd, And let this be the burden of thy song,— Come, deep remorse, possess my sinful breast; Delights, adieu! I harbour'd you too long. "

"MAN'S CIVIL WAR - MY hovering thoughts would fly to heaven And quiet nestle in the sky, Fain would my ship in Virtue's shore Without remove at anchor lie. But mounting thoughts are halèd down With heavy poise of mortal load, And blustring storms deny my ship In Virtue's haven secure abode. When inward eye to heavenly sights Doth draw my longing heart's desire, The world with jesses of delights Would to her perch my thoughts retire, Fon Fancy trains to Pleasure's lure, Though Reason stiffly do repine ; Though Wisdom woo me to the saint, Yet Sense would win me to the shrine. Where Reason loathes, there Fancy loves, And overrules the captive will ; Foes senses are to Virtue's lore, They draw the wit their wish to fill. Need craves consent of soul to sense, Yet divers bents breed civil fray ; Hard hap where halves must disagree, Or truce halves the whole betray ! O cruel fight ! where fighting friend With love doth kill a favoring foe, Where peace with sense is war with God, And self-delight the seed of woe ! Dame Pleasure's drugs are steeped in sin, Their sugared taste doth breed annoy ; O fickle sense ! beware her gin, Sell not thy soul to brittle joy !"

"The path to Heaven is narrow, rough and full of wearisome and trying ascents, nor can it be trodden without great toil; and therefore wrong is their way, gross their error, and assured their ruin who, after the testimony of so many thousands of saints, will not learn where to settle their footing."

"Times go by Turns - THE loppèd tree in time may grow again, Most naked plants renew both fruit and flower; The sorest wight may find release of pain, The driest soil suck in some moist'ning shower; Times go by turns and chances change by course, From foul to fair, from better hap to worse. The sea of Fortune doth not ever flow, She draws her favours to the lowest ebb; Her tides hath equal times to come and go, Her loom doth weave the fine and coarsest web; 10 No joy so great but runneth to an end, No hap so hard but may in fine amend. Not always fall of leaf nor ever spring, No endless night yet not eternal day; The saddest birds a season find to sing, The roughest storm a calm may soon allay: Thus with succeeding turns God tempereth all, That man may hope to rise, yet fear to fall. A chance may win that by mischance was lost; The net that holds no great, takes little fish; In some things all, in all things none are crost, Few all they need, but none have all they wish; Unmeddled joys here to no man befall: Who least, hath some; who most, hath never all."

"Time and place give best advice, Out of season, out of price. "

"Oh how much are the worldlings deceived that rejoice in the time of weeping, and make their place of imprisonment a palace of pleasure; that consider the examples of the saints as follies, and their end as dishonorable; that think to go to Heaven by the wide way that leadeth only to perdition!"

"Alas!' quoth he, 'but newly born in fiery heats I fry, yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I. My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns; Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns; the fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals; the metal in this furnace wrought are men's defiled souls."

"As in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow, surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow; and lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near, a pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear."

"Behold a silly tender babe, in freezing winter night, in homely manger trembling lies; Alas! a piteous sight."

"Do homage to thy King, and highly praise His humble pomp which He from Heaven doth bring."

"Gift better than Himself God doth not know, gift better than God no man can see; this gift doth here the giver given bestow gift to this gift let each receiver be; God is my gift, Himself He freely gave me, God's gift am I, and none but God shall have me."

"Grant me grace, O god, that I my life may mend, saith I must die."

"I feel no care of coin; well-doing is my wealth; my mind to me an empire is, while grace affordeth health."

"I often look upon a face most ugly, grisly, bare and thin; I often view the hollow place, where eyes and nose had sometimes been."

"Her eye in silence hath a speech which eye best understands."

"I read the label underneath, That telleth me whereto I must; I see the sentence eke that saith 'Remember, man, that thou art dust!' But yet, alas, but seldom I Do think indeed that I must die - My ancestors are turned to clay?"

"Hoist up sail while gale doth last, Tide and wind stay no man's pleasure."

"In Aman's pomp poor Mardocheus wept, yet God did turn his fate upon his foe; the Lazar pined while Dives' feast was kept, yet he to heaven, to hell did Dives go. We trample grass and prize the flowers of May, yet grass is green when flowers do fade away."

"No joy so great but runneth to an end, no hap so hard but may in fine amend."

"Lingering labors come to naught."

"May never was the month of love, for May is full of flowers; but rather April, wet by kind, for love is full of showers."

"My mind to me an empire is."

"Remember, man, that thou art dust! But yet, alas, but seldom I do think indeed that I must die."

"Not Solomon, for all his wit, nor Samson, though he were so strong, no king nor person ever yet could 'scape, but Death laid him along."