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JOHN STRADLING’S EPIGRAMS
1. TO HIS BOOK
Why are you afraid to go abroad, dear book? Do you dread the censure of troublesome men, whose habit is to be envious, whose livers are eroded by black bile, who idly condemn hendecasyllables and evilly rail at sweet poets? Forget them. Go, seek out friendly companions who smile with easier countenance, and take pleasure in delicate hendecasyllables. If these fellows take you to their snowy bosoms and happily wear you out with constant handling, pour forth whatever witticisms you contain, and while you rouse their light laughter you will go everywhere in safety, and, with them your patrons, you may scorn the frown of the more severe.
2. TO THE KINDLY READER
If I have not poured forth epigrams of the sort that delight you, this is not the fault of my intention, but of my wit. If you should say that my epigrams are of the sort that give delight, an indication is in them, if not of my judgment, yet of my affection.
3. ON BALBUS
Whatever it is, Balbus promises to write something. Balbus, this something of yours is deemed to be a nothing.
Would it not be a wonder if this annus mirabilis were to pass with nothing miraculous occurring in all the world? Truly this is a miraculous year for the English race, for this has been the greatest wonder in the world. Kings have been compelled to invade our solitary queen, and she, alone and unarmed, has routed them in their coalition.
5. TO THE QUEEN
The city of Priam, long shaken, his tottering realm, and the unhappy man himself were bait for his foes. For the gods and goddesses divided into parties, this one was friendly to the Trojans, that one unfriendly. With united will all the gods have fought for you, and God Himself, Who uniquely governs the gods.
6. ON THE SLAUGHTER OF THE PORTUGUESE EXPEDITION. TO HIS FRIEND, SIR THOMAS MOSELEY
Since the cause is the same, why is not the success not also the same for ourselves and our enemies? There is one goal for both. He, led by an evil greed for revenge and spoils, joined his scepters in hope with English scepters. Our men too were carried along by revenge and plundering, both sinned, and God punished both sinners. We must not trust overmuch in our strength. Not arms, but a good cause makes a leader.
7. ON MACHIAVELLI
With your precepts you imbue the prince’s mind. With these the prince of this world * had previously imbued you.
* - The Devil.
8. ON THE LITTLE SPRING AT NEWPORT IN GLAMORGANSHIRE
Raging with a hateful murmur, Newport, the nymph Severn shouts at you, and, hostile to the nearby land, with a belch violently spews troublesome sands. With equal misfortune the neighborhood feels the injury, but the river blames as the reason your little spring, which, tracing the shore, the maiden summons to an embrace. Summoned, he hides in a cave and resists her. For both swell with an ebb and a flow in constant motion, but in an order unalike. The nymph flows nearer, the spring recedes. She ebbs, he returns. Thus there is a grudge between them, and a constant strife.
9. TO SIR EDWARD STRADLING, KNIGHT, ON THE HIS MOST INGENIOUS AQUEDUCT AT THE HAMLET AT MERTHYR MAWR, BY WHICH THE SANDS OF THE SEA ARE CARRIED BY THROUGH THE RIVER OGMORE INTO THE BASIN OF THE SEVERN (WHENCE WINDS DRIVE THEM OVER A MILE)
One may speak of things wonderful yet true: as in war force is repelled by force thanks to stratagem, thus water is tamed by water. The water of the sea disgorges silty sand on the shore, with which pastures, meadows, churches, and houses abound. The sands stretch to the outer reaches of your estate, and here they threaten ruin to your fields. Behold your novel strategy! Waters caught up by a wheel from the neighboring river are thrown up heavenwards. And when enough thus collects in a pool, and rushes impetuously through a sluice, it is a wonderful thing and laughable to see, how the sand is agitated by the rapid currents. The stream constantly foams yellow with sands, and the sea which belches them forth is soon burdened with them. Thus the local crossroads stand safe thanks to your effort, and this hamlet, lately yellow, shines renewed.
10. ON SOME NAMELESS FELLOW’S OVER-ELABORATE SEPULCHER
Do you admire this huge work, the rival of a previous age? Do you mark the marble, ivory, noble gems, gold most precious, and the angels, putti, birds and beasts of shining brass? Then do you ask of what god this is the shrine, gleaming with statuary on all sides? You are mistaken, you are looking at a sepulcher, not a shrine. Underneath lies hidden a stinking corpse, bones, the leavings of worms, ash, and a horrid chill. Mausolus is not here, nor did noble Queen Artemisia give it to her king. Rather, a nobody, whoever he may be, is enclosed within, his race and kin unknown. Oh would you deem it worthy that he may be unknown forever, who would wish to become known in this way!
11. HOPKINS’ TESTAMENT
On the verge of death, my ailing neighbor Hopkins walked into the tavern, where he had been a familiar for all of thirty years. He took a seat, gloomier than was his wont before. Neither beer, nor ale mixed or pure, or fine wine soothed him. The guests and boon companions present inquired if he wished the doctor to be fetched. He sighed, and answered “I am dying.”
But he bade his single son be summoned, whom he sweetly and intimately cherished. The father took his dear son by the hand. With a word (eleven witnesses having been summoned) he made him heir of all his goods. He gave him his brass and silver, he endowed him with his goods of earthenware and wood. Furthermore, he added his manor and fields, his herds of swine and kidlings. Thus the boy was made his sole and only heir.
Then with these words he instructed the youth: “Let your dress, habit and diet (mark this) not be too costly. In health, drink ale, and it will please you. In sickness, drink ale, and it will help you. Drink it when full, it will do you no harm. If you are hungry, it will fill you up. Drink it naked, it will serve as a garment. If you have a fever, it will beat back the heat. On the other hand, should you take a chill, it will warm you up. Thus, eager to obey your father’s testament, drink ale in plenty, that noble glory of Derbyshire. Be mindful of this precept, my son. On his deathbed my father enjoined this on me, and I have adhered to it up to the point of death. Nor did death prevail, up to the time I wholly neglected to heed my father’s commandments.”
12. ON THE SAME AND MASCALUS
Hopkins and Mascalus, both amply endowed nasallyu are contesting which one has the richer nose. This one’s is more swollen, that one’s more shiny; he has a more handsome one, but the other a bigger. The one abounds with jewels, the other with mushrooms. This contention is simple for an experienced judge, who knows that jewels are costlier than all mushrooms.
13. AN EPITAPH FOR ANNE STROUD, THE CHOICEST AND MOST UPRIGHT WIFE OF HIS BROTHER
Are you hiding, sad hendecasyllables? Whither have you fled, you five-foot measures, you phaleucians, and you gloomier meters? Anxiously hasten hither, hither, with retrograde step, you of sluggish feet, fly together as a band, more numerous than is your wont. Alas, pour forth what you have ever produced fit for the deaths of the blessed. Let a thousand rivers of tears be given, let rain-storms fall from your swollen eyes, often through ten continual years. Woe is me! A woman, a goddess of women, a wife who was the bulwark and hope of her husband, the only mother of her only son, the sister of her darling of a sister, Anne, the eternal glory of her Strouds, and the object of longing for her Stradlings, this very woman, this goddess of women, woe is me, she has perished and crossed over there, whence she knows not how to return. In comparison to her Venus was unlovely, t the Graces were no more comely than her. Modesty herself no more modest, nor the god of love more amiable. She cherished me in her heart, yet in mine I adored her more. When present, she blessed my eyes; in her absence my wretched eyes grew red. Thus, oh you eyes and sad heart, melt with this longing. Hence, go hence, jokes, japes, song, verses, laughs, and giggles, for eternal tears, plaints and sorrows befit you more, until through ten full years you have bemoaned my darling and yours with your wretched howl. Let these be consolations for me and for you, to weep for your delight and for mine.
14. ON BALBUS
When you cough, as often you do, Balbus, a stench comes your mouth such as usually arises from gastric ructions. Therefore you never cough but that at the same a belching noise issues from your gut, and you do that advisedly with a misleading intention. For when everybody hears the noise and smells the stink, they imagine this is the fault of your ass alone.
15. ON MOPSA
While I see you, Mopsa, waxing over-proud and scorning the other girls, a slattern disdaining the fair, a wanton despising the chaste, as you scorn I wish to learn the reason. No doubt two little suitors are courting you, and you are pregnant by the both of them. This is a fine reason for waxing proud! Now I do not wonder, Mopsa, that you are proud and count the girls for nothing. You are a puffed-up whore, you are not a girl.
16. ON GELLIA, A LITTLE WHORE
Gellia laments that she has lost her reputation by a single slip. But how could she lose what she never had?
17. A MERETRICIOUS GIRL
I do not care to learn what mere tricks a meretricious girl possesses. For a joke involving a meretricious girl is merely truculent.
18. TO GROW WISE LATE
He who grows wise late gives the appearance of having been wise all along. I think that to have thus been wise is merely to have been foolish.
19. ON PREGNANT GALLIA
A sad concern gripped pregnant Gallia, not to know her offspring’s destiny. All the geomancers, the hydromancer, the haruspex, the augur, the soothsayer, the prophetic wizard, the enchanters, the diviners, the chiromancers were compelled to tell the fate of the child to be born. All were confounded, and only knew to say this: a daughter will be born, leave the rest to God. Galla grew proud, and believed of her seed would be born a semi-divine human, a semi-human goddess. Her handmaids clustered about her, and one, more learned than the rest, said “The daughter will be very like her mother. A bastard will be born to a whore, and (unless my art deceives me) the daughter will make her living as does her mother.”
20. ON BALBUS
Lately Balbus wrote some little verses. Save by his verses, he could not show himself to be incompetent.
21. ON GELLIUS
Gellius is wealthy, he possesses gold, cattle, and flocks, purple garments, a grand homestead, and a handsome wife, but he does not think she is chaste. But she deems his sternness a torment. Discard this sternness, it is blind madness to be swept along by transitory, happenstance goods. Discard your fear and your heavy concern. Why must your wife’s error torture you? If your wife sins, let her pay the penalty.
22. ON CURIUS
Very insolently, Curius shows off his wealth. He enumerates his manors, vineyards, orchards, fields, horses, cattle, sheep, and kidlings, his servants, to whom he adds his retainers. He boasts that they are countless, although they are few. Therefore he is said to be blessed, and thus he believes. You poor creature, who finds the blessed life in these things! He is blessed whose lot does not displease him, does not covet the goods others, and makes good use of his own. How far from blessedness are you? As far as is a wretch.
23. ON HORNUS, A FENCING-MASTER
What fencer who was present yesterday in the circle did not laugh at you in your defeat, Hornus, cordially loathing your art? This skilled master of the art made his appearance, a fencing master among the untrained students. His head was bared, and his breast was naked, he wore a drooping loincloth and his boots were fallen down to his very feet. He began to play a game with a stick. Tarlton was not his equal in action, movement, or gesticulation. He demonstrated by what arts a man might defend himself and threaten another. “Now let him attack the head, then aim at the legs, now with oblique strokes, then with corkscrewing ones. Let him present his side — thus — then turn about — thus; let him stand now upright, now bent over. Then let him suddenly gather himself into a spin.” Shape-shifting Proteus himself did not know as many postures as this fencer assumed. Then he threatened death to all and sundry, a fracture of head or legs. Everybody dreaded the vaunting fencing-master, they praised the fencing-master’s skill, the each paid the fencing-master a fee, they craved to be instructed in the fencing-master’s art. A rustic arrived, ignorant of this art but accustomed to steer his cart, skilled at the whipping of his horses, and knowledgeable at playing about with his cudgels. He challenged Hornus and put his art to the test, he strove to conquer by his strength. Now he lashed on this side, now he increased his strokes on that, he pressed harder and thumped more vigorously. Hornus’ legs, sides, and head were swollen. He yielded, Hornus was driven from the circle. The conquered man was ashamed of his art and talent. Then he swore that it seemed to him better to learn the art of cudgelling.
24. ON LARGUS
You never dine at home, Largus, without having many guests. I have often heard this from your mouth. I complain, as do all my friends and boon companions, that you do not invite me sometimes, or them. For you have often been at my house, and at theirs, as an unwelcome guest, so why is no friend of mine every among your guests. I imagine this is the reason, that you are a man of charity, and you do not give to those who have given to you. Am I wrong? Or do you deceive the naive by a fallacious sophistry, Largus, and never dine at home?
25. ON ZOILUS
You say that what I have written are not epigrams. You are ignorant. For I know that you can scarce write a gram.
26. ON A CERTAIN POET
A certain man published various elegies and many epigrams, the bookseller barely sold ten. In vain the printer complains. Bah, poet, henceforth learn to write shorter stuff, or better.
27. ON BATTUS
With envy you rail at all the poets, Battus. The reason is that no poet envies you. But you should yourself write poems such as the others would envy, then you would not be envious of the others.
28. IF NOTHING IS INSIPID. ON BALBUS
Salt prevents everything from being insipid, and, Balbus, your head is insipient. Add salt, so your head may be sapient.
29. ON POLLIO THE PHARMACIST
Since Pollio sells me foul smoke, * it is reasonable that he put a price on my coals.
30. ON GALLA
The reason you weep for your dead husband, Gallia, is that you fear you won’t get another.
31. ON BALBUS
What if my epigrams do not please you, Balbus? I have written for others, I’ve written no epigram for you. What I have written against you, if these should happen to please others, they will purvey more pleasure to the extent they displease you.
32. LOVE CONQUERS ALL. ON HERMO
Love conquers all. You alone, Hermo, can be seized by no love, being chaste. You love yourself, Hermo, whom everybody loathes. Therefore this saying is true, love conquers all.
33. ON CRASSUS
You want me to give you my books gratis, Crassus, and if they please you when you have read them, perhaps you’ll give me one. Pay me first, read afterwards. Then return to me what you read there, and I’ll refund your money.
34. ON GALLA
Galla has married seven men. And suddenly, the seven having died, this adulteress is seeking a new wedding. Let it not come to pass! The wedding-march is being played, delay is torturing this loving lady. She imagines the day passes slower than usual. We admire the Hydra, which, when a head is lopped off, can straightway grow new ones. And we admire Phoebe the moon, who renews her horns. Galla renews husbands, and horns for her husbands. So let us place the Hydra, Phoebe, and Galla in the same category. But she is to be criticized more than the others. For she makes ready a new head before she has lost the old one, and on any night she is constantly manufacturing new horns. With her for a consort, you are a marked man, and if you survive her you will achieve a more than Herculean labor.
35. ON LARGUS
You accuse me because I have not come to dinner being invited by you, Largus, and you imagine I am swollen with arrogance. But you call yourself sociable, because, often invited, you are always wont to come and dine with your friends. Oh belly, a teacher of manners! By this logic, the parrot is clever when it says its hello. But when nobody invites you, you hasten to turn up anyway. Pray tell me by what point of etiquette you do this? You do this according to your own etiquette, and are called more friendly. But sometimes it would be decent of you to be more unfriendly.
36. ON A CERTAIN SORDID MONEY-LENDER
All that you possess you put up for loan. You rent out all your silver and all your gold, you hire out your oxen, horses and sheep, your clothing and your furniture are for rent, you turn an usurious profit on everything. Then, lest there be anything left which you don’t turn to your advantage, you also hire out your wife for use.
37. ON BALBUS
Balbus reckons up that he has written three hundred poems, and promises to send them all to me tomorrow. He has frequently asked me, is he not a poet who writes a hundred poems per month? While I keep my silence, he presses me: “Won’t you admit I’m a poet, if I send you three hundred verses?” “Be still, Balbus,” I reply. “The words you have said prove you to be a poet, or that you wish to be called a poet.”
Though epigrams bite with a tooth, they will lack spleen. Let filth be absent, let them be lightly sprinkled with salt. No poems amuse one more, or do more to sting faults. Is this not enough for an honest reader?
39. ON HOPKINS, A WITTICISM
Lately a physician loitered in this region, far from his family, a gentleman full of art and reputation. He called himself Gallus, experience has made him learned, and he was unambitious among his peers. Chance led him to Hopkins’ well-known house (he serves as host to all stranger). He was pleasantly made welcome at the inn. He observed his host’s face, and was embarrassed that it was very blotched with red. “Mine host,” said he, “will you give me a sovereign that your face may be whiter, without those excrescences and pustules?” “You ingrate,” shouted back Hopkins, “ you will you repay me my good deserts with these insults? Do you want me to lose all these badges, which I purchased at so great expense, along with a gold sovereign?”
40. THE EPITAPH OF A CERTAIN TROUBLESOME CUT-THROAT
Within this tomb lie quiet the bones of an unquiet man, a violent death has granted him repose. He who disturbed everything in life died not without disturbance. I trust he will be quiet in death. But if he stirs up strife for the infernal shades, will Pluto settle the smoking commotions?
41. ON PETRUS, A JUSTICE
The people confer various titles on those who know, profess, and urge the laws and statutes. They call them jurisconsults and legal experts, Doctors of Law, and the foundations of justice. I don’t understand by what logic the rascally commons call Petrus by another title, a justice. For he is able to speak of the law, and pronounce what things pertain to a statute, but this chatterbox always acts unjustly.
42. ON THE SAME
Since Petrus does pretty nearly everything ill-advisedly, why do the people keep calling him a legal advisor? Advisedly he perverts the laws and all rights, and hence he aptly has this title.
43. ON POLLUS, A BIBULOUS MAN
You will not drink, Pollus, save from a full flagon, and you are in the habit of emptying your cups. I would like to know the reason why you are of this persuasion, that you always drain your cups dry. Thus you say: “All the wine’s aroma swims on the surface, its heart is in the middle, its flavor falls down to the bottom.”
44. ON THE SAME
You drink much, Pollus, and you drink often. Everything excessive does harm, Pollus, don’t drink over-much. You answer, “He drinks over-much who has no ability to drink any more. This is no fault of mine.”
45. ON A CERTAIN POET WHO SCANNED THE FIRST SYLLABLE OF VITIUM LONG
It happened that poet wrote against the common people’s malign vices. He wrote with good intention, but scarcely lacked a vice. And he lacked vice, save in this, that he railed against vices. Was this not a minor vice, to write against vices?
46. ON MARCHUS, A JEALOUS MAN
Marcus possessed his wife with a foolish love, and always anxiously kept watch on her habits. He noted her goings and comings, her eyes and her face. The jealous fellow took everything as grounds for fear. Now he raged, sometimes he went crazy. Jealousy and love lured and drove him now here and now there. The more he feared, the more reason for fearing she gave him, and encouraged her husband in his suspicion. He tried to mitigate his offense with words, and said “Very great love compels me. Let it not be a crime to love you very much. There is a limit in other things, but not in love. Love knows no limit, ant let their be no Golden Mean in for me in love.” She noted what he said, hating his limit and Mean. And the man she had previously loved with moderation, she now immoderately loathed. And she complained, “Let it be proper for you love me very much. But tell me, good Marcus, why should it not be allowed me to love you very little?”
47. ON HERNUS THE CRAFTSMAN
Hernus used to be a craftsman, now he has a coat of arms. Oh fortune, how you are wont to vary your vicissitudes! He bears a hide for a shield, but he has an awl for a spear. He does battle against vermin — look, there they are!
48. TO THE RIGHT NOBLE SIR WILLIAM CECIL, BARON BURLEIGH, TREASURER OF ENGLAND
Rightly you are the treasurer of England, in whom alone the nation’s greatest treasure resides. Counsel, stratagems, and loyalty: these three are stored in one breast. Oh what a treasure-house it is!
49. TO THE RIGHT NOBLE SIR ROBERT CECIL, EARL OF SALISBURY
More than others, you are indebted to your father, he owes you more than other fathers are wont to do. He still lives on in you, and you lived first in him. As long as you live, he will not be able to die.
50. AN EPITAPH FOR WILLIAM CECIL, LORD BURLEIGH, THE LATE TREASURER
It profited you nothing that once you were our quaestor, it should be nothing to have accumulated these treasures. It is safer to have stored up treasures of the soul in Christ, that He may reimburse you with interest. You, praiseworthy old man, knew how to employ present things, to be guided by past ones, and to pursue those in the future.
51. ON THE NOBLE FAMILY OF THE ESTES, WHEN THE ESTES’ HEREDITARY DUKEDOM OF FERRARA DEVOLVED UPON THE POPE
Oh the sorrow! Este is not. Once it was, now it is nothing. Though now it is nothing, Este again will be.
52. MISER, MOLE
Fostering God gave riches and wealth to both. This one has ruined its eyes, like the miser his wealth.
53. ON JACQUES CLEMENT, THE ASSASSIN OF HENRI III, KING OF THE FRENCH. 1589
Although the convention is not to speak anything but good words of the dead, and not to say anything bad of the dead, why, Jacques, should I not deny you are heaven, but imagine you are now in dark Phlegethon? Because those who dwell in heaven feel no shame, and you are unblushing. You cannot feel guilty about this horrendous evil.
54. HENRI III, KING OF FRANCE, TO THE LITTLE MONK JACQUES CLEMENT, HIS ASSASSIN
As Cain killed Abel, thus, inclement Brother Clement, you killed me, your brother, and the father of your nation. I was your brother in religion, your father in government, and so you are at once a fratricide and a parricide.
55. THE WORK OF SEVEN DAYS
Though Cotta has given out verses over which labored by night and by day, and it was the work of an entire month, he has imposed on us his reader, and the versifier has The Work of Seven Days in this title. Though nobody should believe Cotta, he is eager they should, and this suffices for him, that he believes himself.
56. CAIUS JULIUS CAESAR
My enemies overwhelmed, I am overwhelmed by my friends. A false friend is worse than an armed foe.
57. FOR THAT GREAT-HEARTED KNIGHT RICHARD GRENVILLE, WHO MOST BRAVELY DYING AFTER HAVING JOINED IN BATTLE WITH A SPANISH FLEET IN A SINGLE QUEEN’S SHIP, THE REVENGE, LEFT THE ENEMY A BLOODY VICTORY
In taking revenge from you, the victorious foe paid you, whom they bested, the forfeit. You were overwhelmed, not defeated. I pray that our men not have a victory such as our enemy had here.
58. DEMOCRITUS AND HERACLITUS
We know that these men to have existed in laughing and weeping. Laughter is human, weeping is womanly. So was the one effeminate and the other masculine? Weeping itself demonstrates that mankind is a laugh.
59. ON TRICCUS AND HILLUS, QUACK DOCTORS
Triccus and Hillus argued which was the more learned. A greater question is which is sillier.
60. ON PONTIUS, A MARRIED MAN WHO OFTEN MOST SHAMEFULLY PREACHES ABOUT CELIBACY
Sated, with a fully belly you praise fasting. You don’t eat your wife, but yet thanks to her you are satiated.
61. TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS LADY MARY, COUNTESS OF PEMBROKE
You, bountiful sister of thrice-great Philip Sidney, great in your husband, greater in your brother (though lesser in years than you), he is no small part of your soul, but you, the greatest part of his, live on though he be dead to you. Which of the two you, whose greatest part survives, lives on? Your brother lives more, and you live less.
62. TO THOMAS LOCKE, AN OLD FRIEND WHOM I REGARD AS A BROTHER
What I am sending you is not merely a paper, but it bears with it unfeigned tokens of my affection. Things written on paper endure more than what is graven on marble, and love inscribed on the heart is more lasting than them.
63. A WITTY REMARK OF WILLIAM BASSETT, GENTLEMAN, A WISE AND WITTY MAN, ON A CERTAIN FAWNING BARD
A Gnatho-like bard offered a lay to Basset, very uncouth and exceedingly flattering, in which, enumerating his race and his forefathers, he recounted his deeds, lazily mixing much falsehood in with the truth. When he had read this, he asked the bard if there was a copy. The bard said no, and Basset asked if he could have the written text. Giving the man a gold piece, he quickly cast the lay in the fire, saying “I don’t wish there to be a copy of this thing.”
64. TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS EARL OF ESSEX AND LORD CHARLES HOWARD, ADMIRAL, RETURNED FROM THE EXPEDITION TO CADIZ
The hostile power chased our mice from their holes, and they swelled with pride that their trickery had been successful. Yet, lest this might befall with impunity, by making trial of the lion’s den you both brought home spoils. Aesop has taught us that once a mouse repaid a favor to a fierce lion.
65. TO HIS FRIEND WILLIAM CAMDEN, ABOUT BRITAIN AT LENGTH DESCRIBED BY HIM
An island in the ocean, once very well known, lay hidden in dark shadow, scarcely well known to itself. By the radiant light of your genius, Camden you banish these shadows, as clouds before the sun. Thus it thrives reborn, nor, as it is manifest, can you remain hidden. You make it famous, as it makes you.
66. ON PINCUS THE BUTCHER
Recently I chanced to dine among my witty companions. Then some man came along of gigantic form, like a Cyclops, with long-hanging shaggy hair. His eyes seemed to spew fire, his nostrils breathed forth more fumes than a smoking oven, and his very face had a certain horrible cast. His voice rang of nothing but murder, blood, savage slaughters, and gore. “Just now I sent thirty to their deaths with these hands,” he said, “and with this right hand I make three hundred more die within seventeen days.” His foul hands still dripped blood, and all of us, as many as were present, were afraid of this monster. Hercules was not so truculent raging against Lycus, nor Hector among the fleet battalions of his enemy. Everybody sought to discover who this man was, we hoped to learn his family, his race, his name, and on what battlefields the man had thought. He kept his silence, and we were all much more afraid. Soon sweet laughter drove the terror out of us all, when we found out this fellow had done his fighting in a shambles, not as a soldier, but as a butcher who slaughters unarmed cattle, pigs, sheep, and beasts of the field.
67. TO SIR THOMAS BASKERVILLE, KNIGHT, A MOST DOUGHTY MAN
Fear makes manifest a degenerate mind, your virtue praises you, and it shines forth thanks to your nobility. The fair coat of arms which your ancestors have bequeathed to you, your posterity will receive from you rendered the brighter. Continue to achieve new honors by new virtue, make your ancestors’ deeds lesser than your own.
68. TO SIR JAMES LANCASTER OF LONDON, KNIGHT, A MAN BRAVE AND FORTUNATE BY LAND AND BY SEA
If fortune aids the brave, chance rightly seconds you, as your virtue is second to few. For you, joining counsel to chance, stratagem to fortune, more carefully govern chance by art. Fortune aids you, a brave man, with virtue governing it. Therefore the one aids you more, the other less.
69. EPITAPH FOR MARTIN FROBISHER, MOST DOUGHTY KNIGHT AND MOST EXPERT CAPTAIN
Fortune envies you your triumphs, Martin, this fault is wont to attend upon virtue. Yet your masculine virtue has now bested envy. For this remains after your death, while that one has fled, insubstantial.
70. TO THE ENGLISHMAN GEORGE [SIC] CAVENDISH, WHO IN HIS YOUTH CIRCUMNAVIGATED THE WORLD EMERGED AS THE MOST CELEBRATED MAN AFTER DRAKE
If you could have lived content with your seconding lot, no lot would have been more favorable. But by trying your fortune for a second time, inconstant fortune refused to be seconding to you. Fortune wanted you to be all the more famous, for at once you are famed for your good lot and your bad.
71. TO GREAT-HEARTED RAYMOND, WHO, OPPRESSED BY LACK OF VICTUALS, DIED IN AN EXPEDITION TO THE INDIES
Such a great thirst for reputation boiled in your breast that it could scarce be banished by the waters of our world. Therefore while you thirstily sought for fame in eastern climes, harsh famine, worse than thirst, overwhelmed you. And so you were conquered by thirst and by famine. One bane could not accomplish what two could achieve.
72. FOR EDWARD MANSEL, A WELSH KNIGHT, A GREAT-SPIRITED MAN
Learn from this, traveler, what powers savage death possesses. No tomb can teach you this better. Trust me, death, the Welsh soldier who lies here would have only surrendered to you. And yet he only surrendered to you in his inferior part, your power only has authority over his body. The man’s character, morals, and inspired mind live, death could not conquer the whole man. Nor has he wholly perished in body, whose consort has given many a seedling from the trunk of his body. So, Mansel, you live in all your mind, and your body remains. What has harsh death stolen? Nothing.
73. FOR LADY JANE HIS WIFE, THE AUNT OF THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS EDWARD, LATELY EARL OF WORCESTER. SHE ADDRESSES HER LAMENTING SONS
Darlings, spare your tears, let vain sorrow be empty. Lamentation is not fit for my funeral. Death, ordained for mankind, comes timely for the aged, not unwelcome for the blessed, not hateful for the pious. I have lived enough for myself, enough for nature. Now it is as sweet for me to die as it was to live long. My better part lives, my worse perishes. That does not perish wholly, though that perishes, and both live: the one through you, the other by its own vigor.
74. FOR WILLIAM MATTHEWE, A MAN LEARNED IN THE ARTS AND A MOST INTELLIGENT MAN
Do you see how the Graces and Pierian Muses hold the urn in which Matthew’s ashes and bones are contained? How a honeyed dew flows, how the earth bears amymone and how of its own free will the ground sprouts violets? Observe, for these are not empty signs. They show what sort of man he was who is buried in this grave. When he was born the Homeric Muses laughed, the triple goddesses nourished him with their milk. His heart was not absent from his deliberations, nor grace from his sayings, he was a bright light of intellect and art. Thus he possesses light, though plunged in black darkness, the shadows should not be able to diminish this light.
75. FOR WILLIAM HERBERT OF MONMOUTH, KNIGHT, AN EXCELLENT AND ERUDITE MAN
Herbert, a knight, is buried in this tomb, an ornament of the British nation, an illustrious man, deriving his birth from distinguished parents. He was the flower of his age, excellently educated, and uniquely fostering all literary men. Death envied him, as it is wont to envy bad men. Let it envy, yet the man’s virtue will live, even if envious death resists.
76. ON A CERTAIN SERGIUS, HUNTING ECCLESIASTICAL OFFICE
Behold, Sergius hopes to become a priest, yet the fellow perceives he is unworthy of the office. He does not make ready to hunt the job by learning or virtue, but rather he desires to obtain the office by offering bribes. He says this is the surer way, nor is the shrewd man wrong. For a donkey purchases office with the help of cattle.
77. TO SOMEBODY BURIED ON A PUBLIC HIGHWAY AND IMPALED (AS IS THE CUSTOM) ON A STAKE
This man whom you see impaled on a stake, graveless, to whom (like a pig) the public highway serves as tomb, he dared run his body through with a savage sword, and to die by his own hand. Therefore you see this sad corpse, banished from the holy congregations of men, and with its breast fixed to a stake.
78. ON PETRUS, PLEADER AT LAW
The case Petrus argues fails, he does not know how to speak. If he must act, this occurs only by gesture, never by voice. So why is he commonly called a pleader at law? The same reason that wars are called bella - by antithesis.
79. ON CRISPUS
Crispus shears his sheep and quickly sells the wool, the fellow’s wallet is swollen with money. The following day deep snow falls and the East wind strikes his flock. “Oh, if each one would have a new fleece!” he says.
80. ON PETRUS, A SMITH
Petrus, an unarmed drinker, sits at the table, his chattering tongue sings only of flagons. Now he praises beer more, now sweet fine wine, he’s curious which drink can please him more. He tries them both, and both please him, and now, thanks to both, rage and wrath increase in the sot. Immediately he starts telling of arms, fierce swords, and battles, he has a chest protected by two breastplates. He runs home to fetch weaponry. Perhaps you are afraid? But listen. He makes useless weapons, he’s afraid to strike the steel.
81. ON CARINUS
Carinus often beats his servants, he hits these with his fist, those with a stick. He constantly bashes his sons, his little daughters, his lackeys, and also his wife. Not thus rages the bear, the tiger, the Nemean lion amidst the innocent flocks. But after his fury is stifled and the man’s rage cools, Carinus praises patience.
82. ON A BALD MAN
Attempting to recover his lost hairs, Calvus gives fees to the surgeons and funds to the physicians. After the gloomy fellow’s hope and money failed him, and there was not a single hair on his smooth pate, “Why,” he said, “do I put such a great value on those vile growths? The filthy fleece on greasy goats is more handsome.”
83. ON DEAD HAMANNUS
While supine Hamannus draws up his will, he vows to discharge his debts to everybody. “Since you won’t be discharging for me,” quoth his wife, “you should have appointed a sponsor to stand in your place.”
84. ON PUBLIUS, A QUACK DOCTOR
Publius was servant to a physician, and when the man died this lackey obtained his garments and gowns, and, a grubby little doctor, practiced an art head not learned. And thus he soon was imagined to be a good physician. Amongst the doctors (as chanced to occur) he was asked the nationality of Galen and Hippocrates. “I think they are Belgians,” he said. “As I recall, my master taught these men the medical arts.”
85. ON BATTUS
While Battus barks out three Hebrew and Greek words, with some Latin thrown in, hurling them against his friends, he boasts that he is trilingual, and the title he arrogantly pursues he justly possesses, as a second Cerberus.
86. ON CINNA. A JOKE
A surgeon standing by wished to suture Cinna’s flesh, abraded with a wound that was not great. But Cinna, unable to stand the tiny point, cried out, and the shuddering man was panic-stricken at the sight of the needle. His spirited wife was present, and reproached his fear, boasting that she was able to withstand much more. He said “Your flesh is scarcely the same as that of us menfolk. Yours desires to be penetrated, but when punctured mine hurts.”
The Spaniard has found a sinkhole down which he may pour the treasures he has scraped up from the distant Indies.
88. ON FLORA
In the summertime a rustic chanced to see Flora, stretched out and hidden in the greeny lawn. She jumped up in astonishment, crying out, “a snake is lurking in the grass,” and was afraid of a pricking she had not felt before.
89. ON BRISCUS. TO LEYSON EVANS, GENTLEMAN, A KINSMAN AND A FRIEND
Lo, hapless Briscus disdained the titles of his nation, and as a lord he always forbade his retainers to utter them, but rather, signeiur, monsieur, and don cavalero Brisco. The mushroom wonderfully adored these strange words. He was wholly devoted to foreign things, in his eyes everything domestic was shabby. He did not like to stay at home so he could go abroad. And while he lazily hunted after titles he squandered his patrimony, and the fool lacked in fact what he possessed in name.
90. ON A GERMAN BASELY AVARICIOUS
When the specter of death terrified a bedbound German, and he decided he was unwilling to die, he hired physicians, and promised large fees if they would restore his former health. He confirmed his promise with a contract. Then, when the sordid fellow soon began to recover thanks to the doctors’ art, he quickly began to fear the expense more than death, and out of fear of the payment he was scarcely afraid to die, as he had been before.
91. ON A THIEF THROWN IN JAIL
When for a long time you had no regular home, you thief, but your residence was shifting here and there, you always turned up in the morning to greet your witty friends, and it was pleasant to have you for a companion in amusement. Now that you are dragged off to a fixed abode, your friends were able to have the pleasure of your company no more.
92. ON COTTA
Cotta, now arrested for theft, nicely distributes to the needy the riches he not so nicely acquired. Having heard of the man’s piety, the judge lets him go, and for his zeal Cotta gets off free. Soon he repents of his piety and, remembering his lost wealth, he ties a noose for himself.
93. ON FAUSTUS, A MONEY-LENDER
To those who ask why he lives by money-lending, Faustus says, “Should not each man live by his art? My harvest is continual, my happy money jingles, and is accustomed to multiply its sowing a hundredfold. My golden wheat does not perish in black rainstorms, the dog Sirius does not harm my trees. Hence crops come to me, and the hanging grape-cluster, hence this farming yields me bountiful fruit.” There you have Faustus’ farming! But the impious fellow does not that in the end Satan reaps what he has sown.
94. ON CAECILIANUS
Your nation’s brave hero, you have been banished from your nation, and, unlucky, you are compelled to endure exile. Why complain, since you are a brave and great-minded man? Any land is a homeland for the brave. Either you are not an exile, or you are not brave. Neither of these descriptions will suit you well, Caecilianus.
95. ON PUBLIUS, A MISER
Dung brought in from slaughter-houses does good for the farmer’s fields, and not otherwise does dung have its value. But the money shut up in your coffers, Publius, hides there like filth and wholly useless dung.
96. ON A DRIVELER AND A GERMAN, VERSIFIERS
A driveller and a German are insulting each other while versifying, the object is which will carry off the laurel. The first vied with hendecasyllables, the other with iambics, this one competed more gently, that raged more savagely. A very amusing battle, to witness two toothless dogs barking! Neither party can do any damage.
97. TO A CERTAIN FRIEND WHO IN SUMMERTIME MISSED HIS MARK AND SHOT A DOE
While you were aiming at a horned deer, behold, at fate’s decree your arrow struck a doe. You are not guilty of the error, for I swear you aimed at the horned one. So why did he not die? Is the feminine sex more apt to be shot with an arrow, or does a female fall to the ground more quickly when she is smitten?
98. ON GALLA
For more or less twelve years I have listened to Galla tell the world, “Farewell, I am about to die.” I have heard her exclaiming about her cough, her gout, her rheum, her fever, her catarrh, so that you’d quickly come to imagine she wanted to die. She’s still alive, and cleverly cheats impending death. Yet black death will soon cheat the cheater.
99. A WITTY JEST ABOUT A CERTAIN DELIRIOUS DREAMER
In a dream, a certain person dreamt he was lending his neighbor two pounds. On the morrow, as he was reading over the names of his debtors in his ledgers, he wrote down the neighbor’s name. He encountered the neighbor not much later, and demanded the return of the two pounds he had lent. That one, astonished by the strangeness of the thing, said that he was wasting his words, and thought that the other was out of his mind. The man was so delirious that he imagined that he was owed, until (as if in a dream) the sum had been repaid.
100. ON CURIUS, A HYPOCRITE
Curius, you keep your fast while indulging in your pots. Keeping your fast you sin the more by your drunkenness.
101. ABOUT A TAILOR. FOR DOCTOR JOHN HARINGTON, ENGLISH KNIGHT, ONE OF THE POET’S FRIENDS
A tailor, accustomed to theft, was stricken by fear of death, and saw something wonderful and novel. For he believed himself to be driven out of his wits by evil spirits, and thought he was in the Stygian fires. He was elaborately tormented by a flag, which he saw to be sewn scraps of cloth he had stolen. Seeing this vision, the wretch was stupefied, and an inward shuddering dread seized his slackened limbs. Soon waking up, moved by the novelty of this stupendous apparition, he was ashamed of his crime. He foreswore thievery, and gave orders that he be warned of this specter if he should fall prone to this vice, as before. Three days later, cutting up a bolt of purple-dyed silk, a part of it stuck to his fingers. Warned of the flag, he laughingly said, “Well then, keep silent. As I know, there was no such scrap as this in my vision.”
102. SUN AND MOON. ALLEGORICALLY. TO WILLIAM ST. JOHN, KINSMAN AND FRIEND
God created two lights. The female is that which rules the night, but the male lights up the day. So let the night-time serve the female sex, and it is right and proper for men to hold their own during the day.
103. THE RISING AND SETTING SUN
The sun rising and setting is the same, but does not always possess the same heat and brightness. Its brightness in the western sun is not as great as in the eastern. Waning, it sinks, and it returns more bright.
104. TO THOMAS LUTTERELL, KINSMAN AND FRIEND
The few epigrams I have playfully given you, a certain person contends to be given with premeditated effort. Why? As the greater part of mankind deliberately plays the fool, cannot a poet do this on the spur of the moment?
105. TO A CERTAIN MAN, EXCELLENT BUT UNFORTUNATE
Unkind fortune has despised your virtue, but your virtue is greater than fortune. So why does the greater yield to the lesser, as if defeated? Perhaps in yielding it shines the more. For, temporarily cast down along with yourself, it rises up anew, and shines brighter than it was before.
106. TO LADY ELIZABETH JANE WESTON, AN ENGLISH MAIDEN, ON HER BOOKS OF VERSE
While I read the elegant verse of an unknown poet, how I was astonished at the very threshold! Afterwards I realized that the poet was of the female sex, and the songs poured forth from a virginal breast. How excellently you strive in your piety to bend Caesar’s heart, that he might grant you your wishes. And how many friends you seek out with your honeyed poetry, as adverse fortune oppresses your affairs. Once Naso the poet sought to placate Caesar’s wrath with his poems. Thus you, a learned bard, have imitated an established one, and adroitly done a similar thing while suffering a similar lot. But your Muse seems to have deserved more than his, as much as a learned girl is more welcome than a learned man.
107. ON FLACCUS DECLAIMING ORATORICALLY
When Flaccus had delivered a rehearsed speech to the populace, he said “I have rehearsed nothing.” When you have lied at the end, who then will imagine you have spoken the truth in the rest of your patter, good Flaccus?
108. LIFE AND DEATH. A PROBLEM
A man’s life is nothing but a harvest full of toils. So what is it to be without toil? To die.
109. TO A CERTAIN VIRGIN VOWED TO GOD
An unwed bride to God, may you be faithful to such a Husband. Though you are married, (strange thing!) you will be an eternal virgin.
110. ON LABIUS, A BOASTER IN BAD TASTE. TO HIS KINSMAN JOHN WYNDHAM
Have you seen Labius, so forward, boyishly arrogant in his apparel? How he struts about in his cloak, girded with a soldier’s sword, his body swathed in silk, glittering with gold, gems, and pearls? How many boastful words this fool has insolently scattered? How he is a man approved by the ladies? He says he has debauched more than a hundred girls, and could have debauched two hundred, had he wished. He would like to be thought a stallion, or an indomitable bull set loose among the heifers. But soon this good man, bound firm by the marriage-knot, wretchedly deceived his consort. She hoped for a man better hung than great Mars, but she has this eunuch.
111. TO HIS FRIENDS, ON HIS BOOK
Receive this unkempt volume I send you, but let it return to me in more elegant condition. Return it corrected of whatever error it contains. I take responsibility for the errors, and I confide the book to you. Just as I belong to you, why should not my book be yours? Whoever has a true friend owns all that he possesses.
112. ON CELSUS, A QUACK DOCTOR
Celsus becomes physician to a youth who is wanton and arrogant because of his wealth, and speedily cures him thus. He turns the healthy boy into a invalid, and from a wealthy boy into a pauper. Feeble, he is not lustful; needy, he is not over-proud.
113. THE BOOK TO THE READER
What does it matter wither I am short or long, big or small? Every bad thing is excessive, every good thing is not.
114. ON GALLA
Galla is greedy, but scarcely a miser. Therefore she yearns for that which, if you grant it, makes her no richer. Galla also gives, but yet is grasping. For she grants that which, if you take it, makes you no richer. You want to know what she gives and takes? This thing, most manifest to the multitude, makes it plain.
115. ON MORELLUS
Since you have neither a farm nor a manor, Morellus, nor a tiny cottage where you may lay down your head, since you do not live by agriculture, nor as a sailor seek troublesome wealth across the deceitful sea, you do not follow Mars as your captain nor tend Minerva’s shrines, and you make your appearance educated in no art, what is the source of this splendor? Or why do a purple-dyed cape and necklace weigh down your unworthy neck? Why do you strut about, a familiar sight in your embroidered garment, and why does Parmeno dance attendance at his master’s back? “The open air is my roof, the earth, “you say, “the earth serves as my estate, everything comes to me under a lucky star. What, I ask, did nature give the great-hearted lion? Whence, pray tell, do the tiger and bear gain their sustenance? They live better by plunder. Prey will not fail the lion, as long as the sheep strays over the mountains.”
116. ON THAIS
As much as your seventieth summer has now parched you, just so often the sharp winter has drawn you bloodless. Though your skin is wrinkled and your nose abounds with snot, while sluggish phlegm troubles your head, though your teeth (those that remain) be scabrous, and your chest exhales something more foul than an unclean public latrine, and though Codrus and Irus shun your embraces, nor do you suck dried-out Thais, you tiny gnat, and everybody disdains you save that you adore yourself, you are always wantonly seeking to entice new suitors. What do you hope for yourself, Thais, as bride to a husband that still has his hair, that his obscene groin would itch for a bent-over hag? In your delirium do you crave a new wedding, and do you imagine that anybody would be smitten with love for a crone? Beware, silly woman, I warn you, put no trust in soft youth, for your feigned lover is after your wealth. Some easy woman will violate the sacred laws of the marriage-bed, and (though you may snarl) you will sleep on the ground, scorned, colder than marble, drier than a split tree-trunk. Oh the evil! What blind desire impels you? Understand your strength, and the damages of old age. Learn what this means, “For every thing there is a season.”
117. ON MOPSA
There was never a maiden more modest than Mopsa (who would believe it?), a virgin more moved by shameful acts and words. If she hears an obscenity, she shuts her eyes and stops her ears, lest she be able to see anything base.
121. MERCHANT, FARMER
While the merchant plows the sea, and the farmer the land, which one do we say has the surer hope? The matter is assured for neither, you see both of them in doubt. But, as the one is more hopeful, the other is less fearful.
122. TO THE MOST LEARNED ALUMNI OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
If it is allowed that my rustic Muse make a noise here, and assault learned ears with her insignificant trifles, here let mine be indulged, who hides urban graces with rusticity, and purveys jokes without bile. She is chaste enough, though unschooled, errant, sweet, and humorous, and she desires to pursue every subject that pleases her. She plays with ambiguous, obscure, difficult material, from which she rekindles her genius. But since she is in the countryside, exiled far from sacred Helicon, for this reason she would prefer a reader more gentle and friendly. And of her praises (if in any respect she is worthy of praise, she admits), this is the greatest, she belongs to Oxford.
123. TO THE MOST CELEBRATED UNIVERSITIES IN THE WORLD, THOSE OF OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE
Britannia, the great mother of the Britons, foresightful that she might feed her children with sweet milk, possess you two as her breasts (as is right for a nurse). Her children are fortunate for these, and she is a parent blessed for them. Nectar and ambrosia are your nutrient, the men whom you nourish have something of the divine in themselves. Praise is due to you second only to Cecropian Athens. And if it is permissible to say, in many ways you surpass it.
124. FOR WILLIAM, LORD HERBERT OF RAGLAN, A RIGHT NOBLE MAN
We are earth and ash. Thus, alas, the glory of the world flees like smoke and shadow. We are earth and ash. Noble Herbert, the flower of our youth, the glory of his race — these things have fallen together, but not perished together. His terrestrial parts fall to earth, his divinely infused mind lives, and his reputation will thrive forever, knowing not how to die. You marble tomb, his hard heart is made of marble who stands at your mound with dry cheeks.
125. ON MOMUS
If you value all epigrams as cheap as a drachma, I say your judgment is scarce worth an obol.
126. TO THE BOOK
If some patrons don’t pop up for you of their own volition, I think you very unworthy of a patron.
Go to Book III