Pre-19th Century Poets-3




 The Blacksmiths

Swart swarthy smiths
                      smattered with smoke
Drive me to death
                   with din of their dents.
Such noise at night
                     no man heard, never;
With knavish cries
                    and clattering of knocks!
The crooked cretins
                     Call out, “Coal, coal!”
And blow their bellows,
                         that all their brains burst:
“Huff, puff!' says that one;
                              “haff, paff!' that other.
They spit and sprawl
                      and spill many spells;
They gnaw and gnash,
                      they groan together
And hold their heat
                     with their hard hammers.
Of bullhide are their
                       broad aprons made;
Their shanks be shackled
                          for the fiery flinders:
Heavy hammers they have
                          that are hard-handled,
Stark strokes they strike
                           on a steely stump:
                    rants the row--
so doleful a dream,
                     the Devil destroy it!
The master lengthens little
                             and labors less,
Twines ta two
               and touches a trey:
Tick, tack! hick, hack! 
                        ticket, tacket! tyke, take!
                    Such lives they lead,
These cobblemares:
                   Christ give them grief!
May none of these waterburners
                               by night have his rest!

by Anonymous, c. 1400-1500

translated from Anglo Saxon English by Wesli Court

The Names of the Hare

The man the hare has met
will never be the better of it
except he lay down on the land
what he carries in his hand–
be it staff or be it bow–
and bless him with his elbow
and come out with this litany
with devotion and sincerity
to speak the praises of the hare.
Then the man will better fare.

'The hare, call him scotart,
big-fellow, bouchart,
the O'Hare, the jumper,
the rascal, the racer.

Beat-the-pad, white-face,
funk-the-ditch, shit-ass.

The wimount, the messer,
the skidaddler, the nibbler,
the ill-met, the slabber.

The quick-scut, the dew-flirt,
the grass-biter, the goibert,
the home-late, the do-the-dirt.

The starer, the wood-cat,
the purblind, the furze cat,
the skulker, the bleary-eyed,
the wall-eyed, the glance-aside
and also the hedge-springer.

The stubble-stag, the long lugs,
the stook-deer, the frisky legs,
the wild one, the skipper,
the hug-the-ground, the lurker,
the race-the-wind, the skiver,
the shag-the-hare, the hedge-squatter,
the dew-hammer, the dew-hopper,
the sit-tight, the grass-bounder,
the jig-foot, the earth-sitter,
the light-foot, the fern-sitter,
the kail-stag, the herb-cropper.

The creep-along, the sitter-still,
the pintail, the ring-the-hill,
the sudden start,
the shake-the-heart,
the belly-white,
the lambs-in-flight.

The gobshite, the gum-sucker,
the scare-the-man, the faith-breaker,
the snuff-the-ground, the baldy skull,
(his chief name is scoundrel.)

The stag sprouting a suede horn,
the creature living in the corn,
the creature bearing all men's scorn,
the creature no one dares to name.'

When you have got all this said
then the hare's strength has been laid.
Then you might go faring forth–
east and west and south and north,
wherever you incline to go–
but only if you're skilful too.
And now, Sir Hare, good-day to you.
God guide you to a how-d'ye-do
with me: come to me dead
in either onion broth or bread.

by Anonymous, ca. 1300

translated from the Middle English by Seamus Heaney

The Glories of Our Blood and State

(a.k.a. Death, the Leveller)

The glories of our blood and state
     Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
     Death lays his icy hand on kings:
               Sceptre and Crown
               Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field,
     And plant fresh laurels where they kill:
But their strong nerves at last must yield;
     They tame but one another still:
               Early or late
               They stoop to fate,
And must give up their murmuring breath
When they, pale captives, creep to death.

The garlands wither on your brow;
     Then boast no more your mighty deeds!
Upon Death's purple altar now
      See where the victor-victim bleeds.
               Your heads must come
               To the cold tomb:
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.

by James Shirley (1596-1666)


The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the Rocks,
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow Rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of Roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty Lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and Ivy buds,
With Coral clasps and Amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

The Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.

by Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)

The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every Shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move,
To live with thee, and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When Rivers rage and Rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb,
The rest complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields,
To wayward winter reckoning yields,
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall.

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of Roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten:
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and Ivy buds,
The Coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee, and be thy love.

by Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) [for more by Raleigh scroll down page]

The Bait

Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks.

There will the river whispering run
Warm'd by thy eyes, more than the sun;
And there the 'enamour'd fish will stay,
Begging themselves they may betray.

When thou wilt swim in that live bath,
Each fish, which every channel hath,
Will amorously to thee swim,
Gladder to catch thee, than thou him.

If thou, to be so seen, be'st loth,
By sun or moon, thou dark'nest both,
And if myself have leave to see,
I need not their light having thee.

Let others freeze with angling reeds,
And cut their legs with shells and weeds,
Or treacherously poor fish beset,
With strangling snare, or windowy net.

Let coarse bold hands from slimy nest
The bedded fish in banks out-wrest;
Or curious traitors, sleeve-silk flies,
Bewitch poor fishes' wand'ring eyes.

For thee, thou need'st no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait:
That fish, that is not catch'd thereby,
Alas, is wiser far than I.

by John Donne (1572-1631)

For poems/videos and a documentary on John Donne [click here]

For digital facsimiles of manuscripts by Donne [click here]

On the Cards and Dice

Before the sixth day of the next new year,
Strange wonders in this kingdom shall appear:
Four kings shall be assembled in this isle,
Where they shall keep great tumult for awhile.
Many men then shall have an end of crosses,
And many likewise shall sustain great losses;
Many that now full joyful are and glad,
Shall at that time be sorrowful and sad;
Full many a Christian's heart shall quake for fear,
The dreadful sound of trump when he shall hear.
Dead bones shall then be tumbled up and down,
In every city and in every town.
By day or night this tumult shall not cease,
Until an herald shall proclaim a peace;
An herald strong, the like was never born,
Whose very beard is flesh and mouth is horn

by Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618)


WHAT is our life? The play of passion. 
Our mirth? The music of division: 
Our mothers’ wombs the tiring-houses be, 
Where we are dressed for life’s short comedy. 
The earth the stage; Heaven the spectator is, 
Who sits and views whosoe’er doth act amiss. 
The graves which hide us from the scorching sun 
Are like drawn curtains when the play is done. 
Thus playing post we to our latest rest, 
And then we die in earnest, not in jest.

by Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618)

[for “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” by Raleigh scroll up]


FORCED from home and all its pleasures
Afric's coast I left forlorn,
To increase a stranger's treasures
O'er the raging billows borne.
Men from England bought and sold me,
Paid my price in paltry gold;
But, though slave they have enrolled me,
Minds are never to be sold.

Still in thought as free as ever,
What are England's rights, I ask,
Me from my delights to sever,
Me to torture, me to task ?
Fleecy locks and black complexion
Cannot forfeit nature's claim;
Skins may differ, but affection
Dwells in white and black the same.

Why did all-creating nature
Make the plant for which we toil?
Sighs must fan it, tears must water,
Sweat of ours must dress the soil.
Think, ye masters iron-hearted,
Lolling at your jovial boards,
Think how many backs have smarted
For the sweets your cane affords.

Is there, as ye sometimes tell us,
Is there One who reigns on high?
Has He bid you buy and sell us,
Speaking from his throne, the sky?
Ask him, if your knotted scourges,
Matches, blood-extorting screws,
Are the means that duty urges
Agents of his will to use?

Hark! He answers!--Wild tornadoes
Strewing yonder sea with wrecks,
Wasting towns, plantations, meadows,
Are the voice with which he speaks.
He, foreseeing what vexations
Afric's sons should undergo,
Fixed their tyrants' habitations
Where his whirlwinds answer--"No."

By our blood in Afric wasted
Ere our necks received the chain;
By the miseries that we tasted,
Crossing in your barks the main;
By our sufferings, since ye brought us
To the man-degrading mart,
All sustained by patience, taught us
Only by a broken heart;

Deem our nation brutes no longer,
Till some reason ye shall find
Worthier of regard and stronger
Than the colour of our kind.
Slaves of gold, whose sordid dealings
Tarnish all your boasted powers,
Prove that you have human feelings,
Ere you proudly question ours!

by William Cowper, 1731-1800


The poplars are felled, farewell to the shade
And the whispering sound of the cool colonnade:
The winds play no longer and sing in the leaves,
Nor Ouse on his bosom their image receives.

Twelve years have elapsed since I first took a view
Of my favourite field, and the bank where they grew,
And now in the grass behold they are laid,
And the tree is my seat that once lent me a shade.

The blackbird has fled to another retreat
Where the hazels afford him a screen from the heat;
And the scene where his melody charmed me before
Resounds with his sweet-flowing ditty no more.

My fugitive years are all hasting away,
And I must ere long lie as lowly as they,
With a turf on my breast and a stone at my head,
Ere another such grove shall arise in its stead.

'Tis a sight to engage me, if anything can,
To muse on the perishing pleasures of Man;
Though his life be a dream, his enjoyments, I see,
Have a Being less durable even than he.

by William Cowper, 1731-1800

Epitaph on a Hare

Here lies, whom hound did ne’er pursue, 
    Nor swifter greyhound follow, 
Whose foot ne’er tainted morning dew, 
    Nor ear heard huntsman’s hallo’, 

 Old Tiney, surliest of his kind, 
    Who, nursed with tender care, 
And to domesticate bounds confined, 
    Was still a wild jack-hare. 

Though duly from my hand he took 
    His pittance every night, 
He did it with a jealous look, 
    And, when he could, would bite. 

 His diet was of wheaten bread, 
    And milk, and oats, and straw, 
Thistles, or lettuces instead, 
    With sand to scour his maw. 

 On twigs of hawthorn he regaled, 
    On pippins’ russet peel; 
And, when his juicy salads failed, 
    Sliced carrot pleased him well. 

 A Turkey carpet was his lawn, 
    Whereon he loved to bound, 
To skip and gambol like a fawn, 
    And swing his rump around. 

 His frisking was at evening hours, 
    For then he lost his fear; 
But most before approaching showers, 
    Or when a storm drew near. 

 Eight years and five round-rolling moons 
    He thus saw steal away, 
Dozing out all his idle noons, 
    And every night at play. 

 I kept him for his humor’s sake, 
    For he would oft beguile 
My heart of thoughts that made it ache, 
    And force me to a smile. 

 But now, beneath this walnut-shade 
    He finds his long, last home, 
And waits in snug concealment laid, 
    Till gentler Puss shall come. 

He, still more agèd, feels the shocks 
    From which no care can save, 
And, partner once of Tiney’s box, 
    Must soon partake his grave.

 by William Cowper, 1731-1800


A True Maid

No, no; for my virginity,
When I lose that, says Rose, I’ll die:
Behind the elms, last night, cried Dick,
Rose, were you not extremely sick?

by Matthew Prior, 1664–1721


January, 1795

Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing, 
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing; 
Titled gluttons dainties carving, 
Genius in a garret starving. 

Lofty mansions, warm and spacious; 
Courtiers cringing and voracious; 
Misers scarce the wretched heeding; 
Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding. 

Wives who laugh at passive spouses; 
Theatres, and meeting-houses; 
Balls, where simp’ring misses languish; 
Hospitals, and groans of anguish. 

Arts and sciences bewailing; 
Commerce drooping, credit failing; 
Placemen mocking subjects loyal; 
Separations, weddings royal. 

Authors who can’t earn a dinner; 
Many a subtle rogue a winner; 
Fugitives for shelter seeking; 
Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking. 

Taste and talents quite deserted; 
All the laws of truth perverted; 
Arrogance o’er merit soaring; 
Merit silently deploring. 

Ladies gambling night and morning; 
Fools the works of genius scorning; 
Ancient dames for girls mistaken, 
Youthful damsels quite forsaken. 

Some in luxury delighting; 
More in talking than in fighting; 
Lovers old, and beaux decrepid; 
Lordlings empty and insipid. 

Poets, painters, and musicians; 
Lawyers, doctors, politicians: 
Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes, 
Seeking fame by diff’rent roads. 

Gallant souls with empty purses; 
Gen’rals only fit for nurses; 
School-boys, smit with martial spirit, 
Taking place of vet’ran merit. 

Honest men who can’t get places, 
Knaves who shew unblushing faces; 
Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded; 
Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.

 by Mary Robinson, 1758-1800

Robinson was the first mistress of the Prince of Wales, who would later become King George IV. In addition to writing poetry, Robinson was an ardent feminist and staunch supporter of the rights of women, convictions she displayed by living separately from her husband and having numerous affairs.