Percy's Reliques - Cupid's Assault: by Lord Vaux.

Cupid's Assault: by Lord Vaux.

            The reader will think that infant poetry grew apace between the times of Rivers and Vaux, though nearly contemporaries; if the following song is the composition of that Sir Nicholas (afterwards Lord) Vaux, who was the shining ornament of the court of Henry VII. and died in the year 1523.

            And yet to this Lord it is attributed by Puttenham in his Art of Eng. Poesie, 1589. 4to. a writer commonly well informed: take the passage at large. "In this figure [Counterfait Action] the Lord Nicholas Vaux, a noble gentleman and much delighted in vulgar making, and a man otherwise of no great learning, but having herein a marvelous facilitie, made a dittie representing the Battayle and Assault of Cupide, so excellently well, as for the gallant and propre application of his fiction in every part, I cannot choose but set downe the greatest part of his ditty, for in truth it cannot be amended. 'When Cupid scaled,' &c." p. 200. For a farther account of Nicholas Lord Vaux, see Mr. Walpole's Noble Authors, Vol. i.

            The following copy is printed from the first edition of Surrey's Poems, 1557, 4to. See another song of Lord Vaux's, Book ii. No. 2.

WHEN Cupide scaled first the fort,
Wherein my hart lay wounded sore;
The batry was of such a sort,
That I must yelde or die therfore.

There sawe I Love upon the wall,
How he his banner did display:
"Alarme, alarme," he gan to call:
And bad his souldiours kepe aray.

The armes, the which that Cupide bare,
Were pearced hartes with teares besprent,
In silver and sable to declare
The stedfast love, he alwayes ment.

There might you se his band all drest
In colours like to white and blacke,
With powder and with pelletes prest
To bring the fort to spoile and sacke.

Good-wyll, the maister of the shot,
Stode in the rampire brave and proude,
For spence of pouder he spared not
"Assault! assault!" to crye aloude.

There might you heare the cannons rore;
Eche pece discharged a lovers loke;
Which had the power to rent, and tore
In any place whereas they toke.

And even with the trompettes sowne
The scaling ladders were up set,
And Beautie walked up and downe,
With bow in hand, and arrowes whet.

Then first Desire began to scale,
And shrouded him under his targe;
As one the worthiest of them all,
And aptest for to geve the charge.

Then pushed souldiers with their pikes,
And halberdes with handy strokes;
The argabushe in fleshe it lightes,
And duns the ayre with misty smokes.

And, as it is the souldiers use
When shot and powder gins to want,
I hanged up my flagge of truce,
And pleaded up for my livès grant.

When Fancy thus had made her breche,
And Beauty entred with her band,
With bag and baggage, sely wretch,
I yelded into Beauties hand.

Then Beautie bad to blow retrete,
And every souldier to retire,
And mercy wyll'd with spede to fet
Me captive bound as prisoner.

Madame, quoth I, sith that this day
Hath served you at all assayes,
I yeld to you without delay
Here of the fortresse all the kayes.

And sith that I have ben the marke,
At whom you shot at with your eye;
Nedes must you with your handy warke,
Or salve my sore, or let me die.

*** Since the foregoing song was first printed off, reasons have occurred, which incline me to believe that Lord Vaux the poet was not the Lord Nicholas Vaux, who died in 1523, but rather a successor of his in the title. For in the first place it is remarkable that all the old writers mention Lord Vaux, the poet, as contemporary or rather posterior to Sir Thomas Wyat and the Earl of Surrey, neither of which made any figure till long after the death of the first Lord Nicholas Vaux. Thus Puttenham, in his Art of English Poesie, 1589, in p. 48, haying named Skelton, adds, "In the latter end of the same kings raigne [Henry VIII.] sprong up a new company of courtly makers [poets], of whom Sir Thomas Wyat the elder, and Henry Earl of Surrey, were the two chieftaines, who having travailed into Italie, and there tasted the sweet and stately measures and stile of the Italian poesie . . . greatly polished our rude and homely manner of vulgar poesie . . . In the same time, or not long after was the Lord Nicholas Vaux, a man of much facilitie in vulgar makings.[ 1]"-- Webbe in his Discourse of English Poetrie, 1586, ranges them in the following order,--"The Earl of Surrey, the Lord Vaux, Norton, Bristow." And Gascoigne, in the place quoted in this work (b. ii. No. 2.) mentions Lord Vaux after Surrey. Again, the style and measure of Lord Vaux's pieces seem too refined and polished for the reign of Henry VII. and rather resemble the smoothness and harmony of Surrey and Wyat, than the rude metre of Skelton and Hawes; but what puts the matter out of all doubt, in the British Museum is a copy of his poem, I lothe that I did love, (vid. book ii. ubi supra) with this title, "A dyttye or sonet made by the Lord Vaus, in the time of the noble Quene Marye, representing the image of Death."-- Harl. MSS. No. 1703, § 25.

            It is evident then that Lord Vaux the poet was not he that flourished in the reign of Henry VII. but either his son, or grandson: and yet, according to Dugdale's Baronage, the former was named Thomas, and the latter William: but this difficulty is not great, for none of the old writers mention the Christian name of the poetic Lord Vaux,[ 2] except Puttenham; and it is more likely that he might he mistaken in that lord's name, than in the time in which he lived, who was so nearly his contemporary.

            Thomas Lord Vaux, of Harrowden in Northamptonshire, was summoned to parliament in 1531. When he died does not appear; but he probably lived till the latter end of Queen Mary's reign, since his son William was not summoned to parliament till the last year of that reign, in 1558. This lord died in 1595. See Dugdale, vol. ii. p. 304. Upon the whole I am inclined to believe that Lord Thomas was the poet.

NOTES

1. i.e. Compositions in English.

2. In the Paradise of Dainty Devises, 1556, he is called simply "Lord Vaux the elder."

 

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