To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.
JOHN STRADLING’S EPIGRAMS
1. TO HIS BOOK
Go, book, range the world wherever you wish, as is permitted your master, though he does not choose to go. Nor be ashamed that you are born of the rural countryside, you will come to city-folk more welcome for your rusticity. If someone should bring you to Caesar’s lofty house, Ôbeware lest you offend with excessive chattering. Do as you were instructed. Remember (if it is permitted) to give your greetings to my master in the morning. If that half-divine, born of royal stock, chances to read you, I want you to wish him all good fortune. If some fussbudget lodges some complaint about me, I boldly enjoin you not to say a word, depart in silence. And when you have returned home, be my messenger, tell me what the talkative folk are saying about you. And while I anxiously await your return, it pleases me to live here with your mistress in my customary way.
2. TO THE SONS OF THE FOSTERING UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, ABOUT THEIR PIETY TOWARDS THE MOST SERENE KING JAMES
In one service, learned gentlemen, you at once offer several services of piety. For you shines the first part, given to God, part to your nation, and the third to your nation’s father. Thus by this piety a single piety, a threefold piety is welcome to God, to the God of our nation, and to the nation of our consecrated prince. This is the dutiful awareness of a pious man.
3. TO THE FOSTERING UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE, ABOUT HIS THRENODY-DITHYRAMB
I have been wondering what this threnody-dithyramb means, noting that this name contains a self-contradiction. Sad things and happy, tears, lamentations, and exultations — a novel name to denote a novel thing. What power to you have, my virgin, for expressing such varied emotions at once? Whence does this ardor derive? Pythagoras’ derided teaching has returned, you are simultaneously moved by the souls of Heraclitus and Democritus. Thus in laughing you mourn, in weeping you exult. A single spirit has not produced these opposites.
4. TO THE CANDID READER
Lest my epigrams not constantly displease you, lest you not think them sometimes too sharp, reader, hear my response thus. Men are not taxed in them, I only attack men’s faults. I do not pass over the things that are common between myself and you. If many are mine, I vex myself more.
5. PROBLEM. TO MISERS
In Latin one speaks of “accursed hunger for gold” and “to thirst after gold.” Is gold at once a food and a drink?
6. ON PROCILLUS
When my bold little Muse declares war on your vices, and censures bad manners, Procillus, you complain that slanders are being uttered, but you are wrong. You should know that true things said are said well, not amiss. If I call you truthful, chaste, and upright, you can rightly call me a slanderer.
7. ON PRISCUS
A deep fear gripped his friends that Priscus has fits of madness. He who fears this is madder. Nobody is mad who, by daily wantonness, goes away from the city drunk before noon. I’m wrong, and Priscus has long been mad, before noon he drunkenly rages all around the city.
8. ON A CERTAIN RUSTIC MERCHANT. TO SIR JOHN HARINGTON, KNIGHT
A certain merchant once obtained two rural farms, which lay not far from the city. Tired of the city, he spent much time in his fields, and rarely came home to his wife. She, mistrusting her husband’s fidelity, thus mistakenly mocked him upon his return: “What a holy, loving husband you are! Toiling six days and nights with your handmaids in the country, you keep the sacred sabbath with me at home.”
9. MODERN HISTORIANS
Once it was allowed painters and poets to dare invent whatever they chose. Now the same right extends to historians.
10. SACCARIUM (THE EXCHEQUER). TO HIS FRIEND WILLIAM THOMAS, GENTLEMAN AND JURISCONSULT
The document did not give the scaccarium (exchequer) its name (although the grave Gervasian writer records this), the thing itself clearly shows otherwise. Or if this appellation was perhaps agreeable enough to men of olden times, now sacks (sacca) well stuffed with money accumulated here from every quarter, teaches us to more correctly to call the saccarium what elders called the scaccarium.
11. THE WHITE-HEADEDNESS OF COURTROOM MEN. G. G. HIS BROTHER
Why does the court turn men white? Is it because there is more care in them, but always less peace of mind and body? Or is it that envy, ambition, and wantonness covers their hearts with a black color, and their heads with a lighter one?
12. THE DISSIMILAR URBANITY OF DIOGENES AND GNATHO
Once the cynic spat in the face of his host. The simple man did this after his straightforward custom. Many a Gnatho, smiling in your face, with complex art balefully carries poison in his convoluted heart.
13. TO JOHN G., A CLEVER MAN
Many are unwise when they seem to themselves to be wise. You want to be called unwise, and in that you are wise. By your art you make more progress than they. No matter that your art is folly, thus you are pleased to be a fool in your own eyes.
14. AN ENIGMA. ABOUT WOMAN
Many a woman is good, yet every woman is bad. She is an even because of this, that, being good, she is made bad.
15. TO JAMES, MONARCH OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, IRELAND, AND THE ADJACENT ISLANDS
A kingdom divided against itself cannot endure. Realms united with themselves are more tranquil. Once the divided power of the Britons made it that one man died by the powers of another. God now promises better under one king, so that we all be one nation and of a like mind. Union, even if previous kings had desired it — the fame of this thing has been left for you alone.
16. ON FESTUS, A HYPOCRITE
Never does an angel dwell with us poor mortals, and, an exile from heaven, tarry in this world. You are called an angel among mortals. So either you have a false name, or you come from somewhere else.
17. ON GALLUS AND GALLA
Religion divided wife Galla and husband Gallus, but a single diet makes them like-minded. They both dine on meat and fish. And she puts up with his ways, he tolerates her deceits. As he is frequently in his cups, so she is rarely sober. He is an adulterer, she a whore. Oh good religion!
18. MAN THE MICROCOSM. TO R. SEYES, GENTLEMAN AND JURISCONSULT, HIS KINSMAN AND FRIEND
Whoever governs himself is a king and monarch of the world, for each man is a little world for himself. Whoever does not succeed and governing himself, he is an inept ruler of the others fate places under his command.
19. ON FLAVA
Flavus died intestate, so his survivor Flava vows that she is willing to entrust her affairs to gentlemen with testicles.
20. ON FABULLA
Although done in by wrinkles and old age, Fabulla, trusting her very mendacious mirror, imagines her self to be a pretty little thing. She goes abroad decked out well enough and more with gems, gold, garments, and costly garments. The people call Fabulla well turned-out, but she seems a pretty little thing to herself alone, though lads and lasses, matrons, youths, gaffers and poets, the tailor, the pharmacist, and the physician lodge their objections. Fabulla trusts her mirror more than a hundred witnesses of the spiteful little people.
21. TO THE MOST NOBLE LORDS THOMAS EGERTON AND JOHN POPHAM, THE HIGHEST SERVANTS OF LAW AND EQUITY IN ENGLAND
Law and the law’s equity are entrusted to your faith, and you preserve these two trusts of yours. You both preserve both, so that it should be a difficult thing to determine whether the one of you is more equitable, or the other more just.
22. TO SIR ROBERT LEWKENOR, KNIGHT, JUSTICE OF CHESTER, ROYAL COUNSELOR WITHIN THE BORDERS OF WALES, UNIQUELY REVERED BY THE POET
There is one fountain of justice, many channels from the fountain, and the wet water which flows through these nourishes the valleys it irrigates. Wales has no greater man than you, by equitable art you alone deal out justice for her sons. Learned, you can both dispense justice and equity, and what you are able to do learnedly, you do as the good man your are.
23. THE USE OF HISTORY. TO HIS FRIEND AND KINSMAN SAMUEL LEWKENOR
What is the goal for historians? That a later age may learn the two good responsibilities of a prudent man: what is to be avoided in life, and what to be done, and to connect his recent deeds with those that have gone before.
24. ON MARIANUS
You do not capture fame (oh, do you crave i!)t. I know why, Marianus. Fame is an untamed beast, nor can it be immediately caught. Eagerly you hunt it, but it flees you as you pursue. Do you know by what means it may be captured? You flee it, and soon fame will pursue you as you flee. Hunting it (this is a strange thing), nobody catches it.
25. ON AULUS
Weighing my epigrams, Aulus, you growl, and you prate “What manner of trash has this new fellow given us?” Baleful Aristarchus and stern teacher of morals, why do you read my verses with furrowed brow? Now these verses are demanding bloody penalties. If it pleases me, Aulus, you will pay me the penalties you have earned.
26. ON HAMANNUS, A BUFFOON. TO RICHARD LOUGHER, KINSMAN AND FRIEND
Hamannus, intent on seeking advice from a lawyer, deceitfully held fair gold coins in either hand. Shifting the coins from one hand to the other, he told the advocate much, and requested the learned man’s judgment. When he had stood attentively as the lawyer spoke, “So behold, here’s your fee,” he said. And showing him the gold coins, he said, “You filled my ears with words, feast your eyes on these.”
27. HARD THINGS ARE FAIR. ON SEXTILIANUS
It is hard to lie and seem truthful, but you do both things with wonderful dexterity. The greater part of lying is ugly, Sextilianus, but this lying of yours is fair.
28. TO THE KING, ABOUT THE RUMOR OF HIS DEATH
When report of your death came to our region, in our gullibility it rendered us almost lifeless. You are alive, nor are we dead. But what matters it if we should die? As long as you do not die, it is well.
29. TO THE MOST SERENE ANNE, QUEEN OF BRITAIN
A queen that is daughter, bride, and sister of kings, what more could the Fates add to your titles? To be called in after time mother of kings and queens. Let proud Juno envy you your lot.
30. TO THE MOST NOBLE PRINCE HENRY
Boy born of a divine father, you who express your parents with your face, having a heart infused with divine spirit, be fortunate of mind, and by your deeds outstrip our hopes. No matter for how many things we hope, do more. May your virtue surpass your fortune, your prudence surpass your powers, as beloved to good men as feared by the bad.
31. TO THE RIGHT NOBLE CHARLES, DUKE OF YORK
Charles, after a great king you are the first to bear this honor among your titles, yourself being more worthy than this title. Grow with new virtue, with favoring divine spirit let new honor grow for you, as you grow a well-favored boy.
32. TO LADY ELIZABETH, THE KING’S ELDEST DAUGHTER
I pray for all happy things. For what but prayers do you need? Lo, I bring you the only prayers I am able to utter. What kind of prayers do you ask for? Prayers issued from deep in the heart. What should my prayers wish for? All happy things for you.
33. TO THE LADIES MARGARET AND MARY, HIS YOUNGER DAUGHTERS
Dear pledges for your father, and dear pledges for your mother, receive these prayers as pledges of my mind. I give you what a poet can (verses) as a small gift, and this is such as a poet can do. Giving such pledges, chaste love joins lovers, strengthens government, and blesses a marriage.
34. TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS NOBLEWOMAN LADY ARABELLA STUART, ENNOBLED NO LESS BY HER OWN VIRTUE THAN BY HER ROYAL BLOOD
And you, nymph who are to be celebrated in the company of British demigoddesses, a certain divinity sits upon your face. The modesty that accompanies the splendor of your pedigree doubles your praise, and makes you more welcome. Majesty without kindness is unwelcome, but the one and the other show that you are a divine mortal.
35. TO THOSE NOBLE YOUTHS, THE COLLATERAL PRINCES
Greated-spirited lads, it is your parents’ concern that you become great, and it is permissible for you to be greater by these arts: by religion, firm faith, virile virtue, noble morals, and pious sobriety. The greater one is than others, in this let him seem lesser to himself. By this method he will soon become the greatest.
36. AS MUCH FOR MARS AS FOR MERCURY. TO THE SAME
Though Mars should defer to Mercury, each serves the other, and when joined they both shine the more. To employ arms abroad and strategies at home, this is right for magnates, dedicated to Mars and to Mercury.
37. TO THEIR TUTORS AND PEDAGOGUES
You are farmers, the care of tending a field to greater to the extent a field is more fertile. It is your duty that the crop grows and the tare dies. This field of yours, as it is now tended, will yield both.
38. TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS CHARLES, EARL OF NOTTINGHAM, ADMIRAL OF ENGLAND
Britain stands encircled by the sea like a wall, and I think the virtue of its heroes a stouter wall. Thus rule of the British sea is rightly given to you, that you might govern the shifting sea by your steady policy, though I think it governed less by policy and more by fortune. Good fortune has always attended your planning. Fortunate man, you have triumphed twice over your conquered enemy. * He himself, arrogantly seeking what is ours, lost his own.
* In the year 1588 and in the expedition to Cadiz.
39. TO SIR JOHN CROKE, KNIGHT, CROWN MAGISTRATE, COUNSELLOR WITHIN THE BORDERS OF WALES, &c
The law is called a mute magistrate, and when he speaks men call him the law, these are sufficiently eloquent truths. Legal pandects little avail us, if they are neglected. The laws give themselves potentiality, a judge gives them, as it were, their being. With you on the bench, the law possesses its own, and you thus retain (as is fitting you should retain ) your honor.
40. TO THAT EXCELLENT MAN FRANCIS TATE, GENTLEMAN, JUSTICE OF THE SUPERIOR COURT OF ASSIZES IN SOUTH WALES
The virtue which stands for the highest things in your eyes, is not lower than the highest things. You lay down the laws according to your opinion, as is fitting. And you deem that what ever law you argue to be binding on others is by the same logic binding on yourself.
41. TO SIR WILLIAM HERBERT, A LEARNED KNIGHT DEVOTED TO HIS STUDIES, THE POET’S GOOD FRIEND
As you are smaller in body, the force of your mind and wit is greater. This is thriving, though you be an old man. Assiduously pouring over histories and learned volumes, excellently you cultivate your wit and your judgment. When, residing at home, you vigilantly scan the world, you know deeds done abroad as well as those done close at home.
42. TO SIR FRANCIS POPHAM, KNIGHT, KINSMAN AND FRIEND
You, a youth to your nation, are like a father, and in youthful body you bear the mind and judgment of an old man. As vigor is rare in old man, so prudence is rare in youth. You are a youth in strength, an old man in counsel.
43. AN EPITAPH FOR HIS COUSIN HUGH PORTMAN, KNIGHT
What little son, what wife will adorn your funeral, you who had no son, no wife? You were a second father to orphans, a husband to widows. These both will decorate your funeral with their plaints. You lived a celibate, you die a father and a husband. Your chaste piety gives you a novel progeny.
44. FOR THE DEAREST OF HIS KINSMAN, THOMAS PALMER, KNIGHT, WHO DIED AT VALLADOLID IN SPAIN IN THE YEAR 1603
Among the many whom blood and affection joined to me, Palmer, you bore off the palm. Death, who only could do so, divided us, and savage death which first separated us will at length unite us. Why are you proud to have vanquished such a man, envious death? Only his earthly mass fell to you, but his mind to God, so that your part might gradually perish, bested by corruption, but his other part, death, will garner fruit as you die.
45. FOR THOMAS RICHARDS OF COITY IN GLAMORGANSHIRE, LATELY BY FAR THE PRINCE OF WELSH LYRICISTS
Having been born with neither Calliope for a mother or Apollo for a father, the man who lies in this tomb was a second Orpheus. He did not draw trees and adamantine rocks after himself, vain fable has no place in this epitaph. But you would have called them stony and stupid as hard wood whom he did not move by his art. Though he was not born of a goddess-mother or Apollo his father, one may say he was taught by them both.
46. A RIBALD JEST ABOUT PUTSON
As a farmer was working his ground, and casting seed in his furrows, Putson made an appearance, acting like a lunatic. He had seed with him which he profusely scattered here and there on the ground. And when the seed was used up he silently departed. Afterwords he seduced the farmer’s wife and, caught in the act, jokingly said to the roaring man, “When I sow my seed in this field, as I did in that, why don’t I get the same thanks I did before?”
47. TO A CERTAIN POOR GIRL, CHASTE AND COMELY
You are poor and you are not poor. If it were allowed to sell your beauty, no girl would surpass you in treasures. But since this thing is not for sale, it is far more valuable than gold and you are a wealthy maid, though needy.
48. TO HIS SISTERS JOAN AND GRACE, BELOVED VIRGINS
It is enough to have said this one thing of you to, that each sister is worthy of a good brother’s love. Chaste sisters, you view in your pursuits and in your piety that, as you are similar in morals, thus you are equal in uprightness.
49. TO A CERTAIN SCHOOLMASTER
You speak of posterity as if it were a posterior age. I understand your grammatical character.
50. FLATTERERS, DOGS
Grandees treat those like poorer equivalents of these. One can trust these more.
51. TO THE UNFRIENDLY READER
If my poems should displease you, the fault likes in this: it is not my intention to have pleased you as a reader.
52. ON PONTICUS
Silly Ponticus purchased a fool at great price. Thus he has somebody like himself, by whom he can be amused.
53. ON A DRIVELLER
You wrote trash for Sulla, and you stupidly ask for a fee. Sulla gives you your trash.
54. WHORE, CHIMAERA
“Whore” is a word, but one to which a thing is attached. A Chimaera is not a thing, yet it signifies a bad thing.
55. ON PONTICUS, AN EQUIVOCATOR
For other men, their speech sets forth their mind. Yours, Ponticus, does not. Either you have an evil mind, or bad speech. Your speech is bad, your mind worse, but you are worst of all. Your mind and your speech, Ponticus, are thrice-bad.
56. TO THE FRIENDLY READER, AND THE READER HIS FRIEND
The book that was mine before is yours. Learn, reader, how it is yours and mine. You are mine, and I am yours.
57. ON BALBUS, VERSIFYING BADLY
Versifying, Balbus begs that pardon be granted him. Tell me, when he thus begs our pardon, does he deserve it?
58. SCOTUS, SCALIGER, CARDANUS
This one is subtle, but the second more so, and the third more than the other two. What one man will be more subtle than all three?
Why does a school of Christians read this man? No other dog of ours is more rabid against his master. Because this is the prudence of Your servants, Christ, to extract pure honey from the poison of evil.
60. ON QUINTINUS
Quintinus either envies or pities everybody. I would prefer your envy, Quintinus.
61. PENELOPE EVERYWHERE
Whatever good she did by daylight, Penelope unravelled at night. There’s many a Penelope everywhere.
62. TO SIR EDWARD STRADLING, KNIGHT, ON THE SEAWALL AT ABERTHAW, CONSTRUCTED AT HIS OWN EXPENSE FOR THE CONTAINMENT OF THE SEVERN, A HERCULEAN LABOR COMPLETED WITHIN FIVE MONTHS. 1606
Why does Memphis display its pyramids, Babylon its luxuries, and the great City the work of its amphitheaters? These wonders tend only to show. There are things less praiseworthy but more worth the undertaking. I hold Hercules’ labors more worthy of praise, because they scarce lack public utility. Such is this labor of yours, done with your funding, genius, art, and labor. The praise is for you, your posterity is to possess its use. What greater than to prescribe laws for Neptune, and impose new limits on his floods? Behold, this soil used to be salt, there is a crop were there was a sea, where the fish sported in this field, the sheep goes a-straying.
63. ON TWO LAWYER BROTHERS. TO MATTHEW PRYCE, HIS KINSMAN AND FRIEND
While two brothers who were lawyers litigiously acted a case, the one against the other, and each attacked the other, bawling with bitter words, so that you would think they were heated to the point of coming to blows, a guileless bystander, who was a friend to both, urged “Ah brother, don’t strike your brother! In my opinion, the condition of lawyer’s is unhappy, that brother should thus furiously go against brother.” “Silence, fool,” said one of the brothers. “We are friends, and this suit makes us more so.” To whom answered the man, “Either your love is false, or your friendship for your fool of a client is feigned, though purchased dear.”
64. ON THAT DIABOLICAL CONSPIRACY OF NOVEMBER 5, 1605
The Thunderer on high, meaning to avenge sinful cities and men, angrily acts with thunder and lightning. An earthly Jupiter, vainly aiming lightning-bolts against the British, attempts to effect this work by another route. Oh the wonder, he threatens his bolts from a deep cellar, so that the infernal throng may provoke the gods above. Has the Titan shuddered to see such great enterprises? Or was the malign crew more afraid of the sun?
65. TO THE RIGHT NOBLE GEORGE, LORD MONTEAGLE, BORN UNDER GOOD AUSPICES, TO WHOM IS OWED THE SERVICE OF REVEALING THE HORRENDOUS CONSPIRACY
While the sons of darkness plied their unspeakable work, these denizens of the earth shunned the light. As if by chance swooping down from a mountain, an eagle, the bird of Jove, perceived this, and refused to allow them to lurk in hiding. O lucky Britons, to have had you born! Had you not been born, we would be nought.
66. TO THE KING, ABOUT THAT CONSPIRACY WHOLLY DETECTED BY HIS PROPHECY, AS IF DIVINELY INSPIRED
Like a mystery, the letter sent to Monteagle came to your ears. When you had read it over, by your genius you well appraised its obscure meaning. Oh you, worthy of government, at once a king and a prophet!
67. TO THE MOST NOBLE PEERS OF PARLIAMENT AND OTHERS GATHERED FOR THE SESSION AT WESTMINSTER FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD
Behold, where you pious throng are bent on devising salubrious laws, and with these to repress bad morals, ruination threatens you; and, in violation of the law, guilty men plan a dire massacre against you innocent men. The evil man falls in the pit he has previously dug, and is wickedly caught in his own snares. For God, the first to have framed laws, uses them to punish the bad and protect the good. Shape your own laws to His pattern: let them smite the wicked and supply aid to the pious.
68. BRITAIN PERSONIFIED TO THE CONSPIRATORS
A careful mother, I reared you degenerate sons and zealously raised you at my bosom. What was your intention, profane men, to stain yourself with your mother’s innards, and my slaughter to enjoy your brothers’ blood?
69. TO THE CLERGY
Every man on earth serves as a soldier. The sacred page teaches that human life is a militant service. Who would deny these teachings? But the weapons of our service are not carnal. Here the Spirit provides holy men with suitable weapons. Why do you priests vie with swords and weapons such as befit earthly captains? When Peter struck with a sword, our Savior amicably reproached him in his error, and commanded him not to strike. Yet He gave us a double-edged sword, with which you may slash the nations, namely His eternal Word. Not with words, but with this Word — you will fight with this sword. Without bloodshed, the man conquered it will be the victor.
70. TO AN EQUIVOCATOR
You swear with equivocation, yet you are simple and straightforward, for your speech and your intention are identical. You deceive those who trust you, although you are simple and straightforward. For you are equivocally good, and simply bad. Once men were interpreters of words, God and yourself are interpreters of men’s hearts. To you alone we may say KNOW THYSELF.
71. ON PORCILLUS, A SOT
Your neighbors say something about monstrous to relate, Porcillus, nor is the tale trivial. Rising in the morning you count the fingers on either hand. At night, you have so many that you can’t add them up.
72. ON PUBLIUS, A LECHER
Publius is purged in the in the passive, while the pious congregation cleanses the city in the active.
73. THE LECHER’S TOMB
This tomb contains a quadruped of a man, a biped of a goat. What manner of man he once was, what manner of beast!
74. ON A CERTAIN SHREWD MAN
You are cold, and rarely warm (caleo), hence you are more shrewd (calleo). For the shrewder a man is, the less he is warm.
75. ON SOMEBODY SUDDENLY ENNOBLED
Your nobility is entirely your own, for none of it belongs to your parents. Tell me how much this all is? None of it, indeed, is yours.
76. DARKNESS AND LIGHT
Light comes after darkness. So is the one superior to the other? Oedipus, solve us this riddle.
77. TO A CERTAIN FRIEND, ABOUT DAY AND NIGHT
You say day and night are two sisters. You are deceived. This one is a brother, that one her brother’s sister.
I am called feminine and masculine, a double thing beneath a single name. This a brother, that a sister. I am a hermaphrodite.
79. ON CRACCUS, A PESTILENT MAN
Why do you flee the plague, rascal, when you do not flee yourself? You have been the worst plague for yourself and for others.
80. ON A CERTAIN WHORE
Nature gave you your character and your beauty. But you yourself, sordid, ruined a work fair by nature.
81. A QUESTION. TO ASTROLOGERS
Among the twice six constellations which exert influence on our bodies, why is the horned goat predominant?
82. ON GALLA
You grant kisses (oscula ), but ones that stink worse than foul shit. What’s the wonder? You have a mouth (os) like a foul rectum (culus).
83. ON A CERTAIN JURISCONSULT
You are at the same time clergyman, physician, and patron. You sin in mixing profane laws with sacred.
84. ON DACUS
Dacus purchases friendship, and afterwards sells his friend. He thinks he sells the latter with right, because he has previously bought the other.
85. ON THE PERJURER’S PENALTY. A QUESTION
When one has committed perjury why do his ears burn? Because we are commanded to bear one another’s burden.
86. TO THE MOST PROSPEROUS DOGE, SENATE, AND PEOPLE OF VENICE
It is needless for you to fear a lord of the earth, for it is clear that you dwell on the sea, not the earth. For you let the fiery lightning be no source of terror, for amidst the waters your city is safe from flames. True faith, love, piety, and patience grant heaven to Christians, even if Satan objects.
87. TO HIS FRIEND HUGH SANFORD, GENTLEMAN, ABOUT THE REMEDY FOR DOMESTIC WAR
Since sweet peace exists under great King James, and belligerent Mars is banished from our lands, you ask why so many gilded knights are created in peacetime, and whether it is in doubt whether Mars shall soon return. Civil wars undertaken at home are more terrifying, it has harmed us less to wage war abroad. Therefore for the repression of these domestic wars, in these halcyon times many a man is well-advisedly knighted. For (unless caution were taken by this excellently strategy) for many of us there would be no peace at home with our wives.
88. A CONSOLATORY POEM TO THE SAME, ON THE DEATH OF HIS ONLY CHILD
The little boy who was his anxious father’s sole hope, although he has fallen, he has scarce perished. He was mortal in the part that has fallen. So let his parents know that they have given birth to a child like themselves. God joined immortal seed to this mortal thing, and these two are nothing but the whole man. It is, perhaps, a lamentable thing to have begotten no such thing, but assuredly it is enough to have engendered an immortal.
89. TO HIS FRIEND WILLIAM WROTH, ABOUT NOT PUBLISHING HIS BOOKS OVER-HASTILY
You ask why I allow my volumes to remain hidden, and scarce let them be published after a pair of lustra? I think that, if anywhere, one must act hesitantly in this, I do not choose to become a bard hastily. For the birth of wombs and minds is not the same: the one is the work of nine months, the other of ten years.
90. TO JOHN OWEN, A BRITON
When I first laid eyes on your epigrams, Owen, at first reading they amused me, and when reread they delighted me me. Then, looking over my assortment of epigrams, of whatever quality they are, I am polishing them, though previously I had decided they should remain hidden. My Muse is rustic, but boldly she yearns for the city, and desires to enter the palace of our Caesar.
91. A NEW YEAR’S GIFT FOR HIS BROTHER WILLIAM GAGE
Though I had wished a more splendorous gift for you, you will have this trifle, for it has agreed to make a long journey. It has not been terrified of the deceptive bandit, the cost of its fare was small, and you may repay it with something small.
92. TO MAURICE OF NASSAU &c., INDOMITABLE IN MIND AND VIRTUE. 1606
You have fought in doubtful war, Maurice, and you have gained much. The enemy has little of which to boast. Your first enemy was succeeded by a second, a third, then another, but you always stand the single hope of your nation. But now an impetuous and keen captain pursues you more closely, and presses you with a more substantial war. Take courage, for God will put an end to these things too, only a small thorn will scratch you.
93. THE SPANIARD AND THE DUTCHMAN
The raging Spaniard has driven you into such a rage that you scarce recognize yourself. To give you more courage would be like giving frenzy to a madman, or pouring oil on a blaze.
94. ON HIS BEING A GUEST AT AST ON THE SEVERN, WHILE THE FLOOD WAS MAKING ITS ASSAULT. TO HIS FRIEND WILLIAM POWELL, JURISCONSULT
As often as I think in mind about the crossing at Ast, while there the flood enforced a delay on the journey I had undertaken, alas, I seem to renew my past sorrows, and to see before my eyes the injuries suffered by my homeland. Even now the shouting people assault my ears, the little boy with his father, the daughter and her protective mother. But it is pleasant to remember the pleasant hospitality and the excellent beds, of which I don’t care to change an iota. The comradeship, spiced with the salt of the swollen sea, protracted a bland meal.
95. ANOTHER POEM ON THE FLOOD. TO WILLIAM STRADLING, KINSMAN AND FRIEND
When lately I came to the city as a visitor, rescued from the new flood (scarce without loss of life), from all sides my friends flocked together, eager to hear of the novelty, and asked me what news I had to tell. I said, “I have seen fish and men hanging from trees, while the cow, sheep, and horse swam in the sea. Where wagons used to roll, there the skiff flies along with sails unfurled, and goes and returns by unaccustomed routes.” This is a novel subject for historians, and likewise for poets, they can write true things which will scarce gain credence.
96. ON THE SEA. A PROBLEM
Though all rivers run into the sea, the sea is insatiable. Does this not reek of avarice?
97. ON THE PREVIOUSLY UNHEARD-OF FLOODING OF THE SEVERN. TO THE RIGHT REVEREND BISHOP OF LLANDAFF, MY DEAREST BROTHER
Because we live profanely, without order or law, as outlaws we are sunken in the waters. God has rescued us from the flames, but our love for Him is not inflamed, nor burns the brighter. We are worthy of perishing in the sea’s gelid floods, some of us have hearts cold towards God.
98. TO SIR EDWARD STRADLING, KNIGHT, ABOUT THE INCREDIBLE FLOODING OF THE SEVERN THE DAY AFTER THE POET BEGAN HIS JOURNEY TO LONDON, IN WHICH THAT SEAWALL RECENTLY BUILT AT ABERTHAW WAS OVERCOME AND WHOLLY TORN APART. JANUARY 20, 1606
In vain he accuses Neptune who sails the water, there is a certain error amidst the uncertain tides. Mortals pointlessly strive to restrict the outlaw waters with laws (which are not bound by law). I had thought that limits had been imposed on the Ocean, with no shifting boundary, and laws understood by the goddess Vesta. But no fixed rule applies in fluid matters, and quickly the driven wave swelled by with swollen blasts of wind. With the peace broken which he had once ratified, that oath-breaker Glaucus went a-running to his old hostile tricks. What had been salt-water before, he made to be salt-water everywhere: he flowed over the fields and the wave challenged pious Ceres. When I returned, finding what I had left firm to be rent asunder, and that all my hope and sleepless effort, your expenses, and the farmers’ crops were ruined, I ponder such words as these in my troubled breast: Neptune, there is no faith in your government. Boldly you protect the things that are yours, and by force you snatch those that belong to others.
99. TO ELIZABETH KENN, A PRETTY AND WELL-BORN GIRL, THE SOLE HEIR OF HER FAMILY, WHO WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY ESCAPED THE FLOOD BY THE INTERVENTION OF A RUSTIC
When Nereus saw you playing on the shore, fair girl, captivated by your beauty, this outlaw ran into the fields, the dikes broken, and followed your feet as you fled. You fled quickly, more quickly he pursued. You came into the savage’s embraces, his desired prey. In vain you called out. But he, having no pity on a tender girl, planted a thousand kisses on your lips. The Dryades, hating your abductor, bade Faunus of the woodlands to come out of forest to bring you aid. With divine auspices, he quickly rescued your darling self out of a shrub in the tumid flood, and gave you to your own.
100. ON THE FLOOD OF THE SEVERN. TO HIS FRIEND THOMAS LUTTRELL OF DUNSTER
If you crave to understand the Severn’s unwonted floods, what causes they have, and the source of this madness, the common people attribute it to the moon and the driving winds, they rise their mind no higher. The astrologer inspects the aspect of the heavens and the conjunctions of the planets, referring to these the cause of whatever novelty befalls. Consult the religious, and seek the cause from this source. Why them? They say that everything occurs because God so decides, that through these means occur everything which God Himself does. Lo thus, the rock stricken, Moses made the river of water to flow through this means, with no medium intermediating. Yet beforehand, the winds intermediating, he made his people a highway in the Red Sea, and compelled the waters to stand. For God may do either. He works through means, and, with nothing intermediating, He does whatever He chooses.
101. ON MAXIMUS
When you counted up the errors in my books, Maximus, the sole error which lurks here eluded you. Undeservedly praising you, I erred. But you skip over this error. Is this not your error? I imprudently erred, you err wittingly and knowingly, Maximus. This is the maximum error in this error.
102. ON THE SAME
My poems do not fear you as a censor. Why? They do not stand or fall by your judgment.
103. TO THE RIGHT REVEREND AND MOST LEARNED DOMINUS TOBIE MATTHEW, ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
As your virtue constantly grows, so to the rewards of your virtue, this is an honor accumulated by merits. Incumbent on this honor is a greater burden, but you suffice for its bearing. This is a task equal to your powers, or less. A teacher by your intellect, a prelate by your piety, and a faithful shepherd, you feed, direct, and teach your flock.
104. TO THE RIGHT REVEREND DOMINUS RICHARD VAUGHAN, BISHOP OF LONDON
As a result of your merits, Christ has given you this merited honor, that you sit as a great prelate in a great city. You feed your sheep, and with your staff you repel the wolves from the flock. With art you govern these more vigilantly, those more mildly. As a learned and pious man, you perform both great works of the clergy, which a great part of them does scarcely at all. Thus you outshine others in virtue, as in honor, hence you are a sweet ornament to your position, and your position to you.
105. TO THE MOST NOBLE JOHN, BARON LUMLEY, DISTINGUISHED BY EVERY KIND OF VIRTUE, TWO WHOM THE STRADLINGS ARE BOUND BY AN AFFECTION THAT IS ALMOST HEREDITARY
To define your nobility in a verse is a vain thing. By your example you teach this more fully and better. Your first care is God, your second the king and his realm, your last care is for yourself and your own.
106. TO THAT ILLUSTRIOUS NOBLEWOMAN LADY MARY NEVILLE, DAUGHTER OF THE EARL OF DORSET
By your virtues you enhance your fortune and your distinguished race, and both shine by the genius of your bard. As, distinguished by virtue, you have provided matter for the bard, thus he industriously glorifies his Spartan maid. Though this virtue be laudable enough by itself, yet a bard makes it to be more conspicuous.
107. TO SIR JOHN WYNDHAM, KNIGHT, A CLOSE KINSMAN AND FRIEND
Your lot is not mean, but your prudence is grater. You govern the one by the other, which is like a commanding mistress. You are happy in your lot (sors ), but blessed in your consort. For a consort twice blesses her lot.
108. TO SPENSER AND DANIEL, MOST CELEBRATED POETS
Between you, you divide up the first and second places. The third after you, whoever he will be, has enough.
109. TO SIR EDWARD STRADLING, KNIGHT, ON THE ANCIENT ANCESTRAL HOME, CASTLE ST. DONAT’S, BEAUTIFIED BY HIM
There is the man who only shines in his forefathers’ light, who does nothing worthy of posterity. Another besmirches his ancestral coat of arms: born of nobles, everything about him reeks. You, praiseworthy old man, restoring your forebear’s erstwhile monument, do not allow them, or it, to die. You are restoring the castle which conquering Fitzhaymon had given to your ancestors, almost leveled to the ground. Greater in this, you are less than your ancestor. Imitating them in this, let this be enough and more for you.
110. TO KING JAMES
Once a flattering bard wrote about Caesar, “Caesar possesses an empire divided with Jove.” If fate favors my wishes, may I say of you that our Caesar has an empire united under Jove.
111. THE TWO SIMONS. TO CHURCHMEN
The clergy has great reverence for Simon. I praise them. One Simon was the greatest of shepherds. But the other Simon, a fomenter of heresy, devours God’s flock. Revere Peter, but shun the Mage.
112. A JEST ABOUT PUTSON, A CLEVER BUFFOON
Putson appeared in public equipped with bow and arrow, and vowed to hunt down a wearer of horns. Peering, he looked now here, now there. It was uncertain whether he was drunk or out of his mind. While everybody was in doubt, a wife, conscious of her guilt, suddenly snatched away her man, and said “Beware, darling husband. Ah I fear lest that arrow strike your head.” And she carefully added, “Although you scarcely wear horns, what if that drunkard imagined you did?”
113. TO HIS FRIEND WILLIAM WROTH
If ever you send epigrams to an unlettered friend, what profit do you get from this, or what good he? The ignorant fellow neglects what he does not understand. Let it be so. For your own benefit, thus you cultivate your judgment and your wit.
114. ON THE UNBELIEVER AND THE GULLIBLE
This man believes everything, that one nothing. They are both in error, and it is right to hold to a mean between the two. But there is no mean in believing for believers. Nay, the faithful should believe that each thing is to be believed.
115. ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE
Among the disciples you are the least, and at the same time the greatest. You are the greatest in fact, but least in your own judgment. So are you not a good judge? Whether you make this error knowingly, the error is sober and pious.
116. TO HIS KINSMEN EDWARD AND WILLIAM LEWIS, BROTHERS, SONS OF A KNIGHT AND YOUTHS OF EXCELLENT CHARACTER
You compete in equal studies, you compete with a love so similar that each competes with equal zeal (studio ).
117. ON PAULINUS, A HYPOCRITE
It chanced that upon a Sunday fell New Year’s Day, when gifts go flying to and fro. From all sides each of his neighbors brought splendid gifts, token of their sociable love, to Paulinus. He attended to his prayers. Afterwards he came out, and, not giving back even a crumb to a boy, explain, “I take what’s given gratis, but myself repay nothing. This the Lord’s holy day, I desire no market.”
118. TO JAMES, KING OF BRITAIN
You are a great subject for learned poets, great king, and these have no need to say anything but the truth of you. The things they invent for others are true in you. When he sings of you, the poet may be a historian.
119. TO CHRISTIAN IV, MOST SERENE KING OF DENMARK, BROTHER OF THE MOST AUGUST ANNE, QUEEN OF ENGLAND. ABOUT HIS MOST WELCOME ARRIVAL IN BRITAIN. 1606
If Britain has ever rejoiced in a guest, now it behooves her to rejoice more in your entertainment. In love king embraces king, brother brother. By your love, you bind himself to you the closer. Brotherly love is rare, the amity of kings is rarer. You two are rare glories of kings and brothers.
120. TO THE MOST AUGUST AND SERENE JAMES AND ANNE, KING AND QUEEN OF BRITAIN, &c.
Those Brutus-born by blood, Scots and Danes frequently came to blows, and wasted their powers. Bested in turn by such powers, victory fell to nobody. Oh this bloody quarrel! You two join these three into one of mixed blood, so that fostering peace may exist for three nations. By blood Mars once grew large, by your blood peace thrives, and Mars has lost his power.
121. TO SIR JOHN RAMSAY, KNIGHT AND VISCOUNT HADLEY, WORTHY OF PIOUS MEMORY, WHO (TOGETHER WITH OTHER MEN) BY MOST BRAVELY FIGHTING STABBED GOWRIE, THAT FAITHLESS TRAITOR, WHEN HE WOULD HAVE FREED THE KING FROM HIS MOST DEPRAVED BROTHER ALEXANDER GOWRIE
It is uncertain wither your faith was greater, or your virtue, since you made the greatest use of both. Men full of perfidy and vice (who?), two monsters of men fell to the ground by your military enterprise and your loyalty. Once upon a time, taming monsters was a labor of Hercules. Ramsay, like Hercules the tamer, was another of these men.
122. TO JAMES ARESKIN, CAPTAIN OF THE ROYAL GUARD, A MAN OF LOYALTY AND VIRTUE, AS PROVEN AGAINST THE MOST EVIL BROTHERS GOWRIE
Rightfully you are the prefect of the Royal guard, Areskin, for once you were a loyal bodyguard. Gowrie and his brother, thrice-stained with foul crime, are witnesses to your virtue and loyalty. How great is the virtue that shone in that danger? Greater in that it benefitted a great man.
123. TO THE EXCELLENT SIR EDWARD STRADLING, KNIGHT, DISTINGUISHED BY EVERY VIRTUE, IN THE SEVENTY-EIGHTH YEAR OF HIS LIFE, WHO FLOURISHES WITH VIGOR OF MIND AND BODY, THE POET’S MOST DEAR UNCLE
That old age does not weigh heavily on you, or is in other ways troublesome, but rather that your sound mind thrives in your sound body, this is a distinguished sign of a well-lived youth. For rarely does a hale old age follow after a wanton youth, and a good death rarely follows a bad life.
124. TO SIR FRANCIS VERE, KNIGHT, A NOBLE MAN DISTINGUISHED FOR HIS MARTIAL GLORY
It is not right for me to say ought but the truth (verum) about Vere, for all truth agrees with itself. There is no need to manufacture false praise for Vere, but it is enough for Vere if his truths are reported. Your praise is not in need of fords, it is proved by the many battle-scars which mark your body.
125. VERO NIHIL VERIUS. THE MOTTO OF THE VERES, THE MOST DISTINGUISHED EARLS OF OXFORD
Veritable, more veritable, and most veritable, these three demonstrate that something can be truer than true. That vero nihil verius is therefore wrong. But this is true. Nothing is truer than Vere. This vere is sometimes understood narrowly, and sometimes loosely. But, Vere, you do not admit a “more” and a “less.”
126. ON RUFA
Young Rufa, deprived of three husbands by fate, did not mourn them when put in their graves. Now she grieves more sadly at the fourth funeral, although this one was a worse man than the others. For in the past, before the death of one husband she was betrothed to his successor. Now she is merely a widow.
127. ON A CERTAIN CLERGYMAN. TO HIS FRIEND JOHN STROUDE, GENTLEMAN AND JURISCONSULT
As often as this man thunders the Thunderer’s precepts from the pulpit, we imagine him to be an angel of a man. When he changes his location, how much he does he change from being that man? So much that you would scarcely believe he’s the same person who he was. His wicked life shows he’s a devil of a man. It behooves us to imitate, not his base life, but his pious words.
128. JAMES THE LESS, GREATER, AND GREATEST. TO KING JAMES
I have heard that two James once lived, of whom one was the Greater, but the other the Less. But who should be the Greatest except yourself. You, second to none on earth, are yourself nearest to God, great in fortune, greater in virtue. With these two conjoined, you are the greatest of these three.
129. TO THE MOST NOBLE BROTHERS, THE EARLS OF PEMBROKE AND MONTGOMERY
The love of brothers is sweet, brother is friend of brother, and for them innate love grows greater by art. Thus may it grow for you, as the reason increases, and your love does not die as long as life exists.
130. ON A CERTAIN ASTROLOGER
Mistrusting his wife, an astrologer consulted the stars to find out of the Fates wished him to live with horns. The unhappy man learned his lot, and he decided to endure what the stars threatened, his wife not demurring.
131. ON A CERTAIN BOASTER
As often as you send a letter to Celsus, in the heading you always describe him as your honourable master. When chatting three words with your friends, Celsus is your friend, whom you count among your chums — you little wretch.
132. A JEST ABOUT A CERTAIN CLOWN
A clown about to sport humorously, while he was still girding himself and idly preparing himself for his joking, asked a bystander in the crowd, “He you, tell me what I’m about to do. Come, tell me. Are you silent? Consider the joke.” The man made answer, “Though it is difficult to tell what you’re about to do, I predict that you are going to play the fool.”
133. ON SULLA
Under compulsion, Sulla bears the rule of his wife (as if she were his mistress), and in vain he strives to cast off this sad yoke. Inferior in strength, he contends with logic, by teaching that by God’s law he is her head. She flies at his face with her fingernails, and with a fine jest she swears that she wants to scratch her head.
134. ON BIBULUS
I write your name with a capital B, not correctly, because more properly it ought to be written with a small b. But both the big and little B are in agreement. For Bibulus is bibulous, and the orthography is sufficiently correct.
135. ON HAMMANUS
Who can deny that two contrary properties can simultaneously belong to one object, when he sees this has happened? You are simultaneously drunk and sober (I am describing a miracle!). For, drunk, you quickly fall asleep, and you soberly slumber.
136. A LOYAL MAN. A PARADOX, TO HIS FRIEND G. THOMAS, GENTLEMAN AND JURISCONSULT
Since a loyal friend can only be discerned in adversity, he is wretched who scarcely was before. For he is a wretch who discovers no loyal friend, and only misfortune proves who is loyal.
137. ON AULUS
You love your neighbor as much as yourself, and likewise you love his wife as much as your own. In this world you are an angel, who thus fulfil this injunction, and indeed you do what nobody can. Aulus perseveres, he goes farther, and hence he’s a saint: he loves his wife more than his own.
138. NOTHING IS DIFFICULT FOR THE WILLING. ON GRACCHUS
It is difficult for you, Gracchus, to compel your modest bride Graccha to live according to your will. To want is yours, but to refuse is hers. So the rule holds, nor is it mistaken. For this should be easy, if she would be willing.
139. ON SULLA, A NONBELIEVER
Sulla heard that some men were to be burned for their religion, and immediately decided to belong to no faith, and he said (excusing himself with this pleasant witticism), “I came into this world raw, I do not wish to depart it cooked.”
140. ON THE VERY RICH CRASSUS, ABOUT TO DIE
When Crassus believed he had to take his long journey, there whence the Fates would forbid him to return, he shared out no little of his goods to the poor, and then (as chance will have it) his life returned. A certain man said, “Oh would that it befell our Crassus to die three or four times a year!”
141. WOE TO THE SOLITARY! ON AULUS
Aulus, you argue that the old saw “Woe to the solitary!” is untrue. For you argue that woe is yours because you are not solitary. What a monster of a man, to whom is not applicable proverbs which are wont to apply to everyone! So why less to you? Your quarrelsome wife disproves this dictum, who, ill-schooled, enhances your woe with her squabbles.
142. UNITED THINGS ARE BETTER THAN DISJOINED. TO THE KING
Saturn’s empire fell into three kingdoms, and fell to three gods. At that time the Golden Age came to an end, and the Bronze Age succeeded, quickly made Iron. This fable signifies that things joined under a great prince become worse when they are separated
143. A CHOICE. ABOUT THE BRITISH UNION
Anglo-Briton, Scots-Briton, Welsh-Briton, let us acclaim with one voice, “I am a Briton.”
144. TO HIS BOOKS. ON ZOILUS
Woe to you, books which I rashly published, the jig is up. Zoilus himself will make an ending for you wretches. Surely you will always be dying by his tongue. For it is poisoned, whatever it strikes dies. Spiteful Zoilus himself provides the antidote, and his power rebounds: desiring to strike others, he strikes himself the more.
145. TO THE BOOKSELLER
If you want to turn a profit on my books (and every bookseller everywhere wants this), act thus: don’t sell them at a great price. For the greatest profit is that which is a light one, and it is wont to be more rewarding. If you put them up at a shilling, for you a fifty percent profit is enough and more.
THE PRINTER TO THE READER
Mistakes have been made in a few places, you correct these few. Trust me, this book will be plenty welcome for you as you read.