“Upon Sejanus” by William Strachey (1604)


The following is a prefatory sonnet, contributed by William Strachey, to a 1604 publication of Ben Jonson’s Sejanus His Fall, a play first performed at the Globe in 1603 by William Shakespeare and his company. The journalist John St. Loe Strachey later called the poem “one of the most cryptic things in Elizabethan literature.” William Strachey later served as secretary to the Virginia colony in Jamestown.


How high a poor man showes in low estate

Whose base is firme, and whole frame competent,

That sees this Cedar, made the shrub of fate,

Th’on’s little, lasting: Th’other’s confluence spent.

And as lightning comes behind the thunder

From the torn cloud, yet first invades our sense,

So every violent fortune, that to wonder

Hoists men aloft, is a cleere evidence

Of a vaunt-curring blow the fates have given

To his forst state: swift lightning blindes his eyes,

While thunder from comparison-hating heaven

Dischargeth on his height, and there it lies:

If men will shun swolne Fortunes ruinous blastes,

Let them use Temperance. Nothing violent lastes.


William Strachey.

William Strachey contributes a prefatory sonnet to a publication of Ben Jonson's play Sejanus His Fall.
APA Citation:
Strachey, William. “Upon Sejanus” by William Strachey (1604). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Strachey, William. "“Upon Sejanus” by William Strachey (1604)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 15 Apr. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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