I kill you all

These fragments on the levelling nature of death, come from a curious little tract published anonymously in 1580, entitled Marke well the effect, purtreyed here in all … The accompanying woodcut provides a compelling insight into the minds of both the author and his readers. 

I KILL YOU ALL

Marke well the effect, purtreyed here in all:
The Prelate with his dignities renowne,

The King that rules, the Lawyer in the hall,
The Harlot and the countrey toyling Clowne:

Howe and which way together they agree,
And what their talke and conference might be.

Each to their cause, for guard of their degree,
And yet death is the conquerour you see.

The bishop vaunts to pray for the other fower,
As who would say, he holds the palme & prie,
And that in him and his most holy power,
It doth depend, their causes to suffice
I pray (saith he) that Christs continual grace
May them conduct, & guide in every place.

The puissant King he claimeth to defend,
The bishop and the other three like case,
In all conflictes or broyles unto the end,
Who but his power their enemies doth deface
He ushers men, and sends them forth a farre
In their behalf, to maintaine deadly warre.

The smiling queane, the harlot cald by name,
Stands stiffe upon the blaze of beauty brave,
To vanquish all, she makes her prized claime.
And that she ought the golden spurs to have,
For by her flights she can bewitch the best,
The strong, the Lawyer, & the rest.

The Lawyer he, in title of his claime,
Presumeth next, by law and justice true,
Somewhat the more, to elevate his name:
For law (saith he) all discord doth subdue:
It endeth strife, it gives to each his right,
And wholy doth contention vanquish quight

The country clowne full loth to lose his right,
Puts in his foot, and pleads to be the chiefe.
What can they do (saith he) by power or might,
If that by me they have not their reliefe?
For want of food they should all perish then,
What say you now to me the countrey man.

For want of me they should both live and lacke,
For want of me they could not till the earth,
And thats the cause I carry on my backe,
This table here of plenty not of death.
I feast them all, their hunger I appease,
For by my toyle they feede even at their ease.

Death that aloofe in stealing wise doth stand
Hearing the vaunts that they begin to make.
Straight steppeth forth, with piercing dart in hand
And boldly seemes the quarell up to take.
Are they (saith he) so proud in their degree,
Lo, here by me soone conquered shall they bee,

And standing by to give their later foode,
He entreth straight, the conquest to attaine,
Thers none of them (saith he) the chiefest blood
That valiant death intendeth to refraine,
I’ll crop their crowne & garlands fresh and gay,
And at the last I’ll shrine them all in clay.

  • I pray for you all.
  • I help you all to your right.
  • I defend you all.
  • I vanquish you all.
  • I seede you all.
  • I will kill you all.

The Authors Apostrophe to the Reader:

Here may you see, what as the world might be,
The rich, the poore, Earle, Cesar, Duke, & King·
Death spareth not the chiefest high degree,
He triumphes still, on every earthly thing,
While then we live let us endevour still,
That all our works agree with Gods goodwill.’

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

One comment

  • February 24, 2010 - 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I kill you all and I drink your milkshake.

  • Comments are closed.

    All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove
    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

    Join other followers:

    © Shakespeare's England 2009-2014