First off a little about Francis Quarles himself as he is not a household name... at least not currently, I guess he might have been in his time. Quarles lived during the time of Henry VIII and was in fact the cup bearer of Princess Elizabeth for a time. His family had a history of royal service and he carried on that tradition in several capacities throughout his life including cup bearer duties. He also was married and had eighteen children!
His poems were mostly of a religious nature, praising God and reflecting on God. I'm not a huge fan of poetry unless it's Robert Frost or humorous but it was interesting to read Quarles' poetry as it was entirely different than the poetry I normally read. Since it was older poetry the language was different than what I was accustomed to as well. Overall I did like his poetry but it wasn't something I would read over and over again... but then I don't read most poetry over and over again.
Here's my favorite poem of his so you too can experience a little Quarles. :)
I love (and have some cause to love) the earth;
She is my Maker's creature, therefore good:
She is my mother, for she gave me birth;
She is my tender nurse; she gives me food;
But what's a creature, Lord, compared with Thee?
Or what's my mother, or my nurse to me?
I love the air; her dainty fruits refresh
My drooping soul, and to new sweets invite me;
Her shrill-mouth'd choirs sustain me with their flesh.
And with their polyphonian notes delight me:
But what's the air, or all the sweets that she
Can bless my soul withal, compared to Thee?
I love the sea; she is my fellow-creature,
My careful purveyor; she provides me store;
She walls me round; she makes my diet greater;
She wafts my treasure from a foreign shore:
But, Lord of oceans, when compared with Thee,
What is the ocean, or her wealth to me?
To heaven's high city I direct my journey,
Whose spangled suburbs entertain mine eye;
Mine eye, by contemplation's great attorney,
Transcends the crystal pavement of the sky.
But what is heaven, great God, compared to Thee?
Without Thy presence, heaven's no heaven to me.
Without Thy presence, earth gives no reflection:
Without Thy presence, sea affords no treasure;
Without Thy presence, air's a rank infection;
Without Thy presence, heaven itself no pleasure:
If not possess'd, if not enjoyed in Thee,
What's earth, or sea, or air, or heaven to me?
The highest honours that the world can boast,
Are subjects far too low for my desire;
Its brightest gleams of glory are, at most,
But dying sparkles of Thy living fire:
The brightest flames that earth can kindle, be
But nightly glowworms, if compared to Thee.
Without Thy presence, wealth is bags of cares;
Wisdom, but folly; joy, disquiet, sadness;
Friendship is treason, and delights are snares;
Pleasures, but pain; and mirth, but pleasing madness:
Without Thee, Lord, things be not what they be,
Nor have their being when compared with Thee.
In having all things, and not Thee, what have I?
Not having Thee, what have my labours got?
Let me enjoy but Thee, what have my labours got?
And having Thee alone, what have I not?
I wish nor sea nor land; nor would I be
Possess'd of heaven, heaven unpossess'd of Thee.
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