NOTE TO THE READER: This page contains my personal interpretations of the sonnets Harvey published in 'Foure letters'. These are the lone opinions of an enthusiastic amateur, and should not be treated as equivalent to published academic work, which goes through a process of revision and scrutiny by other scholars. If you want the Harvey sonnets without my theories, click here.

certaine Funerall Sonnets.

To the foresaid Maister Emmanuell Demetrius, Maister Christopher Bird, and all gentle wits,

that will voutsafe the reading.


His Repentance, that meant to call Greene to his

ALAS that I so hastely should come
To terrifie the man with fatall dread,
That deemed quiet Pennes, or dead, or dum,
And stoutly knock't poore Silence on the head.
Enough can say : dead is the Dog of spite :
I, that for pitie praised him aliue,
And smil'd to hear him gnar, and see him bite,
Am not with sory carcasses to striue.
The worst I list of Famous him report :
Poules hath the Onely Pregnant Autor lost :
Aihme, quoth Wit in lamentable sort,
What worthy wight shall now commaund the rost?
Fame heard the plaint : and pointed at A man
As greene as Greene, and white as whitest Swanne.

Poules : 'Paul's', i.e. St Paul's Churchyard, centre of the London bookselling trade.

[Sonnet 1: I think this sonnet interprets events very much as Harvey wishes them to be seen.
'I regret that my arrival in London (to start judicial proceedings against Greene) apparently scared to death the man who assumed my long silence meant I could no longer defend myself, and so attacked me. Enough people are jeering "The spiteful dog is dead." I, who admired what I could in his work, and rose above his malice with a disdainful smile, am not likely to wrangle with him now he's dead. The worst I wish to say of Greene is that the popular press had lost its only inventive writer. Wit complained aloud who would rule the roost now Greene was gone: Fame pointed out a successor.'
(The successor presumably is Nashe? - whose youth and rashness might justify describing him as 'greene as Greene', though in what sense he was 'white as whitest Swanne' I can't say.)]


His misfortun, in being spitefully iniuried by
some, whom he partially commended.

VNLUCKY I, vnhappiest on Earth,
That fondly doting vpon dainty witts,
And deepely rauish'd with their luring fitts,
Of gentle fauours find so hard a Dearth.
Is it my Fate, or Fault, that such fine men
Should their Commender so vnkindly bite?
That looues to looue, in spite of rankest Spite,
And hates to hate, with Hart, or Tongue, or Pen.
Sweet Writers, as yee couet to be sweet,
Nor me, nor other, nor your selues abuse :
Humanity doth courteously peruse
Ech act of frend, or foe, with fauour meet.
   Foule Diuel, and fouler Malice, cease to raue :
   For euery fault I twenty pardons craue.

[Sonnet 2: Harvey represents himself as the beaming innocent who loves all gifted writers, benignly applauding the two talents who ungratefully turned and savaged him - Greene ('Malice') and Nashe ('Diuel', i.e. 'Devil' - because of Pierce Penilesse, which is addressed to the Devil).]

His admonition to Greenes Companions.

THE flourishing, and gaily-springing wight,
That vainely me prouok'd with vile reproch,
Hath done his worst, and hath no more to broche :
Maugre the Diuell of villanous despite.
I cannot raile, what-euer cause to raile :
For Charity I louingly imbrace,
That me for Enuy odiously deface :
But in their highest rage extreamely faile.
I can doe him no harme that is in Heauen :
I can doe him now good that is in Hell :
I wish the best to his Suruiuours fell,
Deepely acquainted with his Six ; and Seauen.
   O be not like to Death, that spareth none :
    Your greenest Flower, and Peacockes taile is gone.

[Sonnet 3: Again Harvey represents himself as above the sort of conflict in which Greene and his crew habitually indulge. I think Nashe is the one meant by 'the Diuell of villanous despite', because if the period after 'despite' was really a comma, the sense becomes:-
'Greene, who provoked me, is dead and has nothing left to say; and despite the spiteful 'Devil' (Nashe) I cannot rail, whatever cause I may have to do so. For Charity's sake I lovingly embrace (them) that maliciously defame me. I can't touch the dead Greene, whether he be in heaven or hell; and I wish the best to his savage heirs, schooled in his knockabout style.'
The appeal in the final couplet 'O be not like to Death' seems to indicate that Nashe is the 'heir' of Greene being principally addressed, since elsewhere in the 'Foure letters' it's in a passage attacking Nashe that Harvey tuts about those 'that vaunt themselues, Like vnto Death, and Will Sommer,in sparing none.']


The miserable end of wilful desperatnesse.

THE iolly Fly dispatch'd his silly selfe :
What Storyes quaint of many a douty Fly,
That read a Lecture to the ventrous Elfe?
Yet will he haue his lusty swing, to dy.
I cannot raile, what-euer cause to raile :
Currage, and stirring witt in time do well :
But that same obstinate Desperation,
A furious fiend of selfe-deuouring Hell :
Rushing with terrible Commination,
(What storme so hideous, as Rages spell?)
Concludes with horrible Lamentation :
Each blessed tongue accurse malediction,
The ugly mouth of ruthfull confusion.
   Nothing so doulcely sweete, or kindly deare,
   As sugred lippes, and Harts delicious cheare.

Sonnet 4: 'The bold fly got himself killed. How many fables are there about such foolhardy flies, told as warning to overconfident youth? Yet the fly will have a go, if he dies for it. I can't hurl abuse, however much reason I have to do so. Courage and quick intelligence may ultimately prove good qualities - but frantic, outrageous despair (what's more violent than words spoken in rage?) will end in tears. Everyone should shun this aggressive mood, which only causes trouble. Even-tempered and upbeat poetry is better.'

Why is Harvey suddenly talking about a fly? Well: arguably the most sensational passage in Pierce Penilesse is the fable of the Bear, a coded attack on the Queen's late favourite, the Earl of Leicester, and on the puritan movement he supported. In the fable, the machinations of the puritans are uncovered by a Fly, who, as Nicholl points out "...may well be Tom Nashe himself, the anti-Martinist sleuth and pamphleteer. To make of himself an insect, busy and inquisitive, is somehow typical of Nashe. In Strange Newes Nashe says, a propos the deeper meanings of his fable, 'Who but a Foppe wil labour to anatomize a Flye?' In late 1593, Shakespeare hit on the name 'Moth' for his caricature of Nashe."(C. Nicholl, A Cup of News, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1984: p.114)

Fairly obviously, this sonnet only makes sense if the Fly is Nashe. Harvey is reflecting on the recklessness Nashe shows in PP - attacks on the great, however coded, weren't safe - and the frustration and despair that, though humorously described, were very much real. Harvey thought this kind of wild writing about 'matters of state' was dangerous, both for the practitioner and for society. Avoid controversy in literature, he sagely advises.


The learned should louingly affect the learned.

I AM not to instruct, where I may learne :
But where I may persuasiuely exhort,
Nor ouer-dissolute, nor ouer-sterne,
A curteous Honesty I would extort.
Good loathes to damage, or vpbraid the good ;
Gentle how loouely to the gentle-wight?
Who seeith not, how euery blooming budd
Smileth on euery flower fairely dyght,
And biddeth fowle illfauourdness Godnight?
Would Alciats Embleme, or sum scarlet whood,
Could teach the Pregnant sonnes of shiny Light,
To interbrace each other with delight.
    Fine Mercury conducts a dainty band
    Of Charities, and Muses, hand in hand.

[Sonnet 5: 'I don't want to preach at those whom I may learn from, but in mild terms would like to put my case frankly: good men don't like attacking other good men. I wish someone would teach literary talents to get along.'
Andrea Alciato (1492-1550) was an Italian emblematist. I don't know which particular emblem Harvey's referring to here, maybe 'It is wicked for scholars to wrangle with other scholars'. (See )
A 'scarlet hood' was the sign of a doctorate.

Well anyway - the gist seems to be that Harvey is deploring Nashe's/Greene's rudeness: true gentlemen and scholars should be able to speak frankly but politely, and show brotherly respect towards each other. I do at least know that Mercury was the patron of scholars, and 'sonnes of shiny Light' were presumably sons of Apollo, poets.]

His Pallace of Pleasure.

I WOTT not what these cutting Huffe-snuffes meane:
Of Alehouse-daggers I haue little skill :
I borrow not my phrase of knaue, or queane,
But am a dettour to the Ciuill quill.
It is restoratiue vnto my hart,
To heare how gentle Cheeke, and Smith conuers'd :
No daintier peece of delicatest Art,
Then cordiall Stories charmingly rehears'd,
That whilom rudest wooddes, and stones emperc'd.
Who now begins that amiable part?
Haddon farewell: and Ascham thou art stale,
And euery sweetnes tastes of bitter bale.
    Oh, let me liue to interuiew the face
    Of faire Humanity, and bounteous Grace.

[Sonnet 6: Sir John Cheke (1514-1557) and Sir Thomas Smith (1513-1577) were scholars and Reformers.Walter Haddon (1516-1572) was a civilian, a distinguished academic and co-author with Cheke of a work defending the Reformation. Roger Ascham (1515-1568)was of course the former tutor of the Queen and author of Scholemaster, a treatise on education.
Interestingly, Harvey is summoning up the ghosts of the great men of the generation prior to his own here. These dignified and learned fathers of Protestantism have been his models, so he can't affect the streetwise slang of modern writers, who pick up their expressions from the same whorehouses and taverns where they learn their manners. Oh! These young men, these young men!]


His vnfained wish.

NEVER Vlysses, or Æneas tyr'd,
With toyling trauailes, and huge afflictions :
As arrant penne, and wretched page bemyr'd
With nasty filth of rancke-maledictions.
I seldom call a snarling Curr, a Curr :
But wish the gnarring dog, as sweete a mouth,
As brauest horse, that feeleth golden spurr :
Or shrillest Trompe, that soundeth North, or South :
Or most enchaunting Sirens voice vncouth.
Self-gnawing Harts, and gnashing Teeth of murr,
How faine would I see
Orpheus reuiu'd,
Suadas hoony-bees in you rehiu'd?
    Oh most-delicious hooney-dewes, infuse
    Your daintiest influence into their Muse.

[Sonnet 7: Harvey again deplores the lamentable state of Greene's near-deranged followers. Still wishing the best for them, he hopes they calm down soon and start writing quality stuff.
I think Harvey returns here to his image first drawn in Sonnet I, of the dead Greene as the snarling 'Dog of spite' . He is wishing Greene's living successors may be influenced by better models. (At least, I hope the horse, trumpet and siren he extols as examples of things with 'sweet mouths' are just types of good poets, and not references to actual writers which I've failed to recognise?) Orpheus was the figure in classical mythology whose singing moved pity even in the dog guarding the Underworld, and Suada was the Roman goddess of Persuasion.
As for 'gnashing Teeth of murr' - Well, I think we've got Nashe again, pretty much as in the reference in the Third of the 'Foure letters' to '...who can tell, what dowty yoonker may next gnash with his teeth?'. (By the way, McKerrow (TN,vol.5,p. 305)gives the meaning of the word 'murr' as 'a catarrh'; but you can't have catarrhal teeth surely, so perhaps it's slime or drool in general? )
And I don't know about you, but I'm beginning to see why old Harvey got under Nashe's skin.]


A Continuation of the same wish.

LET them forgett their cancred peeuishnes ;
And say to Choller fell : Thou wert our fall :
Hadst thou not boilde in fretting waywardnes,
We might haue laught at Fortunes tossing Ball.
Choler, content thy malecontented selfe :
And cleerest Humour, of right Sanguine pure,
Neately refin'd from that felonious Elfe,
With Iouiall graciousnes thy selfe enure.
If euer siluer conduictes were abroche
Of streaming Witt, and flowing Eloquence :
Yee fludds of milke, and hoony reapproche,
And bounteously poure-out your Quintessence.
    Gently assemble Delicacies all,
    And sweetely nectarize this bitter gall.

[Sonnet 8: 'A continuation of the same wish' is presumably a continuation of Sonnet 7's theme of reconciliation between Harvey and Nashe. Harvey blames 'Choller' for stirring up the trouble. Well is 'choler' just an abstraction, a name for the furious exasperation that characterised Pierce Penilesse? 'Had Anger not overcome us, we might have laughed philosophically at life's ups and downs.' That makes sense. If Nashe had not been in such a mood of desperate frustration when he wrote PP he might never have lashed out at Richard Harvey and got himself into this feud.
Or, just possibly we may be meant to understand Harvey actually blames some person for creating trouble between Nashe and himself. If Harvey IS talking of a real person, then I'd guess that person is, er, Lyly. Probably. Harvey loathed Lyly, who had tried to get him into serious trouble over Speculum Tuscanismi: and Nashe and Lyly were friends. It's possible Harvey suspected Lyly of egging Nashe on against him.
But either way, Harvey seems to be appealing to Nashe's better nature - forget your disappointments and irritations, rise above it. The sonnet ends in a welter of images of sweetness and good times, but it's all a bit fuzzy.]


His reuiuall of a former motion: added at the instance of an especiall friend.

WERE I as meete, as willing to aduise :
I would in amicable termes entreat
Some forward witts to change their headlong guise,
And lesse in print, and more in mint to sweat.
Pithagoras, and Apollonius sage,
Two woonders of capacity diuine ;
Trained their followers to temper rage,
And Tongue with curious silence to refine.
There is a Time to speake : a Time to write :
But blessed be the Time, that sees, and heares :
Let Petty Starres suppresse their twinckling light :
And glorious Sunne aduance his beamy peeres.
    O you of golden mould, that shine like Sun,
    Display your heauenly giftes: and I haue dun.

[Sonnet 9: 'If I were as fit to advise as willing to help, I would ask hotheaded young writers to practise more and publish less. Classical philosphers taught their followers to curb their tempers by curbing their speech. There is a time to write, but observation and learning are necessary first. Minor talents should be quiet when genius appears. Oh you resplendent being, show us what you can do, and I shall be silent.'
Dr Harvey again ticks off the impatient, callow Nashe, then in line 11 abruptly turns from him to someone else. We have the image of the minor talent (Nashe) being obliterated by the rising of someone so gifted he is, in comparison, the Sun to a faint star.]


A more particular Declaration of his intention.

YET let Affection interpret selfe :
Arcadia braue, and dowty Faery Queene
Cannot be stain'd by
Gibelin, or Guelph,
Or goodliest Legend, that Witts eye hath seene.
The daintiest Hand of exquisitest Art,
And nimble Head of pregnantest receit,
Neuer more finely plaid their curious part,
Then in those liuely Christals of conceit.
Other fair Wittes I cordially embrace :
And that sweet Muse of azur Dy, admire :
And must in euery Sonnet interlace
The earthly Soueraine of heauenly fire.
    A fitter place remaineth to implore,
    Of deepest Artists the profoundest lore.

[Sonnet 10: 'A more particular Declaration...' - then presumably this expands the appeal made to the 'Sun' poet in the last line of the sonnet above, to show his gifts.
'Let affection interpret (it)self. (Sidney's) Arcadia and (Spenser's) Faerie Queene are superior to contentious, aggressive, factional writing. Those were truly exemplary works. I am also ready to praise other excellent writers' (- I don't understand whose muse was of azure dye, unfortunately) - 'and the 'earthly sovereign of heavenly fire'. I will choose a better place to beg the finest writers to disclose their skill.'
Despite its deliberate vagueness, this sonnet is apparently 'a more particular declaration' than the preceding one, and aims to 'let affection interpret (it)self'. 'Affection' at this period usually meant more than just 'warm feelings': it could imply aspiration, and a desire to follow or serve. I'm assuming Harvey is hinting more strongly about the unidentified 'Sun' referred to in the last sonnet; suggesting he loves this great talent, and would like to see more of his work.
In short I think this sonnet is the beginning of a bid for patronage, and I think its target is the poetry-writing Lord Strange. 'The earthly Soueraine of heauenly fire' is a wonderfully vague phrase. Who is the person Harvey can't refrain from praising? Most obviously it should be the Queen, England's sovereign, both inspiration for poets and a writer of poetry herself. But it could also hint at Lord Strange, considered to be a talented poet, and of royal descent - in fact at this early stage of the 1590s, he wasn't altogether out of contention as a possible heir of the ageing Elizabeth.]


His Desire, to honour excellent Perfections in the best.

Another addition, inserted at the request of one, that might commaunde.

BLACKE Art, avaunt : and Haile thrise-grace-full Grace,
That whitest white on Earth, or Heauen exceedes,
In purity, and souerainety immense.
Or locke my mouth : or schoole my infant-lippes,
Resplendent lightes of Milky Way to sing,
Rare subiectes of thy indulgence supreame.
Yet what should I conspicuous Mirrours sing,
That radiantly display their beauteous beames
Of glistering Vertue, and reshining Witt :
The Luminaries great of little world?:
Folly impossibilities attempts :
Astonishment such brightnesse best becummes :
    Or lend me Pegasus, thy mounting winges :
    And let me heare, how quire of Angels singes.

[Sonnet 11: This one's really baffling. But my guess is that Harvey's still complimenting Strange on his poetic gifts and high position - honouring 'excellent perfections' in the best'. Although you would expect the Queen herself to be the person addressed as 'thrice-graceful grace' in line 1, I believe Harvey's target is still Strange - perhaps even subtly flattering his royal ambitions by using the word 'grace' to him. Lines 4 to 14 appear to mean 'Either bid me be silent, or teach me how to write in praise of the highest, as you do. Yet how may I sing of these great exemplars, these stars who illuminate our humble world below? It would be foolish to try the impossible. Better to gaze in silent wonder - or let me rise higher to hear how such poems should be written.'Returning to lines 1 and 2, Harvey is deliberately contrasting 'black art', which he has no time for, and heavenly white, which he hails. Around this time there does seem to have been a conflict between Lord Strange's circle and that of Ralegh. It's best known through Shakespeare's confusing and disputed reference to the alleged 'School of Night' in Love's Labour's Lost. I find it hard to imagine exactly what this might have been, but however murky the reference, Shakespeare does seem to be hinting at its existence and Harvey may be doing the same.]

His Court of Honour.

WERE fine Castilio, the Heire of Grace :
What gallant port more graciously fine?
As dainty
Petrarch was sweet Sirens sonne :
What witching tune more Orpheously sweete?
Him, him, the Idee high, and deepe Abysse,
Of noble Excellence I would proclaime.
But what should drowsy Muse of Phantoms dreame?
Cast glauncing eie into Queene Pallas Court ::
And scorne the dimnes of thy dazeled sight,
Astound with Lord-and-Lady-Graces view :
Idees how high, Abysses how profounde
Of valour braue, and admirable worth?
    Poore glimmering Gemmes, and twinckling Stars adieu :
    Here, here the Sun, and Moone of Honor true.

[Sonnet 12: I'm still understanding all this as a reference to Strange. Harvey pictures an ideal who combines the polished excellence of the courtier with the poetic skills of a Petrarch. This would indeed be a paragon. But, Harvey asks, why bother dreaming up imaginary ideals? Just look at those dazzling beings who inhabit the Queen's court, who can astonish you with their valour and worth. There you find the Moon of Honour (Elizabeth) and the Sun (Strange?).]

His intercession to Fame.

LIUE euer valorous renowned Knightes ;
Liue euer
Smith, and Bacon, Peereles men :
Liue euer,
Walsingham, and Hatton wise :
Liue euer
Mildmayes honorable name.
Ah, that Sir
Humfry Gilbert should be dead :
Ah, that Sir
Philip Sidney should be dead :
Ah, that Sir
William Sackeuill should be dead :
Ah, that Sir
Richard Grinuile should be dead :
Ah, that brave
Walter Deuoreux should be dead :
Ah, that the Flowre of Knighthood should be dead,
Which, maugre deadlyest Deathes, and stonyest Stones,
That coouer worthiest worth, shall neuer dy
   Sweete Fame, adorne thy glorious Triumph new :
    Or Vertues all, and Honours all adieu.

[Sonnet 13: We get a roll call of the famous dead, and an appeal to Fame to produce a worthy successor among today's great, or goodbye to virtue and honour.

A Repetition of the former Petition.

BUT Vertues all, and Honours all suruiue :
And Vertues all, and Honours all inflame
Braue mindes to platfourme, and redoubted handes
To doe such deedes, and such exploites achieue,
As they, and they couragiously perform'd.
Egregious men, and memorable Knightes :
Ay memorable Knightes, while Sunne shall shine.
And teach industrious Worth, to shine like Sunne :
To liue in motion, and action hoat :
To eternize Entelechy diuine :
Where Plutarches Liues: where Argonautiques braue:
Where all Heroique woonderments concurr.
   Oh, Oh, and Oh a thousand thousand times,
   That thirsty Eare might heare Archangels rimes.

Entelechy: 'that which realizes or makes actual, what is otherwise merely potential'.

[Sonnet 14:'But virtue and honour survive, and encourage living men to emulate the famous dead: and teach 'industrious worth' (Harvey himself, I think) to plunge into this world of greatness and action, and immortalize that divine spirit which contains within itself all that is heroic.
The sonnet ends with a devout prayer that 'thirsty ear' might hear 'Archangel's rhymes'. I think the thirsty ear is Harvey's and the angelic rhymes are Strange's.


A continuation of the same Petition.

THEN would I so my Melody addoulce,
And so attune my Harmony to theirs,
That fellest Fury should confesse her selfe.
Enchaunted mightily with charmes diuine :
And in the sweetest termes of sacred Leagues,
With pure deuotion reconcile her rage.
Meane-while I seeke, and seeke, but cannot finde
That Iewell rare of precioussest worth :
Gentle Accord and soueraigne Repose,
The Paradise of Earth, and blisse of Heauen.
Be it in Earth,
ô Heauen direct my course :
Be it in Heauen alone,
ô Earth Farewell.
   Or well-fare Patience, that sweetens sowre,
   And reares on Hellish Earth an Heauenly Boure.

[Sonnet 15: Then my verse would become harmonious as theirs, to such an extent that even the most rancorous enemy would be reconciled and become friendly. Meanwhile I desperately seek, but do not find, that most precious jewel, peace. If it's on earth, I hope God will help me to find it: if in heaven, I look forward to the day I come there. Or at least, by exercising the virtue of Patience, I can innure myself to suffering and find happiness on earth.

This is too abstract to support the theory that Harvey is asking for patronage, though it does not argue against the notion. Just conceivably he's suggesting that if taken on, he would get along with any other clients in the Strange entourage (e.g. Nashe himself, who seems to have been on the fringes of the Strange circle at this time.)


His professed Disdaine, to aunsweare vanity in some, or to enuy prosperity in any.

SOME me haue spited with a cruell spite :
But Fount of Mercy so reclense my sinne,
As I nor them maligne, nor any wight :
But all good mindes affect, like deerest kinne.
Small cause I haue to scorne in any sort :
Yet I extreamely scorne to aunsweare some,
That banish Conscience from their report,
And ouerwantonly abuse the dumme.
God keepe Low-Countrymen from high Disdaine :
Yet I disdaine with haughtiest contempt
To enuy any persons Fame, or Gaine :
Or any crooked practise to attempt.
   Iesu, that we should band, like Iohn Oneale,
   That tenderly should melt in mutuall zeale.

[Sonnet 16: 'Some have injured me (by accusing me of) cruel spite (against them). But I swear, as I hope to be saved, I never maligned them or anyone else: I love all good minds as if they were my brothers. I have no cause to despise others - but I do scorn even to reply to those who have no scruples about slandering and wantonly attacking quiet men. Those of modest birth should not be arrogant, but I am too proud to stoop to envying another's reputation or good fortune. Jesus - to think we form factions, like (the Irish rebel) John O'Neill, who should be each other's kindest supporters!'
John Oneale: There was a Shane O'Neill, who died in 1567. Presumably Harvey is thinking of him. He was a fairly fractious type. (see

All this seems self-explanatory. He didn't choose this fight: he wants to be friends with other writers.


His Exhortation to attonement and Loue.

O MINDES of Heauen, and wittes of highest Sphere,
Molten most-tenderly in mutuall zeale :
Each one with cordiall indulgence forbeare,
And Bondes of Loue reciproquely enseale.
No rose, no violet, no fragrant spice,
No Nectar, no Ambrosia so sweet :
As gratious Looue, that neuer maketh nice,
But euery one embraceth, as is meet.
Magnets, and many thinges attractive are :
But nothing so allectiue vnder skyes,
As that same dainty amiable Starre,
That none, but grisly mouth of Hell, defyes.
   That Starre illuminate celestiall Harts :
   And who, but Rancour, feeleth irkesome smartes?

[Sonnet 17: 'Oh heavenly minds, giving way to mutual affection, overlook differences kindly and pledge love to one another. Nothing is sweeter than Love, which doesn't pick faults but embraces everyone. Many things are naturally attractive, but what more attractive than the lovely Star which only Hell defies? May that Star's influence touch heavenly hearts, and then who but Rancour itself would hold grudges?'

Another plea for an end to stupid squabbles among the intelligentsia, coupled with an appeal to be open to the civilizing influence of the Star whom only Hell defies...Might be Strange again - if I'm right in supposing this sonnet sequence is partly an appeal for patronage, and if indeed a rival court faction was characterised as 'The School of Night'. But it could of course equally well be a graceful reference to the Queen, though I doubt if Harvey would seriously consider Elizabeth a likely source of patronage by this time, when war was making inroads on her purse. Any compliments to her would presumably be for form's sake.


Iohn Harueys Welcome to Robert Greene.

COME, fellow Greene, come to thy gaping graue :
Bid Vanity, and Foolery farewell :
Thou ouer-long hast plaid the madbrain'd knaue :
And ouer-loud hast rung the bawdy bell.
Vermine to Vermine must repaire at last :
No fitter house for busy folke to dwell :
Thy Conny-catching Pageants are past :
Some other must those arrant Stories tell.
These hungry wormes thinke longe for their repast:
Come on : I pardon thy offence to me :
It was thy liuing : be not so aghast :
A Foole, and a Phisition may agree.
   And for my Brothers, neuer vex thy selfe :
   They are not to disease a buried Elfe.

[Sonnet 18: 'Come, friend Greene, to the grave that awaits you. Your vain and debauched life is over now; someone else will have to take your place writing catchpenny pamphlets. I forgive your libellous attack on me, and don't be afraid - my brothers won't disturb a dead scribbler.'

John Harvey, youngest of the three brothers attacked in Greene's 'Quip', died in late July 1592 at King's Lynn, Norfolk. He was a doctor. He is welcoming Robert Greene, who died just over a month later. (I paraphrase 'elf' as scribbler, because the word seems to imply someone trivial, inconsequential.)


His Apology of himselfe, and his brothers.

YET fie on lies, and fie on false Appeales :
No Minister in England lesse affectes
Those wanton kisses, that leaud folly steales,
Then Hee, whome onely Ribaldry suspectes.
Were I a foole, (what man playes not the foole?
The world is full of fooles, and full of sectes :)
Yet was Iohn neuer spoyled with the toole,
That Richard made : and none, but none infectes.
The third is better knowne in Court, and Schoole,
Then thy vaine Quipp, or my Defence shalbe :
Whose Eie, but his, that sitts on Slaunders stoole,
Did euer him in Fleete, or Prison see?
   Loud Mentery small confutation needes :
   Avaunt black Beast, that sowes such cursed seedes.

[Sonnet 19: 'Yet I condemn lies and inventions. No priest in England is less given to sexual licence than he whom only debauched men accuse (a reference to Greene's attack on Richard Harvey, a minister). Even if I were a fool - and we're all fools sometimes - John (Harvey) was not damaged by the actions of (his brother) Richard: and nobody has corrupted anyone. The third (brother, Gabriel himself of course) is better known in court and university than your silly 'Quip (for an Upstart Courtier)' or this my defence against it shall be. No-one ever 'saw' him in prison except slanderers. Stident falsehood needs little confuting. Begone, accursed troublemaker.'

I think we are meant to understand this and the two subsequent sonnet as if the person speaking were John Harvey. But under that persona the real speaker is Gabriel and he - as Vic and Bob used to say, 'wouldn't let it lie'. Immediately after a sonnet in which he says Greene isn't worth answering, Harvey squares up for a fight, returning to his angry condemnation of the attack made on himself, his father and brothers in the 'Quip for an Upstart Courtier'.


His Apology of his good Father.

AH my deere Father, and my Parent sweete,
Whose honesty no neighbour can empeach :
That any Ruffian should in termes vnmeete,
To your discredit shamfully outreach.
O rakehell Hand, that scribled him a knaue,
Whome neuer Enemy did so appeach :
Repent thy wicked selfe, that so didst raue,
And cancell that, which Slaunders mouth did teach.
Nor euery man, nor euery trade is braue :
Maulte, haires, and hempe, and sackcloth must be had:
Truth him from odious imputations saue :
And many a gallant Gentleman more bad.
   Four Sonnes, him cost a thousand pounds at lest :
   Well may he fare : and thou enioy thy rest.

[Sonnet 20: The speaker I assume is still John Harvey : 'Dear father, whose honesty is well-known to your neighbours - that any ruffian should, in evil terms, excel himself dispraising you! Evil hand, that falsely termed the man whom even his enemies would not have called such, a 'knave' - repent of having done so and retract your slander. Not every man or trade is glamorous, but ropes must be made: let the truth save him (and many a worse 'gentleman') from shameful suggestions on such a score. He had four sons and spent at least a thousand pounds on raising them: may he thrive, and you enjoy your rest.'

I may be being too Nashe-centric here, but I wonder if the line referring to 'many a gallant gentleman more bad' who might also be mocked for having a humble background, wasn't aimed at him? The title page of Pierce Penilesse boldly proclaims it to be the work of 'Thomas Nash Gentleman': and Strange Newes too, when it came out later, was 'By Tho.Nashe Gentleman'. Yet Nashe's parents had not been exactly high-born; his father was the minister of a small country parish and his mother's family were mariners. And his mother's will is proof that the Nashe inheritance didn't include anything like the land or money the Harveys had.


His charitable hope: and their eternall repose.

LET memory of grose abuses sleepe :
Who ouer-shooteth not in recklesse youth?
Were sinnes as redd, as reddest scarlet deepe,
A penitentiall Hart preuenteth ruth.
Well-wishing Charity presumes the best :
Nothing impossible to powrefull Trueth.
Body to Graue ; and Soule to Heauen addrest,
Leaue vpon Earth, the follies of their youth.
Some Penury bewaile : some feare Arrest :
Some Parmaes force: some Spanyardes gold addread:
Some vnderly the terrible inquest :
Some carry a Ielous : some a climing Head.
   We that are dead, releas'd from liuing woes,,
   Soundly enioy a long, and long Repose.

[Sonnet 21: Still John Harvey is addressing Robert Greene:'Let's forget manifest injuries. Anyone can make a mistake in youth, and no matter how serious the wrong may be, penitence is followed by pity. Charity presumes the best; in any case, the dead leave behind their youthful errors. Some (on earth) lament poverty: some fear arrest: some fear foreign invasion: some the undermining influence of Spanish bribes: some are undergoing investigation: some are spiteful, some ambitious. We are dead, and needn't worry about all this.'

If Harvey had written only in this vein, and suppressed his aggressive instincts, Nashe would have been hard put to fault him. As it was, he could sidestep the Doctor's genuine grievance and misrepresent him as a malicious snob insulting the dead.


L'enuoy : or an Answere to the Gentleman, that drunke to Chaucer, vpon view of the former Sonnets, and other Cantos, in honour of certaine braue men.

SOME Tales to tell, would I a Chaucer were :
Yet would I not euen now an Homer be :
Though Spencer me hath often Homer term'd :
And Monsieur Bodine vow'd as much as he.
Enuy, and Zoilus, two busy wightes :
No petty shade of Homer can appeere,
But he the Diuell, and she his Dam display :
And Furies fell annoy sweete Muses cheere.
Nor Martins I, nor Counter-martins squibb :
Enough a doo, to clere my simple selfe :
Momus gainst Heauen ; and Zoilus gainst Earth,
A Quipp for Gibeline : and whip for Guelph.
   Or purge this humour: or woe-worth the State,
   That long endures the one, or other mate.

Robertus Grenus, vtriusq. Academiaæ Artium
Magister, de Seipso

ILLE ego, cui risus, rumores, festa, puellæ,
Vana libellorum scriptio, vita fuit :
Prodigus vt vidi Ver, Æstatemq, furoris,
Autumno, atque Hyemi, cum Cane dico vale.
Ingenii bullam; plumam Artis; fistulam Amandi ;
Ecquæ non misero plangat auena tono?

Gabriel Harueius, desideratissimaæ animæ Ionnis
AT Iunioris erat, Seniori pangere carmen
Funebre, ni Fati lex violenta vetet.
Quid frustra exclamem, Frater, fraterrime Frater?
Dulcia cuncta abeunt : tristia sola manent.
Totus ego Funus, pullato squallidum amictu,
Quamvis cælicolæ, flebile dico vale.

To the Right Worshipfull, my singular good frend,
M. Gabriell Haruey, Doctor of the Lawes.

HARUEY, the happy aboue happiest men
I read : that sitting like a Looker-on
Of this worldes Stage, doest note with critique pen
The sharpe dislikes of each condition :
And as one carelesse of suspition,
Ne fawnest for the fauour of the great :
Ne fearest foolish reprehension
Of faulty men, which daunger to thee threat.
But freely doest, of what thee list, entreat,
Like a great Lord of peerelesse liberty :
Lifting the good vp to high Honours seat,
And the Euill damning euermore to dy ;
   For Life, and Death is in thy doomefull writing:
   So thy renowme liues euer by endighting.

Dublin : this xviii of Iuly : 1586.

               Your deuoted frend, during life,