My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,

My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,

My crop of corn is but a field of tares,

And all my good is but vain hope of gain;

The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,

And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard and yet it was not told,

My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green,

My youth is spent and yet I am not old,

I saw the world and yet I was not seen;

My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,

And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,

I looked for life and saw it was a shade,

I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,

And now I die, and now I was but made;

My glass is full, and now my glass is run,

And now I live, and now my life is done.

Chidiock Tichborne was born in Southampton in 1558 to Roman Catholic parents. In 1570, after Queen Elizabeth was excommunicated by the pope for her sympathy with Protestant causes, she banned Roman Catholics from practicing their religion. In June 1586, Tichborne agreed to take part in the Babington Plot to murder the queen, and on August 14 he was arrested and later sentenced to death. On the eve of his execution, while imprisoned in the Tower of London, Tichborne included with a letter to his wife Agnes this masterful poem, his only known work. He was 28 years old. The image is of Queen Elizabeth I at her coronation.

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