The Introduction to this new Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship edition of the known poems of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), explaining their text, format, annotations, and historical background, with key to abbreviations and works cited, is available here (see copyright notice therein, note 1). The other de Vere poems published in this edition (and a printable and citable pdf version of the entire article, including all 20 poems with annotations) may be accessed from the Introduction.
Poem No. 20: “Cupid’s Bow”
(May PBO #4a & #4: rhyming couplets)
1 In Peascod time when hound to horn gives ear while Buck is kill’d,
2 And little boys with pipes of Corn sit keeping beasts in field,
3 I went to gather Strawberries tho’ when woods and groves were fair,
4 And parch’d my face with Phoebus lo, by walking in the air.
5 I lay me down all by a stream and banks all over head,
6 And there I found the strangest dream, that ever young man had.
7 Methought I saw each Christmas game, both revels all and some,
8 And each thing else that man could name or might by fancy come,
9 The substance of the thing I saw, in Silence pass it shall,
10 Because I lack the skill to draw, the order of them all;
11 But Venus shall not scape my pen, whose maidens in disdain,
12 Sit feeding on the hearts of men, whom Cupid’s bow hath slain.
13 And that blind Boy sat all in blood, bebathed to the Ears,
14 And like a conqueror he stood, and scorned lovers’ tears.
15 “I have more hearts,” quoth he, “at call, than Caesar could command.
16 And like the deer I make them fall, that overcross the land.
17 I do increase their wand’ring wits, till that I dim their sight.
18 ’Tis I that do bereave them of their Joy and chief delight.”
19 Thus did I see this bragging Boy advance himself even then,
20 Deriding at the wanton toys, of foolish loving men.
21 Which when I saw for anger then my panting breast did beat,
22 To see how he sat taunting them, upon his royal seat.
23 O then I wish’d I had been free, and cured were my wound.
24 Methought I could display his arms, and coward deeds expound.
25 But I perforce must stay my muse, full sore against my heart
26 For that I am a Subject wight, and lanced with his dart.
27 But if that I achieve the fort, which I have took in charge,
28 My Hand and Head with quivering quill, shall blaze his name at large.
(1) In Peascod time
‘these nine and twenty years, come peascod-time’ (2 Hen. IV, 2.4.383).
(1) when hound to horn gives ear
‘She hearkens for his hounds and for his horn’ (Venus, 868); cf. ‘Adonis comes with horn and hounds’ (Pass. Pilg., 9.6); ‘with horn and hound’ (Titus, 1.1.494); ‘hounds and horns’ (Titus, 2.3.27).
(2) boys with pipes of Corn sit keeping beasts in field
‘And in the shape of Corin sat all day, Playing on pipes of corn’ (Dream, 2.1.66-67); ‘When shepherds pipe on oaten straws’ (LLL, 5.2.903). Corin was a name commonly used by poets for a shepherd boy.
(4) parch’d my face with Phoebus lo, by walking in the air
‘Think on me, That am with Phoebus’ amorous pinches black And wrinkled deep in time?’ (A&C, 1.5.27-29); cf. ‘parch in Afric sun’ (Troil., 1.3.369); ‘Lo! whilst I waited on my tender lambs, And to sun’s parching heat display’d my cheeks’ (1 Hen. VI, 1.2.77).
Phoebus is an epithet for Apollo, Greco-Roman god of the sun.
(6) And there I found the strangest dream, that ever young man had
‘I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was’ (Dream, 4.1.205); ‘the rarest dream that e’er dull’d sleep’ (Per., 5.1.161); cf. ‘Strange dream, that gives a dead man leave to think’ (R&J, 5.1.7).
(10) Because I lack the skill to draw
‘I have no skill in sense to make distinction’ (All’s Well, 3.4.39); ‘Sir, I have not much skill in grass’ (All’s Well, 4.5.21); ‘I have not the skill’ (Ham., 3.2.362); cf. ‘Which far exceeds his barren skill to show’ (Lucrece, 81); ‘with the little skill I have’ (Titus, 2.1.43); ‘Had I sufficient skill to utter them’ (3 Hen. VI, 5.5.13); ‘if I have any skill’ (Kins., 5.2.53).
(11) But Venus shall not scape my pen
‘and who shall scape whipping?’ (Ham., 2.2.530); ‘thou shalt not escape calumny’ (Ham., 3.1.136); ‘in sooth you scape not so’ (Shrew, 2.1.240); ‘we shall not scape a brawl’ (R&J, 3.1.3); ‘the villain shall not scape’ (Lear, 2.1.80).
(12-13) feeding on the hearts of men, whom Cupid’s bow hath slain. And that blind Boy sat all in blood, bebathed to the Ears
‘bath’d in maiden blood’ (Titus, 2.3.232); ‘let us bathe our hands in Caesar’s blood’ (Caes., 3.1.106); ‘bathe my dying honour in the blood’ (A&C, 4.2.6); ‘The mailed Mars shall on his altar sit Up to the ears in blood’ (1 Hen. IV, 4.1.117); cf. ‘Out, damned spot! Out, I say! … Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? … What, will these hands ne’er be clean?’ (Mac., 5.1.32, 35-37, 40).
While the last of these five echoes lacks any explicit double parallel to bathe or ears (in addition to blood), Lady Macbeth is desperately seeking to wash (bathe) off her victim’s blood. The vividly horrific impression left by all the samples is of inundation in blood.
Also: ‘slain in Cupid’s wars’ (Per., 1.1.38); cf. ‘Cupid’s bow’ (Venus, 581); ‘Cupid’s strongest bow’ (Dream, 1.1.169); ‘Cupid’s bow-string’ (Much, 3.2.10).
(14) like a conqueror he stood, and scorned lovers’ tears
‘My manly eyes did scorn an humble tear’ (Rich. III, 1.2.164); cf. ‘Hunting he loved, but love he laughed to scorn’ (Venus, 4).
(15) “I have more hearts,” quoth [the blind Boy Cupid], “at call, than Caesar could command”
‘His … ministers would prevail Under the service of a child as soon As i’th’ command of Caesar’ (A&C, 3.13.22-25).
(16) “like the deer I make them fall”
‘Here wast thou bayed, brave hart; Here didst thou fall … How like a deer strucken by many princes Doth thou here lie!’ (Caes., 3.1.205).
(17) “dim their sight”
‘Gazing on that which seems to dim thy sight’ (2 Hen. VI, 1.2.6).
(18) “bereave them of their Joy and chief delight”
‘bereave him of his wits with wonder’ (1 Hen. VI, 5.3.195); cf. ‘joy delights in joy’ (Sonnets, 8.2).
(19-20) this bragging Boy [Cupid] … Deriding at the wanton toys, of foolish loving men
‘To toy, to wanton, dally, smile, and jest’ (Venus, 106); ‘toys Of feather’d Cupid’ (Oth., 1.3.268).
Shakespeare associates wanton with Cupid and boys on six occasions.
(22) upon his royal seat
‘The rightful heir of England’s royal seat’ (2 Hen. VI, 5.1.178); ‘in the seat royal of this famous isle’ (Rich. III, 3.1.164); cf. ‘this the regal seat’ (3 Hen. VI, 1.1.26); ‘Have shaken Edward from the regal seat’ (3 Hen. VI, 4.6.2); ‘the supreme seat’ (Rich. III, 3.7.118); ‘the seat of majesty’ (Rich. III, 3.7.169).
(23) cured were my wound
‘cureless are my wounds’ (3 Hen. VI, 2.6.23); ‘with a wound I must be cured’ (A&C, 4.14.78); cf. ‘A smile recures [i.e., cures] the wounding of a frown’ (Venus, 465); ‘the deer That hath received some unrecuring [i.e., incurable] wound’ (Titus, 3.1.90).
(25) But I perforce must stay my muse
‘my sick muse doth give another place’ (Sonnets, 79.3-4); ‘My tongue-tied muse in manners holds her still [i.e., politely stays quiet]’ (Sonnets, 85.1); ‘Alack what poverty my muse brings forth … O blame me not if I no more can write!’ (Sonnets, 103.1, 5).
(27-28) But if that I achieve the fort [i.e., his beloved], which I have took in charge, My Hand and Head with quivering quill, shall blaze his [Cupid’s] name at large
‘He hath achieved a maid … that excels the quirks of blazoning pens’ (Oth., 2.1.61, 63); cf. ‘the half-achiev’d Harfleur [a French port]’ (Hen. V, 3.3.8).[posted January 22, 2018]