CHAPTER 14

SHAKESPEARE'S

MISCELLANEOUS POEMS PART 2

A LOVER'S COMPLAINT

This is a long poem, 329 lines, with the same metre as the Lucrece poem, iambic pentameters, with 7 line stanzas, ababbcc. Such rhyme schemes are not a problem to a gifted poet with a large vocabulary. They help him sift his words and meanings, and compress his thought. I suggest this is a mature poet's poem, much later than the Venus poem and somewhat later than the Lucrece poem.

The story line is very simple. An older man sees a maiden weeping and tearing up paper. She casts off rings and throws them in a river. He feels, bearing in mind his age, it's appropriate for him, now retired from high society and city life, to ask what the problem is. He sits down beside her but with a proper space between them. She tells him she knew a youth whose affections many sought, but she had always remained chaste and kept her distance. Eventually he approached her and said I have so many maidens pursuing me, I give them what they want, even a nun, but I'm overcome by you. Eventually she gives way to him but he treats her like all the rest.

I think some lines are significant: line 8

Upon her head a platted hive of straw,

Which fortified her visage from the sun,

Whereon the thought might think sometimes it saw

The carcass of a beauty spent and done:

Time had not scythed all that youth begun,

Nor youth all quit; but, spite of heaven's fell rage,

Some beauty peep'd through lattice of sear'd age.

Line 29

Her hair, nor loose nor tied in formal plat,

Proclaim'd in her a careless hand of pride;

Line 36

A thousand favours from a mound she drew

Of amber, crystal, and of beaded jet,

Which one by one she in a river threw,

Upon whose weeping margent she was set;

Like usury, applying wet to wet,

Or monarch's hands that let not bounty fall

Where want cries some, but where excess begs all.

The poet, himself a retired man, is looking at a once beautiful woman on whom time has left its mark. The similes of usury and monarchs are a little unusual in the context of the poem, but very relevant to de Vere's life. He had experience of borrowing money during his European tour. His reference to monarchs is well founded. From his viewpoint Drake and Raleigh received vast sums in benefits from monopoly revenues that gave many thousands of pounds a year. He could not get an office, such as the governorship of Jersey island, which he had asked for, or a monopoly, only the Rysing manor for a measly £250 a year, and later another £1,000 a year while Burghley and Hatton had run up charges against him of £22,000.

The next few lines are best quoted in full, line 57

A reverend man that graz'd his cattle nigh-

Sometime a blusterer, that the ruffle knew

Of court, of city, and had let go by

The swiftest hours, observed as they flew-

Towards this afflicted fancy fastly drew;

And, privileg'd by age, desires to know

In brief the grounds and motives of her woe.

So slides he down upon his grained hat,

And comely-distant sits he by her side;

We know nothing about how de Vere came to marry Elizabeth Trentham, who had been a maid of honour to the Queen. De Vere was about 42 when they married. By my calculation she was probably about 4 years younger than de Vere (Note 1). They had only one child, a boy, shortly after marriage, so she may have been close to the menopause. They lived together for 11 years after the son was born, until de Vere's death.

Line 71

'Father,' she says, 'though in me you behold

The injury of many a blasting hour,

Let it not tell your judgement I am old;

Not age, but sorrow, over me hath power:...'

If the poet is de Vere, of the women we know about in his life, this can only be Elizabeth Trentham, and he's telling us she had been betrayed in love. Now both he and this Elizabeth were older and wiser. They had, as modern teens would say, 'been there, done that.'

All the qualities of the most able young man and brilliant horseman who was the undoing of this Elizabeth are recited, lines 85 to 147. De Vere would have had no problem recounting this, he merely wrote about his own youth and what others actually said about his horsemanship: line 99

'His qualities were beauteous as his form,

For maiden-tongu'd he was, and thereof free;

Yet, if men mov'd him, was he such a storm...

Well could he ride, and often men would say

"That horse his mettle from his rider takes:

Proud of subjection, noble by the sway,

What rounds, what bounds, what course, what stop he makes!" '

(More Shakespearean repetition here).

And line 148

'Yet did I not, as some my equals did,

Demand of him, nor being desired yielded;

Finding myself in honour so forbid,

With safest distance I mine honour shielded.'

Line 169

'For further I could say "this man's untrue,"

And knew the patterns of his foul beguiling;

Heard where his plants in others' orchards grew,

Saw how deceits were gilded in his smiling;'

From line 176 to line 290 that young man tells her of his amorous conquests which were without much interest to him, and were only because he was pursued, line 181

'"For feasts of love I have been call'd unto,

Till now did ne'er invite, nor never woo."'

Line 192

'"Lo! this device was sent me from a nun," '

Line 260

'"My parts had power to charm a sacred nun"'

but this maiden is different. This is the first time he's had to pursue someone. Finally she gives way to him, line 291

'What rocky heart to water will not wear?'

Line 302

'In him a plenitude of subtle matter'

Line 313

'Against the thing he sought he would exclaim;

When he most burn'd in heart-wish'd luxury,

He preach'd pure maid, and prais'd cold chastity.'

Line 321

'Ay me! I fell, and yet do question make

What I should do again for such a sake.'

And the last (repetitive) stanza

'O! that infected moisture of his eye,

O! that false fire which in his cheek so glow'd,

O! that forc'd thunder from his heart did fly,

O! that sad breath his spongy lungs bestow'd,

O! all that borrrow'd motion seeming ow'd,

Would yet again betray the fore-betray'd,

And new pervert a reconciled maid.'

If the poet is de Vere, an older de Vere, with which the withdrawal from Court and city agrees, and if the maiden in the poem is Elizabeth Trentham, although we don't know her birth date, her death date seems to agree. If it is her, this poem tells us they didn't have an all consuming sexual attraction for one another. Instead there was an affinity of experience, a deep abiding affection.

The relationship described in this poem fits well with what we know of de Vere's marriage to Elizabeth Trentham. She gave him financial security and stability, a wonderful home in the right place, and a son. He gave her intimate access to the greatest poet the world has ever known. If de Vere was Shakespeare, the terrible tragedy of King Lear and his three daughters was behind him. He could move into the world of his last plays; of imagination, fancy, and fantasy: Winter's Tale, Tempest, Cymbeline. The Lover's Complaint was published in 1609, five years after his death. He would not have had it published in his lifetime, even with a pseudonym. It was too close to home. It was how he came by his true wife and heir. That is, if it was de Vere.

E. K. Chambers, the well known Shakespearean scholar, writing as a Stratfordian about the inconsequential Shaxper, and believing he was Shakespeare, wasn't able to take Elizabeth Trentham into account when he said, writing a chapter on Cymbeline:

What is remarkable is not, of course, that the tragic mood should come to an end, and the perturbed spirit find rest at last; but rather that the change should come so suddenly, presenting itself as a breach of continuity instead of as the natural term of a logical process of mental growth.

But if it's de Vere we can even put a dating on these three 'romance' plays. They would have been written after his marriage to Elizabeth Trentham in 1591-2.

THE PHOENIX AND THE TURTLE

This 67 line poem was apparently first published as part of a miscellany in 1601. The publication had a long title, which began Loves Martyr: Or Rosalin's Complaint... Shakespeare, Jonson, Marston, Chapman, were among the contributors. The Phoenix was a legendary bird in Arabia, supposed to be reborn from its own ashes after burning itself on its own funeral pyre every 500 years. The general theme of the Shakespeare poem was the well known symbolism of the love and constancy between the two birds, the Turtle being a turtle dove.

The Shakespeare poem has 13 four line stanzas followed by 5 three line stanzas. It begins

Let the bird of loudest lay

On the sole Arabian tree

Herald sad and trumpet be...

Key words in this poem seem to be: sad, harbinger, fever's end, obsequy, defunctive, death-divining, requiem, mourners, anthem, dead, fled, tragic, cinders, death, eternity, buried, urn, dead, prayer.

The first 20 lines are setting the scene; there has been a death among the birds, then, line 21

Here the anthem doth commence

Love and constancy is dead;

Phoenix and the Turtle fled

In a mutual flame from hence.

So they lov'd, as love in twain

Had the essence but in one,

Two distincts, division none

Number there in love was slain.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder,

Distance and no space was seen

"Twixt this Turtle and his queen...

This theme of their togetherness continues to line 52. Then comes the Threnos (wailing) with the 3 line stanzas, It begins

Beauty, truth, and rarity,

Grace in all simplicity,

Here enclos'd in cinders lie.

Death is now the Phoenix' nest,

And the Turtle's loyal breast

To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity

"Twas not their infirmity,

It was married chastity.

In the last 6 lines, 'truth' occurs twice, and 'true' once. Then the last line

For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

If you were to find this poem in a book of verse and read it just as some poet's poem I suggest it would be difficult to know what it's saying. You might think, oh, well, it's only a variation on the usual theme of the Phoenix and leave it at that. You would not be able to get to the bottom of it. But you and I, if you've stayed with me from the beginning and come so far, know better, if it's de Vere writing it.

First, people sometimes say they don't understand why Shakespeare didn't write a commemorative poem on the death of the Queen in 1603. Many others did. But 'Shakespeare', whoever he was, did not, nor did de Vere, acknowledged as a superior poet by his contemporaries. And neither of them was ever poet laureate. Gascoigne got the job in the mid 1570s, while de Vere was on the Continent. Super poets are rarely if ever poet laureates. They do not trundle out verse to suit a state occasion when it happens.

This Phoenix poem was, I suggest, composed shortly before its publication in 1601. The Queen died two years later; de Vere, three years later.

If the poet is de Vere, he's told us exactly what the relationship was. The Phoenix was a bird, not a queen, but he uses the word queen. He is the turtle, loyal to the end. There was, he's telling us, deep inseparable love between them. Their minds and spirits were so close, despite two often quite separated existences, that they were one. But they had no children, though they were both quite capable of together producing children. It was platonic love, not sexual love. "Married chastity" he calls it. He ends by talking about truth, and true, only indirectly relevant, but the signposting for de Vere. Such is the genius of this poet that with three words he quashes the theory of those who believe Southampton was their child: 'Leaving no posterity.' It is remarkable how much this poem tells us of the relationship between de Vere and his Queen, if de Vere is the poet. (Note 2).

He, if he is the poet, could not possibly sign his name to this poem. It reveals the true and abiding relationship between him and the Queen. He mourns approaching death for both of them. More than that, it's the end of the Elizabethan age, with the departure of the greatest poet and the greatest Queen England has ever had. It was this poet who, in earlier, happier times, wrote

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediment.

Now we know, if this poet is de Vere, that the sonnet just quoted (#116), was written about him and the Queen.

But let me remind you again that although we seem to keep finding evidence suggesting that de Vere may have been the poet Shakespeare, I am not an Oxfordian, nor for that matter a Stratfordian. As a professional auditor, my purpose is to undertake an independent impartial investigation as to who Shakespeare was. All the evidence we are discussing may make de Vere a likely candidate, but no more. It merely shows us he could have been Shakespeare, not that he was.

This ends our review of the miscellaneous poems of Shakespeare. Next we have to go through the 154 sonnets of this poet. Hopefully there at last we will find incontrovertible evidence that de Vere either was not, or was, William Shakespeare.


NOTE 1

We don't know when Elizabeth Trentham was born, but we know she died in 1612. As she had once been a maid of honour to the Queen, I've tried to make an approximation of her birth date as follows, based on the known life spans of some Court Ladies:

LIFE SPANS WHERE BOTH BIRTH AND DEATH DATES KNOWN FOR COURT LADIES

Queen Elizabeth

70

Mary Fitton

69

Elizabeth Trussell

63

Katherine Willoughby

61

Mary Sidney Herbert

60

Elizabeth Vere

52

Anne Cecil

32

TOTAL YEARS

407

407/7 = 58.14, giving an average life span of about 58 years.

Elizabeth Trentham died in 1612. So, 1612 - 58 = 1554 for her calculated birth year. De Vere was born in 1550, making her about 4 years younger than him. Their child, Henry, was born in 1593, when she is calculated to have been about age 39.



NOTE 2

As the then King James 6th of Scotland, now to be also James 1st of England was proceeding south to London after the death of Queen Elizabeth, de Vere wrote a letter to Sir Robert Cecil, Lord Treasurer of England,

to desire you as my very good friend and brother-in-law to impart to me what course is devised by you of the Council and the rest of the Lords concerning our duties to the King's Majesty...for by reason of mine infirmity I cannot come among you as often as I wish...

I cannot but find great grief in myself to remember the Mistress which we have lost, under whom both you and myself from our greenest years have been in a manner brought up...In this common shipwreck mine is above all the rest, who least regarded though often comforted of all her followers, she hath left to try my fortune among the alterations of time and chance...

The Phoenix and the Turtle is attributed to 'Shakespeare', but it is de Vere in a business letter who is saying of his 'great grief'' 'mine is above all the rest.' 'Least regarded' because despite many promises she never did grant him some preferment despite his continual requests. 'Though often comforted' implies a more personal relationship and regard for him.

We do not know the nature of his 'infirmity'. The strict meaning of the word today is physical weakness, brought on by age.

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