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Elizabethan Sonnet-Cycles/Fidessa






The author of Fidessa has gained undeserved notice from the fact that the piratical printer W. Jaggard, included a transcript of one of his sonnets in a volume that he put forth in 1599, under the name of Shakespeare. It would be easy to believe, in spite of the doubtful rimes characteristic of Fidessa, that sonnet three was not Griffin's, for no singer in the Elizabethan choir was more skilful in turning his voice to other people's melodies than was he. He has been called "a gross plagiary;" yet it must be realised that the sonneteers of that time felt they had a right, almost a duty, to take up the poetic themes used by their models. Griffin shows great ingenuity in the manipulation of the stock-themes, and the lover of Petrarch and all the young Abraham-Slenders of the day must have been delighted with the familiar "designs" as they re-appeared in Fidessa.

Bartholomew Griffin was buried in Coventry in 1602. In 1596 he dedicated his "slender work" Fidessa to William Essex of Lamebourne in Berkshire. He adds an address to the Gentlemen of the Inns of Court, whom he begs to "censure mildly as protectors of a poor stranger" and "judge the best as encouragers of a young beginner." Of the poet little further is known. From the sonnets themselves we learn that Fidessa was "of high regard," the child of a beautiful mother and of a renowned father; she sprang in fact from the same root with the poet himself, who writes "Gent." after his name on the title-page. She had been kind to him in sickness and had "yielded to each look of his a sweet reply." After giving these slight hints, he pushes forth from the moorings of realism and sets sail on the ocean of the sonneteer's fancy, meeting the usual adventures. His sonnets, while showing versatility and ingenuity, lack spontaneous feeling and have serious defects in form; yet these defects are in part offset by their conversational ease and dramatic vividness.





Fertur Fortunam Fortuna favere ferenti

Fidessa fair, long live a happy maiden!
Blest from thy cradle by a worthy mother,
High-thoughted like to her, with bounty laden,
Like pleasing grace affording, one and other;
Sweet model of thy far renownèd sire!
Hold back a while thy ever-giving hand,
And though these free penned lines do nought require,
For that they scorn at base reward to stand,
Yet crave they most for that they beg the least
Dumb is the message of my hidden grief,
And store of speech by silence is increased;
O let me die or purchase some relief!
Bounteous Fidessa cannot be so cruel
As for to make my heart her fancy's fuel!


How can that piercing crystal-painted eye,
That gave the onset to my high aspiring.
Yielding each look of mine a sweet reply,
Adding new courage to my heart's desiring,
How can it shut itself within her ark,
And keep herself and me both from the light,
Making us walk in all misguiding dark,
Aye to remain in confines of the night?
How is it that so little room contains it,
That guides the orient as the world the sun,
Which once obscured most bitterly complains it,
Because it knows and rules whate'er is done?
The reason is that they may dread her sight,
Who doth both give and take away their light.


Venus, and young Adonis sitting by her,
Under a myrtle shade, began to woo him;
She told the youngling how god Mars did try her,
And as he fell to her, so fell she to him.
"Even thus," quoth she, "the wanton god embraced me!"
And then she clasped Adonis in her arms;
"Even thus," quoth she, "the warlike god unlaced me!"
As if the boy should use like loving charms.
But he, a wayward boy, refused the offer,
And ran away the beauteous queen neglecting
Showing both folly to abuse her proffer,
And all his sex of cowardice detecting.
O that I had my mistress at that bay,
To kiss and clip me till I ran away!


Did you sometimes three German brethren see,
Rancour 'twixt two of them so raging rife,
That th' one could stick the other with his knife?
Now if the third assaulted chance to be
By a fourth stranger, him set on the three,
Them two 'twixt whom afore was deadly strife
Made one to rob the stranger of his life;
Then do you know our state as well as we.
Beauty and chastity with her were born,
Both at one birth, and up with her did grow.
Beauty still foe to chastity was sworn,
And chastity sworn to be beauty's foe;
And yet when I lay siege unto her heart,
Beauty and chastity both take her part.


Arraigned, poor captive at the bar I stand,
The bar of beauty, bar to all my joys;
And up I hold my ever trembling hand,
Wishing or life or death to end annoys.
And when the judge doth question of the guilt,
And bids me speak, then sorrow shuts up words.
Yea, though he say, "Speak boldly what thou wilt!"
Yet my confused affects no speech affords,
For why? Alas, my passions have no bound,
For fear of death that penetrates so near;
And still one grief another doth confound,
Yet doth at length a way to speech appear.
Then, for I speak too late, the Judge doth give
His sentence that in prison I shall live.


Unhappy sentence, worst of worst of pains,
To be in darksome silence, out of ken,
Banished from all that bliss the world contains,
And thrust from out the companies of men!
Unhappy sentence, worse than worst of deaths,
Never to see Fidessa's lovely face!
O better were I lose ten thousand breaths,
Than ever live in such unseen disgrace!
Unhappy sentence, worse than pains of hell,
To live in self-tormenting griefs alone;
Having my heart, my prison and my cell,
And there consumed without relief to moan!
If that the sentence so unhappy be,
Then what am I that gave the same to me?


Oft have mine eyes, the agents of mine heart,
False traitor eyes conspiring my decay,
Pleaded for grace with dumb and silent art,
Streaming forth tears my sorrows to allay;
Moaning the wrong they do unto their lord,
Forcing the cruel fair by means to yield;
Making her 'gainst her will some grace t' afford,
And striving sore at length to win the field;
Thus work they means to feed my fainting hope,
And strengthened hope adds matter to each thought;
Yet when they all come to their end and scope
They do but wholly bring poor me to nought.
She'll never yield although they ever cry,
And therefore we must all together die.


Grief-urging guest, great cause have I to plain me,
Yet hope persuading hope expecteth grace,
And saith none but myself shall ever pain me;
But grief my hopes exceedeth in this case;
For still my fortune ever more doth cross me
By worse events than ever I expected;
And here and there ten thousand ways doth toss me,
With sad remembrance of my time neglected.
These breed such thoughts as set my heart on fire,
And like fell hounds pursue me to my death;
Traitors unto their sovereign lord and sire,
Unkind exactors of their father's breath,
Whom in their rage they shall no sooner kill
Than they themselves themselves unjustly spill.


My spotless love that never yet was tainted,
My loyal heart that never can be moved,
My growing hope that never yet hath fainted,
My constancy that you full well have proved,
All these consented have to plead for grace
These all lie crying at the door of beauty;
This wails, this sends out tears, this cries apace,
All do reward expect of faith and duty;
Now either thou must prove th' unkindest one,
And as thou fairest art must cruelest be,
Or else with pity yield unto their moan,
Their moan that ever will importune thee.
Ah, thou must be unkind, and give denial,
And I, poor I, must stand unto my trial!


Clip not, sweet love, the wings of my desire,
Although it soar aloft and mount too high:
But rather bear with me though I aspire,
For I have wings to bear me to the sky.
What though I mount, there is no sun but thee!
And sith no other sun, why should I fear?
Thou wilt not burn me, though thou terrify,
And though thy brightness do so great appear.
Dear, I seek not to batter down thy glory,
Nor do I envy that thy hope increaseth;
O never think thy fame doth make me sorry!
For thou must live by fame when beauty ceaseth.
Besides, since from one root we both did spring,
Why should not I thy fame and beauty sing?


Winged with sad woes, why doth fair zephyr blow
Upon my face, the map of discontent?
Is it to have the weeds of sorrow grow
So long and thick, that they will ne'er be spent?
No, fondling, no! It is to cool the fire
Which hot desire within thy breast hath made.
Check him but once and he will soon retire.
O but he sorrows brought which cannot fade!
The sorrows that he brought, he took from thee,
Which fair Fidessa span and thou must wear!
Yet hath she nothing done of cruelty,
But for her sake to try what thou wilt bear.
Come, sorrows, come! You are to me assigned;
I'll bear you all, it is Fidessa's mind.


O if my heavenly sighs must prove annoy,
Which are the sweetest music to my heart,
Let it suffice I count them as my joy,
Sweet bitter joy and pleasant painful smart!
For when my breast is clogged with thousand cares,
That my poor loaded heart is like to break,
Then every sigh doth question how it fares,
Seeming to add their strength, which makes me weak;
Yet for they friendly are, I entertain them,
And they too well are pleasèd with their host.
But I, had not Fidessa been, ere now had slain them;
It's for her cause they live, in her they boast;
They promise help but when they see her face;
They fainting yield, and dare not sue for grace.


Compare me to the child that plays with fire,
Or to the fly that dieth in the flame,
Or to the foolish boy that did aspire
To touch the glory of high heaven's frame;
Compare me to Leander struggling in the waves,
Not able to attain his safety's shore,
Or to the sick that do expect their graves,
Or to the captive crying evermore;
Compare me to the weeping wounded hart,
Moaning with tears the period of his life,
Or to the boar that will not feel the smart,
When he is stricken with the butcher's knife;
No man to these can fitly me compare;
These live to die, I die to live in care.


When silent sleep had closèd up mine eyes,
My watchful mind did then begin to muse;
A thousand pleasing thoughts did then arise,
That sought by slights their master to abuse.
I saw, O heavenly sight! Fidessa's face,
And fair dame nature blushing to behold it;
Now did she laugh, now wink, now smile apace,
She took me by the hand and fast did hold it;
Sweetly her sweet body did she lay down by me;
"Alas, poor wretch," quoth she, "great is thy sorrow;
But thou shall comfort find if thou wilt try me.
I hope, sir boy, you'll tell me news to-morrow."
With that, away she went, and I did wake withal;
When ah! my honey thoughts were turned to gall.


Care-charmer sleep! Sweet ease in restless misery!
The captive's liberty, and his freedom's song!
Balm of the bruisèd heart! Man's chief felicity!
Brother of quiet death, when life is too too long!
A comedy it is, and now an history;
What is not sleep unto the feeble mind!
It easeth him that toils and him that's sorry;
It makes the deaf to hear, to see the blind;
Ungentle sleep, thou helpest all but me!
For when I sleep my soul is vexèd most.
It is Fidessa that doth master thee;
If she approach, alas, thy power is lost!
But here she is! See how he runs amain!
I fear at night he will not come again.


For I have lovèd long, I crave reward;
Reward me not unkindly, think on kindness;
Kindness becometh those of high regard;
Regard with clemency a poor man's blindness;
Blindness provokes to pity when it crieth;
It crieth "Give!" Dear lady, shew some pity!
Pity or let him die that daily dieth;
Dieth he not oft who often sings this ditty?
This ditty pleaseth me although it choke me;
Methinks dame Echo weepeth at my moaning,
Moaning the woes that to complain provoke me.
Provoke me now no more, but hear my groaning,
Groaning both day and night doth tear my heart,
My heart doth know the cause and triumphs in the smart.


Sweet stroke,—so might I thrive as I must praise—
But sweeter hand that gives so sweet a stroke!
The lute itself is sweetest when she plays.
But what hear I? A string through fear is broke!
The lute doth shake as if it were afraid.
O sure some goddess holds it in her hand,
A heavenly power that oft hath me dismayed,
Yet such a power as doth in beauty stand!
Cease lute, my ceaseless suit will ne'er be heard!
Ah, too hard-hearted she that will not hear it!
If I but think on joy, my joy is marred;
My grief is great, yet ever must I bear it;
But love 'twixt us will prove a faithful page,
And she will love my sorrows to assuage.


O she must love my sorrows to assuage.
O God, what joy felt I when she did smile,
Whom killing grief before did cause to rage!
Beauty is able sorrow to beguile.
Out, traitor absence! thou dost hinder me,
And mak'st my mistress often to forget,
Causing me to rail upon her cruelty,
Whilst thou my suit injuriously dost let;
Again her presence doth astonish me,
And strikes me dumb as if my sense were gone;
Oh, is not this a strange perplexity?
In presence dumb, she hears not absent moan;
Thus absent presence, present absence maketh,
That hearing my poor suit, she it mistaketh.


My pain paints out my love in doleful verse,
The lively glass wherein she may behold it;
My verse her wrong to me doth still rehearse,
But so as it lamenteth to unfold it.
Myself with ceaseless tears my harms bewail,
And her obdurate heart not to be moved;
Though long-continued woes my senses fail,
And curse the day, the hour when first I loved.
She takes the glass wherein herself she sees,
In bloody colours cruelly depainted;
And her poor prisoner humbly on his knees,
Pleading for grace, with heart that never fainted.
She breaks the glass; alas, I cannot choose
But grieve that I should so my labour lose!


Great is the joy that no tongue can express!
Fair babe new born, how much dost thou delight me!
But what, is mine so great? Yea, no whit less!
So great that of all woes it doth acquite me.
It's fair Fidessa that this comfort bringeth,
Who sorry for the wrongs by her procured,
Delightful tunes of love, of true love singeth,
Wherewith her too chaste thoughts were ne'er inured.
She loves, she saith, but with a love not blind.
Her love is counsel that I should not love,
But upon virtues fix a stayèd mind.
But what! This new-coined love, love doth reprove?
If this be love of which you make such store,
Sweet, love me less, that you may love me more!


He that will Cæsar be, or else not be—
Who can aspire to Cæsar's bleeding fame,
Must be of high resolve; but what is he
That thinks to gain a second Cæsar's name?
Whoe'er he be that climbs above his strength,
And climbeth high, the greater is his fall!
For though he sit awhile, we see at length,
His slippery place no firmness hath at all,
Great is his bruise that falleth from on high.
This warneth me that I should not aspire;
Examples should prevail; I care not, I!
I perish must or have what I desire!
This humour doth with mine full well agree
I must Fidessa's be, or else not be!


It was of love, ungentle gentle boy!
That thou didst come and harbour in my breast;
Not of intent my body to destroy,
And have my soul, with restless cares opprest.
But sith thy love doth turn unto my pain,
Return to Greece, sweet lad, where thou wast born.
Leave me alone my griefs to entertain,
If thou forsake me, I am less forlorn;
Although alone, yet shall I find more ease.
Then see thou hie thee hence, or I will chase thee;
Men highly wrongèd care not to displease;
My fortune hangs on thee, thou dost disgrace me,
Yet at thy farewell, play a friendly part;
To make amends, fly to Fidessa's heart.


Fly to her heart, hover about her heart,
With dainty kisses mollify her heart,
Pierce with thy arrows her obdurate heart,
With sweet allurements ever move her heart,
At midday and at midnight touch her heart,
Be lurking closely, nestle about her heart,
With power—thou art a god!—command her heart,
Kindle thy coals of love about her heart,
Yea, even into thyself transform her heart!
Ah, she must love! Be sure thou have her heart;
And I must die if thou have not her heart;
Thy bed if thou rest well, must be her heart;
He hath the best part sure that hath her heart;
What have I not, if I have but her heart!


Striving is past! Ah, I must sink and drown,
And that in sight of long descrièd shore!
I cannot send for aid unto the town,
All help is vain and I must die therefore.
Then poor distressèd caitiff, be resolved
To leave this earthly dwelling fraught with care;
Cease will thy woes, thy corpse in earth involved,
Thou diest for her that will no help prepare.
O see, my case herself doth now behold;
The casement open is; she seems to speak;—
But she has gone! O then I dare be bold
And needs must say she caused my heart to break.
I die before I drown, O heavy case!
It was because I saw my mistress' face.


Compare me to Pygmalion with his image sotted,
For, as was he, even so am I deceived.
The shadow only is to me allotted,
The substance hath of substance me bereaved.
Then poor and helpless must I wander still
In deep laments to pass succeeding days,
Welt'ring in woes that poor and mighty kill.
O who is mighty that so soon decays!
The dread Almighty hath appointed so
The final period of all worldly things.
Then as in time they come, so must they go;
Death common is to beggars and to kings
For whither do I run beside my text?
I run to death, for death must be the next.


The silly bird that hastes unto the net,
And flutters to and fro till she be taken,
Doth look some food or succour there to get,
But loseth life, so much is she mistaken.
The foolish fly that fleeth to the flame
With ceaseless hovering and with restless flight,
Is burnèd straight to ashes in the same,
And finds her death where was her most delight
The proud aspiring boy that needs would pry
Into the secrets of the highest seat,
Had some conceit to gain content thereby,
Or else his folly sure was wondrous great.
These did through folly perish all and die:
And though I know it, even so do I.


Poor worm, poor silly worm, alas, poor beast!
Fear makes thee hide thy head within the ground,
Because of creeping things thou art the least,
Yet every foot gives thee thy mortal wound.
But I, thy fellow worm, am in worse state,
For thou thy sun enjoyest, but I want mine.
I live in irksome night, O cruel fate!
My sun will never rise, nor ever shine.
Thus blind of light, mine eyes misguide my feet,
And baleful darkness makes me still afraid;
Men mock me when I stumble in the street,
And wonder how my young sight so decayed.
Yet do I joy in this, even when I fall,
That I shall see again and then see all.


Well may my soul, immortal and divine,
That is imprisoned in a lump of clay,
Breathe out laments until this body pine,
That from her takes her pleasures all away.
Pine then, thou loathèd prison of my life,
Untoward subject of the least aggrievance!
O let me die! Mortality is rife;
Death comes by wounds, by sickness, care, and chance.
O earth, the time will come when I'll resume thee,
And in thy bosom make my resting-place;
Then do not unto hardest sentence doom me;
Yield, yield betimes; I must and will have grace!
Richly shalt thou be entombed, since, for thy grave,
Fidessa, fair Fidessa, thou shalt have!


Earth, take this earth wherein my spirits languish;
Spirits, leave this earth that doth in griefs retain you;
Griefs, chase this earth that it may fade with anguish;
Spirits, avoid these furies which do pain you!
O leave your loathsome prison; freedom gain you;
Your essence is divine; great is your power;
And yet you moan your wrongs and sore complain you,
Hoping for joy which fadeth every hour.
O spirits, your prison loathe and freedom gain you;
The destinies in deep laments have shut you
Of mortal hate, because they do disdain you,
And yet of joy that they in prison put you.
Earth, take this earth with thee to be enclosed;
Life is to me, and I to it, opposed!


Weep now no more, mine eyes, but be you drowned
In your own tears, so many years distilled.
And let her know that at them long hath frowned,
That you can weep no more although she willed;
This hap her cruelty hath her allotten,
Who whilom was commandress of each part;
That now her proper griefs must be forgotten
By those true outward signs of inward smart.
For how can he that hath not one tear left him,
Stream out those floods that are due unto her moaning,
When both of eyes and tears she hath bereft him?
O yet I'll signify my grief with groaning;
True sighs, true groans shall echo in the air
And say, Fidessa, though most cruel, is most fair!


Tongue, never cease to sing Fidessa's praise;
Heart, however she deserve conceive the best;
Eyes, stand amazed to see her beauty's rays;
Lips, steal one kiss and be for ever blest;
Hands, touch that hand wherein your life is closed;
Breast, lock up fast in thee thy life's sole treasure;
Arms, still embrace and never be disclosed;
Feet, run to her without or pace or measure;
Tongue, heart, eyes, lips, hands, breast, arms, feet,
Consent to do true homage to your Queen,
Lovely, fair, gentle, wise, virtuous, sober, sweet,
Whose like shall never be, hath never been!
O that I were all tongue, her praise to shew;
Then surely my poor heart were freed from woe!


Sore sick of late, nature her due would have,
Great was my pain where still my mind did rest;
No hope but heaven, no comfort but my grave,
Which is of comforts both the last and least;
But on a sudden, the Almighty sent
Sweet ease to the distressed and comfortless,
And gave me longer time for to repent,
With health and strength the foes of feebleness;
Yet I my health no sooner 'gan recover,
But my old thoughts, though full of cares, retained,
Made me, as erst, become a wretched lover
Of her that love and lovers aye disdained.
Then was my pain with ease of pain increased,
And I ne'er sick until my sickness ceased.


He that would fain Fidessa's image see,
My face of force may be his looking-glass.
There is she portrayed and her cruelty,
Which as a wonder through the world must pass.
But were I dead, she would not be betrayed;
It's I, that 'gainst my will, shall make it known.
Her cruelty by me must be bewrayed,
Or I must hide my head and live alone.
I'll pluck my silver hairs from out my head,
And wash away the wrinkles of my face;
Closely immured I'll live as I were dead,
Before she suffer but the least disgrace.
How can I hide that is already known?
I have been seen and have no face but one.


Fie pleasure, fie! Thou cloy'st me with delight;
Sweet thoughts, you kill me if you lower stray!
O many be the joys of one short night!
Tush, fancies never can desire allay!
Happy, unhappy thoughts! I think, and have not.
Pleasure, O pleasing pain! Shows nought avail me!
Mine own conceit doth glad me, more I crave not;
Yet wanting substance, woe doth still assail me.
Babies do children please, and shadows fools;
Shows have deceived the wisest many a time.
Ever to want our wish, our courage cools.
The ladder broken, 'tis in vain to climb.
But I must wish, and crave, and seek, and climb;
It's hard if I obtain not grace in time.


I have not spent the April of my time,
The sweet of youth in plotting in the air,
But do at first adventure seek to climb,
Whilst flowers of blooming years are green and fair.
I am no leaving of all-withering age,
I have not suffered many winter lours;
I feel no storm unless my love do rage,
And then in grief I spend both days and hours.
This yet doth comfort that my flower lasted
Until it did approach my sun too near;
And then, alas, untimely was it blasted,
So soon as once thy beauty did appear!
But after all, my comfort rests in this,
That for thy sake my youth decayèd is.


O let my heart, my body, and my tongue
Bleed forth the lively streams of faith unfeigned,
Worship my saint the gods and saints among,
Praise and extol her fair that me hath pained!
O let the smoke of my suppressed desire,
Raked up in ashes of my burning breast,
Break out at length and to the clouds aspire,
Urging the heavens to afford me rest;
But let my body naturally descend
Into the bowels of our common mother,
And to the very centre let it wend,
When it no lower can, her griefs to smother!
And yet when I so low do buried lie,
Then shall my love ascend unto the sky.


Fair is my love that feeds among the lilies,
The lilies growing in that pleasant garden
Where Cupid's mount, that well beloved hill is,
And where that little god himself is warden.
See where my love sits in the beds of spices,
Beset all round with camphor, myrrh, and roses,
And interlaced with curious devices,
Which her from all the world apart incloses.
There doth she tune her lute for her delight,
And with sweet music makes the ground to move;
Whilst I, poor I, do sit in heavy plight,
Wailing alone my unrespected love,
Not daring rush into so rare a place,
That gives to her, and she to it, a grace.


Was never eye did see my mistress' face,
Was never ear did hear Fidessa's tongue,
Was never mind that once did mind her grace,
That ever thought the travail to be long.
When her I see, no creature I behold,
So plainly say these advocates of love,
That now do fear and now to speak are bold,
Trembling apace when they resolve to prove.
These strange effects do show a hidden power,
A majesty all base attempts reproving,
That glads or daunts as she doth laugh or lower;
Surely some goddess harbours in their moving
Who thus my Muse from base attempts hath raised,
Whom thus my Muse beyond compare hath praised.


My lady's hair is threads of beaten gold,
Her front the purest crystal eye hath seen,
Her eyes the brightest stars the heavens hold,
Her cheeks red roses such as seld have been;
Her pretty lips of red vermillion die,
Her hand of ivory the purest white,
Her blush Aurora or the morning sky,
Her breast displays two silver fountains bright
The spheres her voice, her grace the Graces three:
Her body is the saint that I adore;
Her smiles and favours sweet as honey be;
Her feet fair Thetis praiseth evermore.
But ah, the worst and last is yet behind,
For of a griffon she doth bear the mind!


Injurious Fates, to rob me of my bliss,
And dispossess my heart of all his hope!
You ought with just revenge to punish miss,
For unto you the hearts of men are ope.
Injurious Fates, that hardened have her heart,
Yet make her face to send out pleasing smiles!
And both are done but to increase my smart,
And entertain my love with falsèd wiles.
Yet being when she smiles surprised with joy,
I fain would languish in so sweet a pain,
Beseeching death my body to destroy,
Lest on the sudden she should frown again.
When men do wish for death, Fates have no force;
But they, when men would live, have no remorse.


The prison I am in is thy fair face,
Wherein my liberty enchainèd lies;
My thoughts, the bolts that hold me in the place;
My food, the pleasing looks of thy fair eyes.
Deep is the prison where I lie enclosed,
Strong are the bolts that in this cell contain me;
Sharp is the food necessity imposed,
When hunger makes me feed on that which pains me.
Yet do I love, embrace, and follow fast,
That holds, that keeps, that discontents me most;
And list not break, unlock, or seek to waste
The place, the bolts, the food, though I be lost;
Better in prison ever to remain,
Than being out to suffer greater pain.


When never-speaking silence proves a wonder,
When ever-flying flame at home remaineth,
When all-concealing night keeps darkness under,
When men-devouring wrong true glory gaineth,
When soul-tormenting grief agrees with joy,
When Lucifer foreruns the baleful night,
When Venus doth forsake her little boy,
When her untoward boy obtaineth sight,
When Sisyphus doth cease to roll his stone,
When Otus shaketh off his heavy chain,
When beauty, queen of pleasure, is alone,
When love and virtue quiet peace disdain;
When these shall be, and I not be,
Then will Fidessa pity me.


Tell me of love, sweet Love, who is thy sire,
Or if thou mortal or immortal be?
Some say thou art begotten by desire,
Nourished with hope, and fed with fantasy,
Engendered by a heavenly goddess' eye,
Lurking most sweetly in an angel's face.
Others, that beauty thee doth deify;—
O sovereign beauty, full of power and grace!—
But I must be absurd all this denying,
Because the fairest fair alive ne'er knew thee.
Now, Cupid, comes thy godhead to the trying;
'Twas she alone—such is her power—that slew me;
She shall be Love, and thou a foolish boy,
Whose virtue proves thy power is but a toy.


No choice of change can ever change my mind;
Choiceless my choice, the choicest choice alive;
Wonder of women, were she not unkind,
The pitiless of pity to deprive.
Yet she, the kindest creature of her kind,
Accuseth me of self-ingratitude,
And well she may, sith by good proof I find
Myself had died, had she not helpful stood.
For when my sickness had the upper hand,
And death began to show his awful face,
She took great pains my pains for to withstand,
And eased my heart that was in heavy case.
But cruel now, she scorneth what it craveth;
Unkind in kindness, murdering while she saveth.


Mine eye bewrays the secrets of my heart,
My heart unfolds his grief before her face;
Her face—bewitching pleasure of my smart!—
Deigns not one look of mercy and of grace.
My guilty eye of murder and of treason,—
Friendly conspirator of my decay,
Dumb eloquence, the lover's strongest reason!—
Doth weep itself for anger quite away,
And chooseth rather not to be, than be
Disloyal, by too well discharging duty;
And being out, joys it no more can see
The sugared charms of all deceiving beauty.
But, for the other greedily doth eye it,
I pray you tell me, what do I get by it?


So soon as peeping Lucifer, Aurora's star,
The sky with golden periwigs doth spangle;
So soon as Phœbus gives us light from far,
So soon as fowler doth the bird entangle;
Soon as the watchful bird, clock of the morn,
Gives intimation of the day's appearing;
Soon as the jolly hunter winds his horn,
His speech and voice with custom's echo clearing;
Soon as the hungry lion seeks his prey
In solitary range of pathless mountains;
Soon as the passenger sets on his way,
So soon as beasts resort unto the fountains;
So soon mine eyes their office are discharging,
And I my griefs with greater griefs enlarging.


I see, I hear, I feel, I know, I rue
My fate, my fame, my pain, my loss, my fall,
Mishap, reproach, disdain, a crown, her hue,
Cruel, still flying, false, fair, funeral,
To cross, to shame, bewitch, deceive, and kill
My first proceedings in their flowing bloom.
My worthless pen fast chainèd to my will,
My erring life through an uncertain doom,
My thoughts that yet in lowliness do mount,
My heart the subject of her tyranny;
What now remains but her severe account
Of murder's crying guilt, foul butchery!
She was unhappy in her cradle breath,
That given was to be another's death.


"Murder! O murder!" I can cry no longer.
"Murder! O murder!" Is there none to aid me?
Life feeble is in force, death is much stronger;
Then let me die that shame may not upbraid me;
Nothing is left me now but shame or death.
I fear she feareth not foul murder's guilt,
Nor do I fear to lose a servile breath.
I know my blood was given to be spilt.
What is this life but maze of countless strays,
The enemy of true felicity,
Fitly compared to dreams, to flowers, to plays!
O life, no life to me, but misery!
Of shame or death, if thou must one,
Make choice of death and both are gone.


My cruel fortunes clouded with a frown,
Lurk in the bosom of eternal night;
My climbing thoughts are basely haulèd down;
My best devices prove but after-sight.
Poor outcast of the world's exilèd room,
I live in wilderness of deep lament;
No hope reserved me but a hopeless tomb,
When fruitless life and fruitful woes are spent.
Shall Phœbus hinder little stars to shine,
Or lofty cedar mushrooms leave to grow?
Sure mighty men at little ones repine,
The rich is to the poor a common foe.
Fidessa, seeing how the world doth go,
Joineth with fortune in my overthrow.


When I the hooks of pleasure first devoured,
Which undigested threaten now to choke me,
Fortune on me her golden graces showered;
O then delight did to delight provoke me!
Delight, false instrument of my decay,
Delight, the nothing that doth all things move,
Made me first wander from the perfect way,
And fast entangled me in the snares of love.
Then my unhappy happiness at first began,
Happy in that I loved the fairest fair;
Unhappily despised, a hapless man;
Thus joy did triumph, triumph did despair.
My conquest is—which shall the conquest gain?—
Fidessa, author both of joy and pain!


Work, work apace, you blessed sisters three,
In restless twining of my fatal thread!
O let your nimble hands at once agree,
To weave it out and cut it off with speed!
Then shall my vexèd and tormented ghost
Have quiet passage to the Elysian rest,
And sweetly over death and fortune boast
In everlasting triumphs with the blest.
But ah, too well I know you have conspired
A lingering death for him that loatheth life,
As if with woes he never could be tired.
For this you hide your all-dividing knife.
One comfort yet the heavens have assigned me;
That I must die and leave my griefs behind me.


It is some comfort to the wrongèd man,
The wronger of injustice to upbraid.
Justly myself herein I comfort can,
And justly call her an ungrateful maid.
Thus am I pleased to rid myself of crime
And stop the mouth of all-reporting fame,
Counting my greatest cross the loss of time
And all my private grief her public shame.
Ah, but to speak the truth, hence are my cares,
And in this comfort all discomfort resteth;
My harms I cause her scandal unawares;
Thus love procures the thing that love detesteth.
For he that views the glasses of my smart
Must need report she hath a flinty heart.


I was a king of sweet content at least,
But now from out my kingdom banished;
I was chief guest at fair dame pleasure's feast,
But now I am for want of succour famished;
I was a saint and heaven was my rest,
But now cast down into the lowest hell.
Vile caitiffs may not live among the blest,
Nor blessed men amongst cursed caitiffs dwell.
Thus am I made an exile of a king;
Thus choice of meats to want of food is changed;
Thus heaven's loss doth hellish torments bring;
Self crosses make me from myself estranged.
Yet am I still the same but made another;
Then not the same; alas, I am no other!


If great Apollo offered as a dower
His burning throne to beauty's excellence;
If Jove himself came in a golden shower
Down to the earth to fetch fair Io thence;
If Venus in the curlèd locks was tied
Of proud Adonis not of gentle kind;
If Tellus for a shepherd's favour died,
The favour cruel Love to her assigned;
If Heaven's winged herald Hermes had
His heart enchanted with a country maid;
If poor Pygmalion was for beauty mad;
If gods and men have all for beauty strayed:
I am not then ashamed to be included
'Mongst those that love, and be with love deluded.


O, no, I dare not! O, I may not speak!
Yes, yes, I dare, I can, I must, I will!
Then heart, pour forth thy plaints and do not break;
Let never fancy manly courage kill;
Intreat her mildly, words have pleasing charms
Of force to move the most obdurate heart,
To take relenting pity of my harms,
And with unfeignèd tears to wail my smart.
Is she a stock, a block, a stone, a flint?
Hath she nor ears to hear nor eyes to see?
If so my cries, my prayers, my tears shall stint!
Lord! how can lovers so bewitchèd be!
I took her to be beauty's queen alone;
But now I see she is a senseless stone.


Is trust betrayed? Doth kindness grow unkind?
Can beauty both at once give life and kill?
Shall fortune alter the most constant mind?
Will reason yield unto rebelling will?
Doth fancy purchase praise, and virtue shame?
May show of goodness lurk in treachery?
Hath truth unto herself procurèd blame?
Must sacred muses suffer misery?
Are women woe to men, traps for their falls?
Differ their words, their deeds, their looks, their lives?
Have lovers ever been their tennis balls?
Be husbands fearful of the chastest wives?
All men do these affirm, and so must I,
Unless Fidessa give to me the lie.


Three playfellows—such three were never seen
In Venus' court—upon a summer's day,
Met altogether on a pleasant green,
Intending at some pretty game to play.
They Dian, Cupid, and Fidessa were.
Their wager, beauty, bow, and cruelty;
The conqueress the stakes away did bear.
Whose fortune then was it to win all three?
Fidessa, which doth these as weapons use,
To make the greatest heart her will obey;
And yet the most obedient to refuse
As having power poor lovers to betray.
With these she wounds, she heals, gives life and death;
More power hath none that lives by mortal breath.


O beauty, siren! kept with Circe's rod;
The fairest good in seem but foulest ill;
The sweetest plague ordained for man by God,
The pleasing subject of presumptuous will;
Th' alluring object of unstayèd eyes;
Friended of all, but unto all a foe;
The dearest thing that any creature buys,
And vainest too, it serves but for a show;
In seem a heaven, and yet from bliss exiling;
Paying for truest service nought but pain;
Young men's undoing, young and old beguiling;
Man's greatest loss though thought his greatest gain!
True, that all this with pain enough I prove;
And yet most true, I will Fidessa love.


Do I unto a cruel tiger play,
That preys on me as wolf upon the lambs,
Who fear the danger both of night and day
And run for succour to their tender dams?
Yet will I pray, though she be ever cruel,
On bended knee and with submissive heart.
She is the fire and I must be the fuel;
She must inflict and I endure the smart.
She must, she shall be mistress of her will,
And I, poor I, obedient to the same;
As fit to suffer death as she to kill;
As ready to be blamed as she to blame.
And for I am the subject of her ire,
All men shall know thereby my love entire.


O let me sigh, weep, wail, and cry no more;
Or let me sigh, weep, wail, cry more and more!
Yea, let me sigh, weep, wail, cry evermore,
For she doth pity my complaints no more
Than cruel pagan or the savage Moor;
But still doth add unto my torments more,
Which grievous are to me by so much more
As she inflicts them and doth wish them more.
O let thy mercy, merciless, be never more!
So shall sweet death to me be welcome, more
Than is to hungry beasts the grassy moor,
As she that to affliction adds yet more,
Becomes more cruel by still adding more!
Weary am I to speak of this word "more;"
Yet never weary she, to plague me more!


Fidessa's worth in time begetteth praise;
Time, praise; praise, fame; fame, wonderment;
Wonder, fame, praise, time, her worth do raise
To highest pitch of dread astonishment.
Yet time in time her hardened heart bewrayeth
And praise itself her cruelty dispraiseth.
So that through praise, alas, her praise decayeth,
And that which makes it fall her honour raiseth!
Most strange, yet true! So wonder, wonder still,
And follow fast the wonder of these days;
For well I know all wonder to fulfil
Her will at length unto my will obeys.
Meantime let others praise her constancy,
And me attend upon her clemency.


Most true that I must fair Fidessa love.
Most true that fair Fidessa cannot love.
Most true that I do feel the pains of love.
Most true that I am captive unto love.
Most true that I deluded am with love.
Most true that I do find the sleights of love.
Most true that nothing can procure her love.
Most true that I must perish in my love.
Most true that she contemns the god of love.
Most true that he is snarèd with her love.
Most true that she would have me cease to love.
Most true that she herself alone is love.
Most true that though she hated, I would love.
Most true that dearest life shall end with love.


Talis apud tales, tails sub tempore tali:
Subque meo tali judice, tails ero.