From “Mary Magdalen’s Complaint at Christ’s Death” (1595)
Sith my life from life is parted,
Death come take thy portion,
Who survives when life is murder’d
Lives by mere extortion:
All that live and not in God,
Couch their life in death’s abode.
Silly stars must needs leave shining
When the sun is shadowed,
Borrow’d streams refrain their running
When head springs are hindered:
One that lives by other’s breath,
Dieth also by his death.
O true life! sith Thou hast left me.
Mortal life is tedious;
Death it is to live without Thee,
Death of all most odious:
Turn again or take me to Thee,
Let me die or live Thou in me!
Where the truth once was and is not,
Shadows are but vanity;
Showing want that help they cannot,
Signs, not salves, of misery.
Painted meat no hunger feeds,
Dying life each death exceeds.
With my love my life was nestled
In the sun of happiness;
From my love my life is wrested
To a world of heaviness:
Oh! let love my life remove,
Sith I live not where I love!
O my soul! that did unloose thee
From thy sweet captivity,
God, not I, did still possess thee,
His, not mine, thy liberty :
Oh ! too happy thrall thou wert.
When thy prison was his heart.
Spiteful spear that break’st this prison,
Seat of all felicity,
Working thus with double treason
Love’s and life’s delivery:
Though my life thou draw’st away,
Maugre thee my love shall stay.
St. Robert Southwell (1561-1595) was an English Jesuit priest and poet, who served as a clandestine missionary to recusant Catholics. He wrote and translated several theological and devotional works, but is most remembered for his complex poems, mostly on Biblical themes. He was executed for treason and was canonized as a martyr by the Roman Catholic Church. His feast day is February 21.