Robert Southwell.

[Marie Magdalen's funerall teares for the death of our Saviour online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryRobert Southwell[Marie Magdalen's funerall teares for the death of our Saviour → online text (page 1 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

^UJ^ h^:




IBeatj) of out Jbafctour.

to wisdom, thou art my Sister, and call under,,
'\ ; nswrman."


n ' i * i






From the " Respective Review."

THE pious author of these volumes was one
of the many victims sacrificed to the intolerant
spirit which characterised the early stages of
the Reformation.


Robert Southwell was a Catholic, and, what
was still more criminal in the eyes of the English
Government in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, he
was a Jesuit. He was born about the year 1562,
of a respectable Catholic family, at St. Faith's,
in Norfolk, and was, at an early age, sent to the
English College at Douay, for education. From
Douay he went to Rome, and, at the age of six-
teen, was received into the order of the society
of Jesus. Having finished his noviciate, and
gone through his course of philosophy and divi-
nity with great credit, he was made Prefect of
the studies of the English College at Rome. In
1584, he was sent as a missionary Priest into
his native country, having, as he says, travelled

far and brought home a freight of spiritual sub-
stance to enrich his friends, and medicinable re-
ceipts against their ghostly maladies. Father
Southwell continued in England, labouring dili-
gently in his function until the year 1529, when
\\e was apprehended in a gentleman's house at
Uxenden, in Middlesex, and committed to a
dungeon in the tower, so noisome and filthy,
that when he was brought out for examination,
his clothes were covered with vermin. Upon
this, his father presented a petition to Queen
Elizabeth, begging, that if his son had commit-
ted any thing for which, by the laws, he had de-
served death, he might suffer death ; if not, as
he was a gentleman, he hoped Her Majesty

would be pleased to order that he should be
treated as a gentleman. The Queen was graci-
ously pleased to listen to this prayer, and order-
ed that Southwell should have a better lodging,
and that his father should have permission to
supply him with clothes and other necessaries,
together with the books he asked for, which
were only the Bible, and the works of Saint
Bernard. For three years was he kept in prison,
and what was worse for himself and more dis-
graceful to the government, it is said, he was
put to the rack ten several times.

Wearied out with torture and solitary impri-
sonment, he at length applied to the Lord Trea-
surer Cecil, that he might either be brought to

trial) to answer for himself, or, at least, that his
friends might have leave to come and see him.
To this application, if we are to believe the ac-
count of the Latin manuscript, which was for-
merly deposited in the archives of the English
College at St Omers, and of which a translation
is given in ChaUoner's Memoirs of Missionary
Priests, the Lord Treasurer answered, u that if
he was in so much haste to be hanged, he should
quickly have his desire." Shortly after this he
was removed from the Tower to Newgate, where
he was put down into the dungeon called limbo,
and there kept for three days.

On the 20th of February, he was carried to
Westminster to take his trial before Lord Chief

Justice Popham and others. A true bill being
found against him, Father Southwell was order-
ed to the bar, and held up his hand according to
custom. On being- asked whether he was guilty
or not guilty, lie answered, " I confess that I
was born in England, a subject to the Queen's
Majesty; and that, by authority derived from
God, I have been promoted to the sacred order
of priesthood in the Roman Church," but he de-
nied he had ever entertained any designs against
the Queen or kingdom ; alleging, that he had no
other intention, in returning to his native coun-
try, than to administer the sacraments, according
to the Catholic Church, to such as desired them.
The jury were sworn without a single challenge,

the prisoner observing that they were all equally
strangers to him, and, therefore, charity did not
allow him to except against one more than ano-
ther. He was found guilty on his own con-
fession, and being asked if he had any thing
more to say why sentence should not be pro-
nounced against him, he replied, " nothing, but
from my heart I forgive all who have been any
way accessary to my death." The judge having
pronounced sentence according to the usual
form, Father Southwell made a low bow, re-
turning him thanks as for an unspeakable favour.
The next morning he was drawn through the
streets, on a sledge, to Tyburn, where a great
concourse of people had assembled to witness his

execution. He confessed that he was a priest of
the society of Jesus, but again denied that he
had ever contrived or imagined any evil against
the Queen, for whom, and for his country, he
offered up his prayers. The cart was then driven
away ; but the unskilful hangman had not appli-
ed the noose to the right place, so that he seve-
ral times made the sign of the cross, while he
was hanging, and was some time before he was
strangled. He was afterwards cut down, bow-
elled, and quartered.

So perished Father Southwell, at thirty-three
years of age, and so, unhappily, have perished
many of the wise and virtuous of the earth.
Conscious of suffering in the supposed best of

causes, he seems to have met death without ter-
rorto have received the crown of martyrdom
not only with resignation but with joy. Indeed,
persecution and martyrdom, torture and death,
must have been frequent subjects of his contem-
plation. His brethren of the priesthood were
falling around him, and he himself assumed the
character of a comforter and encourager to
those who remained. Life's uncertainty and the
woild's vanity the crimes and follies of huma-
nity, and the consolations and glories of religion,
are the constant themes of his writings, both in
prose and verse ; and the kindliness and benig-
nity of his nature, and the moral excellence of
his character, are diffused alike over both.


leremie, Chap. 6, Vers.26.

Luctum unigenltifac tibi planctum amarum.

Hontron :





Your virtuous requests, to which your cfe*
serts gave the force of a commandement) won
mee to satisfie your devotion, in penning some
little Discourse of the blessed Marie Magdalene.
And among other glorious examples of this
Sainfs life, I have made choice of her Funerall
Teares, in which as shee most uttered the great

vehemency of her fervent love to Christ, so hath
shee given therein largest scope to dilate upon the
same : a theme pleasing I hope unto yourself e,
and fittest for this lime. For as passion, and
especially this of love, is in these dayes the chief e
commander of most men's actions, and the idol
to which both tongues and penncs doe sacrifice
their ill bestowed labours : so is there nothing now
more needful to bee intreated, than how to direct
these humours unto their due courses, and to
draw thisfloud of affections into the right chan-
nett. Passions I allow, and loves I approve,
only I would wish that men would alter their ob-
ject, and better their intent. For passions being
sequels of our nature, and allotted unto us, as

the handmaids of reason, there can bee no doubt,
but as their authour is good, and their end god-
ly ; so their use, tempered in the meane, implieth
no offence. Love is but the infancie of true cha-
ritie, yet sucking Nature's teat, and swathed in
her bands, which then growelh to perfection,
when faith, besides naturall motives, proposeth
higher and nobler grounds of amitie. Hatred
and anger are the necessarie officers of prowesse
and justice, courage being cold and dull, and
justice in due revenge slacke and carelesse, where
hate of the fault doth not make it odious, and
anger setteth not an edge on the sword that pu-
nisheth or preventeth wrongs. Desire and hope
are the parents of diligence and Industrie, the

nurses of perseverance and constancie, the seeds
of valour and magnanimitie, the death ofsloatk,
and tfte breath of all vertue. Feare and dislikes
are the scouts of discretion, the harbingers of wis-
dom and policie,killing idle repentance in the cra-
dle, and curbing rashnesse with deliberation. Au-
dacitie is the armor of strength, and the guide
of glory, breaking the ice to the hardest exploits,
and crowning valour with honourable victorie.

Sorrow is the sister ofmercie, and a waker
of compassion, weeping with others 1 teares, and
grieved with their harmes. It is both the salve
and smart of sinne, curing that which it chas-
tiseth with true remorse, and preventing need of
new cure with the detestation of the disease. De-

spaire of the successe is a bit against evill at-
tempts, and the hearse of idle hopes, ending end-
lesse things in their Jir&t motion to begin. True
joy is the rest and reward of vertuc, seasoning
difficulties with delight, and giving a present as-
say of future happinesse. Finally, there is no
passion but hath a serviceable use, either in pur-
suit of good, or avoidance of evill, and they are
all benefits of God, and helpes of nature, so long
as they are kept under vertue's correction.

But as too much of the best is evill, and
excesse in virtue, vice ; so passions let loose
without limits, are imperfections, nothing being
good that wanteth measure. And as the sea is
unfit for trajficke, not only when the windes are


too boysterous, but also when they are too still,
and a middle gale and motion of the waves serveth
best the sayler's purpose ; so neither too stormie,
nor too calme a minde giveth vertue the first
course, but a middle temper betweene them both,
in which the well ordered passions are wrought to
prosecute, not suffered to pervert any vertuous
endeavour. Such were the passions of this holy
Saint 9 which were not guides to reason, but at-
tendants upon it, and commanded by such a love
as could never exceed, because the thing loved
was of infinite perfection. And if her weaknesse
of faith, (an infirmitie then common to all
Christ's disciples) did suffer her understanding
to bee deceived, yet was her will so settled in a

most sincere and perfect fore, that it led ail her
passions with the same byas, recompensing the
want ofbeleefe, with the strange effects of an ex-
cellent charitie. This love and these passions
are the subject of this discourse, which though it
reach not to the dignitie of Marie's deserts, yet
shall I thinke my endeavours well appaid, if it
may but wooe some skiUfuUer pens from unwor-
thy labours, either to supply in this matter my
want of ability, or in other of like pietie, (where-
of the Scripture is full ) to exercise tlueir happier
talents. I know that none can express a passion
that hee feeleth not, neither doth the pen deliver
but what it copieth out of the mind. And there-
fore the finest wits are now given to write pas-

sionate discourses, I would wish them to make
choice of such passions, as it neither should be
shame to utter, nor sinne tofeele.

Hut whether my wishes in this behalf e take
effect or not, I reape at the least this reward of
my pains, that I have shewed my desire to answer
your courtesie, and set forth the due praises of
this glorious Saint.

Your loving friend
R. S.


Many, suiting their labours to the popular
vane, and guided by the gale of vulgar breath,
have divulged divers patheticall discourses, in
which if they had shewed as much care to profit,
as they have done desire to please, their workes
would much more have honoured their names,
and availed the reader. But it is a just com-
plaint among the better sort of persons, that the
finest wits lose themselves in the vainest follies,


spilling much art in some idle fancie, and leaving
their workes as witnesses how long they have
beene in travell, to be in fine delivered of a fable.
And sure it is a thing greatly to bee lamented,
that men of so high conceit should so much abase
their abilities, that when they have racked them
to the uttermost endeavour, all the praise that
they reape of their imploiment, consisteth in this,
that they have wisely told a foolish tale, and car-
ried a long lie very smoothly to the end. Yet
this inconvenience might finde some excuse, if
the drift of their discourse levelled at any vertu-
ous mark. For in fables are often figured morall
truths, and that covertly uttered to a common
good, which without a maske would not finde so


free a passage. But when the substance of the
work hath neither truth nor probability, nor the
purport thereof tendeth to any honest end, the
writer is rather to be pitied than praised, and his
books litter for the fire than for the presse. This
common oversight more have observed, than en-
deavoured to salve, every one being able to re-
prove, none willing to redresse such faults, au-
thorized especially by generall custome. And
though if necessitie (the lawlesse patrone of in-
forced actions) had no more prevailed than
choice, this worke of so different a subject from
the usual veine should have been no eye-sore to
those that are pleased with worse matters.
Yetsith the copies thereof flew so fast, and so


false abroad, that it was in daunger to come cor-
rupted to the print ; it seemed a lesse evill to let
it Hie to common view in the native plume, and
with the own wings, than disguised in a coat of
a bastard feather, or cast off from the fist of such
a corrector, as might happily have perished the
sound, and stucke in some sick and sorry fea-
thers of his own phansies. It may be that cour-
teous skill will reckon this, though coarse in re-
spect of other exquisite labours, not unfit to en-
tertain well tempered humours both with plea-
sure and profit, the ground thereof being in scrip-
ture, and the form of enlarging it, an imitation
of the ancient doctours in the same and other
points of like tenour. This commoditie at the


least it will carry with it, that the reader may
learn to love without improof of purity, and teach
his thoughts either to temper passion in the
meane, or to give the bridle only where the ex-
cesse cannot be faulty. Let the work defend it-
self, and every one pass his censure as he seeth
cause. Many carpes are expected when curious
eyes corae a fishing. But the care is already
taken, and patience waiteth at the table, ready to
take away, when that dish is served in, and make
room for others to set on the desired fruit.

R. S.


AMONGST other mournful accidents of the
Passion of Christ, that love presenteth itself
unto ray memory, with which the blessed Mary
Magdalen, loving- our Lord more than her life,
followed him in his journey to his death, attend-
ing upon him when his disciples fled, and being
more willing to die with him, than they to live
without him. But not finding the favour to


accompany him in death, and loathing after him
to remain in life, the fire of her true affection in-
flamed her hart, and her inflamed hart resolved
into uncessant teares : so that burning and bath-
ing in love and griefe, she led a life ever dying,
and felt a death never ending. And when he by
whom she lived was dead, and she for whom he
died inforcedly left alive, she praised the dead
more than the living, and having lost that light
of her life, she desired to dwell in darkness, and
in the shadow of death ; choosing Christ's tomb
for her best home, and his corse for her chief
comfort. For Mary (as the Evangelist saith)
stood without, at the tomb, weeping.

But (alas) how unfortunate is this woman, to


whom neither life will affoard a desired farewell
nor death alluw any wished welcome ? She hath
abandoned the living, and chosen the company of
the dead, and now it seemeth that even the dead
have forsaken her, sith the corse she seeketh is
taken away from her. And this was the cause
that love induced her to stand, and sorrow in-
forced her to weep. Her eye was watchful to
seek whom her hart most longed to enjoy, and
her foot in readiness to runne if her eye should
chaunce to espie him. And therefore she stand-
eth to be still stirring, prest to watch every way,
and prepared to go whither any hope should call
her. But she wept because she had such occa-
sion of standing, and that which moved her to


watch was the motive of her teares. For as she
watched to find whom she had lost, so she wept
for having lost whom she loved, her poor eyes
being troubled at once with two contrary offices,
both to be cleare in sight the better to seeke him,
and yet cloudy with teares for missing the sight
of him.

Yet was not this the entrance but the encrease
of her grief, not the beginning but the renewing
of her moane. For first she mourned for the de-
parting of his soule out of his body, and now she
lamented the taking of his body out of his grave,
being punished with two w re ekes of her only
wellfare, both full of misery, but the last with-
out all comfort. The first original of her sorrow


grew because she could not enjoy him alive : yet
this sorrow had some solace, for that she hoped
to have enjoyed him dead.

But when she considered that his life was al-
ready lost, and now not so much as his body
could he found, she was wholly daunted with dis-
may, sith this unhappines admitted no help. She
doubted least the love of her Maister (the only
portion that fortune had left her) would soon lan-
guish in her cold breast if it neither had his
words to kindle it, nor his presence to cherish
it, nor so much as his dead ashes to rake it up.
She had prepared her spices and provided her
ointments to pay him the last tribute of eternall
duties. And though St. Joseph and Nicodemus


had already bestowed a hundred pounds of myrrh
and aloes which was in quantity sufficient, in
quality the best, and as well applied as art and
devotion could devise : yet such was her love,
that she would have thought any quantity too
little, except her's had been added, the best in
quality too mean except her's were with it, and
no diligence in applying it enough, except her
service were in it. Not that she w r as sharp in
censuring that which others had done, but be-
cause love made her so desirous to do all her-
self e, that though all had beeue done that she
could devise, and as well as she could wish, yet
uulesse she were an actor > it would not suffice,


sith love is as eager to be uttered in effect as it
is zealous in true affection.

She came therefore now meaning to embalme
his corpse as she had before anointed his feet,
and to preserve the reliques of his body, as the
only remnant of all blisse. And as in the spring
of her felicity she had washed his feet with her
teares, bewailing unto him the death of her owne
soule : so now she came in the depth of her mi-
sery, to shedd them fresh for the death of his
body. But when she saw the grave open, and
the body taken out, the labour of embalming was
prevented, but the cause of her weeping increas-
ed, and he that was wanting to her obsequies,
was not wanting to her teares, and though she


found not whom to annoint, yet found she whom
to lament.

And not without cause did Marie complaine,
finding her first anguish doubled with a second
griefe, and being surcharged with two most vio-
lent sorrowes in one afflicted heart. For having
settled her whole affection upon Christ, and
summed all her desires and wishes into the love
of his goodnesse, as nothing could equall his
worth ; so was there not in the whole world,
either a greater benefit for her to enjoy than him-
selfe, or any greater dammage possible than his

The murdering in his owne death the life of
all lives, left a generall death in all living crea-


tures, and his decease not only disrobed our na-
ture of her most royall ornaments, but impove-
rished the world of all highest perfections. What
marvell therefore though her vehement love to
so lovely a Lord, being after the wrecke of his
life, now also deprived of his dead body, feele as
bitter pangs for his losse, as before it tasted
joyes in his presence, and open as large an issue
to teares of sorrow, as ever heretofore to teares
of contentment ? And though teares were rather
oile than water to her flame, apter to nourish
than diminish her griefe : yet now being plunged
in the depth of paine, shee yeelded herselfe cap-
tive to all discomfort, carrying an overthrowne
minde in a more enfeebled body, and still busie


in devising, but ever doubtfull in defining- what
shee might best doe. For what could a silly wo-
man do but weepe, that floating in a sea of cares,
found neither eare to heare her, nor tongue to di-
rect her, nor hand to helpe her, nor heart to pity
her in her desolate case ? True it is, that Peter
and John came with her to the tombe, and to
make trial 1 of her report were both within it :
but as they were speedy in comming, and dili-
gent in searching, so were they as quicke to de-
part, and fearefull of farther seeking. And alas,
what gained shee by their comming, but two
witnesses of her losse, two dismayers of her
hope, and two patternes of a new despaire ?
Love moved them to come, but their love was


soone conquered with such feare, that it suffered
them not to stay. / But Mary, hoping in de-
spaire, and persevering in hope, stood without
feare, because shee now thought nothing left
that ought to bee feared. For shee hath lost
her Master, to whom shee was so entirely de-
voted, that hee was the totall of her loves, the
height of her hopes, and the uttermost of her
feares, and therefore besides him, shee could nei-
ther love other creature, hope for other comfort,
nor feare other losse. The worst shee could
feare was the death of her body, and that shee
rather desired than feared, sith shee had already
lost the life of her soule, without which any
other life would bee a death, and with which any


other death would have beene a delight. But
now she thought it better to die than to live, be-
cause shee might happily dying finde, whom not
dying shee looked not to enjoy, and not enjoying
she had little will to live. For now shee loved
nothing in her life, but her love to Christ : and
if any thing did make her willing to live, it was
only the unwillingnesse that his image should die
with her, whose likeness love had limited in her
heart, and treasured up in her sweetest memo-
ries. And had she not feared to breake the table
and to breake open the closet, to which shee had
entrusted this last relique of her lost happinesse,
the violence of griefe would have melted her
heart into inward bleeding -teares, and blotted


her remembrance with a fatall oblivion. And
yet neverthelesse, shee is now in so imperfect a
sort alive, that it is proved true in her, that Lwe
is as strong as death : For what could death have
done more in Mary than love did? Her wits
were astonished, and all her senses so amazed*
that in the end finding shee did not know, seeing
shee could not discerne, hearing shee perceived
not, and more than all this, shee was not there
where she was, for shee was wholly where her
master was ; more where shee loved, than where
shee lived, and iesse in herselfe than in his body,
which notwithstanding where it was shee could
not imagine. For shee sought, and as yet shee
found not, and therefore stood at the tombe


weeping for it, being now altogether given to
mourning, and driven to misery.

But, O Mary, by whose counsell, upon what
hope, or with what heart, couldest thou stand
alone, when the Disciples were departed ? Thou
wert there once before they came, thou turnedst
againe at their comming, and yet thou stayest
when they are gone. Alas, that thy Lord is not
in the tombe, thine own eyes have often seene,
the Disciples' hands have felt, the empty Syndon
doth avouch, and cannot all this winne thee to
beleeve it? No, no ; thou wouldest rather con-
demne thine owne eyes of errour, and both their
eyes and hands of deceit, yea, rather suspect all
testimonies for untrue, than not looke whom thou


hast lost r even there, where by no diligence hee
could bee found. When thou thinkest of other
places, and canst not imagine any so likely as
this, thou seekest againe in this, and though ne-
ver so often sought, it must bee an haunt for
hope. For when things dearly affected are lost,
love's nature is, never to bee weary of searching

1 3 4 5 6

Online LibraryRobert Southwell[Marie Magdalen's funerall teares for the death of our Saviour → online text (page 1 of 6)