5.2.4. Poems 102 - 112 (1575-1591)




102. We praise the plough, that makes the fruitless soil

T. B. In praise of Gascoignes Posies.

We praise the plough, that makes the fruitless soil
To bring forth corn, (through help of heavenly might)
And eke esteem the simple wretches toil,
Whose painful hands do labour day and night.
We praise the ground whereon the herbs do grow,
Which heal or help our griefs and mortal pain,
Yea weeds have worth wherein we virtue know,
For nature’s art nothing hath made in vain[1].
We praise those flow’rs which please the secret sense,
And do content the taste or smell of man:
The gardners pains and work we recompense,
That skillful is, or aught in cunning can.
But much more praise to Gascoignes pen is due,
Whose learned hand doth here to thee present,
A Posy full of Herbes, and Flowers new,
To please all brains, to wit or learning bent.
How much the mind doth pass the sense or smell,
So much these Flowers all other do excel.


Source: The Posies of George Gascoigne Esquire (1575 

All in all, there are twenty (!) poems that recommend our reading of the Posies (=bunches of flowers / mottos / poems). It seems very probable that George Gascoigne wrote six of them himself ; other authors were George Whetstone (W. G.), Thomas Churchyard (T. Ch.), Richard Smith (R. S.), Henry Bynneman (Printer), and Gabriel Harvey (G. H.) (See, The Adventures of Master F. I., Frankfurt 2006; p. 187 and 244 f.) .

The first two Commendatory Verses, which were initialled with T. B. and E. C. can both be attributed to one particular author whose literary talent puts the efforts of Gascoigne and his friends to shame. These poems have a far wider intellectual horizon, they are cleverer, brighter, more sparing in the use of words, while superior in intellectual content. By the by, they show a marked similarity in style to Oxfords: “The labouring man” (No. 1) and Phaeton's humorous dedication to John Florio: “To look upon a work of rare device” (No. 99). We can safely assume that, in these works, the Earl was recommending a collection of poems that he had partially written by himself.


103. In gladsome spring when sweet and pleasant showers

E. C. In praise of Gascoignes Posies.

In gladsome spring when sweet and pleasant showers
Have well renewd what winters wrath hath torn,
And that we see the wholesome smelling flowers,
Begin to laugh rough winters wrack to scorn:
If then by chance, or choice of owners will,
We roam and walk in place of rare delights,
And therein find what art or natures skill
Can well set forth, to feed our hungry sights:

Yea more, if then the owner of the soil,
Doth licence yield to use all as our own,
And gladly thinks, the fruits of all his toil
To our behoof to be well set and sown.
It cannot be but this so great desert
In basest breast doth breed this due regard
With world of thanks to praise this friendly part,
And wish that worth mought pay a just reward.
Good reader then, behold what gallant spring
This book brings forth of fruits of finest sorts:
Be bold to take thy list of every thing,
For so is meet. And for thy glad disports
The pain was tane: therefore lo this I crave,
In his behalf, that wrote this pleasant work
With care and cost, (and then most freely gave
His labours great wherein great treasures lurk
To thine avail) let his deserts now bind thee,
In word and deed he may still thankful find thee[2].

Source: The Posies of George Gascoigne Esquire (1575 


104. In rowsing verses of Mavors’ bloody reign

N. R. in commendation of George Gascoigne and his works.

In rowsing verses of Mavors’ bloody reign
The famous Greek and Maro did excel[3].
Grave Senec did, surmount for tragic vein,
Quick epigrams, Catullus wrote as well.
Archilochus did for jambics pass[4],
for comic verse still Plautus peerless was.

In elegies and wanton love writ lays
Sans peer were Naso and Tibullus deem’d:
In satires sharp (as men of mickle praise)
Lucilius and Horace were esteem’d[5].
Thus divers men with divers veins did write,
But Gascoigne doth in every vein indite.

And what performance he thereof doth make,
I list not vaunt, his works for me shall say;
In praising him Timantes trade I take[6],
Who (when he should the woeful cheer display,
Duke Agamemnon had when he did wail
His daughter’s death with tears of small avail:

Not skilled to countershape his mournful grace,
That men might deem, what art could not supply)
Devised with painted veil, to shrowd his face.
Like sort my pen shall Gascoigne’s praise descry,
Which wanting grace, his graces to rehearse,
Doth shroud and cloud them thus in silent verse.


Source: The Steele Glas. A satyre compiled by George Gascoigne Esquire (1576)

In 1576 “N. R.” wrote a poem of commendation to Gascoigne's famous satire in blank verse: The Steele Glas. Having analysed the literary style of N.R.'s poem we believe that the acronym “N.R.” was used by The Earl of Oxford. In this poem of commendation, Oxford praises Gascoigne's versatility: Homer, Vergil, Catull, Seneca, Archilochos and Plautus, Ovid, Tibull, Lucilius and Horaz had all excelled in their own specialised fields but Gascoigne writes “ in every vein”------. The funny side of the matter lies in the fact that “Gascoigne's” Posies (1575) also contain works from the Earl of Oxford. N. R. continues in this ironic manner by comparing the task of describing Gascoigne's work with that of the painter Timanthes, who's task it was to paint the desolated King Agamemnon during the sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigenia. It was impossible to capture such intense emotions on canvas, just as it was impossible to ignore them. The artist solved the problem by portraying King Agamemnon with a veil over his face. N.R. confesses, that he can find no words to describe Gascoigne’s talent and that the first thing that came to mind would be a poetic veil of silence, just like the veil over Agamemnon's face.

We find this same use of hyperbole in No. 50, in which Meritum petere grave fails to see how he can describe even the lesser of a lady's virtues, and again in No. 98 when Ignoto excuses himself from the task of writing words of praise with the statement: “ I here pronounce this workmanship is such, / As that no pen can set it forth too much”.


105. What thing is Will, without good Wit?


What thing is will, without good wit?
Or what is wit, without good will?
The one the other doth so fit:
As each alone can be but ill.
But when they once be well agreed,
Their work is likely well to speed.

For proof, behold good Breton’s will,
By help of wit, what it hath writ:
A work not of the meanest skill,
Nor such as shows a simple wit.
But such a wit and such a will,
As hath done well, and hateth ill.

I need not to commend the man,
Whom none can justly discommend:
But do the best, the best that can,
Yet some will spite, and so I end.
What I have said, I say so still,
I must commend this wit and will.

                                                             C. A.

Source: Nicholas Breton, The Wil of Wit, Wit's Wil, or Wits Wit [1580](1597)

“What thing is will” is the first of two commendation poems to Nicholas Breton’s The Wil of Wit which was entered into the Stationers’ Register on 7 September 1580. The Wil of Wit must have been known so early as 1582, as Breton is incidentally mentioned as the author of it in the diary of Richard Madox in 1582. Both the frst and second edition of the book are lost; we only know the editions from 1597, 1599 und 1606. The last edition is titled: The Will of Wit, Wit's Will, or Will's Wit, chuse you whether. Containing five discourses … being the fifth time imprinted. Compiled by Nicholas Breton, Gentleman. (London 1606).

Several factors point to Oxford’s authorship of this poem. 1. The intricate musical style, combined with a turn of phrase, typical for Oxford: “I need not to commend the man, / Whom none can justly discommend” (See, No. 98: “To labour to commend a piece of work / Which no man goes about to discommend, / Would raise a jealous doubt that there did lurk” and No. 104: “Like sort my pen shall Gascoigne’s praise descry, / Which wanting grace, his graces to rehearse, / Doth shroud and cloud them thus in silent verse). – 2. In other poems from Oxford we also find this playful use of the words “wit” and “will” (See, No. 64: “Where is the passsing grace of Tully’s pleading skill? / Or Aristotle’s vein, whose pen had wit at will?” and No. 82: “No quiet sleep shall once possess mine eye / Till wit have wrought his will on injury” etc.) – 3. Breton was a familiar friend of Oxford’s co-author George Gascoigne who had married Breton’s widowed mother.  – 4. In the light of the rather close connection between Nicholas Breton (1545-1626) and Oxford (or Shake-speare) it would not surprise if Breton were to have asked the dramatic poet to make a contribution to The Wil of Wit. Breton imitated the title of Oxford’s and Gascoigne’s anthology (A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres, Bounde up in one small Poesie. Gathered partely in the fyne outlandish Gardins of Euripides, Ovid, Petrarke, Ariosto, and others: and partly by invention, out of our owne fruitefull Orchardes in Englande… bothe pleasant and profitable to the well smellyng noses of learned Readers, 1573) , introducing his first literary publication with the words:  A smale handfull of fragrant flowers selected and gathered out of the louely garden of sacred scriptures, fit for any honorable or woorshipfull gentlewoman to smell vnto (1577). Oxford’s dialogue sonnet: No. 91 (“When wert you born Desire?”) appears in the collection Britton’s Bowre of Delights in 1591 - eleven years after it had served as the inspiration for two poems in Breton’s The Wil of Wit, Wit's Wil, or Wits Wit.[7]    


106. What shall I say of gold more than ‘tis gold


What shall I say of gold more than 'tis gold;
Or call the diamond more than precious;
Or praise the man with praises manifold,
When of himself himself is vertuous ?
Wit is best wit, yet such his wit and will,
As proves ill good, or makes good to be ill.

Why? what his wit ? proceed, and ask his will;
Why? what his will ? read on, and learn of wit;
Both good, I guess, yet each a several ill;
This may seem strange to those that hear of it;
Nay, ne’re a whit[8], for vertue many ways
Is made a vice, yet vertue hath her praise.

Wherefore, O Breton, worthy is thy work
Of commendations, worthy to be worth;
Like captious wits in every corner lurk,
A bold attempt it is to set them forth,
A form of wit, and that of such a sort
As ne’re offends, for all is said in sport.

And such a sport as serves for other kinds,
Both young and old, for learning, arms and love;
For ladies’ humours, mirth and moan he finds,
With some extremes their patient minds to prove:
Well, Breton, write on hard, thou hast the thing
That, when it comes, love, wealth, and fame will bring.

W. S.

Source: Nicholas Breton, The Wil of Wit, Wit's Wil, or Wits Wit [1580](1597)

The same reasons that speak for Oxford’s authorship of No. 105 apply to No. 106, “What shall I say of gold more than 'tis gold.”

The fact is that, in the third edition of 1597 the poem is signed with the initials “W. S.” - In the lost edition of 1580 the two commendatory poems were probably signed with meaningless initials (similar to those used for Nos. 101-104). In the new edition of 1597 Breton (quite rightly) replaced these initials with the (far more appropriate) “W. S.”

Alexander B. Grosart, the expert for Elizabethan literature who edited the works of Sir John Davies, Fulke Greville, John Donne, Sir Philip Sidney, John Davies of Hereford, Robert Greene, Thomas Nashe, Gabriel Harvey, Thomas Dekker, Edmund Spenser, Samuel Daniel and Nicholas Breton, wrote in 1879: “The ‘gold’ and play on ‘Will’ at once remind of Shakespeare. It is singular that he neither gave nor sought commendatory verses, although it was the mode. I like to believe that Shakespeare thus paid dainty compliment to our Worthy.”


107. In Peascod time when hound to horn

The Shepherd’s slumber.

In Peascod time when hound to horn
  gives ear while buck be killed:[9]
And little lads with pipes of corn
  sat keeping beasts a-field,
I went to gather strawberries tho,
  in woods and groves full fair,
And parched my face with Phoebus so,
  by walking in the air.
That down I laid me by a stream
  with boughs all over-clad,
And there I met the strangest dream
  that ever shepherd had. 

Methought I saw each Christmas game,
  each revel all and some,
And everything that I can name
  or may in fancy come.
The substance of the sights I saw,
  in silence pass they shall:
Because I lack the skill to draw
  the order of them all.

But Venus shall not pass my pen,
  whose maidens in disdain
Did feed upon the hearts of men,
  that Cupids bow had slain.
And that blind boy was all in blood,
  be-bath’d up to the ears,
And like a conqueror he stood,
  and scorned lover’s tears.

I have (quoth he) more hearts at call
  than Caesar could command,
And like the deer I make them fall,
  that runneth o’er the land[10].
One drops down here, another there,
  in bushes as they groan,
I bend a scornful careless ear,
  to hear them make their moan.

Ah Sir (quoth Honest Meaning) then,
  thy boy-like brags I hear:
When thou hast wounded many a man,
  as huntsman do the deer,
Becomes it thee to triumph so?
  thy mother wills it not:
For she has rather break thy bow,
  than thou should’st play the sot.

What saucy merchant speaketh now?
  said Venus in her rage:
Art thou so blind thou knowst not how
  I govern every age?
My son doth shoot no shaft in waste,
  to me the boy is bound:
He never found a heart so chaste,
  but he had power to wound.

Not so, fair goddess (quoth Free Will),
  in me there is a choice:
And cause I am of mine own ill,
  if I in thee rejoice.
And when I yield myself a slave
  to thee, or to thy son,
Such recompense I ought not have,
  if things be rightly done.

Why fool, stepp’d forth Delight, and said,
  when thou art conquer’d thus:
Then lo, Dame Lust, that wanton maid,
  thy Mistress is, I wus.
And Lust is Cupid’s darling dear,
  behold her where she goes:
She creeps the milk-warm flesh so near,
  she hides her under close.
Where many privy thoughts do dwell,
  a heaven here on earth:
For they have never mind of hell,
  they think so much on mirth.

Be still Good Meaning, (quoth Good Sport),
  let Cupid triumph make:
For sure his kingdom shall be short,
  if we no pleasure take.
Fair Beauty, and her play-feres gay,
  the vergins Vestalles too:
Shall sit and with their fingers play,
  as idle people do.
If Honest Meaning fall to frown,
  an I Good Sport decay,
Then Venus’ glory will come down
  and they will pine away.

Indeed (quoth Wit) this your device
  with strangeness must be wrought,
And where you see these women nice,
  and looking to be sought:
With scowling brows their follies check,
  and so give them the fig:
Let Fancy be no more at beck,
  ; when Beauty looks so big.

When Venus heard how they conspir’d,
  to murther women so,
Methought indeed the house was fired
  with storms and lightning thro.
The thunderbolt through windows burst,
  and in there steps a wight:
Which seem’d some soul or sprite accursed,
  so ugly was the sight.

I charge you Ladies all (quoth he)
  look to yourselves in haste:
For if that men so willful be,
  and have their thoughts so chaste;
And they can tread on Cupids breast
  and march on Venus’ face:
Then they shall sleep in quiet rest,
  when you shall wail your case.

With that had Venus all in spite
  stirr’d up the Dames to ire:
And Lust fell cold, and Beauty white,
  sat babbling with Desire.
Whose mutt’ring words I might not mark,
  much whispering there arose:
The day did lower, the sun wax’d dark,
  away each Lady goes.

But whither went this angry flock,
  our Lord himself doth know.
Wherewith full loudly crew the cock,
  and I awaked so.
A dream (quoth I?) a dog it is,
  I take thereon no keep:
I gage my head, such toys as this
  doth spring from lack of sleep.

L. ox.

Sources: Churchyards Chance (1580); [lines 1-32] Coningsby, fol. 51-53 [L. ox.]; Finet, fol. 51-53;  Englands Helicon (1600) [Ignoto]

We find this poem in a work entitled Churchyards Chance. It’s author Thomas Churchyard (c. 1520-1604) was an unglamourous writer. In early he was a page to the Earl of Surrey, and in middle years a member of the Earl of Oxford’s entourage. As an old man he witnessed King James’ arrival in London. He liked to write about dreams and such, but it is unlikely that he would have written a line like: “In Peascod time when hound to horn / gives ear while buck be killed.” That is why Humphrey Coningsby’s allocation of the poem to the Earl of Oxford (approx. 1583/84) seems far more plausible. On the other hand, it isn’t typical for an Oxford poem either; it is somehow too “smooth”. As a special favor to his employee, the Earl might have made the noble gesture of writing In Peascod time when hound to horn especially for Churchyard’s Chance


108. What is Desire which doth approve

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

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

Is he a 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 bale 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,
And when he craves he takes no nays.

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.


Sources: Coningsby, fol. 21 [Ewph.]; Finet, fol. 15

The poem is signed  Ewph (= Euphues). This grazer’s name was usually associated with John Lily (from his novel Euphues = ‘The well-shaped man’). On the other hand, Lyly’s Euphues refers to the Earl of Oxford, his patron; furthermore Anthony Munday called Oxford “mi formose” (= my well-shaped friend.) - In the handwritten collections of Finet and Coningsby there are no other poems from John Lyly.

In Coningsby, “What is desire” is placed between “If fortune may enforce” (No. 67) and “When I was fair and young” (No. 90); in Finet’s collection, between “The lively lark” (No. 71) and “When wert thou born” (No. 91). 


109. What thing is love? It is a power divine

What thing is love? It is a power divine
That reigns in us: or else a wreakful law
That dooms our minds, to beauty to incline:
It is a star, whose influence doth draw
   Our heart to Love dissembling of his might,
   Till he be maister of our hearts and sight.

Love is a discord and a strange divorce
Betwixt our sense and reason, by whose power,
As mad with reason, we admit that force
Which wit or labour never may devour:
   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 thoughts
   Of days ill spent of that which profits noughts.

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.
   It is a secret hidden and not known,
   Which one may better feel than write upon.

[E. O.]

Sources: Robert Greene, Menaphon, p. 84 f. (1589); (2-4) Englands Parnassus (1600)

A free translation from Mellin de Saint-Gelais: “Description D’Amour. - Qu’est-ce qu`Amour? Est-ce une Déité…” from 1547. - On the other hand, Saint-Gelais’ poem is a pastiche on Pietro Bembo’s Canto XXXV: “Amor è, donne care, un vano e fello” from 1530. (See, No. 26.) 

Qu’est-ce qu'Amour ? est-ce une déité
Régnante en nous? ou loy qui se contente
De nous sans force et sans nécessité ?
C'est un pouvoir, qui, par secrette sente,
Se joint au coeur, dissimulant sa force,
Et se fait maistre avant que l'on le sente.
C’est un discord general divorce,
D'entre les sens et le vray jugement,
Laissans le fruict pour la feuille et l'escorce.
C'est un sçavoir incongnu et latent,
Et qui se peut trop mieux sentir que dire:
Parquoy je suis de m'en taire content,
Et pour penser abandonne l'escrire.

(What is love? Is she a goddess who dwells within us? Or is she the law that effortlessly drives us to abandon our free will and follow her? She is the power that stalks along secret paths to our breasts, whitling away the strength of our hearts and setting up her royal court as the ruler of our being. She is disharmony, she is the separation of heart and reason, she shuns the fruit for leaf and bark … She is an unknown hidden secret that is best lived than spoken: That is why I choose silence and better think than write upon.)

In his treasury of quotes; Englands Parnassus (1600) Robert Allot attributes the poem to the Earl of Oxford (E. O.). He is in all likelihood right because the poem appears in the form of a foreign body in Greene’s story - it follows to the anthem of a young couple, confessing their love for each other.

Robert Detobel pointed out the similarity to some lines in Romeo and Juliet, I/1:

Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs;
Being purg'd , a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes;
Being vex'd, a sea nourish'd with lovers' tears;
What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.


110. A day, a night, an hour of sweet content

A day, a night, an hour of sweet content,
Is worth a world consum’d in fretful care,
Unequal gods in your arbitrement
To sort us days whose sorrows endless are,
   And yet what were it? as a fading flower;
   To swim in bliss, a day, a night, an hour.

What plague is greater than a grief of mind,
The grief of mind that eats in every vein[11],
In every vein that leaves such clods behind,
Such clods behind as breed such bitter pain,
   So bitter pain that none shall ever find,
   What plague is greater than the grief of mind.

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


Sources: [First stanza] Coningsby, fol. 78v: [I. I.];  Sir P. S. His Astrophel and Stella... to the end of which are added sundry other rare Sonnets of divers Noble men and Gentlemen (1591) [CONTENT]; [second and third stanza] Englands Parnassus (1600)

The poem „A day, a night, an hour of sweet content“ was first published in 1591 as the fifth of five poems (or Canti) in an appendage to Thomas Newman's edition of Sidney's “Astrophel and Stella”. (28 sonnets from Samuel Daniel’s Delia were also published for the first time in the same appendage. First came Delia, followed by the five Canti and Oxford's poem “Faction that ever dwells” (No. 100), ultimately an anonymous poem: “If floods of tears”.) - ‘Canto Quinto’ (Canto 5) is ascribed to “CONTENT”. ‘Canto Primo’ and ‘Canto Secundo’ are probably written by the young Thomas Campion (1567-1620). ‘Canto Tertio’ and ‘Canto Quarto’ are a six liner and a four liner respectively, the one being whimsical, the other refined.[12]

In his anthology Englands Parnassus (1600) Robert Allot attributes the authorship of Canti Tertio and Quarto to the Earl of Oxford, although we believe that Campion might have written them. With Allot we believe in Oxford’s authorship of ‘Canto Quinto’ because of 1) the high quality of the poem. 2) Oxford's characteristic style and choice of words. 3) the weaving of dialogue into the sonnets. 4) the fact that the first verse of ‘Canto Quinto’ can be found at the end of Humphrey Coningsby’s collection of verse (BL, MS. Harl. 7392), created in 1585 / 86. (At that point in time, Campion was far too young to have been the author.)


111. When Cupid is content to keep the skies

“A man singular for his learning, and magistrate of no small account, upon slight survey of this book of passions, either for the liking he had to the Author, or for his own private pleasure, or for some good he conceived of the work, vouchsafed with his own hand to set down certain poesies concerning the same: amongst which this was one, Love hath no leaden heels. Whereat the Author glanceth throughout all this Sonnet; which he purposely compiled at the press, in remembrance of his worshipful friend, and in honor of his golden poesy.” (Thomas Watson)

When Cupid is content to keep the skies,
He never takes delight in standing still,
But to and fro, and ev'rywhere he flies,
And ev'ry God subdueth at his will,
As if his bow were like to Fortune's wheel,
Himself like her, having no leaden heel[13].

When otherwhiles he passeth Lemnos Ile,
Unhappy boy he gibes the clubfoot Smith,
Who threatens him, and bids him stay a while,
But laughing out he leaves him he forthwith,
And makes himself companion with the wind
To show, his heels are of no leaden kind.

But in myself I have too true a proof:
For when he first espied my ranging heart,
He falcon-like came sousing from aloof,
His swiftly falling stroke increas'd my smart:
As yet my heart the violence it feels,
Which makes me say, Love hath no leaden heels.


Source: Thomas Watson, Hekatompathia (1582); Passion LXVII.

Strangely enough, academia has failed to take Thomas Watson’s foreword to Passion LXVII seriously. The reference to his „worshipful friend“, whom he calls „a man singular for his learning“ und „magistrate of no small account“ to boot, matches the Earl of Oxford in every respect. First of all with regard to his social standing and secondly his extraordinary level of education and his literary skills. In addition, it should not be forgotten that Watson dedicated his collection to this distinctive and talented Earl (with the remark that the given volume of poems would – through Oxford’s patronage – gain reputation in a similar way Appelles’ portraits did after Alexander the Great’s appreciation); which, however, leads us into attributing „When Cupid is content to keep the skies“ to the poetic Earl is the exceptional quality of the poem putting Watson’s academic skills in his poetry and his free adaptations in the shade by far!

Last but not least, the image the author designs of Cupido corresponds to what we know from Oxford’s poetry. In Oxford’s eyes Amor is an agile, unscrupulous and “bloody” seducer and conqueror. Si fortunatus infoelix speaks of „thy great unrest,/ Which cruel Cupid kindled hath within thy broken breast” (No. 24) and ironically treats “The tickle track of crafty Cupid’s maze” (No. 29). Spraeta tamen vivunt even calls him a dog once: “Desire the dog did spring me up in haste” (No. 38). “E. O.” writes: “The wisest wit that ever had the fame, / Was thrall to love by Cupid's sleights” (No. 74) and „What tyrant, Cupid, to my harm usurps thy golden quiver?” (No. 89). Moreover, in „The judgment of desire (No. 71) he evokes the portrait of a  merciless Amor feasting his eyes on a desiring man’s agonies.(„Nor greater joy can be than this, / Than to enjoy what others miss”).

In this case the blind God’s character of a predatory bird is underlined in a plain and elegant manner: “He falcon-like came sousing from aloof, / His swiftly falling stroke increas'd my smart“.

Speaking of Cupido’s “leaden heels” reflects Watson’s lines “Love hath two shafts, the one of beaten gold ... The other is of lumpish leaden mold” (Passion LXIII).


112. My thoughts are wing’d with hopes, my hopes with love

My thoughts are wing’d with hopes, my hopes with love[14];
Mount, love, unto the Moon in clearest night,
And say, as she doth in the heavens move,
In earth so wanes and waxes my delight:
And whisper this, but softly, in her ears,
Hope oftʼ doth hang the head, and trust shed tears.

And you, my thoughts, that some mistrust do carry,
If for mistrust my Mistress do you blame,
Say, though you alter, yet you do not vary,
As she doth change, and yet remain the same[15].
Distrust doth enter hearts, but not infect,
And love is sweetest season’d with suspect.

If she for this with clouds do mask her eyes[16],
And make the heavens dark with her disdain,
With windy sighs disperse them in the skies,
Or with the tears dissolve them into rain.
Thoughts, hopes, and love return to me no more[17],
Till Cynthia shine as she hath done before.

W. S.


Sources: [Without initials] John Dowland, The First Book of Ayres (1597); Englands Helicon (1600). – [With initials] Handwritten collection of 1604, once preserved in the Hamburg City Library. [18]

The poem addressed to Queen Elizabeth (in the form of the moon goddess Cynthia) gained attention through its contemporary attribution to „W. S.“ Although the handwritten manuscript supplied with the spectacular initials in which „My thoughts are wing’d with hopes, my hopes with love“ has been lost, the fact of its attribution remains. And already the Shakespeare expert (and forger) John Payne Collier (1789-1883) realized „The song is not unworthy of Shakspeare’s muse.” (Early English Poetry, Ballads and Popular Literature of the Middle Ages, Vol. XIII. Lyrical Poems, selected from Musical Publications between the years 1589 and 1600. Ed. by John Payne Collier, p. VI.)

The poet performs the miracle of assuring Cynthia of his complete devotion (stanza 1), then of voicing his mistrust, excusing it in turn with HER mistrust and doubts (stanza 2) and finally making it up by offering proven sighs of love and dispelling the clouds from her face (stanza 3). Apart from the fact that no other contemporary author would have dared to bring himself to write such bold lines – the doubts articulated in a virtuoso manner and the charming-ironical claim „And love is sweetest: season’d with suspekt“ perfectly match Oxford’s and the Queen’s lifelong story of love and suffering, as she continually both supported and disappointed him.

In two earlier poems and one later (Nos. 8, 48 und 101) Oxford addressed the Queen as Cynthia and compared her glory to the glory of his love – with the hidden meaning that Elizabeth could feel addressed simultaneously as Cynthia and as beloved. In any case this poem, set to music by John Dowland and included in John Bodenham’s well-known collection of courtly poetry (Englands Helicon, 1600) [19] has very much to do with the spearshaker William Shake-speare and nothing at all with the actor Will Shakspere.



[1] “For nature’s art nothing hath made in vain”: See, No. 67: “I know, there is no fruit, no leaf, no root, no rind, / No herb, no plant, no juice, no gum, no metal deeply mind: / No Pearl, no precious stone, ne Gem of rare effect, / Whose virtues learned Galen’s books at large do not detect.”

[2] “And for thy glad disports / The pain was tane: therefore lo this I crave, / In his behalf, that wrote this pleasant work / (...) let his deserts now bind thee, / In word and deed he may still thankful find thee”: Die Mühe des Autors soll nicht unbelohnt bleiben. D.h. der Leser wird aufgefordert, das ironische Verdikt aus Oxfords poetischer Empfehlung Cardanos (No. 1) zu widerlegen: „So he that takes the pain to pen the book, / Reaps not the gifts of goodly golden muse“. - See, Edmund Spenser’s remarks in “Ægloga decima” (October) of The Shepheardes Calender (1580): “In Cuddie is set out the perfect pattern of a Poet, which finding no maintenance of his state and studies, complayneth of the contempt of Poetry, and the causes thereof.”

[3] “In rowsing verses of Mavors’ bloody reign / The famous Greek and Maro did excel”: Mavors is identical with Mars. ‘The famous Greek’ is a reference to Homer, the author of the Ilias. Maro = Publius Vergilius Maro, the author of the Aeneis.

[4] “Archilochus did for Iambics pass”: The Greek poet Archilochus (c.680 B.C. – c.645 B.C.), famous for his sarcastic, mocking poems.

[5]Lucilius and Horace were esteem’d”: Gaius Lucilius (180 B.C.-103 B.C.) , a Roman poet who was involved in the development of satire.

[6] “In praising him Timantes trade I take”: Timanthes (born on the Island of Kythnos) was a Greek painter, active around the period of 400 B.C.  A description of the painting here discussed can be found in Plinius, Naturalis historia 35, 73: “Timanthes was very inventive and his portrayal of the sacrifice of Iphigenie was highly praised. Iphigenie is to be sacrificed to the God Artemis, in return for a safe passage to Troy for the Greek army. Timantes shows her on the sacrificial alter surrounded by members of her family. He depicts the sorrow and desparation of all those present, with the exception of Iphigenie's father Agamemnon. Timanthes considers himself to be unworthy of portraying such profound grief and so he portrays the King with a veil covering his face.”

[7] “it had served as the inspiration for two poems in Breton’s The Wil of Wit, Wit's Wil, or Wits Wit ”:

A song between Wit and Will.

Wit. What art thou. Will ? W. A babe of nature's brood.
Wit. Who was thy sire ? W.  sweet lust, as Lovers say.
Wit. Thy mother who ? W.  wild lusty wanton blood,
Wit. when wert thou born ? W. In merry month of May.
Wit. And where brought up? W. In school of little skill:
Wit. What learn’dst thou there ? W. Love is my lesson still.

Wit. Where read’st thou that? W. In lines of sweet delight,
Wit. The Author who? W. Desire did draw the Book:
Wit. who teacheth? W. Time. Wit. what order? W. Lovers’ right,
Wit. what that? W. To catch Content, by hook or crook.
Wit. where keeps he school? W. In wilderness of woe:
Wit. why lives he there? W. The fates appoint it so.

Wit. Why did they so? W. it was their secret will,
Wit. what was their will? W. to work fond Lovers’ woe:
Wit. what was their woe? W. By spite their sport to spill,
Wit. what was their sport? W. Dame nature best doth know.
Wit. How grows their spite? W. By want of wish. Wit. what that?
Will. Wit knows right well. Will may not tell thee what.

Wit. Then Will adieu. W. Yet stand me in some steed,
Wit. wherewith sweet will? W. Alas, by thine advise:
Wit. whereto good will? W. To win my wish with speed,
Wit. I know not how. W. Oh Lord! that Will were wise.
Wit. wouldst thou be wise. W. Full fain. Wit. then come from school.
       Take this of wit: Love learns to play the fool.

The Song between Misery and Care.

Mis. What art thou. care ? C. A secret skill unseen.
M. Who was thy sire? C. sound wisdom. M. Mother who ?
C. Devise. M. And who thy Nurse ? C. Delight, I ween,
M. when wert thou born ? C. In harvest. M. what to do ?
C. To work. M. with whom? C. with wit and honest will:
M. what work? C. In grain, to glean the good from ill.

M. What good? C. The best. M. And how? C. by wary eye,
M. whose eye is that? C. the eye of perfect sight:
M. Who bears that eye? C. The head that hath me nigh.
M. whose head is that? C. Each one that loves delight.
M. But what delight? C. That longest doth endure,
M. Oh Care. C. I come, thy comfort to procure.

M. Whence dost thou come? C. I come from lofty Sky,
M. when camst thou thence? C. Even now. M. who sent thee so?
C. The Gods. M. whereto? C. To comfort Misery:
M. But how? C. By wit to work his ease of woe.
M. What woe? C. The worst. M. what that? C. The grief of mind,
M. Oh. C. Fear not, Care will quickly comfort find.

[8] “Nay, ne’re a whit”: None at all.

[9] “In Peascod time when hound to horn / gives ear while buck be killed”: ‘Peascod time’ is wooing time: between June and August when peas ripen.

For the young agricultural workers pea pods had a powerful meaning, similar to Oberon’s magical flower. They believed that they could predict the course of their sex life by reading the pea pods at the beginning of spring. “Peascod” is an invertion of “codpiece”, the bagged appendage to the front of the close-fitting hose or breeches. “Cod” can mean either the pea pod or the scrotum; the word play does indeed have a certain potential.

In the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) we only find one mention of “peascod time” and that is a passage from 2Henry IV (II/4):

HOSTESS. Well, fare thee well. I have known thee these twenty-nine years, come peascod-time
But in another passage, this time from As You Like It (II/4), Shakespeare plays with the same idea.
TOUCHSTONE. I remember the wooing of peascod instead of her; from whom I took two cods,
and giving her them again, said with weeping tears ‚Wear these for my sake.’

[10] “And like the deer I make them fall, / that runneth o’er the land”: At this point Coningsby sways from the original wording and continues in his own style. [modern spelling]:

I [Amor] do increase their wandring wits, till that I dim their sight.
‘Tis I that do bereave them of their Joy and chief delight.’
Thus did I see this bragging boy advance himself even then,
Deriding at the wanton toys, of foolish loving men.
Which when I saw for anger then my panting breast did beat,
To see how he sat taunting them, upon his royal seat.
O then I wish'd I had been free, and cured were my wound.
Methought I could display his arms, and coward deeds expound.
But I perforce must stay my muse, full sore against my heart
For that I am a subject wight, and lanced with his dart.
But if that I achieve the fort, which I have took in charge,
My hand and head with quivering quill, shall blaze his name at large.

Coningsby tried to shrink a long poem down to a short paradoxical aphorism, thus were the limits of his imagination.

[11] “What plague is greater than a grief of mind / The grief of mind that that eats in every vein” etc.: The literary device of anadiplosis (= selective repetition). See, poems Nos. 5, 31 and 91.

[12] “the one being whimsical, the other refined”:

Canto Tertio.

My Love bound me with a kiss
That I should no longer stay:
When I felt so sweet a bliss,
I had less power to pass away:
Alas that women do not know
Kisses make men loath to go.

Canto Quarto.

Love whets the dullest wits, his plagues be such,
But makes the wise by pleasing dote as much:
So wit is purchased by this dire disease,
Oh let me dote, so Love be bent to please.

[13] As if his bow were like to Fortune's wheel, / Himself like her, having no leaden heel Oxford’s poem responds to  Watson’s Passion LXIII when it says:

Love hath two shafts, the one of beaten gold,
By stroke whereof a sweet effect is wrought:
The other is of lumpish leaden mold,
And worketh none effect, but what is nought –

See E. Pearlman (1993) Watson's hekatompathia in the sonnets and Romeo and Juliet, English Studies, 74:4, 343-351.

[14] My thoughts are wing’d with hopes, my hopes with love: See Oxford, Poems No. 86.

Winged with desire, I seek to mount on high, / Clap with mishap, yet am I kept full low.

[15] and yet remain the same: „Semper eadem“ (Always the same) was the motto used by Queen Elizabeth, emphasizing her constancy.

[16] If she for this with clouds do mask her eyes: See Oxford, Poems No. 8:

The moon for shame did blush as red as blood
And shrunk aside and kept her horns in hood -

And No. 48:

Dame Cynthia holds in her horned head,
For fear to lose by like comparison -

See also W.S., Sonnet 107: „The mortal Moon hath her eclipse endured”.

[17] Thoughts, hopes, and love return to me no more / Till Cynthia shine as she hath done before: See Oxford, Poems No.5:

Love, hope, and death, do stir in me such strife,
As never man but I led such a life.

[18] Handwritten collection of 1604, once preserved in the Hamburg City Library:

On April 27, 1818 the eminent philologist Georg Friedrich Benecke (1762-1844) published the following short report in his magazine Die Wünschelruthe:

„Einer meiner Freunde überschickte mir vor ein Paar Wochen folgendes Gedicht, das er aus einem in der Hamburger Bibliothek befindlichen alten Collectaneen-Buche [handschriftliche poetische Anthologie] abgeschrieben hatte, auf dessen Einbande die Jahrszahl 1604 steht. Bestimmter kann er das Buch nicht angeben. Das Gedicht ist mit einer netten Altenglischen Hand geschrieben.
Ein Paar Wörter scheinen Schreib- oder Lese-Fehler zu seyn, und lassen sich vielleicht aus dem Originale verbessern. - Ich habe übrigens das Gedicht selbst in Hinsicht auf Interpunction treulich mitgetheilt wie ich es erhalten habe. Benecke.“ (Die Wünschelruthe, No. 34, 1818.)
Goethe translated it into German and gave it the title „Denn Lieb' ist süßer, von Verdacht gewürzt“. (Über Kunst und Alterthum, Band 2, Heft 3, S. 32-33. Stuttgart, 1820.)
A note in Notes and Queries 183 from 30 April 1853 is quite remarkable:
“A peculiar interest,” Mr. Collier says, “attaches to one of the pieces in John Dowland’s First Book of Songs, on account of the initials of ‘W. S.’ being appended to it, in a manuscript of the time preserved in the Hamburgh City Library. It is inserted in England’s Helicon, 1600, as from Dowland’s Book of Tablature, without any name or initials. The song is addressed to Cynthia, and, as Mr. Collier says, is not unworthy of Shakspeare’s muse.”

Finally we learn from Karl Elze in the year 1876:

'My thoughts are winged with hopes' befand sich handschriftlich und mit den Initialen W. S. unterzeichnet in einem Sammelbande der Hamburger Bibliothek, ist jedoch nicht mehr aufzufinden. (Karl Elze, Shakespeare, Halle 1876.)

[19] Englands Helicon (1600) :The anthology has the subtitle: Casta placent superis, pura cum veste venite, et manibus puris sumite fontis aquam [Tibull, 2.1.13-14: ‚Chaste things please the gods: come with pure garments and with clean hands take up the water of the spring‘]. –The reader is reminded of the motto in Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis: „Vilia miretur vulgus; mihi flavus Apollo / Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua. [Ovid, Amorum, Book I. 15. 35: ‚Let the crowd delight in things of no value; to me let the golden-haired Apollo minister full cups from the Castalian spring‘.]