3.6.1. Hall, Virgidemiarum

 

Joseph Hall, Virgidemiarum (1597/98)

 

It has been common knowledge for a long time that when John Marston (1576-1634) wrote his first work, The Metamorphosis of Pigmalion's Image and Certaine Satyres (1598), he was connecting Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis (1593) with the penname “Labeo” (=one who has large lips).

So Labeo did complaine his love was stone,
Obdurate, flinty, so relentless none.

(In Venus and Adonis Venus complains to Adonis: “Art thou obdurate, flintie, hard as steele? / Nay more then flint, for stone at raine relenteth.”)

Regardless of which Labeo is meant (Quintus Fabius Labeo, or Attius Labeo, or Marcus Antistius Labeo, or Cornelius Labeo) there is a matter which must be addressed. Marston was not the first satirist who spoke of “Labeo”. He was preceded by the young puritan Joseph Hall (1574-1636), fellow of the Emmanuel College, Cambridge, since 1595.

We wish to examine if Hall’s “Labeo” also alludes to William Shakespeare.  

 

LIB. II. SAT. I.

For shame write better Labeo, or write none,
Or better write, or Labeo write alone[1].
Nay, call the Cynic but a witty fool,
Thence to abjure his handsome drinking bowl[2]:
Because the thirsty swain with hollow hand
Conveyed the stream to wet his dry weasand.
Write they that can, though they that cannot, doe:
But who knows that, but they that do not know?
[3]
Lo what it is that makes white rags so dear,
That men must give a testern [six-pence] for a quire [little book].
Lo what it is that makes goose-wings so scant,
That the distressed Sempster [sewer] did them want.[4]
So, lavish open-tide causeth fasting lents,
And starv'ling Famine comes of large expence.
Might not (so they were pleasd that been above)
Long Paper-abstinence our dearth [dearness, high price] remove?
Then many a Loller [Lollard] would in forfeitment
Bear Paper-fagots o’re the Pavement[5],
But now men wager who shall blot the most,
And each man writes: Ther's so much labour lost.[6]
That’s good, that's great: Nay much is seldome well[7],
Of what is bad, a littl’s a great deal [8].
Better is more: but best is nought at all.
Less is the next, and lesser criminall.
Little and good, is greatest good save one,
Then Labeo, or write little, or write none.
Tush in small pains can be but little art,
Or load full dry-fats [vessels] from the foreign mart:
With Folio-volumes, two to an Oxe’ hide,[9]
Or else ye Pamphleter go stand aside,
Read in each school, in every margent quoted,
In every Catalogue for an author noted.
There's happiness well given, and well got,
Less gifts, and lesser gains I weigh them not.
So may the Giant roam and write on high[10],
Be he a Dwarf that writes not there as I,
But well fare Strabo, which as stories tell,
Contriv’d all Troy within one Walnut shell.[11]
His curious Ghost now lately hither came,
Arriving neer the mouth of lucky Tame [Thames].
I saw a Pismire [ant] struggling with the load,
Dragging all Troy home towards her abode.
Now dare we hither, if he durst appear,
The subtile Stithy-man that liv’d while ear [a little while ago]:
Such one was once, or once I was mistaught,
A Smith at Vulcan his own forge up brought,
That made an Iron-chariot so light,
The coach-horse was a Flea in trappings dight,
The tame-less steed could well his wagon wield,
Through downs and dales of the uneven field.[12]
Strive they, laugh we: mean while the Blacksmith’s toy
Passes new Strabo, and new Strabo’s Troy.[13]
Little for great: and great for good all one:
For shame or better write, or Labeo write none.
But who conjur’d this bawdy Poggio’s ghost,
From out the stews of his lewd home-bred coast[14]:
Or wicked Rabelais’ drunken revellings,
To grace the mis-rule of our Tavernings?[15]
Or who put Bays into blind Cupids fist,
That he should crown what Laureats him list?[16]
Whose words are those, to remedy the deed
That cause men stop their noses when they read?
Both good things ill, and ill things well: all one?
For shame write cleanly Labeo, or write none.[17]

 

LIB. IV. SAT. I.

Should I endure these curses and despight,
While no man's ear should glow at what I write ?
Labeo is whipt, and laughs me in the face :
Why ? for I smite and hide the galled-place[18] [affected with painful swellings].
Gird [strike, smite] but the Cynic's helmet on his head,
Cares he for Talus, or his flail of lead? [19]
Long as the crafty Cuttle lieth sure
In the black cloud of his thick vomiture,
Who list complain of wronged faith or fame,
When he may shift it to another's name? [20]
Calvus can scratch his elbow and can smile,
That thrift-less Pontice bites his lip the while.[21]
Yet I intended in that selfe devise
To check the churl for his known covetise.[22]

 

LIB. IV. SAT. IV.[23]

Let Labeo, or who else list for me,
Go loose his ears and fall to alchymie.[24]

 

LIB. VI, SAT. I [25]

Labeo reserves a long nail for the nonce [purpose],
To wound my margent thro’ ten leaves at once,
Much worse than Aristarchus his black pile[26],
That pierced old Homer's side :
And makes such faces that me seems I see
Some foul Megaera in the Tragedy,
Threatening her twined snakes at Tantale’s ghost;
Or the grim visage of some frowning post,
The crabtree porter of the Guild-Hall gates,
While he his frightful beetle elevates,
His angry eyne look all so glaring bright,
Like th' hunted badger in a moonless night:
Or like a painted staring Saracen;
His cheeks change hue, like th’ air-fed vermin’s skin,
Now red, now pale, and swoln above his eyes,
Like to the old Colossian imageries.
But, when he doth of my recanting hear,
Away, ye angry fires and frosts of fear:
Give place unto his hopeful temper’d thought,
That yields to peace, ere ever peace be sought.[27]
Then let me now repent me of my rage,
For writing Satires, in so righteous age:[28]
(…)
These vices were; but now they ceas’d of long:
Then why did I a righteous age that wrong ?
I would repent me, were it not too late,
Were not the angry world prejudicate.
If all the Sevens Penitential
Or thousand white-wands might me ought avail;
If Trent or Thames could scoure my foul offence [29]
And set me in my former innocence,
I would at last repent me of my rage :
Now, bear my wrong, I thine, O righteous age!
(...)
Folly itself, and baldness, may be prais’d;
And sweet conceits from filthy objects rais’d.
(...)
Silence is safe, when saying stirreth sore
And makes the stirred puddle stink the more.
Shall the controller [officer] of proud Nemesis
In lawless rage upbraid each other’s vice,
While no man seeketh to reflect the wrong,
And curb the range of his mis-ruly tongue ?
By the two crowns [summits] of Parnasse ever-green,[30]
And by the cloven head of Hippocrene,[31]
As I true poet am, I here avow
(So solemnly kiss’d he his laurel bough)[32]
If that bold Satire unrevenged be
For this so saucy and foul injury:
So Labeo weens it my eternal shame
To prove I never earn’d a poet's name.[33]
But would I be a poet if I might,
To rub my brow three days, and wake three nights,
And bite my nails, and scratch my dullard head,[34]
And curse the backward Muses on my bed,
About one peevish syllable ; which, out-sought,
I take up Thales' joy[35], save for fore-thought
How it shall please each ale-knight’s censuring eye,
And hang’d my head for fear they deem awry.
(…)
O age well thriven and well fortunate,
When each man hath a Muse appropriate;
And she, like to some servile ear-boar’d slave,
Must play and sing when and what he would have!
Would that were all ! Small fault in number [a verse, as song] lies,
Were not the fear from whence it should arise.
But can it be ought but a spurious seed
That grows so rife in such unlikely speed?
Sith Pontian left his barren wife at home
And spent two years at Venice and at Rome,
Returned, hears his blessing asked of three,
Cries out, O Julian law! Adultery! [36]
Though Labeo reaches right (who can deny?)
The true strains of Heroic poesy:[37]
For he can tell how fury reft his sense,
And Phoebus filled him with intelligence:[38]
He can implore the heathen deities
To guide his bold and busy enterprise;
Or filch whole pages at a clap for need,
From honest Petrarch, clad in English weed;[39]
While big But Oh’s each stanza can begin,[40]
Whose trunk and tail sluttish and heartless been:[41]
He knows the grace of that new elegance
Which sweet Philisides fetch’d late from France,[42]
That well beseem’d his high-stil’d Arcady,
Though others marre it with much liberty,
In epithets to join two words in one,
Forsooth, for adjectives can’t stand alone:[43]

As a great poet could of Bacchus say,
That he was Semele-femori-gena.[44]
Lastly he names the spirit of Astrophel.[45]
Now hath not Labeo done wondrous well?

But ere his Muse her weapon learn to wield,
Or dance a sober Pirrhicke in the field,
Or marching wade in blood up to the knees,
Her Arma Virum goes by two degrees,[46]
The sheep-coat first hath been her nursery,
Where she hath worn her idle infancy,
And in high startups [heels] walk’d the pastur’d plains,[47]
To tend her tasked herd that there remains;
And winded still a pipe of oat or breare [brier], 

Striving for wages who the praise shall bear[48];
As did whilere the homely Carmelite[49]

Following Virgil, and he Theocrite;
Or else hath been in Venus’ chamber train’d
To play with Cupid, till she had attain’d
To comment well upon a beauteous face,
Then was she fit for a heroic place[50];
As witty Pontan, in great earnest, said,
His mistress'’breasts were like two weights of lead.[51]
Another thinks her teeth might liken’d be
To two fair ranks of pales of ivory,
To fence in, sure, the wild beast of her tongue,
From either going far, or going wrong :
Her grinders like two chalk-stones in a mill,
Which shall with time and wearing wax as ill
As old Catillae’s, which wont every night
Lay up her holy pegs till next day-light,
And with them grinds soft-simp’ring all the day,
When, least her laughter should her gums bewray,
Her hands must hide her mouth if she but smile ;
Fain would she seem all frisk and frolick still.
Her forehead fair is like a brazen hill,
Whose wrinkled furrows, which her age doth breed,
Are daubed full of Venice chalk for need.
Her eyes like silver saucers, fair beset
With shining amber, and with shady jet :
Her lids like Cupid’s bow-case, where he hides
The weapons that doth wound the wanton-ey’d :
Her chin like Pindus, or Parnassus’ hill,[52]
Where down descends th’ o’reflowing streams doth fill
The well of her fair mouth. — Each hath his praise.
Who would not but wed poets now-a-days !

 

NOTES (still need to be translated and connected) :

 


[1] “or Labeo write alone”: To which  “Labeo” from Roman times is Joseph Hall referring in these satirical verses? - Cornelius Labeo (3rd century AD) was an ancient Roman theologian and antiquarian who wrote on such topics as the Roman calendar and the teachings of Etruscan religion. We can rule him out because Hall writes about the contemporary “Labeo”:

Though Labeo reaches right (who can deny?)
The true strains of Heroic poesy:
For he can tell how fury reft his sense,
And Phoebus filled him with intelligence…

With that, also a reference to Marcus Antistius Labeo (d. 10 or 11 AD) and Attius Labeo (1st century AD) can be eliminated from the list of possibilities. Marcus Antistius Labeo was an Roman jurist. Attius Labeo is remembered for the derision that greeted his Latin translations of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, which came to epitomise bad verse. - The trail leads us to the patrician Quintus Fabius Labeo (fl. 180 B.C.) who was commander of the fleet in an eastern campaign. The scholar Santra thinks that if Terence had needed help in his writing, he would have used Quintus Fabius Labeo and Marcus Popilius, both of whom were ex-consuls and poets. (See Suetonius, The Life of Terence. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/de_Poetis/Terence*.html).

Perhaps that is why Joseph Hall admonishes ‘Labeo’: “write alone!”

[2] “to abjure his handsome drinking bowl“: This is a reference to a remark made by Diogenes who, on seeing how a young shepherd drank from his cupped hand, took his own small drinking vessel from his wallet and threw it away. “He teaches me,” said Diogenes, “that I preserve an unnecessary utensil.” - In other words, Hall calls on “Labeo” to employ the same simple yet effective methods as the shepherd to drink and to work.

[3]Write they that can, though they that cannot, doe:/ But who knows that, but they that do not know?“: “Write they that can, though they that cannot, doe:/ But who knows that, but they that do not know?“: In other words: “Those who can write should do so, though those who cannot are eager to do so. But who knows that, save those who say that they do not know (to write)?” (Those who are qualified to offer valid opinions are the very people who claim to be unqualified.) – In allusion to Horace: Scribimus indocti, doctique poemata passim (“learned or not we all go in for scribbling verses”). 

 [4] “Lo what it is that makes goose-wings so scant, / That the distressed Sempster did them want“: Look what is the reason for the scarcity of goose feathers, that the distressed seamster needs them so badly (for her pillow).

[5] “Then many a Loller would in forfeitment / Bear Paper-fagots o’re the Pavement“: If people were to be less wasteful in the use of paper then the laws of supply and demand would make paper cheaper. Eventually paper would become cheaper than bundles of faggot and those who were condemned to be burned at the stake would carry bundles of paper with them to their execution instead. - This is a reference to Sir John Oldcastle on whom the character John Falstaff was based, a man who suffered this very fate.

[6] “But now men wager who shall blot the most, / And each man writes: Ther's so much labour lostTher’s so much labour lost“: Apparently a reference to Loves labors lost (1598). The inference being: The men now argue about who has spilled the most ink (to write love letters); at  the end of the day they have all written the same thing and  a lot of time and effort has been wasted.

[7]That’s good, that's great: but best is nought at all“: Possibly a reference to All’s Well That Ends Well.

[8]Of what is bad, a littl’s a great deal”: Possibly a reference to Measure for Measure

[9] “two to an Oxe’ hide”: This could be a reference to the oxen leather that was used to bind the folios of “Labeo” - or it could be pure coincidence. (See, Gabriel Harvey on Thomas Nashe: “an Asse in an Oxe’ hide”.)

[10] „So may the Giant roam and write on high“: Hall does not betray the identity of the giant who write high up on the hill. (Hall, who portrays himself as a dwarf, does not write in such heights.)

[11] “But well fare Strabo, which as stories tell, / Contriv’d all Troy within one Walnut shell“: Pliny says (History of Nature, Book VII, chapter 21):

Cicero hath recorded, that the Poem of Homer called the Iliad, written on Parchment, was enclosed within a Nutshell. The same Writer maketh mention  of one who could see to the Distance of 135 Miles. And  M.Varro nameth the Man, saying that he was called Strabo; and that during the Carthaginian War he was accustomed to stand upon Lilybaeum, a Promontory of Sicily, and discover the Fleet coming out of the Harbour of Carthage ; he was also able to tell even the Number of the Ships.

[12] “The tame-less steed could well his wagon wield, / Through downs and dales of the uneven field“: Pliny continues (History of Nature, VII, 21):

Callicrates made emmets, and other equally small Creatures, out of  Ivory, so that other Men could not discern the Parts of their Bodies. A certain Myrmecides was excellent in that kind of Workmanship ; who of the same Material carved a Chariot with four Wheels, which a Fly might cover with her wings.

Hall is probably making an allusion to Queen Mab in William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, I/4:

Her wagoner, a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.

[13] “the Blacksmith’s toy / Passes new Strabo, and new Strabo’s Troy”: “The black storie” (= the poet's own Satire) passes London.

[14] “But who conjur’d this bawdy Poggio’s ghost, / From out the stews of his lewd home-bred coast”: Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459) was a a Florentine/Roman scholar, writer and an early humanist.  His Liber Facetiarum, or Facetiae, is a collection of humorous and indecent tales. – Halls puritanical condemnation is directed at the course speech and the drinking bouts of Sir John Falstaff and his associates.

[15] “Or wicked Rabelais’ drunken revellings, / To grace the mis-rule of our Tavernings?”: In the Introduction to 2Henry IV (ed. Claire McEachern, Penguin, 2000) we read: “Falstaff is the ritual king of the May, the Lord of Misrule, the embodiment of our animal nature. He is the boar, the sacrificial beast that must first be prepared for his role — the sins of the community heaped on his back— and then immolated for the health of the land.” - One could say that Sir John Falstaff was the Gargantua of 16th century English literature.  

See Gabriel Harvey’s advice to Thomas Nashe in Foure Letters (1592): “not according to the fantastical mould of Aretine or Rabelais, but according to the fine model of Orpheus, Homer, Pindarus & the excellentest wits of Greece” and A New Letter of Notable Contents (1593): “When the sweet Youth [Nashe] haunted Aretine, and Rabelais, the two monstrous wits of their languages. (See, Anne Lake Prescott, Imaging Rabelais in Renaissance England, 1998.) 

[16] “Or who put Bays into blind Cupids fist, / That he should crown what Laureats him list?”: Apparently an allusion Shakespeare's epyllion Venus and Adonis (1593).

[17] “Both good things ill, and ill things well: all one? / For shame write cleanly Labeo, or write none”: 

Joseph Hall feels that Labeo does not make a sufficiently clear distinction between good and evil. When one considers John Marson tirade against Hall in The Scourge of Villanie, 1599 (“But when to servile imitatorship / Some spruce Athenian pen is prentized, / Tis worse then apish. ... Farre fly thy fame. / Most, most of me beloved, whose silent name / One letter bounds.”), then it is obvious Joseph Hall, the poetic puritan, was using the name “LabEO” as a substitute for Edward de VereE, Earl of Oxford alias William Shakespeare when he was delivering his severe criticism.

However we have still to interpret Halls satires IV/1 and VI/1.

***

[18] “Labeo is whipt, and laughs me in the face: / Why ? for I smite and hide the galled-place”: In II/I Hall strikes Labeo in the face with the satirical whip, at the same time he takes trouble to hide the wound  that he thereby inflicted.

[19] “Gird but the Cynick’s helmet on his head, / Cares he for Talus, or his flail of lead?”: An allusion to Spenser’s Iron Man in The Faery Queene, V/1. “Cynick” pays no attention to his attacker so long as it’s only his helmet that is being beaten.

[20] “Long as the crafty Cuttle lieth sure / In the black cloud of his thick vomiture, / Who list complain of wronged faith or fame, / When he may shift it to another’s name?”: This is a particularly important remark insomuch as it emphasises that the name “Labeo” is protected by a pseudonym (“another name”). Just like a squid, the cynic poet (one of Diogenes’ followers) hides himself in a cloud of ink. Whomsoever feels that he is attacked by Labeo can ascribe it to “William Shake-speare”.  (Thanks to Alexander Waugh.)

[21] “Calvus can scratch his elbow and can smile, / That thrift-less Pontice bites his lip the while”: Gaius Licinius Macer Calvus (82 – c. 47 BC), a neoteric poet and close friend of Catullus, hated Caesar and Pompey. Lucius Licinius Lucullus (118 – 57/56 BC), surnamed Ponticus from his victories in Asia Minor over Mithridates VI of Pontus. So famous did Lucullus become for his banqueting that the word lucullan now means lavish and luxurious. – The young puritan, Joseph Hall compares himself to Calvus in his protests against the powerful Lukull (=Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford).

[22] “To check the churl for his known covetise”: Hall holds his most aggressive pawn in check. (Covetise: ardent, excessive, or inordinate desire.) - John Marston's reply in The Scourge of Villanie (1599): “Fond affectation / Befits an Ape, and mumping Babilon.”

***

[23] LIB. IV. SAT. IV: “In this Satire the diversions of a delicate youth of fashion and refined manners are mentioned, as opposed to the rougher employments of a military life.” (Thomas Warton, The history of English Poetry, 1774-81.) 

[24] “Let Labeo, or who else list for me, / Go loose his ears and fall to alchymie”: An indication of Hall’s pretentiousness.

***

[25] LIB. VI,  SAT. I : “The last Book consisting of one long Satire only, is a sort of Epilogue to the whole, and contains a humorous ironical description of the effect of his satires, and a recapitulatory view of many of the characters and foibles which he had before delineated. But the scribblers seem to have the chief share. The character of Labeo, already repeatedly mentioned, who was some contemporary poet, a constant censurer of our author*, and who from pastoral proceeded to heroic poetry, is here more distinctly represented. He was a writer who affected compound epithets, which sir Philip Sydney had imported from France, and first used in his ARCADIA.” (Thomas Warton, The history of English Poetry, 1774-81)

* a constant censurer of our author: Warton’s observation is incorrect. The young satirist anticipates Labeo’s stern admonition.  (“Labeo reserves a long naile for the nonce, / To wound my margent thro' ten leaves at once”); however, the said admonition had not taken place. Warton’s mistake can be traced back to an oversight (see note 33). 

[26]Labeo reserves a long nail for the nonce / To wound my margent thro’ ten leaves at once, / Much worse than Aristarchus his black pile”: It  would appear that Labeo’s style of writing is most elegant Aristarchus was the critic who quashed the works of Homer. That means that Hall is comparing himself to Homer in a modest way.

[27] “But, when he doth of my recanting hear, / Away, ye angry fires and frosts of fear: / Give place unto his hopeful temper’d thought, / That yields to peace, ere ever peace be sought”: The “he” is the peacefully inclined “Labeo” and not (as one may first think; and perhaps this is also a joke from Hall) the Saracene. – Gabriel Harvey describes the spear shaker, in the guise of the “excellent Gentlewoman” in a similar manner: “Her intention was defensive, not offensive, and had anything been tolerable in that scurrilous and villainous declamation, assuredly she would a thousand times rather have excused the matter than accused the maker.”

[28] “writing Satires, in so righteous age”: As the satirist said, there is no ugliness to be found today - as he ironically demonstrates with various examples.

[29] “If Trent or Thames could scoure my foul offence”: If River Trent or the Thames were to clean his satirical attacks. - There is a reference made to this in the equally ironical self denunciation that appears later, the “bold satire” that must be avenged.

[30] “By the two crowns of Parnasse ever-green”: See Ovid, Metamorphoses, I.316: “There Mount Parnassus lifts its twin steep summits to the stars.”

[31] “And by the cloven head of Hippocrene”: See Wikipedia: In Greek mythology, Hippocrene was the name of a fountain on Mt. Helicon. It was sacred to the Muses and was formed by the hooves of Pegasus. Its name literally translates as "Horse's Fountain" and the water was supposed to bring forth poetic inspiration when imbibed.

[32] “(So solemnly kiss’d he his laurel bough)”: Joseph Hall jokingly kisses the laurel wreath even though it has not yet been given to him.

[33] “If that bold Satire unrevenged be / For this so saucy and foul injury: / So Labeo weens it my eternal shame / To prove I never earn’d a poet's name”: With this Hall says that should his insulting satire not be punished then that would be proof that it was written in an ineffective manner and that “Labeo” would never take him seriously as a poet. Both Thomas Warton (1774) and Hall’s later editors overlooked the colon after “foul injury”, thereby misinterpreting the statement to mean that “Labeo” was a “constant censurer” of Hall’s work. (See note 25.)

[34] “And bite my nails, and scratch my dullard head”: See Horace, Ars Poetica, 291-94:  “Do you, O sons of Pompilius, condemn a poem which many a day and many a blot has not restrained and refined ten times over to the test of the close-cut nail.” (Transl. by H. R. Fairclough.)

[35] “I take up Thales’ joy”: Thales, one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece, who made great discoveries in astronomy. “Hall compares his own joy in devising a successful rhyme, to the exaltation of the philosopher in deciphering the phenomena of the heavens.” (Samuel Roffey Maitland)

[36] “Sith Pontian left his barren wife at home / And spent two years at Venice and at Rome, / Returned, heares his blessing asked of three, / Cries out, O Julian law! adultery!”: An example of conceiving out of wedlock. – We must ask ourselves: “Which “Pontian” spent two years in Venice and Rome, only to return to find that his wife had born two children? He was certainly neither an Italian nor an ancient Roman. - There is no doubt whatsoever that Edward de Vere was indeed at Venice and at Naples and that on his return, he suspected his wife of infidelity. His wife did not present him with two illegitimate children but one child which had been conceived (in wed-lock) before his departure. The Earl nonetheless cried “Adultery!” - The choice of the name Pontian is also an important clue. The poet Iovianus Pontanus (1429-1503) describes sexual intercoursein the following manner:   “When the bride is overwhelmed with the heat of her desire in your passionate embraces, then is the time to attack – my friend, you must heatedly shake your spear to inflight the longed-for wound on her.” Not only do we see that Hall, with this reference, is implying that Edward de Vere is the “shaker of the spear”. It also gives us another clue as to why Edward de Vere, who had nothing whatever against a ribald joke, chose the name Shake-speare as his nom de plume in the first place.

When Hall speaks of “Pontian” he actually means “Pontanus” which in turn means Shake-speare. Two pages on we see this verified when he quotes. Not “Pontian” but the “witty Pontan: “As witty Pontan in great earnest said, / His mistress’ breasts were like two weights of lead.” – Although Hall’s publishers could not prove the Pontanus quote, however in Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece (1594) we find two lines related in meaning -even though not quite so leaden: “Her breasts, like ivory globes circled with blue, / A pair of maiden worlds unconquered. “ (See also note 51.)

[37] “Though Labeo reaches right (who can deny?) / The true strains of Heroic poesy”: Here Joseph Hall, the cunning young puritan, completes the remark in parenthesis that he began with the words: “Small fruit in number [= in a poetical work] lies, / Were not the fear from whence it should arise.” He was referring to the “heroic posy” from “Labeo” (= William Shakespeare); in the middle of the statement he mentions the ominous “Pontian” (=Oxford).

[38] “And Phoebus filled him with intelligence”: Phoebus was worshipped as the God, among other things, of light, of the sun, of truth and philosophy, healing, plague, music and poetry. He was the father of Phaeton who drove the sun chariot but was unable to control the horses.- In 1591 the Earl of Oxford wrote a poem for his friend John Florio using the pseudonym “Phaeton”.

[39] “Or filch whole pages at a clap for need, / From honest Petrarch, clad in English weed”: Apparently, this is (a most disrespectful) reference to SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS, which were well known among the literary circles of the 1590s. Shakespeare had included the Petrarchan topoi in his poems, however he upturned the concept of the “honest” Petrarch.

[40] “While big But Oh’s each stanza can begin”: Seven of Shakespeare’s stanzas in Venus and Adonis begin with an “O”. One begins with “But O” and yet another begins with “But lo”.

[41] “Whose trunk and tail sluttish and heartlesse been”: Every English puritan would have passed the judgement on Venus and Adonis.  

[42] “Which sweet Philisides fetch’d late from France”: Philisides is the “poetic persona” of Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), whose works clearly betray the influence of Du Bellay, Jodelle, Ronsard and Desportes. Shakespeare’s works also show an extensive knowledge of these authors.

[43] “In epithets to join two words in one, / Forsooth, for adjectives can’t stand alone”:  In his edition of Love’s Labour’s Lost (1998) H. R. Woudhuysen registers 125 (!) “compound words”. – The most important example of two epithets being joined in to one is ignored: Shake-speare.

[44] “That he was Semele-femori-gena ”: ‘Semele-thigh-brood’compressed the story of Bacchus’ birth into three words. The “great Poet” who coined the epithet was Julius Caesar Scaliger (Poetices libri septem, VI, 1561). – Semele-femori-gena shows a parallel to Shake-speare, or his muse Pallas Athena, the spear-shaking goddess.

[45] “Lastly he names the spirit of Astrophel”: Astrophel is a reference to Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), the author of the sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella. – Is Hall of the opinion that the voice of Sidney is echoed in Shakespeare’s sonnets?

[46] “But ere his Muse her weapon learn to wield, / Or dance a sober Pirrhicke in the field, / Or marching wade in blood up to the knees, / Her Arma Virum goes by two degrees”: Another reference to Labeo’s muse. The ‘Pyrrhic dance’ is performed in armour. The muse who learned to wield her weapon is the spear brandishing Pallas Athena (see Homeric Hymn 28: “: “Athena sprang quickly from the immortal head and stood before Zeus who holds the aegis, shaking a sharp spear” and “Her body ran with swet, and from the ground (wee wondred all) / Three times alone she leapt, and thrise her sheeld and speare she shooke. - Aeneid. Book II, translated by Phaer and Twyne, 1573.) The reference to Pallas Athena is made obvious by: “Her Arma virum [=virorum]”: i.e. Pallas wears men’s armour, the spear (or lance) and the shield. She is “marching wade in blood up to the knees” in William Shake-speare’s historical dramas. – On the path to her destination she has to pass two preliminary steps: the “sheep-coat” and “Venus’ chamber”. See notes 47 and 50.

[47] “The sheep-coat first hath been her nursery, / Where she hath worn her idle infancy, / And in high startups walk’d the pastur’d plains”: The “sheep-coat” belongs to the poetic swain, or shepherd. Prior to his writing dramas, Edward de Vere’s main activity was that of a lyricist.

Robert Greene on “Melicertus”, Shake-speare’s pastoral name, in Menaphon: “”What needs that question, quoth Menaphon, am not I the King’s shepherd, and chief of all the bordering swains of Arcadie?” “I grant, quoth Melicertus, but am not I a Gentleman, though tired in a shepheardes skincoat; superior to thee in birth, though equal now in profession.” (Robert Greene, The Life and Complete Works, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, 15 volumes, volume 6, p. 121). - Greene’s Melicertus can only have been Edward de Vere, patron of the euphuists. In England’s Mourning Garment (1603), Henry Chettle identifies “Melicertus” as Shakespeare by referring to him as the author of The Rape of Lucrece. (Thanks to Robert Detobel.)

[48] “And winded still a pipe of oat or breare, / Striving for wages who the praise shall bear”: In the introductory poem to Cardanus Comforte (1573) Oxford addresses himself “to the Reader”):

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.

In response to this poem Edward Spenser writes in The Shepheard's Calender, ÆGLOGA DECIMA (1579). In the role of “Pierce”, the poetic shepherd, Spenser refers to “Cuddie” (=Edward de Vere) as being “the perfect pattern of a Poet”.

PIERCE.
Cuddie, for shame [modesty] hold up thy heavy head, 
And let us plan with what delight to chase: 
And weary this long lingering Phoebus race. 
Whilom [some time before] thou wont the shepherds lads to lead, 
In rimes, in riddles, and in bidding [prisoner’s] base: 
Now they in thee, and thou in sleep art dead?

When giving his answer, “Cuddie” reveals his identity as the author of Oxford’s poem:

CUDDIE.
Pierce, I have pipéd erst so long with pain,
That all mine oaten reeds been rent and wore:
And my poore Muse hath spent her spared store,
Yet little good hath got, and much less gain.
Such pleasance makes the grashopper so poor,
And lig so laid [lie so faint and unlusty], when winter doth her strain.
The pretty ditties, that I wont devise, 
To feed youthes fancy, and th’offspring, 
Delighten much: what gain have I for that?
They have the pleasure, I a slender praise. 
I beat the bush, the birds to them do fly: 
What good thereof to Cuddie can arise?

The fact that the well read Hall is referring to Spensers dialogue from 1579 is obvious.

[49] “As did whilere the homely Carmelite”: During Labeo’s youth, his idyllic muse wandered on the trail of the Carmelite babtista Mantuanus (1448-1516), who in turn followed Virgil and Theocrite.

[50] “Or else hath been in Venus’ chamber train’d / To play with Cupid, till she had attain’d / To comment well upon a beauteous face, / Then was she fit for a heroic place”: The subject at hand here is still Labeo’s muse. A comedic period is followed by an amorous phase (Venus and Adonis), then comes a tragic heroic phase. Surprisingly enough, as early as in 1579 Edmund Spenser (alias Pierce) calls on the Earl of Oxford (alias Cuddie) to write tragedies and historical dramas instead of comedies.

PIERCE.
Abandon then the base and viler clown, 
Lift up thyself out of the lowly dust: 
And sing of bloody Mars, of wars, of jousts, 
Turn thee to those, that bear the awful crown. 
To r’doubted Knights, whose woundless armour rusts, 
And helms unbruised vexen daily brown.

[51] “His mistress’ breasts were like two weights of lead”: In the light of the fact that Labeo’s muse is equal to Pallas Athena we can now solve the puzzle concealed in Hall’s joke. The breasts of the heavily armed Pallas were indeed as heavy as lead. See note 36. (In the following verses Hall ironically lists the various advantages of female beauty.)

[52] “Her chin like Pindus, or Parnassus hill”: Joseph Hall likes to speak of Parnassus. That leads us to the assumption that he could well have been one of the co-authors of the trilogy of comedies The Return from Parnassus (1599-1601) whose publisher W.D. Macray notes: “A comparison with Bishop Hall's Satires brings to view a great similarity alike in subjects and in language. The second book of the Satires deals, in fact, with many of the abuses of which our unknown author treats.” (The Pilgrimage to Parnassus with the Two Parts of the Return from Parnassus. Oxford 1886).