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De Vere Poem 3: Forsaken Man

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. 3: “Forsaken Man”

(May #3: 4 x 6 with terminal couplet)

1            A crown of bays shall that man wear

2            That triumphs over me,

3            For black and tawny will I wear,

4            Which mourning colours be.

 

5            The more I followed one, the more she fled away,

6            As Daphne did full long agone, Apollo’s wishful prey;

7            The more my plaints resound, the less she pities me;

8            The more I sought, the less I found that mine she meant to be.

 

9            Melpomene, alas, with doleful tunes help then,

10          And sing (bis) woe worth on me, forsaken man.

11          Then Daphne’s bays shall that man wear that triumphs over me,

12          For black and tawny will I wear, which mourning colours be.

 

13          Drown me you trickling tears, you wailful wights of woe;

14          Come help these hands to rent my hairs, my rueful haps to show

15          On whom the scorching flames of love doth feed you see;

16          Ah a lalalantida, my dear dame hath thus tormented me.

 

17          Wherefore you Muses nine, with doleful tunes help then,

18          And sing (bis) woe worth on me, forsaken man.

19          Then Daphne’s bays shall that man wear that triumphs over me,

20          For black and tawny will I wear, which mourning colours be.

 

21          An anchor’s life to lead, with nails to scratch my grave,

22          Where earthly worms on me shall feed, is all the joy I crave,

23          And hide myself from shame, sith [since] that mine eyes do see,

24          Ah a lalalantida, my dear dame hath thus tormented me.

 

25          And all that present be, with doleful tunes help then,

26          And sing (bis) woe worth on me, forsaken man.

 

“Bis” (lines 10, 18, 26) indicates a passage should be repeated (thus here: “And sing and sing …”).

(1) crown of bays

‘an olive branch and laurel crown’ (3 Hen. VI, 4.6.34); ‘crowns, sceptres, laurels’ (Troil., 1.3.107) (bay = laurel).

(5) The more I followed one, the more she fled away

 ‘The more I hate, the more he follows me’ (Dream, 1.1.197); ‘I follow’d fast, but faster he did fly’ (Dream, 3.3.4).

In these expressions, contrasting (e)motions produce paradoxical results, a favorite motif of Shakespeare.

(6) As Daphne did full long agone, Apollo’s wishful prey

Apollo flies, and Daphne holds the chase’ (Dream, 2.1.231); ‘Tell me, Apollo, for thy Daphne’s love’ (Troil., 1.1.98).

(7-8) The more my plaints resound, the less she pities me; The more I sought, the less I found that mine she meant to be

‘by hoping more they have but less’ (Lucrece, 137); ‘Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more’ (Caes., 3.2.22); ‘A little more than kin, and less than kind’ (Ham., 1.2.65); ‘More than I seem, and less than I was born to’ (3 Hen. VI, 3.1.56); ‘That moves in him more rage and lesser pity’ (Lucrece, 468); ‘The lesser thing should not the greater hide’ (Lucrece, 663); ‘The repetition cannot make it less, For more it is than I can well express’ (Lucrece, 1285); ‘An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling’ (Sonnets, 20.5); ‘The more my prayer, the lesser is my grace’ (Dream, 2.2.89).

In a variation on the more/more paradox above, the less/more antithesis is another figure common to both samples.

(9, 17, 25) doleful tunes

‘a very doleful tune’ (Win., 4.4.262).

(13) Drown me you trickling tears

‘we drown our gains in tears’ (All’s Well, 4.3.68); ‘which burns Worse than tears drown’ (Win., 2.1.112); ‘My heart is drown’d with grief, Whose flood begins to flow within mine eyes’ (2 Hen. VI, 3.1.198); ‘Lest with my sighs or tears I blast or drown’ (3 Hen. VI, 4.4.23); ‘tears shall drown the wind’ (Mac., 1.7.25); ‘drown the stage with tears’ (Ham., 2.2.562); ‘Then can I drown an eye unus’d to flow’ (Sonnets, 30.5); ‘But floods of tears will drown my or­atory’ (Titus, 5.3.90); ‘who drown’d their enmity in my true tears’ (Titus, 5.3.107); ‘To drown me in thy sister’s flood of tears’ (Errors, 3.2.46).

Both the de Vere and “Shakespeare” poems place considerable emphasis, both dramatic and lyrical, on weeping as a manifestation of feeling. This may be interpreted as one sign of their fascination with states of human emotion, including weeping as an outward expression of various emotional states. See also No. 9.1 (trickling tears), and more generally, Nos. 4 and 5.

(14) help these hands to rent [i.e., rend or tear] my hairs

‘Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand For lifting food to ’t?’ (Lear, 3.4.15); ‘These hands shall tear her’ (Much, 4.1.191); ‘Whose breath indeed these hands have newly stopp’d’ (Oth., 5.2.202); ‘Let him have time to tear his curled hair’ (Lucrece, 981).

(15) On whom the scorching flames of love doth feed

‘whom flaming war doth scorch’ (Kins., 1.1.91); ‘feed’st thy light’s flame’ (Sonnets, 1.6); ‘to feed for aye her lamp and flames of love’ (Troil., 3.2.160).

(21) An anchor’s life to lead, with nails to scratch my grave

‘An anchor’s cheer in prison be my scope!’ (Ham., 3.2.219).

(21-22) to scratch my grave, Where earthly worms on me shall feed, is all the joy I crave

Compare the dying Mercutio: ‘A scratch, a scratch … Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man … They have made worms’ meat of me’ (R&J, 3.1.93).

Also: ‘Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs’ (Rich. II, 3.2.145); ‘I wish you all joy of the worm’ (A&C, 5.2.260); ‘[Percy:] And food for— [Dies.] For worms, brave Percy’ (1 Hen. IV, 5.4.85-86).

[posted January 22, 2018]

About Bryan Wildenthal

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