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Masters, I sleep not quiet in my grave, There where they laid me, by the Avon shore, In that some crazy wights have set it forth By arguments most false and fanciful, Analogy and far-drawn inference, That Francis Bacon, Earl of Verulam (A man whom I remember in old days, A learned judge with sly adhesive palms, To which the suitor's gold was wont to stick) — That this same Verulam had writ the plays Which were the fancies of my frolic brain. What can they urge to dispossess the crown Which all my comrades and the whole loud world Did in my lifetime lay upon my brow? Look straitly at these arguments and see How witless and how fondly slight they be. Imprimis, they have urged that, being born In the mean compass of a paltry town, I could not in my youth have trimmed my mind To such an eagle pitch, but must be found, Like the hedge sparrow, somewhere near the ground. Bethink you, sirs, that though I was denied The learning which in colleges is found, Yet may a hungry brain still find its fo Wherever books may lie or men may be; And though perchance by Isis or by Cam The meditative, philosophic plant May best luxuriate; yet some would say That in the task of limning mortal life A fitter preparation might be made Beside the banks of Thames. And then again, If I be suspect, in that I was not A fellow of a college, how, I pray, Will Jonson pass, or Marlowe, or the rest, Whose measured verse treads with as proud a gait As that which was my own? Whence did they suck This honey that they stored? Can you recite The vantages which each of these has had And I had not? Or is the argument That my Lord Verulam hath written all, And covers in his wide-embracing self The stolen fame of twenty smaller men? You prate about my learning. I would urge My want of learning rather as a proof That I am still myself. Have I not traced A seaboard to Bohemia, and made The cannons roar a whole wide century Before the first was forged? Think you, then, That he, the ever-learned Verulam, Would have erred thus? So may my very faults In their gross falseness prove that I am true, And by that falseness gender truth in you. And what is left? They say that they have found A script, wherein the writer tells my Lord He is a secret poet. True enough! But surely now that secret is o'er past. Have you not read his poems? Know you not That in our day a learned chancellor Might better far dispense unjustest law Than be suspect of such frivolity As lies in verse? Therefore his poetry Was secret. Now that he is gone 'Tis so no longer. You may read his verse, And judge if mine be better or be worse: Read and pronounce! The meed of praise is thine; But still let his be his and mine be mine. I say no more; but how can you for- swear Outspoken Jonson, he who knew me well; So, too, the epitaph which still you read? Think you they faced my sepulchre with lies — Gross lies, so evident and palpable That every townsman must have wot of it, And not a worshipper within the church But must have smiled to see the marbled fraud? Surely this touches you? But if by chance My reasoning still leaves you obdurate, I'll lay one final plea. I pray you look On my presentment, as it reaches you. My features shall be sponsors for my fame; My brow shall speak when Shakespeare's voice is dumb, And be his warrant in an age to come.
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In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
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