Disdainful Dame

This fragment comes from George Gascogine (1539-78), Elizabethan poet & soldier.  What is particularly charming about the poem is the author’s determination to chastise, Horatian-style, his scornful mistress.
Farewell with a Mischief
written by a lover being disdainfully abjected by a dame of high calling, who had chosen (in his place) a playfellow of baser condition: & therefore he determined to step aside, and before his departure giveth her this farewell in verse
Thy birth, thy beauty, nor thy brave attire,
(Disdainful Dame, which doest me double wrong)
Thy high estate, which sets thy heart on fire,
Or new found choice, which cannot serve thee long
Shall make me dread, with pen for to rehearse,
Thy skittish deeds, in this my parting verse.
For why thou knowest, and I myself can tell,
By many vows, how thou to me wert bound:
And how for joy, thy heart did seem to swell,
And in delight how thy desires were drowned.
When of thy will the walls I did assail,
Wherein fond fancy fought for mine avail.
And though my mind have small delight to vaunt,
Yet must I vow my heart to thee was true:
My hand was always able for to daunt
Thy slandrous foes and keep their tongues in mew.
My head (though dull) was yet of such device,
As might have kept thy name always in price.
And for the rest my body was not brave,
But able yet, of substance to allay
Thy raging lust, wherein thy limbs did rave,
And quench the coals which kindled thee to play.
Such one I was, and such always will be,
For worthy Dames, but then I mean not thee.
For thou hast caught a proper paragon,
A thief, a coward, and a Peacock fool:
An Ass, a milksop, and a minion,
Which hath no oil thy furious flames to cool;
Such one he is, a fere for thee most fit,
A wand’ring guest, to please thy wavering wit.
A thief I count him for he robs us both,
Thee of thy name, and me of my delight:
A coward is he noted where he goeth,
Since every child is match to him in might.
And for his pride no more, but mark his plumes,
The which to prink he days and nights consumes.
The rest thyself in secret sort can judge,
He rides not me, thou knowest his saddle best:
And though these tricks of thine mought [might] make me grudge,
And kindle wrath in my revenging breast,
Yet of myself, and not to please thy mind,
I stand content my rage in rule to bind.
And far from thee now must I take my flight,
Where tongues may tell (and I not see) thy fall:
Where I may drink these drugs of thy despite,
To purge my Melancholic mind withall.
In secret so, my stomach will I sterve [starve],
Wishing thee better than thou dost deserve.
                  Spraeta tamen vivunt


  • November 29, 2009 - 12:28 pm | Permalink

    It translates as The Disdained Will Nevertheless Live, which I think is close enough to ‘I fancied your best-friend all along’.

    Thanks everyone, it’s a brilliant poem isn’t it, so huffy!

  • November 29, 2009 - 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Does ‘Spraeta tamen vivunt’ translate as ‘well I fancied your mate more anyway’? – Great find!

  • November 29, 2009 - 11:24 am | Permalink

    – Well he did have a dull head, let’s face it…

  • November 29, 2009 - 11:16 am | Permalink

    Oooh, what a lovely back-handed whinge!!! Fantastic!

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