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Amores Britannici

Epistles Historical and Gallant, In English Heroic Verse: From several of The Most Illustrious Personages of their Times. In Imitation of the Heroidum Epistolae of Ovid. With Notes explaining the Most Material Passages in every History [by John Oldmixon]
  

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Henry Howard Earl of Surrey to the Lady Giraldine.

From Florence, whence the brave Giraldi came,

The Family of that Giraldi are now one of the most Noble in Florence; that the Lady Giraldine was descended from them, my Lord Surrey sings himself, and that she was born in Ireland.

From Tuscan came my Ladies worthy Race,
Fair Florence was sometimes her ancient Seat;
The Western Isle whose pleasant Shoar doth face,
White Cambers Cliffs did give her lively heat.

A Race of Heroes, and my Love from them;

44

I send this rude Epistle to Thee, the Fair,
With more Sincerity compos'd, than Care.
The Tuscan Eloquence I shall not wrong,

The Tuscan Language thought the purest in Italy, whence the Proverb Lingua Toscana in bocca Romana.


To speak my Wishes in my Native Tongue.
Tho fine their Language, Gallant and Polite,
My Passion like my own, is Fierce and Great.
Near the Nine Sisters and the sacred Spring,
Where Virgil, and where Ovid, learnt to sing;
In English Numbers I, to write t'you, choose,
The Lover English, and the same the Muse.
The Tuscan Sweetness if she wants, we boast
The Roman Majesty, which they have lost;
Her Grace, perhaps her Affectation, less,
She wears a Modest, but a Noble, Dress.
When e'er she mounts, above their height she flies,
And soars sublimely to her Native Skies;
Of Heroes, Demi-Gods, and War, she sings,
Of Europe Conquer'd, and of Captive Kings.
She leads our Princes thro' the dusty Field,
And shews the Battle won, and Town compell'd;

45

But when she pleases to descend to Love,
And paint the Shepherd in the Myrtle-Grove.
So soft her Notes, so moving are her Strains,
The Virgin pities, as the Youth complains.
Oh wou'd she now her duteous Son inspire,
To kindle in your Soul the same Desire,
Which burns in mine an unconsuming Fire.
No want of Grace wou'd in the Stile appear,
Nor Tuscan Eloquence with mine compare.
Love, conq'ring Love, in every Page shou'd shine,
And your kind Wishes grow as warm as mine.
My Grief, my Joy, Impatience, Hope and Fear,
What here torments me, you wou'd suffer there,
Share in my Pleasures, and divide my Care.
You then wou'd know how dreadful 'tis to part,
And ease by Pity, my afflicted Heart.
Think with what Pain I left my native Shoar,
For England troubled, for your Absence more.
With trembling I beheld a friendly Gale,
Swell out our Canvass, and present to sail.

46

You saw me driving from the Coast to Sea,
And weeping, I believ'd, you wept for me.
In tears, the Fortunes of our Love I mourn,
Nor quite departed wou'd to Land return;
The Winds, the cruel Waves, their Aid deny'd,
And drove me forward with a furious Tide.
The Port again I bid the Sailors make,
And pray the rising Winds to force us back.
The Winds, the Mariners, refuse to hear,
Laugh at my Sorrow which they took for Fear.
Not the proud Monuments of ancient Rome,
Invited me to leave my Love and Home;
Her pleasant Villas, and Campanian Fields;
Nor the rich Banquets that her Vintage yields.
Nor the gay Spirit which inspir'd their Souls,
When her Wits revell'd o'er Falernian Bowls,
Cou'd tempt thy Lover from his Prince and Thee,
With Storms to Combat, and a dangerous Sea.
But Glory urg'd me to assert by Arms,
My Truth unequal'd, and Thy Sov'rein Charms;

47

To Florence, Fame, the daring Champion draws,
Where Fortune prov'd as friendly as my Cause.
Cou'd Love, by Distance or by Time, decline,
A Thousand Accidents had ruin'd mine:
Books, Schools, and what in Learning I admire.
Had cur'd my Passion, and had quench'd Desire.
But their grave Maxims I of late despise,
And think, To Love, is only to be Wise.
Divine Erasmus, and our famous More,
Who taught, improv'd me, and who Charm'd before.
Their Wisdom and their Eloquence wou'd seem,
But when they talk of Love, A barren Theme!
I went from Belgia to the Knightly War,
And left the Sages with their Precepts there.
I crost the Danube and the Rhine to view,
The Court Imperial, and my Course pursue.
I met the great Agrippa there renown'd,

This Fiction might have been spar'd, but Mr. Drayton's Excuse may serve for me, that he us'd his Invention the more freely, as writing in the Person of a Poet.


For Magic Science, and for Arts profound.

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I ask'd him, by his mighty Skill, to see,
The distant Maid, and how it far'd with Thee.
Strange to believe! he in a Glass disclos'd,
The Lovely Scene, and all thy Charms expos'd.
As once I saw thee on a Bed reclin'd,
Thro the white Lawn, thy whiter Beauties shin'd,
I gaze with Rapture on thy matchless Face,
And beg'd him never to remove his Glass.
He shew'd Thee reading, and the Numerous Line,
Discover'd in his Glass, I saw was mine.
Of Love it sung, and I beheld the Maid
With Blushes, and, I thought, with Pleasure, read.
The wondrous Artist I with Joy embrac'd,
And sure of Victory, to Florence past.
I boast no Honours from a Noble Name,
My Father's Glory or from Surrey's Fame.
The Lyon shining in our Arms I wave,

The Earl of Surrey was a Hero as well as a Poet, had a Silver Lyon added to his Arms, for the Victory he gloriously obtained over James V. King of the Scots at Bramston near Flodden-Hill, being a part of the Cheviot Mountains, the most noted of the North.


For Clowns can fight, and ev'ry Fool be brave.

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Tho Flodden-Field will never be forgot,
Nor Surrey Conq'ring, nor the routed Scot.
With Heroes, I might claim the foremost Place,
By my own Actions, or my Warriour Race.
Another Title to your Love I plead,
Which sooner, with the Gallant, shou'd succeed.
The Son of Phœbus, and the Sacred Nine,
My Name Illustrious, and my Works Divine.
My Soul enlighten'd with a Heavenly Ray,
Derives its Being from the God of Day.
Not the least worthy of the Tuneful Throng,
Your Beauties are immortal in my Song.
The Fair with Pleasure, what I write, rehearse,
And Kings repeat my never dying Verse;
These the best Trophies, to my Name, I raise,
And wear the Laurel, but to grace the Bays.
In ample Synod when the Gods design,
To raise a Being, like themselves, Divine.
The frame dispos'd, a Spirit they infuse,
Which forms a Hero, or creates a Muse.

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A Smaller Portion of Ætherial Fire,
The Croud of Heroes, and of Kings inspire,
The Muse they quicken with a purer Flame,
To give, as he deserves, the Monarch Fame.
The World had ne'er of great Achilles rung,
Nor Hellen's Rape, had Homer never sung;
Time wou'd his Valour, and her Charms destroy,
Or both had perish'd in the Flames of Troy.
For Slaves and Kings are equal in the Grave,
The same in Death, the Coward and the Brave;
Till with new Honours by the Muse they live,
And in the Fable, or the Scene, revive.
She adds by Fiction to their real Worth,
And makes 'em Gods, Who were but Men on Earth.
The Son of Thetis, and the Spartan Dame,
Were less in Nature, than they are in Fame
But the bright Image of your living Face,
No Art can paint, nor Eloquence express.

51

Such are the Graces of your Wit and Youth,
The Muses Fiction cannot reach the Truth.
A perfect Picture, who pretends to make,
From Thee his Features, and his Fire, must take.
Yet these, Alas! so Lovely and so Gay,
With Age will wrinkle, and with Time decay,
You'll curse the Change, and wishing to be young,
Seek the lost Graces in the living Song.
Nor Time, nor Age, my Picture shall consume,
Your Youth will there be ever in its bloom.
There, tho imperfect, shall your Image last,

The Lady Stanhope was a great Beauty as he himself has recorded in the Verses, he writ on her refusing to dance with him, under the allegory of the Lyon and the Wolf; a little extraordinary, 'tis true, to compare the Lady to a Wolf, but no matter, his Reasons will be seen best in his Writing.

Himself.
A Lyon saw I late as white as any Snow.

Her.
I might perceive a Wolf white as a Whale's bone.
A fairer Beast of Fresher Hue, beheld I never none,
But that her Looks were Coy, and froward was her Grace.


And future Beauties envy like the past.
Stanhope, the Wonder of the courtly Train,
O'er Thee no longer shou'd unjustly reign.
To Thine, her Titles, and her Conquests, yield,
If equal to the Fair my Verse excell'd.
By Arms I'll vindicate thy Sovereign Right,
Or prove by Numbers, if I lose by Might.

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For this Apollo will my Breast inspire,
And kindle in my Soul the latent Fire.
Then shall my Genius, like the Subject shine,
My Song be Deathless, as the Theme Divine.
Wyat the Charmer of your Sex, with me,

Sir Thomas Wyat translated the Psalms of David, of which the Earl says somewhere;

What Holy Grave, what worthy Sepulchre,
To Wyat's Psalms shall Christians purchase there!

The Hero and Poet did not think the Translation of David so despicable an attempt, as a late modern Bard has often express'd it. 'Tis the ill Performance, and not the Design of those who have pretended to't that is most faulty.

On Sir Thomas's Death he writes,

What Virtues rare were temper'd in thy Breast,
Honour, that England such a Jewel bred;
And kiss'd the Ground whereas thy Corps did rest.

Shall tune his Harp, and sing again for Thee.
To late Posterity thy Fame shall run,
While by thy Merit, we exalt our own.
The Prince, when Surrey at his Court appear'd,

The Great Duke.


Proclaim'd the Tournaments, and Lists prepar'd.
A golden Pillar in the Cirque was plac'd,
With different Portraits, and Devices, grac'd.
Yours, with Amazement, and Delight, they view,
And destin'd, e'er the Fight, the Prize to you.
The Spurs, the Lance, my Silver Lyon, held,
Beneath your Picture, and defy'd the Fair.
When prancing on a Barb I first appear,
Approach the Pillar, and pronounce Thee Fair.

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The Trumpets sounded, and with loud acclaim,
The Croud approve it, and admire the Dame;
The Knights, defy'd, the sturdy Lance prepare.
Assert their Mistresses, and bid the War.
From ev'ry Nation they to Florence come,
From Europe, Africk, and from Asia, some,
To lose their Honour, and their Love at home.
Dismounted, at my Feet, the Champions lie,
And curse their Fortune, and demand to die.
The Trumpets sound, and Clamours rend the Skies,
When Surrey is proclaim'd to win the Prize.
The Court, the Sentence of the Field, allow'd,
And Truth Eternal, to the Fair I vow'd.
A Pile erected in the Rising Flame,
I cast an Offering to your sacred Name,
The Broken Spears, the Trophies of my Fame.
To Heaven it mounts, a bright Ætherial Fire.
Pure as my Love, and fierce as my Desire.

54

I bless the Omen, and my Vows renew,

The Custom of the Knights who won the Prize of Chivalry, to take an Oath to be true to their Dames, as here describ'd.


To Sing, to Combat, and to love for you.
Nor Balls divert me, nor the splendid Feast,
Their Sights, their Musick, and their Praise displeas'd;
And pensive, to my Chamber, I repair,
And meditate alone, the distant Fair.
My Wandring Thoughts on various Objects rove,
On Hunsdon, Hamoton, but they meet in Love.

Of Hunsdon he says, and of Hampton Court and the rest,

Hunsdon did first present her to mine Eye.
Of Hampton Court and Windsor, where abound.
All Pleasures.

The Lady Giraldine was in the Service of Queen Katherine.

Hampton me taught to wish her first for mine.
Windsor Alas! doth chase me from her fight.
When Windsor Walls sustain'd my wearied Arm;
My Hand, my Chin, to ease my restless Head.
With a King's Son my Childless Years I past.
In greater Feasts than Priam's Son of Troy.
Those large Green Courts where we were wont to rove,
With Eyes cast up unto the Maiden's Tower.
With easie Sighs, such as Man draw in Love.
The stately Seats, the Ladies bright of Hue,
The dances short, long Tales of sweet Delight,
The secret Groves which we have made resound.
With Silver Drops the Meads yet spread for ruth
As goodly Flowers on Thamesis do grow.

The following Lines are by some attributed to Sir Francis Bryan. The Numbers seem to be more Harmonious than any we can find in others much more modern.

Tagus farewell, which Westward with thy Streams.
Turn'st up the Grains of Gold already try'd;
For I with Spur and Sail go seek the Thames.
Against the Sun that shews his wealthy Pride,
And to the Town that Brutus sought by Dreams,
Like bended Moon that leaves her lusty Side.
To seek my Country now for whom I live.
O Mighty Jove for this the Winds me give.

On Royal Windsor, and our past Delights,
Our Days of Sporting, and our Joyous Nights;
Our Morning Pleasures, and our Evening Shade,
And how we Lov'd, and what we did and said
This to remember gives my Sorrows ease,
And pleases still, when nothing else can please.
Windsor, as Charming, as She's Noble, seems,
The Boast of England, and the Pride of Thames;
For Kings and Princesses a soft Retreat,
To Love, delicious, and the Muses Seat.

55

My Mistress with the Nymphs I there have seen,
Confess'd in Beauty, and Desert, a Queen.
There in the Forrest, or the Neighb'ring Groves,
We stray'd together, and compar'd our Loves.
Beneath a Poplar, or a Beechen, Shade,
I sought, and have surpriz'd the Heav'nly Maid.
And fondly have I guest your Virgin Care,
And fancy'd, that you came to meet me there.
This Image flatters, in my Fear, my Mind,
Or else you were, or I believ'd you, kind.
Oft on the Willows by the Banks of Thames,
With Marks mysterious, I engrav'd our Names.
When next you wander, by the River, see,
These Wishes written on the fairest Tree,
And as of you I think, Remember me.
When Silvia sits beneath thy Shade,
From Heat defend the Fair;
A Thousand Odours round her spread,
And Flora fan the Air.

56

Te Birds, that singing in the Groves,
Each others Breasts inspire;
Instruct my Sylvia by your Loves,
To bless a Swain's Desire.
When Sylvia sleeps, Ye Gentle Streams!
Who Lull her to her Rest;
Inform the Virgin in her Dreams,
How Damon wou'd be blest.
England, to Italy, I still prefer,
A Spring perpetual is, they tell me, here,
But how can I believe, while thou art there?
For Thee the Forrest blooms, the Meadow springs,
And Philomel deceiv'd, in Autumn sings.
Campania's Glory ne'er had reach'd our Isle,
Had not her Muse been richer than her Soil.
Nor boasted Tyber, nor the wanton Po,
Like Thames, or Severn's Silver Currents, flow.
Oh! were I sure at my Return to find,
Your Heart the same, as when I left you, kind.

57

Their painted Cities then wou'd tempt in vain,
Their Courts, where Vanity, and Pleasure, reign.
Their Pomp, their Luxury, I then wou'd scorn,
To better Fortune in your Beauty born.
O'er the rude Alps, with Eagle hast I'd fly,
Cut the rough Waves, and fill my Arms with Joy.
 

The Earl of Surrey was eldest Son to the Great Duke of Norfolk. He was, says the Learned Bishop of Salisbury in his History of the Reformation, a high spirited Man, had a vast Fortune, and the Head of the Popish Party; however a Man of great Qualities. He had a great Wit, and was more than ordinarily learned, his Heat in the Popish Cause ruin'd him, and he was try'd for Treason; the Pretence, his giving the Arms of Edward the Confessor, and being concern'd with his Father in other Plots and Crimes. This Earl wrote several very fine Poems for his Age, there are none so Gallant and of so fine a Turn, considering the Times, extant. There were also in King Henry VIIIth's Court, Sir Thomas Wyat, (Father of the unfortunate Sir Thomas Wyat in Queen Mary's Reign) who was a Gentleman very famous for his Genius in Poetry, and my Lord of Surrey's Friend Sir Francis Bryan, afterwards Embassador in France. Thus we see that their Love of the Muses was not then thought injurious to their Ministry, and he must himself have a very wretched Talent, who thinks the Man that excells in so delicate an Art cannot fit himself with a great deal of Ease for the most important Offices of the State. The same good Sense that made him shine as a Poet, will certainly make him illustrious as a Minister. There are several things in this Epistle, and the Lady's answer, which may give us an Idea of the Court and Manners of the Reign they liv'd in, and prove to us how Men of little Wit and little Honesty have attempted to be troublesome in their Generation, and what Opinion they had of their Industry.