1593
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sonnet 51. ["Each tree did boast the wished spring times pride."]

The Teares of Fancie. Or, Love Disdained.

Thomas Watson


The sonnet, possibly by Thomas Watson, incorporates lines from the Faerie Queene (2.6.12-13); see Joseph Warren Beach, "A Sonnet of Watson and a Stanza of Spenser" Modern Language Notes 18 (November 1903) 218-20. NCBEL and Spenser Encyclopedia reject the attribution; J. W. Saunders's Biographical Dictionary of Renaissance Poets says that Teares of Fancie contains poems by Watson (who died in 1592).

"B.": "Watson's Sonnets are very valuable as specimens of the degree of polish of the vernacular language of his day. They are terse, harmonious, and often constructed with admirable artifice. They are seldom disgraced by expletives, flat expressions, or imperfectly formed sentences. There is no involution of words, which generally follow one another in their proper places with uncommon felicity. There are whole sonnets in which not one single word takes a different position from that which it ought to have in prose. The very accentuation is seldom different from that of our times. That miserable intermixture of lame lines, or lame half-lines, which deforms most of the poetry of the Elizabethan age, never disgraces Watson" British Bibliographer 4 (1814) 3.

Robert Southey includes Watson in a list of Elizabethan poets whose omission from Chalmers's British Poets is regrettable: "Churchyard, Constable, Watson, Willoby, Southwell, Barnaby Googe, Nicolas Breton, Chapman, Chalkhill, Abraham Fraunce, and Sir Philip Sidney" Quarterly Review 11 (July 1814) 487.

Thomas Campbell: "Thomas Watson was a native of London, and studied the common law, but from the variety of his productions (Vide Theatrum Poetarum, p. 213) would seem to have devoted himself to lighter studies. Mr. Steevens has certainly overrated his sonnets in preferring them to Shakespeare's" Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1855) 104.

John Payne Collier: "Only a single copy of the above work is known, and that is deficient of two leaves, containing sonnets numbered 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16: all the rest, consisting of 52 sonnets, remain, and the last is subscribed T. W., the only mark of authorship. We may, perhaps, take it for granted that T. W. meant Thomas Watson; for there then existed no other writer, with those initials, at all capable of producing such poems. Nothing is said in it to lead us to the belief that Watson was dead at the time this collection of Sonnets was published; but we know from a stanza in Richard Barnfield's Affectionate Shepherd, 1594, that at that date he was no more" Bibliographical and Critical Account (1866) 4:220-21.

William Minto: "Neither the Century of Love nor the Tears of Fancy belongs to a high order of poetry. The Century was avowedly an exercise of skill: the love-passion, he tells us in the Preface, was 'but supposed.' With this the critic has no quarrel: so far Watson differs from many of his poetical brethren, only in the perhaps superfluous candour of the avowal. The misfortune is that the supposition, the imaginative passion, is weak. There is not constructive vitality in his lines; the words and images seem brought together by a process of mechanical accumulation. The Tears of Fancy are decidedly superior to the Love-passions, but here also there is a fatal lack of spontaneity and freshness: the superiority has every appearance of being due to the author's study of Spenser" Characteristics of English Poets (1874) 266.

Mark Eccles: "Similarities have been noted between Amoretti 30 and Watson's Hekatompathia 43 (ice and fire) and between 'Upon a day,' the fourth of the anacreontics that follow Amoretti, and Hekatompathia 53 (bee-stung Cupid)" Spenser Encyclopedia (1990) 728.



Each tree did boast the wished spring times pride,
When solitarie in the vale of love:
I hid my selfe so from the world to hide,
The uncouth passions which my heart did prove.
No tree whose branches did not bravelie spring,
No branch whereon a fine bird did not sit:
No bird but did her shrill notes sweetlie sing,
No song but did containe a lovelie dit.
Trees, branches, birds, and songs, were framed faire,
Fit to allure fraile mind to careles ease:
But carefull was my thought, yet in dispaire,
I dwelt for brittle hope me cannot please.
For when I view my loves faire eies reflecting,
I entertaine dispaire, vaine hope rejecting.

[p. 51]