George Gascoigne

G. W. Pigman, III (ed.), A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres

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Editor’s NoteIn prayse of a gentlewoman who though she were not very fayre, yet was she as hard favored as might be.

  • 1If men may credite give, to true reported fames,
  • 2Who douts but stately Roome had store of lusty loving Dames?
  • 3Whose eares have bene so deafe, as never yit heard tell
  • Editor’s Note4How farre the fresh Pompeia, for beautie did excell.
  • Editor’s Note5And golden Marcus he, that swayde the Romaine sword,
  • 6Bare witnesse of Boemia, by credite of his word.
  • 7What neede I mo reherse? since all the world did know
  • Editor’s Note8How high the flouds of beauties blase, within those walles did flowe.
  • 9And yet in all that choyce a worthy Romaine Knight,
  • Editor’s Note10Antonius who conquered proude Egypt by his might.
  • pg 22511Not all to please his eye, but most to ease his minde,
  • 12Chose Cleopatra for his love, and left the rest behind.
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus13A wondrous thing to read, in all his victory,
  • 14He snapt but hir for his owne share, to please his fantasie.
  • 15She was not faire God wot, the country breeds none bright,
  • 16Well maye we judge hir skinne the foyle, bycause hir teeth were white.
  • 17Percase hir lovely lookes, some prayses did deserve,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus18But brown I dare be bold she was, for so the soyle did serve.
  • 19And could Antonius forsake the fayre in Roome?
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus20To love this nutbrowne Lady best, was this an equall doome?
  • 21I dare wel say dames there, did beare him deadly grudge,
  • Editor’s Note22His sentence had bene shortly sayed, if Faustine had bene judge.
  • Editor’s Note23For this I dare avow, (without vaunt be it spoke)
  • 24So brave a knight as Anthony, held al their necks in yoke
  • Editor’s Note25I leave not Lucrece out, beleve in hir who list,
  • Editor’s Note26I thinke she would have lik'd his lure, and stooped to his fist.
  • 27What mov'd the chieftain then, to lincke his liking thus?
  • 28I wold some Romaine dame were here, the question to discusse.
  • Editor’s Note29But I that read hir life, do find therin by fame,
  • 30How cleare hir curtisie did shine, in honour of hir name.
  • 31Hir bountie did excell, hir trueth had never peere,
  • 32Hir lovely lookes, hir pleasant speech, hir lusty loving cheere.
  • 33And all the worthy giftes, that ever yet were found,
  • 34Within this good Egiptian Queen, did seeme for to abound.
  • 35Wherfore he worthy was, to win the golden fleece,
  • Editor’s Note36Which scornd the biasing sterres in Roome, to conquere such a peece.
  • 37And she to quite his love, in spite of dreadfull death,
  • Editor’s Note38Enshrinde with Snakes within his tombe, did yeeld hir parting breath.
  • Editor’s NoteAllegoria.
  • 39If Fortune favord him, then may that man rejoyce,
  • 40And think himself a happy man by hap of happy choice.
  • 41Who loves and is belov'd of one as good, as true,
  • Critical Apparatus42As kind as Cleopatra was, and yet more bright of hewe.
  • Editor’s Note43Hir eyes as grey as glasse, hir teeth as white as myIke,
  • 44A ruddy lippe, a dimpled chyn, a skinne as smoth as silke.
  • pg 22645A wight what could you more that may content mans mind,
  • 46And hath supplies for ev'ry want that any man can find.
  • 47And may himselfe assure, when hence his life shall passe,
  • 48She wilbe stong to death with snakes, as Cleopatra was.

Editor’s NoteSi fortunatus infœlix.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
9. 0. 1. In prayse of a gentlewoman. Since 'hard favored' means 'ill- favoured', the ordinary adversative force of 'though … yet' is hard to detect. Prouty (HSF, 263) desperately glosses 'hard favored' as 'well favored' but cites no evidence. The title in the contents to 'Weedes' in 75 poses no problem, 'The prayse of a Gentlewoman neither fair nor welfavored'. 13 is another poem in the 'ugly beauty' tradition, on which see Heather Dubrow, Echoes of Desire: English Petrarchism and Its Counterdiscourses (Ithaca, 1995), 163–201. In this poem Gascoigne follows the advice he gives in Notes (455. 16–20): he answers for the imperfection of the brown beauty by a historical example. 51 is another poem that accounts for an imperfection in appearance.
Editor’s Note
9. 4. Pompeia. Probably the most likely Pompeia was the one whom Julius Caesar divorced because his wife must be above suspicion, but I find no reference to her beauty in Suetonius or Plutarch. The wife of the younger Seneca, Pompeia Paulina, was known for her devotion to her husband (she tried to kill herself when he was ordered to commit suicide), not her beauty (Boccaccio, De mulieribus claris, tells the story after Tacitus).
Editor’s Note
9. 5–6. golden Marcus … Boemia. The emperor Marcus Aurelius. The adjective is due to Antonio de Guevara's The Golden Boke, of Marcus Aurelius, trans. John Bourchier (1535; rpt. 1557). Guevara's fiction includes 'A letter sent by Marc the emperour to Boemia a lover of his, that wolde have gone with hym to the warres' and Boemia's reply. The witness that Marcus bears of Boemia (a Roman) does not speak to her beauty, however: 'Art not thou Boemia, that lacketh two tethe, the eyes holowed, with white heares, and a riveled face, one hande loste with the gout, and a rybbe marred with chyld beryng?' (José Maria Gálvez, Guevara in England: Nebst Neudruck von Lord Berners' 'Golden Boke of Marcus Aurelius' (1535) (Berlin, 1916), 419)
Editor’s Note
9. 8. beauties blase. See note to 170. 32.
Editor’s Note
9. 10–11. a … might. These lines provide the first indication that Gascoigne's major source for the story of Antony and Cleopatra was Chaucer's Legend of Good Women. (Cleopatra appears as an example of bounty and goodness at 35. 5.) Chaucer calls Antony, who was, of course, a Roman patrician, not an eques, 'this knyght' (607). Furthermore, Antony did not conquer Egypt, which did not become a Roman province until after his death. Antony met Cleopatra in Tarsus on a magnificent occasion famous from Shakespeare (Antony and Cleopatra II. ii. 198–224, a passage heavily indebted to North's Plutarch). Chaucer, on the other hand, says that Antony was sent to Egypt 'For to conqueren regnes and honour | Unto the toun of Rome' (585–6).
Critical Apparatus
13 She was an Egiptian. 75m
Editor’s Note
9. 13–14. in … share. Neither Chaucer nor any other source known to me says that Antony chose Cleopatra as the spoils of his victory over Egypt.
Critical Apparatus
18 soyle] solle 73
Editor’s Note
9. 18. for so the soyle did serve. Prouty takes 'solle' (the reading of 73 for 'soyle') as 'sun', but the OED offers no support for such a spelling. 'Solle' may be an unattested spelling of 'soyle', but with some hesitation I relegate it to the apparatus. In any event, the meaning is clear: the soil of Egypt produces dark-complexioned people. For that sense of 'serve' cf. 'What fruits this soyle may serve' (Kenelworth, 129).
Critical Apparatus
20 this] his 75
Editor’s Note
9. 20. this nutbrowne Lady. Gascoigne's only other use of 'nutbrowne' occurs in the other brown beauty poem, 13. 14.
Editor’s Note
9. 22. Faustine. Annia Galeria Faustina, the daughter of the emperor Antoninus Pius, was married to Marcus Aurelius, not Marcus Antonius, although Gascoigne may have thought of her as the wife of the latter. After becoming emperor, Marcus Aurelius assumed 'Antoninus' as part of his name (he had been an adoptive son of Antoninus Pius), so he was sometimes called Marcus Antoninus (the biography by Julius Capitolinus in the Historia Augusta is entitled, 'Vita Marci Antonini Philosophi'). 'Antoninus', however, is easily corrupted into 'Antonius', and this corruption occurs in some of the manuscripts of Boccaccio's life of Faustina in De mulieribus claris (cf. Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio, vol. 10, ed. Vittore Branca (Verona, 1967), 463) and doubtless in some of the prints. Painter (The Palace of Pleasure, ed. Joseph Jacobs (1890), ii. 10) describes her as the wife of the emperor Marcus Antonius. In any event, Faustina was primarily known for her insatiable sexual appetite, and Painter, after Boccaccio and the Historia Augusta, tells the grisly story about Marcus bathing her in the blood of a gladiator after whom she lusted in order to cure her of her passion. In Guevara's Golden Boke Marcus inveighs against Faustina, but the real Marcus, to whom she bore a dozen children, had her deified after her death and praised her in his autobiography.
Editor’s Note
9. 23. For … spoke. The line recurs at DB 2. 41; cf. 'without vaunt be it told' (35. 3).
Editor’s Note
9. 25. Lucrece. Cooper has a long entry on Lucretia, which begins, 'A noble woman of Rome, wyfe to Tarquinius Collatinus, and a singuler paterne of chastitee, both to hir tyme, and to all ages folowinge: whom Sextus Tarquinius, when by fayre meanes he coulde not obteyne, by force and violence did ravish.' Chaucer also tells her story in his Legend of Good Women. Turbervile, 'To his Friende to be constant after choise made' (Epitaphes, D3r-v), couples Lucretia and Cleopatra as models of constancy.
Editor’s Note
9. 26. she … fist. See note to 198. 31.
Editor’s Note
9. 29. I that read hir life. Plutarch's Life of Antony does mention Cleopatra's liberality, captivating speech, and good looks but does not provide a flattering portrait of her. Given the consistently negative portraits from antiquity on (cf. Beverly Taylor, 'The Medieval Cleopatra: The Classical and Medieval Tradition of Chaucer's Legend of Cleopatra', Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 7 (1977), 249–69), Gascoigne's idealization is no doubt indebted to Chaucer, especially for Cleopatra's constant devotion to Antony. With 'hir trueth had never peere' (31) cf. Chaucer's 'Here may ye sen of wemen which a trouthe!' (668).
Editor’s Note
9. 36. to conquere such a peece. See note to 175. 35.
Editor’s Note
9. 38. Enshrinde … breath. Plutarch mentions only one snake; Chaucer's Cleopatra throws herself naked into a pit of snakes she dug next to Antony's tomb. Cooper writes: 'This ladie after the death of Antonie inclosed hir selfe in a tombe, and havynge two serpentes suckyng at hir pappes, so dyed.'
Editor’s Note
9. 38. 1. Allegoria. See note to 189. 13.
Critical Apparatus
42 bright of] of bright 73
Editor’s Note
9. 43. Hir eyes as grey as glasse. Cf. Chaucer, 'General Prologue', 152, and 'The Reeve's Tale', 3974, 'eyen greye as glas', and Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona IV. iv. 189, 'Her eyes are grey as glasse'. The colour of grey eyes is in doubt. The OED says that when used of eyes, 'grey' means 'having a grey iris'.
Editor’s Note
9. 48. 1. Si fortunatus infcelix. See note to 59. 24.
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