thin lines hardly seen but never ended

Caelica LXXVII

The heathen gods finite in power, wit, birth,
Yet worshipped for their good deeds to men,
At first kept stations between heaven and earth,
Alike just to the castle and the den;
Creation, merit, nature duly weighed,
And yet, in show, no rule but will obeyed.

Till time, and selfness, which turn worth to arts,
Love into compliments, and things to thought,
Found out new circles to enthrall men’s hearts
By laws; wherein while thrones seem overwrought,
Power finely hath surprised this faith of man,
And taxed his freedom at more than he can.

For to the scepters, judges laws reserve
As well the practic, as expounding sense,
From which no innocence can painless swerve,
They bring engines of omnipotence:
With equal shows, then is not humble man
Here finely taxed at much more than he can?

Our modern tyrants, by more gross ascent,
Although they found distinction in the state
Of church, law, custom, people’s government,
Mediums (at least) to give excess a rate,
Yet fatally have tried to change this frame,
And make will law, man’s wholesome laws but name.

For when power once hath trod this path of might,
And found how place advantageously extended
Wanes, or confoundeth all inferiors’ right
With thin lines hardly seen, but never ended;
It straight drowns in this gulf of vast affections,
Faith, truth, worth, law, all popular protections.

Fulke Greville