A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
A HUNDRETH SUNDRIE FLOWRES
A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres was printed in 1573 and contains batches of poems whose authors are known only by “poesies” — little Latin phrases such as “Meritum petere, grave.” There are many. Also contained is a batch of poems strung together with a vague prose narrative of the love misadventures of “Master F.I.” There are countless Oxfordian connections to be understood by reading the Ward/Miller edition of this 1573 work, but in any case there’s no real reason not to think that at least one of the poesies belonged to Oxford as he was on the scene at the time among the courtiers involved in literature.
Ward and Miller think that Oxford is responsible for collecting the poems, including a batch supplied by Gascoigne but belonging to Christopher Hatton. Thus The Adventures of Master F.I. is designed to embarrass Hatton by including love poems in print written not to Elizabeth. The prose connections are not outrageous comedy, but the ultimate effect is pretty goofy, so it is conceivable that someone is being actively embarrassed.
The Ward/Miller thesis is that Hatton was the main target, but could not really pitch a fit without acknowledging that he was a key poet here, and probably F.I. (which matches an acknowledged poesy of his — and see Malvolio in Twelfth Night). Thus when a second edition emerges in 1575, it happens shortly after Oxford is out of the country. Things have been mixed around, a de Vere acrostic ruined, and we are now to believe that Gascoigne is responsible for all of it, though why the re-issue in the way that it is re-done doesn’t make a lot of sense if that were originally so. The 1573 edition is meticulously edited and prepared for publication, much more so than the 1575.
Ward and Miller find evidence that Gascoigne let himself be used and ended up regretting having done this to Oxford later. The marshy ground, it seems to me, for anti-Oxfordians, is that to claim that Gascoigne is responsible for all the material in HSF is to say that an Elizabethan courtier poet has no problem remaining invisible by using about a dozen pseudonyms at a time. And then what makes Gascoigne seem more likely?…
Also, either a wide assortment of poets at the early 1570s Elizabethan court became obsessed with Chaucer’s story of Troilus and Criseyde (I say Chaucer’s for many reasons, including mention of his own fake source for the story: “Lollius”) and participated in a fad of complaining about their various non-compliant ladies as latter-day Cressids, or one poet had been recently turned onto Chaucer and was doing this through an assortment of poesies. Heavy Chaucer influence shows up in other ways as well: with touches of The Book of the Duchess and the Prologue to The Legend of Good Women — more than touches actually — whole set-ups for love-complaints, transferred out of dream visions and into specific locale. Crossing the Thames is mentioned in one of these.
Of greater interest is that these Chaucer-influenced examples strain the boundaries of the genre of poetry and move towards drama. The poet/s can put the poetry into other characters’ mouths. And this internal ventriloquism is a only a step away from ascribing poems and sets of poems to an assortment of other courtiers through the poesies throughout. How extensive that goes is impossible to say and there do seem to be more than a couple poetic styles represented in the collection.
Elsewhere, but related to HSF, one doubts that Vavasour wrote the Echo/Ver poem, especially given a very self-glorifying Ver poem in the Hundreth which is a delightfully cheeky stance (to put words into the mouth of a regretful lady pining for oneself). At the other end of the ventriloquism spectrum, the Anne Cecil poem mourning the loss of her newborn son seems odd to me. A gift from her husband? A poem expressing her own mourning written as if she is responsible for it? That could seem insensitive or pushy, but it’s no more peculiar than letting Hallmark express one’s emotions.
The final step: creating or arranging an assortment of characters and doing the speaking for all of them = dramatic writing.
There’s also Wife-of-Bath-inspired material in HSF — look for the start of the Dan Bartholmew section whose first line mentions “authority” as does the Wife in Chaucer. I think she’s mentioned later in this one.
And here’s a sea battle:
The Barkes are battered sore, the gallies gald with shot,
The hulks are hit and every man must stand unto his lot.
The powder sendes his smoke into the cruddy skies,
The smoulder stops our nose with stench, the sunne offends our eies,
The pots of lime unsleakt, from highest top are cast,
The parched peas are not forgot to make them slip as fast.
That last bit especially with the dried peas for a bit of military slapstick comes from Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women — I think it’s the first “good” woman too: Cleopatra.
I can not write what was his sweetest soure,
For I my selfe was never paramoure.
This echoes a very famous moment in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde where at the height of the love affair the narrator self-consciously excuses and excludes himself.
Here are a couple echoes or imitations from Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess:
When deadly hate,
Did play check mate,
With me poore pawne….
They be the pangs, which strive to stop my breath,
They be the pangs, which part my love from thee.
What said I? Love? Nay lyfe: but not my love,
My life departes, my love continues still….
And here is another Chaucerian masterpiece:
This tenth of March when Aries receyv’d,
Dame Phoebus rayes, into his horned head:
And I my selfe, by learned lore perceyv’d,
That Ver approcht, and frostie wynter fled.
I crost the Thames, to take the cherefull ayre,
In open feeldes, the weather was so fayre.
And as I rowed, fast by the further shore,
I heard a voyce, which seemed to lament:
Wherat I stay’d, and by a stately dore,
I left my Boate, and up on land I went.
Till at the last by lasting payne I found,
The wofull wight, which made this dolefull sound.
In pleasaunt garden (placed all alone)
I sawe a Dame, who sat in weary wise,
With scalding sighes, she uttred all hir mone,
The ruefull teares, downe rayned from hir eyes:
Hir lowring head, full lowe on hand she layed,
On knee hir arme: and thus this Lady sayed.
Alas (quod she) behold eche pleasaunt greene,
Will now renew, his sommers livery,
The fragrant flowers, which have not long bene seene,
Will florish now, (ere long) in bravery:
The tender buddes, whom colde hath long kept in,
Will spring and sproute, as they do now begin.
But I (alas) within whose mourning mynde,
The graffes of grief, are onely given to growe,
Cannot enjoy the spring which others finde,
But still my will, must wyther all in woe:
The cold of care, so nippes my joyes at roote,
No sunne doth shine, that well can do them boote.
The lustie Ver which whillome might exchange
My griefe to joy, and then my joyes encrease,
Springs now elsewhere, and showes to me but strange,
My winters woe, therfore can never cease:
In other coasts, his sunne full clere doth shyne,
And comfort lends to ev’ry mould but myne.
What plant can spring that feeles no force of Ver?
What flower can florish, where no sunne doth shyne?
These Bales (quod she) within my breast I beare,
To breake my barke, and make my pyth to pyne:
Needs must I fall, I fade both roote and rynde,
My braunches bowe, at blast of ev’ry wynde.
This sayed: she cast a glance and spied my face,
By sight wherof, Lord how she chaunged hew?
So that for shame, I turned backe a pace
And to my home, my selfe in hast I drew:
And as I could hir woofull wordes reherse,
I set them downe in this waymenting verse.
Now Ladies you, that know by whom I sing,
And feele the wynter, of such frozen wylls:
Of curtesie, yet cause this noble spring,
To send his sunne, above the highest hilles:
And so to shyne, uppon hir fading sprayes,
Which now in woe, do wyther thus alwayes.
*Spreta tamen vivunt*
This poem from A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres begins with a characteristically Chaucerian arbitrary date (in Chaucer, a sprinkling of May 3rd no one has determined the significance of, and in The House of Fame I think there’s a December 10th). But for the absence of the Dream-Vision set-up, this poem proceeds very much like the Prologue to The Legend of Good Women or, in finding a solo love-complainer, The Book of the Duchess, in which Chaucer memorialized Blanche, John of Gaunt’s late first wife, by creating a Black Knight character and giving him Gaunt’s voice of mourning. That’s the kind of ventriloquism I’m guessing Oxford is extending, in general, or in this case with brazen cheekiness, since the Dame is lamenting the departure of Ver! The abrupt enigmatic withdrawal at the end of the slight narrative is also standard Chaucer à la Book of the Duchess and elsewhere.