Care for Thy Soul as Thing of Greatest Price

By William Byrd 1543–1623 William Byrd
Care for thy soul as thing of greatest price,
      Made to the end to taste of power divine,
Devoid of guilt, abhorring sin and vice,
      Apt by God’s grace to virtue to incline.
Care for it so as by thy retchless train
It be not brought to taste eternal pain.

Care for thy corse, but chiefly for soul’s sake;
      Cut off excess, sustaining food is best;
To vanquish pride but comely clothing take;
      Seek after skill, deep ignorance detest.
Care so, I say, the flesh to feed and clothe
That thou harm not thy soul and body both.

Care for the world to do thy body right;
      Rack not thy wit to win thy wicked ways;
Seek not to oppress the weak by wrongful might;
      To pay thy due do banish all delays.
Care to dispend according to thy store,
And in like sort be mindful of the poor.

Care for thy soul, as for thy chiefest stay;
      Care for thy body for thy soul’s avail;
Care for the world for body’s help alway;
      Care yet but so as virtue may prevail.
Care in such sort that thou be sure of this:
Care keep thee not from heaven and heavenly bliss.

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Poet William Byrd 1543–1623


SCHOOL / PERIOD Renaissance

Subjects The Body, Religion, Nature, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza


The life and activities of Elizabethan composer William Byrd exhibit many connections with the literary world of his time. As a composer of secular vocal music, Byrd knew and used contemporary poetry as texts for his songs, and he likely knew many prominent poets personally. For many years he held the patent for music printing, in effect controlling broad dissemination of poetry in the medium of song (in both his own songbooks . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT The Body, Religion, Nature, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy


SCHOOL / PERIOD Renaissance

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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