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Mar 19, 2019, Tuesday

Beauty is but a flower, which wrinkles will devour

A poem by 16th century English playwright Thomas Nashe

Beauty is but a flower, which wrinkles will devour
I collated a few passages from a longer poem by Thomas Nashe's, "Adieu, farewell, earth's bliss." The poem originally appeared in Nashe's 1592 play, "Summer's Last Will and Testament." The lyrics are spoken by a jester in the court of Henry the VIII named William Sommers who felt himself dying and very depressed as a result, no doubt.


This world uncertain is;
Fond are life's lustful joys;
Death proves them all but toys;
None from his darts can fly.

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade.
All things to end are made.

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen's eye.

Earth but a player’s stage.


Despite the somber tone, there is an underlying beauty in the words. Life is sorrowful in that everything fades and dies, but even in that there is something tragically wonderful in the temporal nature of things.

I heard there is a Japanese word that means, beauty in the ephemeral things. They call it "awa-re." A related word, "shi-bu-hi", means beauty in aging.

To be sure, there is a kind of beauty in everything if only we have the hearts to see.
beautifullifeageyouthdeathwrinklesagingawa-reshi-bu-hithomas nashe