George Gascoigne, FERENDA NATURA (1573)


You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else.



The two works: Willobie his AVISA (1594) and A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1573) have a lot in common, both in form and content. As well as his quoting some posies (=noms de plume) as used in the Flowres, “Henry Willobie’s” book has another common theme with its predecessor; the heartfelt admiration of a mysterious and powerful lady. In order to understand Willobie his AVISA, we have to turn our attention to A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres and its TWO authors - the Earl of Oxford and George Gascoigne.

Within the anthology A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1573) the novel The Adventures of Master F.I. stands out because of its particular literary qualities. On the merits of the skilful narrative, the refined construction and the innovative plot, The Adventures of Master F. I. has been most justifiably declared a masterpiece, indeed a milestone, of English literature. We seek such genius to no avail in the rather straight forward, not to say pedestrian prose that we have come to associate with George Gascoigne (c.1535-1577). Consider works such as A Delicate Diet for daintie mouthde Droonkardes (1576) or The Spoil of Antwerp (1576).

In A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres we find a clear difference in style between “Divers excellent devises of sundry Gentlemen” (See Oxford, Poems No.17 - 63) and “Certayne devises of master Gascoyne”. The first excels with a brilliant, fast moving, meaningful yet still lyrical dialogue of the logic of contradictions. Gascoigne's poems, on the other hand, reveal a realistic brave spirit; a down-to-earth philosophy. They teach their moral lessons with a pleasing simplicity, plodding on like a cart horse. On the one hand we have a young man, thirsty for life, bringing his experiences with pain and love to paper with astonishing skill and talent; on the other hand we have an old man who is using his poetry to take stock of his life. While the young Earl of Oxford leaps from one torrid affair to the next, thereby, with the possible exception of being too friendly, never regretting a single thing, Gascoigne genuflects and does penance after almost every single event in his life. (See 6.0.2  A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres: Anonymous versus Gascoigne.)

Oxford uses four different emblems, or ‘posies’: “Si fortunatus infoelix” (If fortunate unhappy); “Spraeta tamen vivunt (Shunned but still alive)”; “Ferenda Natura (The nature that must be endured)” and “ Meritum petere grave” (It is painful to have to beg for that which one has earned). Gascoigne chooses the posies “Attamen ad solitum” (However as usual), “Haud ictus sapio” (Not affected, but nonetheless informed), “Sic tuli” (Thus have I endured it) and “Fato non Fortuna” (By way of fate and not by way of fortune). But Oxford and Gascoigne are deliberately trying to confuse us by changing roles. Oxford (alias “Si fortunatus infoelix”, alias “Meritum petere grave”) speaks twice as “G. G.” (Nos. 32 and 54) and writes (signing with the posies “Ferenda Natura” and “Meritum petere grave”) two ‘bath-in-bliss’ poems (Nos. 45 and 50) to his lady: “Amid my bale I bath in bliss” and “If ever man yet found the bath of perfect bliss”. Gascoigne, for his part, complains about the vicissitude of his Mistress, giving her the name FERENDA NATURA (which is also one of Oxford’s posies), and pretends the two ‘bath-in-bliss’ poems to be his own, when he says: “Mine eyes so blinded were, (good people mark my tale) / That once I song, I bath in bliss, amid my weary bale” (“The Recantation of a Lover”, in A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres, ed. G. W. Pigman, 2000, p.274.) - Both poets are referring to a line from Chaucer’s  The Wife of Bath's Tale: “His herte bathed in a bath of utter blisse“. This often-used quote has its own special characteristic. The story is told by the Wife of Bath but it is actually about a Knight whose life is in danger. He is given a year to find out what women really want more than anything else. Shortly before his time is up an ugly old woman revealed the answer to him: What women really want most is sovereignty over their husbands. The Knight has to marry the old lady because she saved his life. In their marriage bed, the knight confesses that he is unhappy because she is ugly and low-born. She tells him that he can choose between her being ugly and faithful or beautiful and unfaithful. He leaves the choice up to her; pleased with the mastery of her husband, she becomes fair and good (young, beautiful and faithful). - Chaucer concludes:

And whan the knyght saugh verraily al this,
That she so fair was, and so yong therto,
For joye he hente hire in his armes two.
His herte bathed in a bath of blisse.
A thousand tyme a-rewe he gan hire kisse,
And she obeyed hym in every thyng
That myghte doon hym plesance or likyng.

The two authors of  A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres use this story in reference to a particular, beloved woman. Oxford doesn't name the lady, but Gascoigne  - alias Dan Bartholmew of Bath – gives her the name of “Ferenda Natura”. As Stephen Hamrick demonstrated in The Catholic Imaginary and the Cults of Elizabeth, 1558-1582 (Minnesota 2009), this mysterious lady is based on the person of Queen Elizabeth. Whilst Oxford believes to have found, in the unknown lady, his “mistress” (or soul mate), both beautiful and faithful, Gascoigne retracts his declarations of devotion to “Ferenda Natura” because the lady has been unfaithful to him. Gascoigne, the poet and soldier (who claimed to have written both ‘bath-in-bliss’ poems), does not leave it at “The Recantation of a Lover”, he goes on to construct the poem “The delectable history of sundry adventures passed by Dan Bartholmew of Bath”, a mercilessly long and confusing account of his “love affair” with FERENDA NATURA. (How the editors of Gascoigne’s works - Cunliffe (1907), Prouty (1942) und Pigman (2000) - could think for a minute that the author of these clumsy blustering could have gone on to write “The Adventures of Master F. I.” is a matter of unfathomable mystery. One could expect any street cleaner to show more understanding of literature and art than these robotic so called academics; but that is another story.)

We shall be examining the following extracts from Gascoigne’s “Dan Bartholmew of Bath” (part I and II), not because they are, by any stretch of the imagination, a “delectable history” but rather 1) Stephen Hamrick’s theory that when Gascoigne speaks of “Ferenda Natura”, he means Queen Elizabeth; 2) to draw conclusions as to the addressee of Oxford’s “The Adventures of Master F. I.” and “Divers excellent Devices”; 3) to bring light to bear on the connections between A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres von 1573 and Willobie his AVISA von 1594; 4) (even though it shouldn’t be necessary) to demonstrate the difference between Gascoigne’s annoying, clod-hopping literary efforts (reduced in volume by more than 50% here so as to make the matter bearable) and the , lively, effervescent, poignant , meaningful poetry of the Earl of Oxford.   

It is Gascoigne’s intention to relate a true, as opposed to a fictional, story. To this end he sends “The Reporter” to observe the events and to relate the story. Later on the lover and central character continues the narration. Gascoigne gives his hero the name: “Dan Bartholmew of Bath” even though it is always Gascoigne with whom we are dealing.  Love causes the young man, Bartholmew, to forget his investigations, and soon his whole world revolves around “a fair young imp of proper personage”, who has charmed him with her beauty. However, according to the dispatches of the young man, “Ferenda Natura” is one of the “kids of Cressid’s kind” - something that causes him considerable inconvenience.

See the CONCLUSION  below.


George Gascoigne

The delectable history of sundry adventurespassed by Dan Bartholmew of Bath. [PART I, 1573]


The Reporter.

To tell a tale without authority,
Or feign a Fable by invention,
That one proceeds of quick capacity,
That other proves but small discretion,
Yet have both one and other oft been done.
And if I were a Poet as some be,
You might perhaps hear some such tale of me.

But far I find my feeble skill to faint
To feign in figures as the learned can,
And yet my tongue is tied by due constrain’d,
To tell nothíng but truth of every man:
I will assay ev’n as I first began,
To tell you now a tale and that of truth,
Which I myself saw provéd in my youth …

Amongst the rest I most remember one
Which was to me a dear familiar friend,
Whose doting days since they be passed and gone,
And his annoy (near) come unto an end,
Although he seem his angry brow to bend,
I will be bold (by his leave) for to tell
The restless state wherein he long did dwell …

His name I hide, and yet for this discourse,
Let call his name Dan [Don] Bartholmew of Bath,
Since in the end he thither had recourse,
And (as he said) did scamble there in scathe:
Indeed the rage which wrong him there, was rathe [vehement],
As by this tale I think yourself will guess,
And then (with me) his loathsome life confess.

For though he had in all his learned lore,
Both read good rules to bridle fantasy,
And all good authors taught him evermore
To love the mean, and leave extremity,
Yet kind hath lent him such a quality,
That at the last he quite forget his books,
And fastened fancy with the fairest looks.

For proof, when green youth leapt out of his eye,
And left him now a man of middle age,
His hap was yet with wandring looks to spy
A fair young imp of proper personage,
Eke born (as he) of honest parentage:
And truth to tell, my skill it cannot serve
To praise her beauty as it did deserve.

First for her head, the hears were not of Gold,
But of some other metal far more fine,
Whereof each crinet [hair] seemed to behold
Like glistring wires against the Sun that shine,
And therewithal the blazing of her eyne[1],
Was like the beams of Titan, truth to tell,
Which glads us all that in this world do dwell.

Upon her cheeks the Lily and the Rose,
Did intermeate, with equal change of hue,
And in her gifts no lack I can suppose,
But that at last (alas) she was untrue,
Which flinging fault, because it is not new,
Nor seldom seen in kids of Cressid’s kind[2],
I marvel not, nor bear it much in mind.

Dame Nature’s fruits, wherewith her face was fraught,
Were so frost bitten with the cold of craft [artifice],
That all (save such as Cupid’s snares had caught)
Might soon espy the feathers of his shaft:
But Bartholmew his wits had so bedaft [become stupid],
That all seem’d good which might of her begotten,
Although it proved no sooner ripe than rotten.

That mouth of her’s which seemed to flow with mell [honey]
In speech, in voice, in tender touch, in taste,
That dimpled chin wherein delight did dwell,
That ruddy lip wherein was pleasure placed,
Those well shaped hands, fine arms and slender waste,
With all the gifts which gave her any grace,
Were smiling baits which caught fond fools apace.

Why strive I then to paint her name with praise?
Since form and fruits were found so far unlike,
Since of her cage Inconstance kept the keys,
And Change had cast her honour down in dike:
Since fickle kind in her the stroke did strike.
I may no praise unto a knife bequeath
With rust yfret [eaten], though painted be the sheath.

But since I must a name to her assign,
Let call her now Ferenda Natura [3],
And if thereat she seem for to repine,
No force at all, for hereof am I sure a,
That since her pranks were for the most unpure a,
I can appoint her well no better name,
Than this where in dame Nature bears the blame…

But to conclude, much worth in little writ,
The highest flying hawk will stoop at last[4],
The wildest beast is drawn with hungry bit
To eat a homely bait sometimes in haste.
The prick of kind can never be unplaced,
And so it seeméd by this dainty dame,
Whom he at last with labour did reclaim.

And when he had with mickle pain procured
The calm consent of her unwieldy will,
When he had her by faith and troth assured,
To like him best, and aye to love him still,
When fancy had of flattery fed his fill,
I not discern to tell my tale aright,
What man but he had ever such delight? …

And since I know as others eke can tell,
What skill he had, and how he could indite,
Methinks I cannot better do than well,
To set down here his ditties of delight,
For so at least I may myself acquite,
And vaunt to show some verses yet unknown,
Well worthy praise though none of them mine own.

No force for that, take you them as they be,
Since mine emprise [undertaking] is but to make report:
Imagine then, before you that you see
A wight bewitched in many a subtile sort,
A Lover lodged in pleasure’s princely port,
Vaunting in verse what joys he did possess:
His triumphs here I think will show no less.

Gascoigne utilizes the story of Troy to present Bartholmew’s triumph in a clearer light. Prince Paris falls in love with Helena even though she is no longer as pure as the driven snow, thereby sparking off a ten year war, Troilus was the victim of the unfaithful Cressida - whereas the object of Bartholmew’s was more beautiful and truer than all others.

Dan Bartholmew his Triumphs. [1573]

Resign king Priam’s sons, that princes were in Troy,
Resign to me your happy days, and boast no more of joy.
Sir Paris first stand forth, make answer for thy fere!
And if thou canst defend her cause, whom Troy did buy so dear:
What? blush not man, be bold, although thou bear some blame,
Tell truth at last, and so be sure to save thyself from shame.
Then gentle Shepherd say: what madness did thee move,
To choose of all the flowers in Greece, foul Helen for thy love?
Needs must I compt her foul, whose first fruits were forlorn,
Although she sold her second chaff above the price of corn…

Content you then, good knights, your triumph to resign,
Confess your stars both dim and dark, whereas my sun doth shine:
For this I dare avow, without vaunt be it told,
My darling is more fair than she, for whom proud Troy was sold.
More constant to contain, than Cressid to be coy,
No Calcas can contrive the craft, to train her out of Troy,
No Diomede can draw her settled heart to change,
No madding mood can move her mind, nor make her thoughts to range…

Oh that my tongue had skill, to tell her praise aright,
Or that my pen her due deserts in worthy verse could write:
Or that my mind could muse, or happy heart conceive,
Some words that might resound her worth by high Minerva’s leave.
Oh how the blooming joys do blossom in my breast
To think within my secret thought, how far she stains the rest.
Methinks I see the states, which sue to her for grace,
Methinks I see one look of her’s repulse them all apace,
Methinks that hour is yet, and evermore shall be,
Wherein my happy hap was first, her heavenly face to see:
Wherein I spied the writ, which wooed between her eyne,
And said behold, be bold, for I am born to be but thine.
Methinks I feel the joys, which never yet were felt,
Whom flame before yet never touched, methinks I feel them melt.
One word & there an end, methinks she is the sun,
Which only shineth now-a-days, she dead, ye world were done.

The rest are twinkling stars, or Moons which borrow light
To comfort other careful souls which wander in the night.
And night God knows it is, where other Ladies be,
For sure my dame adorns the day, there is no sun but she.
Then lovers buy your leave, and think it nothing strange,
Although I seem with calm content in seas of joys to range:
For why, my sails have found both wind and waves at will,
And depths of all delights in her, with whom I travel still.
And anchors being weighed, I leave you all at large,
To stir this seemly Ship myself, such is my mistress charge.

                                                                                               Fato non fortuna

In the second edition of The Hundreth Sundrie Flowres which appeared in 1575 with a new title: The Posies of George Gascoigne Esquire. Corrected, perfected and augmented by the Author, Gascoigne retrospectively introduced the following two poems, of which only one of them was his own. The first poem (“Dan Bartholmew his second Triumph”) made up of six stanzas with six lines to the stanza[5], predicts the coming calamity, with the finger of moral judgment firmly raised in a manner which could not be more tedious and wooden. The second  poem; (“Dan Bartholmew’s his third Triumph”) is from the Earl of Oxford. In A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1573) it belonged to the “Divers excellent devises” and was signed with the posy: “Meritum petere grave.” In spite of its being written in the “poulter’s metre” it had a freshness and liveliness that Gascoigne could never have attained. (See Oxford, Poems No. 50.)

Dan Bartholmew his second Triumph. [1575]

Fie pleasure fie, thou cloyst me with delight,
Thou fillst my mouth with sweet meats overmuch,
I wallow still in joy both day and night.
I deem, I dream, I do, I taste, I touch:
No thing but all that smells of perfect bliss,
Fie pleasure fie, I cannot like of this.

To taste (sometimes) a bait of bitter gall,
To drink a draught of sour Ale (some season)
To eat brown bread with homely hands in Hall
Doth much increase men’s appetites by reason:
And makes the sweet more sugared that ensues,
Since minds of men do still seek after news.

The pamper’d horse is seldom seen in breath,
Whose manger makes his grease (oft’times) to melt,
The crammed Fowl comes quickly to his death,
Such colds they catch in hottest haps that swelt.
And I (much like) in pleasure scowled [blurred] still,
Do fear to starve although I feed my fill.

It might suffice that love hath built his bower
Between my Lady’s lively shining eyes,
It were enough that Beauty’s fading flower
Grows ever fresh with her in heavenly wise.
It had been well that she were fair of face,
And yet not rob all other Dames of grace.

To muse in mind, how wise, how fair, how good,
How brave, how frank, how courteous, and how true
My Lady is: doth but inflame my blood
With humours such, as bid my health a due [together].
Since hap always when it is climb’d on high,
Doth fall full low, though erst it reached the Sky.

Lo pleasure lo, lo thus I lead a life,
That laughs for joy, and trembleth oft for dread;
Thy pangs are such as call for change’s knife
To cut the twist, or else to stretch the thread,
Which holds yfere [together] the bundle of my bliss;
Fie pleasure fie, I dare not trust to this.

           Fato non fortuna.

Dan Bartholmew’s his third Triumph. [1575]

If ever man yet found the Bath of perfect bliss[6],
Then swim I now amid the seas where nought but pleasure is.
I love and am beloved, without vaunt be it told,
Of one more fair than she of Greece, for whom proud Troy was sold.
As bountiful and good as Cleopatra Queen,
As constant as Penelope unto her make was seen.
What would you more? my pen unable is to write,
The least desert that seems to shine within this worthy wight.
So that (for now) I cease with hands held up on high.
And crave of God that when I change, I may be forced to die.

                                                                                                  Fato non Fortuna [7]

The “reporter” rears his head again to give account of his friend Bartholmew’s misfortune -publishing his story without permission. Gascoigne has blatantly copied the literary device deployed by Oxford in the introduction to The Adventures of Master F. I.. Twenty one years later, Hadrian Dorrell used the self same trick in the foreword to Willobie his Avisa, when he pretended to be publishing the works of “Henry Willobie”.

The Reporter. [1573]

These vaunting verses with a many mo,
(To his mishap) have come unto my hands,
Whereof the rest (because he sailed so
In bragger’s boat which set itself on sands
And brought him eke fast bound in folly’s bands)
Of courtesy I keep them from your sight,
Let these suffice which of myself I write.

The highest tree that ever yet could grow,
Although full far it florished for a season,
Found yet at last some fall to bring it low,
This old said saw is (God he knoweth) not geason [barren]:
For when things pass the reach and bounds of reason,
They fall at last, although they stand a time,
And bruise the more, the higher that they climb.

So Bartholmew unto his pain did prove,
For when he thought his hap to be most high,
And that he only reaps the fruits of love,
And that he swelt in all prosperity,
His comfort changed to calamity:
And though I do him wrong to tell the same,
Yet read it you, and let me bear the blame.

The Saint he serv'd became a crafty devil[8],
His goddess to an Idol seemed to change,
Thus all his good transforméd into evil,
And every joy to raging grief did range:
Which Metamórphosis was marvels strange:
Yet shall you seldom otherwise it prove,
Where wicked Lust doth bear the name of Love …

At last with much ado, his trembling tongue
Bewrayed th’effect of his unwilling will,
Which here to tell since it were all to long,
And I therewith too barren am of skill,
And trouble you with tedious tidings still.
Content you now to hear himself rehearse
His strange affects in his lamenting verse.

Which verse he wrote at Bath (as erst was said)[9]
And there I saw him when he wrote the same,
I saw him there with many moans dismayed,
I saw him there both freeze and flash in flame,
I saw him griev'd when others made good game:
And so appeareth by his dark discourse,
The which to read I crave your just remorse.

The following story will be related step for step, Gascoigne’s words will be paraphrased in places, partly for the sake of clarity and partly because an adherence to the original text would constitute mental cruelty to a present-day discerning reader.

Dan Bartholmew’s Dolorous discourses.

I have entreated care to cut the thread,
Which all to long hath held my lingering life,
And here aloof now have I hid my head,
From company thereby to stint my strife …

Withdrawal to a secluded spot, to gasp and sigh. In this case Bartholmew has taken the concealed bait.

And now (with care) I can record those days,
And call to mind the quiet life I led,
Before I first beheld thy golden rays[10],
When thine untruth yet troubled not my head.

Remember thou, as I can not forget
How I had laid, both love, and lust aside,
And how I had my fixed fancy set
In constant vow, for ever to abide …

The entire array of disillusion: Bartholmew experienced honey with bile, comes from heaven into hell, makes futile promises, has sleepless nights, mourns the loss of his hopes.

Thy life was then to me (God knows) full dear,
My life to thee is light, as now appears.
I loved the first, and shall do to my last,
Thou flatterdst first, and so thou wouldst do still:
For love of thee full many pains I passed,
For deadly hate thou seekest me to kill.
I cannot now, with manly tongue rehearse,
How soon that melting mind of thine did yield,
I shame to write, in this waymenting verse,
With how small fight I vanquished thee in field:
But Cæsar he, which all the world subdued,
Was never yet so proud of Victory,
Nor Hannibal, with martial feats endued,
Did so much please himself in policy,
As I (poor I) did seem to triumph then,
When first I got the Bulwarks of thy breast[11],
With hot Alarms I comforted my men,
In foremost rank I stood before the rest,
And shook my flag, not all to show my force,
But that thou mightst thereby perceive my mind:
Askance lo [look askew], now could I kill thy corpse[12],
And yet my life is unto thee resign’d.
Well let this pass, and think upon the joy,
The mutual love, the confidence, the trust,
Whereby we both abandoned annoy,
And fed our minds with fruits of lovely lust …

He does everything for her - and still it is another who enjoys her favours.

Mine absent thoughts did beat on thee alone,
When thou hadst found a fond and newfound choice:
For lack of thee I sunk in endless moan,
When thou in change didst tumble and rejoice …

But did I then give bridle to thy fall,
Thou headstrong, thou accuse me if thou can?
Did I not hazard love, yea life and all,
To ward thy will from that unworthy man?[13]
And when by toil I travailéd to find
The secret causes of thy madding mood,
I found naught else but tricks of Cressid’s kind[14],
Which plainly proved, that thou wert of her blood …

The object of his love sets sail on an unchartered course. He guides her to the safe harbour, but instead of thanking him she casts herself before the feet of her accuser (= The Admiral) and blames Bartholmew for her infidelity.

So laboured I to save thy wandering ship
Which, reckless then, was running on the rocks,
And though I saw thee seem to hang the lip,
And set my great good will as light as flocks:
Yet hold I in the main-sheet of the mind,
And stayed thy course by anchors of advice,
I won thy will into a better wind,
To save thy ware, which was of precious price.
And when I had so harbouréd thy Bark,
In happy heaven, which safer was than Dover,
The Admiral, which knew it by the mark,
Straight challenged all, and said thou wert a rover[15].
Then was I forced in thy behalf to plead,
Yea so I did, the Judge can say no less,
And whiles in toil, this loathsome life I lead,
Camest thou thyself the fault for to confess,
And down on knee before thy cruel foe
Didst pardon crave, accusing me for all[16],
And saidst I was the cause, that thou didst so,
And that I spun the thread of all thy thrall.[17]
Not so content, thou furthermore didst swear
That of thyself thou never meant to swerve,
For proof whereof thou didst the colours wear,
Which might bewray, what saint thou meant to serve,
And that thy blood was sacrificed eke
To manifest thy steadfast martyred mind,
Till I perforce constrain’d thee for to seek
These raging seas, adventures there to find…

Bartholmew makes great sacrifices for the lady, even though she is making unjust accusations.

Lo here the cause for why I take this pain,
Lo how I love the wight which me doth hate[18]:
Lo thus I lie, and restless rest in Bath,
Whereas I bath not now in bliss pardie [par dieu][19],
But boil in bale and scamble thus in scathe,
Because I think on thine unconstancie.
And wilt thou know how here I spend my time,
And how I draw my days in dolours still?
Then stay a while: give ear unto my rime,
So shalt thou know the weight of all my will.
When Titan is constrainéd to forsake
His Leman’s couch, and climbeth to his cart,
Then I begin to languish for thy sake,
And with a sigh, which may bewray my smart,
I clear mine eyes whom gum of tears had glued,
And up on foot I set my ghostly corpse,
And when the stony walls have oft renewed
My piteous plaints, with Echos of remorse,
Then do I cry and call upon thy name,
And thus I say, thou cursed and cruel both
Behold the man, which taketh grief for game,
And loveth them, which most his name do loath.
Behold the man which ever truly meant,
And yet accused as author of thine ill,
Behold the man, which all his life hath spent
To serve thyself, and aye to work thy will:
Behold the man, which only for thy love,
Did love himself, whom else he set but light:
Behold the man, whose blood (for thy behove)
Was ever pressed to shed itself outright.
And canst thou now condemn his loyalty?
And canst thou craft to flatter such a friend?
And canst thou see him sink in jeopardy?
And canst thou seek to bring his life to end?
Is this the right reward for such desert?
Is this the fruit of seed so timely sown?
Is this the price, appointed for his part?
Shall truth be thus by treason overthrown?
Then farewell faith, thou art no woman’s fere:
And with that word I stay my tongue in time,
With rolling eyes I look about each where,
Least any man should hear my raving rime…

At this point (at the very latest) the reader should have an impression of Gascoigne’s style (or rather his lack of it) his lines are ponderous, self righteous and tedious. The “Dolorous Discourses” go on for many pages, conveying the following content: Bartholmew returns to Bath exhausted and racked with pain, fit for nothing but cloisters and nuns. He suspects the chain that he wears around his wrist of being in possession of evil magical powers. He sweats tears and the icy wind of shattered hopes lashes his face. He stares at the mirror and cannot comprehend how his lady could ever have had the want to see him.

The noble face was fair and fresh of hue,
My wrinkled face is foul and fadeth fast:
The noble face was unto thee but new,
My wrinkled face is old and clean outcast:
The noble face might move thee with delight,
My wrinkled face could never please thine eye.

Not even the finest fair can awaken hunger in the poor man. He calls for the juice of the grape, cinnamon, sugar and ginger with which to make himself a strong wine, but the word “Hippocras” makes him panic, because SHE used to drink “Hippocras” all the time. In other words; he is drained of all hope and vitality. Even death turns his back on poor old Bartholmew.

I melt in tears, I swelt in chilling sweat,
My swelling heart breaks with delay of pain,
I freeze in hope, yet burn in haste of heat,
I wish for death, and yet in life remain.
And when dead sleep doth close my dazzled eyes,
Then dreadful dreams my dolours do increase.

One could almost believe that Gascoigne’s poems are intended to be a parody on the love poems written by Oxford in “Divers excellent devises”. - However Gascoigne is no more daunted by the tangled mess of his clichés than his alter ego, Bartholmew by the failure of his tragic affair with “Ferenda Natura” even in the face of failure, G.G. lets the love sick Bartholmew dream that his mistress will return and comfort him.

But when mine eyes are open and awake,
I see not thee: where with the flowing streams,
Of brinish tears their wonted floods do make.
Thus as thou seest I spend both nights and days,
And for I find the world did judge me once
A witless writer of these lover’s lays,
I take my pen and paper for the nonce,
I lay aside this foolish riding rime,
And as my troubled head can bring to pass,
I thus bewray the torments of my time:
Bear with my Muse, it is not as it was.

Fato non fortuna.

The following is a poem of eight stanzas of six lines. “The extremity of his Passion”, whose most redeeming feature is that it does not contain anything new. As per expectations; tears flow in torrents, the voice is howling wind, thoughts spin in the mind like a wheel, jealousy is the gateway to the abyss, death denies its comforting release.

After “the extremity of his Passion” we hear from the difficulties of authorship, or the pain of creation.

Lo thus (dear heart) I force my frantic Muse
To frame a verse in spite of my despite,
But whiles I do these mirthless metres use,
This rash conceit doth reave me from delight.
I call to mind how many loving lays,
How many Sonnets, and how many songs,
I did devise within those happy days,
When yet my will had not received wrongs,
All which were evermore regarded so,
That little fruit I seemed thereby to reap,
But rather when I had bewrayed my woe,
Thy love was light, and lusted still to leap.
The rimes which pleaséd thee were all in print[20],

And mine were ragged, hard for to be read,
Lo dear: this dagger dubs me with this dint,
And leave this wound within my jealous head.
But since I have confessed unto Care,
That now I stand upon his courtesy,
And that the bale, which in my breast I bear,
Hath not the skill to kill me cunningly,
Therefore with all my whole devotion,
To Care I make this supplication.

Fato non fortuna.

It would be too embarassing for all concerned to examine “His libell of request exhibited to Care” in any detail. It consists purely of intolerable blubbering. In a “trance” Bartholmew feels moved to write his last will and testament. Among other things, he orders that:

My body be embalmed, and closed up in chest,
With ointments and with spiceries of every sweet the best:
And so preserved still until the day do come,
That death divorce my love from life, & truss her up in tomb.
Then I bequeath my corpse to couch beneath her bones,
And there to feed the greedy worms that linger for the nuns.
To fret upon her flesh, which is to fine therefore,
This service may it do her yet, although it do no more…

We can ignore the rest, happy in the knowledge that we have not missed anything of relevance. He continues with:

The Subscription and seal.

My mansion house was Moan: from Dolour's dale I came,
I Fato: Non Fortuna hight, lo now you know my name[21]:
My seal is sorrow’s sithe [path] within a field of flame,
Which cuts in twain a careful heart, it sweltreth in the same.

                                                        Fato non Fortuna.

All the signs point to an imminent death. The delinquent lover hears the toll of the bell. His eyes fade. The quill threatens to fall from his quivering hand, yet somehow, he manages to write on and on and on…..

And are not these, the very pangs of death ?
Yes sure (sweet heart) I know them so to be,
They be the pangs, which strive to stop my breath,
They be the pangs, which part my love from thee.
What said I? Love? Nay life: but not my love,
My life departs, my love continues still:
My loathed life may from my corpse remove,
My loving Love shall always work thy will.
It was thy will even thus to try my truth,
Thou hast thy will, my truth may now be seen,
It was thy will, that I should die in youth,
Thou hast thy will my years are yet but green.
Thy penance was that I should pine in pain,
I have performed thy penance all in woe,
Thy pleasure was that I should here remain,
I have been glad to please thy fancy so.
Now since I have performéd every part
Of thy command: as near as tongue can tell,
Content thee yet before my muse depart,
To take this Sonnet for my last farewell.

Fato non fortuna.

His Farewell.

Farewell dear Love whom I have loved and shall,
Both in this world, and in the world to come,
For proof whereof my sprite is Charon’s thrall,
And yet my corpse attendant on thy toom [occasion].
Farewell dear sweet, whose wanton will to please
Eke taste of trouble seeméd mell [honey] to me,
Farewell sweet dear, whose doubts for to appease,
I was contented thus in bale to be.
Farewell my life, farewell for and my death,
For thee I liv'd for thee now must I die,
Farewell from Bath, whereas I feel my breath
Forsake my breast in great perplexity,
Alas how welcome were this death of mine,
If I had died between those arms of thine?

                Fato non Fortuna.

Has merciful death delivered author and reader from further misery? Our question is answered by the reappearance of the “reporter” who begins to weep bitterly and rushes to the deathbed of his friend in Bath.

The Reporter’s conclusion.


I saw at first his ears were open aye
To every tale which fed him with some hope,
As fast again I saw him turn away
From grave advise, which might his conscience grope,
From reason’s rule his fancy lightly lope [leaped],
He only gave his mind to get that gain,
Which most he wished and least could yet attain.

Not I alone, but many mo with me
Had found what fickleness his Idol used,
And how she claiméd Cressid’s heir to be,
And how she had his great good will abused,
And how she was of many men refused,
Who bide her tricks and knew her by the kind,
Save only him she made no lover blind.

But what for this? whose face is plainer seen,
Than he which thinks he walketh in a net?
Or who in bale hath ever deeper been
Than he which thought his state might not be bet.
In such a jollity these lovers jet,
That weal to them doth seem to be but woe,
And grief seems joy, they feed their fancies so.

Tell him that reason ought to be his rule,
And he allowed no reason but his own,
Tell him that best were quickly to recoil,
Before all force by fears were overthrown,
And that his part etc.

I have not (hitherto) recovered a full end of this discourse, the author thereof being more curious in delivery of the same than he hath been heretofore in any other of his doings. But since my trust is that you will use that and the rest but for your own private commodity, I am the bolder to present you with a copy thereof unperfect as it is, and now having finished this written register, it amounteth to a good round volume, the which some would judge worthy the Imprinting, but hoping of your courtesy (ut supra) I cease wishing you no less profit than pleasure in railing [arranging] and perusing these trifles.

In other words, the reader of A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1573) is left in uncertainty as to whether Gascoigne, or his hero Bartholmew are dead or alive. As is easy to imagine, the pitiable Bartholmew, (accompanied by Gascoigne) rise from the dead just two short years later when “Ferenda Natura” summons him to court as the celebrated author of The Princely Pleasures at the Court of Kenelworth (1575), giving G.G. a wonderful opportunity to present The Posies of George Gascoigne (1575)  in a positive light. Her Majesty’s mounted envoy approaches, there is no further need to present “Ferenda Natura” as the villain. All is forgiven - having rubbed our eyes in disbelief and amazement, we continue reading. 


The delectable history of sundry adventures passed by Dan Bartholmew of Bath. [PART II. 1575]

Tell him that reason ought to be his rule,
And he allowed no reason but his own,
Tell him that best were quickly to recoil,
Before all force by fears were overthrown,
And that his bale were better overblown[22],
Than thus to pine remediless in grief,
And he would say that grief was his relief.

Short tale to make so long he livéd thus,
Till at the last he gan indeed to die
Believe me Lords (and by him that died for us)
I saw him give to close his dying eye,
I saw him strive and strangle passingly.
And such a grief I took, that yet I not,
If he or I had then more grief ygot.

But who hath seen a Lamp begin to fade
Which lacketh oil to feed his lingering light,
And then again who so hath seen it made
With oil and wax to last the longsome night,
Let him conceive that I saw such a sight
Whereof to think (although I sighed erewhile)
Lo now I laugh my sorrows to beguile.

Upon the stones a trampling steed we heard[23]
Which came full straight unto our lodging door,
And straight therewith we heard how one inquired,
If such a Knight (as I described before)
Were lodged there: the Host withouten more
Said yes forsooth, and God he knows (quod he)
He is as sick as any man may be.

The messenger swore by no bugs I trow [believe][24],
But bade our host to bring him where he lay,
(Quod I to Bartholmew) I hear by low
A voice which seems somewhat of you to say
And ere that passed not full a furlong way [brief space],
Behold the man came stooping in at door,
And truth to tell he seeked [went to] wondrous sore.

At last from out his bosom did he take,
A Letter seal’d yfolded fair and well,
And kissing it (I think for Mistress’ sake)
He said to Bartholmew: Sir Knight be well,
Now read these lines the which I need not tell,
From whence they come: but make an end of moan,
For you are sick, and she is woe begone [affected by woe].

With strength bestowed on him from the almighty, Bartholmew rises from his death bed. The sight of him would bring tears to a statue.

Alas (quod he [=the messenger]) dear friend behold this blood,
And with that word he gan again to sowne [sound].
The messenger which in a study [reverie] stood,
Awaked at last: and in mine ear did roun [whisper],
Saying: those lines which I have there thrown down,
Were written all with blood of her own hand,

For whom he now in this distress doth stand.

And since (quod he) She hath vouchsafed so
To shed her blood in witness of her grief,
Methinks he
[=Bartholmew] rather should relieve her woe
Than thus deny to send her some relief.
Alas alas
(quod he) she holds him chief.
And well wote [know] I (what ere his fancy be)[25]
There sits no man so near her heart as he ...

What remedy known to man is more likely to get a dying man back on his feet that that a message from his unfaithful lover, written in blood. - Bartholmew falls into a deep soothing healing sleep. When he awakes next morning, the reporter gives him the letter from his lady.

 (Quod I) my friend: here is a letter lo,
Behold it here and be all whole again,
What man were he that wither would in woe,
Which thus might prosper in despite of pain?
Were he not worse than mad which would complain
On such a friend as this to me doth seem?
Which (for thy health) her blood doth not esteem?

Thus much I said to comfort him, God knows,
(But what I thought that keep I close in hold).
Sometimes a man must flatter with his foes,
And sometimes say that brass is bright as Gold:
For he that hath not all things as he would,
Must wink sometimes, as though he did not see,
And seem to think things are not as they be ...

Bartholmew describes a dream that he had the previous night about a pelican. (See note 25.)

I dreamt (quod he) that I was done to death,
And that I lay full cold in earth and clay,
But that I was restored unto breath
By one that seemed like Pelican to play[26],
Who shed his blood to give me food alway,
And made me live in spite of sorrow still,
See how my dream agrees now with this bill?

His feebled wits forgotten had therewhile,
By whom and how he had this letter first,
But when he spied the man, then ’gan he smile[27],
For secret joy his heart did seem to burst,
Now thought he best that (erst) he counted worst.
And lovingly he did the man embrace,
And asked how fared the root of all his grace?

See sudden change, see subtile sweet deceit,
Behold how love can make his subjects blind,
Let all men mark hereby what guileful bait
Dan Cupid layeth to tice the lover’s mind:
Alack alack, a slender thread may bind
That prisoner fast, which means to tarry still,
A little rod corrects a ready will.

The brief was writ and blotted all with gore [blood],
And thus it said: Behold how steadfast love,
Hath made me hardy (thanks have he therefore)
To write these words thy doubts for to remove
With mine own blood: and if for thy behove
These bloody lines do not thy Cares convert:
I vow the next shall bleed out of my heart.

I dwell to long upon this thriftless tale,
For Bartholmew was well appeased hereby,
And feelingly he banishéd his bale,
Taking herein a taste of remedy,
By lite [little] and lite his fits away ’gan fly.
And in short space he did recover strength,
To stand on foot and take his horse at length.

So that we came to London both yfere [together],
And there his Goddess tarried till we came,
I am to blame to call her Goddess here,
Since she deserved indeed no Goddess name,
But sure I think (and you may judge the same)
She was to him a Goddess in his thought,
Although perhaps her Shrines was overbought ...

In London, the love between Bartholmew and “Ferenda Natura” ignites anew. The hero, once cast from his throne quickly forgets all chagrin and takes all blame for past misunderstandings. There is a caustic yet learned remark that may well have been better left unsaid, but Gascoigne couldn’t keep it to himself. 

Terence was wise which taught by Pamphilus[28]
How courage quails where love beblinds the sense,
Though proof of times makes lovers quarrelous [querulous],
Yet small excuse serves love for just defence.
These Courtesans have power by presence
To make a Swan of that which was a Crow,
As though black pitch were turned into Snow.

Ferenda, She whom heaven and earth had framed
For his decay and to bewitch his wits[29],
Made him now think himself was to be blamed,
Which causeless thus would fret himself in fits;
She made him think that sorrow seldom sits,
Where trust is tied in fast and faithful knots,
She said Mistrust was meet for simple sots.

What will you more she made him to believe,
That she first loved although she younger were,
She made him think that his distress did grieve
Her guiltless mind: and (that it might appear,
How these conceits could join or hang yfere)
She did confess how soon she yielded his,
Such force (quod she) in learned men there is.

She further said that all to true it was,
How youthful years (and lack of him alone)
Had made her once to choose out brittle glass
For perfect Gold: She did confess (with moan)
That youthfully she bit a worthless bone.
But that therein she tasted deep delight,
That said she not, nor I presume to write[30].

She swore (and that I bear full well in mind)
How Diomede had never Troilus place,
She said and swore (how ever sate the wind)
That Admirals did never know her case[31],
She said again that never Noble Face
Did please her eye nor moved her to change,
She said her mind was never given to range.

She said and said that Bracelets were ybound,
To hold him fast (but not to charm his thought)
She wished therewith that she were deeply drown’d
In Hippocras: if ever she had sought,
Or drunk, or smelt, or tane [taken], or found, or bought,
Such Nectar drops as she with him had drunk,
(But this were true) she wisht her soul were sunk [depressed].

And to conclude, she said no printed rimes
Could please her so as his brave Triumphs did[32]:
Why wander I? She cover’d all her crimes,
With deep deceit, and all her guiles she hid
With feigned tears, and Bartholmew she rid
With double girthes, she bit and whined both,
And made him love where he had cause to loath ...

Gascoigne then delivers one of his sermons, saying that he who seeks after contentment must never fall in love. Let us return to the text:

And thus he lived contented still with craft,
Mistrusting most, that gave least cause of doubt,
He fled mishap and held it by the haft,
He banished bale and bare it still about,
He let in love and thought to hold him out.
He seemed to bath in perfect bliss again,
When (God he knows) he foster’d [nourished] privy pain.

For as the Tree which crooked grows by kind,
(Although it be with propping underset)
In tract [lapse] of time to crooked course will twined,
So could Ferenda never more forget
The lease [pasture] at large where she her flings had fed[33].
But ranged again, and to her bias [inclination] fell
Such changes’ chance where lust (for love) doth dwell …

However, Don Bartholmew does not rush in to love again with the same blind faith. He lays down the poets quill and takes up the sword. No military champagne can be as brutal as the battlefield of love.

In his Ensign these colours ’gan he choose:
Black, white, and green; first black for mourning moan[34],
Then white for chaste, because he did refuse
(Thenceforth) to think but even of her alone.
A bend of green: for though his joys were gone,
Yet should it seem he hoped for a day,
And in that bend his name he did display.

That self same name which in his will he wrote,
(You know my mind) when he was out of tune a,
When he subscribed (which may not be forgot)
How that his name was Fato Non Fortuna.
And as I guess because his love was Una,
That played her pranks according to her kind,
He wrote these words her best excuse to find ...

The “reporter” fears that Bartholmew “once again will be amorous.” As mentioned previously, the colours of his choice are identical with those of the Queen. His lover’s name is “Una” - the one and only. Bartholmew’s fate is, down to the last detail, identical with that of the “Green Knight”, one of Gascoigne’s alter egos.

Bartello he which writeth riding tales,
Brings in a Knight which clad was all in green[35],
That sighed sore amid his grievous gales,
And was in hold as Bartholmew hath been.
But (for a plack) it may therein be seen,
That, that same Knight which there his griefs began,
Is Batt’s [ Bartholmew’s] own Father’s Sister’s brother’s Son[36].

Well since my borrel [rude] brain is all to blunt
To give a guess what end this man shall have,
And since he rageth not as he was wont,
Although sometimes he seem (alight) to crave[37],
Yet will I not his doings so deprave,
As for to judge (before I see his end)
What harder hap his angry stars can send.

And therewithal my weary muse desires
To take her rest: and pardon craves also,
That she presumed to bring herself in briers
By penning thus this true report of woe:
With silly grace these sorry rimes may go,
In such a rank as Bartholmew hath placed,
So that she fears her cunning is disgraced.

But take them yet in gree [favour] as they be meant,
And wail with me the loss of such a man:
I count him lost because I see him bent
To yield again where first his grief began,
And though I cannot write as others can
Some mournful verse to move you moan his fall,
Yet weep (with me) you faithful lovers all.

Finis. quod Dixit & Dixit.


Sir Salamank to thee this tale is told,
Peruse it well and call unto thy mind,
The pleasant place where thou didst first behold
The rueful rimes: remember how the Wind
Did calmly blow: and made me leave behind
Some leaves thereof: whiles I sat reading still,
And thou then seemdst to hearken with good will.

Believe me now, hadst thou not seem’d to like
The woeful words of Bartholmew’s discourse,
They should have lien still drowned in the dike,
Like Sybil’s leaves which fly with little force,
But for thou seemdst to take therein remorse,
I sought again in corners of my breast,
To find them out and place them with the rest.

Such skill thou hast to make me (fool) believe,
My babies are as brave as any be,
Well since it is so, let it never grieve
Thy friendly mind this worthless verse to see
In print at last: for trust thou unto me,
Thine only praise did make me venture forth,
To set in show a thing so little worth.

Thus unto thee these leaves I recommend,
To read, to raze, to view, and to correct,
Vouchsafe (my friend) therein for to amend
That is amiss, remember that our sect,
Is sure to be with flouts always infect.
And since most mocks will light upon my muse,
Vouchsafe (my friend) her faults for to peruse.

                                                                             Tam Marti quam Mercurio.


1. It would be erroneous to maintain that Gascoigne’s “Ferenda Natura” and Queen Elizabeth were a 100% match or to say that Gascoigne was really in love with her. It would be far closer to the truth to say that in his allegory; the Saint of “Cressid’s kind” he makes a lot of references to Queen Elizabeth whom he encountered at court as a young man and who denied his wishes concerning his military ambitions. On the one hand, Gascoigne imported a lot of Queen Elisabeth’s character traits in the creation of “Ferenda Natura”: “the blazing of her eyne”; “the Lily and the Rose”; “thy golden rays”; “that seemed like Pelican”; “Black, white, and green; first black for mourning moan, / Then white for chaste … A bend of green: for though his joys were gone”; “his love was Una”. On the other hand the author  wrote parallel passages in  “The complaint of the green Knight” and “The green Knight’s farewell to Fancy” (included in A Hundreth sundrie Flowres, 1573), when Gascoigne says that ‘Cosmana’, or the Court “had cast him off” (See note 36). Also in The grief of Joye (1576) the author brings the figure of “Ferenda Natura” in immediate proximity of the Queen - he speaks of Ferenda, but he points to the Queen.[39]

My Sweetest sour, my Joy of all my grief,
My Friendly foe, mine oft Reviving death,
My first Regrate [sorrow], my right and last Relief,
My fruitful crop, and yet my Barren heath,
My store and stock which spares & spends my breath,
My Hope forlorn, my Height of all my Hap,
My Love first lulled in golden fancy’s lap.

My Hollow tree [refuge], my banishment to Bath,
Ferenda She, who eke Natura hight [called],
My Ground of Green, which (mixt with black) is rath [vehement],
My Port of Peace, whose wars yet dubbed me knight,
My Livia, my love, and my delight,
Mine A per se, my All, mine only Sum,
Before this heap in hasty heat doth come.

Gascoigne’s tragic tale of unrequited love in the poems is an allegory, based on the frustration that he experienced when he petitioned the Queen to further his military career but was refused by her. - As in Oxford’s “The Adventures of Master F.I.” whereby praise and rebuke go hand in hand in his dealings with Mistress Ellinor; Gascoigne puts the fight with his “friendly foe” in the centre of his story. Each of the two authors of A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres acts as a mirror to the other, as they obviously planned in advance. That which Oxford brings to paper with his own special brand of bravado and brilliance, Gascoigne delivers like a cart horse walking up a steep hill.

2. This singular practice gives us an insight in the intrepidity of the young Earl of Oxford he took his literary poison darts, dipped them in honey and threw them at the Queen. We find praise and flattery mixed with ridicule and mockery, bitterly comic bouts of nostalgia mixed with elegant rearguard actions, escapades of delusional hope mixed with the ironic, nervous fits of laughter of the deceived. The Queen is the subject of about a third of Oxford’s early poems - either in the lover’s acceptance of the mutual dependence that they have on each other (38, 44, 46, 49); or in the promises of eternal fidelity (47, 50, 63); or in reference to the beautiful and goodly woman to whom the devoted follower dedicates his life (45, 63); or with the sarcastic remarks that ensue when the lover compares himself to the respectable Troilus and the object of his love to the notoriously unfaithful Cressida (44, 51, 60). Admonition and jealousy are woven into some of his most ardent declarations of love (45, 50); or he writes bitter poems of unrequited love whereby he, in spite of his insistence that the Queen read them, denies that they are addressed to her (42, 56, 59).  Mockery and praise, contempt and adoration form a unique neighbourhood. The Queen must have felt courted and shaken, admired and admonished, genuinely loved and sternly reprimanded. So as to camouflage his poetic attacks, the agile aristocrat hid behind his friend George Gascoigne who bemoaned his unsuccessful career in the role of the lover “Dan Bartholmew of Bath”, jilted by “Ferenda Natura” (who’s nature must be endured).

3. When writing of Queen Elizabeth, the anonymous author of Willobie his AVISA (1594) veils himself in anonymity, just like Oxford and Gascoigne in A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1573). Oxford tried to court Elizabeth with his poetry, (though scolding her up hill and down dale in the process); Gascoigne lamented of his unrequited love of Elizabeth. “Henry Willobie” (as he chose to call himself) reiterates the fates of Elizabeth’s various suitors. To this purpose -and only to this purpose- he remembers so many aspects of the long forgotten publication of 1573 ! - Willobie copied the abbreviation “H. W.” (from the author of the introduction to A Hundreth sundrie Flowres) and used the posy “Fortuna Ferenda” (compiled of “Ferenda Natura” and “Fato non fortuna”). He signs the final poem with the posy “Ever or Never”; he raises the issue of female infidelity (“of Cressid’s kind”); he either quotes directly, or he paraphrases twenty nine of Oxford’s poems from the period from 1573 to 1576 - and maintains the known practices (as established in A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres) to keep the authorship under a secret. – See 3.2.2. Willobie his AVISA.

4. The reader should easily see the difference between Gascoigne’s somewhat pedestrian style and Oxford’s brilliant poetry when he compares Oxford’s poems (Nos 3-63) with those of Gascoigne. If not, we see two possibilities; either his strengths lie elsewhere and not in the determination of authorship (to formulate the situation diplomatically) or: There was not need to be diplomatic, because the person in question can’t read anyway.



[1] “And therewithal the blazing of her eyne”: In the Elizabethan literature the metaphor of “the blazing eyes” was often used in connection with the Queen..

[2] “Nor seldom seen in kids of Cressid’s kind”: The young Greek woman who grew up in the city of Troy, spends a night of passion with the Trojan Prince Troilus. As soon as the Greeks took her back to Athens, Cressida was unfaithful to Troilus - with Diomedes.

Female infidelity is also the subject of Oxford’s “The Adventures of Master F. I.”; furthermore it can be found in the  “Divers excellent devises”.

[3] “Let call her now Ferenda Natura ”: See introduction ahead. – At some point in time in the 1570s, Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) also wrote a poem with the title “Ferenda Natura” which is assumed to have been written for Queen Elizabeth. (According to legend, Raleigh wrote on a window pane: “Fain who I climb, but I fear a fall.” Queen Elizabeth added: “If thy heart fail thee, then why climb at all?”)

Fain would I, but I dare not;
I dare, and yet I may not;
I may, although I care not,
for pleasure when I play not.

You laugh because you like not;
I jest whenas I joy not;
You pierce, although you strike not;
I strike and yet annoy not.

I spy, whenas I speak not;
for oft I speak and speed not;
But of my wounds you reck not,
because you see they bleed not.

Yet bleed they when you see not,
though you the pain endure not:
Of noble mind they be not
that ever kill and cure not.

I see, and yet I view not;
I wish, although I crave not;
I serve, and yet I sue not;
I hope for that I have not.

I catch, although I hold not;
I burn, although I flame not;
I seem, whenas I would not;
and when I seem, I am not.

Yours am I, though I seem not,
and will be, though I show not;
Mine outward deeds then deem not,
when mine intent you know not.

But if my serving prove not
most sure, although I sue not,
Withdraw your mind and love not,
nor of my ruin rue not.
If sweet from sour might any way remove,
what joy, what hap, what heaven were like love.

(Bodleian Library, MS. Rawl. 85, fol. 41v., with the signature “W. R.”)

[4] “The highest flying hawk will stoop at last”: Gascoigne’s verse adopts Oxford’s imagery and turn of phrase. In other words, using the more modest intellectual equipment at his disposal, he wrote a continuation of Oxford’s poem.

[5] “six stanzas with six lines to the stanza”: This poetical form is called a “hexameton” in Willobie his AVISA (1594). (See 3.2.2 Willobie his AVISA, note 20.)

[6] “If ever man yet found the Bath of perfect bliss”: In the fifth chapter of the Flowres (“Certain devises of master Gascoigne”) George Gascoigne writes a revocation (or “Recantation”) of  “Amid my bale I bath in bliss”, whereby he claims authorship for himself. Gascoigne's Recantation, however, is no match for the elegance of the lines that he revoked.

Now must I needs recant the words which once I spoke,
Fond fancy fumes so nigh my nose, I needs must smell the smoke:
And better were to bear a faggot from the fire,
Than wilfully to burn and blaze in flames of vain desire.
I say then and profess, with free and faithful heart,
That women’s vows are nothing else but snares of secret smart:
Their beauties’ blaze are baits which seem of pleasant taste,
But who devours the hidden hook, eats poison for repast:
Their smiling is deceit, their fair words train of treason,
Their wit always so full of wiles, it scorneth rules of reason.
Percase some present here have heard myself of yore
Both teach and preach the contrary, my fault was then the more:
Mine eyes so blinded were, (good people mark my tale)
That once I song, I bath in bliss amid my weary bale:
And many a frantic verse then from my pen did pass,
In waves of wicked heresy, so deep I drowned was.
All which I now recant, and here before you burn
Those trifling books, from whose lewd lore my tippet here I turn.
And henceforth will I write, how mad is that man’s mind,
Which is enticed by any train to trust in womankind.

[7]Fato non Fortuna”: A task for the detectives. In changing from the posy “Meritum petere grave” to “Fato non fortuna” Gascoigne inadvertently revealed that A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1573) and The Posies of G. G. (1575) were both the joint effort of two authors. Had one and the same author been responsible then the posies would both have been his literary property, thereby removing the necessity for a change.

[8] “The Saint he serv'd became a crafty devil”: Gascoigne first went to court as a replacement for his father as almoner at Elizabeth I's coronation and after that he spent his life trying to establish himself as a courtier, something he consistently failed to do.- Even though his relationship to Queen Elizabeth is seldom discussed, this statement from “the Reporter” seems to be somewhat adventurous.

[9] “Which verse he wrote at Bath”: In The Grief of Joye (1576) Gascoigne speaks of his “banishment to Bath.”

[10] “Before I first beheld thy golden rays”: See note 1.

[11] “When first I got the Bulwarks of thy breast”: Typical for Gascoigne; more the words of a soldier than those of a poet.

[12] “now could I kill thy corpse”: What he meant to say was ‘now could I kill the hunger of thy corpse.’

[13] “To ward thy will from that unworthy man?”: The identity of “the unworthy man” will never be revealed.

[14] “I found naught else but tricks of Cressid’s kind”: See Willobie his AVISA (1594), CANT. LXXIIII: “My heart is now, as first it was, / I came not of dame Cressid’s kind.”

[15] “The Admiral, which knew it by the mark, / Straight challenged all, and said thou wert a rover”: Speaking within the framework of naval comparisons, “the Admiral” is probably a suitor of “Ferenda Natura”, the term “rover” means a fickle, or an inconstant lover. The “Admiral” accuses Ferenda of being unfaithful to him (with that ‘unworthy man’). In The Catholic imaginary and the cults of Elizabeth (2009) Stephen Hamrick misinterprets this scene as being a reference to Queen Elisabeth having gone down on her knees before the Catholic Church:  “Bartholmew’s use of the terms ‘fault,’ ‘confess,’ ‘down on knee,’ ‘pardon crave,’ and ‘accuse’ each serve as essential elements representing Catholic penance in a religio-erotic context… Admitting her ‘fault’ and ‘craving’ pardon, Ferenda (Elizabeth) therin represents active confession, seeking absolution in the Catholic church or, in the allegorical terms established by Gascoigne, from her courtiers” (Stephen Hamrick, The Catholic imaginary, p. 116.) – This interpretation seems to be completely wrong. At no point in time did Gascoigne (nor Elizabeth) show even the slightest sign of having Catholic sympathies. An “allegory of male dominance” would have never been crowned with success when dealing with the Queen. It is far more likely that some sort of enmity developed between Gascoigne and Elizabeth’s would-be-suitors during his first stay at court (1559-1560). - In “The green Knight’s farewell to Fancy” (Flowres, 1576) we read: “When court had cast me off, I toiled at the plough.”

[16] “And down on knee before thy cruel foe / Didst pardon crave, accusing me for all”: Hardly      realistic.

[17] „And that I spun the thread of all thy thrall”: Marginal note: “These things are mystical and not to be understood but by th’author himself.”

[18] “Lo how I love the wight which me doth hate”: With ‘wight’ (not used in the derogatory sense) the object of his love is meant.

[19] “Whereas I bath not now in bliss pardie”: A repetition of the bath-in-bliss motive. See the above introduction.

[20] “The rimes which pleaséd thee were all in print”: Marginal Note: “Another mystery.” - Gascoigne is referring to the lines of the more successful rivals. Not wishing to reveal the identity of “Ferenda Natura”, the reference to the printed verse remains a mystery.

[21]  “I Fato Non Fortuna hight, lo now you know my name”: I am called Fato non Fortuna; ‘Determined by fate, yet not by luck.’

[22] “And that his bale were better overblown”: A continuation of ‘The Reporter’s conclusion’.

[23] “Upon the stones a trampling steed we heard”: The Queens mounted envoy!

[24] “The messenger swore by no bugs I trow”: OED: to swear by no bugs - to take a genuine oath, not a mere pretence of one.

[25]And well wote I (what ere his fancy be)”: = I well know who (a little while ago) his love was.

[26] “By one that seemed like Pelican to play”: The Pelican (a bird famed for cutting open its own breast in order to feed its young with her blood) was used as a symbol for Queen Elizabeth. (See, Elizabeth I: The Pelican Portrait, c.1575, attributed to Nicholas Hilliard.)

[27] “But when he spied the man, then ’gan he smile”: This is a reference to “the messenger”, who stayed overnight, in whom Bartholmew obviously sees one of his tormentors (“ that erst he counted worst”). Apparently, there is a close connection between ‘the messenger’ and ‘the Admiral’.

[28]Terence was wise which taught by Pamphilus”: A reference to Terence's comedy Andria.

[29]Ferenda, She whom heaven and earth had framed / For his decay and to bewitch his wits”: With regard to Queen Elizabeth, a very bold statement.

[30] “But that therein she tasted deep delight, / That said she not, nor I presume to write”: On occasions, even Gascoigne managed to make a good joke.

[31] “She said and swore (how ever sate the wind) / That Admirals did never know her case”: ‘Ferenda Natura’ foreswore the whisperings of  “Admirals”. (See note 15.)

[32] “she said no printed rimes / Could please her so as his brave Triumphs did”: Gascoigne bestows praise on himself in advance.

[33] “So could Ferenda never more forget / The lease [pasture] at large where she her flings had fed”: Ferenda remains faithful to the fact that she is notoriously unfaithful.

[34] “In his Ensign these colours ’gan he choose: / Black, white, and green”: These are the colours of the Tudors.

[35]Bartello he which writeth riding tales, / Brings in a Knight which clad was all in green”: In The Posies of George Gascoigne (1575), the second edition of the Flowres from 1573, Gascoigne gives the name ““The pleasant Fable of Ferdinando Jeronimi and Leonora de Valasco” to Oxford’s novella  “The Adventures of Master F. I.”, ascribing the work  to a fictitious Italian author by the name of “Bartello”. Gascoigne gives himself the name “The Green Knight” - probably taken from a passage in “The Adventures of Master F. I.” : “On a time, the knight [the husband of the Lady Ellinor] riding on hunting, desired F. I. to accompany him, the which he could not refuse to do, but like a lusty younker, ready at all assays, apparelled himself in green, and about his neck a Bugle, pricking & galloping amongst the foremost according to the manner of that country.”

[36] “that same Knight … is Batt’s [ Bartholmew’s] own Father’s Sister’s brother’s Son”: Which is another way of saying that “the Green Knight” and “Dan Bartholmew” are one and the same person. In “The complaint of the green Knight” (Flowres, 1573 / Posies 1575) Gascoigne delivers the following version of his story, whereby the all powerful lover is split into two women, Cosmana und Feranda.

Cosmana was my god, Cosmana was my joy,
Ay me, Cosmana turned my mirth to dole and dark annoy:
Thou knowst I honoured her, no more but all too much,
Alas thou knowst she cast me off, when I deserved no grudge.
She dead (I dying yet) ay me my tears were dried,
And teeth of time anewed the grief, which all to long I tried,
Yet from her [Cosmana’s] ashes sprung, or from such subtile mould,
Ferenda she, whom every eye did judge more bright than gold.
Ferenda then I saw, Ferenda I beheld,
Ferenda served I faithfully, in town and eke in field:
Ferenda could not say, the green Knight was untrue;
But out alas, the green Knight said, Ferenda changed for new:
Ferenda did her kind: then was she to be borne,
She did but wear Cosmane’s clouts [patches], which she in spite had toomed [discharged].
And yet between them both, they wore the threads so near,
As were they not of steel or stone, they could not hold yfere [together].
But now Ferenda mine, a little by thy leave:
What movéd thee to madding mood? why didst thou me deceive?
Alas I was al thine, thyself can say no less,
And for thy fall I bathed oft in many a deep distress:
And yet to do thee right, I neither blame thy race,
Thy shining self, the golden gleams that glistred on thy face,
Nor yet thy fickle faith, shall never bear the blame,
But I, whom kind hath framed to find a grief in every game:
The high decrees of heaven have limited my life,
To linger still where Love doth lodge, yet there to starve in strife.

And in “The green Knight’s farewell to Fancy” we read:

To fawn and flatter both, I liked sometimes well,
But since I see how vain it is, Fancy (quoth he) farewell.
When court had cast me off, I toiled at the plow …

In other words: Cosmana, Ferenda and “the court” are presented as being equals.

[37] “And since he rageth not as he was wont, / Although sometimes he seem (alight) to crave”: Bartholmew is no longer a blast furnace of passion, more accurate to say that his amorous desires are on a slow flame.

[38] “L’envoy”: With this post-script Gascoigne addresses himself to the Earl of Oxford, the man who (under the name “Meritum petere grave”) published A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1573) as well as contributing a third of its content: “The Adventures of Master F. I.” and “Divers excellent devises”. - Gascoigne doesn't miss the opportunity to thank his benefactor. Without his help, the poet emphasises, Dan Bartholmew’s (=Gascoigne’s) pitiful wining would have landed in a damp ditch, never to get out.

[39] “he speaks of Ferenda but he points to the Queen”: In the ‘Second Song’ of The grief of Joye (1576) Gascoigne speaks of the Queen and her circle of high born, beautiful ladies, among whom is one woman who stands out. Verses 20-27 are as follows:

And surely (Muse), although my Queen be here,
(Besides her place) no place can now prevail
Without respect, they [= the dames] cluster everywhere,
And (but to her) they do no bonnet vail [take off],
All run at-ones, and all at-ones assail,
That makes my Saint (for haste) come next her Queen,
Whose beauty’s heat (perchance) enflamed her spleen.

The self same humour feedeth mo than her.
For all afar I spy a troupe of Dames,
Who come in haste, and mean to keep a stir,
I see them well, yet know I not their names,
But sure it seems, some Choler them inflames.
What be they? ha? oh what a beast am I ?
These Stars of Court had blear’d my better eye.

My Sweetest sour, my Joy of all my grief,
My Friendly foe, mine oft Reviving death,
My first Regrate [sorrow], my right and last Relief,
My fruitful crop, and yet my Barren heath,
My store and stock which spares & spends my breath,
My Hope forlorn, my Height of all my Hap,
My Love first lulled in golden fancy’s lap.

My Hollow tree [refuge], my banishment to Bath,
Ferenda She, who eke Natura hight [called],
My Ground of Green, which (mixt with black) is rath [vehement],
My Port of Peace, whose wars yet dubbed me knight,
My Livia, my love, and my delight,
Mine A per se, my All, mine only Sum,
Before this heap in hasty heat doth come.

O Bartholmew, (saith She) where be thy wits,
And where the skill, which wont to guide thy pen?
Shall world conclude that fancy comes by fits?
Wilt thou be found as fond as other men,
Who dotingly do dally now and then?
Can light conceit (in thy mind) reason chase,
From that which proof hath often put in place?

And with that word (instead of force to fight,)
She turns her face, and weeps with woeful cheer,
Which blow (unseen) amazeth more my spright
Than all the threats which I rehearsed here.
Forgive me (dames) and with my passion bear,
Her tears (my Queen except) do grieve me more
Than if all you should weep your eyes’ full sore.

O lady per amount, you are to wise
To fret hereat, for this is she, indeed,
By whom my muse hath mounted (erst) to skies,
Whose only fair my fancy long did feed,
This is love’s mint, which only gave me meed [reward].
I played with some, their patience for to prove,
But Livia (in earnest) had my love.

And worthy well, since kind with all her craft
Yet never framed her fere in all respects,
Blind Cupid needeth not to spend a shaft,
Her only look e’ery living mind infects,
She is esteem’d of all estates and Sects.
Men make her room, and women give her place,
Love bends her bow, and malice bears [bears off] her mace [swindling].