Your RDA of Irony

How Not to Die of Old Age

Anyone named Chidiock Tichborne would be used to martyrdom. He certainly did not improve his prospects by plotting to assassinate Elizabeth I. Basketball had yet to be invented so Catholic Youth organizations sponsored extra-curricular competitions to put Mary Stuart on the English throne. Chidiock signed up with the Babington team, a group of conspirators who would have inspired the Keystone Kops. The Babington gang had mastered the game of trash talk; they let everyone know that they intended to kill Elizabeth. They put in it writing–tactless and incriminating messages to Mary, Loyola University alumni newsletters–and they even put it in painting. The Babington boys commissioned a group portrait. They refused to be ignored.

Of course, that is not the best approach to a conspiracy. The Babington boys were arrested, tried and executed in 1586. All they managed to accomplish was to incriminate Queen Mary; she was tried and executed the following year.

While awaiting his death, the 28 year-old Tichborne proved that he was a better poet than plotter. His only known work, it is all too appropriately called “Tichborne’s Elegy.”

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain;
The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard and yet it was not told,
My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green,
My youth is spent and yet I am not old,
I saw the world and yet I was not seen;
My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I looked for life and saw it was a shade,
I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I was but made;
My glass is full, and now my glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

The Elizabethans did have a superior way of saying “Hey, dude. Bummer.”

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