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Introduction to the Poems of Edward de Vere

by John Thomas Looney

This is the Introduction to the 1921 edition of the Poems of Edward de Vere, edited by J. Thomas Looney. Click here to read the poems of Edward de Vere.

In the last year of the preceding reign (1557) there was published a forerunner of the Elizabethan series of miscellaneous poems, namely: “Songs and Sonettes written by the ryght honorable Lorde Henry Howard, late Earle of Surrey and other, Apud Richardum Tottel, 1557.” Surrey had been executed ten years before, so the songs and son- nets had evidently been preserved in manuscript by his friends. For nearly twenty years (1557-1576) this work was the only one of its kind in the hands of readers and students of poetry.

It was the work which would be frequently in evidence at the particular time when Oxford, as a royal ward and courtier, was spending much time at Windsor. The influence of Surrey’s poetry in the early work of Oxford is unmistakable. Again, he had himself a very close personal interest in the Earl of Surrey, who had married Frances de Vere, his father’s sister, and was therefore his uncle by marriage. Evidence of this interest is to be seen in his relationship to Surrey’s son, Thomas Howard, fourth of the Howard Dukes of Norfolk. When in 1572 the latter was imprisoned in the Tower, awaiting execution, Oxford used the whole of his influence to secure his release. When this proved unavailing he made an unsuccessful attempt to rescue him by force. Family connections, poetic interests, and the power of romantic appeal in the character and career of the poet Surrey, mark him as a dominant influence in the spirit of Oxford.

Now the life record of the Earl of Surrey belongs to the history of Windsor Castle, and is told with much charm in William Hepworth Dixon’s work on Royal Windsor (Vol. III.) The story of the protecting friendship by Surrey towards the Duke of Richmond, illegitimate son of Henry VIII, and Elizabeth Blount, and the romantic courtship and marriage of the two noblemen to Frances de Vere and Surrey’s sister Mary, throw a beautiful ray of chaste light through the sombre and sensual annals of the court of Henry VIII. It was at Windsor where the four young people associated and where much of Surrey’s poetry was written. Speaking of the poet’s birth Hepworth Dixon sums up: “He was . . . that Henry of Surrey, who was to spend so many of his days at Windsor, to become a great poet, to have his arms set up in St. George’s choir, to suffer harsh imprisonment in the Norman tower, and found at Windsor Castle a national School of Song.”

When in 1562 Edward de Vere, as a royal ward, was brought to court, it was to a Windsor, “Each tower, each gate, each garden (of which) spoke . . . of Surrey,” whilst the volume in the hands of all readers of poetry was Surrey’s Book of Songs and Sonnets.

Now turn to the Merry Wives of Windsor.

At the very beginning is mention of Surrey’s book: “I had rather than forty shillings I had my Book of Songs and Sonnets here.” (I., i.)

The play which furnishes the most precise Shakespearean topography gives not the environment of William Shakespere’s early poetic life, but of Edward de Vere’s, and the poetry to which direct reference is made is not of William Shakspere’s period, but of the period of the Earl of Oxford.

These early Windsor poets had begun the work of versifying the Psalms. Wyat and Surrey initiated the practice later continued by Sidney and his sister Mary whilst at Wilton. To this we find a mocking allusion: (II., i.) . . . “the Hundredth Psalm to the tune ‘Green Sleeves.”

Even the direct reference to this song emphasises the period of the play, for the song “Lady Green Sleeves” was published in another collection in 1584 (Handful of Pleasant Delights.), quite close to Oxford’s court period, if not within it; and is many years in advance of the Shakspere period.

The particular “Shakespeare” play which furnishes such important lyrical links with Oxford’s life and poetic interests, contains also very vital connections with what we are entitled to regard as Oxford’s lyrical contributions to Munday’s and Lyly’s plays. The Lyly connection is with the song of the Fairies:

“Pinch him, fairies mutually; Pinch him for his villainy. Pinch him, and burn him, and turn him about, Till candles and starlight and moonshine be out.” (Merry Wives, v.5.)

In Lyly’s Endymion an almost identical Fairies’ song had appeared.

“Pinch him, pinch him black and blue
Saucy mortals must not view

What the Queen of Stars is doing,
Nor pry into our fairy wooing.
Pinch him blue
And pinch him black,
Let him not lack
Sharp nails to pinch him blue and red
Till sleep has rock’d his addle head.”

The context too is practically the same, so that an intimate connection is indisputable. Many agree that both are from the same pen.

Although written near the same early period (1585), this song was not published until 1632, sixteen years after William Shakspere’s death, twenty-six after Lyly’s and twenty-eight after Oxford’s, clear evidence of the existence of some extraordinary secret.

Between the 1557 book of Songs and Sonnets by Oxford’s uncle, Surrey, and the 1576 collection, the Paradise of Dainty Devices, linked to Oxford himself, there is a connecting link in the person of Lord Vaux, whose poems appear in both volumes. Lord Vaux had died in 1562, the year of the death of Oxford’s father. His contribution to the 1576 collection was, like Surrey’s contribution to the 1557 collection, the posthumous publication of verses previously circulating in manuscript. Lord Vaux’ influence on Oxford’s work is also traceable; he has not the sweetness of Surrey, but at the same time he possesses distinctive notes which contributed to the formation of Oxford’s style. A song by Lord Vaux is incorporated with adaptation into Shakespeare’s gravedigger’s song in Hamlet. Its insertion in such a place, forty years after the death of the poet, is not only an act of honour to his memory, but links on the great Shakespearean drama to a period of Oxford’s life very far removed from the time usually associated with the writing of the play. Hamlet, too, is a drama of court life written by an Englishman who has shown himself intimate with Windsor. Elsinore is but Windsor thinly disguised. The introduction of this particular song connects this play also with the Windsor of Oxford’s early days. The age of Hamlet himself, it has been pointed out, varies at different parts of the drama; which marks it both as the product of very many years, and also as a special work of self-revelation on the part of the dramatist.

“Windsor was the cradle of the school of (English) song” (Royal Windsor, III, 116); the Earl of Surrey, in Henry VIII.’s reign, there gave to our national lyric its first strong impulse; his nephew, the Earl of Oxford, was its dominating force in the early part of Elizabeth’s reign; and that when it culminated in the work of “Shakespeare,” it was with a very clear recognition of its intimate connection with the home of our English monarchs. From this point of view, Windsor may be regarded as the center and source of England’s greatest achievement in the domain of man’s mind, the foundation on which rests the nation’s most enduring title to an exalted position amongst the peoples of the world; and the symbol of it all is the one play from the pen of the great dramatist which bears in its title an English place name. The circumstances, which bring Fenton, the nominal hero of the drama. into accordance with Edward de Vere can- not therefore be deemed unimportant.

Generally, poets and poetry were scornfully regarded in the Elizabethan period, and young nobles would not risk losing caste by publishing under their own name. The usual practice with the upper classes was to pass copies of their separate poems, in manuscript, to their friends. These were freely transcribed and sometimes preserved. In this way those who were interested in poetry would be able to gather together appreciable collections of miscellaneous verse.

From collections of this kind much poetry was published after the death of the poets: in Surrey’s case ten years, and, in Vaux’ case fourteen years after. Some of these sheets were signed by their authors; others would doubtless be allowed to go forth without signatures, whilst the omission by transcribers of the names of the authors would very frequently occur. The erroneous ascription of verses to authors when the work was subsequently published is a marked feature of this period of literature.

From time to time either on the initiative of some of the poets themselves, who seem to have had a strong reluctance to be seen in the work of publication, or as the result of enterprise on the part of some publisher, collections of these verses were published at the instigation of some of the authors of the poems, and publishers’ ventures and surreptitious issues followed later. The Paradise of Dainty Devices, was published hot-foot upon the incidents in Oxford’s life to which his contributions make distinct reference, and which contained a number of poems from another poet whom he had evidently studied, but who had been dead for fourteen years. These considerations point to Oxford as publisher. In that year of 1576 he published Bedingfield’s translation of Cardanus’s Comfort, and contributed to it a prefatory letter and introductory poem.

The title given to the 1576 collection (A Paradise of Dainty Devices) is indicative of Oxford’s faculty for striking new notes. The earlier collection had appeared under the plain title of the Book of Songs and Sonnets. The Paradise of Dainty Devices was published, and then there followed a series of collections: The Gorgeous Gallery of Gallant Inventions (1578), the Handful of Pleasant Delights (1584), the Garland of Good Will, the Bower of Delights (1597), Anthony Munday’s Banquet of Dainty Conceits, the Phoenix Nest, England’s Parnassus, England’s Helicon, and Davison’s Poetical Rhapsody.

Such were the conditions under which much of the Elizabethan poetry was produced and published. One curious result of the loose-leaf transcriptions has been the ascription to Oxford’s antagonist, Sidney, of poems written by Oxford himself. In 1591, between four and five years after Sidney’s death, an edition was published of the Astrophel and Stella sonnets, and in this collection were included certain verses Oxford had written: work which had been attributed to Sidney for no other reason than that it had been found amongst his papers after his death. This work Oxford reclaimed for himself by having it included above his own signature in England’s Parnassus (1600).

In the same year there appeared England’s Helicon, which ultimately will be found to contain matter of the utmost importance in relation to the “Shakespeare” problem. There is in it but one poem attributed to the Earl of Oxford, that beginning “What cunning can express?” and but one set of lines attributed to “Shakespeare,” and quoted from Love’s Labour’s Lost. This poem of Oxford’s had appeared in The Phoenix Nest, in 1593, and, on being reprinted in England’s Helicon, the opening line was modified in order to bring it into keeping with the character of the anthology, namely to “What Shepherd can express?” This change, verbal improvements, indicate Oxford was in touch with the publisher, Nicholas Ling, who afterwards published Hamlet.

The work contains one very striking feature, quite unlike anything else with which we have met in Elizabethan poetry. In the book as it originally came from the press there are poems attributed to men who, like Sidney. had been Oxford’s rivals and antagonists, notably Sir Walter Raleigh; work which, in some cases, is not only superior to their other poems, but is conceived in a totally different vein. Then, before the volumes had been put upon the market, a printed slip, containing the one word, “Ignoto,” had been pasted over the original name or initials: presumably the result of intervention on the part of someone who was interested in seeing that these writers were not allowed to be decked in another’s plumes. In 1614, ten years after the death of the Earl of Oxford, a second edition of England’s Helicon appeared, with several additional poems subscribed “Ignoto.”

There is a distinctiveness of these “Ignoto” poems which marks the work as a whole as the production mainly of one writer, the name “Ignoto” indicating not merely anonymity, but rather one definite concealed personality. These poems link the early De Vere poetry and the later Shakespearean work. R. Warwick Bond, M.A., the editor biographer of Lyly, who is amply supported by Sir Sidney Lee, establishes very clearly the connection between “Shakespeare” and what he conceives to be Lyly’s special contribution to Elizabethan drama and poetry; and he concludes by suggesting that certain “Ignoto” poems were probably from Lyly’s pen. We may repeat that Lyly was a servant of the Earl of Oxford, and is credited with achievements, both in drama and poetry, which we believe to have been those of his master, and it is this which links itself up with the Shakespeare work. We may claim indirect authority of Mr. Bond for the theory we present respecting the “Ignoto” poems. The appearance of Oxford’s hand in England’s Helicon, together with his relationship to the personalities for whose names “Ignoto” furnishes quite appreciable support to the theory.

One other significant detail remains in England’s Helicon relevant to our problem. The verses in Spenser’s Tears of the Muses referring to “our pleasant Willie,” which have received much attention as one of the mysteries of Elizabethan literature we were led to connect with Oxford, by means of an earlier poem of Spenser’s in the “Shepherd’s Calendar.” This is a versifying competition between two shepherds called “Willie and Perigot,” the opening sentences of which, and an interposition by a third party: “What a judge Cuddy were for a King,” furnishing important clues identifying Oxford with “Willie.” This “roundelay” is reproduced in England’s Helicon (after Spenser’s death) stripped of all these marks of identification. Even the name “Willie,” which Spenser placed first, is struck out, and what was given by the poet himself as Willie’s and Perigot’s roundelay, is given as Perigot’s and Cuddy’s roundelay. There could be no accident about this. Thus Oxford after his first literary output deliberately adopted a course of self-effacement. What had already gone forth as his could not be recalled, but so far as later productions were concerned, he was resolved not to obtrude himself on the public notice. Although he was quite willing to employ a mask of his own choice, he was not willing that rivals and antagonists should walk away with his laurels. Around the person of the Earl of Oxford hangs an extraordinary literary mystery, as great as that which has surrounded the production of the great Shakespeare dramas, and from every point of view, chronological, poetic and dramatic, these two mysteries fit into and explain one another, if Oxford was the great poet dramatist, and William Shakspere but a mask. It is the extraordinary character of each of these mysteries, along with the infinitesimal probability that two such mysteries, so mutually explanatory, could exist at the same time by purely accidental coincidence, that establishes our theory with almost mathematical certainty.

Although the authorship of the “Ignoto” poems remains an open question, we have included a selection of them in the present issue: Poems which might reasonably be supposed to have come from one pen. These verses are already accessible in a modern setting in the late A. H. Bullen’s edition of England’s Helicon, and in Bond’s edition of Lyly’s works.

Every lyric included in both groups of the first section has been accepted as Oxford’s work, and appears in the collection brought together in 1872 by Dr. Grosart for the Miscellanies of the Fuller Worthies’ Library (Vol. IV.) with only 106 copies printed for private circulation. Dr. Grosart’s work retains the archaic and irregular spelling of the originals, whilst several of the poems are printed with the separate lines and stanzas running into one another. It has therefore been necessary to modernism the spelling, to make some attempt at correct versification, and, in some cases, to supply titles.

There are variant readings of most of the lyrics, all of which are indicated in the notes which Dr. Grosart appended to the separate poems. In almost every case we have kept to the rendering which he selected for the main text. The principal exception is the opening line of the poem, “What cunning can express?” The substitution of the word “shepherd” for “cunning” in England’s Helicon is so obviously a modification made to meet the new setting of the work, and introduces an element so out of harmony with the purely personal character of the entire lyric, that we used the earlier text of the Phoenix Nest.

With the exception of placing together, in the opening pages, most of the poems that had appeared in the Paradise of Dainty Devices, Dr. Grosart made no pretence of grouping or arranging these lyrics.

The dates of the publication of the poems furnish hardly any clue to the actual order of their composition. It has already been pointed out, for example, that certain verses of Oxford’s, which were not published with any indication of authorization until the year 1600, had already appeared in a collection of Sidney’s poems so early as 1591. As this error is explained by supposing that copies had been found amongst Sidney’s papers after his death in 1586, whilst it is impossible to surmise how long they had lain there previously, it is evident that the date of publication is widely separated from the actual time of writing.

This fact must be borne clearly in mind in studying the problem of Shakespearean authorship; to produce, and to secrete his productions, is one of the most pronounced features of Edward de Vere’s methods. Small as is the number of his lyrics which have been preserved, we owe some of them to their having been rescued almost by accident in modern times from ancient manuscripts. Writings preserved in this way may be expected to retain blemishes which would have been removed had their author actually published them. They contained many errors which could not have been the work of the poet himself; but are due to defective transcription by others. Several obvious mistakes of this kind were corrected by Dr. Grosart, but it has not always been possible to surmise what the original version has been, and crudities have been allowed to stand, for which the poet cannot be held responsible. This illustrates the folly of cavilling at isolated expressions; his work must be judged by what are self-evidently finished productions and by general quality, especially when com- paring them with the later “Shakespeare” work. For the order of their composition we are thrown back very largely upon internal evidence. From following the career of Oxford we have attempted a rough grouping of these lyrics. This can only be considered as a first step, and considerable modification may be called for later.

With the exception of the points just indicated the poems presented in the first section are substantially a reproduction of Dr. Grosart’s issue with a few important details selected from his notes. The sources from which Dr. Grosart gathered the poems were the various anthologies, the Rawlinson and Tanner M.S.S., and an ancient M.S. miscellany.

There are some striking facts in connection with these publications which have a distinctly significant bearing upon the theory of Shakespearean authorship. There are only twenty-two short poems attributed to the Earl of Oxford. Three of these are merely single stanzas, each of six lines, in the precise manner of Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis“; two of these Oxford would seem to have acknowledged only because they had been previously claimed for and published as Sidney’s. Of the remainder seven were published in the Paradise of Dainty Devices and one in Bedingfield’s Cardanus. That is, eight of the longest poems were published authoritatively in the year 1576, the year of his domestic crisis when he was but twenty-six years of age; although he lived for nearly thirty years longer (died 1604) and was a prominent figure in the literary and dramatic life of his times, only three other of his poems were originally published during his lifetime, or until recent years, with his name attached. Even these three were published separately, at intervals of thirteen, four, and seven years respectively, in what were probably publishers’ ventures, suggesting Oxford himself was not responsible for their appearing. No less than seven of the remainder were printed, some for the first time by Dr. Grosart in 1872, from the Rawlinson and Tanner M.S.S., and two from “an ancient M.S. miscellany.” Thus, he published his poems voluntarily in 1576, but probably never again.

As a poet, he deliberately effaced himself so far as publication was concerned from the age of twenty-six; notwithstanding that throughout his life and in the period immediately following his death his poetic eminence was recognised. This is hardly the place to discuss the publication of his plays, but it is important to connect with the fact just stated the further fact that he attained eminence as a writer of drama, but never published a single play; whilst not the slightest vestige of manuscript of his unpublished dramas has ever been unearthed. In view of the survival, after so many years, of fragments of his unpublished manuscript verse, is it reasonable to suppose that the total disappearance of the much more voluminous manuscript dramas is purely accident: that these writings were simply “lost or worn out”? In view of the evident deliberateness of the non-publication of superb poems, is it not reasonable to suppose that the non-publication of dramas under his own name was equally deliberate?

What has governed the arrangement of the following poems has been the nature of their contents. Contrasted with the disappointment and chagrin expressed in the 1576 set, along with the explicit reference to youth in the Echo Poem, and the tone of unsullied youth in the sonnet “Love thy Choice,” the happier, healthier spirit of the latter poems justifies the position here assigned to them. The other poems reflecting a similar spirit are accordingly associated with these two. Moreover, as the manuscripts of these poems are signed by Oxford, it is reasonable to suppose that they were allowed to go forth before he had resolved on self-effacement, a resolution which many things indicate was made shortly after the 1576 crisis.

Adopting this general classification the one fact which stands out above everything else is this: that practically the whole of the poetry known as Oxford’s belongs to his very early manhood, much of it being preserved in spite of him; and whilst he lived to the age of fifty-four, and was closely identified with the literary and dramatic movements of his time, there has been up to the present nothing to show for it, notwithstanding the remarkable character of his powers.

With reference to the lyrics which form the second section, these are selections taken from Lyly’s plays. At the time when Lyly produced the dramas he was working as secretary to the Earl of Oxford, assisting with the troupe known as “Oxford’s Boys.” Lyly has shown himself, in some of his work, to have been noticeably deficient in lyrical capacity, and as these lyrics are in some ways the best things his plays contain, doubts have been freely expressed respecting Lyly’s authorship of them. It is not an unreasonable assumption therefore that they were a contribution made by Oxford to Lyly’s dramas. This is further supported by the fact that when Lyly published his dramas he did not include the lyrics, their positions alone were indicated in the text. This continued until 1632. Then these lyrics unaccountably reappeared simultaneously in an edition of Lyly’s works, published in the same year and from the same firm that published the Second Folio Shakespeare. They are of especial value, therefore, as a bridge between Oxford’s early lyrics and the Shakespeare work, and help to make good our contention that the right understanding of Elizabethan literature is just in its beginnings; that that literature has a key to it in the person of the poet whose early lyrics we now present for the first time to the general reader.

There is probably no better way of examining the work of Oxford according to this relative method than by comparing it with that of Sir Philip Sidney, which may be taken as fairly representative of contemporary verse. Sidney was four and a half years younger than Oxford, and had spent much of his time in early manhood in continental travel. When he returned to court in 1575, a few months before Oxford set out for Italy, the latter had evidently been already engaged in writing poetry for some years. Sidney would have the advantage of starting with some of Oxford’s work in front of him. Oxford is spoken of by a contemporary (Webbe) as one of the “most excellent in the rare devices of poetry,” and as it is quite in keeping with Sidney’s methods to learn what he could from the verses of others, whilst one poem of Sidney’s contains unmistakable traces of some of this early work of Oxford’s, we may be sure that he did not neglect his opportunities.

Without discounting anything for this advantage, and regarding Sidney as quite contemporary, his work is altogether of an inferior type. He admits that poetry was not to him an “elected vocation,” and almost plaintively refers to himself as one “who, I know not by what mischance, in these my not old years and idlest times, having slipped into the title of a poet.” The feebleness and affectation which disfigure much of his verse is precisely what might be expected from one who, as a poet, had had “greatness thrust upon him,” and who, lacking ideas, is compelled to admit:

“Oft turning others’ leaves, to see if thence would flow, Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburned brain.”

A true poet no doubt derives delight and inspiration from the work of fellow artists, but the poet, who works definitely along such lines as these, can only be expected to produce inferior stuff, or to lapse into mere parody or unseemly plagiarism. As an example of parody we have (following the example of Dr. Grosart) included in the collection, what has been spoken of as Sidney’s “sensible reply” to Oxford’s stanza, “Were I a King.” It is included because it illustrates the relations between the two men, and also because it has assisted in the valuable identification of Oxford with Spenser’s “Willie.” Although, in concluding the first of the Astrophel and Stella sonnets from which we have just quoted, Sidney professes to have learnt the lesson, “Look into thy heart and write,” Sir Sidney Lee states that many of the best of the poems are almost verbatim translations from the French.

Nevertheless, the poetry of Sir Philip Sidney may be taken as quite typical of, if not superior to, most of the work of the group to which he belonged. Spenser, who did not enter the literary world of London until just before the antagonism between Oxford and Sidney culminated in the tennis-court quarrel, stands quite apart, and is of no group. Comparing the poetry of Oxford with that of the Sidney group, we are struck with the contrast which the strength and reality of the one presents to the feebleness and unreality of the other. Each poem of his is an expression of actual experience either internal or external. Theirs, on the other hand, often suggest writers afflicted with literary vanity, and wishful to write poetry, but with nothing very particular to say demanding metrical or figurative expression. His is the work of a man looking life full in the face, seeing clearly, feeling deeply, thinking earnestly, and striving after an expression of corresponding intensity. Such are the true roots of metrical diction and the matter of spontaneous metaphor.

Although the imagery he employs reveals an intimacy with classical literature as well as a knowledge of the poems and lives of his fellows, his compositions are neither mere imitations or translations of the classics, nor, with one exception, the poem attributed to Queen Elizabeth, were they dramatic poses; nor had he searched “others’ leaves” for his theme. It is always himself he is expressing. There may be exaggeration of expression, the natural result of a combination of intense feeling, large command of language, and comparative youthfulness, but the feeling is real and the words are relevant. We make bold to say that he struck a note of personal realism not heard before in English poetry; such as was not heard again with the same clear ring, until the “Shakespeare” sonnets appeared, with their challenging declaration: “I am that I am.” Before and since those days we have had an affected conventional personalism, and, by way of reaction, just as unreal a defiant and anti-conventional personalism; we doubt whether the line of truth and just proportion has ever since been so well maintained in personal poetry as in Oxford’s and “Shakespeare’s.”

After comparing this poetry with that of the Sidney group, we have only to turn to the group that arose in the following decade: Daniel, Drayton, Marlowe, Thomas Campion and Thomas Greene, in order to realize the relation of Oxford’s work to, and its probable effect upon, the poetry of days of Queen Elizabeth’s reign which foreshadowed most distinctly, if it did not actually furnish, the generating impulse for the poetry of her later years. It is amongst these later writers that we find the Elizabethan poetry which has more than an historic interest; verses that, by their fidelity to actualities, and by their appeal to what is perennial in human nature, may be read today with something of the same interest as that with which we read “Shakespeare” and Burns. We are not now discussing the question of whether or not Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare,” but we are quite entitled to claim that, at the time when these early poems were written, he was the only poet whose work foreshadowed Shakespeare’s.

The Poems of Edward de Vere

These poems are presented here as published by J. Thomas Looney in his 1921 edition of The Poems of Edward de Vere. Click here to read the Introduction by J. Thomas Looney.

Section I.

First Group

These first 8 poems and one letter were all probably written by 1576. They were all accepted as authentic by Dr. Grosart and published in the Fuller Worthies’ Library, Vol. IV (1872).

I.

Echo Verses.

Sitting alone upon my thought in melancholy mood,
In sight of sea, and at my back an ancient hoary wood,
I saw a fair young lady come, her secret fears to wail,
Clad all in colour of a nun, and covered with a veil;
Yet (for the day was calm and clear) I might discern her face,
As one might see a damask rose hid under crystal glass.

Three times, with her soft hand, full hard on her left side she knocks,
And sigh’d so sore as might have mov’d some pity in the rocks;
From sighs and shedding amber tears into sweet song she brake,
When thus the echo answered her to every word she spake:

Oh heavens ! who was the first that bred in me this fever ? Vere (Ver.)
Who was the first that gave the wound whose fear I wear for ever ? Vere.
What tyrant, Cupid, to my harm usurps thy golden quiver ? Vere.
What sight first caught this heart and can from bondage it deliver ? Vere.

Yet who doth most adore this sight, oh hollow caves tell true ? You.
What nymph deserves his liking best, yet doth in sorrow rue ? You.
What makes him not reward good will with some reward or ruth ? Youth.
What makes him show besides his birth, such pride and such untruth ? Youth.

May I his favour match with love, if he my love will try? Ay.
May I requite his birth with faith ? Then faithful will I die ? Ay.
And I, that knew this lady well,
Said, Lord how great a miracle,
To her how Echo told the truth,
As true as Phoebus’ oracle.
The Earle of Oxforde.

Prof. May lists this poem as “possibly” by Oxford.

II.

Sonnet:

LOVE THY CHOICE.

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart ?
Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint ?
Who filled your eyes with tears of bitter smart ?
Who gave thee grief and made thy joys to faint ?
Who first did paint with colours pale thy face ?
Who first did break thy sleeps of quiet rest ?
Above the rest in court who gave thee grace ?
Who made thee strive in honour to be best ?
In constant truth to bide so firm and sure,
To scorn the world regarding but thy friends ?
With patient mind each passion to endure,
In one desire to settle to the end ?
Love then thy choice wherein such choice thou bind,
As nought but death may ever change thy mind.

Earle of Oxenforde.

III.

What Cunning can Express.

What cunning can express
The favour of her face ?
To whom in this distress,
I do appeal for grace.
A thousand Cupids fly
About her gentle eye.

From which each throws a dart,
That kindleth soft sweet fire:
Within my sighing heart,
Possessed by Desire.
No sweeter life I try,
Than in her love to die.

The lily in the field,
That glories in his white,
For pureness now must yield,
And render up his right;
Heaven pictured in her face,
Doth promise joy and grace.

Fair Cynthia’s silver light,
That beats on running streams,
Compares not with her white,
Whose hairs are all sun-beams;
So bright my Nymph doth shine,
As day unto my eyne.

With this there is a red,
Exceeds the Damask-Rose;
Which in her cheeks is spread,
Whence every favour grows.
In sky there is no star,
But she surmounts it far.

When Phoebus from the bed
Of Thetis doth arise,
The morning blushing red,
In fair carnation wise;
He shows in my Nymph’s face,
As Queen of every grace.

This pleasant lily white,
This taint of roseate red;
This Cynthia’s silver light,
This sweet fair Dea spread;
These sunbeams in mine eye,
These beauties make me die.

IV.
Desire.

THE MEETING WITH DESIRE.

The lively lark stretched forth her wing
The messenger of Morning bright;
And with her cheerful voice did sing
The Day’s approach, discharging Night;
When that Aurora blushing red,
Descried the guilt of Thetis’ bed.

I went abroad to take the air,
And in the meads I met a knight,
Clad in carnation colour fair;
I did salute this gentle wight:
Of him I did his name inquire,
He sighed and said it was Desire.

Desire I did desire to stay;
And while with him I craved talk,
The courteous knight said me no nay,
But hand in hand with me did walk;
Then of Desire I ask’d again,
What things did please and what did pain.

He smiled and thus he answered than [then]:
Desire can have no greater pain,
Than for to see another man,
The things desired to attain;
Nor greater joy can be than this:
That to enjoy that others miss.

V.

WHAT IS DESIRE ?

What is Desire, which doth approve,
To set on fire each gentle heart ?
A fancy strange, or God of Love,
Whose pining sweet delight doth smart;
In gentle minds his dwelling is.

Is he god of peace or war ?
What be his arms ? What is his might ?
His war is peace, his peace is war;
Each grief of his is but delight;
His bitter ball is sugared bliss.

What be his gifts ? How doth he pay ?
When is he seen ? or how conceived ?
Sweet dreams in sleep, new thoughts in day,
Beholding eyes, in mind received;
A god that rules and yet obeys.

Why is he naked painted ? Blind ?
His sides with shafts ? His back with brands ?
Plain without guile, by hap to find;
Pursuing with fair words that withstands (mistranscribed),
And when he craves he takes no nays.

What were his parents ? Gods or no ?
That living long is yet a child;
A goddess’ son? Who thinks not so?
A god begot, beguiled;
Venus his mother, Mars his sire.

What labours doth this god allow?
What fruits have lovers for their pains?
Sit still and muse to make a vow
T.’ their ladies, if they true remain;
A good reward for true desire.

Prof. May lists this poem as ‘”wrongly attributed” to Oxford.

VI.

FOND DESIRE.

Come hither, shepherd swain!
Sir, what do you require?
I pray thee show to me thy name;
My name is Fond Desire.

When wert thou born, Desire?
In pride and pomp of May.
By whom, sweet boy, wert thou begot?
By fond conceit men say.

Tell me who was thy nurse?
Fresh youth, in sugar’d joy.
What was thy meat and daily food?
Sad sighs and great annoy.

What had’st thou then to drink?
Unfeigned lover’s tears.
What cradle wert thou rocked in?
In hope devoid of fears.

What lulled thee to thy sleep
Sweet thoughts that liked one best.
And where is now thy dwelling place?
In gentle hearts I rest.

Doth company displease?
It doth in many one.
Where would Desire then choose to be?
He loves to muse alone.

What feedeth most thy sight?
To gaze on beauty still.
Whom find’st thou most thy foe?
Disdain of my good will.

Will ever age or death
Bring thee unto decay?
No, no, Desire both lives and dies
A thousand times a day.

Then, Fond Desire, farewell;
Thou art no mate for me;
I should be loath, methinks, to dwell
With such a one as thee.
Earle of Oxenforde.

VII.

Fortune and Love.

Faction that ever dwells
In court, where wit excels.
Hath set defiance:
Fortune and Love have sworn,
That they were never born
Of one alliance.

Cupid, which doth aspire,
To be God of Desire,
Swears he gives laws;
That where his arrows hit,
Some joy, some sorrow it,
Fortune no cause.

Fortune swears weakest hearts
(The books of Cupid’s arts)
Turn’d with her wheel.
Senseless themselves shall prove
Venter hath place in love,
Ask them that feel.

This discord it begot
Atheists, that honour not.
Stature thought good,
Fortune should ever dwell
In court, where wits excel,
Love keep the wood.

So to the wood went I,
With love to live and lie,
Fortune’s forlorn.
Experience of my youth,
Made me think humble Truth
In deserts born.

My saint I keep to me,
And Joan herself is she,
Joan fair and true.
She that doth only move
Passions of love with love
Fortune adieu !
E.O.

Prof. May lists this poem as “wrongly attributed” to Oxford.

VIII.

Labour and its Reward.

The Earl of Oxford to the Reader of Bedingfield’s Cardanus’s Comfort.

The labouring man that tills the fertile soil,
And reaps the harvest fruit, hath not indeed
The gain, but pain; and if for all his toil
He gets the straw, the lord will have the seed.
The manchet fine falls not unto his share;
On coarsest cheat his hungry stomach feeds.
The landlord doth possess the finest fare;
He pulls the flowers, he plucks but weeds.
The mason poor that builds the lordly halls,
Dwells not in them; they are for high degree;
His cottage is compact in paper walls,
And not with brick or stone, as others be.
The idle drone that lahours not at all,
Sucks up the sweet of honey from the bee;
Who worketh most to their share least doth fall,
With due desert reward will never be.
The swiftest hare unto the mastive slow
Oft-times doth fall, to him as for a prey;
The greyhound thereby doth miss his game we know
For which he made such speedy haste away.
So he that takes the pain to pen the book,
Reaps not the gifts of goodly golden muse;
But those gain that, who on the work shall look,
And from the sour the sweet by skill doth choose,
For he that beats the bush the bird not gets,
But who sits still and holdeth fast the nets.

IX

[The following letter by Edward de Vere was prefixed to Bedingfield's translation of Candanus Comfort, published in 1573. The book has been referred to by some critics as "Hamlet's book." This modernized English version that follows was taken from Sobran's Alias Shakespeare, Appendix 4]

To my loving friend Thomas Bedingfield Esquire,
one of Her Majesty’s gentlemen pensioners.

After I had perused your letters, good Master Bedingfield, finding in them your request far differing from the desert of your labour, I could not choose but greatly doubt whether it were better for me to yield you your desire, or execute mine own intention towards the publishing of your book. For I do confess the affections that I have always borne towards you could move me not a little. But when I had thoroughly considered in my mind of sundry and divers arguments, whether it were best to obey mine affections or the merits of your studies, at the length I determined it better to deny your unlawful request than to grant or condescend to the concealment of so worthy a work. Whereby as you have been profited in the translating, so many may reap knowledge by the reading of the same, that shall comfort the afflicted, confirm the doubtful, encourage the coward, and lift up the base-minded man, to achieve to any true sum or grade of virtue, whereto ought only the noble thoughts of men to be inclined.

And because next to the sacred letters of divinity, nothing doth persuade the same more than philosophy, of which your book is plentifully stored, I thought myself to commit an unpardonable error, to have murdered the same in the waste bottoms of my chests; and better I thought it were to displease one, than to displease many: further considering so little a trifle cannot procure so great a breach of our amity, as may not with a little persuasion of reason be repaired again. And herein I am forced like a good and politic captain oftentimes to spoil and burn the corn of his own country, lest his enemies thereof do take advantage. For rather than so many of your countrymen should be deluded through my sinister means of your industry in studies (whereof you are bound in conscience to yield them an account) I am content to make spoil and havoc of your request, and that, that might have wrought greatly in me in this former respect, utterly to be of no effect or operation: and when you examine yourself what doth avail a mass of gold to becontinually imprisoned in your bags, and never to be employed to your use? I do not doubt even so you think of your studies and delightful Muses. What do they avail, if you do not participate them to others? Wherefore we have this Latin proverb: Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter. What doth avail the tree unless it yield fruit unto another? What doth avail the vine unless another delighteth in the grape? What doth avail the rose unless another took pleasure in the smell? Why should this tree be accounted better than that tree, but for the goodness of his fruit? Why should this vine be better than that vine, unless it brought forth a better grape than the other? Why should this rose be better esteemed than that rose, unless in pleasantness of smell it far surpassed the other rose?

And so it is in all other things as well as in man. Why should this man be more esteemed than that man, but for his virtue, through which every man desireth to be accounted of? Then you amongst men I do not doubt, but will aspire to follow that virtuous path, to illuster yourself with the ornament of virtue. And in mine opinion as it beautifieth a fair woman to be decked with pearls and precious stones, so much more it ornifieth a gentleman to be furnished in mind with glittering virtues.

Wherefore considering the small harm I do to you, the great good I do to others, I prefer mine own intention to discover your volume before your request to secret the same; wherein I may seem to you to play the part of the cunning and expert mediciner or physician, who, although his patient in the extremity of his burning fever is desirous of cold liquor or drink to qualify his sore thirst, or rather kill his languishing body, yet for the danger he doth evidently know by his science to ensue, denieth him the same. So you being sick of too much doubt in your own proceedings, through which infirmity you are desirous to bury and insevill your works in the grave of oblivion, yet I, knowing the discommodities that shall redound to yourself thereby (and which is more, unto your countrymen) as one that is willing to salve so great an inconvenience, am nothing dainty to deny your request.

Again, we see if our friends be dead, we cannot show or declare our affection more than by erecting them of tombs; whereby when they be dead indeed, yet make we them live as it were again through their monument; but with me, behold, it happeneth far better, for in your lifetime I shall erect you such a monument, that as I say [in] your lifetime you shall see how noble a shadow of your virtuous life shall hereafter remain when you are dead and gone. And in your lifetime, again I say, I shall give you that monument and remembrance of your life, whereby I may declare my good will, though with your ill will as yet that I do bear you in your life.

Thus earnestly desiring you in this one request of mine (as I would yield to you in a great many) not to repugn the setting forth of your own proper studies, I bid you farewell. From my new country muses at Wivenghole, wishing you as you have begun, to proceed in these virtuous actions. For when all things shall else forsake us, virtue yet will ever abide with us, and when our bodies fall into the bowels of the earth, yet that shall mount with our minds into the highest heavens.

By your loving and assured friend,

E. Oxenford.

Section 1

Second Group

Poems X to XXIV. Poems of the 1576 crisis and after. All these are accepted as authentic by Dr. Grosart. The dates given are those of the earliest known versions not neccssarily those of the text.

X.

Loss of Good Name.

Fram’d in the front of forlorn hope past all recovery,
I stayless stand, to abide the shock of shame and infamy.
My life, through ling’ring long, is lodg’d in lair of loathsome ways;
My death delay’d to keep from life the harm of hapless days.
My sprites, my heart, my wit and force, in deep distress are drown’d;
The only loss of my good name is of these griefs the ground.

And since my mind, my wit, my head, my voice and tongue are weak,
To utter, move, devise, conceive, sound forth, declare and speak,
Such piercing plaints as answer might, or would my woeful case,
Help crave I must, and crave I will, with tears upon my face,
Of all that may in heaven or hell, in earth or air be found,
To wail with me this loss of mine, as of these griefs the ground.

Help Gods, help saints, help sprites and powers that in the heaven do dwell,
Help ye that are aye wont to wail, ye howling hounds of hell;
Help man, help beasts, help birds and worms, that on the earth do toil;
Help fish, help fowl, that flock and feed upon the salt sea soil,
Help echo that in air doth flee, shrill voices to resound,
To wail this loss of my good name, as of these griefs the ground.
E.O.

XI.

Revenge of Wrong.

Fain would I sing, but fury makes me fret,
And Rage hath sworn to seek revenge of wrong;
My mazed mind in malice so is set,
As Death shall daunt my deadly dolours long;
Patience perforce is such a pinching pain,
As die I will, or suffer wrong again.

I am no sot, to suffer such abuse
As doth bereave my heart of his delight;
Nor will I frame myself to such as use,
With calm consent, to suffer such despite;
No quiet sleep shall once possess mine eye
Till Wit have wrought his will on Injury.

My heart shall fail, and hand shall lose his force,
But some device shall pay Despite his due;
And Fury shall consume my careful corse,
Or raze the ground whereon my sorrow grew.
Lo, thus in rage of ruthful mind refus’d,
I rest reveng’d on whom I am abus’d.
Earle of Oxenforde.

XII.

Love and Antagonism.

The trickling tears that fall along my cheeks,
The secret sighs that show my inward grief,
The present pains perforce that Love aye seeks,
Bid me renew my cares without relief;
In woeful song, in dole display,
My pensive heart for to betray.

Betray thy grief, thy woeful heart with speed;
Resign thy voice to her that caused thee woe;
With irksome cries, bewail thy late done deed,
For she thou lov’st is sure thy mortal foe;
And help for thee there is none sure,
But still in pain thou must endure.

The stricken deer hath help to heal his wound,
The haggard hawk with toil is made full tame;
The strongest tower, the cannon lays on ground,
The wisest wit that ever had the fame,
Was thrall to Love by Cupid’s slights;
Thell weigh my cause with equal wights (weights>.

She is my joy, she is my care and woe;
She is my pain, she is my ease therefore;
She is my death, she is my life also,
She is my salve, she is my wounded sore:
In fine, she hath the hand and knife,
That may both save and end my life.

And shall I live on earth to be her thrall’
And shall I live and serve her all in vain?
And kiss the steps that she lets fall,
And shall I pray the Gods to keep the pain
From her that is so cruel still?
No, no, on her work all your will.

And let her feel the power of all your might,
And let her have her most desire with speed,
And let her pine away both day and night,
And let her moan, and none lament her need;
And let all those that shall her see,
Despise her state and pity me.
E.O.

XIII.

Song: The Forsaken Man.

A crown of bays shall that man wear,
That triumphs over me;
For black and tawny will I wear,
Which mourning colours be.
The more I follow’d one,
The more she fled away,
As Daphne did full long agone
Apollo’s wishful prey.
The more my plaints I do resound
The less she pities me;
The more I sought the less I found,
Yet mine she meant to be.
Melpomene alas, with doleful tunes help than; [then]
And sing Bis, woe worth on me forsaken man.

Then Daphne’s bays shall that man wear,
That triumphs over me;
For black and tawny will I wear,
Which mourning colours be.
Drown me with trickling tears,
You wailful wights of woe;
Come help these hands to rend my hairs,
My rueful hap to show.

On whom the scorching flame
Of love doth feed you see;
Ah a lalalantida, my dear dame
Hath thus tormented me.
Wherefore you muses nine, with doleful tunes help than,
And sint, Bis, woe worth on me forsaken man.

Then Daphne’s bays shall that man wear,
That triumphs over me;
For black and tawny will I wear,
Which mourning co]ours be;
An anchor’s life to icad,
With nails to scratch my grave,
Where earthly worms on me shall feed,
Is all the ioy I crave;
And hide myself from shame,
Since that mine eyes do see,
Ah a lalalantida, my dear dame
Hath thus tormented me.
And all that present be, with doleful tunes help than,
And sing Bis wot worth, on me forsaken man.
E O.

XIV.

“I am not as I seem to be.”

I am not as I seem to be,
For when I smile I am not glad;
A thrall, although you count me free,
I, most in mirth, most pensive sad,
I smile to shade my bitter spite
As Hannibal that saw in sight
His country soil with Carthage town,
By Roman force defaced down.

And Caesar that presented was,
With noble Pompey’s princely head;
As ’twere some judge to rule the case,
A flood of tears he seemed to shed;
Although indeed it sprung of joy;
Yet others thought it was annoy.
Thus contraries be used I find,
Of wise to cloak the covert mind

I, Hannibal that smile for grief;
And let you Csesar’s tears suffice;
The one that laughs at his mischief;
The other all for joy that cries.
I smile to see me scorned so,
You weep for joy to see me woe;
And I, a heart by Love slain dead,
Present in place of Pompey s head.

O cruel hap and hard estate,
That forceth me to love my foe;
Accursed be so foul a fate,
My choice for to prefix it so.
So long to fight with secret sore
And find no secret salve therefore;
Some purge their pain by plaint I find,
But I in vain do breathe my wind.
E.O.

XV.

Care and Disappointment.

Ev’n as the wax doth melt, or dew consume away
Before the sun, so I, behold, through careful thoughts decay;
For my best luck leads me to such sinister state,
That I do waste with others’ love, that hath myself in hate.
And he that beats the bush the wished bird not gets,
But such, I see, as sitteth still and holds the fowling nets.

The drone more honey sucks, that laboureth not at all,
Than doth the bee, to whose most pain least pleasure doth befall:
The gard’ner sows the seeds, whereof the flowers do grow,
And others yet do gather them, that took less pain I trow.
So I the pleasant grape have pulled from the vine,
And yet I languish in great thirst, while others drink the wine.

Thus like a woeful wight I wove the web of woe,
The more I would weed out my cares, the more they seemed to grow:
The which betokeneth, forsaken is of me,
That with the careful culver climbs the worn and withered tree,
To entertain my thoughts, and there my hap to moan,
That never am less idle, lo! than when I am alone.

E. Ox.

XVI.

“Love is a Discord.”

Love is a discord and a strange divorce
Betwixt our sense and rest, by whose power,
As mad with reason, we admit that force
Which wit or labour never may divorce (?):
It is a will that brooketh no consent;
It would refuse yet never may repent.

Love’s a desire, which, for to wait a time,
Doth lose an age of years, and so doth pass
As doth the shadow sever’d from his prime;
Seeming as though it were, yet never was;
leaving behind naught but repentant thought
Of days ill spent of that which profits nought.

It’s now a peace and then a sudden war,
A hope consumed before it is conceived;
At hand it fears, and menaceth afar;
And he that gains is most of all deceived.
Love whets the dullest wits, his plagues be such,
But makes the wise by pleasing dote as much.

Prof. May lists this poem as “wrongly attributed” to Oxford.

XVII.

Reason and Affection.

If care or skill could conquer vain desire,
Or Reason’s reins my strong affection stay:
There should my sighs to quiet breast retire,
And shun such signs as secret thoughts betray;
Uncomely Love which now lurks in my breast
Should cease, my grief through Wisdom’s power oppress’d.

But who can leave to look on Venus’ face,
Or yieldeth not to Juno’s high estate ?
What wit so wise as gives not Pallas place ?
These virtues rare ech (sic) Gods did yield a mate;
Save her alone, who yet on earth doth reign,
Whose beauty’s string no God can well distraint (sic).
What worldly wight can hope for heavenly hire,
When only sighs must make his secret moan ?
A silent suit doth seld to grace aspire,
My hapless hay doth roll the restless stone.
Yet Phoebe fair disdained the heavens above,
To joy on earth her poor Endymion’s love.

Rare is reward where none can justly crave,
For chance is choice where Reason makes no claim;
Yet luck sometimes despairing souls doth save,
A happy star made Giges joy attain.
A slavish smith, of rude and rascal race,
Found means in time to gain a Godess’ grace.

Then lofty Love thy sacred sails advance,
My sighing seas shall flow with streams of tears;
Amidst disdains drive forth thy doleful chance,
A valiant mind no deadly danger fears;
Who loves aloft and sets his heart on high
Deserves no pain, though he do pine and die.
E.O.

XVIII.

Love and Wit.

My meaning is to work
What wonders love hath wrought,
Wherewith I muse, why men of wit
Have love so dearly bought.

For love is worse than hate,
And eke more harm hath done;
Record I take of those that rede
Of Paris, Priam’s son.

It seemed the god of sleep
Had mazed so much his wits,
When he refused wit for love,
Which cometh but by fits.

But why accuse I him,
Whom th’ earth hath covered long?
There be of his posterity
Alive, I do him wrong.

Whom I might well condemn,
To be a cruel judge
Unto myself, who hath the crime
In others that I grudge.
E.O.

XIX.

Woman’s Changeableness.

If women could be fair and yet not fond,
Or that their love were firm not fickle, still,
I would not marvel that they make men bond,
By service long to purchase their good will;
But when I see how frail those creatures are,
I muse that men forget themselves so far.

To mark the choice they make, and how they change,
How oft from Phacbus do they flee to Pan,
Unsettled still like haggards wild they range,
These gentle birds that fly from man to man;
Who would not scorn and shake them from the fist
And let them fly fair fools which way they list.

Yet for disport we fawn and flatter both,
To pass the time when nothing else can please,
And train them to our lure with subtle oath,
Till, weary of their wiles, ourselves we ease;
And then we say when we their fancy try,
To play with fools, O what a fool was I.

Earle of Oxenforde.

Prof. May lists this poem as “possibly” by Oxford.

XX.

Were I a King.

Were I a king I might command content;
Were I obscure unknown would be my cares,
And were I dead no thoughts should me torment,
Nor words, nor wrongs, nor love, nor hate, nor fears;
A doubtful choice of these things which to crave,
A kingdom or a cottage or a grave.
Vere.

XXI.

Sidney’s Answer:

Wert thou a King yet not command content,
Since empire none thy mind could yet suffice,
Wert thou obscure still cares would thee torment;
But wert thou dead, all care and sorrow dies;
An easy choice of these things which to crave,
No kingdom nor a cottage but a grave.

XXII.

Doth Sorrow Fret Thy Soul.

Doth sorrow fret thy soul? O direful sprite.
Doth pleasure feed thy heart? O blessed man.
Hast thou been happy once? O heavy plight.
Are thy mishaps forepast? O happy than (then)
Or hast thou bliss in eld? O bliss too late:
But hast thou bliss in youth? O sweet estate.

E. of 0.

Prof. May lists this poem as “wrongly attributed” to Oxford.

XXIII.

Grief of Mind.

What plague is greater than the grief of mind?
The grief of mind that eats in every vein;
In every vein that leaves such clots behind;
Such clots behind as breed such bitter pain;
So bitter pain that none shall ever find,
What plague is greater than the grief of mind.

E. of ox

Prof. May lists this poem as “wrongly attributed” to Oxford.

XXIV.

Verses ascribed to Queen Elizabeth.

When I was fair and young then favour graced me;
Of many was I sought their mistress for to be.
But I did scorn them all, and answered them therefore,
Go, go, go, seek some otherwhere,
Importune me no more.

How many weeping eyes I made to pine in woe;
How many sighing hearts I have no skill to show;
Yet I the prouder grew, and answered them therefore,
Go, go, go, seek some otherwhere,
Importune me no more.

Then spake fair Venus’ son, that proud victorious boy,
And said, you dainty dame, since that you be so coy,
I will so pluck your plumes that you shall say no more
Go, go, go, seek some otherwhere,
Importune me no more.

When he had spake these words such change grew in my breast,
That neither night nor day I could take any rest.
Then, lo ! I did repent, that I had said before
Go, go, go, seek some otherwhere,
Importune me no more.

This poem was considered by both Dr. Grosart and Looney to be Oxford’s
based on one extant manuscript copy although another extant manuscript
copy attributed it to Queen Elizabeth. Prof. May lists it as “wrongly attributed”
to Oxford and only “possibly” by the Queen.

THE POEMS OF SIR FRANCIS BACON

THE LIFE OF MAN

The world’s a bubble; and the life of man less than a span.
In his conception wretched; from the womb so to the tomb:
Curst from the cradle, and brought up to years, with cares and fears.
Who then to frail mortality shall trust,
But limns the water, or but writes in dust.
Yet, since with sorrow here we live oppress’d, what life is best?
Courts are but only superficial schools to dandle fools:
The rural parts are turn’d into a den of savage men:
And where’s a city from all vice so free,
But may be term’d the worst of all the three?

Domestic cares afflict the husband’s bed, or pains his head:
Those that live single, take it for a curse, or do things worse:
Some would have children; those that have them none; or wish them gone.
What is it then to have no wife, but single thralldom or a double strife?
Our own affections still at home to please, is a disease:
To cross the sea to any foreign soil, perils and toil:
Wars with their noise affright us: when they cease,
W’ are worse in peace:
What then remains, but that we still should cry,
Not to be born, or being born, to die.

GUILTLESS HEART

The man of life upright, whose guiltless heart is free
From all dishonest deeds and thoughts of vanity:
The man whose silent days in harmless joys are spent,
Whom hopes cannot delude, nor fortune discontent;
That man needs neither towers nor armor for defense,
Nor secret vaults to fly from thunder’s violence:
He only can behold with unaffrighted eyes
The horrors of the deep and terrors of the skies;
Thus scorning all the care that fate or fortune brings,
He makes the heaven his book, his wisdom heavenly things;
Good thoughts his only friends, his wealth a well-spent age,
The earth his sober inn and quiet pilgrimage.

HELP LORD

Help Lord, for godly men have took their flight,
And left the earth to be the wicked’s den:
Not one that standeth fast to Truth and Right,
But fears, or seeks to please, the eyes of men.
When one with other fall’s to take apart,
Their meaning goeth not with their words in proof;
But fair they flatter, with a cloven heart,
By pleasing words, to work their own behoof.

But God cut off the lips, that are all set,
To trap the harmless soul, that peace hath vow’d;
And pierce the tongues, that seek to counterfeit
The confidence of truth, by lying loud:
Yet so they think to reign, and work their will,
By subtle speech, which enters every where:
And say, our tongues are ours, to help us still,
What need we any higher power to fear?

Now for the bitter sighing of the poor,
The lord hath said, I will no more forbear,
The wicked’s kingdom to invade and scour,
And set at large the men restrain’d in fear.
And sure, the word of God is pure, and fine.
And in the trial never loseth weight;
Like noble gold, which, since it left the mine,
Hath seven times passed through the fiery straight.

And now thou wilt not first thy word forsake,
Nor yet the righteous man, that leans thereto;
But will’t his safe protection undertake,
In spite of all, their force and wiles can do.
And time it is, O Lord, thou didst draw nigh,
The wicked daily do enlarge their bands;
And that, which makes them follow ill a vie,
Rule is betaken to unworthy hands.

SING A NEW SONG

O sing a new song, to our God above,
Avoid profane ones, ’tis for holy choir:
Let Israel sing song of holy love
To him that made them, with their hearts on fire:
Let Zion’s sons life up their voice, and sing
Carols and anthems to their heavenly king.

Let not your voice alone his praise forth tell,
But move withal, and praise him in the dance;
Cymbals and harps, let them be tuned well,
‘Tis he that doth the poor’s estate advance:
Do this not only on the solemn days,
But on your secret beds you spirits raise.

O let the saints bear in their mouth his praise,
And a two-edged sword drawn in their hand,
Therewith for to revenge the former days,
Upon all nations, that their zeal withstand;
To bind their kings in chains of iron strong,
And manacle their nobles for their wrong.

Expect the time, for ’tis decreed in heaven,
Such honor shall unto his saints be given.