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Elizabethan Verse

Columbus Day 2019

I heartily enjoy Elizabethan verse, although many people do not. I’d even considered creating a Great Books library nook of Elizabethan verse and English Renaissance writing on this website; but then I concluded that such an addition could jolly well squash any further interest in anyone’s writing!

There were problems with the purity of the writers and their writing during this historic epoch. One had to be “in” with the Queen, and Elizabeth I was a queen bee with a hive of ambitious drones, otherwise known as courtiers. Queen Elizabeth I liked playing one favorite off of another, lest any one of the fawning males deem himself too much a favourite of hers. Court politics and intrigue tended to infiltrate the poetry of the Elizabethan flatterer. For example, the writings of Sir Walter Raleigh are lovely, simply lovely, but the man’s brief, adventurous life was a mess.

In Elizabethan verse, much mention is made of courtly love, pristine love, romantic love, faithful love, love that doth await the lover, and so on and so forth. Elizabethans had to write about love, and that elevated sort of love, mainly because living conditions in England, and particularly in London, could kill a man, or a woman, before either ever got to the conjugal bed! All of that exquisite clothing was gorgeous ginormous window dressing!

I’d wished to electronically enunciate “A Dialogue Between the Soul and Body” by Andrew Marvell, but that dynamic dialectic was too lengthy and, quite frankly, I found too much pining and rhythmic whining in the content! Modern lit is full enough of it!

And so I selected a sweet little number by Thomas Dekker, who was born perhaps in 1572 and who died in 1632. (The facts are usually fuzzy about individuals born during this era.)

This verse is found in Act IV, scene ii of the play Patient Grissel, published in 1603. Like many authors of the Elizabethan and English Renaissance eras, Dekker used a variation upon plots and characters created in medieval works. The medieval writers were, in their turn, shameless borrowers from the writings of the Ancients such as Ovid and Horace.

In this instance, the play Patient Grissel is a re-working, in verse form, of the story of Patient Griselda, from Canterbury Tales by Chaucer and from Decameron by Boccaccio.

Falling much farther down the cultural scale, we come to a 20th-century “adaptation” (rip-off) by Mr. Paul McCartney of the Fab Four, the Beatles of Boomer fame, in his song, Golden Slumbers.

As for myself, I shall read these lovely words without musical accompaniment, although I do dearly like to sing along with the violin

For further excursions into a delectable literary past, please visit these essays:

Back to School 2017 and What a Tale!

Thomas Dekker

from Patient Grissel

Golden slumbers kisse your eyes,

Smiles awake you when you rise:

Sleepe pretty wantons doe not cry,

And I will sing a lullabie,

Rocke them rocke them lullabie.

Care is heavy therefore sleepe you,

You are care and care must keep you:

Sleepe pretty wantons doe not cry,

And I will sing a lullabie,

Rocke them rocke them lullabie.


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