Early Elizabethan Poetry

George Gascoigne (1539 - 1577)

The Green Knight's Farewell to Fancy (extract)

Fancy (quoth he), farewell, whose badge I long did bear,
And in my hat full harebrainedly thy flowers did I wear.
Too late I find, at last, thy fruits are nothing worth;
Thy blossoms fall and fade full fast, though bravery bring them forth.
By thee I hoped always in deep delights to dwell,
But since I find thy fickleness, Fancy (quoth he), farewell.

Thou madest me dwell in love, which wisdom bids me hate;
Thou bleardst mine eyes and madst me think that faith was mine by fate,
By thee those bitter sweets did please my taste always;
By thee I thought that love was light and pain was but a play.
I thought that beauty's blaze was meet to bear the bell,
And since I find myself deceived, Fancy (quoth he), farewell.

The gloss of gorgeous courts by thee did please mine eye;
A stately sight me thought it was to see the brave go by,
To see their feathers flaunt, to mark their strange device,
To lie along in ladies' laps, to lisp and make it nice;
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;
My fancy stood in strange conceits; to thrive I wot not how--
By mills, by making malt, by sheep, and eke by swine,
By duck and drake, by pig and goose, by calves and keeping kine,
By feeding bullocks fat, when price at markets fell;
But since my swains eat up my gains, Fancy (quoth he), farewell.


A fancy fed me once to write in verse and rime,
To wray my grief, to crave reward, to cover still my crime,
To frame a long discourse on stirring of a straw,
To rumble rime in raff and ruff, yet all not worth a haw;
To hear it said, There goeth the man that writes so well;
But since I see what poets be, Fancy (quoth he), farewell.


Barnabe Googe (1540 - 1594)

Of Money

Give money me, take friendship whoso list,
For friends are gone, come once adversity,
When money yet remaineth safe in chest,
That quickly can thee bring from misery;
Fair face show friends when riches do abound;
Come time of proof, farewell, they must away;
Believe me well, they are not to be found
If God but send thee once a lowering day.
Gold never starts aside, but in distress,
Finds ways enough to ease thine heaviness.

George Turberville (1540 - 1595)

(This poem by Tuberville is one of the first examples of the carpe diem theme in English):

Though brave your beauty be, and feature passing fair,
Such as Apelles to depaint might utterly despair,
Yet drowsy drooping Age, encroaching on apace,
With pensive plough will raze your hue, and Beauty's beams deface.
Wherefore in tender years how crooked Age doth haste
Revoke to mind, so shall you not your time consume in waste.

Whilst that you may, and youth in you is fresh and green,
delight yourself: for years do flit as fickle floods are seen;
For water slipped by may not be called again,
And to revoke forepassed hours were labour lost in vain.
Take time whilst time applies; with nimble foot it goes;
Nor to compare with passed prime thy after age suppose.

The holts that now are hoar, both bud and bloom I saw;
I wore a garland of the briar that puts me now in awe.
The time will be when thou that dost thy friends defy
A cold and crooked beldam shalt in loathsome cabin lie;
Nor with such nightly brawls thy postern gate shall sound,
Nor roses strewn afront thy door in dawning shall be found.

How soon are corpses, Lord, with filthy furrows filled?
How quickly Beauty, brace of late, and seemly shape is spilled?
Even thou that from thy youth to have been so, wilt swear;
With turn of hand in, all thy head shalt have gray powdered hair.

The snakes with shifted skins their loathsome age do way;
The buck doth hang his head on pale to live a longer day.
Your good without recure doth pass; receive the flower
Which if you pluck not from the stalk, will fall within this hour.

Edmund Spenser (1552? - 1599)

From The Shepherd's Calendar (Eclogue for April)

A celebration of "fayre Elisa, Queene of shepheardes all":

Ye dayntye Nymphs, that in this blessed Brooke
doe bathe your brest,
Forsake your watry bowres, and hither looke,
at my request:
And eke you Virgins, that on Parnasse dwell,
Whence floweth Helicon the learned well,
Helpe me to blaze
Her worthy praise,
Which in her sexe doth all excell.

Of fayre Elisa be your silver song,
that blessed wight:
The flowre of Virgins, may she flourish long,
in princely plight.
For she is Syrinx daughter without spotte,
Which Pan the shepheards God of her begot:
So sprong her grace
Of heavenly race,
No mortal blemishe may her blotte.

See, where she sits upon the grassie greene,
(O seemely sight)
Yclad in Scarlot like a mayden Queene,
And Ermines white.
Upon her head a Cremoisin coronet,
With Damaske roses and Daffadillies set:
Bayleaves betweene,
And Primroses greene
Embellish the sweete Violet.

From The November eclogue, an Elegy on the death of an unidentified woman (Dido), modelled on one by Marot:

Shepherds, that by your flocks on Kentish downs abide,
Wail ye this woeful waste of nature's work:
Wail we the wight, whose presence was our pride:
Wail we the wight, whose absence is our cark.
The sun of all the world is dim and dark:
The earth now lacks her wonted light,
And all we dwell in deadly night,
O heavy hearse.
Break we our pipes, that shrilled as loud as lark,
O careful verse.

Why do we longer live, (ah why live we so long)
Whose better days death hath shut up in woe?
The fairest flower our garland all among,
Is faded quite and into dust ygo.
Sing now ye shepherds' daughters, sing no moe
The songs that Colin made in her praise,
But into weeping turn your wanton lays,
O heavy hearse,
Now is time to die. Nay time was long ygo,
O careful verse.


But maugre death, and dreaded sisters' deadly spite
And gates of hell and fiery furies' force
She hath the bonds broke of eternal night,
Her soul unbodied of the burdenous corpse.
Why then weeps Lobbin so without remorse?
O Lobb, thy loss no longer lament,
Dido nis dead, but into heaven hent.
O happy hearse,
Cease now, my Muse, now cease thy sorrows' source,
O joyful verse.

From  The Faerie Queene

The Bower of Bliss

(Book II, canto xii, stanza 58...)
There the most dainty Paradise on ground
Itself doth offer to his sober eye,
In which all pleasures plenteously abound,
And none does other's happiness envy:
The painted flowers, the trees upshooting high,
The dales for shade, the hills for breathing space,
The trembling groves, the crystal running by;
And that which all fair works doth most agrace,
The art which all that wrought appeared in no place.

One would have thought (so cunningly the rude
And scorned parts were mingled with the fine)
That Nature had for wantonness ensued
Art, and that Art at Nature did repine;
So striving each th'other to undermine,
Each did the other's work more beautify;
So diff'ring both in wills, agreed in fine:
So all agreed through sweet diversity,
This Garden to adorn with all variety.

And in the midst of all a fountain stood,
Of richest substance that on earth might be,
So pure and shiny that the silver flood
Through every channel running one might see;
Most goodly it with curious imagery
Was over-wrought, and shapes of naked boys
Of which some seemed with lively jolity,
To fly about, playing with their wanton toys,
Whilst others did themselves embay in liquid joys.

And over all, of purest gold was spread
A trail of ivy in his native hue:
For the rich metal was so coloured
That wight who did not well avis'd it view
Would surely deem it to be ivy true:
Low his lacivious arms adown did creep
That themselves dipping in the silver dew
Their fleecy flowers they tenderly did steep,
Which drops of crystal seemed for wantonness to weep.

And all the margin round about was set
With shady laurel trees, thence to defend
The sunny beams which on the billows beat,
And those which therein bathed might offend.
As Guyon happ'ned by the same to wend,
Two naked damsels he therein espied
Which therein bathing seemed to contend
And wrestle wantonly, ne cared to hide
Their dainty parts from view of any which them eyed.

Sometimes the one would lift the other quite
Above the waters and then down again
Her plunge, as overmastered by might,
Where both awhile would covered remain,
And each the other from to rise restrain;
Thewhiles their snowy limbs, as through a veil
So through the cristal waves appeared plain:
Then suddenly both would themselves unhele
And th'amorous sweet spoils to greedy eyes reveal.

In the middle lies Acrasia with a new lover asleep in her arms; she represents sensuality without relationship and offers no true sexual fulfillment. The carpe diem song that is sung there is significant of the ethos of the whole Garden:

Thewhiles someone did chant this lovely lay:
Ah see, who so fair thing doest fain to see,
In springing flower the image of thy day;
Ah see the virgin Rose, how sweetly she
Doth first peep forth with bashful modesty,
That fairer seems, the less ye see her may;
Lo, see soon after, how more bold and free
Her bared bosom she doth broad display;
Lo, see soon after, how she fades and falls away.

So passeth in the passing of a day
Of mortal life the leaf, the bud, the flower,
Ne more doth flourish after first decay
That erst was sought to deck both bed and bower
Of many a lady and many a paramour:
Gather therefore the Rose, whilst yet is prime,
For soon comes age, that will her pride deflower:
Gather the Rose of love whilst yet is time,
Whilst loving thou mayst loved be with equal crime.

They see Acrasia herself

Upon a bed a bed of roses she was laid,
As faint through heat or dight to pleasant sin,
And all arrayed, or rather disarrayed,
All in a veil of silk and silver thin
That hid no wit her alabaster skin
But rather showed more white, if more might be:
More subtle net Arachne cannot spin
Nor the fine nets, which oft we woven see
Of scorched dew, do not in th'air more lightly flee.

Her snowy breast was bare to ready spoil
Of hungry eyes, which n'ote therewith be fill'd
And yet through langour of her late sweet toil
Few drops more clear than nectar forth distill'd,
That like pure orient pearls adown it trill'd
And her fair eyes sweet smiling in delight
Moistened their fiery beams, with which she thrill'd
Frail hearts, yet quenched not; like starry light
Which sparkling on the silent waves, does seem more bright.