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JOHN STRADLING’S EPIGRAMS
1. ON HIS BOOK, TO THE READER
Since this book contains a miscellany of epitaphs, odes, and epigrams, are you perplexed what title it should bear? Let my book be a forest, let a poem be a tree in it, with verses for branches and words for leaves. Trees’ appearance, nature, and use are not all the same. This one is useful for building, that one for the fireplace.
2. TO THE READER
The poems I wrote in play as a youth I publish at a more advanced age, for the criticisms of young men and the judgment of their elders.
Whatever Memphis has that is wonderful, Corinth that is costly, Troy that is ancient, Greece that is magnificent, Rome that is sacred, Campania that is delightful, Tuscany that is subtle, or the Spaniards that is opulent, whatever of wealth is at Venice, whatever of learning is at Athens, the capital of the Britons may call this all its own.
4. ON AN OLD WOMAN, TOOTHLESS BUT NOT TONGUELESS
Formerly your weapons were your teeth and your tongue. The former were harmful, the latter even more so. Lately your teeth have fallen out and now you are toothless. But in truth I would prefer you were tongueless. The Fates forbid this to occur, for every woman comes equipped with a tongue. Do you lack a tongue? You would wrongly be called a woman.
5. A QUESTION RESOLVED. ABOUT THE MARRIAGE PRIESTS
Unless priests have the ability to marry or burn, what will they do? Tell them they should have died to the world.
6. OBSCURE TESTIMONIES. ON GELLIA
On the brink of marrying a young man, Gellia refused to say her vows if his bona fides were not enhanced by testimony. The lad agreed, and summoned many, great and sharp of eye. She, slyly smiling, replied thus: “It’s enough for me if there be two test-imonies, hidden and small. Without these, there’ll be no marriage with me.”
7. TO THE MOST NOBLE SIR FRANCIS WALSINGHAM, KNIGHT, THE QUEEN’S SECRETARY, A WISE AND PRUDENT MAN
Thus you hide in your loyal heart secrets which should be kept silent at home, thus you learn what should be published abroad, that I am doubtful whether your prudence or your virtue is the greater. By this virtue, you are beyond doubt a great man in regard to both.
8. TO HIS UNCLE, SIR EDWARD STRADLING, WELSH KNIGHT
Sole hope of the Stradlings, a knight who deduces his pedigree in straight descent from the stock of our first William, though you sit in the seat consecrated to Donat the martyr, and gaze on the lofty castle which comes from your ancient forebears, a man distinguished by the portraits of your ancestors, yet more distinguished yourself, who passes on to these men the glory that your family has passed on to you, elevate your mind and ornament your ancestors with new virtues. You may always enter into noble enterprises, you who as a young men came on foot to the wandering Rhone, the two-horned Rhine, and the ever-wandering Tiber, from where, having wandered the territories of these regions, you came home safe, more cultivated in learning. Hence your wit is astute, hence your experience is greater, this was the supreme glory of Ulysses. Nor did you repent the tedium and the hard labor: with a reward of praise, that effort was light enough. Therefore, mindful of your family and your earlier glories, now you are an old man wholly pious in the love of your nation. Live, old man, and long may Lachesis draw out your thread, and the Penelope-like consort of your life. And thus, when the Sisters have spun out your thread, and the day comes which is not hateful for a brave man, your spirit will go flying free to the citadels of the heavens, but your life will be an example for posterity.
9. TO LADY AGNES, HIS CONSORT, A MOST CHOICE WOMAN, THE AUNT OF MY WIFE, SPRUNG FROM THE ILLUSTRIOUS FAMILY OF THE GAGES
While I am devising something worthy of you, my slack hand droops and, exhausted, the power of my talent fails me. At the same time I perceive so much to be praised, which can be listed by no man’s talent and no man’s art. Rather, each thing must be treated separately, and no man can write of so many in verse, or paint them on canvas. Though you are known to me in your entirety, yet I know of nothing you possess within yourself which does not deserve my praise.
10. ON MOST SPLENDID DRAKE
If they are illustrious who demonstrate illustrious deeds, I cannot see who would be more illustrious than yourself. Bright you shone in the West, bright in the East. Where the sun shows itself, your praise widely resounds.
11. TO JOHN DAVYDD RHYS OF ANGELSEY, PHYSICIAN OF SIENNA, FRIEND
Rhys, venerable among my friends for your hoary locks, but even more so for your faithful probity, to whom Angelsey gave your native soil, Wales your lineage, Italy your wit, and Sienna your degree, Stradling sends you this page in lieu of a gift, accept these presents (old man), of whatever quality they man be. Although, Rhys, you became well-known by traversing Europe, perhaps you will be better known thanks to this page. But let pages perish, let whatever is on them be erased. I will be dear to you, you will be dear in my heart.
12. TO MY FRIEND THOMAS LEYSON, A PHYSICIAN OF BATH, ON A TERTIAN FEVER QUICKLY SHAKEN OFF
Lately gripped with a tertian ague (sometimes hot, and then chilled), I was quite weak, Leyson. The disease attacked me more savagely, it vexed and tortured me. Then, in the dumps, I brooded on a method of cure. Thus I spoke: “I’ll take flight to my Leyson, to Leyson I’ll describe my pains, I’ll seize my Leyson’s charms, I’ll make trial of the Leysonian arts.” It was miraculous how the little fever’s fury abated, how the disease suddenly retreated. It either envied me my Leyson, or feared for itself because of my Leyson.
13. TO SIR RICHARD BARKLEY, MOST LEARNED KNIGHT, ON HIS BOOK IN WHICH HE EXPLAINS THE SUMMUM BONUM
Greatest Aristotle, with the greatest art and effort desiring to explain the greatest good to his pupils, placed the greatest in the Mean. You, more careful than him, make us go to the greatest great good. What is the greatest great good? The only God, and you greatly make Him to be the greatest good.
14. ON SEXTILIANUS THE BOOKSELLER CUM PRIVILEGIO FOR THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO PRINT
Sextilianus promised to produce a volume with skill and polish, but first of all he wanted it to be advertised by royal licence that only his printer could sell it. When the book finally came out and only a rare buyer came to the shop, the typographer perceived that the copyright de imprimendo solum was purchased in vain.
15. TO HIS MISTRESS
You are not mine unless you are wholly mine. A single girl belongs to no man when she is serves many men as a mistress.
16. TO GALLA
With art Galla assists her teeth, scabrous with foul grunge, and the stench of her reeking chest. And no matter how swarthy nature has created her face, by her art she cleverly makes it fair. Though she belongs to the number of the flat of feet, and is hunchbacked from birth, with womanly art she conceals these blemishes. Then, decked out, she regards herself in the mirror, and says, “Art helps out nature.” That statement is quite sure. Behold, to you nature was an unkind stepmother. If art should not come to the rescue, how defective you’d be! Pray tell me, Galla, since you have been chaste all along, why by this evil art have you the deceptions of a whore? Therefore you could scarcely rightly be called a daughter of either nature or art, but you are an obscene bastard.
17. NEW YEAR’S GIFT. TO A WEALTHY FRIEND
Lo, I send you the fruits of my talents, whatever they may be. For the earth has borne me no fruits. But it has given you more, your talent has given you less. Give me a share of those things of which you have a copious supply.
18. ON AN ATHEIST
In life, for you Hell and Heaven are myths. In death, you wretch, you yourself will be a part of Hell.
19. THE TOMB OF INDOMITABLE PARMA
Let historians recount your deeds. If your tomb should say, “Here lies renowned Parma,” that is sufficient.
20. OF A WELL-BEARDED GOAT AND AULUS, BEARDLESS AND BEGOWNED
You two could make up a single professor, Aulus, if the goat had your gown, or you his beard.
21. TO THE MOST SERENE ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF ENGLAND, FRANCE, AND IRELAND
Pallas wit, Venus beauty, and Juno empire: these three, Elizabeth, have granted these three things to you.
22. ON COTTA
Cotta promised me a gift small and sapient, and lately he gave me small gift which is sappy and stupid.
23. ON A CERTAIN FORMAL MAN
Albeit form gives you a name, you are devoid of substance, rightly to be called a formal man.
24. ON MEAD SIMPLE (METH) AND COMPOUNDED (METHEGLYN)
There is a honeyed drink commonly called mead, but its nature is understood to be twofold. The purer is a honeyed liquor, the less pure has an admixture of various herbs. Bacchus makes both kinds pleasing. It is a medicinal drink, the medication derives from the herbs. Thus the pure kind is less beneficial. But honey is a distillation of herbs. Why do they mix infuse herbs in something that cherishes the spirits of herbs within itself?
25. TO SIR EDWARD STRADLING, KNIGHT, ON HIS LEYSON’S HONEYED DRINK
If my Muse should be able to tell you, Stradling, what will make you long-lived and hale, you will not have to hunt for a second Hippocrates or a second Alexis, I by myself would give you both. Whatever medication is brought from the fragrant Indies, whatever the aromatic Arab sells to sailors, whatever cure-all comes from Egypt, Rome, or rich Spain, this will all be yours. But my Muse can scarcely promise such a gift, this is an effort more worthy of Phoebus’ art. Ah, how difficult it is to understand the hidden powers which clever nature has given in herbs! He who is prudently skilled in their uses would be a second Apollo among mortals. By these Medea shamefully pied her arts, from these Circe gathered each of her poisons. From this source all medicine flows, as from its fountain, from this comes every poison and antidote. So does all power of medicine exist in herbs, and is there such a great usage of herbs among physicians? There is no need to seek an antidote from the distant Indies, every land will provide safe remedies for the ailing. But now medicine does not seem a difficult business: the busy bee reveals that which lies hidden. With eager industry the little bee brings home to its cells whatever healing thing is born in herbs. Why does the money-grubbing pharmacist put his bitter elixirs on sale for the foolish people? Lo, a sweeter and better means of health has been found, especially known, Stradling, to your Leyson. Leyson commends honeyed potions to his friends, in honeyed song he sings of honeyed wine. If there is any healing virtue in waters, or in herbs, that honeyed Bacchus grasps this all. It humidifies the arid, it breaks up the stone, it heals ulcers, it is death for death, life for life, and for your life it is wellness. So, Leyson, I want you as my physician, for you win every point, you who mix the sweet with the useful. You are wholly honeyed. In honeyed fashion you write, speak, and act. So you are a wholly honeyed man.
26. EPITAPH FOR THOMAS STRADLING, KNIGHT
Whoever casts his eye on this tomb, let him stand still, and he will learn whose ashes this urn contains. This man once shone in the citadel of Donat’s, a castle long ennobled by his forebears. All-conquering time had consumed this castle, but you see it almost renewed by this man’s wit. But while he was in the mid-course of restoring its walls, and preparing a more splendid home for his old age, black death took envy on the man and closed him up in his grave. There is a heaven for his soul, this is the home of his body. Do not complain, old man, there are these consolations: the Fates will give your son whatever they have stolen from you.
27. ON PUBLIUS, A HYPOCRITE
Perchance, Publius, seeing my epigrams and sticking at the title, you exclaim that vain jests are being purveyed. You deny that you have anything to do with the filthy and wanton epigram, and that Scripture alone pleases you. So that no supply of levity be available to our youth (with you playing the censor), you would wish only sacred matter to be read in accordance with your advice. He who has experience of your character and habits, how as a careful hypocrite you hide in sheep’s clothing, would be able to say (contrary what an ancient once did), that your page is chaste enough, but your life very sordid.
28. ON GELLIUS
Gellius, why complain that this rude hound uses its nose to probe the ass of a puppy, your girl’s pet, which makes you indignant when it is treated so rudely? Forgive the dog, Gellus, and this unworthy thing he has done. You should do the same to its master.
29. ON LUNGIUS
Sober at times (but sparingly), Lungius praises the cups he has already quaffed with his unclean mouth. And, says he, the wondrous virtue in wine is this, that it dries out the moist and warms up the chilly. “By nature, the same power is innate in wine, of the wet and the dry, the cold and the warm. When I am ailing, no better medicine for me than must, whether my limbs are feverish or shivering. If a noxious humor seeps into my faint frame, drying wines will be my remedy. Or if dire thirst constricts my choking throat, this is my nostrum, I drink moist must. Good swigs of fine wine cure all manner of ills, this medication has nought of fraud or deceit. Let dolts commend Galen and Hippocrates, physicians who are pleased only by bitter drugs. But my art is better, for it mixes the pleasant with the useful. Get away from me, you stern crew of doctors.”
30. THE SAME MAN PRAISES HIS GALATEA
I sing you first Galatea, a wanton girl, a maiden worthy, Ovid, of your measures. Lungiadian Muses, assist your bard, so that Galatea will be famous by my humble verses. You, Galatea, the forests hymn, the crossroads acclaim you, the mountain-dwelling nymphs and Dryads adore you. Learned Catullus, Lesbia is celebrated in your meters; Naso, fair Corinna has given you your glories, and other poets praise other girls. The earnest bard Lungius will sing you with all the art he can. From head to heels, girl, you are wholly fair, a giant in genius, a little bunny in body. Your face is like the moon, your hair is longer than a horse’s tail, you have the eyes of a cat. Your nose gleams in the middle of your face like the beak of a dove, in voice you surpass the tuneful peacock. You match Atlas in your shoulders, your neck is like that of a goose, I may compare your arms to flexible vines. I own a cow. Though it is nursing two calves with its udder, the udder is lesser than your breasts. You are thin in the middle, and you can match the swift hounds. Who knows the rest, which lie hidden, unobserved? All this is handsome. Therefore you, Galatea, ennobled by my verses, are handsome. I am not surprised if the crew of buggers envy me for you, and envy you for me your bard, such a famed girl for such a famed man.
31. EPITAPH FOR RICHARD TARLTON, PRINCE OF CLOWNS
You wish to learn, traveller, whose is this uninscribed tomb? Stop, stay your step a little while, you’ll learn his unknown name. In this grave lies Tarlton, the prince of clowns produced by England’s soil. With him dead, the spurned Muses of comedy and tragedy are silent in confusion. Mutely they long for their glory of the stage, and sardonic Laughter is gone. Here is buried the British Roscius, than whom none was better known. Depart, traveler. If his name still eludes you, any boy can tell you.
A pot (olla ) lacking a bottom, let nothing fill it. Aula is like a bottomless pit. He keeps whatever he gets.
33. ON A CERTAIN WITCH BEING LED TO THE GALLOWS
Going up Holborn, she imagined she was mounting to heaven. Going down Tyburne, this witch makes her way to the Styx. *
* Up Holburne, downe Tyburne.
34. LET HIM PERISH WHO SELLS SMOKE *
I do not know why he who sells smoke should perish by the same. It is more reasonable that he should perish who insanely buys it.
* - Tobacco.
35. ON ROWLAND, A QUACK DOCTOR
That you are long-lived, nor prey to any disease, you say this is the work of your wit and your art. You are mad, you chatterbox. But do you yearn to learn the reason? Shrewd Pluto granted you to be an old man, for he understands this: while you live, on the Styx the boat of Hell’s Charon will never be empty.
36. AN EPITAPH FOR BULL, A MOST NOTORIOUS EXECUTIONER
Lo, executioner Bull lies buried here, a rascal very well-known in this thronging city. The bull and the butcher (it’s a novel thing) lie here together, a bloody burial! In death men and women, babes, gaffers, good men, bad men, cut-throats, thieves, and whores, as many as roam throughout the city, join in mourning him. Oh executioner thrice blessed for these lamentations! But tell me the cause for this sorrow, that they weep for him in death, whom before they had loathed? Namely this: everybody hoped he’d die by the noose, his head put up on a pole, his body given to the birds, his liver to the dancing fire. Alas, this hope is dashed! Bull lies buried here. This is the cause of the lamentation, hence the tears are falling.
37. ON BALBUS
You say, Balbus, that just one poem out of all of mine pleases you. Oh how this one poem displeases me, which you say delights you!
38. ON MASCALLUS, A VERY SNOOTY MAN
Mascallus had heard Ovidius Naso, Diogenes, and witty Martial (whose names constantly fly about on the mouths of the learned) be called snooty in Latin, and immediately he began to ponder whether being snooty meant to have a nose per se. He thought this rang strange to the ears, for otherwise we should all be called snooty. But at length he remembered this dictionary definition, “to have a big nose.” Straightway he ran about all over the city, seeing if any pharmacist or physician (learned in playing with the potions of Colchis) could create a huge nose. The fools knew not how. A tavern was hard by, thirstily and anxiously he entered. There he saw all his boon companions, draining their cups and thoroughly drunk, and he perceived that they all came well-equipped with large noses. He took his seat and drank with them until nightfall, and the drank through the night until dawn. Thus he acted three hundred and ten times, and soon he became a little large of nose. Nor did he cease making progress in the art until his nose stuck out like wine-jar, ornamented with pustules and gems, so that neither Ovid, nor Martial himself surpassed Mascallus in the honor of his nose.
39. TO HIS FRIEND THOMAS LEYSON, PHYSICIAN, ABOUT CROTT’S POEM AND CHARLES THYNNE’S PARAPHRASE
What gift shall I give to my Leyson, a distinguished physician, poet and friend, who by his unique letters, filled with wit, has blessed me with a threefold gift? With his admonitions he forestalled my wanton inclinations, fearing for my flighty youth. Then he sent me an elegant poem of Crott’s, who burning with fires for the girl of the Arno, would have wretchedly turned into ashes, unless his profuse showers of weep had not quenched the sparks of the fire. And on the other hand, he would have dissolved into a sodden flood, if the Arno girl’s bright little eyes, darkly flashing light sparks, had not quickly dried out his flowing fluids.
Suffering greatly from the four-day ague, Thynne has very elegantly adapted these verses. While shivering during a feverish chill he boiled thanks to his darling’s eyes, and when she snarled rather peevishly, he endured the fever’s flame-spewing heats.
What wretch could have endured such hardships, who was hot while chilly, and chilly while hot? Without doubt, no man could, who has not well demonstrated that he is a wholly charred Charlie. Go now, unkind and unlovely fever, you have attacked Thynne for a very long time, who is more than sufficiently slender and emaciated. Pray rage against the bodies of stouter gentlemen, who are swollen with gluttony or bloated with fine wine, very shameless tosspots. But this man, whom a meager diet nourishes, who is always and always gratified by a sparing sustenance, to whom the gods have given the name of Thynne, why by starvation do you make him Thynner?
But, Leyson, in exchange for your sweet-sounding scripture, may all the gods and goddesses who are versed in Galen’s art grant you to heal with an adroit hand all maladies hot and cold.
40. TO SIR EDWARD STRADLING, KNIGHT, ON THE VINEYARD PLANTED BY HIM IN A MOST HAPPY SPOT
Who would imagine that among the chilly British, the neighbors of the northern signs of the two dippers and the icy Bear, vines loaded down with honey-like clusters would pour out clear fine wine there? This seems unwonted for nature, but let it be so. Clever genius adorns nature, and makes an estate full of sharp brambles productive for human use. This, Stradling, you abundantly teach by your example, and with justice your descendants will praise your pious zeal, and industrious posterity will learn to pursue your most useful efforts, which the climate (I think) benignly favors, as does the soil, because the handsome circle of the place should show this, safe on all sides from blustering winds. There the East wind will not issue his stern gusts, nor will the savage North wind stir up sudden storms, or the West wind hurl there its harmful commotions. Only the most South wind will blow its fructifying breezes, and the early Titan will draw off noxious moistures, happily provide his fostering onbreathings. Likewise the kindly governess of the nocturnal life will destroy pestilential plagues with her shining fires, and cast a light dew on the damp vine-shoots. So, son of Semele, you sower of the swelling grape, with a good will daily foster this vineyard with a juicy aroma, and likewise refresh it with welcome warmth, so that the trunks of the vines be bent over, hidden by the fruit, and that the winepress be soaked with fragrant must, such as the Falernian vine will envy, and sweeter than sugary nectar.
41. EVERYTHING IS FOR SALE. TO EDMUND STRADLING, HIS BROTHER
I am not surprised that medicines are for sale by doctors, wares by craftsmen, tongues by lawyers. If proverbs tell us the truth, the clergyman is not accustomed to perform his rites save for coin.*
* - “No penny, no paternoster.”
42. ON LOLIANUS
You think that the verses I have written are not epigrams, but satires, Lolianus. Elsewhere, you rail at me because they are too short, so that I scarcely know by what means I can please you. I desire that you be given full power over my verses: you are learned, add your method. Removing the ends of the few which are two long, and joining the short, equalize both kinds. According to your judgment, mix all the short ones together into one, so that many distichs make up a single jumble. Thus when a horse’s neck is added to a human head, you will produce an epigram that is ridiculous (and this is its chief merit).
43. ON BALBUS
Balbus, with furrowed brow you condemn my book. The highest praise is not to have displeased you.
44. ON A FATHERLESS WHORE
Worst offspring of the worst of mothers, you copy of your mother’s seductive allure, why to you openly prostitute your body to the common people, more wanton than any bitch? Because you are called a daughter of the common people, for that reason do you rejoice in being common?
45. ON BALBUS
Balbus, you exclaim that my poems are too sharp. I would wish they were sharper in the part where they vex you.
46. THE CONTENTION OF A PAINTER AND A PHYSICIAN
A painter was vying in words with a physician, and (both skilled craftsmen) each one lauded his art. The physician promoted his nostrums, sure indications of health. “This bids the patient spit out his indomitable fever, lest headache move him, or gripings of the gut. Let him not dread gout, or the Neapolitan pox. Thanks to me, the physician, health is assured.” To whom responded the painter, “And who does not know my art is excellent? By my genius, I imitate nature, my learned art manufactures a devises a thousand kinds of bird, a thousand of men. By my art, painted kings survive after death, and things which lack life you would imagine to be alive. You promise me sound health while I live, but (thanks to me, the artist) you will be reborn after death.” The doctor grew heated and scorned the speaker, saying “My art is true, yours is a simulation.” Replied the painter, “This simulation of mine is without blame, nor does a painted canvas harm anyone. Medicine often does damage, a false health lurks within your potions, but a death scarce simulated arrives. Which art is better, to push the living into death, or to make the dead resemble the living?” The other replied, “I yield. The glory of the painter and the physician are equal, even if this one is the best, and that one the worst.”
47. TO EDMUND SPENSER, THE BRITISH HOMER
If we are Trojans, and for us this is Troynovant, as he is to his Greeks, so you are our Homer.
48. ON THAIS
You often swear, Thais that you are sought after by many a man, but that you boldly deny them. You wish to appear chaste. Come, good Thais, tell me, why have so many suitors sought? You keep your silence. Whether you deny them, or whether you grant them their wishes, it’s all the same. Each suitor has not sought after you in the same way, but they were all seeking the same thing.
49. ON RUFUS
Rufus criticizes my poems because they reek of midnight oil. Pray where did you get this keen dog-like nose? Since your own verses (such as they are) stink like a turd, Rufus, you scribble your little verses and shit at the same time.
50. ON LONGUS
While fisherman Longus hunted the careless fish with his quivering rod by your banks, Exe, drowsily he took a bad fall into the river, and he became bait for the very fish he was hunting.
51. ON THE SAME
A man is a brief thing, so why are you called Longus? The thing does not agree with its name. You are a silly thing.
52. AN EPITAPH FOR PHILIP SIDNEY, KNIGHT, A NOBLE MAN
Arts were not lacking for you, Sidney, nor warlike virtue, nor a race mighty in nobility. You excelled in both body and genius (which a rare thing), yet the glory of your genius was greater. Alas, the fatal Sisters envied you alone, and snatched you out of the way in the midst of your youth. Though you are taken away by a premature death, your reputation will thrive forever, knowing no eclipse.
Do you lie, Philip, hidden beneath this mass of stone; beneath this mass of stone, Philip, do you lie? But your fame goes a-running throughout the vaulted world, and bears your name to the opposing Antipodes.
54. FOR FRANCIS STRADLING HIS FATHER AND ELIZABETH HIS MOTHER, MOST DEAR TO HIM, BURIED IN THE SAME TOMB
Since beneath this single marble both my parents lie conjoined, unless I should be made of marble, as a poet I must strive to honor this blessed marble. You, oh beloved Graces and eternal Muses, aid this bard. Alas, my shattered mind is stunned, all the grace of my tongue flees, the pen falls from my hand. Where have my accustomed feet fled? Where is my sad iambic, or my tearful hendecasyllables? What dementia torments your breast, Stradling, helpless with your doleful metres? Lo, tears stain my cheeks, only my weeping lyric fails me in my misery. Those whom the loyal pledges of the marriage-bed joined together so well sleep together, shut up in this tomb. Love joined them in life, nor did death, envying these best of mortals, separate them. Let the Mausoleum envy you, happy marble, for your guests. But now I, born accustomed to the sacred Muses, am ashamed of my stupor. Sorrow stifles my genius, I ransom it with my piety, a bad bard but a pious son.
55. FOR HIS UNCLE JOHN YOUNG, KNIGHT, AN EXCELLENT MAN
Dead, Young, you lie in the very tomb you selected in life, made of rough-hewn marble. There was no hateful pomp at his rites (he refused it), for a modest tomb pleased him more. The lofty manor he had erected sufficed, where his dear nephew might refresh himself. Why should we put up marble he would have disliked? A smaller urn received the ashes of Caesar. How good that a well-known man who had traveled the world could be content with so small a grave! He possesses a nobler mind who cares less for his body, so he may have more care for his mind.
56. FOR THOMASINA STRADLING, A PRUDENT AND MOST INTELLIGENT WOMAN, ONCE A LADY-IN-WAITING TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS DUCHESS OF FERIA, BURIED AT CAFRA IN BAETIC SPAIN
I pray you, whatever traveler is present let the tomb built for this foreign girl be sacred to you. She was a maiden born of Welsh stock, she was the dear daughter of Stradling, an excellent soldier. She surpassed her sex in counsel, her years in her manners. When she accompanied her mistress (whom she called her mother instead) to distant Spanish shores, death separated her (all that death can do, let it be right to say), death very treacherous to loyal souls. Give your tears, I ask you to pity her hoary father, whoever approaches this tomb, whoever is reading this inscription. Yet she was happy in life, blessed in death, as to die to the world is to live, and life is to die.
57. ON GELLIA
As a gift, wife Gellia gave her husband three daughters, lovable and pretty, worth whatever Crassus would give, a hundred silver talents. By all the goddesses, tell me how much the husband owes his wife for these three daughters? For before she gave them gratis, none of them was his.
58. ON LARGUS
Old man Largus is almost burst from eating, from drinking he’s swollen like a filled-up wineskin. His eyes are bloodshot, his heart palpitates within, sweat pour down his face in foul drops, and his fiery visage exudes black fumes. He can scarce catch his breath, then he says in a husky voice, as best he can, “Oh abstinence, my summum bonum!”
59. ON COTTA
I know not, Cotta, why you loathe sacred poets, and claim they’re a lying race of men. Lately you wrote poems, without Apollo’s aid, and (strange thing) there is no grace in your verses. Nobody is more insubstantial than you, nobody more a liar. So why didn’t you produce better poems? Presumably a poet’s repute is to be sought from some other source. You are a liar, Cotta, yet you are no poet.
60. TO HIS FRIEND, THE PHYSICIAN JOHN RHYS, WHEN I FIRST GAVE TO HIM MY DIALOGUE ON HAVING CONTEMPT FOR LIFE AND DEATH
Lo, Rhys, I am sending you my little book in lieu of a gift. However it may strike others, it is new to you. Pondering the things which I, a youth, fictitiously attribute to an old man, and moved by the novelty of the thing, you will exclaim, “Thus, Stradling, you introduce me speaking after my manner, that it is obvious my nature has not eluded you.”
61. TO THOMAS LEYSON, PHYSICIAN AND FRIEND
Lately, while I was suffering from the ague, I hoped that three physicians be given me, one loyal, one witty, and one well-skilled. “Where (said I) will these three physicians be found? Woe is me! If one of the three be lacking, now no salvation will remain for me as I perish.” Straightway Leyson, the physician of Bath, came to my mind. “I shall ask for this single physician to be given me. He can serve for them all, he’s loyal, witty, and well-skilled.”
62. FRANCIS DRAKE
Once the sea was open for me, the world circumnavigated, and it allowed me to go and return through its turnings. Now it has opened for my soul a route to the gods above, and likewise given a soft tomb, my body lifeless. There is no home for me on earth, the main is habitable for no man. The world is my exile, the heaven my sure homeland.
63. JOHN HAWKINS
By the sea I found wealth and procured a reputation. Thetis’ floods are uncertain, the wave is changeable, but human life is more fragile than these things.
64. FOR HIS DEAREST BROTHER HUGH STRADLING
Are you lying, my brother, are you lying? And do you heedlessly keep silent as your brother speaks? Do you mutely keep silent? Alas, was I not able to hear your final words, clasp your hand in mind, nor touch your eyes with my fingers, or give my dying brother pious kisses? But, dearest brother, you are a part of my soul, accept this gift from a willing brother. Take this office of piety, and your sacred tomb will speak to our late descendants: “A brother constructed me for a brother, a friend for a friend, both a friend and a brother.”
If piety and probity of morals had granted life, you would have lived, brother, who now have a tomb. You have died, piety and probity live forever. Alas, may it not be my lot to die so sadly!
66. TO HIS DEAREST BROTHER PERCIVAL STRADLING, WHO DIED A GUEST IN HIS HOUSE AFTER VARIOUS FAR-FLUNG TRAVELS IN EAST INDIA
While, removed from your homeland, you sought a homeland, and, an exile in the world, you thought of the heavenly City, first you departed from here to the West and wandered there for twice five years. Borne to Brazil, a transplanted colonist, you lived far removed from here. Then at length you returned to Lisbon, and then came back to your ancestral home. Than, a wanderer, you accompanied Drake to the West Indies, and, returning, did not watch him return. And still not obtaining a homeland, you hastened to Eastern climes to roam there. Here is granted your longed-for repose, a most welcome end to your labors has come to you here. Hence as a guest, Stradling, you have safely gained your homeland, happily you fly to the stars.
In a part of yourself, you are weighted down beneath hard marble; a part has sought the heaven and is enjoying God. Earth conceals that part’s obscenity, You wash off this part’s filth, Christ, with Your cleansing blood. Thus you wholly shine, Stradling, both clean (mundus) and pious, but we are unclean (immundi), as many was the world (mundus) possesses.
68. TO HIS FULL BROTHERS, HENRY AND THOMAS STRADLING
Our number decreases, and from this may our concord grow greater. Strength united with itself usually grows stronger. Three men, three brothers, three friends are counted. I think we are one in heart, and nine in strength.
69. FOR JOHN NORRIS, A MOST BRAVE WELSH GENERAL AND A NOBLE MAN
A great general of the happy Welsh, for the hardy Welsh a famed second Hector, wise, aggressive, excellent at arms and art, whose fame flies wide throughout the world, a soldier dear to his own, but terrible to his enemies, Norris: you ask why he lies here, shut in this small grave? Do not Hercules and Hector, that Trojan, and world-conquering Alexander lie hidden by earth, their heads covered by turf? The land covers us all, and a heritage of earth remains for all the dead. But his reputation grips the entire world. By this, our general lives and thrives in death. So death has not taken life from him, but granted it.
70. FOR SIR THOMAS MORGAN, GREAT-MINDED GENERAL AND FATHER OF WELSH SOLDIERS
I pray you, whatever traveler passes by on this way, do not scorn this tomb, but may the shade of a stout general move you. And (if you have any piety) may the fate of this blameless old man move you, by which his nation has received a death-dealing wound. Morgan lies here, whom Belgium lately knew, England has honored, and the enemy throng dreads. So weep, Flanders (you have wept), weep, British, and learn, you youths, to imitate an old man’s deeds, so that the enemy may not harry our men with impunity, and Virtue will not let her own be oppressed. If any traces of your fathers remain in our minds, should we not be able to scorn our vaunting foes? ’
71. FOR SIR ROGER WILLIAMS, WELSH KNIGHT, A MOST DOUGHTY WARRIOR
Why vex this tomb and trouble the shade of a right brave captain with your tears? Do these things befit Williams’ funeral, weeping and wailing, tears? He who was more pleased by cannon and the drums of war, and the blare of the brass bugle? Go far away, you who pour forth heavy plaints from your heart in womanly wise. Do your weeping elsewhere, for not even Roger’s shade will tolerate grieving, his heart endures in death, he whose martial fury the Spaniards, the Belgians, and the French keenly felt. Nobody rushed more eagerly against the enemy battle-line with a shining sword. Though he fought with varying success as horseman and on foot, and often received a wound, he was unconquered in his strength and his spirit, and was taken off by no foeman’s sword, but by that of death.
72. FOR HIS COUSIN ELIZABETH PORTMAN, WIFE OF THE RIGHT NOBLE LORD THOMAS PAWLET, A MOST CHOICE WOMAN
You who are woman dearer to me than my own eyes (woe is me) lie lifeless here before my unhappy eyes. Whither, alas, have your beauty, your rosy hue, the grace of your tongue, whither has the sweet grace of your snow-white face fled? Ah Parcae, very savage and indiscriminate, nobility, beauty and charm leave you unmoved! Let it be thus. But let it be permitted to us to add honors to her burial rites, our plaints, our murmurs and tears. Pour nectar on her tomb, boy, offer incense to her grave. Of her own volition the earth will produce crocus, violets, and roses. And you, whoever pass by on this road, give gentle words. This honor is said to belong to the deceased.
73. TO MAXIMUS
Who should be larger than you, Maximus? Whoever (even if he is no different in size) is smaller than you in his own opinion.
74. TO SIR JOHN HARINGTON, LEARNED KNIGHT, ABOUT SOME EPIGRAMS OF HIS SENT TO STRADLING THE KNIGHT. 1590
There are those who deride epigrams, perhaps because an epigram wittily stings themselves and their habits. Many poets supply stuff merely to raise a laugh. You purvey poems such as fill the reader with your sense and your judgment. Then your judgement and wit thus shine in them, more than is usually exists in large poems
75. THE JURISPRUDENT AND THE PHYSICIAN
The physician and the jurisprudent are both hateful to layman, and laymen are even more hateful to the both of you. If a bad case or a bad body fails, at the same time the legal and medical arts fail in the eyes of the layman.
76. ON PONTICUS
As your money grows, Ponticus, why does your love of money grow likewise? You love it alone, to the extent it grows. And as your love of it grows, your love of everything else wanes. Thus money alone gains power over your affections.
77. TO A CERTAIN POET
Tell me why you only write two-liners or four-liners? You say such poems have more wit, but no less art.
78. TO SWEAR AND TO FORSWEAR
Do not get in the habit of swearing, it’s a bad one. The man who swears much also forswears himself a little.
79. A SYNOPSIS OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
The apostolic sign, the Sacraments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments: these contain the sum of our religion.
80. ON AULA, A HYPOCRITE
You observe Venus’ days, and you consecrate the nights to venery.
If you are the New Troy of the Britons, I pray that the second Troy be more fortunate than the first.
82. ON MAXIMUS
You make haste slowly, you do everything with premeditation. Therefore all your folly is premeditated.
83. ON A SELF-LOVER
You complain because the entire neighborhood is unfriendly to you. You say none of the praise due to you is given. You take what they do not give. It is unclear whether you are to be laughed at or wept over. Here black envy has no place. It is right that others praise our achievements. Praise grows foul in any man’s own mouth.
84. TO A CERTAIN MAN ABOUNDING IN WEALTH AND WIT
A subtle wit and a bountiful patrimony, dying, you ill-advisedly parcel out to your sons. You give the first your farm, and your wit to the second. Why should riches profit a fool, or wit a pauper? Thus you will squander your estate and your wit.
85. TRICKSTER AND FOX
As the wily fox is amongst the beats, thus a man full of deceit is amongst men.
86. ALMOST AND BARELY. ON CASSIUS
You are almost a good man and barely a rascal. Well then, as much of goodness you as lack, thus much you possess of badness.
87. ON A CITY GIRL WED TO A COUNTRY MAN
A tender girl from the city, wed to rustic, who knew only of city matters and nothing of rural, when she saw the maids milking the cows all drawn up in a line, and when she noted them tugging on the hanging teats, the new bride exclaimed and broke out in a guffaw, and was almost dissolved in her laughter. Her husband asked the reason, and, grinning, she held her silence: out of shame the modest bride was speechless.
88. TO URSULA
It is obvious, Ursula, that you are named by antitheses, as you have neither a bear for a mother, nor for a father. He who is familiar with your nature and ways perceives nothing in them but that which is fair and virginal.
89. ON CARINUS
Since Carinus did not care to go to heaven of a sudden, he elected to go by the fixed steps of a ladder.
Since speaking much and keeping silence little are woman’s faults, there is many an effeminate man in the world.
91. ON A CERTAIN MAN
You have many kinsmen and acquaintances, but very few friends. And you have more than you deserve.
92. ON GALLUS
Although you have no hen at home, lo, you have chicks. Are you indebted to your neighbors, or do they belong to you?
93. A PROBLEM ABOUT THE ZODIAC. TO ASTROLOGERS
Three horned animals dominate the Zodiac, the truculent bull, the ram, and the goat, all equipped with horns. Astrologers, by the laws of heaven and earth, does one virgin suffice for three horned animals?
94. TO A CLERGYMEN, A FRIEND AND A CONTEMPORARY IN STUDYING AT OXFORD
You, learned man, are a clergyman who teaches and advises. With fitting art you castigate the wicked and exhort the good. We are drawn apart by diverse enthusiasms, but we both have the same goal. You do that in earnest which I do with humor.
95. PUBLICUS’ SOMEWHAT CLEVER ANSWER
Old man Publicus is deep in debt but free of care, he spends all his time on dinners and delights. Why is he not tormented by trouble, and why does he not perish out of anxiety when somebody duns him? He says, “Why should I be bothered? It’s them who ought to be unhappy to whom I owe money, nor do I choose to pay them.”
96. ON BATTUS
Lest your poems displease the reader, Battus, do this: you, who made them, be the only one to read them.
97. ON PROCELLUS
Here, Procellus, is the epigram you have so often requested. But it conceals your morals and your character. My Muse cannot lie, and you cannot bear it speaking the truth. Does it not move you by keeping its silence?
98. ON A FILTHY MAN AND HIS WIFE
Filthy man, are you more filthy, or is your filthy wife? Never was there a more filthy pair than you two filthy people.
99. ON PORUS, A SMALL-TIME ORATOR
Porus, declaiming oratorically and eloquently, says “This speech of mine is rough and crude.” While he chatters such things, the fool refuses to believe himself. For he does not trust his own words.
100. LEGAL LATIN. TO RICHARD LOUGHER, KINSMAN AND FRIEND
Terr, prat, pasc, pastur, tu, ram, rum, rasuo have implied meanings. The first syllable sounds, the second remains silent. The abbreviated locution avoids shameful solecisms. For the first syllables avoid a mistake, the final ones are cautiously on their guard.
101. ON MARIANUS
I nominate you a bad man, Marianus. You say that “I accuse of you of being a bad man” is more correct grammar, for the accusative case has this sense. You are a bad man, Marianus. I call and nominate you such correctly. However the grammatical case may vary, you are still a bad man.
102. RESPONSE TO A CERTAIN FRIEND APOLOGIZING THAT HE HAS WRITTEN LITTLE
Little is pleasing, when more would perhaps please less. For frequently there is least fault in little.
103. TO THE SAME
You say that sometimes I tax myself in my poems. Why not? Sometimes, possibly, I am like you.
104. THE FIRST AND SECOND ADAM
The one lacked a father, the Second was born without a father. And yet one God was the father of them both.
105. DAVID, KING AND PROPHET
You covered your double identity with double virtue: in a war a king mighty in arms, in peace a pious prophet.
Among your torments, one was an evilly chattering wife. In this world, I believe, there is many a Job.
107. FIRST AND SECOND. TO A CERTAIN FRIEND
Who is prior to the first? He to whom fate has given it to be the second. You may be first, as long as perhaps I may be second.
108. TO PHILIP
Once you were called Philip and Philanthropos. The one name shows you to have been kind, the other great-minded.
109. LOVE AND LABOR. A PROBLEM
“Love conquers all,” and “relentless effort conquers all.” Therefore do “love” and “labor” signify the same thing?
110. NO DAY WITHOUT A LINE
Whoever wishes to be a second Apelles in his own art should draw a line every day.
111. LIFE AND DEATH
We are born that at length we may die. For the man even now dying, life is reborn. So what’s troubling about dying?
112. ON MARCUS
While he was in good health Marcus heeded no man’s advice. In his illness, advice displease him. He has died.
113. EPITAPH FOR FRANCIS, EARL OF BEDFORD, CONSPICUOUS FOR HIS NOBILITY, VIRTUE, AND PIETY
At no funeral have I witnessed such lamentation, such murmurs. No funeral was ever sadder than this. For a magnate of his nation has perished, a son of piety, a Maecenas to the learned, a bulwark for the pious, a second father and husband for orphans and widows, a brother to the noble, a helping hand to the needy, a man who was a citizen for our cities and a husbandman for our countryside. So who did not weep in this funeral? The bad man.
114. TO PHILIP SIDNEY, KNIGHT
You who were consecrated to Mars and the Muses, Sidney — he stole your life, they restored it to you.
115. TO EDWARD GREEN, CLERGYMAN OF BRISTOL, A LEARNED AND CORDIAL MAN, ONCE THE POET’S TUTOR AND EVEN NOW HIS VERY CLOSE FRIEND
I am obliged to you for your double duty, as friend and tutor, and so I am your double debtor. Whatever is owed to friendship, I repay with affection. For whatever is owed to your precepts, only gratitude is available to me.
116. A WITTICISM ABOUT A CERTAIN CITY-MAN VISITING IN WALES. TO HIS BROTHER G. G.
Lately a city-man rusticizing in our fields, has he saw the goats go a-roaming over our mountains, and the bearded bellwethers going before our flocks, as is their wont, he noted their bristly, hairy fleeces, and thus with a jest teased his host, standing nearby: “Pray look at those countrymen of yours in the distance, I imagine they’re wearing garments of Welsh wool.” His host replied, “Their horns show they are city-men.”
117. ON A SIGHTED CRIPPLE AND A HALE BLIND MAN GONE A-BEGGING. TO HIS FRIEND WILLIAM CAMDEN
Two beggars, of whom one was stricken in the eyes, the other in the feet, decided to go a-roving on the following terms, that the blind man carry the cripple, and that he would guide the blind one, and that they would have an equal share in their takings. While they were traveling the one saw a mussel and asked that his friend would agree to move towards the fish. When this was done, a quarrel arose over the mussel, they wouldn’t agree to whom it belonged without an umpire. A certain man came along, and they swore to abide by his judgment. He immediately reserved the meat for himself and divided the shell between them, calling them a pair of fools.
118. TO SEVERE CENSORS
Lest my volumes irritate Cato-like censors with their excessive wantonness, I prescribe modesty for my verses and deny licence to my pen. The nine sisterly Muses are maidens, the filth of sluts does not suit them. Let there be chastity in their mouths and a virginal demeanor. Let no little “chin” or tiny little “testifiers”, no great “cony” be read here. Does this please you censors?
119. ON THE AGE OF IRON. TO SIR EDWARD STRADLING, KNIGHT
Foolishly he changed Saturn’s Golden Age into iron; more feckless than Glaucus, he swapped gems for an empty reed pipe; crueller than the master of pallid Orcus, he inflicted torments on poor mortals more pernicious than the black Furies, whoever being daring of mind, first attempted to open the passages of the world’s center, whose entrance was forbidden to mankind. Nor content to reap with his hand the sweet fruit which the generous earth purveys, he descended into its deepest hidden places and cut apart the limbs of his great Mother, crueller than savage Nero himself who with a bloody sword cut up his unoffending mother.
Until then, no need for gold prevailed among mortals, nor did the arrogant rich man vaunt himself in precious raiment, content to have his limbs covered with a thrifty garment. And an earthenware vessel gleamed in the palace of a generous king, which the potter had made with easy art. With fear banished, the mountain-ranging guardian of the flocks snatched sweet sleep beneath the green leaf, and the reaper, his limbs wearied with constant labor, quenched his thirst with the water of a sweet stream. Nor did the consul desire to recline on the light feathers of birds, being accustomed beforehand to a hard cot. Nor, Bacchus, did the people understand your arts, nor how to reap the vines with its sharp sickles, being uninstructed into how to grow warm with the strong fine wine. Not yet did the craftsmen know how to use their docile hands to raise up sublime walls of shining marble, but homes were built of flowery turf, ornamented by no more costly furniture. Hung tapestries did not cover walls, nor coverlets beds, garments were not dyed with purple nor costly scarlet, nor did wool bear false colors.
Such was still the world’s aspect, but worse followed. For after vain posterity scorned its ancestral rites, being over-addicted to innovations, and made its attempt on the bowels of the fruit-bearing earth, seeking delights, pursuing show and display, everything took a turn for the worse and no traces (strange to say!) of the prior age remained. Faith, love, concord, and virtue passed away, and in their place war, discord, and murder crept in, and threw men’s affairs into confusion with a blind whirlwind. Religion lay prostrate, scorned, and Lycaon mocked the gods above, and, having stricken a pact, the giants conspired to throw the father of gods and men out of Olympus. But rights remained intact for a god. For men penetrated into your realm, ruler of the shades, your godhead disdained. Neptune’s portion was more safe, less exposed to spoilage. Yet his waters were made into spoils for seafaring sailors. Just Jupiter would scarce live safe in the heavens, except that with assiduous labor Mulciber has made him weapons, and as the High Thunderer he lays low his rebellious enemies with his gleaming lightning, and sends them in their sorrow to Tartarus.
You, oh worshippers of the gods, who are held by a due care for law and right, who possess a religious heart, unstained by the contagion of this deceptive world, nor are being led astray from the right path by the appearance of things, scorn the impious cant of the vainly-talking people, learn the justice of your fathers and the ways of your ancestors, place a limit on your delights, let your pleasure be chaste, your mind pious, your hand pure, your tongue harmless to your friends. Let you keep far away, rage, wrath, guile, discord, wantonness, accursed thirst for gold, and worldly vainglory. Thus the Iron Age will flee, their brazen progeny will yield, and gradually everything will put on a new face, until a Golden Age shines again for those born in after time.
120. TO THE SAME. A DESCRIPTION OF HIS GARDEN AT ST. DONAT’S
There is place, down a steep cliff sloping away from the castle founded under Donat’s auspices, in a deep dale, tending in the direction of the rainy South wind, which once the Dryad girls eagerly inhabited, the woodland nymphs, and those rural deities, the Fauni. At first it was distinguished by cast-up rocks and mountain ash, and thick shadows grew thanks to the untended thornbrakes. This was a place long familiar to the wanton goats, fleet rabbits, and forest-dwelling boars. Now, by a changed circumstance, as if the smith-god Mulciber had fallen to earth from high heaven and started the work with his guidance (a wonder to tell), there is a spacious yard, which, fertile with grasses, handsomely smiles with its face between groves on either side, and water, running across in a curving path, forms a boundary for the forest, and at length hides itself in the vast sea. Behind this, an inner wall surrounds the garden, warding off from the flowers the exulting deer and the lowly kids. With its welcome covering the dripping grape-vine dresses the wall, a consecration to the winey God of the grape. Like a beautiful badge on a chaste matron’s snowy arm, as golden rings shine on very soft fingers, or as a gem gleams amidst base stones, thus the near-ripe clusters gleam on the vines. Why should I recount each detail? Splendid wooden columns stand ranged around, shining too with art, and in the midst of the yard a breeze breathes with its sweet gusts. Here is a perpetual spring, in a rich vein the ground bestows all manner of flowers, here is grass round about. The soil bestows upon the nymphs pallid violets and white lilies, and for mortals it produces welcome herbs, which the table of a royal tyrant would not scorn, nor would Apollo, the discover of medicine, shun them as harmful, or Cytherean Venus disdain their sweet fragrance.
121. TO THE HONORABLE READER
To sell the treasures of one’s wit is a sordid thing, but it would be foolish to scatter them everywhere for free. Do you wish to make a swap with me, candid reader? I give you the poems, you give me your good words.
122. TO THE BOOKSELLER
You hope my poems please, I hope they please a few, we are not of the same mind. What if they please nobody? Lo, we both lose, I lose the praise and you the profit, and so we are the same.
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