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De Vere Poem 8: The Lively Lark Stretched Forth Her Wing

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. 8: “The Lively Lark Stretched Forth Her Wing”

(May #8: 6 x 4)

1            The lively lark stretched forth her wing,

2            The messenger of morning bright,

3            And with her cheerful voice did sing

4            The day’s approach, discharging night,

5            When that Aurora, blushing red,

6            Descried the guilt of Thetis’ bed.


7            I went abroad to take the air,

8            And in the meads I met a knight,

9            Clad in carnation colour fair;

10          I did salute this gentle wight,

11          Of him I did his name inquire.

12          He sighed, and said he was Desire.


13          Desire I did desire to stay,

14          Awhile with him I craved to talk;

15          The courteous knight said me no nay,

16          But hand in hand with me did walk.

17          Then of Desire I asked again

18          What thing did please, and what did pain?


19          He smiled, and thus he answered then,

20          “Desire can have no greater pain

21          Than for to see another man

22          That he desireth, to obtain;

23          Nor greater joy can be than this,

24          Than to enjoy that others miss.


(1-2) The lively lark stretched forth her wing, The messenger of morning bright

‘Lo here the gentle lark, weary of rest, From his moist cabinet mounts up on high, And wakes the morning’ (Venus, 853); ‘the morning lark’ (Dream, 4.1.94, and Shrew, ind.2.44); ‘the lark, the herald of the morn’ (R&J, 3.5.6); ‘And then my state (Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate’ (Sonnets, 29.10); ‘Hark! Hark! The lark at heaven’s gate sings, And Phoebus ’gins arise’ (Cym., 2.3.22).

Phoebus is an epithet for Apollo, Greco-Roman god of the sun.

(5-6) When that Aurora, blushing red, Descried the guilt of Thetis’ bed

‘And yonder shines Aurora’s harbinger, At whose approach, ghosts, wandering here and there, Troop home to churchyards’ (Dream, 3.2.380-82); ‘When lo the blushing morrow Lends light to all’ (Lucrece, 1082); ‘Many a morning hath he there been seen … But all so soon as the all-cheering sun Should in the farthest East begin to draw The shady curtains from Aurora’s bed’ (R&J, 1.1.136).

See also No. 14.33 (The morning, blushing red) (Aurora = dawn).

As to Thetis’ bed:

Hymen’s purest bed’ (Timon, 4.3.383); ‘Cytherea, how bravely thou becom’st thy bed!’ (Cym., 2.2.15); ‘Juno’s crown, O blessed bond of board and bed!’ (As You, 5.4.142); ‘Whom Jove hath mark’d The honour of your bed’ (Kins., 1.1.30).

The Ovidian conjunction of mythological figures with bed-play is a motif the two samples have in common.

The amours of the gods are a conspicuous point of curiosity in both the Oxford poems and the works of Shakespeare. See No. 6.17-18.

(15) The courteous knight

‘You are right courteous knights’ (Per., 2.3.27).

[posted January 22, 2018]

About Bryan Wildenthal

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