The Complaint of Religion

by Robert Greene

Robert GreeneReligious

Next, from the farthest nook of all the place,
Weeping full sore, there rose a nymph in black,
Seemly and sober, with an angel's face,
And sigh'd as if her heart-strings straight should crack:
Her outward woes bewray'd her inward wrack.
A golden book she carried in her hand;
It was Religion that thus meek did stand.

God wot, her garments were full loosely tuck'd,
As one that careless was in some despair;
To tatters were her robes and vestures pluck'd,
Her naked limbs were open to the air;
Yet, for all this her looks were blithe and fair:
And wondering how Religion grew forlorn,
I spied her robes by Heresy were torn.

This holy creature sat her by this knight,
And sigh'd out this: Oh, here he lies, quoth she,
Lifeless, that did Religion's lamp still light;
Devout without dissembling, meek and free
To such whose words and livings did agree:
Lip-holiness in Clergymen he could not brook,
Nor such as counted gold above their book.

Upright he liv'd as Holy Writ him led;
His faith was not in ceremonies old;
Nor had he new-found toys within his head;
Nor was he luke-warm, neither hot nor cold:
But in religion he was constant bold,
And still a sworn professed foe to all,
Whose looks were smooth, hearts pharisaical.

The brainsick and illiterate surmisers,
That like to saints would holy be in looks,
Of fond religion's fabulous devisers,
Who scorn'd the academies and their books,
And yet could sin as others in close nooks;
To such wild-headed mates he was a foe,
That rent her robes and wrong'd Religion so.

Nor was his faith in men's traditions;
He hated Antichrist and all his trash;
He was not led away by superstitions,
Nor was he in religion over-rash;
His hands from heresy he lov'd to wash.
Then, base report, ware what thy tongue doth spread:
'Tis sin and shame for to belie the dead.

Heart-holy men he still kept at his table,
Doctors that well could doom of Holy Writ:
By them he knew to sever faith from fable,
And how the text with judgment for to hit;
For Pharisees in Moses chair did sit.
At this Religion sigh'd, and griev'd so sore,
And so she wept that she could speak no more.

Last updated October 11, 2017