Chidiok Tichborne's 'My prime of youth is but a frost of cares'

Chidiok Tichborne (1588-86)

This poem is also known as Tychborne/Tichborne’s elergy.

Little is known about the author except that he was executed for plotting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth. And that he wrote this poem in the Tower before his execution.

It probably survives in anthologies for two reasons: Firstly the tag ‘Written with his owne hand in the Tower before his execution’ does grab the attention,, and secondly as an example of Elizabethan poetry written by educated young men. It takes the kind of antithesis and paradox someone like Sydney or Shakespeare could use effectively and runs it into the ground. Compare it with Raleigh’s last poem. ‘What is our life? A play of passion’ and …

On the other hand, before we get too critical, if the poem is genuine the poet was looking forward to being hung, drawn and quartered, so perhaps this elegant metrical balancing act was an effective way of focussing his mind on other things.

Tichborne has a wikipedia page (of course) which contains a contemporary response to this poem.

This version is taken from Seven Centuries of poetry in English, 4th ed. (Ed) John Leonard.