Percy's Reliques - Gascoigne's Praise of the Fair Bridges, afterwards Lady Sandes,

Gascoigne's Praise of the Fair Bridges, afterwards Lady Sandes,

ON HER HAVING A SCAR IN HER FOREHEAD.

            George Gascoigne was a celebrated poet in the early part of Queen Elizabeth's reign, and appears to great advantage among the miscellaneous writers of that age. He was author of three or four plays, and of many smaller poems; one of the most remarkable of which is a satire in blank verse, called the Steele-glass, 1576, 4to.

            Gascoigne was born in Essex, educated in both universities, whence he removed to Gray's-inn; but, disliking the study of the law, became first a dangler at court, and afterwards a soldier in the wars of the Low Countries. He had no great success in any of these pursuits, as appears from a poem of his, intitled, "Gascoigne's Wodmanship, written to Lord Gray of Wilton." Many of his epistles dedicatory are dated in 1575, 1576, from "his poore house in Walthamstoe;" where he died a middle-aged man in 1577, if he is the person meant in an old tract, intitled, "A remembrance of the well employed Life and godly End of George Gascoigne, Esq. who deceased at Stamford in Lincolnshire, Oct. 7, 1577, by Geo. Whetstone, Gent. an eye-witness of his godly and charitable end in this world," 4to. no date.-- [From a manuscript of Oldys.]

            Mr. Thomas Warton thinks "Gascoigne has much exceeded all the poets of his age, in smoothness and harmony of versification."[ 1] But the truth is, scarce any of the earlier poets of Queen Elizabeth's time are found deficient in harmony and smoothness, though those qualities appear so rare in the writings of their successors. In the Paradise of dainty Devises[ 2] (the Dodsley's Miscellany of those times) will hardly be found one rough, or inharmonious line:[ 3] whereas the numbers of Jonson, Donne, and most of their contemporaries, frequently offend the ear, like the filing of a saw. Perhaps this is in some measure to be accounted for from the growing pedantry of that age, and from the writers affecting to run their lines into one another, after the manner of the Latin and Greek poets.

            The following poem (which the elegant writer above quoted hath recommended to notice, as possessed of a delicacy rarely to be seen in that early state of our poetry) properly consists of alexandrines of twelve and fourteen syllables, and is printed from two quarto black-letter collections of Gascoigne's pieces; the first intitled, "A hundreth sundrie flowres, bounde up in one small posie, &c. London, imprinted for Richarde Smith:" without date, but from a letter of H. W. (p. 202.) compared with the printer's epistle to the reader, it appears to have been published in 1572, or 3. The other is intitled, "The Posies of George Gascoigne, Esq. corrected, perfected, and augmented by the author, 1575. Printed at London, for Richard Smith, &c." No year, but the epist. dedicat. is dated 1576.

            In the title page of this last (by way of printer's,[ 4] or bookseller's device) is an ornamental wooden cut, tolerably well executed, wherein Time is represented drawing the figure of Truth out of a pit or cavern, with this legend, Occulta veritas tempore patet [R. S.] This is mentioned because it is not improbable but the accidental sight of this or some other title page containing the same device, suggested to Rubens that well-known design of a similar kind, which he has introduced into the Luxemburg gallery,[ 5] and which has been so justly censured for the unnatural manner of its execution.

IN court whoso demaundes
What dame doth most excell;
For my conceit I must needes say,
Faire Bridges beares the bel.

Upon whose lively cheeke,
To prove my judgement true,
The rose and lilie seeme to strive
For equall change of hewe

And therewithall so well
Hir graces all agree!
No frowning cheere dare once presume
In hir sweet face to bee.

Although some lavishe lippes,
Which like some other best,
Will say, the blemishe on hir browe
Disgraceth all the rest.

Thereto I thus replie;
God wotte, they little knowe
The hidden cause of that mishap,
Nor how the harm did growe:

For when dame Nature first
Had framde hir heavenly face,
And thoroughly bedecked it
With goodly gleames of grace;

It lyked hir so well:
"Lo here," quod she, "a peece
For perfect shape, that passeth all
Appelles' work in Greece.

"This bayt may chaunce to catche
The greatest God of love,
Or mightie thundring Jove himself,
That rules the roast above."

But out, alas! those wordes
Were vaunted all in vayne:
And some unseen wer present there,
Pore Bridges, to thy pain.

For Cupide, crafty boy,
Close in a corner stoode,
Not blyndfold then, to gaze on hir:
I gesse it did him good.

Yet when he felte the flame
Gan kindle in his brest,
And herd dame Nature boast by hir
To break him of his rest;

His hot newe-chosen love
He chaunged into hate,
And sodeynly with mightie mace
Gan rap hir on the pate.

It greeved Nature muche
To see the cruell deede:
Mee seemes I see hir, how she wept
To see hir dearling bleede.

"Wel yet," quod she, "this hurt
Shal have some helpe I trowe:"
And quick with skin she coverd it,
That whiter is than snowe.

Wherwith Dan Cupide fled,
For feare of further flame,
When angel-like he saw hir shine,
Whome he had smit with shame.

Lo, thus was Bridges hurt
In cradel of hir kind.[ 6]
The coward Cupide brake hir browe
To wreke his wounded mynd.

The skar there still remains;
No force, there let it bee:
There is no cloude that can eclipse
So bright a sunne, as she.

*** The Lady here celebrated was Catharine, daughter of Edmond second Lord Chandos, wife of William Lord Sands. See Collins's Peerage, vol. ii. p. 133, ed. 1779.

NOTES

1. Observations on the Faerie Queen, vol. ii. p. 168.

2. Printed in 1578, 1596, and perhaps oftener, in 4to. Black-letter.

3. The same is true of most of the poems in the Mirrour of Magistrates, 1563, 4to, and also of Surrey's Poems, 1557.

4. Henrie Binneman.

5. Le Tems découvre la Vérité.

6. i.e. in the cradle of her family. See Warton's Observations, vol. ii. p. 137.

 

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