Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Death's Sad Memento

Philip Ayres (1638-1712), "A Sonnet. Out of Spanish, from Don Luis de Gongora. On a Death's-Head, covered with Cobwebs, kept in a Library, and said to be the Scull of a King," in his Lyric Poems, Made in Imitation of the Italians. Of which, many are Translations From other Languages (London: Printed by J.M. for Jos. Knight and F. Saunders, 1687), p. 126:
This Mortal Spoil which so neglected lies,
  Death's sad Memento, now where Spiders weave
  Their Subtil Webs, which Innocence deceive,
Whose Strength to break their Toyls cannot suffice:

Saw it self Crown’d, it self Triumphant saw,
  With Mighty Deeds proclaiming its Renown;
  Its Smiles were Favours, Terrour was its Frown,
The World of its Displeasure stood in Awe.

Where Pride ordaining Laws did once preside,
Which Land should Peace enjoy, which Wars abide,
  There boldly now these little Insects nest;

Then raise not, Kings, your Haughty Plumes so high,
For in Death’s cold Embraces when you lye,
  Your Bones with those of common Subjects rest.
The Spanish is not by Gongora but by Diego de Saavedra Fajardo (1584-1648), "Ludibria Mortis," in his Idea de un Principe Politico Christiano (Milan, 1642), p. 753:
Este mortal despojo, ò Caminante,
  Triste horror de la Muerte, en quien la Araña
  Hilos anuda, i la Inocencia engaña,
  Que à romper lo sutil, no fuè bastante.

Coronado se viò, se viò triunfante
  Con los trofeos de vna, i otra hazaña,
  Fabor su risa fuè, terror su saña,
  Atento el Orbe à su Real semblante.

Donde antes la Sobervia, dando leyes
  A la Paz, i à la Guerra, presidía,
  Se prenden oi los viles animales.

Que os arrogáis ò Príncipes, ò Reyes?
  Si en los vltrajes de la Muerte fria
  Conmunes sois con los demas Mortales.

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