A Handful of Pleasant Delights/Introduction
HE Handefull of pleasant delites &c. was one of the popular Song Books of the first half of Queen Elizabeth's reign. The present text is that of a late impression of this Collection; which probably had already been reprinted more than once during the eighteen years which had now elapsed since its first appearance.
It is a Song Book rather than a Book of Poetry: so that had it originally appeared in 1596 instead of 1566 A. D., it would probably have been issued with the music: but at the time of its actual first publication, the London printers had not yet progressed sufficiently in their art to issue secular Songs with musical score.
Richard Jones, one of the minor publishers of his day, specially addicted himself to the production of ballads. This little book was originally made up of some of the more favourite songs that he had published &c.; with the natural variations or additions in subsequent impressions.
The principle of selection in the present text seems chiefly to have consisted in the exclusion of all poems on religious subjects, political affairs or distinguished persons; and also of all others on the monstrosities or wonderments of the hour to the description of which so many of the early Elizabethan ballads were devoted. In effect, to produce an attractive Handful of short songs "to solace the minds of those who delighted in music."
Being thus intended for singing, there is not a true Sonnet in the Collection.
An important feature of these early printed ballads is that they gave the names—either from their title, their first line, their burden or some prominent words therein—to the tunes to which they were first sung; by which names, these tunes are frequently quoted in the writings of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
In the Literary History of England, this Collection is the Fifth of the Eight Poetical Miscellanies which appeared in London between 1557 and 1602 A. D.; the whole of which it is our desire, sooner or later, to reprint. The First of them, Tottel's Miscellany of 1557, we have already accomplished in the English Reprints.
The external history of this Text is also interesting in that we are indebted for it to an unique imperfect copy; and from the jealousy with which that was for so many years guarded from the public eye: so that—excepting, recently, the favoured readers of the issues of the Spenser Society of Manchester—the present is its first reappearance with any degree of accuracy in modern times.
Two notable illustrative quotations are here given: but there is every likelihood that now the text is made generally available, other points of contact with the Literature of the time will reward the inquiries of Students.
Oph. There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; "pray you, love! remember!" and there is pansies, that's for thoughts.
Laer. A document in madness: thoughts and remembrance fitted.
Oph. There's fennel for you, and columbines; there's rue for you; and here's some for me; we may call it herb of grace o' Sundays; oh, you must wear your rue with a difference. There's a daisy; I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died; they say he made a good end.—Hamlet, Act. IV, Sc. 5. Variorum Ed. of Shakespeare, by H. H. Furness, Vol. i. 345. Ed. 1877.
2. The second is a more marked acknowledgement. In Eastward Hoe, the joint production of George Chapman, Ben Jonson and John Marston, and printed in 1603; is the following parody of G. Mannington's sorrowfull Sonet, as it is called at p. 57.
Friend. Good Sir.
Qui. I writ it, when my spirits were opprest.
Pet. I, ile be sworne for you Francis.
Quic. It is in imitation of Maningtons; he that was hangd at Cambridge, that cut off the Horses head at a blowe.
Friend. So sir.
Quic. To the tune of I waile in woe, I plunge in paine.
Pet. An excellent Ditty it is, and worthy of a new tune.
Qui. In Cheapside famous for Gold and Plate,
But alas I vvrought I knevv not vvhat.
Friend. Excellent, excellent, well.
Gould. O let him alone, Hee is taken already.
Qui. I cast my Coat, and Cap avvay,
I scorned my Master, being drunke.
Pet. I thanke you Francis.
I thought by Sea to runne away,
But Thames, and Tempest did me stay.
Touch. This cannot be fained sure. Heauen pardon my seuerity. The ragged Colt, may prone a good Horse.
Gould. How he listens! and is transported? He has forgot mee.
Quic. Still Eastward hoe vvas all my vvord:
At last the blacke Oxe trode o' my foote,
Touch. And I will doe it, Francis.
Wolfe. Stay him M. Deputy, now is the time, we shall loose the song else.
Frien. I protest it is the best that euer I heard.
Quick. How like you it Gentlemen;
All. O admirable, sir!
Quic. This Stanze now following, alludes to the story of Mannington from whence I tooke my proiect for my inuention.
Fri[e]n[d]. Pray you goe on sir.
Quic. O Manington thy stories shovv,
That I may cut off the Horse-head of Sin.
Fri[e]n[d]. Admirable sir, and excellently conceited.
Quick. Alas, sir.
Touch. Sonne Golding and M. Wolfe, I thank you: the deceipt is welcome, especially from thee whose charitable soule in this hath shewne a high point of wisdom and honesty. Listen. I am rauished with his Repentance, and could stand here a whole prentiship to heare him.
Frien[d]. Forth good sir.
Quick. This is the last, and the Farewell.
Farewel Cheapside, farevvel svveet trade
Auoide them as you vvould French scabs
Touch. An scape them shalt thou my penitent, and dear Frances.