The Passions of
A Discontented Minde

by Nicholas Breton


Breton Biography

Breton Bibliography



From silent night, true Register of mones;

  From saddest soule, consumed with deepest sinnes;
  From heart quite rent, with sighes and heavy grones,
  My wailing Muse her wofull worke beginnes:

And to the world brings tunes of sad dispaire,


Sounding nought else but sorrow, griefe, and care.


  Sorrow, to see my sorrowes cause augmented,
  And yet less sorrowfull, were my sorrows more;
  Griefe, that my griefe, with griefe is not prevented,
10 For griefe it is must ease my grieved sore.

Thus griefe and sorrow care's but how to grieve,


For griefe and sorrow must my cares relieve.



The wound fresh bleeding must be stancht with teares,

  Teares cannot come, unless some griefe proceed;
  Griefes come but slacke, which doth encrease my feares,
  Feares, least for want of help I still should bleed.

Do what I can to lengthen my lives breath,


If teares be wanting, I shall bleed to death.


  Thou deepest searcher of each secret thought,
20 Infuse in me thy all-affecting grace;
  So shall my workes to good effects be brought,
  While I peruse ugly sinnes a space:

Whole staining filth so spotted hath my soule,


As nought will waste, but teares of inward dole:



O that learned Poets of this time,

  (Who in a love-sicke line so well endite)
  Would not consume good wit in hateful Rime,
  But would with care some better subject write:

For if their musicke please in earthly things,


Well would it sound if strained with heav'nly strings.



But woe it is to see fond worldlings use,

  Who most delight in things that vainest be,
  And without feare worke Vertues foule abuse,
  Scorning soules rest, and all true pietie:

As if they made account never to part


From this fraile life, the pilgrimage of smart.



Such is the nature of our foolish kinde,

  When practiz'd sinne hath deeply taken roote,
  The way to penance due is hard to finde,
40 Repentance held a thing of litle boote.

For contrite teares, soules health, and Angels joy,


Most men account a meere phantastike toy.


  Ill working Use, devourer of all grace,
  The fretting moath that wasteth soules chiefe bliss
  The slie close thiefe that lurkes in every place,
  Filching by peece-meale, till the whole be his.

How many are deceived by thy baite,


T'account their sinnes as trifles of no waight?



Oh cursed custom, causing mischiefe still,

  50 Too long thy craft my sences hath misse-led:
  Too long have I bin slave unto thy will:
  Too long my soule on bitter sweetes hath fed:

Now surfetting with thy hell poisoned cates,


In deepe repent, her former folly hates.


  And humbly comes with sorrow-rented hart,
  With blubbred eies, & hands uprear'd to heaven;
  To play a poore lamenting Mawdlines part,
  That would weepe streames of bloud to be forgiven:

But (oh) I feare mine eies are drain'd so drie,


That though I would, yet now I cannot crie.



If any eie therefore can spare a teare,

  To fill the wel-springs that must wet my cheeks,
  O let that eye to this sad feast draw neare:
  Refuse me not, my humble soule beseeks:

For all the teares mine eyes have ever wept,


Were no too litle had they all bin kept.


  I see my sinnes arraign'd before my face,
  I see their number passe moathes in sunne,
  I see that my continuance in this place
70 Cannot be long, and all that I have done.

I see the Judge before my face hath laid,


At whose sterne looks all creatures are afraid.


  If he be just, my soule condemned is,
  And just he is, what then may be expected,
  But banishment from everlasting blisse?
  To live like cursed Caine, base, vile, abjected:

He in his rage his brothers bloud did spill,


I more unkind, mine owne soules life do kill.



O could mine eyes send trickling teares amaine ,

80 Never to cease till my eternall night,
  Till this eye-floud his mercie might obtaine,
  Whom my defaults have banisht from his sight:

Then could I blesse my happy time of crying,


But ah too soone my barre springs are drying.


  Thrise happie sinner was that blessed Saint,
  Who though he fell with puffe of womans blast,
  Went forth and wept with many a bitter plaint,
  And by his teares obtained grace at last:

Wretched I, have falneof mine accord,


Ten thousand times against the living Lord.



Yet cannot straine one true repentant teare,

  To gaine the blisse from which my soule is banisht:
  My flintie heart some sorrowing doth forebeare,
  And from my sence all true remorce is vanisht:

For heart and sence are cloyd with dregs of sinne,


And theres no place for grace to enter in.


  No place (deare Lord) unlesse thy goodness please
  To pittie him that worst deserves of any,
  And in thy tender mercie grant him ease,
100 As thou tofore hast mercie shew'd to many:

Yet none of those do equall me in sinne,


Oh how may I hope mercie then to winne?


The traitor Judas heire borne to perdition,

  Who for a trifle did his Lord betray,
  In equall doome deserveth more remission,
  Then my defaults can challenge any way:

He sold him once, that once for gaine was done,


I oftentimes, yet less then nothing wonne.


  The bloudie minded Jewes in furie mad,
110 Untill on Christ their cruell rage was fed,
  In their fell anger more compassion had
  Then I, for whom his harmless bloud was shed:

Their hellish spite within a day was past,


My sinfull fit doth all my lifetime last.



For ev'ry stripe that he from them did take,

  A thousand deadly sinnes have committed;
  And ev'ry wound as deepe a wound did make,
  As did the cords wherwith my Christ was whipped:
  Oh hatefull caitiffe, parricide most vile,

Thus (with my sinne) his pure bloud to defile.



O sinne, first parent of mans ever woe,

  The distance large that severs hell and heaven;
  Sences confounder, soules chiefe overthrow,
  Grafted by men, not by the grafter given;
  Consuming canker, wasting soules chiefe treasure,

Onely to gaine a litle trifling pleasure.



Happie were man if sinne had never bin,

  Thrise happie now, if sinne he would forsake;
  But happier farre, if for his wicked sinne
130 He would repent, and heartie sorrow make:
  Leaving his drosse and fleshly delectation,

To gaine in heav'n a lasting habitation.


  There is the place wherein all sorrows die,
  Where joy exceeds all joyes that ever were;
  Where Angels make continuall harmony,
  The minde set free from care, distrust, or feare:

There all receive all joyfull contentation,


Happied by that most heav'nly contemplation.



Now see (alas) the change we make for sinne,

140 In stead of heav'n, hell is become our lot;
  For blessed Saints, damned fiends we ever win,
  For rest and freedome, lasting bondage got:

For joy, content eternall love and peace


Griefe, dispaire, hate, jarres that never cease.


  The worme of conscience still attendeth on us,
  Telling each houre, each instant we shall die;
  And that our sinnes cannot be parted from us,
  But where we are, thither they likewise flie:
  Still urging this, that death we have deserved,
150 Because we fled from him we should have served.




What greater sinne can touch a humane hart?

  What hellish furie can be worse tormented?
  What sinner lives that feeleth not a part
  Of this sharpe plague, unlesse he have repented?
  And yet Repentance surely is but vaine,

Without full purpose, not to sinne againe.


  And is it not then plaine follies error,
  To covet that that brings with it contempt,
  And makes us live in feare, distrust, and terror,
160 Hating at last the thing we did attempt?
  For never sinne did yet so pleasing taste,

But lustful flesh did loath it when t'was past.



Witnes my wofull soule which well can tell,

  In highest top of sinnes most fresh delight;
  Although my frailtie suffred me to dwell,
  Yet being last, I loath'd it with despight.
  But like the swine, I fed mine owne desire,

That being cleane, still coveteth the mire.


  So greedie is mans beastly appetite,
170 To follow after dunghill pleasures still;
  And feed on carrion like the ravening kite,
  Not caring what his hungry maw dooth fill:
  But worketh evermore his wills effect,

Without restraint, controlement, or respect.



O, why should man, that beares the stamp of heaven,

  So much abase heavens holy will and pleasure?
  O, why was sence and reason to him given,
  That in his sinne cannot containe a measure?
  He knowes, he must account for every sinne,

And yet committeth sins that countlesse bin.



This is to peruse (deare God) doth kill my soule,

  But that thy mercie quickneth it againe;
  O, heare me, Lord, in bitternesse of dole,
  That of my sinnes do prostrate here complaine;
  And at thy feet, with Mary, knocke for grace,

Though wanting Maries tears to wet my face.



She, happy sinner, saw her life misse-led,

  At sight whereof, her inward heart did bleed,
  To witnes with her, outward teares were shed.
190 O blessed Saint, and o most blessed deed:
  But wretched I, that see more sinnes than she,

Nor grieve within, nor yet weepe outwardly.


  When she had lost thy presence but one day,
  The want was such, her heart could not sustaine;
  But to thy tombe alone she tooke her way,
  And there with sighes and teares she did complaine:
  Nor from her sense, once moov'd or stirr'd was shee,

Untill againe she got a sight of thee.



But I have lost thy presence all my daies,

200 And still am slacke to see thee as I should;
  My wretched soule in wicked sinne so staies,
  I am unmeet to see thee, thou I would:
  Yet, if I could with teares thy comming tend,

I know I should (as she) finde thee my frend.


  Teares are the key that ope the way to blisse,
  The holy water quenching heav'ns quicke fire;
  The attonement true twixt God and our amisse;
  The Angels drinke, the blessed Saints desire:
  The joy of Christ, the balme of grieved hart,
210 The spring of life, the ease of ev'ry smart.


The second King of Israel by succession,

  When with Uriahs wife he had offended,
  In bitter teares bewaild his great transgression,
  And by his teares found grace, and so repented:
  He, night and day in weeping did remaine;

I, night or day to shead one teare take paine.


  And yet my sinnes, in greatness, and in number,
  Farre his exceed; how comes it then to passe,
  That my repentance should so farre be under;
220 And graces force, deare God, is as it was:
  Truth is, that I, although I have more need,

Do not, as he, so truly weepe indeed.



O wherefore is my steely heart so hard?

  Why am I made of mettall unrelenting?
  Why is all ghostly comfort from me bard?
  Or, to what end do I deferre repenting?
  Can lustfull flesh or flattering world perswade me,

That I can scape the power of him that made me?


  No, no, the secret Searcher of all hearts,
230 Both sees, & knowes each deed that I have done,
  And for each deed wil pay me home with smart,
  No place can serve, his will decreed to shunne;
  I should deceive myself, to thinke that he

For sinne would punish others, and not me.



Our first borne sire, first breeder of mans thrall,

  For one bare sinne was of perfection reft,
  And all makinde were banisht by his fall
  From Paradise, and unto sorrow left:
  If he for one, and all for him feele paine,

Then, for so many, what should I sustaine?



The Angels made to attend on God in glorie,

  Were thrust from heav'n, and only for one sinne,
  That but in thought (for so records the Storie)
  For which they still in lasting darknesse bin:
  If those, once glorious, thus tormented be,

I (basest slave) what will become of me?



What will become of me, that not in thought,

  In thought alone, but in each word and deed,
  A thousand thousand deadly sinnes have wrought,
250 And still do worke, whereat my heart doth bleed:
  For even now, in this my sad complaining,

With new made sins, my flesh my soule is staining.


  O that I were remov'd to some close cave,
  Where all alone retired from delight,
  I might my sighes and teares untroubled have,
  And never come in wretched worldlings sight;
  Whose ill bewitching company still brings

Deepe provocation, whence great danger springs.



Ill company, the cause of many woes,

260 The sugred baite, that hideth poysoned hooke;
  The rocke unseen, that shipwrackt soules o'rethrowes,
  The weeping crocodile, that kills with looke,
  The readiest steppe, to ruine and decay,

Graces confounder, and helles nearest way.


  How many soules do perish by thy guile?
  How many men without feare frequent
  Thy deadly haunts, where they in pleasure smile,
  Taking no care such danger to prevent?
  But live like Belials, unbrideled or untamed,

Not looking they shall for their faults be blamed.



Alas, alas, too wretched do we live,

  That carelesly thus worke our owne confusion,
  And to our wills such libertie do give;
  Ay me, it is the divels meere illusion,
  To flatter us with such sense-pleasing traines,

That he thereby may take us in his chaines.


  This well foresaw good men of auntient time,
  Which made them shunne th'occasions of foule sinne,
  Knowing it was the nurse of every crime,
280 And Syren-like would traine fond worldlings in:
  Alluring them with shewe of musickes sound,

Untill on sinnes deepe shelfe their soules be drowned.



But he is held no sotiable man

  In this corrupted age, that shall refuse
  To keepe the cursed company now and than;
  Nay but a foole, unless he seeme to chuse
  Their fellowship, and give them highest place

That vildest life, and furthest off from grace.


  But better tis, believe me, in my triall,
290 To shun such hel-hounds, factors of the divell;
  And give them leave to grudge at your deniall,
  Then to partake such in sinne and evill:
  For if that God (in justice) then should slay us,

From hell & horror, who (alas) could stay us?



Good God, the Just (as he himself hath spoken)

  Should scarce be saved, o terror unremoveable,
  What then should they that never had a token,
  Or signe of grace (soules comfort most behoveable)
  But gracelesse liv'd, and all good deeds did hate,

What hope of them that live in such a state?



O who will give me teares, that I may waile

  Both nights and daies, the dangers I have past;
  My soule, my soule, tis much for thy availe,
  That thou art gotten from these straits at last:
  O joy, but in thy joy mixe teares withall,

That thou haft time to say, Lord, heare me call.



I might as others (Lord) have perished,

  Amid my sinnes and damnable delights;
  But thou (good God) with care my soule hast cherished,
310 And brought it home, to taste on heav'nly lights:
  Ay me, what thankes, what service can I render

To thee, that of my safetie art so tender?


  Now do I curse the time I ever went
  In sinnes black path, that leadeth to damnation:
  Now do I hate the houres I have misse-spent
  In ydle vice, neglecting soules salvation,
  And to redeeme the time I have misse-worne,

I wish this houre, I were againe new borne.



But vaine it is, as faith the wisest man,

320 To call againe the day that once is past;
  O let me see what best is for me than,
  To gaine thy favour whilst my life doth last;
  That in the next I may but worthy be,

Ev'n in the meanest place to wait on thee.


  I will, as did the prodigall sonne sometime,
  Upon my knees with heartie true contrition,
  And weeping eyes, confesse my former crime,
  And humbly begge upon my lowe submission,
  That thou wilt not of former faults detect me,
330 But like a loving father now respect me.




Or, as the wife that hath her husbande wronged,

  So will I come with feare and blushing cheeke:
  For giving others what to thee belonged;
  And say, my King, my Lord, and Spouse most meeke,
  I have defil'd the bed that thou didst owe;

Forgive me this, it shall no more be so.


  Yet, for the world can witnes mine abuse,
  Ile hide my face from face that witcht mine eies;
  These gracelesse eyes that had my bodies use,
340 Till it be withred with my very cries:
  That when my wrinckles shall my sorrowes tell,

The world may say, I joy'd not, though I fell.



Ev'n thus will I, in sorrowing spend my breath,

  And spot my face with the never-dying teares,
  Till aged wrinckles messengers of death
  Have purchasde mercie, and remov'd my feares:
  And then the world within my lookes shall read,

The piteous wracke unbrideled sinne hath bred.


  And that which was a pleasure to behold,
350 Shall be to me an ever-griping paine;
  All my misdeeds shall one and one be told,
  That I may see what tyrants have me slaine:
  And when I have thus mustred them apart,

I will display on each a bleeding hart.



And leaft my teares should fail me at most need,

  Before the face of faith Ile fix my Saviours passion,
  And see how his most pretious side did bleed,
  And note his death and torments in such fashion,
  As never man the like did undertake;

For freely he hath done it for my sake.



If this his kindnesse and his mercie showne,

  Cannot provoke me unto tender crying;
  Then will I backe againe turne to mine owne,
  Mine owne sinne cause of this his cruell dying:
  And if for them no teares mine eyes can find,

Sigh shal cause tears, tears make my poore eies blind.



And leaft my teares should fail me at most need,

  Before the face of faith Ile fix my Saviours passion,
  And see how his most pretious side did bleed,
  And note his death and torments in such fashion,
  As never man the like did undertake;
360 For freely he hath done it for my sake.



  If this his kindnesse and his mercie showne,
  Cannot provoke me unto tender crying;
  Then will I backe againe turne to mine owne,
  Mine owne sinne cause of this his cruell dying:
  And if for them no teares mine eyes can find,

Sigh shal cause tears, tears make my poore eies blind.



No farre fetcht story have I now brought home,

  Nor taught to speake more language then his mothers,
  No long done Poem, is from darknesse come
370 To light againe, it's ill to fetch from others:
  The song I sing, is made of heart-bred sorrow,

Which pensive Muse fro pining soule doth borrow.


  I sing not I, of wanton love-sicke laies,
  Of tickling toyes, to feed fantasticke eares,
  My Muse respects no flattring tatling praise;
  A guiltie conscience this sad passion beares:
  My sinne-sicke soule, with sorrow woe begone,

Lamenting thus a wretched deed mis-done.





Breton Biography

Breton Bibliography


nought: nothing (OED).
dole: grief, sorrow, mental distress (OED).
endite: compose (OED).
worldlings: worldly or worldly-minded persons (OED).
boote: good, advantage, profit, use (OED)
Filching: stealing (OED).
cates: provisions; dainties (OED).
Mawdline: commonly Maudline; from “Mary Magdalene,” customarily identified with the penitent woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:37-50). Associated in art and literature with the repentant sinner, she is often represented with weeping or swollen eyes.
Caine: First son of Adam and Eve, he murdered his brother Abel. (Genesis 4: 7-9); abjected: cast off, rejected; cast down, dispirited (OED).
amaine: with main force, with all one's might; vehemently, violently. (OED).
that blessed Saint: A possible reference to St. Augustine whose life prior to his conversion was one full of lust and women, and whose Confessions mirror Breton's intention: “But when a deep consideration had from the secret bottom of my soul drawn together and heaped up all my misery in the sight of my heart; there arose a mighty storm, bringing a mighty shower of tears" (Confessions VIII, xii).
flintie heart: see Ezekiel 3:9
cloyd: clogged, cumbered, burdened (OED); dregs: sediment (OED).
tofore: heretofore, previously.
caitiffe: A wretched miserable person, a poor wretch, one in a piteous case (OED); parricide: the murderer of a father, parent, near relative, or ruler (OED).
drosse: scum or extraneous matter thrown off from metals in the process of melting; figuratively, refuse, rubbish, worthless, impure matter. (OED).
kite: a bird of prey of the falcon family.
maw: the throat or gullet; the jaws or mouth of a voracious animal or of a gluttonous or insatiably hungry person (OED).
Mary: Mary Magdelene.
unmeet: unfit.
amisse: n error, fault, or misdeed;
second King of Israel: King David.
Uriahs wife: Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite, bore King David a son (2 Samuel 11: 2-4).
thrall: bondage (OED).
Belials: wicked, lawless persons; the personification of evil according to the Old Testament. A name for Satan in the New Testament.
divels: devils (OED).
auntient: ancient.
Syren: mythological creature, part woman, part bird, who lured sailors to destruction by her enchanting songs (OED).
vildest: vilest; most despicable
behoveable: useful, profitable, advantageous (OED).
tatling: tattling; idle or frivolous talk; chatter, gossip (OED).



Breton Biography

Breton Bibliography