On the Antiquities of Arran (1)

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It has been almost seven years since my return to Burnley & my survey there into the Brunanburh battlefield. With every atom in my body almost completely regenerated, its time for another historical dig. This time its to the island of Arran, off the west coast of Scotland. For a domicile I have two areas, both at Corrie. The first is its splendid hotel where I will be making breakfasts in the morning, & the second is a derelict bunkhouse where I will be camping & cleaning up the mess for its aristocratic landlord in return for my staying there. Its not quite Howard Carter & Lord Canarvon at the Valley of the Kings, but it is a distinct version of such. The reason being is that on Kintyre there are connections to Mycyneae & 18th dynasty Egypt, while Arran is the name of a Bronze Age prince from what is called Caucasian Albania (modern day Georgia) – this region is where the Picts are supposed to come from originally, so there’s the starting point for my studies – there’s about 1000 new sites been uncovered on Arran by Historic Environment Scotland using LIDAR techniques (light detection & ranging), among which might be crucial clues which connect Arran to the Picts & places like Caucasian Albania – that’s my hunch.

Arran is a cosmic island – the Goat Fell area is stunning & towers over Corrie. The rest of the isalnd is also beautiful – there is a coastal road all the round & another which halves the island. On one side is the mainland & the other the fabulous finger stretch of Kintyre, giving the illusion of being at the heart of a gigantic lake – a dragons’ eye jewel set in a pearl of amber. There are enough hillforts & stone circles to get started on before I even attempt an investigation into the radarfound sites. There’s also plenty of philology to apply my chispological techniques onto, & , yes everything is sweet today having been given confirmation about my camping spot. I do have a little gout however, I;m on the verge of 45 & staying at a hotel isnt helping my alcohol-abstinence, but all is well really.

On Arrival On Arran

Remember the moment Arran came real
Sat on a stone by a sunbathing seal
Perch’d upon pyramid, sea splash & splish
& God has put a dog’s head on a fish
The eldest led like lions oer the bay
The youngest lifted heads & look’d my way
One shifted weight & slid into the sea
To settle on a shallow shelf near me
She knew I was a poet, I could tell,
Perhaps it was my solitary dell
Of silent thoughts, thro’ these I did commune
With nature’s ancyent, all-beauteous boon,
A sprig of scented poesy enters mind,
The future real, the past a dream behind.

I shall be here now for several months. My library is already taking shape – the grandaughter of the famous Scottish playwright, Robert Mclellan, lives up at High Corrie in her grandfather’s cottage, & has already furnished me with some poetry – I shall be composing three conchordia while I am on the island. Also into the mix goes an almanc being created my my fellow breakfast chef/server, Tony, who is almost at the end of a three year composition of an incredibly comprehensive Arran almanac. He has leant me several books too – writing them down in a little notebook of his own so he’ll get them back. These include The Isle of Arran by the aforementioned Robert McLellan, & the Arran Coastal Way by Jacquetta Megarry.

Also in the library is Nigel Tranter’s ‘The Bruce Triology’ which I shall be raiding for one of my new conchordia – The King & the Spider – based on the early stages of the rise Robert The Bruce to the Scottish kingship. Another book is This Dear Place, written by a local lassie & ‘one of the Few’, Lesley Paton Cox, a labour of love which in her words, ‘wanted to speak about the people of our Corrie & Sannox past… to ensure that information about the folk of our two villages, their ancestors & their home here would be available for future generations.’ This book then planted a seed to create a conchord about the Highland Clearances. The other conchord will be MADCHESTER about the 89-90 halycon age of The Stone Roses & Happy Mondays.

Holy Island, off Lamlash

So we’re off – the gardens of study & creativity has been planted & it is time to water them through the summer season…

Damian Beeson Bullen


Lyra: Bristol Poetry Festival

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Lyra: Lyra at Heart

Getting into this year’s two week online Bristol Poetry festival was a joy in itself, with another fine example of online organising. This time the team of Co-Directors and social programmers had something striking to say and the festival‘s aim and title of Festival Reconnection. To say that something was afoot would be a good reference as to the way that online poetry can hold the audience who are just out of being knocked by lockdown though it has now been lifted and hopefully businesses are coming back. So let’s come back from this 2021 Lyra’s protective theme of total and real Reconnecting.

It fell to Prof. Nick Groom to introduce us to and capture us by his expert story of a Bristol poet named Chatterton or Thomas Chatterton. Prof Groom who is a speaker, published with his themes of range and identity, his books include ‘The vampire, a new history’ which I haven’t read and know nothing about. In the fact that Groom’s experimentation in lecturing itself, would bring his world of writing set to explore Chatterton’s influence on Wordsworth’s writing and more.

Lyra: Prof. Groom: Chatterton’s books

Nick Groom

He looked at Chatterton’s work and took the single lines from his poetry to examine how the premierist soon to be a gifted writer and how he early on went into creating through his stronghold phenominality we could have called him a phenominalist. Chatterton’s stories were very much influenced by his take on equality but his immortally kind and understanding stature only lasted until his suicide at the very tender age of 17. His tragedy was sealed. This tragedy shows him probably to be the youngest poet ever to write with such clarity in these manners, matters and more.

A Chatterton Quote would be, “Flowereth nodded on his head”, to me meaning something very gentle, to his, “…to hear his joyous song.” a line to speak for itself. Through most of his light and striving the dedicatory lecture compared Chatterton’s world to the world of today; finding reconnection in his remarkable relevance in the world of today and at the hand of humane starting to rebuild.

The Lyra festival was presented in association with the magnanimously rich in literature; Bristol Poetry Institute. Of whom a Bristol poet Caleb Parkin was in conversation with Madhu Krishnan. Their task was to hold a definitive discussion where the reconnection of our natures will and other natures to be taken in; to drink in the vast possibility’s in future by way of for everything. Going into a better and further look into the world of earth’s nature’s and the powerful nature of Poetry, which is why we’re all here.

A special thanks has to go to Danny Pandolfi a Co-Director of 2021 Lyra and Beth Calverley this years honoured festival poet, who does no end of positive work using poetry to help people to express themselves, she goes deep into this work but from what I saw always with a smile and amazing willingness.

Lucy English

Listening to her charm the place she read her poetry like it was from the sky above. And I would like to thank the other co-director Lucy English who is a spoken word educator and reader at Bath Spa University and is a Co-Director of ‘Liberated words’, so there was a coming together of big worlds in the poetry scene. And I would like to mention Josie Alford who was Marketing & Social media management and is said to have quite a stage presence.

Lyra: In the Event Of…

This event saw a great discussion and Q&A with Danny and Lucy in the launch of the theme of ‘Reconnection’, and all of its physical, natural and environmental implications. That led to poet Caleb Parkin whose pamphlet “wasted rainbow” was commented on by Nadu Chrisman to open up a discussion about the institutes and live world of spoken poetry. With our interests at hand the feedback opened to being interactive and somewhat centred around lockdown.

Madhu Krishnan & lyra Caleb Parkin

With the ecosystem and ecology of poets resulting in greatly helpful organisations whose textured aesthetics, novel form, narrative prose, seemed to surmount looking like (and helping us look into)) the life of the tree who are like their own point of origin and conclusion, seeking the elixir. Brought about loud and important ways to try and treat language specifically in a different way (a term of service that can disintegrate words, and lays out language).

Delving and enveloping the interesting tension in a poem of the individual feelings and focus for the reader and the listener. All of which proving a fascinated interest in dominance and seeing life on earth as a tilted experience. As a kind of “…perpetual loading icon.” That obviously never ends, or a “…pixelated fish”, perhaps indicating no resistance. The philosophy and reaches of the proposed ethics of poetry, within the festival frame plan took us from tip to toe. Offering completed poems and breaking down these poems to see fundamentals where questioning is really quite stylish and purposeful in the field of where to get ideas.

Lyra: Frogs and ‘Liberated Words’

Fiona Hamilton’s “Smell of fog”, reached in and plucked a frog from a naked patch of earth. Whose metaphor struck the almost dumbed senses of frogs that can’t self-isolate! The frogs as a species are a perfect depiction for fertility and interrelatedness. And in this offering was held the deeply fascinating work of eco poetry in action.

As a further introduction to ‘Liberated Words’,who from humble beginnings in the 2012 which was like a year at the Bath Spa University. Lucy directed Reconnections in her screening of poetry films that for Lyra were heritage, family heritage and connection. Sarah Tremlet produced books of poetry films commemorating her much loved film genre. She is a poetry film maker, theorist, and author of the ‘Poetics of Poetry’ film starting in 2005. In her meeting with Lucy English in 2010 they connected and decided to make poetry films about teenagers with autism, all in the name and deliberation of Liberated Words. ‘Liberated words’ and the ‘Arnolfini’ (the Bristol international Centre for Contemporary Art) have hung out many times over the years to the benefit of both.

All of this in the Reconnections: Poetry Film Screening

And in the subject of identity of things like minors, where there may be a duo of poetics of place with 5 examples of Lia Vile Madre who was a medieval gypsy whose heritage collections led to the object of the film ‘A bird on a tree’. So came: the ‘Bird’ Poem’ which was a commission from the Centre for Arts and Wellbeing, literally at the top of the tree. As the poetic wheels of motion rolled along the lines went from, “…feathers always fascinating us…” grouped with, “…love’s me to the winds.” And “each new bird roosts for me!” all hailing a triumphant noise to the sounds and senses of an earthly paradise. Leaving us with feelings of “…favourite colours, rainbows.”

The films scanned one after another in their very short form. Taking us through extraordinary stories of what they called “scattered feather dust.” And spoke of the “bloodlines” of poetry filmmaking with new departures from Ezabel Turner whose pamphlet ‘Wonder of the traveller’ put bones on the road in connection with rural communities. So the film ‘Blood lines’ was in colour and of a green forest at hand. With “…open bravado door”, something sensual and similar, coupled with “songs and seasons wave at you”. All of which completing her surmount of the old depth of reading and writing.

Lyra: Identity in the Mirror

In further film mode of poetry it was seen by Yvonne Redicks whose words became something confident! That creating this world of lyrical semblances in the green and purple lines of, “that night is steep.” With “…ring of his ashes…”, and in the “…line of figures…” completing the theme with a terrific comment on “…still born brother.”

Moving away from film poetry we were invited right into a panel discussion that curtailed on programmes that were done and dusted, and showed us the many implications for thriving as a poet in the world of institutional and established themes whose opportunities being hopefully set to be fed and grow. Our discussion starred the inevitable voice of reason, Dr Edson Burton and with the voice of experience, Lawrence Hoo and facilitator (with some style), Ngaio Anyia.

Ngaio Anyia

The three of them were entrepreneurs at panel discussions, though there was a feeling of real relish from one being to another in this online way. Covering an abundance of tracks they talked about; Art & dissent: Bristol’s radical history. In this title the scope was placed for coverage to be their subjects and advertise them in the hope of bringing them to social matter.

About the plight of humanities African persuasion, communities build on being burnt to the ground classically, culturally and in the institutions. All of this has happened in what I can see as a sustained attempt to control these sections of the community’s across the world with a flag placed in Bristol at the Lyra. A jumping off point for Lyra was to heal the gaps of heinous injustices. I merely use this language because of how well the story was put together by the three even though only as a list of white crimes none of which were made with palatable events.

Lyra: Lawrence’s Analysis

Lawrence Hoo

Analysing Lawrence’s contributions against enslavement he looked at freedoms and civilisations, to build an unrelenting onset with his strength and willingness of experience. When talking with Dr Edson, the points were almost all reiterated. This was celebratory from the point of view of feeling free to speak out. The three did just that and asked us to do that too. There are so many things now going on in Britain, as to think something big may be happening, some kind of all-encompassing wave of truth brought about by writers and poets. But for the moment we will use the distinctive goings on in Bristol and in Lyra 2021.

Onto something inevitable in a made and unmade process. Keith Pipers words were eloquently articulate in a continuation of slave trade books, scenes and most importantly movements. And by now we were seeing familiar faces of the festival with for example Dr Edson talking about Pipers works and feelings. Also getting together with Meshin Decello and Vanessa Kisuule the animation films brought a presence that is unique to this type of art. Developing different voices and activism there was a direct energy alluding to a society that ignores poetry as it ignores people. But for that very reason the need is in offering a call of and for poets to be recognised.

Vanessa Kisuule

In an examination of spoken word in the UK, seeing its history and significance, we welcomed Peter Bearder who further dissented the festivals accessibility. Looking at barriers he performed to the wider world with representative dealings and collaborations for presenting. Part of his creative, playful, physically competitive environment, and in the use of venues such as pubs and clubs. He showed us who could have the discipline for the performances and techniques. A surmounting elaboration of the modern music; dub, punk or hip hop. We could see the implications almost every time.

Though we frequently delved into the many themes of Reconnection the work was also brought into modern day focus. The focus that is needed to see our world as they expand in the relevance of the past or the past relevant to now as alluded to in Prof Groom’s sage like lecture in the events of Chatterton’s 100ds of years old legacy.

Lyra: Cutting Edge

Showing how surprising it is to see cutting edge life of many eras ago and in the time lines of seeing the future. Looking into the African situation of suffering can still be constructed by departmentalising it. Not the work or the poet but the theme. Pete used minority identities to compose and measure these abducted transferences. Cutting in with edgy progressiveness and offering a resistance against the all-powerful commercial marketing. Who if we look at it are also ran on a basis in slavery.

Using performance poetry to convey anything is always a striking phenomenon because of its nature, history and popularity. So for Langston Hughes it was a perfect opportunity to honestly talk about and discuss black America, and its history and its place in the world today. How do you cut through built up distrust? How do you even respond to terrible events? Again by breaking down of systems; for example exposure of Artists, or in the maturation of art form instead of the watered down work of the market.

Lyra: A Kick from Poetry Kitchen

In the aptly named Poetry Kitchen the in-depth knowledge took another turn at the deep end. Including and inviting us to the art of gathering scenes together by using criticism to provide a space for the hippest questions about the 20th Century. Spoken word phenomenon is as to what it is for having already been very impressed by it. It is a world where cherishing differences and critical language come together to agree on spoken word direction having already taken its place. Once again creating Reconnection’s and having a real love coming through bringing the delight of poetry into being; speak and ye shall hear. Lem Susey induced in us to a need for growing black poets becoming a very busy international hub to help create these things for communities and neighbours to share. It, as so much of Lyra festival is, grass root identity, to be striven for and used to debunk fresh acts of violence or the perpetration of…, to create a new culture with an open and tearful eye for the present as on the past.

Lyra: Reconnect

There was no end in this fortnight long online festival to the bountiful world of spoken or read or performed poetic‘s in stances and conundrums. All bound together and clasped together but all with poetic sincerity and connectivity in mind. Poetry of the world puts the highest thinking in place and watches with gentle turmoil as the acts of behaviour viewed across the globe. With this international conceptual thriving the reflections and commiserations shed light on the soul (or the planet) as a thing we know and will know for some time to come, even going back to the old religious celebrations. A healthy, natural absorption occurs; with the never ending qualities holding fun the day. Hence the festivals inclusivity of Lyra to talk loudly as with any other poetic organisations of today, in a world of bringing careful tenderness towards affliction’s of any kind.

Beth Calverly

This is how good and well the distributing of poetry can get out and to as many populaces and cultures as is possible, enter Beth Calverley who was festival poet 2021. She is a 2020 British Life awards and Arts finalist with a collection of ‘Brave Faces & other smiles’ to accompany her verse and poetry press releases. She makes the endearing step towards mental wellbeing for all with her workshops and projects. She performed with her good friend Bethany Roberts whose songs and spoken word had them smiling in different ways.

Lyra: Make the Reconnections, Final Word

The aptly named “Spellbound” was a work of genius. It held the reflection of so many things that poured out of the violin, the music and the voice. We could easily see why Beth is flying and why she was named Festival Poet; imagine the lives she has personally touched. Then to the poems and poets; what this comes down to is written word of poetry. The listening to it, imagining it, understanding it and always making it your own! I’ll leave you with some quoted lines to sooth you but also to wake you up;

The wonderfully positive snippets of a place where; “…the weather was awful.” to the reasoning response “…comfort eyes.” And “…sense my voice friend…” to “…hold this yellow thread…” leaving us with “…sing myself undressed…”
To the bleak “…ghosts don’t bring wine…” looking for “…gold wrapping paper.” But within a “…clammy abyss…”

It was the protest styles that grabbed us with plentiful ideologies of how things play out and come to happen I leave you with the line; “Some poems force you to write them.”


Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

The Young Shakespeare (17): The Rival Poet

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A Busy Christmas

By the Christmas of 1594, the 30 year old Shakespeare has fully evolv’d into a Theatre owner, company member and Playwright! On Mar 15th, 1595, there is a record of payment, via an entry in the accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber to Chamberlain’s Men; for a December 27 or 28 performance.

To William Kempe, William Shakespeare & Richard Burbage, servaunts to the Lord Chamberleyne, upon the Councelle’s warrant dated at Whitehall xv. to Marcij… for twoe severall comedies or enterludes shewed by them before her majestie in Christmas tyme laste part viz St. Stephens daye and Innocents daye xiijli vjss vijd, and by way of her majesties Reward vjli iiijd, in all xxli.

By March 15, 1595, and inferentially by Christmas 1594, William Shakespeare had become a leading member of his company, the Lord Chamberlain’s players, sufficiently senior to serve with William Kempe and Richard Burbage as a financial trustee, receiving two £10 payments “for twoe seuerall Comedies or Enterludes shewed by them before her maiestie in Christmas tyme laste paste viz vpon St Stephens daye & Innocents daye.”

In 28 December 1594 the first known performance of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” took place in Gray’s Inn Hall, as part of the Inn’s Christmas festivities. These were recorded in detail in the “Gesta Grayorum”, a contemporary account of the performance, but not published until 1688. It tells us that “A Comedy of Errors (like to Plautus his Menechmus) was played by the Players” in Gray’s Inn Hall on December 28, 1594, amid an evening of general confusion that led to the occasion being called the “Night of Errors.”

The Gesta Grayorum, printed in 1688 from a manuscript apparently passed down from the 1590s is an account of the Christmas revels by the law students at Gray’s Inn in 1594. In the text reproduced below the references to the High and Mighty Prince, Henry Prince of Purpoole, our Prince of State, are to the mock prince crowned for the occasion from among the students, a sort of prince of misrule. The document is important for its clear reference to Shakespeare’s company–the players–and unmistakable references to Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, performed on this night of December 28, 1594 (“Innocents-Day”). It also contains an enigmatic references to (perhaps) certain elements in Love’s Labour’s Lost which are also reproduced below.

The next grand Night was intended to be upon Innocents-Day at Night ; at which time there was a great Prefence of Lords, Ladies, and worfhipful Perfonages, that did expect fome notable Performance at that time ; which, indeed, had been effected, if the multitude of Beholders had not been fo exceeding great, that thereby there was no convenient room for thofe that were Actors ; by reafon whereof, very good Inventions and Conceipts could not have opportunity to be applauded, which otherwife would have been great Contentation to the Beholders. Againft which time, our Friend, the Inner Temple, determined to fend their Ambaffador to our Prince of State, as fent from Frederick Templarius, their Emperor, who was then bufied in his Wars againft the Turk. The Ambaffador came very gallantly appointed, and attended by a great number of brave Gentlemen, which arrived at our Court about Nine of the Clock at Night. Upon their coming thither, the King at Arms gave notice to the Prince, then fitting in his Chair of State in the Hall, that there was come to his Court an Ambaffador from his ancient Friend the State of Templaria which defired to have prefent Accefs unto His Highnefs ; and fliewed his Honour further, that he feemed to be of very good fort, becaufe he was fo well attended ; and therefore defired that it would pleafe His Honour that fome of his Nobles and Lords might conduct him to His Highnefs’s Prefence ; which was done. So he was brought in very folemnly, with Sound of Trumpets, the King at Arms and Lords of Purpoole making to his Company, which marched before him in order. He was received very kindly of the Prince, and placed in a Chair befides His Highnefs, to the end that he might be Partaker of the Sports intended. But firft, he made a Speech to the Prince, wherein he declared how his excellent Renown and Fame was known throughout all the whole World ; and that the Report of his Greatnefs was not contained within the Bounds of the Ocean, but had come to the Ears of his noble Sovereign, Frederick Templarius where he is now warring againfl the Turks, the known Enemies to all Christendom; who having heard that His Excellency kept his Court at Graya, this Chriftmas, thought it to ftand with his ancient League of Amity and near Kindnefs, that fo long hath been continued and increafed by their noble Anceftors of famous Memory and Defert, to gratulate his Happinefs, and flourifhing Eftate ; and in that regard, had fent him his Ambaffador, to be refiding at His Excellency’s Court, in honour of his Greatnefs, and token of his tender Love and Good Will he beareth to His Highnefs; the Confirmation whereof he efpecially required, and by all means poffible, would ftudy to increafe and eternize: Which Function he was the more willing to accomplish, becaufe our State of Graya did grace Templaria with the Prefence of an Ambaffador about thirty Years fince, upon like occafion. Our Prince made him this Anfwer, That he did acknowledge that the great Kindnefs of his Lord, whereby he doth invite to further degrees in firm and Loyal Friendfhip, did deferve all honourable Commendations, and effectual Accomplifhment, that by any means might be devifed ; and that he accounted himfelf happy, by having the fincere and ftedfaft Love of fo gracious and renowned a Prince, as his Lord and Mafter deferved to be efteemed ; and that nothing in the World fhould hinder the due Obfervation of fo inviolable a Band as he efteemed his Favour and Good Will. Withal, he entred into Commendations of his noble and courageous Enterprizes, in that he chufeth out an Adverfary fit for his Greatnefs to encounter with, his Honour to be illuftrated by, and fuch an Enemy to all Christiendom as that the Glory of his Actions tend to the Safety and Liberty of all Civility and Humanity ; yet, notwithstanding that he was thus employed, in this Action or honouring us, he mewed both his honourable Mindfulnefs of our Love and Friendfhip, and alfo his own Puiffance, that can afford fo great a number of brave Gentlemen, and fo gallantly furnifhed and accomplimed : And fo concluded, with a Welcome both to the Ambaffador himfelf, and his Favourites, for their Lord and Mailer’s fake, and fo for their own good Deferts and Condition.

When the Ambaflador was placed, as aforefaid, and that there was fomething to be performed for the Delight of the Beholders, there arofe fuch a difordered Tumult and Crowd upon the Stage, that there was no Opportunity to effect that which was intended : There came fo great a number of worshipful Perfonages upon the Stage, that might not be difplaced ; and Gentlewomen, whofe Sex did privilege them from Violence, that when the Prince and his Officers had in vain, a good while, expected and endeavoured a Reformation, at length there was no hope of Redrefs for that prefent. The Lord Ambaffador and his Train thought that they were not fo kindly entertained, as was before expected, and thereupon would not ftay any longer at that time, but, in a fort, difcontented and difpleafed. After their Departure the Throngs and Tumults did fomewhat ceafe, although fo much of them continued, as was able to diforder and confound any good Inventions whatfoever. In regard whereof, as alfo for that the Sports intended were efpecially for the gracing of the Templarians it was thought good not to offer any thing of Account, faving Dancing and Revelling with Gentlewomen; and after fuch Sports, a Comedy of Errors (like to Plautus his Menechmus) was played by the Players. So that Night was begun, and continued to the end, in nothing but Confufion and Errors; whereupon, it was ever afterwards called, The Night of Errors.

This mifchanceful Accident forting fo ill, to the great prejudice of the reft of our Proceedings, was a great Difcouragement and Difparagement to our whole State ; yet it gave occafion to the Lawyers of the Prince’s Council, the next Night, after Revels, to read a Commiffion of Oyer and Terminer, directed to certain Noblemen and Lords of His Highnefs’s Council, and others, that they would enquire, or caufe Enquiry to be made of fome great Diforders and Abufes lately done and committed within His Highnefs’s Dominions of Purpoole, efpecially by Sorceries and Inchantments ; and namely, of a great Witchcraft ufed the Night before, whereby there were great Diforders and Mifdemeanours, by Hurly-burlies, Crowds, Errors, Confufions, vain Reprefentations and Shews, to the utter Difcredit of our State and Policy.

The next Night upon this Occafion, we preferred Judgments thick and threefold, which were read publickly by the Clerk of the Crown, being all againft a Sorcerer or Conjurer that was fuppofed to be the Caufe of that confufed Inconvenience. Therein was contained, How he had caufed the Stage to be built, and Scaffolds to be reared to the top of the Houfe, to increafe Expectation. Alfo how he had caufed divers Ladies and Gentlewomen, and others of good Condition, to be invited to our Sports; alfo our deareft Friend, the State of Templaria, to be difgraced, and difappointed of their kind Entertainment, deferved and intended. Alfo that he caufed Throngs and Tumults, Crowds and Outrages, to difturb our whole Proceedings. And Laftly, that he had foifted a Company of bafe and common Fellows, to make up our Diforders with a Play of Errors and Confufions ; and that that Night had gained to us Difcredit, and itfelf a Nickname of Errors. All which were againft the Crown and Dignity of our Sovereign Lord, the Prince of Purpoole.

Under Colour of thefe Proceedings, were laid open to the View, all the Caufes of note that were committed by our chiefefl Statesmen in the Government of our Principality ; and every Officer in any great Place, that had not performed his Duty in that Service, was taxed hereby, from the higheft to the loweft, not fparing the Guard and Porters, that fuffered fo many difordered Perfons to enter in at the Court-Gates : Upon whofe aforefaid Indictments, the Prifoner was arraigned at the Bar, being brought thither by the Lieutenant of the Tower (for at that time the Stocks were graced with that Name;) and the Sheriff impannelled a Jury of Twenty four Gentlemen, that were to give their Verdict upon the Evidence given.

Shortly after this Shew, there came Letters to our State from Frederick Templarius ; wherein he defired, that his Ambaffador might be difpatched with Anfwer to thofe Things which he came to treat of So he was very honourably difmiffed, and accompanied homeward with the Nobles of Purpoole : Which Departure was before the next grand Day. The next grand Night was upon Twelfthday at Night; at which time the wonted honourable and worfhipful Company of Lords, Ladies and Knights were, as at other times, affembled ; and every one of them placed conveniently, according to their Condition. And when the Prince was afcended his Chair of State, and the Trumpets founded, there was prefently a Shew which concerned His Highnefs’s State and Government : The Invention was taken out of the Prince’s Arms, as they are blazon’d in the beginning of his Reign, by the King at Arms. Firft, There came fix Knights of the Helmet, with three that they led as Prifoners, and were attired like Monfters and Mifcreants. The Knights gae the Prince to underftand, that as they were returning from their Adventures out of Ruffia, wherein they aided the Emperor Ruffia, againft the Tartars t they furprized thefe three Perfbns, which were confpiring againfl His Highnefs and Dignity: and that being apprehended by them, they could not urge them to difclofe what they were : By which they refting very doubtful, there entred in the two Goddeffes, Arety and Amity; and they faid, that they would difclofe to the Prince who thefe fufpected Perfons were; and thereupon shewed, that they were Envy Malecontent and Folly : Which three had much mifliked His Highnefs’s Proceedings, and had attempted many things againft his State; and but for them two, Fertile and United Friendfhip, all their Inventions had been difappointed. Then willed they the Knights to depart, and to carry away the Offenders ; and that they themfelves fhould come in more pleafing fort, and better befitting the prefent. So the Knights departed, and Fertile and Amity promifed, that they two would fupport His Excellency againft all his Foes whatfoever, and then departed with moft pleafant Mufick. After their Departure, entred the fix Knights in a very ftately Mask, and danced a new devifed Meafure ; and after that, they took to them Ladies and Gentlewomen, and danced with them their Galliards, and fo departed with Mufick. Which being done, the Trumpets were commanded to found, and then the King at Arms came in before the Prince, and told His Honour, that there was arrived an Ambaffador from the mighty Emperor of Ruffia and Mofcovy, that had fome Matters of Weight to make known to His Highnefs. So the Prince willed that he fhould be admitted into his Prefence ; who came in Attire of Russia, accompanied with two of his own Country, in like Habit.

The confusion has been well explained by Alan H. Nelson;

While different theatre historians offer different explanations of the conflicting evidence, it is at least within the realm of possibility that the Lord Chamberlain’s players, Shakespeare among them, had contracted to present a play at Gray’s Inn on the evening of December 28th 1594. For some unknown reason the company was ordered to perform at court on the same evening, perhaps by last-minute royal command. Having discharged their responsibilities at Greenwich, the company returned by boat to London, appearing at Gray’s Inn near midnight among scenes of utter chaos.



If music and sweet poetry agree,
As they must needs, the sister and the brother,
Then must the love be great ’twixt thee and me,
Because thou lov’st the one and I the other.
Dowland to thee is dear, whose heavenly touch 
Upon the lute doth ravish human sense;
Spenser to me, whose deep conceit is such,
As passing all conceit, needs no defence.
Thou lov’st to hear the sweet melodious sound
That Phœbus’ lute, the queen of music, makes; 
And I in deep delight am chiefly drowned
Whenas himself to singing he betakes:
One god is god of both, as poets feign,
One knight loves both, and both in thee remain.

The above sonnet was sometimes attributed to Shakespeare as it appeared anonymously in the Shakespeare-heavy ‘The Passionate Pilgrim’ of 1599. However, it has also appeared in Richard Barnfield’s ‘Poems in Divers Humors,’ the year before. What this does show is that Barnfield & Shakespeare were cut from the same cloth. Earlier in our essay on the Young Shakespeare we look’d at Leo Dougherty’s research into the Richard Barnfield, Shakespeare & Stanley sonneteering triangle, out of which body of work we were able to identify the time & place of the Dark Lady sonnets. We also came to understand how the homoerotic Richard Barnfield was the ‘Rival Poet’ of the sonnets, with Dougherty adding; ‘my inference… if they are about the same man, then the carryings on of Shakespeare, his ‘fair man’, & his dark lady took place before Shakespeare’s period of poetic rivalry.’ Here is one of the classic ‘rival poet’ sonnets from Shakesepaeare’s pen.

Was it the proud full saile of his great verse,
Bound for the prize of (all to precious) you,
That did my ripe thoughts in my braine inhearce,
Making their tombe the wombe wherein they grew?
Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write,
Aboue a mortall pitch, that struck me dead?
No, neither he, nor his compiers by night
Giuing him ayde, my verse astonished.
He nor that affable familiar ghost
Which nightly gulls him with intelligence,
As victors of my silence cannot boast,
I was not sick of any feare from thence,
But when your countinance fild vp his line,
Then lackt I matter, that infeebled mine

Having arrived ourselves at the year of 1595, it is time to look at their relationship in more detail, beginning with Leo Daugherty.

A few years down the road, & increasingly mindful of Haines’ caution to Buck Milligan that Shakespeare’s sonnets are, ‘the happy hunting ground of all minds that have lost their balance,’ I nonetheless came to conclude from the evidence I accumulated that not only was Barnfield’s Ganymede the sixth Earl of Derby, William Stanley, but also that Barnfield published poems from 1594 (including over twenty homoerotic love sonnets) were in dialogue with some of Shakespeare’s own homoerotic sonnets to his Fair Youth… we hardly have reason to be very surprised if, after all, Shakespeare’s beloved & revered male addressee might turn out to be William Stanley.’

Daugherty bases his reasoning on a ‘sonnetteering conversation’ played out between Shakespeare & a younger poet, Richard Barnfield, who officialy dedicated his series of homoerotic sonnets to Stanley. Barnfield published his sonnets in 1593, dedicating them to Stanley in the most florid style; ‘To the Right Honorable, and most noble-minded Lorde, William Stanley, Earle of Darby, &c. Right Honorable, the dutiful affection I beare to your manie vertues, is cause, that to manifest my loue to your Lordship, I am constrained to shew my simplenes to the world. Many are they that admire your worth, of the which number, I (though the meanest in abilitie, yet with the formost in affection) am one that most desire to serue, and onely to serue your Honour. Small is the gift, but great is my good- will ; the which, by how much the lesse I am able to expresse it, by so much the more it is infinite.’ Barnfield continues on like this for quite a bit, & it really does feels like he is among the inspirations for Shakespeare’s moaning about a ‘rival poet’ in his sonnets;

O! how I faint when I of you do write,
Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame.

So, in the years following 1593, we seem to be witnessing Shakespeare continuing his sonnet dialogue with Stanley, this time rather miff’d there’s a johnny-cum-lately in the mix. There are many comparisons between the two poets’ work, from poetical conceits to phraseology

Come thou hither, my friend so pretty, all riding on a hobby horse; Either make thyself more witty or again renew thy force (Barnfield)

Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,
Which but to-day by feeding is allayed,
To-morrow sharpened in his former might:
So, love, be thou, although to-day thou fill
Thy hungry eyes, even till they wink with fulness,
To-morrow see again, and do not kill
The spirit of love, with a perpetual dulness.
Let this sad interim like the ocean be
Which parts the shore, where two contracted new
Come daily to the banks, that when they see
Return of love, more blest may be the view;
As call it winter, which being full of care,
Makes summer’s welcome, thrice more wished, more rare. (Shakespeare)

The two extracts above are solidly connected by the phrase ‘renew thy force.‘ In the next sonnet – with Shakespeare again sounding miff’d off at other poets writing for Stanley – a key phrase is ‘amend thy style,’ which turns up in Barnfields ‘Greene’s Funerals’ of 1594.

So oft have I invoked thee for my Muse,
And found such fair assistance in my verse
As every alien pen hath got my use
And under thee their poesy disperse.
Thine eyes, that taught the dumb on high to sing
And heavy ignorance aloft to fly,
Have added feathers to the learned’s wing
And given grace a double majesty.
Yet be most proud of that which I compile,
Whose influence is thine, and born of thee:
In others’ works thou dost but mend the style,
And arts with thy sweet graces graced be;
But thou art all my art, and dost advance
As high as learning, my rude ignorance. (Shakespeare)

Amend thy style? who can? who can amend thy style
For sweet conceit?
Alas the while
That any such as thou shouldst die
By fortunes guile (Richard Barnfield)

This poetic rivalry was short, brief, & bristling with excellent writing – however, their competition would soon be trump’d by the arrival of a new rival to Stanley’s affections – his future wife.

William Stanley Marries

On January 26th, 1595, at Greenwich Palace, William Stanley married Elizabeth de Vere, daughter of the 17th Earl of Oxford and granddaughter of Lord Burghley. The royal venue was probably a gift from the Queen herself, for de Vere was her maid of honour.  Robert Cecil in a letter says at least one play had been prepared to entertain the many guests, with a dance to close the night. That four days after the wedding there was ceremony in Lord Burghley’s House connects with a line in Midsummer Night’s Dream. The 30th of January 1595 was a New Moon, which leads us to the first lines of the play

Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in
Another moon. But, oh, methinks how slow
This old moon wanes. She lingers my desires,
Like to a stepdame or a dowager
Long withering out a young man’s revenue. 

One of MND’s characters is Titania, the Queen of the Fairies, whose presence could well have entertain’d the onwatching Elizabeth I herself. 

With the main storyline of MND being the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, MND is Shakespeare’s definitive paean to marriage, a bridal masque of sorts, & so much so that even the play within a play – Pyramus and Thisbe – is also about a {forbidden} marriage.

MND was enter’d into the Stationer’s Register on 8th October, 1600, & printed later that year; the title-page claims that the play “hath been sundry times publickely acted” by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, with Francis Meres mentioning it among Shakespeare’s plays in 1598. A 1594 date for its composition is suggested by an allusion to Edmund Spenser’s Epithalamion, an ode written to his own bride, Elizabeth Boyle, on their wedding day in 1594. In addition, by the bulk of contemporary testimony, the play’s cold, wet summer, followed by a poor harvest, also points to 1594. There is also the mechanicals’ discussion (3.1. 27–42), concerning the advisability of bringing a lion on stage for fear of frightening the ladies. This passage seems based on an incident which occurred at the feast for the baptism of Prince Henry of Scotland on 30 August 1594. As King James dined, a chariot was drawn in by a blackamoor; he was a substitute for the real lion which had been intended, “because [the lion’s] presence might have brought some feare to the nearest”. (For more details, see – A True reportarie of the most triumphant, and royal accomplishment of the baptisme of the most excellent, right high, and mightie prince, Frederik Henry; by the grace of God, Prince of Scotland Solemnized the 30. day of August. 1594).

The marriage of William Stanley & his becoming the Earl of Derby seems a perfect time to end this Young Shakespeare series. It had been a decade since the two Williams had adventured across Europa, at the end of which Shakespeare was well on his way to becoming a superstar for all ages. The private & youthful lust & love that they had shared on the road had dissipated onto the stage of time & its cast of thousands, tho’ of course many remembrances of their tourings were still to find an eternity through Shakespeare’s pen. 

StAnza Poetry Festival 2021

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St Andrews
March 6th – 14th

StAnza Director: Eleanor Livingstone

The Stanza International Poetry Festival took place online from 6th to 14th March. Stanza was born in 1997, the brainchild of three poets deeply qualified in the field, Brian Johnstone, Anne Crowe and Gavin Bowd. Over the decades it has built up a standing as a leading place at the head of world poetry. Brian Johnstone, the poet and writer, is part of Edinburgh Shore Poets, with a particular interest in live poetry. Brian served as Festival Director from 2000-2010. Anne Crowe has many publications and prizes, and has translated into Castilian, Catalan, German and more, and Gavin Bowd teaches in St Andrews University. The first Stanza Festival launched on National Poetry Day in 1998, only a year after its conception.

This year, there wasn’t a single poet who did not strive and succeed in the field wither older or younger. having many honorary or volunteered for positions in the festival life itself. But the top seats had to go to the amazing Eleanor Livingstone who took us around as the Festival Director, Louise Robertson, on Press & Media and Annie Rutherford, Programme Co-ordinator.

Annie Rutherford

The pre-festival 5th March Panel discussion I found extremely interesting. I was captured by all the great styles of the written word. Taking off, with an expert discussion about the current goings on in the ‘European regions progress in literary culture’: an assessment of the progress culturally in considering brand new approaches. With an emphasis on understanding of the said European literary culture and regions, whether or not the writing is concerned enough with winning a battle of creating real roots outside the English dominant language. With the good news of their beginning to be or not of new infrastructures that are coming through with fresh lenses.

The Event ‘Trafica’, a radio initiative/European project talked very specifically about its identity and the giant world of creating serious funding that is met a little in the creating of inroads into how to qualify for funding. With Dostoevsky mentioned; the getting out of politics in poetry or at least in the intake of greater cultures, was dreamed of with the belief that poetry is of the Alchemy of the spirit and a gorgeous wish to move far away from being anything narrow minded. All coming with the initial supra courageous step of leaving your home country, finding its way to Stanza.

Concrete Poetry & Insta Poetry

My introduction to this came in a ‘Meet the artist’ event concerning the concept of concrete poetry and Insta poetry; The Insta was explored in Chris McCabe’s ‘For every day’ a poetry book with two poets in what is called a poem atlas, an idea of high mountains and frequent views both bad and good (to put it in simple terms). Bringing with it uncomfortableness and an openness which through the poetry went into the performances and readings.

Insta poetry is helping herald the quiet yet substantial revolution of poetry to the new and younger audiences. With its new forms of poetry, such as photo poetry. All made around the two fresh prospects of Concrete and Insta poetry. Giving the poets a chance to convey personal interests in the nature of concrete poetry measuring its effect upon itself with the natural components of words.

Political poetry then would have helped in the creating of a platform for forming options for the artist to reach their own outreaching platforms. They talked about the marvel that is online eventing calling it a dynamic in the world of Instagram critique. Astra Papachristodoulon asking us to travel beyond the book. Thinking instead about using her own brought objects to the table, a very wavy broadband of a subject. She also gave the example of using sculpture to make sense of her feelings, in particularly mixing sculpture with poetry. So, the highest abstracts were made possible in her very own art form.

The poet called Jinhao Xie spelled out more of how Instagram has brought a closeness to the audience and an interest in the poems themselves. But the aim was to use concise language and influence the critical gender performance, that leaves us with a chance of using simple graphics, with the all-important thing: humanity of others. His concrete poem where doors being closed, set to hatch his poem.

Found in Translation

From Found in translation (as to the popular lost in…) came a call to translators to show their form, their all-important co-working partner; interpretation. Tania Hershman, a poet and translator and Peter McKay communed online with Nicola Gevsky, who translates and interprets, and is into the fascinating, enthralling and necessity ways of the paving for us no less than as a world-wide phenomenon, which sounds like quite a thing, doesn’t it?

Nikola herself read from her poem written to be spoken of; an amazing people who nearly translate the world yet so humanly seek to make translating poetry into something directly close to fun. Saying that the instruments for writing do very well to entertain the senses of the human body all the way up to the mind as a meditation. We listened to the sound of rhymes as gold dust falling from the voices.

It seems that where there is an adopting of cultural context, there is room for expansion as in this case hailing from smaller countries. Translation takes place from the blood, sweat and tears of theirs and our revered poets who speak well in public. Though this is a thing that tends to differ per society (environment) and in their linguistics’ of the personal and the very public.

Backgrounds made the curtains of the theatre fall but it was always in pursuit of something fresh, lost and found is a good place to start. In the discussion on background of poems, there were translating challenges presented; to be handled by an enhancement in the learning about culture which is the passport to many things in the flight of this poetic world. It headed home to St Andrews with the translating from Gaelic of Peter’s piece, and Mitko Gogor’s into English. Putting the sharing of poetry at the forefront that merged for us into being very relaxed and finely in tune.

And in this relaxed manner George Colkitto (another wonderful name) who can understand full Welsh; again, portrayed another act of listening to the Welsh. He read these sounds like hymns of the human voice. Translating as a known and unknown quality where words and worlds still fall away. The ‘meet the artist’ events were always informative and super pleasant. And with the introduction of Peter MacKay who is among many other things a broad caster, lecturer, very much interested in translation of art and poetry into film. A question and answer, about the film poem just seen, was discussed with Ciara Ni E, a Berlin student with a deep and intense response to events.

Q & A on Found in Translation

Paul Maguire mentioned the occasion of choosing to speak in his own tongue, in the discussion and Pauls Scots, who speaks Gaelic Irish – wanted and does create the space for the handy opportunity to see the world through different lenses. And in the relationships between nations, whose translation into English has brought an external archive that was described as an ‘interesting process’ and with that the introduction of film, called a different animal ‘Urban fox’ an Irish sharing of cultures, stories, and a celebration of the ancient street scenes of Edinburgh ‘…fox eyes then her human eyes.’,

In translating from Welsh, words that didn’t fit into the interlocking of the process stood out, as the Welsh stands out as a language. Q. How much were you working from sound? Was a question that expounded the mediums and enhanced the subjectivity of the matter concerned.

Another Q. was. Is there too much emphasis of nationality in Ireland, Scotland and Wales? Which I felt was an electric question because it seems we would all like to know that one, a dynamic question for more wide spread thinking. Poetry has the ambition of representing entire cultures and in that world, they say that Irish and Scottish can very well be vice-versa in their substances. But there are feelings that Welsh is left to the side lines, mimicking perhaps a wider ignorance towards an anti-thesis that not all languages share the same usefulness as the mostly dominant Anglo English. In Wales there is a sense of a great lack of interest in the fineries of romantic culture as set aside by Rome

In the gaps in language, it is found that identity disappears. In for example closeness to masculinity undergoes misunderstandings, but in the spirit of determinism of subject there are important links succeeding between communities, snow balling since the big efforts for change affected in the 1970’s.

Online Organisation

Reaching remote communities is an exciting happening due to the internet’s reach, seeming to come to all of us here. It has among many other things created a different conversation online. The history side of things throw up great questions that probed into changes of attitude among nations. Where there is at the moment a longer process involved in Anglo Saxon world, because translation requires a wider questioning of translating older wisdom!

Maria Stepanova & Aileen Ballantyne, Two Poets

Maria Stepanova

‘Poets at home’ where we met Maria Stepanova & Aileen Ballantyne event was of the downs of which the poet and translator Sasha Dugdsale incurred. In the voice of the downs, adapted by the nature of the countryside she is so very close to. For her it was everything, and her radiance grew with every piece of her dramatic and informational poems. Information that included methods for well mental being. But her soft voice spread out to the water or fields in front of her, almost with freedom at hand. ‘The downs – ‘wide open…’, a huge affinity…,’ laying her shadow into the picture as her ‘eternal feminine’.

‘The last model’ – Francise Boutle (2020) – Latgalien poetry to showcase appeared last year, who having formed broad international contributions in a minority language had Jade Will, a compiler and translator, own work ‘The last Model’ – 2018, Published (Boubly publications) – In the translated from Latvian into English the poem her ‘…age of Christ…,’ The last days of the Soviet Union, belches of Soviet era. The power of poetry, the power of Russian poetry, is a power and blood shed of war.

Taking in Topics

The power of translating from Russian into English results in desperate and yet very strong words, coming from a shift in history, that is to be taken very personally. So, reading two, three, four poems fresh from the press started coming from the same place in literature but differing greatly in environment.

The subject of describing woman and defining woman, often led to some horrible histories both personal and societal (societal should be easier to change for the better). Offering first-hand accounts, of the sheer pain of war and destruction that happened in the native or visited countries and regions who all share the same map. Woman have never been dismaying into backing down the extremely withered sensation in a battle of the sexes.
Nature takes its place in the heart of the Stanza’s proceedings, and by the looks of it a learned poet can be as clear as a country river with its objects and musings all in the power of poetry that bends like nature to your will wherever it may suit you.

Where in any line there was loveliness and hope at any other time the words and ideals disrupted our gentle walk and took hold of us to the very collar. Also, though not so much imagined sorrow but very real and now, holding poetry to their hearts or casting them very far afield. Always returning to the magic that poetry seems to have a place for all of us.

The Foreign Language & Finance

Estonian poetry had a good presence, with the positive news that some things are as good as on the right track. To the esteemed concrete idea of being a poet who earns a living. From the Latvian situation comes a revealing of wide spread publishing. And it looks as though it differs because of a problem of language acting as a stopper, that this process is proving hard to understand. But the line out of it would be in making the poetic market a non-government organization, and the organization of friends to establish publishing, leaving off for a need of more future progress.

Another New Poet

The Stanza 2021 Poetry Centre Stage events had varied poets who have been internationally sought after was Russell’s readings that had his close adherence to poetry through science fiction, to throw open the field and the day. His images with poetry crossed genres and moved into a new way of sending a message through poetry. His writings and compilations all worked in pushing things to an extreme.

Stanza: Masterclass

The ‘My Favourite Poets’ time was spent in producing a masterclass. Where from dark words, the hero poet knee deep in failure, bitterness and then joy, was like a scene from some unmentionable tragedy reported through praiseworthy poetic Stance. As a woman wrapped in insignificance. Reminding us of the wide and well spread coverage for exemplary poetry and factual utterings.

Helen Boden, Suzanna V Evens and Jaqueline Saphra

Suzanne V Evans

As we were joined by Helen Boden, we took a virtual walk along Fife coastal path. For which she amounted her poems and photographs from Yorkshire. With extensive collaborations, responsive poems and creative non-fiction under her poetic belt. She was so soft and full of great endearment, passion and accomplishment. Photography or film merges very well with poetry and creates a view of sight and sound. She celebrated her land marks of sheer familiarity for her that included the poems celebration of a light house that see the high winds and seas.

Jaqueline Saphra

When Jaqueline Saphra joined Suzanna V Evens the experience heightened for me with the language she used in the forms of Form & evolution, in Suzanna’s terms it is something like or exactly like a palace of words. Or rather her term of the palace of poetry.

Her injection of this metaphoric place; the palace of poetry led us to understand her loud cry for this palace, as somewhere we could reach for or entre at will. She spoke of her wish to be inspired into claiming and taking over this palace which to me had a feeling of the epic poetry of old. To realise the struggle of the work of word. Leaving us with the epic quest of what it might be to create a formless poem?

Post the Palace of Poetry

Read aloud out from a Fatal interview of St Vincent Mallet who spoke; ‘in the winter stands the lonely tree…’ sparked a rich discussions with Eavan Doland’s whose point of view was both agreed with and disagreed with. About the art and against the silence. Of a combustion engine that belongs to everyone, she takes note of a Yeats poem called ‘leader of the swan’, which is a horrific poem about the indifference of men to the scene of rape! I feel sorry to mention that here but maybe my feelings should waver here. She took us through how poetry has been shaped in our earliest stanza of the more pure and innocent prayer and lullaby, which was remarkably built to be remembered(imagine that).

So, onto Stevie Smith whose black and white film was directed by his stringent found truths that are in sense and music, and how again they can be used as a back-up for poems, his subversive style revolutionised the sonnet (no small thing). And for Eavan Boland, Marlyn Nielson, Gwyndelin Brooks the embracing the sonnet is most powerful potential for poetry of its two-line sentencing and short hand but lyrical object.

Spurring back to Eavan Dolands in the sense of the staying of woman in the broad sense as love objects. With a longing for breaking down from her fiery motif of moving the wall of the palace, as if holding a sword to the air. And with a sad push comes the recognition that poetry ignores people, or at least that may be how it appears at large. Which was a frequent comment fit for discussion and holding to the poetic torch.

Entering a zoom discussion was always bubbly and filled with the joys, Though no less discursive. We talked about the limits created by the currant and older problems of isolation of the senses. Coupled with the opposite track of internet wide coverage for the poetic world to emerge into. There is a lot to be recognisable in for example the music and metre where ability to conduct poetry is to try everything right up and down the harbours of the mind.

A Suggested Unison & Inclusivity

In all the work of the poet’s poems there seemed to run an undercurrent of a spoken unison. And at this year’s online festival, it was very successful that is to say very absolute in the faces of many frustrations that are holding unhelpfully back the literature movements. Some of its drive was of poetry that is not being held with quite the esteem and potential as it could be in the arts that convey it.

The inclusivity of the festival was paramount to the weeklong presentation. And when in the inspire sessions, we were given some gifts of direct techniques and of tackling the prospect of making works yourself. Showing something for everyone from well-established poets who so magnanimously shared. Making the poetry mostly into a taking off leading us far in and out of ourselves just by the act of listening!

No poem had less than 2 lines of topic of subject; creating a wonderful addiction to the gentle reassurances that were often to exorcize a turn of listening to a person talking in a language I’m sorry to say I didn’t know. In the Q & A and in the discussions, post reading offered the time for these considered people to reveal their trade.

Centre Stage

On a Poetry Centre Stage event Mona Kareem, a featured writer met with Michael Grieve a Fife poet and teacher and who has been involved in Stanza before, offered a little correspondence through some poetry. In an endearing poem by Michael, his lines were about time and thinking and contemplating to look beyond his own words and performed as a living dedication to some sweet ideas for living in the planet.

The bitter hero set to last only for a small time, or to be disregarded anyway had the writing seeking for a purity of living that won’t be found in anything less than an honest one. Weaving around the straight English poetry was the translating effect from English to Another or another to English. The Gaelic language held a fore front as well as Russian.

The writing covered seemingly every aspect of life. Using far-fetched facts about frilly concepts that were splayed by the continuous almost threat of darker things to come or those that have already happened. To put Kareem back into the centre stage event found that his ever-growing process had fired off with the increased use of as many forms of poetry as he found was possible, putting his work right out there to be studied for years to come.

The poets, the staff, the volunteers shared a feeling of great togetherness when going through all kinds of poetic certainties and more importantly uncertainty.
Kareem’s poetry makes things easier, subscribing for that, poetry can save the world, hit us with her ‘Femme ghost’ project. Through which she in no uncertain terms reclaimed her right to be more than the degradation that man always makes of her. Writing lines that really do change the world by bringing them into focus.

Beginning the Conclusion

Not a point was missed in each event that was so discursive to an onlooker like me. So many things were mentioned and so many discussions witnessed the glee of what it takes to be colleagues in the field. With striking questions and well covered subjects.

Winsome Monica Minott, a poet and chartered artist, was a Jamaican born young and emerging poet. An award winning, freshly published seeker for human rights for her country of origin. Had with Zion Roses created an historical journey in the voice of the Caribbean. There was more seriousness and passion in them as to make it from the heart of their culture and sad history of perpetrated violence upon centuries.

Giving many stories of how these artists became interested in poetry in the first place and a lot of them found that it gave them an inner voice. Something that grew and grew in personal strength and also in the world of awards, publications and collaboration inherent in that world, using a fundamental tradition.

A Big Thank You

Poetry can lend its hand in navigating history into its specifics. And during which time it creates hybrid languages, in the shaping of it. It has over the years encountered singular great and sudden changes led by individual people concerned with the history of the voice. But the signs go up again reminding us of the potential for hampered growth, disconnection, and of things that seem like they should not be. There needs to be a departure from standard English into fresh language as the poetic voice itself would instruct us to go.

Kate Tough, Lisa Kelly, and Greg Thomas were grouped together in an interesting discussion about the fast subject of ‘Making it new’, where there was a sense of optimism. And there was more of challenging the norm, looking into an extended field of choice that can grab the world from the few to the many. As is with creative writing metaphors came thick and fast. Having experiments to confirm or deny any given thought or feeling. With the concrete poetry either distantly or confrontingly standing as an outstanding new field.

Daniel Donnelly

The Young Shakespeare (16): Dodging The Plague

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Closing the Theatres

The stage, & especially the London stage, had become Shakespeare’s personal forum, his creative mouthpiece if you will, & in June 1592 his voice was about to be silenced for quite a while. It all began with a riot in Southwark that drew the ire of the Privy Council, after it learn’d of ‘certain apprentices and other idle people‘ who had caused ‘the late mutinous and foul disorder in Southwark in most outrageous and tumultuous sort’. London’s lord mayor, Sir William Webbe, had written to Lord Burghley that a a crowd of ‘loose and masterless men,’ had tried to rescue a companion who had been arrested… iat a play, which, besides the breach of the Sabbath day, giveth opportunity of committing these & other such disorders.’

The Privy Council also discovered the same unruly mob ‘have a further purpose and meaning on Midsummer Evening or Midsummer Night or about that time to renew their lewd assemblage.’ To counter this civil disturbance, the Privy Council beefed ‘set a strong and substantial watch’ & also banned plays in another other past-times & gatherings that drew the common folk together until ‘the Feast of St Michael’ on the 29th September.

And then came the plague. It arrived in London from the provinces in August & by the 21st September at least 35 parishes were “infeckted” with plague. There would be no reopening of the theatres on the Feast of Saint Michael, that’s for sure, & the government soon extended the shutdown until the 29th of December.

APRIL 1593
Shakespeare Publishes Venus & Adonis

In 1592, London’s population was about 150,000. By the following summer, when this particular outbreak of plague had finally died out, according to the 1631 chronicle of John Stow, 10,575 Londoners had died. In 593 the Privy Council wrote to the Lord Mayor, prohibiting, ‘all plays, baiting of bears, bulls, bowling & any other like occasions to assemble any numbers of people together. IN the wake of such physical & cultural devastations, the Queen had decamp’d to Windsor Castle, the actors had gone off touring the provinces & Shakespeare, somewhere in England, got to work on his writing.

On the 18th April, 1593, Shakespeare’s fellow London-based Stratford ex-pat, Richard Field, obtained a license for the publication of Venus & Adonis. It would turn out to be a great success, with seven editions being printed by 1602. It was a bit sexy, you see, & adolescent male studenthood loved it. It is dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, who we have recently appreciated was being tutored by Shakespeare in Titchfield. This dedication, by the way, however floridly sycophantic, is the closest we are to hearing the real voice of Shakespeare.

To the Right Honourable Henry Wriothesly,
Earl of Southampton and Baron of Tichfield.

Right Honourable, I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burden: Only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a god-father, and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest. I leave it to your honourable survey, and your honour to your heart’s content: which I wish may always answer your wish, and the world’s hopeful expectation.

Your honour’s in all duty, William Shakespeare.

The very first V&A printing cost 6 old pence & was sold at the sign of the white greyhound in the bookseller district of  St Paul’s Churchyard. The first run was read to disintegration, & there would be 11 more editions printed over the next twenty-five years.

Theatre at the Prestcott Cockpit

Despite the theatres in London having closed, the appetite for drama remained undiminish’d. Up in lovely Lancashire a playhouse was built on the waste at Prestcott, the market town situated directly besides Knowsley estate. The logical conclusion is that the playhouse was erected to counter the debilitating effects of the plague &through the seasons of 1593-94 it would have played host to a number of touring companies been forced to hit the less road in order to sustain a living.

The Cockpit surviv’d until 1902 as ‘Flatiron House.’ Richard Wilson writes of , ‘the Elizabethan playhouse at Knowsley, near Liverpool, remains one of the dark secrets of Shakesperean England. Very few commentators are aware of even the existence of this theatre, built by the Stewards of Henry Stanley, Earl of Derby, on the site of his cockpit, some time in the 1580s.’

The Death of the Earl of Derby

Remaining in Lancashire, William Stanley’s poppadom died on the 25th September, 1593, whose title pass’d to his elder brother. Ferdinando Stanley was both poet and author & was consider’d to be, ‘of an exalted genius as well as birth.’ We’ve hardly had a look at the guy, really, but the fact that his sponsor’d troupe was the first to perform many of Shakespeare’s plays makes him quite a significant figure in all our pasts. They were known as Lord Strange’s Men, but on Ferdinando’s succession to the family seat chang’d their name to The Earl of Derby’s Men,

A fine figurehead, pro-Catholic elements soon began to stir, plotting for him to even become the king of England. It seems as if he was never actually in on the plot, & when Richard Hesketh, third cousin Thomas Hesketh of Rufford, turn’d up on his doorstep from abroad, stirring up Jesuit hijinx, Ferdinando did the right thing for his own neck & turned Hesketh over to the authorities for interrogation.

Titus Andronicus

On February 6th, 1594 Shakespeare’s Titus was enter’d into the Stationer’s Register. It was first publish’d in quarto form; perhaps with permission from the author, or more probably not, the title page states that the play was acted by three different companies, Lord Strange’s Men (also called Derby’s Men), Pembroke’s Men, and Sussex’s Men. As for being perform’d, with the plague subsiding a bit in the winters, the Rose Theatre reopened, with Henslowe’s Diary reporting ‘Titus & Ondronicus’ being play’d by Sussex’s Men three times, on January 23 and 28 and February 6, 1594. It was very well received, with Henslowe earning 40 shillings or more from each performance.

These performances of Titus were the last of Shakespeare’s twenties – he would turn 30 in April, 1594, which was also a significant month for his great comrade, lover, co-author & friend, William Stanley, who was just about to inherit an Earldom.  

APRIL 1594
The Death of Ferdinando Strange

After only six months as the Earl of Derby, Ferdinando died in the mysterious of circumstances; having suddenly taken ill with a severe and violent sickness. He fell sick at Knowsley Hall but travelled to Lathom House where he took bezoar stone and powdered unicorn’s horn as medicine, before dying on 16th April, 1594. Poisoning was suspected – possibly one of the earliest lethal uses of arsenic against a human being – perhaps even retributively over the Hesketh affair. On the other hand, in the Elizabethan State Papers, on 15th August 1594 a Jesuit call’d Edmund Yorke, who is reported as saying, “Burghley poisoned the Earl of Derby so as to marry his granddaughter to his brother.” William Camden’s history has a nice overview of the events;

Ferdinand Stanley Earle of Darby… expired in the flowre of his youth, not without suspition of poyson, being tormented with cruell paynes by frequent vomitings of a darke colour like rusty yron. There was found in his chamber an Image of waxe, the belly pierced thorow with haires of the same colour that his were, put there, (as the wiser sort have judged, to remove the suspition of poyson). The matter vomited up stayned the silver Basons in such sort, that by no art they could possibly be brought againe to their former brightnesse… No small suspicion lighted upon the Gentleman of his horse, who; as soone as the Earle tooke his bed, tooke his best horse, and fled”

May 1594
The Rape Of Lucrece

The Rape of Lucrece was entered into the Stationers’ Register on 9 May 1594, and published later that year, in a quarto printed by Richard Field for the bookseller John Harrison (“the Elder”); who sold the book from his shop at the sign of the White Greyhound in St. Paul’s Churchyard. Tho’ not as popular as V&A, the poem would still go through eight editions before 1641. Just like V&A, he was basing his poem on the Titian paintings he’d seen in Madrid. & just like V&A Shakespeare once again dedicated his poem to the Earl of Southampton;

To the
Right Honourable Henry Wriothesly,
Earl of Southampton and Baron of Tichfield.

The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with all happiness,
Your lordship’s in all duty,
William Shakespeare.

Lucrece seems inspired by Robert Southwell’s rather lengthily titled, ‘An epistle of comfort to the reuerend priestes, & to the honorable, worshipful, & other of the laye sort restrayned in durance for the Catholicke fayth.’ Compare;

RS: Battering downe the walles….
His soul’s fair temple is defaced,
WS: Batter’d down her consecrated wall

RS: consumed . . . Ætna . . . smoake . . . ayre
WS: As smoke from Aetna, that in air consumes

RS: the very rockes . . . dissolved
WS: For stones dissolv’d to water do convert

RS: A huge Chaos [is hell]
WS: Vast sin-concealing chaos

Other inspirations are Samuel Daniels Complaint of Rosamond, plus a passage on time elaborated from Thomas Watsons ‘Passionate Century (77).

Shakespeare’s authorship of Lucrece was soon being acclaim’d in a narrative poem call’d ‘Willobie His Avisa’ – published as a pamphlet in London after being entered in the Registers of Stationer’s Hall on 3rd September, 1594. Its stanza is that of Venus & Adonis, & is said to have been written by a person called “Henry Willobie,” whose initials, of course, match those of the Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley.

Though Collatine have deerely bought,
To high renowne, a lasting life,
And found, that most in vaine have sought,
To have a Faire, and Constant wife,
Yet Tarquyne pluckt his glistering grape,
And Shake-speare, paints poor Lucrece rape.

The poem also contains a character called “W.S.,” who is presented as a friend to “H.W.”, and offers him advice on wooing Avisa. As HW is about to take his turn to persuade Avisa out of her chastity, he finds that he is “not able any longer to endure the burning heat of so fervent a humor”, and so he “betrayeth the secrecy of his disease unto his familiar friend, W.S., who, not long before, had tried the curtesy of the like passion.” W.S. then offer some advice, with, “She is no saint, she is no Nonne, I think in time she may be wonne.” This little corner of Shakespeareana is ripe for exploration, & I’m sure the true answers is out there somewhere.

It is again thro’ Lucrece there rose another of the earliest allusions to Shakespeare. It is found in the Epicedium, a quarto pamphlet made up of a single poem in memory of Lady Helen Branch, who died on April 10, 1594. In the opening stanza the self-denigrating anonymous poet lists several poets who would be better at praising the late Lady Branch:

You that haue writ of chaste Lucretia,
Whose death was witnesse of her spotlesse life:
Or pend the praise of sad Cornelia,
Whose blamelesse name hath made her fame so rise:
As noble Pompeys most renoumed wife.
Hither vnto your home direct your eies:
Whereas vnthought on, much more matter lies.

The Cornelia reference leads us Robert Garnier, whose tragedy ‘Cornelia’ was also publish’d in 1594. What is interesting is that the poem has the signature of a certain “W. Har.” We have already encounter’d William Harborne in relations to Shakespeare via Istanbul & the Grand Tour. In August 1588 he left his role & return’d to London – there’s even a fantastic account of this voyage in printed in Hakluyt’s Collection of Voyages. So he could definitely write, & with Harborne back in England – he was from the Familist county of Norfolk -, & being quite high up in society, he would have felt at least comfortably station’d to pen an elegy to an aristocratic lady. Tantalisingly, the initials WH appear in the dedication to Shakespeare’s sonnets which were enter’d into the Stationer’s Register in 1609 – 8 years before Harborne died.

There is nothing concrete, but there is definitely the feel of phantoms congregating into a possible solution for the most enigmatic of Shakespearean mysteries – who was the ‘onlue begetter, Mr. W.H.’















T.T. is clearly Thomas Thorpe, the publisher of the sonnets. But the wording of the dedication is interesting – William Harborne was clearly an adventurer, for an ambassadorial role in the Porte would have been quite a celebrated mission. Harborne would surely have witness’d for himself the Dark Lady triangle, & would have even known her identity. He might even have had copies of some of the sonnets themselves, written out by Shakespeare in Turkey. This would explain the ‘begetter,’ reference, or perhaps Harborne was financially involv’d in the printing, keen to see & read the final result. As for the well-wisher reference, this could refer to his involvement with the release of Stanley from his incarceration, an intervention on behalf of the incarcerated English he gain’d quite a reputation for. Of course, this is speculation, but it is a tantalisingly sound possibility, made even more fascinating by Thomson Cooper’s entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, which states;

{Thomas Nashe}, writing in 1598, speaks of ‘mercurial-breasted Mr. Harborne,’ who, he says, ‘always accepted a rich spark of eternity, first lighted and inkindled at Yarmouth, or there first bred and brought forth to see the light: who since, in the hottest dayies of Leo, hath echoing noised the name of our island and of Yarmouth, so tritonly, that not an infant of the cur-tailed, skin-clipping Pagans, but talk of London as frequently as of their Prophet’s tomb at Mecca’ Nashes Lenten stuffe 1599

Cooper adds;

In his return to England Harborne settled at Mundham, Norfolk. He died there on 6 November 1617 and was buried in that parish. There is, or was, a monument to his memory in that parish, with a eulogistic inscription in English verse.

Returning to Lucrece’s influence on the literati, in 1595 William Clerke in his ‘ Polimanteia’ gave ‘all praise’ to ‘sweet Shakespeare’ for his ‘ Lucrecia,’ while in 1598 the poem is also mention’d by Gabriel Harvey alongside V&A among a series of marginal notes found in Thomas Speght’s edition of ‘The Workes of… Chaucer’ (1598).

The younger sort takes much delight in Shakespeare’s Venus, & Adonis: but his Lucrece, & his tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, have it in them, to please the wiser sort.

Harvey mentions Shakespeare a second time, when he suggests that Sir Edward Dyer’s Amaryllis and Sir Walter Raleigh’s Cynthia are worthy of emulation by a number of authors, being; “Spenser, Constable, Fraunce, Watson, Daniel, Warner, Chapman, Sylvester, Shakespeare, & the rest of our flourishing metricians.”

Of course, the Anti-Stratfordians rarely acknowledge these even exist…

The Merchant of Venice

In 1594 Shakespeare brought his great Merchant Of Venice into the world, mention’d among the Bard’s classic comedies by Meres just a few years later;

His Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Love’s labor’s lost … his Midsummers night dreame, & his Merchant of Venice

During Shakespeare’s day, the Jews were in about the middle of their forced hiatus from Britain. It had begun in 1290, after King Edward I’s Edict of Expulsion officially banished Jews from England, and they would not be allowed back until the late 1700s. In the 16th Century, however,  there were about a hundred Marranos in England, Jews forced to convert to Christianity that still secretly practiced Judaism. Among them was Dr. Roderigo Lopez, the Queen’s head physician, who in 1594 was charged with treason as he allegedly tried to poison the queen. He was found guilty and in the June of 1594 was hanged. This might have been the very spark which usher’d Shakespeare’s Venetian adventures onto the page, for the names of Shakespeare’s characters & even the plot of the play directly allude to the doctor’s trial. Among the play’s names, Shylock’s enemy Antonio is significant, for this was also the name of Dr. Lopez’s main accuser and biggest enemy – with the Portuguese name contrasting the setting in Venice. Lopez’s trial was a strongly bias’d kangaroo court of an affair, very much like that of Shylocks, when the Duke and Senator of Venice, unfairly judge Shylock’s trial. The appointed judges have already decided that Shylock is guilty, before the trial starts.

The Young Shakespeare (15): Upstart Crow

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Shakespeare in Titchfield

According to Aubrey, Shakespeare had been, ‘in his younger yeares a schoolmaster in the countrey,’ but when? In 1590, Shakespeare’s ‘younger years’ are running out somewhat, & we only have two more years to go until he is a smash-hot dramatist & the talk of all London. A year later, in 1593, he is dedicating his first poetic effort, Venus & Adonis, to a young English nobleman called Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, in which he describes his ‘unpolished lines’ as being written during his ‘idle hours’. The question is, what was Shakespeare doing when he was not being idle?

The answer is he was tutoring the seventeen year old earl, who disappears from the records between October 1590 and August 1591. He was, in fact, living in Titchfield, where his pro-Catholic mother, Countess Mary, was in residence at Titchfield House. His contact now with Shakespeare would blossom into a great friendship, with Nicholas Rowe describing how the bard;

Had the honour to meet with many great and uncommon marks of favour and friendship from the Earl of Southampton… there is one instance so singular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakespeare’s, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William D’Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted, that my Lord Southampton, at one time, gave him a thousand pounds to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great and very rare at any time, and almost equal to that profuse generosity the present age has shown to French dancers and Italian eunuchs.

Finally, a possible & oblique connection between Shakespeare & Southampton is found in a 1592 letter from the Third Earl of Southampton is signed by him, but penned by somebody else. An American hand-writing expert, Charles Hamilton, has suggested the handwriting is identical to a portion of the manuscript of The Play of Sir Thomas More, which lies on solid ground enough in the world of Shakespearean scholarship to be given as the bard’s own hand.

It is now time to introduce a new dimension to the sonnets, a layer to Hisalrik if you will. We have established so far that Shakespeare wrote sonnets to William Stanley & to the mysterious Turkish lady in Constantinople. I am a sonneteer myself, & understand how individual sonnets composed to different persons may be synthesised into a paean to a single ‘ideal’ within a sequence. In the same spirit, a small number of the sonnets were composed to Southampton, those in which Shakespeare takes on the role of the older man urging the younger aristocrat to marry & have children. These are known as the ‘Procreation Sonnets,’ & form the first 17 of the 154 strong sequence.

There is a significant back story. Thomas Wriothesley, second Earl of Southampton, and father of Shakespeare’s patron, died on 4th October 1581, leaving the seven year old Henry as his only surviving son. Elizabethan law deign’d him to become a ward of the Crown, & placed him in the hands of a certain Lord Burghley who would in 1589 put huge pressure on the young earl to marry his own grand-daughter, Lady Elizabeth Vere, the daughter of the Earl of Oxford of antishakespearean fame. In 1591, John Clapham – one of Burghley’s secretaries compos’d & dedicates a poem called Narcissus to Southampton, which concerns a handsome youth who had fallen in love with own reflection. Shakespeare would handle the handsome youth motif differently, instead suggesting it was Southampton’s duty to marry & continue his beautiful physical lineage.

The Tears of the Muses

Shakespeare’s presence in Hampshire follow’d hard on the heels of Edmund Spenser himself, who was there in 1590. The poet Samuel Woodford, who lived in Hampshire near Alton, told Aubrey that, ‘Mr. Spenser lived sometime in these parts, in this delicate sweet air; where he enjoyed his muse, and wrote a good part of his verses.’ Some of these verses were included volume of poems called The Tears of the Muses, registered on the 29th December, 1590. They were dedicated to a relation of the poet’s, Alice Spencer of Althorp, who had married William Stanley’s brother, Ferdinando. , which in the scheme of our survey shows an increasingly narrowing world!

In one of the stanzas of Spenser’s new poem, we see the return of the same ‘Willy’ who inhabited the 1578 Calendar.

And he, the man, whom Nature self had mad
To mock herself, and Truth to imitate,
With kindly counter under mimic shade,
Our pleasant Willy, ah! is dead of late:
With whom all joy and jolly merriment
Is also deaded, and in dolour drent.

But that same gentle spirit, from whose pen
Large streams of honey and sweet nectar flow
Scorning the boldness of such base-born men,
Which dare their follies forth so rashly throw;
Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell,
Than so himself to mockery to sell

That he is deem’d ‘our pleasant Willy‘ suggests a connection to both Alice and Edmund Spenser, which is confirmed through bond of blood, for Shakespeare’s mother was distantly related to the Spensers. Spenser’s description of ‘large streams of honey and sweet nectar,’ is reminiscent & contemporaneous with Francis Meres’ description of Shakespeare in the Palladis Tamia as ‘mellifluous & honey-tongued.’ That Shakespeare was ‘dead of late‘ indicates him as being between creative periods, while the ‘cell’ mentioned by Spenser points to Shakespeare’s taking up of a position as tutor to the Earl of Southampton. The cell seems to refer to a house near Titchfield Abbey, known as Place House Cottage, which was a schoolhouse at the time & where Shakespeare might have slept.

Shakespeare writes Edmund Ironside

The Earls of Southampton clearly enjoyed the Theatre – plans of 1737 show a large room on the upper level of Titchfield House labelled as ‘Play House Room.’ The tradition of theatre-making at Titchfield stretched back to before its Abbey had been converted to a stately home. In 1538, one of Thomas Wriothesley’s servants wrote to him, describing how Thomas’s future wife, Jane, ‘handleth the country gentlemen, the farmers and their wives to your great worship and every night is as merry as can be with Christmas plays and masques with Anthony Gedge and other of your servants.’

During Shakespeare’s time at Titchfield he created a play call’d Edmund Ironside, rapidly cobbling together a variant of his Titus Andronicus for a new audience, & setting it in Hampshire – the opening scene is in Southampton, while the Earls of Southampton are the main protagonists. It is likely he found the story in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland – published in 1577, and again in 1587 – perhaps even in the libraries of Titchfield. Another source appears to be William Lambarde’s Archaionomia [Ancient Laws], a collection of Anglo-Saxon customs and laws that he translated and published in 1568, & of course the county of Hampshire is at the very of Anglo-Saxon England, with Winchester being the former capital of Wessex, from where Alfred The Great issued his laws. Fascinatingly, in the 1940s a copy of the Archaionomia was found with ‘Wm Shakespeare’ scrawled across the title page in what is basically Shakespeare’s signature…

Signature on Shakespeare’s will

Still in the library of Titchfield, according to Randall Martin, Ironside is a very bookish piece, inspired by Thomas Hughes’s neo-senecan tragedy, The Misfortunes of Arthur (1588), John Heywood’s play The Pardoner and the frere, Spenser’s Faerie Queene (published in 1590) – the source for several unusual words and phrases – & William Warner’s verse-chronicle Albion’s England (1586) as the source of “smaller details of character and situation”

To modern scholars, Edmond Ironside is a mysterious & anonymous play, with no records of performance in the period, suggesting, of course, its creation for a private performance. They all concur on one thing, however, that its a rather crude  & organized piece, with meandering plotline & irrelevant speeches and scenes throughout. The manuscript was discovered in 1865, when the British Museum purchased fifteen play manuscripts bound together into a single volume from a private library, known as Egerton 1994. Ironside certainly feels like it is bubbling up from a thinking Shakespeare – for it possesses familiarities with the Law, the Bible, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and country life, as does most of Shakespeare’s work. Meanwhile scholars have suggested it was written by him for the following linguistic reasons;

* There are 260 words that were used first by Shakespeare
* There are 635 instances of Shakespearean rare words
* There are 300 usages of the very rarest Shakespearean words
* There are 700 clear parrallels with the first folio
* There are 350 verbatim phrases

The most considerable echoes can be found in Titus & the Henry VI plays, & placing Shakespeare writing Edmund Ironside in Hampshire after Titus & before he began work on his famous cycle of Histories makes perfect sense. Thus, creating Edmund Ironside would be a catalytical moment for Shakespeare – it was his first attempt at writing English history, & within days. one expects, he began work on the trilogy of plays to Henry VI that would make his name & shoot his talents into the stratosphere. Indeed, when in  Ironside we hear the following phrases: “this noble isle,” “my pleasure’s paradise,” “the fortress of my crown,” “this little world,” “this little isle,” “this solitary isle,” “this realm of England,” we also hear echoes of Shakespeare’s famous phrases, such as, “this sceptered isle,” “demi-paradise,” “this fortress,” “this little world,” “this precious stone set in the silver sea,” “this realm, this England.”

Examining Ironside in more detail, we may observe that it shares with Titus a theme of rival candidates vying for a crown, while making mainstream some of the Roman play’s more tributary plots. There can also be made solid comparisons between the Edricus of Edmund Ironside & Joan Of Arc from 1H6. In his ‘Shakespeare’s Lost Play, Edmund Ironside,’ Eric Sams describes how it, ‘contains some 260 words or usages which on the evidence of the Oxford English Dictionary were first used by Shakespeare himself, with the strong presumption that it was he who coined them. Further, it exhibits 635 instances of Shakespeare’s rare words including some 300 of the very rarest, and 700 clear parallels with the First Folio, including 350 phrases shared verbatim. All these features are found most frequently in the earliest canonical plays of circa 1590. So the young Shakespeare is an obvious suspect.’ In his ‘EDMOND IRONSIDE, THE ENGLISH KING’, RL Jiménez has plenty more to say on the topic;

If Ironside includes and anticipates not just one, and not just a handful, but over 260 examples of words, usages, locutions and ideas which the OED attributes to Shakespeare as his first coinages.’

Edmund enters during a conversation begun off-stage, as often in Shakespeare

To compare one’s own characters with Judas and Jesus, in deliberate reference to the Gospel account of the betrayal, to make amusing puns on the actual words used, and above all to put the words of Jesus into the mouth of Judas; these characteristics identify the young Shakespeare in three separate plays (3H6, R2, LLL) of the early 1590s.

On any analysis, Shakespeare at the time of Titus c. 1589 was steeped in Ovid, including Book I (banquet of Lycaon, story of Io) as well as III (Actaeon), XIII (Hecuba) and so probably X (Orpheus) as well. The same is true of the author of Ironside c. 1588. Unless it is safe to assume that two Tudor dramatists showed the same concentration on the same books of the same works of the same poet at the same time there is a good case for identification on those grounds alone.

Edricus delivers a fifty-line soliloquy in the manner of Richard III, Iago, or Aaron in Titus Andronicus, in which he recounts what a villain he is

In a scene even shorter than the nearly identical one in the last act of Shakespeare’s Henry V, Canute meets Egina, offers her a cup of wine, and proposes––all in the space of thirty lines.

A leading scholar of the Elizabethan drama, Frederick Boas, observed that the dramatist portrayed Edricus as a “Machiavellian intriguer” who has the “stamp of Renaissance Italy rather than of Anglo-Saxon England”

Hendiadys––where two words expressing the same idea are joined by a conjunction––is another rhetorical device that Shakespeare used abundantly in his early writings. Albert Feuillerat found 86 examples, such as “reek and smoke,” “shake and shudder,” “dread and fear,” and “repose and rest,” in Venus and Adonis and Lucrece(61-2). They are relatively rare in Marlowe, but appear in profusion throughout Edmond Ironside––6 in the first scene alone.

Dozens of images, themes, and symbols found in both the anonymous play and in his accepted works, especially in the early plays, attest to the thought patterns of a single mind: people likened to plants, insects, birds and beasts of all kinds; blood that is shed or drunk; severed heads; soldiers who stand watch, who desert, who are betrayed, or deprived of necessities; evil and traitorous flatterers; emotional women; stubborn Jews; kings who are betrayed and rant about Judas; vows of revenge; children parting from their mothers; portents in the skies; plots that hammer in the head; passions that boil, rage, or ignite; feigned laughter; dark sighs; salt tears; Troy ablaze, etc. There are over seventy such motifs in Ironside that are repeated in Titus Andronicus, Henry VI, Parts I, II, and III, Richard II, and Richard III

In Act IV of Ironside, Emma recounts her anguish as she tearfully dispatches her two small sons to Normandy for safekeeping:
to dam my eyes were but to drown my heart like Hecuba the woeful queen of Troy who having no avoidance of her grief ran mad for sorrow ’cause she could not weep (1477-80)
In Titus Andronicus, as the ravished and mutilated Lavinia runs after him, the young Lucius struggles to understand her grief:
I have heard my grandsire say full oft extremity of griefs would make men mad
and I have read that Hecuba of Troy ran mad for sorrow. (4.1.18-21)

Another example is Canute’s comparison of the destruction he will wreak upon “new Troy” (London) with that suffered by ancient Troy, which he describes as “consumed to ashes and to coals/ with flaming fire . . . ” Similar references to Troy-on-fire are scattered throughout Shakespeare’s works: five in Lucrece (1468, 1474-6, 1491, 1523-4, 1561); three in Titus Andronicus (3.1.70, 3.2.28, 5.3.84); two in Henry VI, Part 2 (1.4.17, 3.2.118); and one each in Henry IV, Part 2 (1.1.73), Julius Caesar (1.2.113), and Hamlet (2.2.466).

The dramatist also specifies the weapon––an axe, unmentioned in the chronicles. Stich is the execu- tioner, and the “Ha. Ha. Ha.” reaction of Edricus, followed by Canute’s question, “Why laughest thou, Edricus?” are identical to similar laughs and questions after similar gruesome acts in Henry VI, Part I (2.2.42-3), and Titus Andronicus (3.1.65). The brutal mutilation scene extends to more than 160 lines. As Boas says, “No detail of physical horror is spared; the atmosphere is as foul and asphyxiating as in the notorious scenes in Titus Andronicus”

Act III opens with another irrelevant scene that is unique in Elizabethan drama. It is a vicious and abusive quarrel between the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, who are presented in their historical positions on opposite sides of the war. The Archbishop of Canterbury, who favors Canute, asserts his authority over York, calls him an “irreligious prelate,” and demands that he yield to him. The Archbishop of York replies by calling Canterbury a traitor, a rebel, a betrayer of his King, a profane priest, a Pharisee, and a parasite. After three exchanges of this type, York flees the stage and Canterbury follows, threatening to club him. Neither is heard from again. A similar exchange occurs in the third scene of Act I of Henry VI, Part I between Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Lord Protector of the King, and his rival, Henry Beaufort, the Bishop of Winchester. The language and the level of invective are remarkably similar, and there are identical threats of violence.

Finally, & quite significantly as appertaining to my investigation, having begun to believe that Shakespeare had transcribed the Mystery Plays in Burnley, Sams says;

As commentators have noted, however, Judas does indeed greet Jesus thus {all hail} in certain surviving texts of the mediaeval Mystery Play both at York (Schoenbaum, 1975, 48) and Chester (Milward, 1973, 33). There are strong independent grounds for supposing that Shakespeare had indeed seen such plays, already outmoded in his lifetime but still surviving in certain centres during his younger years; he refers to them in such phrases as ‘it out-Herods Herod’, ‘the old Vice’, and so on.

Shakespeare begins the History Cycle

Shakespeare’s great sequence of history plays covers pretty much the whole of the dynastic War of the Roses, that dividing of England & Englishness which ran & ran & ran for deacdes of division, slaughter & power politics. The conflict was fought our between two royal houses, that of Lancaster & that of York, & ‘there is general agreement,‘ writes Lefranc, ‘that Shakespeare, in the historical dramas he devoted to the wars of the Roses, in spite of his usual impartiality, shows himself Lancastrian.’ This makes sense, for Shakespeare’s own great-grandfather fought at Bosworth field on the side of Henry Tudor, as suggested by Shakespeare’s father when he applied to the College of Heralds for a family coat of arms in 1596. A draft prepared by William Dethick, the garter king-of-arms, declared by ‘credible report’ that John Shakespeare’s, ‘parentes & late antecessors were for their valeant & faithfull service advanced & rewarded by the most prudent prince King Henry the seventh of famous memorie, sythence whiche tyme they have contiewed at those partes in good reputacion & credit.’

‘Shakespeare rearranged history,‘ says E. A. J. Honigmann ‘so as to make Stanley’s services to the incoming Tudor dynasty seem more momentous than they really were.’ The History plays definitely inflate the role of the Stanleys in the creation of the Tudor state, which end of course a Stanley-sponsored Shakespeare would achieve. The 1st Earl of Derby, Thomas Stanley, was created as such by Henry VII after the Battle of Bosworth, which role was dramatized in Richard III. Shakespeare famously portrays Richard III as a heinous villain, which was handy for the Stanleys seeing as Thomas & his kinsman, William, both betrayed the last Plantaganet king at Bosworth. This led to the moment when the whole Tudor dynasty began, as Thomas Stanley pluck’d the crown from the dead Richard and then places it on Henry’s head.

Taking his matter from Raphael Holinshed’s ‘Chronicles of England, Scotlande, & Irelande,’ our bard wove together a wonderful piece of drama in which he ressurected history & brought it alive like no other had done before. Not long after seeing it, Thomas Nashe wrote;

How would it have joyed brave Talbot, the terror of the French, to think that after he had lain two hundred years in his tomb, he should triumph again on the stage, and have his bones new embalmed with the tears of ten thousand spectators at least (at several times) who in the tragedian that represents his person imagine they behold him fresh bleeding.

Significantly, John Talbot was also the name of William Stanley’s very good friend, John Talbot, who would be later knighted by King James at Lathom House itself.

When creating his history cycle, Shakespeare drew from his time spent with the Queen’s Players, & especially one of the plays in their repertoire, The Famous Victories of Henry V. We know it was theirs as on its publication in 1598, the play was advertised as acted by ‘her Queen’s Majesty’s Players.’ C.A. Greer points out fifteen plot elements of the Famous Victories that are to be found with greater detail in the trilogy. These include the robbery at Gad’s Hill of the King’s receivers, the meeting of the robbers in an Eastcheap Tavern, the reconciliation of the newly crowned King Henry V with the Chief Justice, the gift of tennis balls from the Dauphin, and Pistol’s encounter with a French soldier (Dericke’s in The Famous Victories).

Another ‘anonymous’ history play might be included in the Shakespearean canon. Printed in 1596, Edward III was at least co-author’d by Shakespeare. What is interesting is that it contains several gibes at Scotland and the Scottish people, which might reflect the bard’s own experience of his time at the court of King James. This could also explain why the play was not included in the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works, which was published after the Scottish King James had succeeded to the English throne in 1603. If Macbeth is the ‘Scottish Play,’ then Edward III is the ‘anti-Scottish play.’ Accepted by modern scholars as authentic Shakespeare, the tradition goes back to at least 1760, when Edward Capell suggested as much in his ‘Prolusions; or, Select Pieces of Ancient Poetry, Compil’d with great Care from their several Originals, and Offer’d to the Publicke as Specimens of the Integrity that should be Found in the Editions of worthy Authors.‘ There are even passages which are direct quotes from Shakespeare’s sonnets, most notably the line “lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds” (sonnet 94) and the phrase “scarlet ornaments”, as used in sonnet 142.

Shakespeare meets John Florio

John Florio was the most famous Italian in Elizabethan England. He was also a tutor to the Earl of Southampton at some point… the dates have never been established. We do know that in his Italian-English dictionary publish’d in 1598, he states he had lived ‘some yeeres ‘ in the ‘paie & patronage‘ of the earl as his tutor in Italian & French. It is possible to get to the key date of 1591 thro a single sonnet which appears in the introduction to Florio’s book, ‘Second Frutes.’ This series of discussions in Italian contains, in the second dialogue, two speakers call’d John & Henry, clearly mirroring Florio & The Earl of Southampton. Indeed, the topics touched on in the Second Fruits, like primero, the theatre, love, and tennis, represent Southampton’s tastes.

Phaeton to his Friend Florio

Sweet friend, whose name agrees with thy increase
How fit a rival art thou of the spring!
For when each branch hath left his flourishing,
And green-locked summer’s shady pleasures cease,
She makes the winter’s storms repose in peace
And spends her franchise on each living thing:
The daisies spout, the little birds do sing,
Herbs, gums, and plants do vaunt of their release.
So when that all our English wits lay dead
(Except the laurel that is evergreen)
Thou with thy fruits our barrenness o’erspread
And set thy flowery pleasance to be seen.
Such fruits, such flowerets of morality
Were ne’er befroe brought out of Italy.

This is an excellent sonnet, fermenting nicely with Shakespearean terms, conceits, and images. Indeed, just as the Phaeton sonnet and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 1 both end their first lines with increase, so the Phaeton sonnet and Sonnet 1 both rhyme on spring. In The Life and Times of William Shakespeare, Levi opines, “no other writer of sonnets is as good as this except Spenser, but Spenser would have signed it. The humour is Shakespeare’s, and so is the movement of thought, so is the seasonal coloring.” What is not Shakespeare’s is the rhyme scheme – it uses the “Spenserian”  “abba abba cdcdee” instead of his preferred “abab cdcd efef gg”. But in 1591 Spenser was all the rage & in Hampshire, so…

Sonnets 97 and 98 are surely the work of the same hand that wrote the Phaeton sonnet, which they echo in the words winter, pleasure, bareness, summer’s, increase, decease, fruit, birds, sing, spring, sweet, flowers, shadow, and various synonyms and paraphrases. Line 11’s ‘o’erspread’ reflects Shakespeare’s fondness for the prefix o’er; the Sonnets give us o’ercharg’d, o’ergreen, o’erpress’d, o’ersnow’d, o’ersways, and o’erworn, among other constructions. Elsewhere, his plays boast such odd coinages as o’erwrastling and o’erstunk! Line 4’s ‘and green-locked summer’s shady pleasures cease,‘ feels very Shakespearean. Compare Sonnet 18: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” See also “Making no summer of another’s green” (68); “The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet” (94); “For summer and his pleasures wait on thee” (97); and this quatrain from 12:

When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard.

Phaeton is found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the son of Phoebus Apollo who drives his father’s chariot, only to scorch the earth and fall to his death.  An accident then, which leads to Sonnet 37 & Shakespeare’s mentioning of him in a tutor-like, fatherly role, & having been ‘made lame by fortune’s dearest spite.’ Was this why Shakespeare was in the country – recuperating from a broken leg or something!

As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by fortune’s dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth.
For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,
Or any of these all, or all, or more,
Entitled in thy parts do crowned sit,
I make my love engrafted to this store:
So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
That I in thy abundance am sufficed
And by a part of all thy glory live.
     Look, what is best, that best I wish in thee:
     This wish I have; then ten times happy me!

Shakespeare Begins Romeo & Juliet

Another play that Shakespeare was working on at Titchfield is that famous tale of star-crossed lovers, Romeo & Juliet. We know it was written befor 1595, & a line uttered by Juliet’s nurse gives us a credible date.

‘Tis since the earthquake now eleven years

In April 1580, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake caused extensive damage in the south-east of England and in London, two people were killed. If this is the earthquake Shakespeare is referring to, then Romeo & Juliet is being written in 1591. It is also being written the following year, as it contains nods to a 1592 romance by Samuel Daniel called The Complaint of Rosamond; the relevant passages include the description by Rosamond’s ghost of her death by poison and of Henry II’s mourning at his mistress’s bier (603-79) which remerges in Romeo’s lament over Juliet’s body (V.iii.92-115). In Daniel, a few line later, he gives us Rosamund’s epitaph;

And after ages monuments shall find, Shewing thy beauties title not thy name, Rose of the world that sweetned so the same.

We here see wordplay on Rosamund’s name – where her ‘beauties title’ (rosa mundi) is not her real name (rosa munda). These, & the word ‘sweetened’ leads us naturally to Juliet’s famous declaration;

O, be some other name! What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, Retain that dear perfection which he owes Without that title.

Romeo & Juliet would have resonated with the Southampton family, The Third Earl’s maternal grandfather, Antony Browne, was a pal of King Philip II of Spain, who created him Viscount Montague in September, 1554. Romeo & Juliet, of course, is a play which features a feud between the Montagues & the Capulets! A forbidden, homosexual love between Southampton & Shakespeare may only be speculated on,& might be a feature embedded in the play, but there is no proof…  as of yet.

In Romeo & Juliet we can a taste a little of Shakespeare;’s Grand Tour with Stanley. Romeo’s expresses his love via  the metaphors of the sonneteering Petrarchist school of Serafino Aquilano. In a tragedy by Luigi Groto, the Adriana (publ. 1578), which is also inspired by the story of Romeo and Juliet, two passages spoken by a character call’d Latino contain similes used by Romeo, while also mentioning a nightingale in the parting scene.

The Premier of Shakespeare’s Battle of Alcazar

Philip Henslowe was a London businessman who built the Rose playhouse in 1587. He also kept a priceless of diary of plays & their takings which contains some of Shakespeare’s debuts. Here’s the Spring season of 1592;

19 – fryer bacone & friar bungay –
20 – muly mulloco
21 – Orlando –
23 – Don Horatio
24 – Sir John Mandeville
25 – Harey of Cornwall
26 – The Jew of Malta
28 – Clorys & Orgasto

2 – Matchavell
3 – henry Vi
4 – Pope John
4 – Bendo & Richardo
6 – 4 plays in one
8 – The looking glass
9 – Zenobia
14 – Jeronimo
21 – Constantine
22 – Jerusalem

6 – Brandymer
10 – the comedy of jeronimo
11 – titus & vespasian 3 – 4 – 0
28 – tamberlayne part 2 – 3 4 – 0
28 – the tanner of denmark –

The second of these plays, muly mulloco, perform’d on the 21st of February, & should be the same as a play first performed by Lord Strange’s Men call’d the ‘The Battell of Alcazar’ as one of the characters in the play refers to another as ‘Muly Molucco,’ a name which appears nowhere else in Elizabethan drama. The play’s proper title, as printed in its quarto edition, is ‘The Battell of Alcazar, fought in Barbarie, between Sebastian king of Portugal, and Abdelmelec king of Marocco.

Topical references to the Armada suggest the play was written 1588-1589 & there are traces of Stanley-Shakepeare coauthorship. When in North Africa together, they would have listened to tales of the Battle of Ksar El Kebir (Alcazar), fought in northern Morocco on the 4th of August 1578. Brian Vickers shows numerous verbal echoes between the co-authored parts of Titus Andronicus & the Alcazar including a highly similar double consonantal alliteration. Macdonald P Jackson also highights how the weird formalities of the first Act of Titus have been mirrored by those of the Alcazar.

A Star is Born

In early 1592, the world at large became witness to Henry VI part 1, performed by Ferdinando Stanley’s Lord Strange’s Men. This makes Lord Strange’s Men the first acting company to be ‘officially’ associated with a Shakespeare play. After an unprecedented six performaces at court over the winter season, they began playing in the capital’s theatres, including the Rose, which had opened on February 19th, 1592. In his diary, the Rose’s theatre manager, Philip Henslowe recorded quite succinctly that on the 3rd March 1592, he had seen a ‘ne’ play called ‘Harey the vj.’ This play seems to be Henry VI part 1 by Shakespeare, for in the August of that year, in his Pierce Penniless, Thomas Nashe refers to a play he had recently seen which featured a rousing depiction of Lord Talbot, a major character in Henry VI part 1. Takings for ‘Harey the vj.’ were three pounds, sixteen shillings & eightpence, which equates to 16,444 pennies in the ‘box’ – a clear hit! I mean lets be honest, the paying public would have been amazed, there was a new kid on the block & Shakespeare had thrust himself onto the public imagination in much the same way George Lucas did with his Star Wars trilogy.

Shakespeare attacked by Greene

Shakespeare’s plays were clearly a hit, but true fame is always laced with a splash of envious outside spite. Enter fellow playwright, Robert Greene who, writing practically on his deathbed, vilifies Shakespeare in his Groatsworth of Wit as, ‘an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.’ The reference to Shakespeare being a jack of all trades, a ‘johannes fac totum,’ could well be implying his status as Southampton’s teacher. By parodying Shakespeare’s line ‘O tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide,‘ (Henry VI, part 3), it is clear Greene is alluding to Shakespeare in quite jealous tones.

In the same pamphlet, Greene seems also to refer to Shakespeare’s participation with the Queen’s Players, on whose formation in 1583 were given the title, ‘grooms of the chamber.’ Greene writes; ‘it is pity men of such rare wits [Nashe, Marlowe and Peele] should be subject to the pleasures of such rude grooms.’ The old order was dying, Robert Greene would pass away on the 2nd September 1592, by which time a completely new form of theatre was springing up about the marvellous & remarkable quill of an ‘uneducated’ Warwickshire yeoman. By the end of the year, even Greene’s publisher was climbing aboard the bandwagon, when in a preface to Kind-Harts Dreame by Henry Chettle, we find;

About three moneths since died M. Robert Greene, leauing many papers in sundry Booke sellers hands, among other his Groatsworth of wit, in which a letter written to diuers play-makers, is offensively by one or two of them taken, and because on the dead they cannot be auenged, they wilfully forge in their concietes a liuing Author: and after tossing it two and fro, no remedy, but it must light on me. How I haue all the time of my conuersing in printing hindred the bitter inueying against schollers, it hath been very well knowne, and how in that I dealt I can sufficiently prooue. With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with one of them I care not if I neuer be: The other, whome at that time I did not so much spare, as since I wish I had, for that as I haue moderated the heate of liuing writers, and might haue vsde my owne discretion, (especially in such a case) the Author beeing dead, that I did not, I am as very, as if the originall fault had beene my fault, because my selfe haue scene his demeanor no lesse ciuill than he exclent in the qualitie he professes

With this very public apology & refutation of Greene’s attack, Shakespeare, it seems, had become the darling of the London’s Theatre world. There would be no looking back!

The Young Shakespeare (14): Ireland, Scotland & Denmark

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Shakespeare Influenced by John Lyly

By the winter of 1588, Shakespeare was heavily into writing the Elizabethan equivalent of romcoms. Since his return from the continent he had already created LLL, Twelfth Night &The Taming of the Shrew, all of which share familial affinities in common. When writing his next play, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Shakespeare went to the playhouse to see John Lyly’s Midas sometime between late 1588 & early 1589. When he came to writing Two Gentleman, Shakespeare would transplant the essence of a couple of Lyly’s scenes into his new play, such as the discussion between Launce and Speed regarding the vices and virtues of Launce’s mistress. Two Gentlemen may have been started on the Grand Tour; for Honigmann gives it a date of 1587, reasoning, ‘in terms of basic dramatic technique the play is more naive than anything else in the canon.’

The next play admitted to Shakespeare’s merry gang of jaunty comedies was The Merry Wives of Windsor, seems to have been penned over the winter of 1588-89. One of the songs in the play can be connected to Lyly.

Fie on sinful fantasy!
Fie on lust and luxury!
Lust is but a bloody fire,
Kindled with unchaste desire,
Fed in heart, whose flames aspire
As thoughts do blow them, higher and higher.

Pinch him, fairies, mutually;
Pinch him for his villany;
Pinch him, and burn him, and turn him about,
Till candles and starlight and moonshine be out.

These lyrics are lifted from from the Fairy Song in Endymion, a play by Lyly, the manager of the St Paul’s Boys. Endymion was first published in 1591, but a statement on the quarto title page stating ‘played before the Queens Majestie on Candlemas Day’ could only refer to a performance in 1588. Candlemass is the 2nd of February, & the only record of a Candlemass payment to the St Paul’s Boys was in 1588.

In III-1, the song sung by Hugh Evans beginning…

To shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sings madrigals;
There will we make our beds of roses,
And a thousand fragrant posies.

…is a clear remould of Marlowe’s famous song;

COME live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.
There will we sit upon the rocks
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
There will I make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider’d all with leaves of myrtle.

Shakespeare joins the Queen’s Players

The parallels between Shakespeare’s plays & the Queen’s plays,’ writes Terence G Schoone-Jongen, ‘are substantial & intricate.’ That Shakespeare was a member of the Queen’s Players seems likely. During 1588 & 1589, the Derby Household Book shows that the Queen’s Men visited Latham & Knoswley five times, bringing them into the immediate Stanley circle. A number of their recorded plays would be rewritten by Shakespeare, with lines & phrases from the Ur-types popping all across his extensive ouevre. Where the Queen’s Players produced Richard III & King Leir, so Shakespeare wrote a version of Richard III & the spell’d slightly differently, King Lear. Elsewhere, The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth forms the entire foundation for the material of 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V, while their Troublesome Reign of King John is simply a redaction of Shakespeare’s King John. So much so, that in the 1611 quarto printing of the Troublesome Reign, the authorship was assigned to ‘W. Sh’ which was elongated in the 1622 printing into ‘W. Shakespeare.

Among the many similarities which have been observ’d, Launce’s rebuking of his dog, Crab, in Two Gentlemen, finds a precedent in Sir Clyomon & Sir Clamydes. That same play also bears a strong resemblance to the mechanicals of the playlet in Act V of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Regarding the two Lears, Sir Walter Greg suggested that, ‘ideas, phrases, cadences from the old play still floated in his memory below the level of conscious thought, &… now & again one or another helped to fashion the words that flowed from his pen.’ Elsewhere, Brian Walsh remarks on Shakespeare’s acute familiarity with the ‘recitation of genealogy from plays in the Queen’s Men repertory,’ & also observes how Shakespeare’s King John keeps the line, ‘For that my grandsire was an Englishman,’ & the two Hamlets share, ‘the screeking Raven sits croking for revenge.

Shakespeare’s entry into the Queen’s might be related to the absence from the troupe of that most famous of Elizabethan actors, & Queen’s Man, Richard Tarleton. He had died in September 1588 & the Men would have been in need of fresh blood – & who better than the brilliant Young Shakespeare to step into the role. Incidentally, Tarleton was a West Midlands lad just like Shakespeare, a remembrance to whom is  contained thro the Hamlet’s court jester, to whose skull is spoken the ever famous line, ‘alas poor Yorick, I knew him so well. Coincidence or not, a certain trustee of Tarleton’s will, William Johnson, would one day become a trustee on Shakespeare’s purchase of a house in Blackfriars.

Shakespeare’s presence association with the Queen’s Men immediately affected his writing, for in Two Gentlemen we see an affiliation with the (now lost) with the Queen’s Players’ Felix & Philomena, which the Revels Accounts record as being perform’d for the court at Greenwich Palace on 3 January 1585. This was based on Spanish prose romance Los Siete Libros de la Diana (The Seven Books of the Diana) by the Portuguese writer Jorge de Montemayor, where the story of Don Felix and Philomena is told. Shakespeare might even have had a familiarity with Diana from his time in Spain- an English translation was not available until Bartholomew Young published his in 1598 – & it cannot be denied that Two Gentlemen has a definite sprinkle of Don Quixote.

Shakespeare gets involved with the Blackfriars Theatre

All through his life Shakespeare would be involved in every aspect of the stage, taking part-shares in theatres, writing the plays, & even bloody acting in them. He was a veritable Mister.Theatre. His first venture into the financial side of things was in 1589, when he took a share in the Blackfriars Theatre. Evidence for this comes through a manuscript which had passed into the hands of Lord Ellesmere, the then attorney-general, in the 1840s. The manuscript reveals how Shakespeare’s name stands twelfth in the enumeration of the members of the company;

These are to certifie your right Honble Lordships, that her majesty’s poore playeres, James Burbadge, Richard Burbadge, John Laneham, Thomas Greene, Robert Wilson, John Taylor, Anth. Wadeson, Thomas Pope, George Peele, Augustine Phillipps, Nicholas Towley, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Johnson, Baptiste Goodale, & Robert Armyn, being all of them sharers in the black Fryers playehouse, have never given cause of displeasure, in that they have brought into their playes maters of state & Religion, unfitt to be handled by them, or to be presentved before lewde spectators: neither hath anie complaynte in that kinde ever bene preferrd against them, or anie of them. Wherefore, they trust most humblie in your Lordships consideration of their former good behaviour, being at all tymes readie, & willing, to yeelde obedience to any command whatsoever your Lordships in your wisdome may thinke in such case meete, &c.

About this time we also have a possible attack on Shakespeare by Thomas Nashe, who in the Preface to Robert Greene’s Menaphon – a prose romance with interludes of verse published in 1589 – writes quite bitterly;

But herein I cannot so fully bequeath them to folly as their idiot art-masters, that intrude themselves to our ears as the alchemists of eloquence, who (mounted on the stage of arrogance) think to outbrave better pens with the swelling bombast of bragging blank verse.

Shakespeare Reads Out Venus & Adonis

One hot summer’s day in London, 1589, perhaps on the lawn of Fisher’s Folly, Shakespeare was reading Venus & Adonis to a select crowd. He was 25 – a fun-loving age if ever there was one – & to have been in attendance at a drunken evening filled with the early stanzas of Shakespeare’s erotic masterpiece would have been great fun. One man that felt the poem more than most was Thomas Lodge, whose 1589 poem ‘Scillaes Metamorphosis,’ has many captivating echoes of V&A. Lodge also spent time in the Earl of Derby’s household in the 1580s, which ensures his admission into the private circle about Stanley & Shakespeare. As for his ‘Scillaes Metamorphosis, Shakespeare’s words are taken almost wholesale;

But like a stormy day, now wind, now rain,
Sighs dry her cheeks V&A

And when my tears had ceas’d their stormy shower
He dried my cheeks Lodge

Sometimes she shakes her head, and then his hand,
Sometime her arms infold him like a band  V&A

Some chafe his temples with their lovely hands,
Some weep, some wake, some curse affection’s bands Lodge

Lodge’s poem uses the same 6-lined stanza & rhyme scheme of Venus & Adonis, & even pays tribute to Shakespeare’s master-class with the following stanzas;

He that hath seen the sweet Arcadian boy
Wiping the purple from his forced wound,
His pretty tears betokening his annoy,
His sighs, his cries, his falling on the ground,
The echoes ringing from the rocks his fall,
The trees with tears reporting of his thrall:

And Venus starting at her love-mate’s cry,
Forcing her birds to haste her chariot on;
And full of grief at last with piteous eye
Seeing where all pale with death he lay alone,
Whose beauty quail’d, as wont the lilies droop
When wasteful winter winds do make them stoop:

Her dainty hand address’d to daw her dear,
Her roseal lip allied to his pale cheek,
Her sighs, and then her looks and heavy cheer,
Her bitter threats, and then her passions meek;
How on his senseless corpse she lay a-crying,
As if the boy were then but new a-dying.

Shakespeare Visits Ireland

Since their formation in 1583, the Queen’s Players had been the leading troupe of actors in the land, travelling widely, with prominent performances at court over the prestigious festive seasons. Shakespeare joined the Queen’s Players at a time when they were dividing themselves into sub-troupes. ‘By 1589,’ writes Terence G Schoone-Jongen, ‘each branch – one apparently led by John & Laurence Dutton, the other by John Laneham – was sometimes identified by its leader as well as patron. Initially, the divided branches may have been a touring practice.’

Through Shakespeare’s presence among the Queen’s Players, we can now place him in Ireland. Shakespeare. An entry in the Ancient Treasury Book of Dublin reveals that in 1589, four pounds was paid to troupes called The Queen’s Players and The Queen and Earl of Essex Players ‘for showing their sports.’ These two troupes then travel over the Irish Sea to Lancashire, where at Knowsley the Queen’s Men performed in the evening of 6th Sept. and in the afternoon of 7th Sept., and then Essex’s Players performed in the evening of 7th Sept.

While in Ireland Shakespeare would have heard the word, Púca, which means ghost & went on to become ‘Puck’, the name of a ‘spirit’ in Midsummer Nights Dream (Act II Scene 1). He might have also heard phrases like “A hundred thousand welcomes” – Coriolanus (Act II Scene I) & “Did you ever hear the like?…….Did you ever dream of such a thing?” (Pericles Act IV Scene IV 1). The Irish were & still are world renownwed for the music, &  famous. The phrase  “Calin o custure me” in Henry V is taken from an Old Irish harp melody called “Cailín ó cois Stúir mé”;

When as I view your comely grace
Caleno custurame
Your golden hairs, your angel’s face,
Caleno custurame

W.H. Gratton Flood in his ‘History of Irish Music’ devotes a whole chapter to Shakespeare’s knowledge of 11 Irish songs, being;

1. Callino casturame – Mentioned as an Irish tune in ‘A handful of Pleasant dities’ (1594).
2. Ducdame – a corruption of An d-tiocfaidh from Eileen A Rún .
3. “Fortune my Foe” – (Merry Wives of Windsor Act II Scene III) ‘reckoned always an Irish tune’.
4. “Peg a Ramsay” – (Twelfth Night Act II Scene III) A ‘dump tune’ which Flood states  were played on a small Irish harp called a tiompán
5. “Bonny Sweet Robin”
6. “Whoop do me no harm, good man”- (A Winter’s Tale Act IV Scene III) known in Ireland as “Paddy whack.”
7. “Welladay; or Essex’s last Good-Night” – about the death of the Earl of Essex in Ireland in 1576.
8. “The Fading ” or “Witha a fading” – (“A Winter’s Tale” Act IV) “is, even on the testimony of the late Mr William Chappell (an uncompromising advocate of English music) undoubtedly an Irish dance tune. Also called the ‘Rince Fada’.”
9. “Light o’ Love” – (Two Gentlemen of Verona Act I Scene 2) an allusion is made to the tune of ‘light o’love’ another Irish tune.
10. “Yellow Stockings” – Known in Gaelic as “Cuma, liom” and the reference is to the saffron ‘truis’ of the medieval Irish.
11. “Edgar: Wantest thou eyes at trial, madam ? Come o’er the bourn, Bessie, to me.” – (King Lear Act III Scene VI)

The Queen’s Players are sent to the court of King James

King James VI of Scotland clearly loved the theatre, surrounded himself with artists and musicians, collectively known as the Castalian Band. He even composed many decent enough poems of his own. To help celebrate his upcoming marriage to a princess of Denmark called Anna, he asked Queen Elizabeth of England if he could borrow some of her actors, & it is Her Majesty’s granting of her royal cousin’s request that commences Shakespeare’s first visit to Scotland. The statement of the Revels tells us in that in September 1589 money was paid; ‘ for the furnishing of a mask for six maskers and six torchbearers, and of such persons as were to utter speeches at the shewing of the same maske, sent into Scotland to the King of Scotts mariage, by her Majestieís commanundement.’ Among the ‘six maskers,’ we shall place William Shakespeare, now a fully-fledg’d member of one of the half-troupes into which the Queen’s Players were dividing in 1589.

After the request had reached Knowsley, & after their last performance there on the afternoon of the 7th, it seems that it took the Queen’s Players three days to travel the 100 miles or so between Knowsley & Carlisle by the 10th September. The governor of Carlisle, Baron Scroop of Bolton, soon found himself involv’d in this high proflie case of pass the parcel, writing;

After my verie hartie comendacions: vpon a letter receyved from Mr. Roger Asheton, signifying vnto me that yt was the kinges earnest desire for to have her Majesties players for to repayer into Scotland to his grace : I dyd furthwith dispatche a servant of my owen unto them wheir they were in the furthest part of Langkeshire, wherevpon they made their returne heather to Carliell, wher they are, and have stayed for the space of ten dayes, whereof I thought good to gyve yow notice in the respect of the great desyre that the king had to have the same Come unto his grace: And withall to praye yow to gyve knowledg therof to his Majestie. So for the present, I bydd yow right hartelie farewell

The xxth of Septemre, 1589
Yowr verie assured loving friend
H Scrope

What Shakesepeare got up to in those 10 days in Cumbria we do not know – there are no traces of the county in his works. One expects they were rehearsing hard for the forthcoming nuptials, & maybe a little carousing with the locals. Its a nice city.

Shakespeare in Scotland

As storms raged across the North Sea, Princess Anna of Denmark was unable to make the treacherous crossing, leading to James camping up at Seton Castle to watch the Firth of Forth for her ship. A letter from William Asheby to Walsingham. [Sept. 8, 1589) reads;

With the first wind the Queen is expected out of Denmark. It is thought that she embarked about the 2nd instant, but that contrary winds keep the fleet back. Great preparation is made at Leith to receive her, and to lodge her till the solemnity, which shall be twelve days after her arrival. The King is at Seaton till her arrival.

A week later, William Asheby wrote;

We dailie now expect the fleet of De[nmark]. The Quene embarqued at Copmanhaven [on] Moundaie the first of this moneth, and [hath] not set foote on ground sithence, except [the] last storme, which continued the 12 and thirten of this present southwest, haith driven the fleet back into Norwaie, [as] in all likliehode it haith done.

The Lord Dingwall arrived here this [day]. He left the Quene and the whole fleet on [this] side of Elsenoure, and had sight of the same nere the Skaw. It is certen[ly] looked that the Quene shall arrive in this Firth within as shorte space as [wind] and wether cane serve from Norwaie [to] this cost, which maie be in foure or fi[ve] daies, if thei have keapt the seas, and not entred over farr the Sound of .

The wind haith ben southwest and gre[at] this foure daies last past. This daie it groweth calmer and northwest, so as in . . . daies the Quenes arrivall is expected at Le[ith], where great preparacion is made to receave her.

The wait dragg’d on & on & a very impatient & romantically-minded James, ‘passionate as true lovers be’, was on the 8th of October said to ‘lyeth at Cragmillar, hard by Edenbrowghe, retyred, and as a kind lover spends the t[yme] in sighing.’ His malaise was soon converted to action & he  decided that instead of waiting he would risk the crossing & marry his young bride in Norway instead. Bring the mountain to Mohammed.

With him went Shakespeare, but before they sailed from Leith on October 24th, Shakespeare clearly spent time perusing the Royal Library in Edinburgh. In 1589 it held the single, 43,000 lines-long manuscript copy of William Stewart’s Chronicle of Scotland. Written in the Scottish vernacular, there are positive parralels with Macbeth, including one of sixty-five lines which elucidates the murderous motives of Macbeth and his wife. Wilson notes that, ‘Boece and Holinshed have nothing corresponding to this, and yet how well it sums up the pity of Macbeth’s fall as Shakespeare represents it.’ Another chronicle-marker is the 26-line tirade by Lady Macbeth as she taunts her husband as being a coward and unmanly and breaking his vow to seek the crown (1.7.36–61). ‘In every case in which Stewart differs from Holinshed,’ says Stopes, ‘Shakespeare follows Stewart.’

Other sources for Macbeth which Shakespeare would have studied in the Royal Scottish Library include Andrew Wyntoun’s metrical ‘Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland’ & also the ‘Flyting betwixt Montgomerie and Polwart,’ a poem which contains the three wyrd sisters. In the latter text After their bewitching curses come to a close, they begin to speak to each in turn, just as they deliver their prophecies in Macbeth.

The first said, ‘surelie of a shot;’
The second, ‘of a running knot;’
The third, ‘be throwing of the throate,
Like a tyke ouer a tree (Flyting)

When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.

Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air (Macbeth)

We also have two allusions are to Scots law: “double trust” and “interdiction.” the Oxfordian Richard F. Whalen explains it all quite succinctly’

Macbeth says of Duncan: “He’s here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed; then as his host, who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself” The “double trust” concept was enacted into law in 1587 when the Scottish Parliament raised from mere homicide to treason the slaying of someone of rank who was also a guest of his slayer, with the trial to be held in the highest court.

The legal term “interdiction” occurs in the strange colloquy between Macduff and Malcolm. Macduff laments that Malcolm, the heir to the throne, “by his own interdiction stands accused and does blaspheme his breed” This refers in Scots law to someone conscious of his failings who gives up or is forced to give up the management of his own affairs, which is what Malcolm seemed to be doing, much to Macduff’s dismay.

The thing about Oxfordians is that they are the most meticulous researchers – they turn over stone several times & check for how it looks for the light, & their research has been invaluable to tell you the truth – team work!

One of the most important pieces of local knowledge embedded in the play is that of Macbeth’s armour-bearer being named Seton. The legends of Macbeth do not mention any Setons, but Professor Wilson of the University of Edinburgh was astonish’d that “somehow or other” Shakespeare learned that the Setons were the hereditary armour-bearers to the kings of Scotland. But of course Shakespeare was on the very Seton spot with King James.

Finally, the date of Shakespeare’s visit to Macbeth country is intriguing, as the plays spirit seems to have fused with a contemporary event – the murder of the Duke of Guise by Henry III of France in December 1588. Eva Turner Clark, in her ‘Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays ‘(1931), observed ‘many points in common’ between the Killing of Duncan by Macbeth and the murder of Guise by Henry III, citing ‘the power and influence’ of Catherine De’ Medici, who was inside the Chateau of Blois in France when the murder took place, just as Lady Macbeth is in Macbeth’s Castle in Scotland during the murder of Duncan.

Shakespeare sails to Norway

That Shakespeare & the Queen’s Players went with King James in his large wedding entourage can be discerned through an epigram in John Davies of Hereford’s The Scourge of Folly (c.1610). Dedicated to, ‘our English Terence Mr. Will: Shake-speare,’  it begins;

SOME say good Will (which I, in sport, do sing)
Had’st thou not plaid some Kingly parts in sport,
Thou hadst bin a companion for a King

Scholars have scratched their heads over this passage for centuries, but there is a starkness to it which fits with consummate ease into the Queen’s Player’s accompanying of King James VI to Denmark.

So Shakespeare & James had set off for Norway, with the king’s the journey being described thus;

He was more than fortunate than his bride in having four days of fair weather, but on the fifth a storm arose & a day later he landed at Flekkefjord in Norway.

It must have been quite a poetic moment for our young bard, leaving him verteux & receptive to the energies which would one day manifest themselves in Hamlet. From Flekkefjord Shakespeare & James proceeded to Oslo. In the Danish cccount of the day, translated by Peter Graves, we observe how Shakespeare fbecame acquainted with the figure who would be creochisped into ‘Hamlet’ as Guildenstern, the friend of Rosencrantz.

When his majesty arrived, he went to to Old Bishop’s palace to meet her ladyship. this was the order of the procession: first walked two Scottish noblemen (who were his majesty’s heralds) each bearing a white stick as a sign of peace; next came Steen Brahe, Henning Gioye, Axel Gyldenstierne, Hans Pederson, Ove Juel, Captain Noimand & Peter Iversen; then came his majesty between the Scottish earl & another Scottish lord; after them came the king’s courtiers & the Scottish nobility, all with their hats in their hands

As for Rosencrantz, he would have been about somewhere, for among the Danish signatories to the prenuptual demands made by Scottish enjoys on behalf of the King (9th July 1589), we can observe a certain ‘Jørgen Rozenkrantz.’

Shakespeare visits Kronborg Castle

James and Anne were married in Oslo, November 23rd, at the great hall in Christen Mule’s house with all the splendour possible at that time & place. As they drove from the church James arranged a curious spectacle for the entertainment of the people of Oslo. By his orders four young “blackamoors” danced naked in the snow in front of the royal carriage, but the cold was so intense that they died a little later of pneumonia. After the nuptials, most of the entourage returned to Scotland, but others – including the Queen’s Players – accompanied the royal couple to Kronborg Castle in Denmark. It must be noted that while this half of the Queen’s Players were in Denmark, the others were performing over the festive season for Queen Elizabeth, where for a performance at Richmond court on the 26th December, they receiv’d the princely sum of £20.

The King was in a great mood, & wrote home that, ‘we are drinking & dryving (killing time) in the auld manner.’ Kronborg is the very place in which Hamlet as we know it was set, yet the original story, as given by Saxo Grammaticus, shows how Hamlet’s father was the governor of Jutland. Kronborg, however, is on Zealand. Then why did Shakespeare move the scene?

We may now assume that on his visit to Denmark, Shakespeare began to revise his Hamlet, adding genuine on-the-spot location stuff to an earlier version of the play. Shakespeare’s presence at Kronborg as part of a wandering troupe of players echoes out into Hamlet’s famous ‘play-within-the-play,’ where a troupe of traveling players enact a ‘Dumb-Show’ call’d the Murder of Gonzaga (or the Mousetrap).

Enter a King and a Queen, very lovingly: the Queen embracing him, and he her. She kneels and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck: lays him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the Kingís ears, and exit. The Queen returns;  finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts; she seems loath and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his love.

There is a definitive nod to James in Shakespeare’s play. Just as Hamlet’s father is the King in the Dumb-Show was murdered by having poison administered to his ear,  a French surgeon, Ambrosie Parex, was suspected of killing the French King, Francis II, by giving him an ear infection during the course of treatment. Francis was the first husband of James’ mother, Mary Queen of Scots. That the Gonzaga family heralded from Mantua, & of course we have already placed Shakespeare in that city with Stanley.

Shakespeare returns to Scotland

English troupes tour’d the continent regularly in Shakespeare’s time – from the Album of Franz Hartmann, of Frankfort on Oder

In early 1590, James returned to Scotland with his new wife. That Shakespeare was back in Scotland in wintry months is reflected by his uncanny observation in Macbeth of “so fair and foul a day I have not seen.”  During the coronation ceremonies in Edinburgh, the masque ordered by James the previous September finally got its chance to be aired. Although Shakespeare is not mentioned by name, the clothes he & his five other masquers are, as given in Lansd.MSS 59.

A maske of six coates of purple gold tinsell, garded with purple & black clothe of silver striped. Bases of crimson clothe of gold, with pendants of maled purple silver tinsell. Twoe paire of sleves to the same of red cloth of gold, & four paire of sleves to the same of white clothe of copper, silvered. Six partletts of purplee clothe of silver knotted/ Six hed peces, whereof foure of clothe of gold, knotted, & twoe of purple clothe of gold braunched. Six fethers to the same hed peces. Six mantles, whereof four of oringe clothe of gold braunched, & twoe of purple & white clot of silver braunched. Six vizardes, & siz fawchins guilded.

Six cassocks for torche bearers of damaske; three of yellowe, & three of red, garded with red & yellow damaske counterchaunged. Six paire of hose of damaske; three of yellow, & three of red, garded with red & yellowe damaske counterchaunged. Six hatts of crimson clothe of gold, & six fethers to the same. Six vizardes.

Four heares of silke, & four garlandes of flowers, for the attire of them that are to utter certaine speeches at the shewing of the same maske.

The masque may have been part of the luscious celebrations made during the procession up the Royal Mile made by the new queen, or perhaps performed at the festivities in Edinburgh castle. That Shakespeare was under the Stuart wing at this time seems to reflect itself into Macbeth again, in particular the 1590 witch trials of Denmark & North Berwick, near Edinburgh. The poor ‘witches’ had been given the blame for the bad weather keeping Anna from James, & also the terrible storms they had to endure on the return voyage. No-one dared to mention that winter might have had something to do with it, & more than a hundred suspected witches in North Berwick were arrested. Many would soon be confessing – under torture of course – to having met with the Devil in the church at night, and devoted themselves to doing evil, including poisoning the King and other members of his household, and attempting to sink the King’s ship. When writing Macbeth, Shakespeare would adapt many concepts from the trials, including the rituals confessed by the witches & the borrowing of  quotes from the treaties, such as spells, ‘purposely to be cassin into the sea to raise winds for destruction of ships.’

There are in Macbeth quite canny descriptions of Scottish weather, when ‘so fair and foul a day I have not seen.’ Shakespeare also describes how the, ‘air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses‘ to which Banquo adds ‘Heaven’s breath smells woo­ingly here. The air is delicate,’ Is this a remembrance in Shakespeare of visiting some Highland scene, especially the castle of Macbeth, described by Shakespeare as a ‘pleasant seat.’ Arthur Clark also notes that Inverness has an unusually mild “microclimate” distinct from the rest of Scotland, and he too wonders how Shakespeare could have known about it without hav­ing visited Inverness. Clark also shows how Shakespeare accuraelty locates Dunsinane, Great Birnam Wood, Forres, Inverness, the Western Isles, Colmekill, Saint Colme, and the lands that gave their names to the thanes: Fife, Glamis, Cawdor, Ross, Lennox, Mentieth, Angus and Caithness. Again, on the spot knowledge seems likely, while in Banquo’s question: “How far is it called to Forres”? the use of the word “Called,” reflects a typical Scots locution of the time.


Shakespeare & the Arte Of English Poesie

It was in late 1588 that Shakespeare began to convert all the materials he collected, & all the observations he made whilst travelling, into theatrical gold dust. He may have had a mind burgeoning with ideas, even a few rough sketches of scenes & storylines, & a number of drafted passages of poetic speech. What the needed now was focus, & perhaps he had conversed with the anonymously printed Arte of English Poesie was entered at Stationers’ Hall in 1588. WL Rushton has identified over 200 literary links between the Puttenham’s Arte & the works of Shakespeare, showing how the bard must have read it. Shakespeare may even have read the work in manuscript, for there is one passage in particular that seems to be the Shakesperean manifesto;

There were also poets that wrote openly for the stage, I mean plays & interludes, to recreate the people with matters of disport, & to that intent did set forth in shows & pagaents common behaviours & manner of life as were the meaner sort of men, & they were called comical poets, of whom among the greeks Meander & Aristophanes were most excellent, with the Latins Terence & Plautus. Besides those poets comic there were others, but meddled not with so base matters: for they set forth doleful falls of unfortunate & afflicted princes, & were called poets tragical. Such were euripedes among the others who mounted nothing so high as any of them both, but in based & humble style, by manner of dialogue, uttered the private & familar talk of the meanest sort of men, as shepherds, haywards & such like

Authorship of the book has been associated with George Puttenham, but there is a possibility it was penn’d by Shakespeare himself. The book was was printed by Richard Field, Shakespeare’s Stratford countryman in London, on which title page was exhibited the same title Emblem “Anchor of Hope”, as found on “Venus and Adonis”(1593) and “Lucrece”(1594). In 1909, William Lowes Rushton published a book, “Shakespeare and ‘The Arte of English Poesie’ ”, in which he shows that Shakespeare used a number of figures which the author of “The Arte.…” describes, & also extensively uses similar words and phrases found in the book in his own plays. For example, Zurcher tells us, ‘Shakespeare would make Puttenham’s final three chapters from the Arte of English Poesie the basis of his analysis of artificiality, sincerity & power in the contest between Brutus & Mark Anthony In Julius Ceasar.’ The authorship debate is ongoing, but what is clear is that Shakespeare & the book are intrinsically connected.

The Young Shakespeare (13): Christmas With the Stanleys 1588-89

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In 1588 Shakespeare joined the Stanley family at Knowsley for a very special festive season. Ferdinando Stanley was becoming a very important figure in English theatre When the Earl of Leicester died on the 4th September, 1588, his theatrical troupe merged with Ferdinando’s Lord Strange’s Men. This infusion of lifeblood really helped ressurrect the company, which had not done anything for years. Both the Theatre & the Curtain playhouses in London were then used by the company in 1588 & 1589, which brings them into the Shakespearean orbit.

The Stanleys were Oxford University boys, & would had grown up with the long-standing tradition of plays being acted out over the festive season. MJ Davis writes, ‘Christ Church & St Johns were the two colleges where drama flourished most. At Christ Church there was a decree that two comedies & two tragedies – one of each in Greek &, the others in Latin – were to be acted during the Christmas season each year. Whereas Cambridge excelled in comedy, Oxford excelled in tragedy, with Seneca’s plays prominent towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign.’ In the same fashion, over the Festive season of 1588-89, two different plays were acted to a great pantheon of northern dignitaries. The Household Accounts book describe the events of the theatrical festive seasons;

29 December 1588 – 4th January 1589

Sondaye Mr Carter pretched at which was dyvers strandgers, on mondaye came mr stewarde, on Tuesday the reste of my lords cownsell & also Sir Ihon Savadge, at nyghte a play was had in the halle & the same nyght my Lord strandge came home, on wednesdaye mr fletewod pretched, & the same daye yonge mr halsall & his wiffe came on thursedaye mr Irelande of the hutte, on frydaye Sir Ihon savadge departed & the same daie mr hesketh mr anderton & mr asheton came & also my lord bushoppe & sir Ihon byron

This tells us that ‘a play was had in the halle’ on New Years Eve, on the very same night ‘Lord strandge came home.’ When Four days later Thomas Hesketh also arrives at Lathom, we get the idea that Shakespeare was also in the vicinity. The play would have been performed in the Derby’s private theatre at Knowsley, which survived until 1902 as ‘Flatiron House.’ It had been built on the waste by Richard Harrington, a tennant of Prescot Hall, of which place Richard Wilson writes, ‘the Elizabethan playhouse at Knowsley, near Liverpool, remains one of the dark secrets of Shakesperian England. Very few commentators are aware of even the existence of this theatre, built by the Stewards of Henry Stanley, Earl of Derby, on the site of his cockpit, some time in the 1580s.’ Other visitors that Christmas include some of the most important men in the north of England, such as the Bishop of Chester, William Chanderton & Sir John Byron, an ancestor of the poet Lord Byron. It is clear that they came to see a play, for the next entry in the household book reads;

5th January to 10th January

sondaye mr caldwell pretched, & that nyght plaiers plaied, mondaye my Lord bushop pretched, & the same daye mr trafforth mr Edward stanley, mr mydleton of Leighton came on Tuesdaye Sir Richard shirbon mr stewarde my Lord bushoppe Sir Ihon byron & many others departed, wednesdaye my lord removed to new parke, on frydaye mr norres & mr tarbocke & mr Tildesley came & went

The key information here is that a second play was performed on the evening of 5th January – a time known to the Church of England as ‘Twelfth Night.’ A similar timed performance was played at court & recorded as, ‘1583. Jan. 5. A mask of iiadies on Twelfth Eve.’ Looking at the Shakespearean ouevre, it makes sense that his early-feeling Twelfth Night was played on this occasion. Samuel Pepys recorded on January 6th, 1662; ‘Dinner to the Duke’s house, & there saw ‘Twelfth-Night’ acted well, though it be but a silly play, & not related at all to the name or day.’

There is a notice of a lost play by Shakespeare, whose sole mention comes in the 1598 Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury, by Francis Meres. The passage basically tells us what Shakespeare had produced by that time;

As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece his sugared Sonnets among his private friends…. As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latins, so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage…. for Comedy, witness his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Love Labours Lost, his Love Labours Won, his Midsummer Night’s Dream, and his Merchant of Venice; for Tragedy his Richard the 2, Richard the 3, Henry the 4, King John, Titus Andronicus, and Romeo and Juliet.

The presence of Loves Labour Lost right next to Loves Labours Won suggest that they were originally played in sequence, which fits in perfectly with the festivities at Knowsley. Loves Labours Lost would have been performed at Christmas, with Love’s Labours Won/Twelfth Night being performed on the evening of January 5th. Stylistically & linguistically, the frantic energetic comedy of Love’s Labours Won/Twelfth Night resembles the Comedy of Errors, which we have dated to 1588.



In 1602 we have the first ‘official’ record of a performance of Twelfth Night, in John Mannigham’s ‘Diary,’ when we hear’ ‘Feb. 2.–At our feast wee had a play called ‘Twelve Night, or What you Will,’ much like the Commedy of Errores, or Menechmi in Plautus, but most like and neere to that in Italian called Inganni. A good practise in it to make the steward beleeue his Lady widdowe was in love with him, by counterfayting a lettre as from his Lady in generall termes, telling him what shee liked best in him, and prescribing his gesture in smiling, his apparraile, etc., and then when he came to practise making him beleeue they tooke him to be mad.’ Most scholars presume this to be the first performance of Twelfth Night – but I would like to propose that it was first played twelve years earlier at Lathom. Both performances come in the middle of Leap Years, which connects to the play’s reference to the woman-in-charge Leap Year rule;

Praise we may afford To any lady that subdues a lord

If we bounce our investigation off the Stanley-Shakespeare romance, Twelfth night is also full of sexually unusual pairings, a feast of homoerotic feelings erupting from its chief author & its muse, who seem mirrored in the absolute bonding between Antonio & Sebastian. There are  many subtextual echoes of the sonnets in Twelfth Night, especially in its handling of the humiliation of rejected love. Interestingly, the romantic wool seems to have fallen from Antonio’s eyes, whose god seems now more of a ‘vile idol.’ Also important is an echo of the sonnets’ menage a Trois in the Orsino, his boy & his lady triangle.

Turning now to Loves Labours Lost, Alfred Harbage once wrote, ‘I think that this play is more likely than any other to suggest the avenues of investigation if there is ever to be a ‘breakthrough’ in our knowledge of Shakespeare’s theatrical beginnings.’ Another scholar, Harley Granville-Barker, adds, ‘it abounds in jokes for the elect, were you not numbered among them you laughed, for safety, in the likeliest places. A year or two later the elect themselves might be hard put to it to remember what the joke was…. it’s a time-sensitive play for a very specific and select audience. Once we figure out who that audience is, we’ll know when the play was first written.’ When we observe there are a number of nods to the Stanleys throughout the play, surely we can answer Mr Harbage’s question. The play contains, for example, several references to the eagle; an important Stanley symbol as found on the family crest to the Eagle Tower at Latham.

What peremptory eagle-sighted eye
Dares looke upon the heaven of her brow
That is not blinded by her majestie


Earl Henry would loved to have heard about his beloved Navarre, the play’s setting, while Ferdinando would have been amused by his name being used as the main character. The Stanley household would have noticed that Malvolio was based upon steward, William Farrington. The play contains a masque – the Nine Worthies – identical to the one performed annually at nearby Chester. In a commentary on Love’s Labour’s Lost by Charles Knight, we read; ‘in this manuscript of… a Chester pageant… the Four Seasons concludes the representation of The Nine Worthies. Shakespeare must have seen such an exhibition, and have thence derived the songs of Ver and Hiems.’ This gives us a firm link to William Stanley, whose tutor, Richard Lloyd, wrote, ‘A brief discourse of the most renowned acts and right valiant conquests of those puissant Princes called the Nine Worthies.‘ Shakespeare must have seen Lloyd’s mask at some point in order to import the songs into his own play. Lefranc found many correspondences between Lloyd’s Nine Worthies and the masque in Love’s Labour’s Lost, and even reminiscent lines: In The Nine Worthies we read: ‘This puissant prince and conqueror bare in his shield a Lyon or, Wich sitting in a chaire bent a battel axe in his paw argent,‘ and in Love’s Labour’s Lost: ‘Your lion, that holds his poll-axe sitting on a close-stool, will be given to Ajax.’

With Shakespeare fresh from his Continental sonnetteering, it is no wonder that sonnets take an important cameo in the LLL. There is an extremely famous & charming sonnet-reading scene, which shows how much the art form was on Shakespeare’s mind at the time. Examples include;

So sweet a kiss the golden sun gives not
To those fresh morning drops upon the rose,
As thy eye-beams, when their fresh rays have smote
The night of dew that on my cheeks down flows:
Nor shines the silver moon one half so bright
Through the transparent bosom of the deep,
As doth thy face through tears of mine give light;
Thou shinest in every tear that I do weep:
No drop but as a coach doth carry thee;
So ridest thou triumphing in my woe.
Do but behold the tears that swell in me,
And they thy glory through my grief will show:
But do not love thyself; then thou wilt keep
My tears for glasses, and still make me weep.

Did not the heavenly rhetoric of thine eye,
‘Gainst whom the world cannot hold argument,
Persuade my heart to this false perjury?
Vows for thee broke deserve not punishment.
A woman I forswore; but I will prove,
Thou being a goddess, I forswore not thee:
My vow was earthly, thou a heavenly love;
Thy grace being gain’d cures all disgrace in me.
Vows are but breath, and breath a vapour is:
Then thou, fair sun, which on my earth dost shine,
Exhalest this vapour-vow; in thee it is:
If broken then, it is no fault of mine:
If by me broke, what fool is not so wise
To lose an oath to win a paradise?


That Love’s Labours Lost is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays was recognized as far back as 1710. when Charles Gildon opined, ‘since it is one of the worst of Shakespeare’s Plays, nay I think I may say the very worst, I cannot but think that it is his first.’ To this, Clare Asquith adds, ‘now the first and dominant conviction at which we arrive in a rapid reading of the text is that Loves Labours Lost was written as a topical play; that it bristles throughout with topical allusion; and that most, if not all, of its characters were meant by shakespeare to be portraits or caricatures of living persons.‘ The name ‘Armardo’ is a clear reference to the armada, while the play also makes reference to the Martin Marprelate controversy which raged from 1588-89. Of the latter reference, ‎George Richard Hibbard describes, ‘the ‘clue’ provided by Hercules’ killing of Cerberus, that three-headed Canis,’… a reference to ‘Nashe’s prowess in 1589 against the three-headed Martin – Martin Marprelate, Martin senior & Martin Junior.’

With the composition of LLL having taken place not long after Shakespeare had experienced the turmoil of his Turkish menage a trois, we can see how the Dark Lady of the sonnets found her way into LLL, when the beauties of a certain sable-skinned lady called ‘Rosaline’ are described. Biron’s passage beginning ‘devils soonest tempt’ could well have been a sonnet originally, which wound its way into LLL instead.

FERDINAND – By heaven, thy love is black as ebony.

BIRON – Is ebony like her? O wood divine!
A wife of such wood were felicity.
O, who can give an oath? where is a book?
That I may swear beauty doth beauty lack,
If that she learn not of her eye to look:
No face is fair that is not full so black.

FERDINAND – O paradox! Black is the badge of hell,
The hue of dungeons and the suit of night;
And beauty’s crest becomes the heavens well.

BIRON – Devils soonest tempt, resembling spirits of light.
O, if in black my lady’s brows be deck’d,
It mourns that painting and usurping hair
Should ravish doters with a false aspect;
And therefore is she born to make black fair.
Her favour turns the fashion of the days,
For native blood is counted painting now;
And therefore red, that would avoid dispraise,
Paints itself black, to imitate her brow.

DUMAIN – To look like her are chimney-sweepers black.

LONGAVILLE – And since her time are colliers counted bright.

FERDINAND – And Ethiopes of their sweet complexion crack.

Coompare the above with sonnet 127

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name;
But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power,
Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress’ eyes are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland’ring creation with a false esteem:
Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so.

Before Shakespeare leaves Knowsley, I’d like to suggest his borrowing of a book from the Stanley’s – North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives. This is one of the most important source texts for the Shakespearean plays, & a paper survives noting that a copy of North’s translation was loaned to a certain “Wilhelmi” by Ferdinando’s wife, Alice, and returned in 1611. The latter year is, of course, the date of the Tempest, Shakespeare’s last play to be performed & to many the moment he gives up writing – he surely won’t be needing that Plutarch anymore!

The Young Shakespeare (12): Return to England

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Shakespeare Sails Home

The Grafton Portrait – Shakespeare in his 20s

In the noble houses of Elizabethan England, the ‘household book’ would record the toings & froings of visitors to the estate. The vast majority of these have been lost, but at Knowsley, however, one of these little diaries miraculously survived the ravagings of time, written down with meticulous energy by the Stanley steward, William Ffarington. Crucially, the book supplies us with information for the three-year period between 1587 & 1589, providing the precise date for Stanley’s return to Knowsley… December 1587. With the lunar eclipse recorded in one of Shakespeare’s Turkish sonnets occurring in September, we are given a three month window for Stanley to be freed from prison & to travel from Constantinople to Lancashire. Intriguingly, in one of Lorenzo Bernardo’s dispatches, we hear of an English Catholic gentleman who was acting quite suspiciously bout Constantinople in that very time period.

November 11th: An English gentleman arrived here on board the ships ‘Salvagna.’ He says he is a Catholic; that he left England at the end of May with the intention of going to Jerusalem, but on his arrival here he changed his mind, & after staying a few days he left for Patras, there to embark on board an English ship for England. This roused great suspicions, & I succeeded in keeping him under observation

Whoever that mysterious Catholic was, if he had been on the trail of Stanley he was too late; for he & Shakespeare were already scudding the sea-lanes home. In the age of Elizabethan sail, Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind had a top speed of 8 knots, about 9.2 mph. With the port of London lying 3627 nautical miles from Constantinople, the voyage would have taken about 19 days of unbroken sailing. Slowing down the ship to the speed of a merchant vessel, perhaps 4 or 5 knots, the same voyage would have taken just over a month. Ample time for Stanley to return to Lancashire by December. In, ‘The Travels of John Sanderson in the Levant,’ we read of the probable route taken from the eastern Meditterranean only a few months after Stanley, picking up the journey at Crete (Candia) in 1588. It took Sanderson 2 months to get to England, but he has several pauses such as the fortnight near the rock of Goletta.

The 23th January [1588] we weare ashore at an iland of[f] Candia, cauled Christiana^. The 25th we cast ancore at Caldarona. The 11th and 12th of Febrewary we passed betwene Sisilia and Malta. The 13th to Pantalaria. The 14th we weare in sight of Cape Bon one Barbarie side. The 15th we sawe Goletta, a rocke a little of[f] of Carthadge. The last of Febrewary we arived in Argier [Algiers]. Sett saile from thence the 2d of March. The 6th came in sight of Cape d’ Gatt.  The 7th at night we passed by Jebberaltare, and so throughe the Streyghts. Frome Suta [Ceuta] we weare espied, who shott  twise. In the morninge we had Cape Spratt [Spartel] about six leagues asterne. The 11th we weare as highe as Cape St. Vincent.  The 19th we weare even with Cape Fenister ; frome thence caped  [i.e. bore] NNW. The 22th, beinge Friday, we came to the soundinges; threwe the lead at night, and found 92 fathome.  Then we caped NE. and by E. The next day in the morninge we  found 70 fathom, and at none [i.e. noon] 55. The next day we  fell with Portland 3 , which was the first of Ingland we had sight  of. Then to the Downes, and so to Gravesend; frome thence in a wherry to Blackewale; so by land to London, the 29th of March 1588.

It is on this voyage that Shakespeare would have gained his knowledge of the Bay of Portugal (the Bay of Biscay), an unusually deep body of water that would have been unsoundable by the plumbing methods of Shakespeare’s time. Memory of the Bard’s time on the Bay can be found in As You Like It;

ROSALIND: O coz, coz, coz, my pretty little coz, that thou didst know how many fathom deep I am in love! But it cannot be sounded: my affection hath an unknown bottom, like the bay of Portugal

The long hours of tedium that a sea-voyage entails provided a perfect atmosphere in which Shakespeare could compose his poetry. As our two lovers drifted home, sharing, it is possible that Shakespeare found a serene moment to compose yet another sonnet of the series to his ‘Handsome Youth.’ There is one sonnet in particular that can be accurately dated to the Stanleyan Grand Tour.

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride;
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
In process of the seasons have I seen;
Three April pérfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah yet doth beauty, like a dial hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived.
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

If the twelve seasons mentioned begin with that of winter 1584-85, then it is the three Mediterranean ‘hot Junes’ of ’85, ’86 & ’87 which Shakespeare spent with Stanley that are meant. This means the sonnet was composed at the end of autumn, 1587, just as they were sailing home.


Stanley Spends Christmas in Lancashire

In the year of 1587 the plague came to the good folk of Lancashire. This was pterry bad, of course, but the return of our gallant & sun-bronzed adventurers cheered up the county, no end. Stanley would have cut a dashing image; 25 years old, fully tanned & bubbling with exciting tales from his travels – there were sea-battles, death-row prisons, duels, magicians & a sordid love triangle – its had everything really. There is an account made in that very year by William Harrison of how Stanley might have appeared to English on his return.

The usual sending of noblemen’s and mean gentlemen’s sons into Italy, from whence they bring home nothing but mere atheism, infidelity, vicious conversation, and ambitious and proud behaviour, whereby it cometh to pass that they return far worse men than they went out….. they have learned in Italy to go up and down also in England with pages at their heels finely apparelled, whose face and countenance shall be such as sheweth the master not to be blind in his choice

Might Stanley have even taken his great new friend Shakespeare with him to Lancashire. Our young bard was 23, fresh from a Grand Tour, & flush with the creativity that would soon manifest itself as some of the greatest plays the world has ever seen. It is no wonder that after travelling Europe in such a fashion that the young Shakespeare would find his mind & spirit filling with so much poesis it would take years to spill onto the page. How it became such stellar poetry was down, of course, to his flowering genius, which surely was first nourished in the fertile bedsoil of the Stanleyan Grand Tour – a perfect start for a career of high genius. The dramatic continental output of the Shakesperean ouvre is, in all essence, a grand & brilliant creochisp of the Swan of Avon’s especial flight abroad. Some plays were being penned already, some may have only been a title with a few scraps of notes, some were yet to be born.

There seems an incredible dedication by Shakespeare to recording as many details of the Grand Tour is possible in his plays. As our party arrived at Knowsley, Shakespeare’s knapsack would have contained the manuscript copies of his & Stanley’s co-written plays, such as Titus Andronicus, & Pericles. These two might even have been performed that Christmas at Knowsley, when the Household Books record a visit by ‘Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers’ in December 1587;

On fryday my Lord the earle came home from cowrte & the same night came my Lord bishoppe, mr stewarde mr recyver mr foxe, on saturday Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers went awaie

This could well have been the performance that won the newly-emerging playwright his first laurels of appreciation. That the disembarkation of the flower-garlanded galleon that was England’s true bard occurred at Knowsley, introduces Stanley’s brother, Ferdinando Stanley, into the equation. Taking the bardic baton from his brother, who had his education to continue, Ferdinando would drag our boy back to London, & into the realisation of his prenominate destiny.


Shakespeare in London

The possession of a certain book by Christopher Marlowe, & its correlations with his plays, suggests he owned or knew somebody with a copy of Ibn ‘Arabshah’s biography of Timur / Tamerlaine, the ‘Aja ‘ib al-maqdur,’ which wouldn’t be translated into European languages until Golius’s Latin version of 1638. Among these similarities is the astonishing matches between the physical appearance & character of Marlowe’s Tamburlaien & Ibn ‘ Arabshah’s Timur. There are also striking matches the incidents surrounding the capture of the Ottoman Turkish sultan Bajazeth as given in the Aja ‘ib al-maqdur, & Act 3 in Marlowe’s play. One possible explanation is that on their return to England from the Ottoman empire, a copy of the Aja ‘ib al-maqdur was in the possession of Stanley & Shakespeare & was given to Marlowe as a gift. A date of well before March 1588 is probable – perhaps even on their first return the previous December – when Robert Greene accus’d Marlowe of ‘daring god out of heaven with that Atheist Tamburlan’, an imitation of Marlowe’s description of his own protagonist, whose ‘looks do menace heaven and dare the gods.’ The play itself was a great a success, full of fresh direction, complexities & dazzling wordplay, it really did set the scene & clearly inspired Shakespeare’s own ouvre. “The fingerprints of Tamburlaine,” writes Stephen Greenblatt, “are all over the plays that are among Shakespeare’s earliest known ventures as a playwright.”

On the 24th April 1588, William Shakespeare turn’d 24. He was now in the full prime of youth & beauty, bubbling with a particular propensity for sheer genius. As for his sexuality, falling in love with William Stanley seems to have had a hand in some kind of alteration, for it must be noted that from this moment on Shakespeare sires no more children, & would eventually leave his bequeath his wife their ‘second best bed’ in his will. The timing of his return coincided with an epoch of great national importance – the Spanish were assembling a huge fleet ready to sail up the channel in order to help ferry across the Channel a great army of invasion they were massing at the French coast.

The England the Spanish were aiming to attack was on the rise; possessing a fledgeling colony in America & mercantile interests across the globe. Just as it is today, London was both a thriving international sea-port & a cosmopolitan national capital. The city was fuel’d by such a melting-pot of culture, attracting the best of the provincial talents, that Elizabethan theatre would evolve into its capsules of dramaturgical, philosophical brilliance, helped no end by having the genius of Shakespeare in the mix. ‘He began early to make essayes at Dramatique Poetry,’ recorded Aubrey, ‘which at that time was very lowe; and his Playes tooke well. He was a handsome, well-shap’t man: very good company, and of a very readie and pleasant smoothe Witt.’


Shakespeare Enters Thomas Watson’s Circle

Enter Thomas Watson. The English College diary at Douay records on October 15, 1576, ‘Dominus Watson went from here to Paris.’ Like Shakespeare, who also benefitted from the poetically-charged atmosphere of the English College, Watson would become a profound & prolific poet. In a verse preface to his Latin version of the Antigone (1581), he gives us a little gloss concerning his life;

I spent seven or eight years far from my homeland, and learned to speak in diverse tongues. Then I became well versed in Italy’s language and manners, and also thy our tongue and ways, learned France. Wherever I was wafted, I cultivated the Muses as best I could

Watson, born in St Olave Parish in 1555. There is a record for him studying at Winchester College in 1567, & when he supplied verses to Greene’s Ciceronis Amor (1589), Watson signed himself an Oxford man – which means that he studied at the that university at some point. This is confirmed by the Oxford antiquarian Anthony à Wood (Athenae Oxonienses 1691) who stated, “Thomas Watson, a Londoner born, did spend his time in this university, not in logic and philosophy, as he ought to have done, but in the smooth and pleasant studies of poetry and romance, whereby he obtained an honourable name among the students of those faculties.” One of these students could well have been William Stanley, who was 6 years younger than Watson & who studied at St Johns. William Stanley may also have met Watson in Paris 1582, as fourteen years afterwards, in 1596,  the anonymous author of Ulysses upon Ajax  describes a certain, ‘Tom Watson’s jests, I heard them at Paris fourteen years ago: besides what balductum play is not full of them?” 

It seems that Watson’s own time on the continent was a surreptitious escapade in Catholic scholarship. It is likely that he met the Italian Jesuit Metteo Ricci during this period, for a system of local memory training Watson would publish as a treatise in 1585 was identical to the one used by Matteo to wow the Chinese. In 1577 Watson was back in Douay, where we read ‘August: on the seventh day Master Watson, Master Robinson, Master Griffith, and some others left for England because of the riots.’ On this new return to England, Watson began living in Westminster, where he began to write poems for his ‘Passionate Century of Love’ (1582) – the first significant sonnet sequence of the age. These 18 line ‘sonnets’ were actually three comblended sestets – ABABCC – the form which Shakespeare would us for his Venus & Adonis. Indeed, in the Polimanteia (1595) a certain WC describes a ‘Wanton Adonis’  (Shakespeare had just published Venus & Adonis) as ‘Watson’s heyre.’  In addition, Watson’s 1585 Latin poem, Amyntas, ends with their heroes transforming into flowers (as in V&A), while Watson’s translation of Coluthus’ erotic Raprus Helenae (1586) may also have influenced the poem at some point before Shakespeare prepared it for printing.

By 1589 Watson had become the tutor to John Cornwallis, son of William, a high-ranking, yet Catholic, advocate of the Queen’s Bench. William Cornwallis described Watson as being able to, ‘deuise twenty fictions and knaveryes in a play, which was his daily practyse and his liuing.’ Watson’s own theatrical bent is confirmed in the Palladis Tamia of Francis Meres in 1598, which places him among such eminent company as Shakespeare, Marlowe, Drayton, Johnson & Kyd as being ‘our best for tragedie.’  Only one of Watson’s plays survives, from 1589, called ‘The Trewe Misterie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke’ with its obvious Shakesperean connotations.

That Shakespeare was actually Watson’s friend can be discerned thro’ analysing the sonnets; 146 & 147 appropriate many of Watson’s words, while a line in sonnet 32 is extremely significant;

If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bett’ring of the time,
And though they be outstripped by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O! then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:
But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love.

The key line is ‘march in ranks of better equipage’ which connects to a statement by Nash, in his preface to Greene’s Menaphon (1589) which expresses that Watson’s works, ‘march in equipage of honour.‘ Watson died in 1592, & if I am right, then this sonnet was written after that occasion, & when Shakespeare writes, ‘had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age, A dearer birth than this his love had brought, To march in ranks of better equipage: But since he died and poets better prove, Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love,’ he is stating that tho’ better exist than Watson, the love he professes in his poetry is worth emulating.

In the National Archives there is the Prerogative Court of Canterbury copy of the will of Sir William Cornwallis, from 1611, which tells us that he became owner of an enormous mansion known as Fisher’s Folly in 1588, on the site of the present Devonshire Square. Described as a huge structure with ‘gardens of pleasure, bowling-alleys and the like,’ it had up til then been in possession of the Earl Of Oxford, who made the place the, ‘headquarters for the school of poets and dramatists who openly acknowledged his patronage and leadership,’ a fertile breeding ground indeed. One person in the household was Cornelia Cornwallis, one of the younger daughters, who would eventually – in 1601 – marry Sir Richard Fermor of Somerton, Oxfordshire. His auntie, Anne(d.1550), had been the wife of William Lucy (d.1551), & thus the mother of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, Warwickshire, the very estate where the young Shakespeare was caught stealing deer!

In 1588, another of Cornwallis’ daughters, Anne, became the transcriber of a short anthology of sixteenth century poetry known as the Cornwallis-Lysons manuscript. This leather-bound quarto bears the large feminine signature, “Anne Cornwaleys her booke,” & contains an attribution to a certain WS. After coming into the possession of James Orchard Halliwell in 1852. He soon became convinced that one poem in particular would appear as Shakespeare’s in the 1599 collection of poems attributed to Shakespeare known as the Passionate Pilgrim.

Now hoe, inoughe, too much I fear; For if my ladye heare this songe, She will not sticke to ringe my eare, To teache my tongue to be soe longe; Yet would she blushe, here be it saide, To heare her secrets thus bewrayede. Cornwallis-Lysons

But soft; enough, too much I fear, Lest that my mistress hear my song; She’ll not stick to round me i’ the ear, To teach my tongue to be so long: Yet will she blush, here be it said, To hear her secrets so bewray’d. Poem XIX, The Passionate Pilgrim

The language, spelling & rhythms of the Shakespeare poem in the Cornwallis-Lyon possess an extremely similar ring to the language, spelling & rhythms of the poem attributed to WS in 1577, which I gave in an earlier post, but shall give again the first seven libes;

W.S. in Commendation of the author begins

Of silver pure thy penne is made, dipte in the Muses well
They eloquence & loftie style all other doth excell:
Thy wisedom great & secrete sense diffusedly disguysde,
Doth shew how Pallas rules thy minde, & Phoebus hath devisde
Those Golden lines, which polisht are with Tagus glittering sandes.
A pallace playne of pleasures great unto the vewers handes.
Thy learning doth bewray itselfe and worthie prayse dothe crave,

James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips had this to say about the comparison between the Cornwallis-Lyon & the Passionate Pilgrim stanzas;

In this (manuscript) reading, we get rid of the harsh and false metre of the third (printed) line, and obtain a more natural imagery; the lady wringing, her lover’s ear for betraying her secrets, being certainly a more appropriate punishment for his fault than that of merely whispering (to) him.

Invention has been racked to account for the utter disappearance of the poems of Shakespeare in his own hand. The Rev. Mr. Hunter, in his recently published New Illustrations of the Life and Writings of Shakespeare, ingeniously supposes that the last descendant of the Poet, Lady Barnard (granddaughter of the Stratford citizen) in her over-religious zeal, may have destroyed any writings that remained in her hands. Whatever cause it may be owing, it is a certain fact that, at the present time, not a line of (William Shakspere’s) writing is known to exist. In the absence of his (literary) autographs, any contemporaneous manuscript is of importance; and in this view the present (Cornwallis) one may justly be deemed a literary curiosity of high interest.

In conclusion, I may observe that during a search of ten years later extended to about fifty years and after a careful examination of every collection of the kind I could meet with, either in public or private libraries, the present is the only specimen of any of Shakespeare’s writings I have seen which was written in the sixteenth century. Scraps may be occasionally met with in miscellanies of a later date, but this volume, in point of antiquity, may be fairly considered to be unique in its kind, and as one of the most interesting illustrations of Shakespeare known to exist.

It is through Venus & Adonis that we  can also raise the possibility that Shakespeare met poet & future martyr Robert Southwell in the Watson circle. In the preface to his Saint Peter’s Complaint, Southwell provides the following passage;

Worthy cosen, Poets, by abusing their talent, and making the follies, and faygnings of love the customary subject of their base endeavours, have so discredited this facultie, that a Poet, a Lover and a Lyar, are by many reckoned but three words of one signification.

Here we have Southwell criticizing his ‘Worthy Cousin’ which might well be Shakespeare. The 1595 version just reads ‘to my worthy cousin,’ while on the title page of the 1616 version, we read, “to my worthy good cosen Maister W. S.” The controversy seems to concern Venus & Adonis, whose sexy cha-cha-cha was the polar opposite of the writings of a high-minded, godfearing, recusant Jesuit like Southwell. In the Complaint’s preface he intimates as much’

Still finest wits are stilling Venus Rose.
In Paynim toyes the sweetest vaines are spent:
To Christian workes, few have their tallents lent.
(The Author to the Reader, 16-18)

Southwell was imprisoned in 1592, & Venus was published in 1593. So this means Southwell would have read Venus in manuscript form some time before 1592.
Robert Southwell had been in residence with Watson at Douai, returning to England & the cause in 1586 aged 25. The following year he issued a pro-catholic treatise from a secret 1587 press known as ‘An Epistle of Comfort.’ It is clear that Shakespeare was familiar with the work, as it furnishes similar and in some cases even more striking parallels with passages from Measure for Measure, and from Julius Caesar. With the Merchant of Venice it is even possible to recreate passages in Shakespeare from scattered’ Southwellian phrases, as if they were lifted at random from the book & then reassembl’d in a cohesive form.

None of Southwell’s poetry was published until 1595, but it definitely runs thro’ Venus & Adonis itself. In his poem on Herod’s murder of the Innocents (composed in his favorite stanzaic form, which is that of Venus and Adonis), Southwell describes the eerie atmosphere in which the young ones lie slaughtered:

Sunne being fled the starres do leese their light,
And shining beames, in bloody streames they drench.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
O blessed babes, first flowers of christian spring,
Who though untimely cropt[,] faire garlandes frame . . .
The flight into Egypt

The baroque image of starlight floating, almost drowning, in the blood of children that seems like the juice of “flowers . . . untimely cropt,” is also evoked in Shakespeare’s poem, when Venus’s eyes, which had “fled” at first sight of Adonis’s bleeding body, finally opened like “stars” and

threw unwilling light
Upon the wide wound that the boar had trench’d
In his soft flank, whose wonted lily white
With purple tears, that his wound wept, was drench’d.
No flow’r was nigh . . .
But stole his blood, and seem’d with him to bleed.

Adonis himself is then transformed into a “flower,” which Venus in her grief and possessiveness untimely “crops” (1037, 1032, 1051-56, 1167-75). In another of Southwell’s poems, God is a cropper: “God doth sometymes first cropp the sweetest floure, / And leaves the weede till tyme do it devoure” (“I dye without deserte, 35-36); in Venus, “The Destinies” command the cropping, and flowers (as in Southwell’s lyric) are contrasted with weeds: “The Destinies . . . / bid thee crop a weed, thou pluck’st a flower” (945-46).


Shakespeare Gets To Work

Whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line Ben Johnson

His mind and hand went together: And what he thought, he uttered with that easinesse, that wee have scarse received from him a blot in his papers Preface to the First Folio

In 1588, Shakespeare began working on converting into theatrical gold dust all the materials he had collected on his travels. His mind would have been burgeoning with ideas; bubbling with a few rough sketches of scenes & storylines, & nibbled at by a number of drafted passages of poetic speech, for in the words of William Wordsworth, ‘poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.’ Samuel Johnson’s opinion of Shakespeare’s career path should also be taken into account;

He found the English stage in a state of utmost rudeness; no essays either in tragedy or comedy had appeared, from which it could be discovered to what degree of delight either one or other might be carried. Neither character nor dialogue were yet understood. Shakespeare may be truly said to have introduced them both amongst us, & in some of his happier scenes to have carried them to the utmost height. 

In 1588 George Puttenham entered his Arte of English Poesie at the Stationers’ Hall, published by Richard Field the following year, which Shakespeare was definitely familiar with. WL Rushton has identified over 200 literary links between Puttenham’s Arte & the works of Shakespeare, & there is one passage in particular that seems to be the Shakesperian manifesto;

There were also poets that wrote openly for the stage, I mean plays & interludes, to recreate the people with matters of disport, & to that intent did set forth in shows & pagaents common behaviours & manner of life as were the meaner sort of men, & they were called comical poets, of whom among the greeks Meander & Aristophanes were most excellent, with the Latins Terence & Plautus. Besides those poets comic there were others, but meddled not with so base matters: for they set forth doleful falls of unfortunate & afflicted princes, & were called poets tragical. Such were euripedes among the others who mounted nothing so high as any of them both, but in based & humble style, by manner of dialogue, uttered the private & familar talk of the meanest sort of men, as shepherds, haywards & such like


Shakespeare in Court

John Shakespeare – Our Poet’s Poppa

On Michalemas (September 29th), 1588, the Court of Common Pleas in London heard a case between William Burbage of Stratford and John Shakespeare, the poet’s father. The matter concerned was John’s remortegaged property at Wilmcote. Another John, surnamed Lambert, had taken on the property, but refused to pay £20 that he owed our poet’s father. In the Bill of complainant in Queen’s Bench case of Shackespere v. Lambert, William is named twice as his son.

What is fascinating about the case, is that of all the attorneys in London John Shakespeare could have chosen, he selected John Harborne, the son of William Harborne, the very ambassador in Constantinople where we had just placed William Shakespeare. Scholars have brushed over John Harborne, imagining there to be no relevance in the quest for the historical Shakespeare – that Harborne’s father was an ambassador in Constantinople would have been irrelevant, for the academic community has scoffed at Shakespeare’s presence in Italy, let alone Turkey.

Harborne was trained at Clement’s Inn, & he seems to be satirised as Justice Shallow in Henry IV Part 1, who is also said to have studied law at Clements. One passage in particular relates to our investigation

SHALLOW By yea and nay, sir, I dare say my cousin William is become a good scholar: he is at Oxford still, is he not?
SILENCE Indeed, sir, to my cost.
SHALLOW A’ must, then, to the inns o’ court shortly. I was once of Clement’s Inn, where I think they will talk of mad Shallow yet.

Where Justice Shallow refers to ‘my cousin William’ who was at Oxford and who ‘must then to the Inns of Court shortly,’ we gain a complete match for William Stanley, also an Oxford man, whose 1588 enrolment at Lincoln’s Inn supports his being a ‘good scholar.’


The Comedy of Errors

Our budding bard would have been inspired by the growing popularity of the theatrical profession; the likes of Thomas Kyd, whose Spanish Tragedy had just taken London by storm, & Christopher Marlowe, the writer of such fantastic pieces as Dido, Queen of Carthage, Tamburlaine the Great, & Doctor Faustus. The keen-eyed Shakespearean scholar, TW Baldwin, highlights allusions in the Comedy of Errors play to both the Armada & to Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, published in 1588. COE also contains a clever pun about France, ‘making war against her hair,‘ referring to the ‘War of the Three Henries’ fought between 1585 & 1589. The same passage also suggests the Spanish Armarda of 1588.

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE In her forehead, armed and reverted, making war against her heir.
DROMIO OF SYRACUSE Sir, upon her nose, all o’er-embellished with rubies, carbuncles, sapphires, declining their rich aspect to the hot breath of Spain, who sent whole armadas of caracks to be ballast at her nose.

Baldwin also points to a passage in the play which seems to describe Finsbury Fields, one of the sites of London’s public executions;

The Duke himself in person
Comes this way to the melacholy vale
The place of death & sorry execution
Behind the ditches of the abbey here

In the 16th century, Finsbury Fields were separated from Holyrood Abbey by ditches. Baldwin goes on to say, ‘It would appear that on Saturday morning, October 5, 1588, William Shakespeare attended the execution of William Hartley, seminary priest, in Finsbury Fields, near the Theatre & Curtain; & there received certain impressions which shortly afterward appeared, transmuted by the magic of his imagination, in the Comedy of Errors.’







Matthew H Welsh: Ayrshire Poetry

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Matthew Welsh passed away last October, to the great sadness of both his family & an intimate circle of friends, many of whom had been lifelong companions during his domicile in the Ayrshire village of Mauchline. This wee pretty place, & not incidentally, saw the birth & earliest years of Scotland’s national bard – Rabbie Burns. Now Matthew’s death might have passed us by like countless millions of others in this world, except for one thing, & that is a collection of a couple of hundred poems he’d been working on in the twilight of his life. He had intended to sell this poetry collection locally, to raise money for a local charity. Sadly, he passed away, but his family have distributed his book across Scotland, fanning his first flames of a posthumous fame that are kindling fires of appreciation in those who love both poetry & Scotland.

Live Long & Prosper

A hiv mind when we wis younger men,
We went pub-crawlin’ now an’ then.
Aff tae the dancin’, we wid go,
We wis quite hansome, I’ll huv ye know.

We wis always winchin, a bonny lass,
Dancin’ roon the hall, wi’ a wee bit class.
We’d arrange a date, fur Saturday comin’,
But wance again, we wid get, the blin!

Noo we’re aulder, retired folk,
In a basin, oor feet, we off’in soak,
Then tae a pub, fur a seat an’ a heat,
An’ a blether wi’ mates, we sometimes meet.

O’ times gon past oor memories tell,
Man, auld age disnae come itsel’.
Good lifes tae you, long may you live,
As good a life, as your life can give.

An’ so this poem comes tae an end,
Tae Mauchline folk, awe the best, I send.
An drink wi’ me, tae times gon past,
Us Mauchline folk are here tae last.

So welcome to the Ayrshire poems of Matthew H Welsh, a friendly romp thro’ a man’s life & times, a literary biopic bristling with beauty & intelligence & a massive breath of fresh air in a world of unpoetical poets. Like his illustrious countryman three centuries before him, Matthew chiefly wrote in the galloping & charming dialect of Lowland Scots. The poems he present us are all dated, beginning in June 2012 & the last dated September, 2018. Not all the poems were composed on those days, a good many poems are revisions of older pieces; in total a nice mixture of old & new revised by a mind focuss’d on its literary legacy. Y’see, Matthew was ill, & his poetry reveals as much, & in fact the key beauty of his work is the steady revelation of a dying body – tho’ retaining at all times an eversharp minded. It reminded me briefly of the AIDS poetry I have studied in the past, but these were generally composed in a state of pregrief & pathos, but Matthew takes his ailments on the chin, spinning them with a cheerful resolution to enjoy even the tiniest things in life, like his love for coffees, which get about 3 poems in the collection. The following stanzas are taken from various poems, which show his illness taking hold. To read them invoked Anne Frank & her diary, with her thoughts of Gestapo HQ transmuted into Cumnock Hospital.

Up an doon the stair,
Add tae this the pain am in,
Ma stomach’s awfy sair.
A’ve got tae shift at a meenits notice,
As fast as I can go,
In case a huv an accident,
Coming fae doon below!
Auch Well

A must be getting’ a wee bit senile,
A forget whit am da’in, every once in a while.
I go upstairs, then a come back doon,
Ma heed is burlin’, roon an’ roon.

Aye Dementia is, an awfy thing,
A forget the words, o’ songs that a sing.
Yet a’ve mind o’ things a did, when a wis a we’an,
But yesterdays a no-no, a think am goin’ insane.
Ol’ Age

A’ve finally done it, a’ve filled in the form,
A’ll send it away when I rise the morn.
Fur a wee’er hoose, wi’ nae upstair,
A canny climb them ony mair.

The W.C. is at the tap o’ the steps,
I trip an’ fa’, hurt ma knees an’ hips..
Am fed up takin’ ma life in ma hon,
Tae a flat or a wee’er hoose am gon.
I’ll Have Tae Pack

The physio’s have goat me, excersizing ma leg,
Tae build up ma muscles ’cause they’re flabby an’ sag.
I’ve missed awe ma pals an’ the barmaids but a ken,
Determined I’ll walk, tae the pubs once again.
Happy Days

I think I am shrinkin’, am awe limp an’ bent,
Ma get up an’ go, has got up an’ went!
I’m findin’ it hard, tae walk a few yairds,
Ma young days returnin’, isnae oan, the cairds.

Its difficult even, tae cut up ma dinner,
I’ll hufty eat soup, tae stop getting’ thinner.
A canny even chew, weel cooked roast beef,
It’s a long time since, a hud ma ain teef!
I’ve Seen Healthier Looking Shadows

So, in 2014 Welsh moves to Ellisland Court in his immortal Mauchline for a Keatsean domicile, overlooking from his bungalow window his own version of the Spanish Steps. I’m sure he woudl have enjoy’d the fact the Ellisland Farm near Dumfries was teh cooking pot for many of Rabbie Burn’s finest verses, including Tam O Shanter. The poetry slows now as his illness debilitates deeper, but he’s still happy & healthy enough to enjoy his 70th birthday as presented in the collection’s penultimate poem.

Ma 70th

Thank you tae ma two lassies, Trudy and Ter, who put on quite a show,
When a celebrated my three score years and ten, thats 70 yes I know.
They held it in the bowlin’ green, where the staff wis awfy guid,
Wee Stevie played guitar, moothie, banjo an’ saxaphone, among ither things, so he did.

Wee Arlene, a northern Irish Lass, she made chuck fur every wan,
We ate away tae oor hearts content, whie Stevie sung anither song.
Half wi through a wee surprise, Jim Cartner played the pipes,
Wi’ stampin’ feet an a yooch or two, the place wis fu o’ hype!

Tommy Mulgrew, wis on the ball, singing fur awe his worth,
A great wee nicht hud wan an awe, a great way tae celebrate ma birth.
Trudy and Teri gave us a song tae gie Stevie a well earned break,
They soonded awfy guid tae me or mibbes the alcahol in ma drink.

Last but not least ma guests who came, maist o’ them invited they surely filled the club,
A hope they awe enjoyed themselves an’ hud a celidh, It wis like a great big pub!
I thank you all, ma family and freens fur awe the cairds an’ such,
An’ fur awe the lovely presents and gifts, I thank you ver much.

A near forgot ma birthday cake, it really wis a stoater,
Wi’ ma poems written awe ower it, anither present fae ma daughter,
A hope ma visitors awe goat a piece o’ ma cake tae try,
Cause fur masel, again a got fur diabetes, two pork pies

A great nicht!
Matt 21/08/2017

Of Welsh’s other species of poem there are two main types. His set-piece odes reflecting the main national & international events of his times are the weakest, I’m afraid. But no poet is perfect, & this set does help to place the early Welsh in his proper time frame. We hear of the Falklands, Chernobyl, the Miner’s Strike, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the Poll Tax, the Gulf War, & the final theme, the Scottish Referendum of 2014 after which Welsh writes (from ‘Paradise’);

There’s a place on this earth, that’s a pleasure tae be,
Its a place where my chest, rises up like the sea.
Filled with pride my heart thumps and it courses with blood,
This lands built with well-being, a present from God.

From the highlands up north, to the lowlands down south,
From mountain tops, rivers flow, to the sea at its mouth.
We have Bens and their Glens and we’ve Lochs by the score,
In this place that’s called Scotland we couldn’t have more.

We have oil, we have gas, we have plenty to eat,
Seas teaming with fish oor haggis is a treat.
He’s given us everything, God couldn’t do more,
Except for our neighbours, the English, next door.

They’ve stolen oor gas and they’ve stolen oor oil,
They’ve moved up to Scotland and stolen oor soil…
…This land that’s called Scotland, that’s heaven on earth,
Will belong once again, tae folk Scottish at birth.

When ye go tae the polls in September this year,
An you cast your vote for independence its clear.
A ‘Yes’ is for freedom tae do as we please,
Nae pleadin’ Westminster on oor bended knees!

It is when he writes about his family, pets & friends that he transforms his muse into a raging queen of musical wordplay, quality phrases, & elegant rhythms & rhymes. He manages to turn Mauchline into a Broonsean pantheon of pubs, pals, gals & laughter. The opening poem of the collection, Mauchline Holy Fair 2012, is a classic example, transporting us into a Tam O Shanter display of fairyfed revelry.

Mauchline Holy Fair

I went tae Mauchline holy fair, wi’ oor Teri, David an’ Donna,
The screamin’ preachers they wis there, fu’ o’ their ain persona.
We donnered roon aboot the stalls, o’ which there wis a wheen,
There wis plenty fur the we’ans tae see, the likes they’ve never seen.

There wis pipe bands here and brass bands there, the music wisnae rationed,
Awe the folk enjoyed themsel’s, as if goin’ oot o’ fashion.
In the kirk a choir wis singin’, like angels way up a height,
If Rabbie wis there tae hear the sound, mair poems he wid write.

In the bleachin’ green, big ba’s wis rollin’, wi’ wee boys bouncin’ inside,
There wis pigs on spits, hot dogs an’ burgers, an’ plenty mair besides,
Plenty tae eat and loads tae drink, an’ the sun began tae shine,
Yes everywan enjoyed themselves, that day had turned oot fine.

Kirk James he sang some Scottish songs, he set your feet a tappin’,
Wi’ the Glee club music, jugglers an’ clowns, everyone wis laughin’.
Twas there we met oor Jean an’ Sam, queuin’ up fur chuck,
We met again in Poosie nansies, got seats, we were in luck.

Then ma faither an’ oor Jim came in, an’ big Rab started playin’,
The pub wis really busy then, when wee Stan started singin’.
Yes everyone enjoyed themselves, at Mauchline’s holy fair,
A canny wait till next year comes, tae enjoy it awe wance mair.

Just when a thought awe the fun wis bye, as a donnered up the scheme,
Then a landed in an auld pals hoose, fur a few drams it would seem.
Oor Thorie,Morag an big Tam wis there, along wi’ Marlene an Griff,
Morag never laughed as much that day, though she wis a wee bit rough.

We had some laughs, we had some fun, that day we will remember,
The second o’ June, 2012, at Mauchline’s Holy Fair.
When thousands o’ visitors came tae oor Toon, just tae pass some time,
They’ll be welcome back again next year, fur the sake o’ auld lang syne

For Matthew, the Mauchline muse, that world of ‘weans & women & men,’ involves either him nipping to the pub for a drink, an epistle to a friend or the convocation of a happy childhood thro’ misty & appreciative eyes. The following stanza gives a brief taste of the flavour of this lyrical stew.

There were forty-four we’ans, awe in wan class,
Every wan o’ us noo, has a Scottish bus pass,
Big Harry an Mo’, Tommy an’ Gal,
Just some o’ the boys, an’ we are still pals.

The lasses were lovely an’ still are I know,
Helen, Heather, Christina an Maggie are braw.
Its amazin tae think, after all of the years,
We still stay in Mauchline, maist o’ us dears.
(from Classmates)

Matthew adds something different to his canvas, concluding his poems with a brief ‘Authors Note’ which sheds a little extra gloss, revealing his emotional tenderness & snappy sense of humour. Such a spirit is there at all times in his poetry, & tho’ his body may be resting the eternal sleep, that spirit he poured into his verses shall remain forever. And verses they are, true verses, steep’d in a native tradition, for Welsh is a poet unadulterated by the fashions of modernist verse libre & slams, & for that reason his poetry shall remain an island of long-loved lyricism off the coast of Ayrshire, while so many other oeuvres are wash’d away by time’s flood, realising the ambition of Welsh’s shortest pieces, ‘A Poem.’

I wish I could write a poem, that people would read and read well,
I wish I could write a poem, that people could tell and retell.
Someday I will write a poem, recited again and again,
Someday I will write a poem, recited by women and men.