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De Vere Poem 9: The Trickling Tears That Fall Along My Cheeks

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. 9: “The Trickling Tears That Fall Along My Cheeks”

(May #9: 6 x 6)


1            The trickling tears that fall along my cheeks,

2            The secret sighs that show my inward grief,

3            The present pains perforce that love ay seeks,

4            Bid me renew my cares without relief

5            In woeful song, in dole display,

6            My pensive heart for to bewray.


7            Bewray thy grief, thou woeful heart, with speed,

8            Resign thy voice to her that caused thy woe;

9            With irksome cries bewail thy late-done deed,

10          For she thou lovest is sure thy mortal foe,

11          And help for thee there is none sure,

12          But still in pain thou must endure.


13          The stricken deer hath help to heal his wound,

14          The haggard hawk with toil is made full tame,

15          The strongest tower the cannon lays on ground,

16          The wisest wit that ever had the fame

17          Was thrall to love by Cupid’s sleights;

18          Then weigh my case with equal weights.


19          She is my joy, she is my care and woe,

20          She is my pain, she is my ease therefor,

21          She is my death, she is my life also,

22          She is my salve, she is my wounded sore;

23          In fine, she hath the hand and knife

24          That may both save and end my life.


25          And shall I live on earth to be her thrall?

26          And shall I sue and serve her all in vain?

27          And shall I kiss the steps that she lets fall?

28          And shall I pray the gods to keep the pain

29          From her, that is so cruel still?

30          No, no, on her work all your will.


31          And let her feel the power of all your might,

32          And let her have her most desire with speed,

33          And let her pine away both day and night,

34          And let her moan, and none lament her need,

35          And let all those that shall her see

36          Despise her state, and pity me.


The original sources refer to “tears that falls,” “sighs that shows,” and “Bids me renew” (lines 1-2, 4), grammatical mismatches likely to trip up modern readers, which are thus silently corrected above. The sources also use “therefore” in line 20, but the proper usage in context would clearly be “therefor” (“she” is the poet’s “ease … for” his “pain”), so “therefor” is silently substituted above.

(1) The trickling tears that fall along my cheeks

tears fret channels in her cheeks’ (Lear, 1.4.285); ‘Weep not, sweet queen; for trickling tears are vain’ (1 Hen. IV, 2.4.391).

Tears and cheeks often occur together in Shakespeare. See also No. 3.13 (trickling tears), and more generally, Nos. 4 and 5.

(2) The secret sighs that show my inward grief

my grief lies all within’ (Rich. II, 4.1.295); ‘A plague of sighing and grief!’ (1 Hen. IV, 2.4.332); ‘Consume away in sighs, waste inwardly’ (Much, 3.1.78).

This is a strong example of the topos of emotional dissimulation. Like strong emotion or weeping, dissimulatio—the purposeful obscuring by a character or speaker of an internal state, often practiced in the history plays for the sake of Machiavellian advancement—is evidently one of considerable interest not only to Shakespeare but also de Vere. See also Nos. 6.4, 10.9-10, 12.16, and 18.40.

(3) present pains

‘put me to present pain’ (Per., 5.1.222); ‘Tis good for men to love their present pains’ (Hen. V, 4.1.18).

(4) Bid me renew my cares without relief

‘And by her presence still renew his sorrows’ (Titus, 5.3.82).

(10) thy mortal foe

‘I here proclaim myself thy mortal foe’ (3 Hen. VI, 5.1.94); cf. ‘But I return his sworn and mortal foe’ (3 Hen. VI, 3.3.257).

(13) The stricken deer hath help to heal his wound

‘Why, let the stricken deer go weep’ (Ham., 3.2.287); ‘My pity hath been balm to heal their wounds’ (3 Hen. VI, 14.8.41).

Language very similar to this line is found in the “apocryphal” Shakespeare poem, “When as Thine Eye Had Chose the Dame” (Rollins 1938, 308-09) (e.g., “and stalde the deare that thou shouldst strike”). The earliest text of “When as Thine Eye” is the Cornwallis manuscript (Folger 1.112, c. 1585-90), with a spine labeled “Poems by the Earl of Oxford and Others.” Among the 33 poems contained in the manuscript are Oxford’s “echo” verses (No. 17) and a number of anonymous poems, some in the handwriting of King’s men actor John Bentley, who died in 1585 (see Miller, “Cornwallis”).

(14) The haggard hawk with toil is made full tame

‘Another way I have to man my haggard, To make her come, and know her keeper’s call’ (The Taming of the Shrew, 4.1.193-94); cf. ‘If I do prove her haggard, Though that her jesses were my dear heart-strings’ (Oth., 3.3.260-61); ‘her spirits are as coy and wild As haggards of the rock’ (Much, 3.1.35-36).

See also No. 19.9 (like haggards wild they range); Looney (1920, 139-40).

Professor May (2004, 223-24, 243-45) went to considerable efforts to discredit the haggard hawk parallels, which admittedly are not the strongest of the multitude presented here (an easy target among many far stronger parallels available to May, had he consulted Sobran’s 1997 book). See generally the Introduction (and note 9) to this edition of de Vere’s poems.

May argued the haggard motif, as applied to willful women, was an irrelevant “commonplace in Elizabethan verse” (224). He cited five poems by others (223-24 & nn. 13-17, 244-45, selections 5-9), but one (by John Grange) did not refer to haggards, only the more generic term “Unmanned hawks” (a key point of Looney’s argument, as May himself acknowledged, was the distinctiveness of the term haggard).

First of all, May fundamentally missed the broader relevant points: the sheer quantity of all these interlocking parallels between the known de Vere poems and Shakespeare; second, the unusual quality of many (concededly not all) of the specific parallels; and finally, the overall combination of quantity and quality in the observed intertextuality.

Do the “drab” George Turberville et al. (see May 1980, 14) offer anything remotely comparable? Let the case be made if it can be.

In any event, we invite readers to compare for themselves the four actual non-de Verean/Shakespearean references to haggards cited by May (2004, 244-45).

His first example (by Turberville, a prolific hack poet, “you are become so wild … As though you were a haggard Hawk”), is comparable to the parallel with No. 19.9, but falls short of the intertextuality between No. 9.14 and The Taming of the Shrew, both of which refer explicitly to taming a haggard (an obviously sexist and paternalistic metaphor for winning over a female beloved).

Another example (by George Whetstone, “The haggard then that checked of late, Will stoop to fancy’s lure”) does connect to the taming theme, but only weakly and implicitly (more like crass bribery, as Whetstone describes his swain raiding his “novice purse” to woo his lady with “trifling chain[s,] A caul of gold and other knacks”).

May’s two other examples are strikingly weak by comparison, one might even say “drab,” as May (1980, 14) had earlier conceded Turberville’s and others’ contemporary poetry was by comparison to de Vere’s (see also May 1991, rep. 1999, 53). They do not connect to the theme or language of taming (No. 9.14 and The Taming of the Shrew) nor the language of haggards ranging wild (No. 19.9 and Much Ado About Nothing). See May (2004, 245) (George Gascoigne, “haggard hawks mislike an empty hand”; John God, “her body[’s] … haggard wonts”).

(15) The strongest tower the cannon lays on ground

‘Who in a moment even with the earth Shall lay your stately and air-braving towers’ (1 Hen. VI, 4.2.12); ‘When some­time lofty towers I see down rased’ (Sonnets, 64.3).

See also, from “When as Thine Eye” (above, parallel to line 13), “The strongest castle, tower, and towne The golden bullet beats it down.”

(17) thrall to Love by Cupid’s sleights

Love makes young men thrall and old men dote’ (Venus, 837).

(18) weigh my case with equal weights

‘I have in equal balance justly weigh’d’ (2 Hen. IV, 4.1.67); ‘Commit my cause in balance to be weigh’d’ (Titus, 1.1.55); ‘equalities are so weighed’ (Lear, 1.1.6); ‘In equal scale weighing delight and dole’ (Ham., 1.2.13).

This strikingly Shakespearean sentiment in the de Vere sample, of equipoised justice, of course becomes the title of an entire Shakespeare play, Measure for Measure. See, e.g.: ‘you weigh equally’ (Meas., 2.2.126).

(19) She is my joy, she is my care and woe

‘Your tributary drops belong to woe, Which you, mistaking, offer up to joy’ (R&J, 3.2.103).

(20) She is my pain, she is my ease therefor

‘Give physic to the sick, ease to the pain’d’ (Lucrece, 901).

(21) She is my death, she is my life also

‘Showing life’s triumph in the map of death’ (Lucrece, 402); ‘But that life liv’d in death, and death in life’ (Lucrece, 406); ‘life imprison’d in a body dead’ (Lucrece, 1456); ‘Yet in this life Lie hid more thousand deaths’ (Meas., 3.1.39); ‘seeking death, find life’ (Meas., 3.1.44); ‘That life is better life, past fearing death’ (Meas., 5.1.397).

(31) let her feel the power of all your might

‘O, from what power hast thou this powerful might’ (Sonnets, 150.1).

(34-36) let her moan, and none lament her need, And let all those that shall her see Despise her state, and pity me


Compare Lucrece:


Let him have time to tear his curled hair,

Let him have time against himself to rave,

Let him have time of Time’s help to despair,

Let him have time to live a loathed slave,

Let him have time a beggar’s orts to crave,

And time to see one that by alms doth live

Disdain to him disdained scraps to give.



Cf. ‘This you should pity rather than despise’ (Dream, 3.2.235).

[posted January 22, 2018]

About Bryan Wildenthal

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