See the Introduction to this new presentation of early poems by Edward de Vere. Click here to go to the next poem or the previous poem in the series. All the poems, and a printable pdf version of the entire presentation, may also be accessed from the Introduction. See also Note on Sources, Titles, and Presentation of Parallels, Key to Abbreviations, and Bibliography of Works Cited.
Poem No. 4: “The Loss of My Good Name”
1 Framed in the front of forlorn hope, past all recovery,
2 I stayless stand t’abide the shock of shame and infamy.
3 My life, through lingering long, is lodged in lair of loathsome ways,
4 My death delayed to keep from life the harm of hapless days.
5 My sprites, my heart, my wit and force in deep distress are drowned;
6 The only loss of my good name is of these griefs the ground.
7 And since my mind, my wit, my head, my voice and tongue are weak
8 To utter, move, devise, conceive, sound forth, declare and speak
9 Such piercing plaints as answer might, or would, my woeful case,
10 Help crave I must, and crave I will, with tears upon my face
11 Of all that may in heaven or hell, in earth or air, be found
12 To wail with me this loss of mine, as of these griefs the ground.
13 Help gods, help saints, help sprites and powers that in the heaven do dwell,
14 Help ye that are to wail, ay wont, ye howling hounds of hell,
15 Help man, help beasts, help birds and worms that on the earth doth toil,
16 Help fish, help fowl that flocks and feeds upon the salt sea soil,
17 Help echo that in air doth flee, shrill voices to resound
18 To wail this loss of my good name, as of these griefs the ground.
Textual sources: Grosart (401-02); Looney (1921, Miller ed. 1975, 1: 580-81);
May (#4) (1980, 27-28; 1991, 272-73).
Poem structure: 6 x 3.
Looney’s title: “Loss of Good Name.”
Past commentaries on parallels: Looney (1920, 157-60); Sobran (238-39);
Brazil & Flues; Prechter (2012).
Clarifications of the text:
(5, 13) The word sprites, in the context of line 5, is an archaic usage (meaning “spirits”) that may confuse modern readers (OED 16: 361). The archaic meaning survives to some extent in modern usage ( e.g., spritely = “spirited”). In line 13, sprites is used in a somewhat different though related sense (more readily comprehensible today), referring to elves or “spirit” creatures.
(5, 7) The term wit as used here refers to intelligence or mental sharpness, not humor (OED 20: 432-34).
We urge readers to consult Appendix A for further discussion of the striking evidence provided by this very early poem (possibly the earliest work included in this presentation), which de Vere probably wrote when he was only 13.
We wish to emphasize that this presentation of the parallels to No. 4 relies especially heavily on the excellent cited article by Prechter.
Strongest parallels to No. 4:
(3) My life, through lingering long, is lodged in lair of loathsome ways
Word choice, theme, and alliteration all link the following:
‘life, Which false hope lingers in extremity’ (Rich. II, 2.2.71-72); ‘by the minute feed on life and, ling’ring, By inches waste you (Cym., 5.5.51-52); ‘lean-faced Envy in her loathsome cave’ (i.e., lair) (2 Hen., VI, 3.2.315); ‘This loathsome sequestration have I had … detained me all my flow’ring youth Within a loathsome dungeon, there to pine’ (1 Hen., VI, 2.5.25, 57); ‘O, let him keep his loathsome cabin still’ (Venus, 637).
(6, 18) loss of my good name
The phrase good name occurs at least twelve times in the Shakespeare canon, including three repetitions of the exact phrase my good name. Shakespeare may fairly be described as obsessed with the theme of good name and loss of same (see Looney 1920, 157-60; Spevack 866-67).
Perhaps best known is Iago’s rumination on loss of good name:
‘Good name in man and woman … Is the immediate jewel of their souls. Who steals my purse steals trash … But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him And makes me poor indeed’ (Oth., 3.3.155-61).
See also: ‘Let my good name … be kept unspotted’ (Lucrece, 820-21); ‘an excellent good name’ (Much, 3.1.98); ‘a good name’ (Much, 3.3.14); ‘your great deservings and good name’ (1 Hen. IV, 4.3.35); ‘well bred and of good name’ (2 Hen. IV, 1.1.26); ‘in good name and fame’ (2 Hen. IV, 2.4.75); ‘keep that good name’ (Hen. V, 3.7.102); ‘thy good name’ (Timon, 5.1.160); ‘[Cloten:] Sell me your good report. [Lady:] How? My good name?’ (Cym., 2.3.83-84); ‘Some part of a good name’ (Kins., 5.3.27).
Looney noted in particular (1920, 158) the expectation or desire expressed in Shake-speare’s Sonnets that the poet’s name, due to some mysterious disgrace, “should be buried with his body” and would remain unknown to posterity—a point, as Looney noted, “quite inconsistent with either the Stratfordian or the Baconian theory of authorship” but strongly consistent with the Oxfordian theory.
Looney cited Sonnets 71, 72, 81, 110, 111, 112, and 121, and quoted at length from Sonnet 29:
When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate
See also, e.g.: ‘the shame, Which like a canker in the fragrant Rose, Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name?’ (Sonnets, 95.1-3); ‘my name receives a brand’ (Sonnets, 111.5).
In addition to all of the above, see, e.g.:
‘dishonor not her honorable name’ (1 Hen. VI, 4.5.14); ‘hath dishonored Gloucester’s honest name’ (2 Hen. VI, 2.1.193); ‘So shall my name with slander’s tongue be wounded’ (2 Hen. VI, 3.2.68); ‘Never yet did base dishonor blur our name’ (2 Hen. VI, 4.1.39); ‘wrong the reputation of your name’ (LLL, 2.1.154); ‘who can blot that name … ?’ (Much, 4.1.80); ‘my maiden’s name Seared otherwise’ (All’s Well, 2.1.170-73); ‘She robs thee of thy name’ (As You, 1.3.76); ‘my unsoiled name’ (Meas., 2.4.155); ‘my land[,] Legitimation, name, and all is gone’ (John, 1.1.247-48); ‘but my fair name, Despite of death that lives upon my grave, To dark dishonor’s use thou shalt not have’ (Rich. II, 1.1.167-69); ‘thou dost seek to kill my name’ (Rich. II, 2.1.86); ‘his great name profaned’ (1 Hen. IV, 3.2.64); ‘I love The name of honor more than I fear death’ (Caes., 1.2.88-89); ‘To keep my name ungored’ (Ham., 5.2.239); ‘O God, Horatio, what a wounded name, Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!’ (Ham., 5.2.333-34).
(7-8, 10-11) … my mind, my wit, my head, my voice and tongue are weak
To utter, move, devise, conceive, sound forth, declare and speak
Help crave I must …
Of all that may in heaven or hell, in earth or air, be found
Compare the use of two verbs above (though the samples use move in different senses) in a similar rapid-fire list of verbs: ‘they … do muster true gait, eat, speak, and move under the influence of the most received star; and though the devil lead the measure [i.e., the dance], such are to be followed’ (All’s Well, 2.1.52-56).
Both samples involve the one who acts seeking help from, or acting under the influence of, both heavenly and hellish forces. See also the parallels noted to lines 10-11 & 13-15, and to line 11 specifically.
Later, in the same scene of All’s Well That Ends Well, weak/speak is echoed by speak/weak: ‘Methinks in thee some blessed spirit doth speak His powerful sound within an organ weak’ (All’s Well, 2.1.175-76). It would be unremarkable if each sample merely used the same two common words to create a rhyme, but both also present the same image of a weak vessel with a powerful message to declare and speak.
And there’s more: The latter Shakespearean lines are spoken by the King in response to Helena wagering—yes—the loss of (her) good name (see parallels to lines 6 & 18; see also line 2, shame and infamy), if she proves unable to cure the King’s malady.
‘[King:] What dar’st thou venture?’ [Helena:] Tax of [i.e., charge me with] impudence, A strumpet’s boldness, a divulged shame Traduced by odious ballads; my maiden’s name Seared otherwise’ (All’s Well, 2.1.170-73).
(10-11, 13-15) Help crave I must …
Of all that may in heaven or hell, in earth or air, be found
Help gods, help saints, help sprites and powers that in the heaven do dwell,
Help ye that are to wail, ay wont, ye howling hounds of hell,
Help man, help beasts, help birds and worms that on the earth doth toil
Echoing the young de Vere, Shakespeare’s Lucrece, Joan of Arc in Henry VI, Part 1, Prospero in The Tempest, and Queen Margaret in Richard III, all call upon various supernatural forces and entities for help:
‘She conjures him by high almighty Jove … By heaven and earth, and all the power of both … To all the host of heaven I complain me’ (Lucrece, 568, 572, 598).
‘Now help, ye charming spells and periapts [i.e., amulets, objects with supernatural powers]; And ye choice spirits that admonish me’ (1 Hen. VI, 5.3.2-3).
‘Ye elves [i.e., sprites or spirits] of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves, And ye that on the sands with printless foot Do chase the ebbing Neptune … you demi-puppets [i.e., elves or sprites or spirits] … by whose aid … I have bedimmed The noontide sun, called forth mutinous winds [etc.]’ (Tem., 5.1.33-36, 40-42).
‘A hellhound that doth hunt us all to death … Earth gapes, hell burns, fiends roar, saints pray, To have him suddenly conveyed from hence. Cancel his bond of life, dear God, I pray’ (Rich. III, 4.4.48, 75-77).
Compare, in the last quotation above, the tersely rhythmic two-syllable clauses in de Vere’s lines 13-15 with six similar clauses in the second part of that quotation—four of which (as indicated) use de Vere’s exact words.
Expanding on something Prechter very astutely noticed (150), we observe that these four short Shakespearean passages quoted above—to convey the theme of desperately invoking supernatural help—use 15 words a total of 20 times that are identical or interchangeable with 12 words used 22 times by the teenage de Vere in just the five lines quoted above, to convey the very same theme:
- help (8) /  help (1) (including parallel of help ye / help ye, but not counting parallels of crying help with seeking aid and pray[ing], nor that plaints appears in line 9, nor that help appears thrice more in lines 16-17, all to express the same theme).
- heaven (2) /  heaven (2) (note that the full parallels to heaven are strikingly close: all that may in heaven or … earth … be found / powers that in the heaven do dwell / heaven and earth, and all the power of both / all the host of heaven).
- hounds of hell (1) /  hellhound (1),  fiends (1) /  spirits (1).
- hell (1) (not counting hounds of hell) /  hell (1) (not counting hellhound).
- earth (2) /  earth (2).
- gods (1) /  God (1) /  Jove (1).
- saints (1) /  saints (1).
- sprites (1) /  elves (1) /  demi-puppets (1) / (and again) spirits.
- powers (1) /  power (1).
- wail (1) /  roar (1).
- howling (1) / (and again) roar.
- ye (2) /  ye (4) (including parallel of ye that / ye that, but not counting Shakespearean use of the common pronoun “you”).
On wailing and howling, by the way, see: ‘my father wailing, my sister crying, our maid howling’ (Two Gent., 2.3.6-7).
While the modern word “you” was already becoming very common in Shakespeare’s time, used well over 14,000 times in the Shakespeare canon (Spevack 1566), the archaic ye (OED 20: 707-08), already starting to go out of fashion during the time Shakespeare wrote, was used far less often—just 409 times in the canon, including all 63 instances of the contraction y’ on the assumption ye was meant—i.e., less than 0.05% (less than 1 in 2,000) of all 880,000-plus words in the canon (Spevack v, 1555-56).
By way of comparison, here are the total counts in canonical Shakespeare for the other parallel words:
help (339), heaven(s) (855), hell (171), hound(s) (42), hellhound(s) (3), fiend(s) (82), earth (332), god(s) (1,325), Jove(s) (102), saint(s) (131), sprite(s) (18), spirit(s) (396), elf(ves) (10), demi-puppet(s) (1) (“puppet(s)” alone appears another 10 times), power(s) (380), wail(ed/ing/s) (39), howl(ed/ing/s) (36), roar(ed/ing/s) (77) (Spevack 284, 339-40, 346-47, 410, 488-92, 564-66, 570-72, 604, 614, 651-52, 998-99, 1024, 1066, 1079-80, 1194-96, 1198, 1437).
Thus, the concentrated conjunction of all these words in just five lines of de Vere’s poetry and four short Shakespearean scenes—all five samples involving the very same motif of seeking supernatural assistance—cannot very plausibly be dismissed as an artifact of common usage. Most of these words are not extremely rare in Shakespeare (though some are, as indicated above), but none of them are that commonly used—certainly not in such striking conjunction, matching de Vere’s parallel concentrated usage.
Shakespeare also refers specifically elsewhere to hounds of hell:
‘A pair of cursed hell-hounds and their dam’ (Titus, 5.2.144); ‘Turn, hellhound, turn!’ (Mac., 5.8.3).
(12, 18) To wail with me this loss of mine … To wail this loss of my good name
‘Wailing our losses’ (3 Hen. VI, 2.3.26); ‘Wise men ne’er sit and wail their loss’ (3 Hen. VI, 5.4.1); cf. ‘That she hath thee is of my wailing chief, A loss in love that touches me more dearly’ (Sonnets, 42.3).
Again we see in each sample, in strikingly similar words, the common interest in extreme states of emotion. Does the second parallel to Henry VI, Part 3, suggest perhaps some wisdom that with age had come to the poet?
(16) fowl that flocks and feeds upon the salt sea soil
‘salt-sea shark’ (Mac., 4.1.24).
Sobran observed this parallel, and Prechter added the observation (154) that the compound adjective salt sea appears to be very rare. See Appendix A for further discussion of why this is a surprisingly strong parallel.
See also: ‘Drown the lamenting fool [thy heart] in sea-salt tears’ (Titus, 3.2.20); ‘As many fresh streams meet in one salt sea’ (Hen. V, 1.2.210); ‘the eastern gate, all fiery red, Opening on Neptune … Turns into yellow gold his salt green streams’ (Dream, 3.2.391-93); cf. ‘With tears as salt as sea’ (2 Hen. VI, 3.2.96); ‘For still thy eyes, which I may call the sea, Do ebb and flow with tears; the bark thy body is, Sailing in this salt flood’ (R&J, 3.5.133-35); ‘Neptune’s salt wash’ (Ham., 3.2.147).
Additional parallels to No. 4:
(1) forlorn hope, past all recovery
‘For grief that they are past recovery; For were there hope to conquer them again’ (2 Hen. VI, 1.1.114-15).
(4) death delayed to keep from life the harm of hapless days
‘His days may finish ere that hapless time’ (2 Hen. VI, 3.1.200); ‘In the delaying death’ (Meas., 4.2.164).
(5) in deep distress are drowned
Ophelia, drowning, is ‘incapable of her own distress’ (Ham., 4.7.178); cf. ‘deeply distressed’ (Venus, 814).
(6, 12, 18) of these griefs the ground
‘any ground To build a grief on’ (2 Hen. IV, 4.1.109-10).
In addition to the alliterative word parallel, note the similar usage of the less-common singular ground, in atypical relation to emotions as opposed to cognitive or rational matters (contrast, e.g., “grounds for a claim”).
See also: ‘We see the ground whereon these woes do lie, But the true ground of all these piteous woes’ (R&J, 5.3.179-80); ‘grounds and motives of her woe’ (Lover’s Comp., 63).
(9) Such piercing plaints as answer might, or would, my woeful case
‘Hearing how our plaints and prayers do pierce’ (Rich. II 5.3.127); ‘the traitor Stands in worse case of woe’ (Cym., 3.4.86-87).
(10) Help crave I must, and crave I will
‘Hence will I to my ghostly father’s cell, His help to crave’ (R&J, 2.2.189-90).
(10) with tears upon my face
‘Cooling his hot face in the chastest tears’ (Lucrece, 682); ‘Poor soul, thy face is much abused with tears’ (R&J, 4.1.29).
(11) in heaven or hell, in earth or air
Yet more parallels to this line in particular (see also those to lines 7-8 & 10-11, and to lines 10-11 & 13-15):
‘Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air, Th’extravagant and erring spirit hies To his confine’ (Ham., 1.1.153); ‘Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell’ (Ham., 1.4.41); ‘Am I in earth, in heaven, or in hell?’ (Errors, 2.2.211); ‘I’ th’ air or th’ earth?’ (Tem., 1.2.388).
(17) echo that in air doth flee, shrill voices to resound
‘shrill echoes from the hollow earth’ (Shrew, ind.2.46); ‘What shrill-voiced suppliant makes this eager cry?’ (Rich. II, 5.3.75); cf. ‘thy small pipe Is as the maiden’s organ, shrill and sound’ (Twelfth, 1.4.31-32).