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A Collection of Emblemes

Ancient and Moderne: Quickened VVith Metricall Illvstrations, both Morall and Divine: And disposed into Lotteries, That Instruction, and Good Counsell, may bee furthered by an Honest and Pleasant Recreation. By George Wither

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The Avthors Meditation upon sight of his Pictvre.

What I WAS, is passed by,
What I AM, away doth flie;
What I SHAL BEE, none do see;
Yet, in that, my Beauties bee.

VVhen I behold my Picture, and perceive,
How vaine it is, our Portraitures to leave
In Lines, and Shadowes, (which make shewes, to day,
Of that which will, to morrow, fade away)

And, thinke, what meane Resemblances at best,
Are by Mechanike Instruments exprest;
I thought it better, much, to leave behind me,
Some Draught, in which, my living friends might find me
The same I am; in that, which will remaine,
Till all is ruin'd, and repair'd againe:
And, which, in absence, will more truely show me,
Than, outward Formes, to those, who think they know me.
For, though my gratious Maker made me such,
That, where I love, belov'd I am, as much
As J desire; yet, Forme, nor Features are,
Those Ornaments, in which J would appeare
To future Times; Though they were found in me,
Farre better, than I can beleeve they be.
Much lesse, affect I that, which each man knowes,
To be no more, but Counterfeits of those,
Wherein, the Painters, or the Gravers toole,
Befriends alike, the Wiseman, and the Foole:
And, (when they please) can give him, by their Art,
The fairest-Face, that had the falsest-Heart.
A Pictvre, though with most exactnesse made,
Is nothing, but the Shadow of a Shade.
For, ev'n our living Bodies, (though they seeme
To others more, or more in our esteeme)
Are but the shadowes of that Reall-being,
Which doth extend beyond the Fleshly-seeing;
And, cannot be discerned, till we rise
Immortall-Objects, for Immortall-eyes.
Our Everlasting-Substance lies unseene,
Behinde the Fouldings, of a Carnall-Screene,
Which is, but, Vapours thickned into Blood,
(By due concoction of our daily food)
And, still supplied, out of other Creatures,
To keepe us living, by their wasted natures:
Renewing, and decaying, ev'ry Day,
Vntill that Vaile must be remov'd away.
For, this lov'd Flesh, wherewith, yet cloth'd we go,
Is not the same, wee had sev'n yeares ago;
But, rather, something which is taken-in,
To serve insteed of what hath wasted bin,
In Wounds, in Sicknesses, in Colds, and Heates,
In all Excrescions, and in Fumes, and Sweates.

Nor shall, this present Flesh, long stay with us:
And, wee may well be pleas'd, it should be Thus.
For, as I view, those Townes, and Fields, that be
In Landskip drawne; Even so, me thinks, I see
A Glimpes, farre off, (through Faith's Prospective glasse)
Of that, which after Death, will come to passe;
And, likewise, gained have, such meanes of seeing,
Some things, which were, before my Life had being,
That, in my Soule, I should be discontent,
If, this my Body were, more permanent;
Since, Wee, and all God's other Creatures, here,
Are but the Pictures, of what shall appeare.
Yet, whilst they are, I thankfully would make
That use of them, for their Creator's sake,
To which hee made them; and, preserve the Table,
Still, Faire and Full, asmuch as I were able,
By finishing, (in my alotted place)
Those Workes, for which, hee fits me by his Grace.
And, if a Wrenne, a Wrenn's just height shall soare,
No Ægle, for an Ægle, can doe more.
If therefore, of my Labours, or of Mee,
Ought shall remaine, when I remov'd, must be,
Let it be that, wherein it may be view'd,
My Makers Image, was in me renew'd:
And, so declare, a dutifull intent,
To doe the Worke I came for, e're I went;
That, I to others, may some Patterne be,
Of Doing-well, as other men to mee,
Have beene, whilst I had life: And, let my daies
Be summed up, to my Redeemer's praise.
So this be gained, I regard it not,
Though, all that J am else, be quite forgot.