POETS ON THIS PAGE: ROBERT HERRICK * ROBERT SOUTHWELL * THOMAS NASHE * CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE * LADY MARY CHUDLEIGH * TOM O’BEDLAM’S SONG * THOMAS GRAY
THE MAD MAID’S SONG
Good-morrow to the day so fair, Good-morning, sir, to you; Good-morrow to mine own torn hair Bedabbled with the dew. Good-morning to this primrose too, Good-morrow to each maid That will with flowers the tomb bestrew Wherein my love is laid. Ah! woe is me, woe, woe is me! Alack and well-a-day! For pity, sir, find out that bee Which bore my love away. I'll seek him in your bonnet brave, I'll seek him in your eyes; Nay, now I think they've made his grave I' th' bed of strawberries. I'll seek him there; I know ere this The cold, cold earth doth shake him; But I will go, or send a kiss By you, sir, to awake him. Pray hurt him not; though he be dead, He knows well who do love him, And who with green turfs rear his head, And who do rudely move him. He's soft and tender (pray take heed); With bands of cowslips bind him, And bring him home—but 'tis decreed That I shall never find him!
by Robert Herrick
Herrick’s “Delight in Disorder” is read by Alan Rickman:
Delight in Disorder
A sweet disorder in the dress Kindles in clothes a wantonness; A lawn about the shoulders thrown Into a fine distraction; An erring lace, which here and there Enthrals the crimson stomacher; A cuff neglectful, and thereby Ribands to flow confusedly; A winning wave, deserving note, In the tempestuous petticoat; A careless shoe-string, in whose tie I see a wild civility: Do more bewitch me, than when art Is too precise in every part.
by Robert Herrick, 1591-1674
This poem is in the public domain.
Sting performs Robert Southwell’s “The Burning Babe”:
THE BURNING BABE
As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow, Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow; And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near, A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear; Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed. “Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry, Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I! My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns, Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns; The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals, The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls, For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good, So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.” With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away, And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.
by Robert Southwell, SJ (1561–1595)
Tom O’Bedlam reads Thomas Nashe’s “A Litany in Time of Plague”:
A LITANY IN TIME OF PLAGUE
ADIEU, farewell earth's bliss! This world uncertain is: Fond are life's lustful joys, Death proves them all but toys. None from his darts can fly; I am sick, I must die-- Lord, have mercy on us! Rich men, trust not in wealth, Gold cannot buy you health; Physic himself must fade; All things to end are made; The plague full swift goes by; I am sick, I must die-- Lord, have mercy on us! Beauty is but a flower Which wrinkles will devour; Brightness falls from the air; Queens have died young and fair; Dust hath closed Helen's eye; I am sick, I must die-- Lord, have mercy on us! Strength stoops unto the grave, Worms feed on Hector brave; Swords may not fight with fate; Earth still holds ope her gate; Come, come! the bells do cry; I am sick, I must die-- Lord, have mercy on us! Wit with his wantonness Tasteth death's bitterness; Hell's executioner Hath no ears for to hear What vain art can reply; I am sick, I must die-- Lord, have mercy on us! Haste therefore each degree To welcome destiny; Heaven is our heritage, Earth but a player's stage. Mount we unto the sky; I am sick, I must die-- Lord, have mercy on us!
by Thomas Nashe (baptised November 1567 – c. 1601)
ON “TICHBORNE’S ELEGY”
Written by Chidiock Tichborne (August 1562 – 20 September 1586), poet, nobleman and conspirator in the Tower of London on the eve of his execution 19 September 1586. He had been sentenced for his role in the Babington Plot, a conspiracy that sought to free the unjustly held Mary, Queen of Scots from her 19 years of house arrest, and put her on the throne of her cousin, (and jailer) Elizabeth I. As the scheme necessitated the assassination of Elizabeth, the discovery of the plot also sealed the fate of Mary Stuart. She would meet her fate at the block in February of the next year. Tichborne and his fellow conspira- tors were drawn and quartered. It is said that among Mary's papers, found after her execution, was a copy of the Elegy, which had already become widely known in spite of Elizabeth's ministers doing their best to suppress its circulation. They feared, quite rightly, that it would create sympathy for the traitors. It is not clear exactly how old Tichborne was when he died, although the best estimate of historians has been 24.
TO THE LADIES
Wife and servant are the same, But only differ in the name: For when that fatal knot is tied, Which nothing, nothing can divide: When she the word obey has said, And man by law supreme has made, Then all that’s kind is laid aside, And nothing left but state and pride: Fierce as an Eastern prince he grows, And all his innate rigour shows: Then but to look, to laugh, or speak, Will the nuptial contract break. Like mutes she signs alone must make, And never any freedom take: But still be governed by a nod, And fear her husband as a God: Him still must serve, him still obey, And nothing act, and nothing say, But what her haughty lord thinks fit, Who with the power, has all the wit. Then shun, oh! shun that wretched state, And all the fawning flatt’rers hate: Value your selves, and men despise, You must be proud, if you’ll be wise.
by Lady Mary Chudleigh, 1656-1710
Would but indulgent Fortune send To me a kind, and faithful Friend, One who to Virtue’s Laws is true, And does her nicest Rules pursue; One Pious, Lib’ral, Just and Brave, And to his Passions not a Slave; Who full of Honour, void of Pride, Will freely praise, and freely chide; But not indulge the smallest Fault, Nor entertain one slighting Thought: Who still the same will ever prove, Will still instruct and still will love: In whom I safely may confide, And with him all my Cares divide: Who has a large capacious Mind, Join’d with a Knowledge unconfin’d: A Reason bright, a Judgement true, A Wit both quick, and solid too: Who can of all things talk with Ease, And whose Converse will ever please: Who charm’d with Wit, and inward Graces, Despises Fools with tempting Faces; And still a beauteous Mind does prize Above the most enchanting Eyes: I would not envy Queens their State, Nor once desire a happier Fate.
by Lady Mary Chudleigh, 1656-1710
TOM O’BEDLAM’S SONG
The reader in the above video has adopted his pseudonym from this poem. Written in the voice of a homeless “Bedlamite,” [inmate at the English asylum Bedlam], this anonymous poem was probably composed at the beginning of the 17th century; in How to Read and Why, noted critic Harold Bloom calls it “the greatest anonymous lyric in the [English] language.”
Tom O’ Bedlam’s Song
From the hagg and hungrie goblin That into raggs would rend ye, And the spirit that stands by the naked man In the Book of Moones – defend ye! That of your five sound senses You never be forsaken, Nor wander from your selves with Tom Abroad to beg your bacon. (Chorus; sung after every verse) While I doe sing “any foode, any feedinge, Money, drinke or clothing,” Come dame or maid, be not afraid, Poor Tom will injure nothing. Of thirty bare years have I Twice twenty been enraged, And of forty been three times fifteen In durance soundly caged. On the lordly lofts of Bedlam, With stubble soft and dainty, Brave bracelets strong, sweet whips ding-dong, With wholesome hunger plenty. With a thought I took for Maudlin And a cruse of cockle pottage, With a thing thus tall, skie blesse you all, I befell into this dotage. I slept not since the Conquest, Till then I never waked, Till the roguish boy of love where I lay Me found and stript me naked. When I short have shorne my sowre face And swigged my horny barrel, In an oaken inn I pound my skin As a suit of gilt apparel. The moon’s my constant Mistrisse, And the lowly owl my morrowe, The flaming Drake and the Nightcrow make Me music to my sorrow. The palsie plagues my pulses When I prigg your pigs or pullen, Your culvers take, or matchless make Your Chanticleers, or sullen. When I want provant, with Humfrie I sup, and when benighted, I repose in Powles with waking souls Yet never am affrighted. I know more than Apollo, For oft, when he lies sleeping I see the stars at bloody wars In the wounded welkin weeping, The moone embrace her shepherd And the queen of Love her warrior, While the first doth horne the star of morne, And the next the heavenly Farrier. The Gipsie Snap and Pedro Are none of Tom’s companions. The punk I skorne and the cut purse sworne And the roaring boyes bravadoe. The meek, the white, the gentle, Me handle touch and spare not But those that crosse Tom Rynosseros Do what the panther dare not. With a host of furious fancies Whereof I am commander, With a burning spear and a horse of air, To the wilderness I wander. By a knight of ghostes and shadowes I summon’d am to tourney Ten leagues beyond the wild world’s end. Methinks it is no journey.
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea, The ploughman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me. Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight, And all the air a solemn stillness holds, Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight, And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds; Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower The moping owl does to the moon complain Of such, as wandering near her secret bower, Molest her ancient solitary reign. Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade, Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap, Each in his narrow cell for ever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. The breezy call of incense-breathing morn, The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed, The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn, No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed. For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn, Or busy housewife ply her evening care: No children run to lisp their sire's return, Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share. Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield, Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke; How jocund did they drive their team afield! How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke! Let not Ambition mock their useful toil, Their homely joys, and destiny obscure; Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile, The short and simple annals of the poor. The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Awaits alike the inevitable hour. The paths of glory lead but to the grave. Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault, If Memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise, Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault The pealing anthem swells the note of praise. Can storied urn or animated bust Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath? Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust, Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death? Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire; Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed, Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre. But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll; Chill Penury repressed their noble rage, And froze the genial current of the soul. Full many a gem of purest ray serene, The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear: Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air. Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast The little tyrant of his fields withstood; Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest, Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood. The applause of listening senates to command, The threats of pain and ruin to despise, To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land, And read their history in a nation's eyes, Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined; Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne, And shut the gates of mercy on mankind, The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide, To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame, Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride With incense kindled at the Muse's flame. Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife, Their sober wishes never learned to stray; Along the cool sequestered vale of life They kept the noiseless tenor of their way. Yet even these bones from insult to protect Some frail memorial still erected nigh, With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture decked, Implores the passing tribute of a sigh. Their name, their years, spelt by the unlettered muse, The place of fame and elegy supply: And many a holy text around she strews, That teach the rustic moralist to die. For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey, This pleasing anxious being e'er resigned, Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day, Nor cast one longing lingering look behind? On some fond breast the parting soul relies, Some pious drops the closing eye requires; Ev'n from the tomb the voice of nature cries, Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires. For thee, who mindful of the unhonoured dead Dost in these lines their artless tale relate; If chance, by lonely Contemplation led, Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate, Haply some hoary-headed swain may say, 'Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn 'Brushing with hasty steps the dews away 'To meet the sun upon the upland lawn. 'There at the foot of yonder nodding beech 'That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high, 'His listless length at noontide would he stretch, 'And pore upon the brook that babbles by. 'Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn, 'Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove, 'Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn, 'Or crazed with care, or crossed in hopeless love. 'One morn I missed him on the customed hill, 'Along the heath and near his favourite tree; 'Another came; nor yet beside the rill, 'Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he; 'The next with dirges due in sad array 'Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne. 'Approach and read (for thou can'st read) the lay, 'Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.' The Epitaph Here rests his head upon the lap of earth A youth to fortune and to fame unknown. Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth, And Melancholy marked him for her own. Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere, Heaven did a recompense as largely send: He gave to Misery all he had, a tear, He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wished) a friend. No farther seek his merits to disclose, Or draw his frailties from their dread abode, (There they alike in trembling hope repose) The bosom of his Father and his God.