Three Songs from 'Summer's Last Will and Testament', Some Sonnets by Nashe, Lyric and Extracts by Greene

Three Songs from 'Summer's Last Will and Testament'

Song at the entrance of Summer

Fair Summer droops, droop men and beasts therefore:
So fair a summer look for nevermore.
All good things vanish, less than in a day,
Peace, plenty, pleasure, suddenly decay.
           Go not yet away, bright soul of the sad year:
           The earth is hell when thou leav'st to appear.

What, shall those flowers that decked thy garland erst
Upon thy grave be wastefully dispersed?
O trees, consume your sap in sorrow's source;
Streams, turn to tears your tributary course.
           Go not yet hence, bright soul of the sad year:
           The earth is hell when thou leav'st to appear.

Song at the entrance of Spring

Spring, the sweet spring, is the year's pleasant king,
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting,
The pretty birds do sing,
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-wee, to-witta-whoo.

The palm and may make country houses gay,
Lambs frisk and play, the shepherds pipe all day,
And we hear aye
Birds tune this merry lay -
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-wee, to-witta-whoo.

The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,
Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit:
In every street
These tunes our ears do greet -
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-wee, to-witta-whoo.

Song at Summer's Death

Adieu, farewell Earth's bliss,
This world uncertain is,
Fond are life's lustful joys,
Death proves them all but toys,
None from his darts can fly;
I am sick, I must die:
           Lord, have mercy on us.

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade.
All things to end are made,
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die;
           Lord, have mercy on us.

Beauty is but a flower
That wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air,
Queens have died young and fair,
Dust hath closed Helen's eye.
I am sick, I must die;
           Lord, have mercy on us.

Strength stoops unto the grave
Worms feed on Hector brave.
Swords may not fight with fate,
Earth still holds ope her gate.
Come, come, the bells do cry.
I am sick, I must die;
           Lord, have mercy on us.

Wit with his wantoness
Tasteth death's bitterness:
Hell's executioner
Hath no ears for to hear
What vain art can reply.
I am sick, I must die;
           Lord, have mercy on us.

Haste therefore each degree
To welcome destiny:
Heav'n is our heritage,
Earth but a player's stage.
Mount we unto the sky. I am sick, I must die;
           Lord, have mercy on us.

Sonnets by Thomas Nashe

(Sonnet from Pierce Penilesse, 1592)

Perusing yesternight, with idle eyes,
         The Fairy Singer's stately-tuned verse,
And viewing, after chapmen's wonted guise
         What strange contents the title did rehearse;
I straight leapt over to the latter end,
         Where like the quaint comedians of our time
That when their play is done, do fall to rhyme,
         I found short lines, to sundry nobles penned,
Whom he as special mirrors singled forth,
         To be the patrons of his poetry;
I read them all, and reverenced their worth,
         Yet wondered he left out thy memory.
                  But therefore guessed I he surpressed thy name
                  Because few words might not comprise thy fame.

On the left, a sonnet by Gabriel Harvey despising Greene and threatening Nashe. On the right, Nashe's reply. Typically he not only promises to make the Harveys rue the day they tangled with him, he does it in a spot-on pastiche of Harvey's own style.

(Sonnet 1 by Gabriel Harvey, from Four letters and Certaine Sonnets)

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.

(Sonnet by Nashe from Strange Newes, 1593)


Were there no wars, poor men should have no peace:
Uncessant wars with wasps and drones I cry:
He that begins, oft knows not how to cease,
They have begun, I'll follow till I die.
I'll hear no truce, wrong gets no grave in me,
Abuse pell-mell encounter with abuse:
Write he again, I'll write eternally.
Who feeds revenge hath found an endless Muse.
If death ere made his black dart of a pen,
My pen his special bailey shall become:
Somewhat I'll be reputed of 'mongst men,
By striking of this dunce, or dead or dumb.
      Await the world the tragedy of wrath
      What next I paint shall tread no common path.

Sonnets from The Unfortunate Traveller, (1594)

If I must die, oh let me choose my death:
Suck out my soul with kisses, cruel maid,
In thy breast's crystal balls embalm my breath,
Dole it all out in sighs when I am laid.
Thy lips on mine like cupping-glasses clasp,
Let our tongues meet and strive as they would sting,
Crush out my wind with one straight girting grasp,
Stabs on my heart keep time whilst thou dost sing.
Thy eyes like searing irons burn out mine,
In thy fair tresses stifle me outright;
Like Circe change me to a loathsome swine,
So I may live forever in thy sight.
        Into heaven's joys none can profoundly see
        Except that first they meditate on thee.

Fair room, the presence of sweet beauty's pride,
The place the Sun upon the earth did hold
When Phaeton his chariot did misguide:
The tower where Jove rained down himself in gold.
       Prostrate, as holy ground I'll worship thee,
Our Lady's chapel henceforth be thou named;
Here first Love's Queen put on mortality,
And with her beauty all the world inflamed.
       Heaven's chambers, harb'ring fiery cherubins,
Are not with thee in glory to compare:
Lightning it is, not light, that in thee shines,
None enter thee, but straight intrancéd are.
       Or if Elysium be above the ground,
       Then here it is, where nought but joy is found.

Poems by Robert Greene

Sephestia's Lullaby

Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee;
When thou art old there's grief enough for thee.
Mother's wag, pretty boy, Father's sorrow, father's joy;
When thy father first did see
Such a boy by him and me,
He was glad, I was woe;
Fortune changéd made him so,
When he left his pretty boy,
Last his sorrow, first his joy.
          Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee;
          When thou art old there's grief enough for thee.

Streaming tears that never stint,
Like pearl-drops from a flint,
Fell by course from his eyes,
That one another's place supplies;
Thus he grieved in every part,
Tears of blood fell from his heart,
When he left his pretty boy, Father's sorrow, father's joy.
          Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee;
          When thou art old there's grief enough for thee.

The wanton smiled, father wept,
Mother cried, baby leapt;
More he crow'd, more we cried,
Nature could not sorrow hide:
He must go, he must kiss
Child and mother, baby bliss,
For he left his pretty boy, Father's sorrow, father's joy.
          Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee;
          When thou art old there's grief enough for thee.

A winter landscape, from Philomelaes Second Oade

It was frosty winter season,
And fair Flora's wealth was geason.
Meads that erst with green were spread,
With choice flowers diap'réd,
Had tawny veils: cold had scanted
What the Spring and Nature planted.
Leafless boughs there might you see,
(All except fair Daphne's tree),
On their twigs no birds perched,
Warmer coverts now they searched,
And by Nature's secret reason
Trained their voices to the season,
With their feeble tunes bewraying
How they grieved the Spring's decaying.
Frosty Winter thus had gloomed
Each fair thing that Summer bloomed;
Fields were bare, and trees unclad,
Flowers withered, birds were sad.

A summer landscape, from Canzone

As then the Sun sat lordly in his pride,
Not shadowed with the veil of any cloud:
The welkin had no rack that seemed to glide,
No dusky vapour did bright Phoebus shroud:
     No blemish did eclipse the beauteous sky
     From setting forth Heaven's secret-searching eye.

No blustering wind did shake the shady trees,
Each leaf lay still and silent in the wood;
The birds were musical, the labouring bees
That in the summer heaps their winter's good
     Plied to the hives sweet honey, from those flowers
     Whereout the serpent strengthens out his powers.

The lion laid and stretched him in the lawns;
No storm did hold the leopard from his prey;
The fallow fields were full of wanton fawns;
The ploughswains never saw a fairer day:
     For every beast and bird did take delight
     To see the quiet heavens to shine so bright.

From Eurimachus in laudem Myrmidae his motto

When Flora proud in pomp of all her flowers
    Sat bright and gay
And gloried in the dew of Iris' showers
    And did display
Her mantle chequered all with gawdy green:
     Then I
A mournful man in Erecine was seen.

With folded arms I trampled through the grass
    Tracing as he
That held the throne of Fortune brittle glass
    And love to be
Like Fortune fleeting, as the restless wind
     With mists
Whose damp doth make the clearest eyes grow blind.

The Grasshopper writes his epitaph, from A Conceited Fable of the olde Comedian Aesop

When Spring's green prime arrayed me with delight,
And ev'ry power with youthful vigour filled,
Gave strength to work whatever fancy willed,
I never feared the force of winter's spite.

When first I saw the Sun the day begin,
And dry the morning's tears from herbs and grass,
I little thought his cheerful light would pass,
Till ugly night with darkness entered in:
    And then day lost I mourned, spring past I wailed,
    But neither tears for this or that availed.

Then too too late I praised the emmet's pain,
That sought in spring a harbour 'gainst the heat,
And in the harvest gathered winter's meat,
Perceiving famine, frosts and stormy rain.

My wretched end may warn green-springing youth
To use delights as toys that will deceive,
And scorn the world, before the world them leave,
For all world's trust is ruin without ruth.
    Then blest are they that, like the toiling ant,
    Provide in time against the winter's want.