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What Cunning Can Express

    WHAT cunning can express
    The favor of her face
    To whom in this distress
    I do appeal for grace?
    A thousand Cupids fly
    About her gentle eye.

    From whence each throws a dart
    That kindleth soft sweet fire
    Within my sighing heart,
    Possessèd by desire.
    No sweeter life I try
    Than in her love to die.

    The lily in the field
    That glories in his white,
    For pureness now must yield
    And render up his right.
    Heaven pictured in her face
    Doth promise joy and grace.

    Fair Cynthia's silver light
    That beats on running streams
    Compares not with her white,
    Whose hairs are all sunbeams.
    Her virtues so do shine
    As day unto mine eyne*.                [eyes]

    With this there is a red
    Exceeds the damask rose,
    Which in her cheeks is spread,
    Whence every favor grows.
    In sky there is no star
    That she surmounts not far.

    When Phoebus from the bed
    Of Thetis doth arise,
    The morning blushing red
    In fair carnation wise,
    He shows it in her face
    As queen of every grace.

    This pleasant lily-white,
    This taint of roseate red,
    This Cynthia's silver light,
    This sweet fair Dea* spread,                [goddess]
    These sunbeams in mine eye,
    These beauties make me die!

    Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford

If Women Could Be Fair

    IF women could be fair and yet not fond*,                [foolish]
    Or that their love were firm, not fickle still,
    I would not marvel that they make men bond*,                [bound]
    By service long to purchase their good will.
    But when I see how frail those creatures are,
    I muse that men forget themselves so far.

    To mark the choice they make and how they change,
    How oft from Phoebus they do fly to Pan,
    Unsettled still, like haggards* wild they range,                [hawks]
    These gentle birds that fly from man to man;
    Who would not scorn, and shake them from the fist,
    And let them fly, fair fools, which way they list?

    Yet for disport we fawn and flatter both,
    To pass the time when nothing else can please;
    And train them to our lure with subtle oath
    Till, weary of their wiles, ourselves we ease;
    And then we say, when we their fancy try,
    To play with fools, oh, what a fool was I!

    Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford

Of The Birth And Bringing-Up Of Desire

    "WHEN wert thou born, Desire?" In pomp and prime of May.
    "By whom, sweet boy, wert thou begot?" By good conceit, men say.
    "Tell me, who was thy nurse?" Fresh youth in sug'red joy.
    "What was thy meat and daily food?" Sore sighs with great annoy.
    "What had you then to drink?" Unfeigned lovers' tears.
    "What cradle were you rocked in?" In hope, devoid of fears.
    "What brought you then asleep?" Sweet speech that liked men best.
    "And where is now your dwelling-place?" In gentle hearts I rest.
    "Doth company displease?" It doth in many one.
    "Where would Desire then choose to be?" He likes to muse alone.
    "What feedeth most your sight?" To gaze on favour still.
    "Who find you most to be your foe?" Disdain of my good will.
    "Will ever age or death bring you into decay?"
    No, no, Desire both lives and dies ten thousand times a day.

    Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

The Labouring Man That Tills The Fertile Soil

    THE labouring man, that tills the fertile soil
      And reaps the harvest fruit, hath not in deed
    The gain, but pain; and if for all his toil
      He gets the straw, the lord will have the seed.

    The manchet* fine falls not unto his share,                [best wheat bread]
      On coarsest cheat* his hungry stomach feeds;                [poor quality bread]
    The landlord doth possess the finest fare,
      He pulls the flowers; the other plucks but weeds.

    The mason poor, that builds the lordly halls,
      Dwells not in them; they are for high degree;
    His cottage is compact in paper walls,
      And not with brick or stone as others be.

    The idle drone, that labours not at all,
      Sucks up the sweet of honey from the bee:
    Who worketh most, to their share least doth fall;
      With due desert reward will never be.

    The swiftest hare unto the mastiff slow
      Oft-times doth fall, to him as for a prey;
    The greyhound thereby doth miss his game, we know,
      For which he made such speedy haste away.

    So he that takes the pain to pen the book,
      Reaps not the gifts of goodly golden Muse,
    But those gain that, who on the work shall look
      And from the sour the sweet by skill doth choose.
    For he that beats the bush the bird not gets,
    But who sits still and holdeth fast the nets.

    Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

His Good Name Being Blemished, He Bewaileth

    [Ed. Note: De Vere was a quarrelsome individual and frequently had to leave Court in consequence. --Nelson]

    FRAMED in the front of forlorn hope past all recovery,
    I stayless stand to abide the shock of shame and infamy.
    My life, through ling'ring long, is lodg'd in lair of loathsome ways,
    My death delay'd to keep from life the harm of hapless days.
    My sprites, my heart, my wit and force in deep distress are drown'd;
    The only loss of my good name is of these griefs the ground.

    And since my mind, my wit, my head, my voice, and tongue are weak
    To utter, move, devise, conceive, sound forth, declare, and speak
    Such piercing plaints as answer might, or would, my woeful case,
    Help crave I must, and crave I will, with tears upon my face,
    Of all that may in heaven or hell, in earth or air, be found
    To wail with me this loss of mine, as of these griefs the ground.

    Help gods, help saints, help sprites and powers that in the heaven do dwell!
    Help ye that are to wail ay wont, ye howling hounds of hell!
    Help man, help beasts, help birds and worms that on the earth doth toil!
    Help fish, help fowl that flocks and feed upon the salt sea soil!
    Help echo that in air doth flee, shrill voices to resound,
    To wail this loss of my good name, as of these griefs the ground.

    Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

Were I A King I Could Command Content

    WERE I a king I could command content.
      Were I obscure, unknown should be my cares.
    And were I dead, no thoughts should me torment,
      Nor words, nor wrongs, nor loves, nor hopes, nor fears.
    A doubtful choice, of three things one to crave,
    A kingdom, or a cottage, or a grave.

    Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford


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