Anne Killigrew - On Death

Anne KilligrewAnne Killigrew (1660-1685) was an English poet and painter whose book of 33 poems was published by her father after her untimely death (of smallpox) at only twenty-five years of age.

Anne wrote poems of love, death and the human condition, her inspiration coming from her knowledge of Greek myths and biblical proverbs. 

Anne demonstrated indications of genius very early in her short life and was encouraged by family and friends to cultivate it.

In her poem On Death Anne questions why we mortals are afraid of it. She points out that quite often it is a relief from much of life's woes. 

Perhaps the poem was a foreshadowing of her own early departure from life. It certainly made me question my own feelings and views about death. What do you think?

On Death

Tell me thou safest End of all our Woe,
Why wreched Mortals do avoid thee so:
Thou gentle drier o'th' afflicteds Tears,
Thou noble ender of the Cowards Fears;
Thou sweet Repose to Lovers sad dispaire,
Thou Calm t'Ambitions rough Tempestuous Care.
If in regard of Bliss thou wert a Curse,
And then the Joys of Paradise art worse;
Yet after Man from his first Station fell,
And God from Eden Adam did expel,
Thou wert no more an Evil, but Relief;
The Balm and Cure to ev'ry Humane Grief:
Through thee (what Man had forfeited before)
He now enjoys, and ne'r can loose it more.

No subtile Serpents in the Grave betray,
Worms on the Body there, not Soul do prey;
No Vice there Tempts, no Terrors there afright,
No Coz'ning Sin affords a false delight:
No vain Contentions do that Peace annoy,
No feirce Alarms break the lasting Joy.

Ah since from thee so many Blessings flow,
Such real Good as Life can never know;
Come when thou wilt, in thy afrighting'st Dress,
Thy Shape shall never make thy Welcome less.
Thou mayst to Joy, but ne'er to Fear give Birth,
Thou Best, as well as Certain'st thing on Earth.
Fly thee? May Travellers then fly their Rest,
And hungry Infants fly the profer'd Brest.
No, those that faint and tremble at thy Name,
Fly from their Good on a mistaken Fame.
Thus Childish fear did Israel of old
From Plenty and the Promis'd Land with-hold;
They fancy'd Giants, and refus'd to go,
When Canaan did with Milk and Honey flow.

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