"Brightness Falls From The Air"
Context: In the late summer of 1592, the plague of 1592-1594 is raging in England; at Croydon, however, Nash wants to entertain the nobles. He writes what is truly an occasional piece, fitted for one season and one group of actors, though the theme is the old one of the mutability and transientness of man. The title is a pun, since the subject is the passing of summer and the chief character and critic is Will Summers, the jester of Henry VIII. Summers is an aged king, who comes in, supported by Autumn and Winter, both of whom want to succeed him. After a chorus sets the tone by singing an elegy, the king calls his stewards for an accounting. He laments their failure to make the most of their opportunities, then makes his will. To fill in a pause, Summer demands a song, and Will obliges with a melancholic lament about the futility of everything, beginning "Adieu, farewell, earth's bliss." One stanza declares that the flowers are fading, the daylight hours grow shorter, kings and queens are dead. His words are:
Beauty is but a flower,Which wrinkles will devour;Brightness falls from the air;Queens have died young and fair;Dust hath closed Helen's eye.I am sick, I must die;Lord, have mercy on us.