3.6.4. Hereford, Epigrams

 

John Davies of Hereford, The Scourge of Folly, Epigram 159 (1610)

“John Davies of Hereford (c.1565-1618), a religious poet, was born in Hereford and settled at Oxford as a writing-master. The principal model of his uninspired verse was Joshua Sylvester, the translator of Du Bartas’s Semaines, on which he founded his long poem, Microcosmos (1603); but he owed something, also, to his namesake, Sir John Davies… In 1610 he brought out The Scourge of Folly, depicting such social offences as boorishness, slovenly appearance, bad manners and loquacity. Davies frequently relinquishes the scourging of folly merely to present a play of paradox or fancy.” (The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, vol. IV, 1907–21.)

John Davies of Hereford published two poems which bore a strong similarity to each other and, on the face of it, appear to be about the same person. The first poem was published six years after the Earl of Oxford’s death and the second was published six years later. The first work is an epigram of eight lines directed at “Will. Shake-speare”. The deferential manner in which the author speaks of his subject, betrays to the reader that Will. Shake-speare was dead when the poem was written. - In the second work, in two particular verses of Speculum proditori, Hereford speaks of an unknown person who is revered by lords and ladies as their equal. This unknown person portrays kings on the stage. This second person is also dead when the poem is written. The analogies between the two poems are obvious.


Epigram 159 (1610)

 

I knew a Man (1616)

To our English Terence, Mr. Will. Shake-speare.

 

Some say (good Will) which I, in sport, do sing,

 

 

Had’st thou not played some Kingly parts in sport,
Thou hadst been a companion for a King;
And, been a King among the meaner sort.

Some others rail; but, rail as they think fit,
Thou hast no railing, but a reigning Wit:
And honesty thou sow’st which they do reap;
So, to increase their Stock which they do keep.

 

 

 

I knew a Man, unworthy as I am,
And yet too worthy for a counterfeit,

 

Made once a king; who though it were in game,

Yet was it there where lords and ladies met;

Who honor'd him, as he had been the same,

And no subjective duty did forget;

 

When to himself he smil'd, and said, lo here

I have for nought, what kings do buy so dear.

 

No odds there was in show (and but in show,

Kings are too often honour'd) save that he

Was but twelve gamesome days to king it so;

And kings, more years of souveraigne misery.

His reign was short and sweet, theirs long in woe.

He after liv'd: they, with or for theirs, die.

He had a taste of reign, with power to leave;

They cannot taste, but life must take or give.

 

 

“Good Will” (Shake-speare) of whom Davies sings, stands next to the Anonymous who is more than a “counterfeit” or pretender (i.e. a common actor). Both of them have introduced a King to the stage, both have “played some Kingly parts”. Will. Shake-speare is described as “companion for a King” and as a “King among the meaner sort” (among people of meaner rank). The Anonymous portrays a King (“in show”), yet he is glad to cast off the role after twelve days (in the period after Christmas, plays were only performed until Twelfth Night).

In Epigram 159 Davies praises the kingly actor Shake-speare. In Speculum proditori he speaks of an esteemed man who is happier to play a King than to be a King in real life.- Apart from the similarity of these two poems; is there not a clear indication that when John Davies of Hereford spoke of the Anonymous that he also meant “Will Shake-speare” ? The answer is: yes. Davies’ Mirror of Treason is full of references to the two Shakespeare plays whose central theme is regicide, i.e. the “actor” Shake-speare played the roles on the stage that the dramatist Shake-speare wrote.    

 

To our English Terence[1], Mr. Will. Shake-speare.

Some say (good Will) which I, in sport, do sing[2],
Had’st thou not played some Kingly parts in sport,
Thou hadst been a companion for a King[3];
And, been a King among the meaner sort[4].
Some others rail; but, rail as they think fit,
Thou hast no railing, but a reigning Wit:
And honesty thou sow’st which they do reap;
So, to increase their Stock which they do keep.[5]

 

 

John Davies of Hereford, Speculum proditori (1616) [6]

[I knew a Man, unworthy as I am]
Kings, gods on earth, so call’d by Him of heav’n,
How dismal is your deities estate!
Who while you life do give, are life bereav’n;
And oft, for too much loan, get too much hate:
Whose surest forecasts stand on six and seven[7];
Which, with you (sovereigns) subject are to fate.
What dev’ls can envy, then, such deities,
Whose heav’ns are hells, of short-sweet miseries?

Toil ye to shield their lives, that shoot at yours;
And make yourselves, of sovereigns, sov’rein slaves?
Spending your brains & strengths, & precious hours,
As if yourselves dig’d, for yourselves, your graves,
For th’hollow subject (grave-like) you devoures[8];
Whom ye make hollow, oft with welfare’s waves.
For if ye fill ambition, spight or fear,
Ye fill the sails will quite you overbear.

[12 stanzas]

These [kings] seldom meet with silver-hairs, though care
Doth (for that tincture) time anticipate[9];
The liege that lies on beds, that sumptuous are,
Sleeps mor in fear than beggars at his gate[10]:
Whom the grey morn hath seen high, past compare,
The blushing ev’n hath seen in abject state.
A world of mouthes they feed, & courts they keep
Whose stabbing dreams do make them start in sleep.

The purple robe is oft re-purpled
With royal blood that from the heart doth stream;
When homely rags (though rent) are near made red
With th’owner’s blood, sith they do range [roam] a realm
And yet no rule it, as the sceptered.
These sleep secure in many a golden dream,
While princes lie on thorns of pricking fears,
That make their days to interdict theis years.

In toothsom’st dish the baneful bait doth lie;
And Treason dives into the sweetest wine;
At every bit they fear her treachery,
And doubt, each draught they drink, they drink their fine.
O! if as through a glass we might espy
The swarms of fears, and cares, their hearts confine,
We would not stoop to gather to a crown,
If as the crown, the cares must be our own.

The princely ports no sooner ope [open] are set,
But divelish Envy glides through all unseen.
But hates at hell; the neat-herd’s cabinet [hut]
Whilst (princely peasant, with his sommer’s queen)
He frolics [makes merry] it, as free from dread as debt:[11]
And living so, a king himself doth ween:
But, if he err, it is an error sweet,
To meet king’s thoughts, and not their cares to meet.

In maple mazer, or beach-bowl he quaffs,
And lifts it not to mouth with shaking hands:[12]
His love and he, eats, drinks and sleeps & laughs,
And she obeys, and he in love commands:
Twixt them are neither jealousies nor chases,
for breaking wedlock or subjection’s bands:
But they enjoy love, peace and merriment,
And therewithall the Kingdom of Content[13].

They fear not fortune’s frowns, nor weigh her fawns;
Their great ambition is to live and love:
Much coin need not, much less precious pawns
That by a cow can live, and pleasure’s prove[14],
Yea, feed with her, on sallets in the launds,
in weeds yclad [clothed], as homely spun as wove;
Milk being their best meat, & sour whey their wine.
And when they hunger, then they sup & dine.

They can no skill of states deep policies,
Nor will they wade in deeps so dangerous:
This make them live so free from tragedies
That are to heav’n and earth so odious:
They actors are in past’ral comedies,
That tend to love, and mirth harmonious.
O heavenly-earthly life, life for a king:
that lives with nothing as with ev’rything[15].

[3 stanzas]

For dignity on vertue grounded is.
Then, if the ground do fail, and false become,
The more is built thereon, the sooner tis
Sinking to ground, and ruin’d all or some:
The more our pow’r, the more of peace we miss,
if vertue adverse powers do not o’recome:
That Envy, which high pride did life-inspire,
Humility must kill, or make retire.

I knew a Man, unworthy as I am,
And yet too worthy for a counterfeit [pretender][16],
Made once a king; who though it were in game,
Yet was it there where lords and ladies met;
Who honor'd him, as he had been the same,
And no subjective duty did forget;
When to himself he smil'd, and said, lo here
I have for nought, what kings do buy so dear[17].

No odds there was in show (and but in show,
Kings are too often honour'd)[18] save that he
Was but twelve gamesome days to king it so[19];
And kings, more years of souveraigne misery.
His reign was short and sweet, theirs long in woe.
He after liv'd: they, with or for theirs, die.
He had a taste of reign, with power to leave;
They cannot taste, but life must take or give.

Kings for the treasons to them offered
Must offer them that offer it, whereby
The body still may hold up high the head,
Lest otherwise they both too low might lie:
Yet by this means, blood, oft, with hate is shed,
If blood so shed do fall or much, or high;
But he without blood did behead his foes[20],
So made him friends indeed, of foes in shows.

He sat in state, that mirth and love did stay;
They sit in state that hate oft undermines;
He, without fear, had some to take assay;
But they have such, for fear of sudden fines:
He poison’d some (to play as kings might play)
But twas with sugar and perfumed wines:
He went with guards, yet stabbing feared not:
They go with guards, yet fear the stab or shot.

He could devise with Ladies, if he could,
Devise with Ladies without all suspect;
If they do so, they do not as they should,
For ’twill be sayd their honours they neglect:
He could command, and have all as he would[21];
But their commands oft have not that effect.
Then who had better reigns, judge all of sense,
Either a king indeed, or in pretence.
etc.

 

Sources:

John Davies of Hereford, The scourge of folly consisting of satyricall epigramms, and others in honor of many noble and worthy persons of our land. At London [1611].

John Davies of Hereford, A select second husband for Sir Thomas Overburie's wife, now a matchlesse widow, London : 1616.

 

Notes:


[1]To our English Terence”: This dedication contains a pointer that was at first overseen, but then thankfully discovered by Alexander Waugh: “Santra wrote that Labeo was more likely to have been the true author of Terence's plays than Laelio or Scipio. Quintus Fabius Labeo was a scion of one of the oldest and grandest families of Ancient Rome and a Consul of the Republic. John Davies of Hereford, who wrote the poem ‘To our English Terence, Mr Will. Shake-speare’ would have known this as it is revealed in Suetonius's much read ‘Life of Terence.’ So too would Joseph Hall who, in his Satires, rails against a contemporary.” – It is more than likely that Davies of Hereford’s “English Terence” is a reference to the fact that Joseph Hall and John Marston both addressed William Shakespeare as “Labeo”. (See 3.6.1 and 3.6.2.)

[2] “(good Will) which I, in sport, do sing”: That means: Good Will, whose praise I sing to enjoy my readers.

[3] “Had’st thou not played some Kingly parts in sport, / Thou hadst been a companion for a King”: Why should Shake-speare have to abstain from playing kingly roles in order to be a suitable companion for a King? A brief look at “I knew a Man” (1616)  leads us to the solution at what John Davies of Hereford means to say is: “Even if you hadn’t played some kingly parts to enjoy your audience, you had been a companion for a King.” – Accordingly, in “I knew a Man”, Hereford says: “a Man made once a King [in play] … Yet was it there where lords and ladies met.”

Robert Detobel says: “John Davies of Hereford says about Shakespeare that had he not played kingly roles, he would have been a companion for a king, i.e. a courtier. Even if William Shakepeare of Stratford had not been an actor, he could not have been a companion for a king, for he was a petty trader, and it was socially impossible for a petty trader to be a companion for a king, a courtier.” - Detobel further believes that the fact that the Earl of Oxford alias William Shake-speare played on the stage made him unfit to a “companion for a King". This theory assumes that the Earl appeared on the stage in places other than the royal court, something which I find hard to imagine. See: http://www.shakespeare-today.de/index.190.0.1.html

[4] “And been a King among the meaner sort [rank]”: That means: Shakespeare was indeed the companion of a monarch - and seemed to be of regal rank when among non royals. (The Great Lord Chamberlain was higher in rank than Lord Burghley.) – Davies’ description of Shake-speare supports that of Thomas Edwards’ in Cephalus and Procris (1593):

Adon [the author of Venus and Adonis] deafly masking through
Stately tropes rich conceited,
Shew’d he well deserved to
Loves delight on him to gaze;
And had not love herself intreated,
Other nymphs had sent him baies.

Eke in purple robes distain’d,
Amid’st the Center of this clime [realm],
I have heard say doth remain
One whose power floweth far,
That should have been of our rime
The only object and the star…

[5] “Thou hast no railing, but a reigning Wit: / And honesty thou sow’st which they do reap; / So, to increase their Stock which they do keep”:  John Davies of Hereford says that Shake-speare, the spear shaker, is of a different category of man as his critics. Among his many qualities is that of “honesty”. Others harvest the fruits of his labours and consider themselves noble.- In other words, although Hereford wasn’t exactly the bee’s knees as a poet, he was determined to see that William Shake-speare’s true identity be known to posterity.

***

[6] “Speculum proditori”: In 1616 John Davies of Hereford wrote A Select Second Husband for Sir Thomas Overburie's Wife, dedicated to William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. To this moralistic poem is appended a poem entitled Speculum Proditori: “Mirror of Treason”. - Hereford’s use of capital letters and italic script has not been adopted because it appeared to be random.

[7] “Whose surest forecasts stand on six and seven”:  “To be at sixes and sevens” means to be in a state of disarray. The term was used by Geoffrey Chaucer - and William Shakespeare in Richard the Second, II/2: “But time will not permit: all is uneven / And everything is left at six and seven”. - Already in the first verse of his poem, Davies of Hereford makes a reference to Shake-speare’s historical drama Richard II going on to make many other such references.

[8] “As if yourselves dig’d, for yourselves, your graves, / For th’hollow subject (grave-like) you devoures”: Kings are often the center of plots ans assassination plans, their proximity to the grave is styled in Shakespeare’s King Henry the Sixth and King Richard the Second. The unfortunate Richard II would gladly exchange his kingdom for a grave. (King Richard the Second, III/3):

KING RICHARD. I'll give my jewels for a set of beads …
My subjects for a pair of carved saints,
And my large kingdom for a little grave,
A little little grave, an obscure grave.

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, wrote a poem entitled (“Were I a king”) in which he seems to have knowledge of Richard II’s dilemma:

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.
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.

[9] “These [kings] seldom meet with silver-hairs, though care / Doth (for that tincture) time anticipate”: Kings often die young (wth dark hairs).

[10] “The liege that lies on beds, that sumptuous are, / Sleeps mor in fear than beggars at his gate”: See William Shakespeare: King Richard the Second, V/5:

KING RICHARD. Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented. Sometimes am I king;
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar…

[11] “the neat-herd’s cabinet / Whilst (princely peasant, with his sommer’s queen) / He frolics it, as free from dread as debt”: See William Shakespeare: 3Henry the Sixth, II/5:

KING HENRY. O God! methinks it were a happy life
To be no better than a homely swain ...
Ah, what a life were this! how sweet! how lovely!
Gives not the hawthorn bush a sweeter shade
To shepherds looking on their silly sheep,
Than doth a rich embroider'd canopy
To kings that fear their subjects' treachery?

[12] “In maple mazer, or beach-bowl he quaffs, / And lifts it not to mouth with shaking hands”: See W. Shakespeare: 3Henry the Sixth, II/5:

KING HENRY. And to conclude: the shepherd's homely curds,
His cold thin drink out of his leather bottle,
His wonted sleep under a fresh tree's shade,
All which secure and sweetly he enjoys,
Is far beyond a prince's delicates-
His viands sparkling in a golden cup,
His body couched in a curious bed,
When care, mistrust, and treason waits on him.

[13] “But they enjoy love, peace and merriment, / And therewithall the Kingdom of Content”: Whilst the shepherd is enjoying the “Kingdom of Content” the King is cowering in fear of an assassination attempt. - The parallels between John Davies of Hereford’s moralistic poem Speculum proditori  and the King’s soliloquies from Shakespeare’s King Henry the Sixth and King Richard the Second can surely no longer be attributed to coincidence. Davies’ “Kingdom of Content”also makes direct references to Shakespeare (= Shake-speare) an. See 2Henry the Sixth, IV/9:

KING HENRY. Was ever king that joy'd an earthly throne
And could command no more content than I ? ...
Was never subject long'd to be a King
As I do long and wish to be a subject.

See also: King Richard the Second, III/3:

KING RICHARD. The King shall be contented. Must he lose
The name of king? A God's name, let it go.
I'll give my jewels for a set of beads …

The concept of a “Kindom of Content” also finds expression in Edward de Vere’s “My mind to me a kingdom is”:

Content I live this is my stay
I seek no more than may suffice,
I press to bear no haughty sway,
for what I lack my mind supplies.
Lo thus I triumph like a king,
Content with that my mind doth bring.

In “Were I a king” he employs the phrases:  “Were I a king, I might command content” and “Wert thou a king, yet not command content”. (See note 8.)

[14] “They fear not fortune’s frowns, nor weigh her fawns; / Their great ambition is to live and love / Much coin need not, much less precious pawns / That by a cow can live, and pleasure’s prove”: See Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, “My mind to me a kingdom is”:

I laugh not at another’s loss,
I grudge not at another’s gain;
No worldly waves my mind can toss,
my state at one doth still remain.
I fear no foe, I fawn no friend,
I loathe not life and dread no end...
My wealth is health and perfect ease,
my conscience clear my chief defence;
I neither seek by bribes to please,
nor by deserts to breed offence.
Thus do I live, thus will I die,
Would all did so as well as I!

[15] “O heavenly-earthly life, life for a king: / that lives with nothing as with ev’rything”: An inversion of King Richard’s desperate reflexion (King Richard the Second, V/5):

KING RICHARD. But whate'er I be,
Nor I, nor any man that but man is,
With nothing shall be pleas'd till he be eas'd
With being nothing.

[16] “I knew a Man, unworthy as I am, / And yet too worthy for a counterfeit”: Only now, in the light of the subject matter of verse 25,  does Davies remember the man who performed for lords and ladies who regarded him as their equal. - Unworthy as I am: Wir haben die Erklärung zu “unworthy” im OED zu berücksichtigen: (2.b) Conventionally or devotionally used as an expression of humility. (c.1532 G. Du Wes: ‘Written by your unworthy servant’. 1660 R. Allestree: ‘O most bountiful Lord…hast in an extraordinary measure abounded to me thy unworthiest Servant’. (3.c) Of superior worth or merit (constant ‘to’). 1746 Francis, tr. Horace, Satires ‘Why lives in deep Distress A Man unworthy to be poor?’.

[17] “When to himself he smil'd, and said, lo here / I have for nought, what kings do buy so dear”: This matches the style of Oxford’s poem: “My mind to me a kingdom is”.

My mind to me a kingdom is;
such perfect joy therein I find
That it excells all other bliss
that world affords or grows by kind.
Though much I want which most would have,
yet still my mind forbids to crave.
No princely pomp, nor wealthy store,
no force to win the victory,
No wily wit to salve a sore,
no shape to feed each gazing eye;
To none of these I yield as thrall,
for why? my mind doth serve for all.

[18] “No odds there was in show (and but in show, Kings are too often honour'd)”: That means: No difference between him and kings was apparent. It is not unknown for the adulation and respect given to kings, to be merely feigned when, although King by birth, lacking the inner conviction, they still merely go through the motions of regal behavior.

[19] “save that he / Was but twelve gamesome days to king it so”: This is a reference to the twelve days of Christmas as celebrated at the royal court. - Wikipedia: Twelfth Night is a festival, in some branches of Christianity, marking the coming of the Epiphany and concluding the Twelve Days of Christmas.

[20] “But he without blood did behead his foes”: A reference to the noble birth of the actor playing the part of the King - A letter from Gilbert Talbot (later Earl of Shrewsbury) to his father, dated 5 March 1579, bears witness to the activities of Edward de Vere, the actor.

It is but vain to trouble your Lordship with such shows as were showed before Her Majesty this Shrovetide [1 – 3 March 1579] at night. The chiefest was a device presented by the persons of the Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Surrey [Philip Howard], the Lords Thomas Howard and [Frederick Baron] Windsor. The device was prettier than it happened to have been performed; but the best of it, and I think the best liked, was two rich jewels which were presented to Her Majesty by the two Earls.

[21] “He could command, and have all as he would”: Again a reference to the words of King Henry the Sixth: “Was ever king that joy'd an earthly throne / And could command no more content than I?” (See note 13.)