Robert Southwell

English Jesuit and poet (1561–1595)

St. Robert Southwell (1561February 21 1595) was an English poet, a Jesuit priest, and a martyr for the Catholic faith. He was canonized in 1970.

Grant me grace, O God! that I
My life may mend, sith I must die.



Quotations are cited from William B. Turnbull (ed.) The Poetical Works of the Rev. Robert Southwell (London: John Russell Smith, 1856).

  • Man's mind a mirror is of heavenly sights,
    A brief wherein all marvels summèd lie,
    Of fairest forms and sweetest shapes the store,
    Most graceful all, yet thought may grace them more.
    • "Look Home", line 3; p. 49
  • In Aman's pomp poor Mardocheus wept,
    Yet God did turn his fate upon his foe;
    The Lazar pined while Dives' feast was kept,
    Yet he to heaven, to hell did Dives go.
    We trample grass and prize the flowers of May,
    Yet grass is green when flowers do fade away.
    • "Scorn not the Least", line 19; p. 54.
  • Shun delays, they breed remorse;
    Take thy time while time is lent thee;
    Creeping snails have weakest force,
    Fly their fault lest thou repent thee.
    Good is best when soonest wrought,
    Linger’d labours come to nought.
    • "Loss in Delay", line 1; p. 60.
  • Time wears all his locks before,
    Take thy hold upon his forehead;
    When he flies he turns no more,
    And behind his scalp is naked.
    Works adjourn'd have many stays,
    Long demurs breed new delays.
    • "Loss in Delay", line 13; p. 60.
  • Plough not the seas, sow not the sands,
    Leave off your idle pain;
    Seek other mistress for your minds,
    Love's service is in vain.
    • "Love's Servile Lot", line 73; p. 65.
  • Behold a silly tender babe,
    In freezing winter night,
    In homely manger trembling lies;
    Alas! a piteous sight.
    • "New Prince, New Pomp", line 1; p. 96.
  • This stable is a prince's court,
    The crib his chair of state;
    The beasts are parcel of his pomp,
    The wooden dish his plate.
    • "New Prince, New Pomp", line 17; p. 96.
  • As in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,
    Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
    And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
    A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear.
    • "The Burning Babe", line 1; p. 98.
  • My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns;
    Love is the fire and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
    The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals;
    The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defiled souls.
    • "The Burning Babe", line 9; pp. 98-9.

Times Go by Turns

  • Times go by turns and chances change by course,
    From foul to fair, from better hap to worse.
    • Line 5; p. 47.
  • No joy so great but runneth to an end,
    No hap so hard but may in fine amend.
    • Line 11; p. 47.
  • The saddest birds a season find to sing,
    The roughest storm a calm may soon allay;
    Thus with succeeding turns God tempereth all,
    That men may hope to rise yet fear to fall.
    • Line 15; p. 47.

Content and Rich

  • My conscience is my crown,
    Contented thoughts my rest;
    My heart is happy in itself,
    My bliss is in my breast.

    Enough I reckon wealth;
    A mean the surest lot,
    That lies too high for base contempt,
    Too low for envy's shot.
    • Line 9; p. 57.
  • I feel no care of coin,
    Well-doing is my wealth;
    My mind to me an empire is,
    While grace affordeth health.
    • Line 25; p. 58.
  • To rise by others' fall
    I deem a losing gain;
    All states with others' ruins built
    To ruin run amain.
    • Line 57; p. 59.
  • When Fortune smiles, I smile to think
    How quickly she will frown.
    • Line 63; p. 59.

Upon the Image of Death

  • Before my face the picture hangs,
    That daily should put me in mind
    Of those cold names and bitter pangs,
    That shortly I am like to find:
    But yet, alas! full little I
    Do think hereon that I must die.
    • Line 1; p. 136.
  • Not Solomon, for all his wit,
    Nor Samson, though he were so strong,
    No king nor person ever yet
    Could 'scape, but Death laid him along.
    • Line 37; p. 137.
  • Though all the East did quake to hear
    Of Alexander's dreadful name,
    And all the West did likewise fear
    To hear of Julius Cæsar's fame.
    • Line 43; pp. 137-8.
  • Grant me grace, O God! that I
    My life may mend, sith I must die.
    • Line 53; p. 138.
Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original works by or about: