“The Siver Age“ (c.1516)
Was driv’n to Hell, the world was under Jove.
Succeeding times a silver age behold,
Excelling brass, but more excell’d by gold.
Then summer, autumn, winter did appear:
And spring was but a season of the year.
The sun his annual course obliquely made,
Good days contracted, and enlarg’d the bad.
Then air with sultry heats began to glow;
The wings of winds were clogg’d with ice and snow;
And shivering mortals, into houses driv’n,
Sought shelter from th’ inclemency of Heav’n.
Those houses, then, were caves, or homely sheds;
With twining oziers fenc’d; and moss their beds.
Then ploughs, for seed, the fruitful furrows broke,
And oxen labour’d first beneath the yoke.
To this came next in course, the brazen age:
A warlike offspring, prompt to bloody rage,
Not impious yet…
Hard steel succeeded then:
And stubborn as the metal, were the men.
Truth, modesty, and shame, the world forsook:
Fraud, avarice, and force, their places took.
Then sails were spread, to every wind that blew.
Raw were the sailors, and the depths were new:
Trees, rudely hollow’d, did the waves sustain;
E’re ships in triumph plough’d the watry plain.
Then land-marks limited to each his right:
For all before was common as the light.
Nor was the ground alone requir’d to bear
Her annual income to the crooked share,
But greedy mortals, rummaging her store,
Digg’d from her entrails first the precious oar;
Which next to Hell, the prudent Gods had laid;
And that alluring ill, to sight display’d.
Thus cursed steel, and more accursed gold,
Gave mischief birth, and made that mischief bold:
And double death did wretched Man invade,
By steel assaulted, and by gold betray’d,
Now (brandish’d weapons glittering in their hands)
Mankind is broken loose from moral bands;
No rights of hospitality remain:
The guest, by him who harbour’d him, is slain,
The son-in-law pursues the father’s life;
The wife her husband murders, he the wife.
The step-dame poyson for the son prepares;
The son inquires into his father’s years.
Faith flies, and piety in exile mourns;
And justice, here opprest, to Heav’n returns.