A Handefull of Pleasant Delites

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


A Handefull of pleasant delites was published in 1584 by Richard Jones, a publisher of ballads. The small book is one of lyrics written to already existing ballads (usually mentioned along with the long titles), and the unknown “Clement Robinson and divers others” are given credit on the title page of the one surviving British Museum volume. However, the Stationers’ Register shows a licence issued to Clement Robinson in 1566 for “a boke of very pleasaunte Sonettes and storyes in myter.” The 1584 volume is therefore usually considered a later edition of the book of 1566.

The first lyric in the collection is a poetic “nosegaie” listing flowers and herbs — rosemary, violets, cowslips, etc. — and their associations, and this one is considered a source for Ophelia’s botanical ravings. There are other Shakespeare connections and quoted title phrases from among these lyrics.

But I was especially intrigued by this one, and know not what to think:

“A warning for Wooers, that they be not ouer hastie, nor deceiued with womens beautie, To, Salisburie Plaine.”

Ye louing wormes come learne of me
The plagues to leaue that linked be:
The grudge, the grief, the gret anoy,
The fickle faith, the fading ioy:
in time, take heed,
In fruitlesse soile sow not thy seed:
buie not, with cost,
the thing that yeelds but labour lost.

If Cupids dart do chance to light,
So that affection dimmes thy sight,
Then raise vp reason by and by,
With skill thy heart to fortifie
Where is a breach,
Oft times too late doth come the Leach:
Sparks are put out,
when fornace flames do rage about.

Thine owne delay must win the field,
When lust doth leade thy heart to yeeld:
When steed is stolne, who makes al fast,
May go on foot for al his haste:
In time shut gate,
For had I wist, doth come too late,
Fast bind, fast find,
Repentance alwaies commeth behind.

The Syrens times [tunes] oft time beguiles,
So doth the teares of Crocodiles:
But who so learnes Vlysses lore,
May passe the seas, and win the shore.
Stop eares, stand fast,
Through Cupids trips, thou shalt him cast:
Flie baits, shun hookes,
Be thou not snarde with louely lookes.

Where Venus hath the maisterie,
There loue hath lost her libertie:
where loue doth win the victorie,
The fort is sackt with crueltie.
First look, then leap,
In suretie so your shinnes you keepe:
The snake doth sting,
That lurking lieth with hissing.

Where Cupids fort hath made a waie,
There graue aduise doth beare no swaie,
Where Loue doth raigne and rule the roste,
There reason is exilde the coast:
Like all, loue none,
except ye vse discretion,
First try, then trust,
be not deceiued with sinful lust.

Make Priams sonne, his fond deuise
When Venus did obtaine the price:
For Pallas skil and Iunoes strength,
He chose that bred his bane at length.
Choose wit, leaue wil,
let Helen be with Paris stil:
Amis goeth al,
wher fancie forceth folles to fall.

Where was there found a happier wight,
Than Troylus was til loue did light?
What was the end of Romeus.
Did he not die like Piramus
who baths in blis?
let him be mindful of Iphis
who seeks to plese,
may ridden be like Hercules.

I lothe to tel the peeuish brawles,
And fond delights of Cupids thrawles,
Like momish mates of Midas mood,
They gape to get that doth no good:
Now down, now vp,
As tapsters vse to tosse ye Cup
One breedeth ioy,
another breeds as great anoy

Some loue for wealth, and some for hue,
And none of both these loues are true.
For when the Mil hath lost hir sailes,
Then must the Miller lose his vailes:
Of grasse commeth hay,
And flowers faire wil soon decay:
Of ripe commeth rotten,
In age al beautie is forgotten.

Some loueth too hie, and some too lowe,
And of them both great griefs do grow,
And some do loue the common sort:
And common folke vse common sport.
Looke not too hie,
Least that a chip fall in thine eie:
But hie or lowe,
Ye may be sure she is a shrow.

But sirs, I vse to tell no tales,
Ech fish that swims doth not beare scales,
In euerie hedge I finde not thornes:
Nor euerie beast doth carrie hornes:
I saie not so,
That euerie woman causeth wo:
That were too broad,
Who loueth not venom must shun the tode.

Who vseth still the truth to tel,
May blamed be though he saie wel:
Say Crowe is white, and snowe is blacke,
Lay not the fault on womans backe,
Thousands were good,
But few scapte drowning in Noes flood:
Most are wel bent,
I must say so, least I be shent.


The poem seems a sometimes sulky teenage assessment of love, similar to some suspected poems in A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres and I’d say identical to the juvenile kind of disapproval throughout Romeus and Juliett. The classical and Ovidian name-dropping is familiar from A Hundreth Sundrie — and I especially like the one stanza with the cluster of relevant names: Troylus, Romeus, Piramus.