A Funeral Elegy on the Death of the famous Actor Richard Burbage who died on Saturday in Lent the 13th March 1618[/9]

Some skilful limner help me; if not so,

Some sad tragedian help t’ express my woe.

But O he’s gone, that could both best; both limn

And act my grief, and ‘tis for only him

That I invoke this strange assistance to it,

And on the point invoke himself to do it;

For none but Tully, Tully’s praise could tell,

And as he could, no man could act so well.

This part of sorrow for him nor man draw,

So truly to the life this map of woe,

This grief’s true picture, which his loss hath bred.

He’s gone, and with him what a world are dead,

Which he reviv’d, to be revived so

No more: young Hamlet, old Hieronimo,

Kind Lear, the grieved Moore, and more beside,

That liv’d in him, have now forever died.

Oft have I seen him leap into a grave,

Suiting ye person, which he seem’d to have,

Of a sad lover, with so true an eye

That then I would have sworn he meant to die.

Oft have I seen him play his part in jest

So lively that spectators, and the rest

Of his sad crew, whilst he but seem’d to bleed,

Amazed, thought even then he died in deed.

O let me be check’d, and I shall swear

E’en yet it is a false report I hear,

And think that he, that did so truly feign

Is still but dead in jest, to live again.

But now this part he acts, not plays: ’tis known

Other he play’d, but acted hath his own.

England’s great Roscius, for what Roscius

Was unto Rome, that Burbage was to us.

How did his speech become him, and his pace

Suit with his speech, and every action grace

Them both alike, whilst not a word did fall

Without just weight to ballast it withal.

Hadst thou but spoke to death, and us’d thy power

Of thy enchanting tongue, at that first hour

Of his assault, he had let fall his dart

And been quite charm’d by thy all-charming art.

This he well knew, and to prevent this wrong

He therefore first made seizure on his tongue;

Then on ye rest, ’twas easy, by degrees;

The slender ivy tops the smallest trees.

Poets whose glory whilom ‘twas to hear

Your lines so well express’d: henceforth forbear

And write no more; or if you do, let ‘t be

In comic scenes, since tragic parts you see

Die all with him. Nay, rather sluice your eyes

And henceforth wrote nought else but tragedies,

Or dirges, or sad elegies or those

Mournful laments that not accord with prose.

Blur all your leaves with blots, that all you writ

May be but one sad black, and open it.

Draw marble lines that may outlast the sun

And stand like trophies when the world is done,

Turn all your ink to blood, your pens to spears,

To pierce and wound the hearers’ hearts and ears.

Enrag’d, write stabbing lines, that every word

May be as apt for murther as a sword,

That no man may survive after this fact

Of ruthless death, either to hear or act;

And you his sad companions, to whom Lent

Becomes more lenten by this accident,

Henceforth your waving flag no more hang out,

Play now no more at all, when round about

We look and miss the Atlas of ye sphere.

What comfort have we (think you) to be there.

And how can you delight in playing when

Such mourning so affecteth other men;

Or if you will still put ‘t out let it wear

No more light colours, but death livery there

Hang all your house with black that hue it bears,

With icicles of ever-melting tears,

And if you ever chance to play again,

May nought but tragedies afflict your scene.

And thou dear Earth that must enshrines that dust

By Heaven now committed to thy trust,

Keep it as precious as the richest mine

That lies entomb’d in that rich womb of thine,

That after-times may know that much-lov’d mould

From other dust, and cherish it as gold.

On it be laid some soft but lasting stone

With this short epitaph endors’d thereon,

That every one may read, and reading weep:

‘Tis England’s Roscius, Burbage, that I keep.