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Despayre in Praise of Suicide (Faerie Queene 1.9.39-40)(1596)

Edmund Spenser

Who travels by the wearie wandring way,
MeterWho travels by the wearie wandring way,
To come vnto his wished home in haste,
MeterTo come vnto his wished home in haste,
And meetes a flood, that doth his passage stay,
MeterAnd meetes a flood, that doth his passage stay,
Is not great grace to helpe him ouer past,
MeterIs not great grace to helpe him ouer past,
Or free his feet, that in the myre sticke fast?
MeterOr free his feet, that in the myre sticke fast?
Most enuious man, that grieues at neighbours good,
MeterMost enuious man, that grieues at neighbours good,
And fond, that ioyest in the woe thou hast,
MeterAnd fond, that ioyest in the woe thou hast,
Why wilt not let him pass, that long hath stood
MeterWhy wilt not let him pass, that long hath stood
Vpon the banke, yet wilt thy selfe not passe the flood?
MeterVpon the banke, yet wilt thy selfe not passe the flood?

He there does now enjoy eternall rest
MeterHe there does now enjoy eternall rest
And happie ease, which thou doest want and craue,
MeterAnd happie ease, which thou doest want and craue,
And further from it daily wanderest:
MeterAnd further from it daily wanderest:
What if some little paine the passage haue,
MeterWhat if some little paine the passage haue,
That makes fraile flesh to feare the bitter waue?
MeterThat makes fraile flesh to feare the bitter waue?
Is not short paine well borne, that brings long ease,
MeterIs not short paine well borne, that brings long ease,
And layes the soule to sleepe in quiet graue?
MeterAnd layes the soule to sleepe in quiet graue?
Sleepe after toyle, port after stormy seas,
MeterSleepe after toyle, port after stormy seas,
Ease after warre, death after life does greatly please.
MeterEase after warre, death after life does greatly please.

Note on line 18: Despayre’s attempt to persuade the weary Redcrosse Knight to kill himself is based on a seductive analogy between death and repose, which receives cunning prosodic reinforcement in these last two lines. After the mainly regular iambic lines that come before, a pattern of steady trochaic substitutions now makes death sound, to the drowsy mind, just like sleep, and port, and ease.


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