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The widows' Tears; or, dirge of dorcas

Robert Herrick 1591 (London) – 1674 (Dean Prior)

Come pity us, all ye who see
Our harps hung on the willow-tree;
Come pity us, ye passers-by,
Who see or hear poor widows' cry;
Come pity us, and bring your ears
And eyes to pity widows' tears.
CHOR. And when you are come hither,
Then we will keep
A fast, and weep
Our eyes out all together,

For Tabitha; who dead lies here,
Clean wash'd, and laid out for the bier.
O modest matrons, weep and wail!
For now the corn and wine must fail;
The basket and the bin of bread,
Wherewith so many souls were fed,
CHOR. Stand empty here for ever;
And ah! the poor,
At thy worn door,
Shall be relieved never.

Woe worth the time, woe worth the day,
That reft us of thee, Tabitha!
For we have lost, with thee, the meal,
The bits, the morsels, and the deal
Of gentle paste and yielding dough,
That thou on widows did bestow.
CHOR. All's gone, and death hath taken
Away from us
Our maundy; thus
Thy widows stand forsaken.

Ah, Dorcas, Dorcas! now adieu
We bid the cruise and pannier too;
Ay, and the flesh, for and the fish,
Doled to us in that lordly dish.
We take our leaves now of the loom
From whence the housewives' cloth did come;
CHOR. The web affords now nothing;
Thou being dead,
The worsted thread
Is cut, that made us clothing.

Farewell the flax and reaming wool,
With which thy house was plentiful;
Farewell the coats, the garments, and
The sheets, the rugs, made by thy hand;
Farewell thy fire and thy light,
That ne'er went out by day or night:--
CHOR. No, or thy zeal so speedy,
That found a way,
By peep of day,
To feed and clothe the needy.

But ah, alas! the almond-bough
And olive-branch is wither'd now;
The wine-press now is ta'en from us,
The saffron and the calamus;
The spice and spikenard hence is gone,
The storax and the cinnamon;
CHOR. The carol of our gladness
Has taken wing;
And our late spring
Of mirth is turn'd to sadness.

How wise wast thou in all thy ways!
How worthy of respect and praise!
How matron-like didst thou go drest!
How soberly above the rest
Of those that prank it with their plumes,
And jet it with their choice perfumes!
CHOR. Thy vestures were not flowing;
Nor did the street
Accuse thy feet
Of mincing in their going.

And though thou here liest dead, we see
A deal of beauty yet in thee.
How sweetly shews thy smiling face,
Thy lips with all diffused grace!
Thy hands, though cold, yet spotless, white,
And comely as the chrysolite.
CHOR. Thy belly like a hill is,
Or as a neat
Clean heap of wheat,
All set about with lilies.

Sleep with thy beauties here, while we
Will shew these garments made by thee;
These were the coats; in these are read
The monuments of Dorcas dead:
These were thy acts, and thou shalt have
These hung as honours o'er thy grave:--
CHOR. And after us, distressed,
Should fame be dumb,
Thy very tomb
Would cry out, Thou art blessed.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:41 min read
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Robert Herrick

Robert Herrick was born in London, England, in 1591. He was apprenticed to a goldsmith (his uncle, Sir William), but went to Cambridge, at St John's, in 1613. He was ordained at Peterborough in 1623 and became chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham a few years later. "Hesperides" - a collection of 1200 lyrical poems - was published in 1648 and it remained his magnum opus. Herrick died in 1674, aged 83. more…

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