1603
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Canto upon the Death of Eliza.

Sorrowes Joy. Or, a Lamentation for our late deceased Soveraigne Elizabeth, with a Triumph for the prosperous Succession of our gratious King, James, &c.

Rev. Giles Fletcher


Twelve irregular Spenserians (ababbccD) printed in the Cambridge anthology of academic verse published to mark the new reign. Phineas Fletcher also contributed to this volume. Milton's Lycidas may recall Giles Fletcher's conclusion: "But when the next Aurora gan to deale | Handfuls of roses fore the teame of day | A sheapheard drove his flocke by chance that way | And made the nymph to dance that mourned yesterday."

Robert Aris Willmott: "The contribution of Giles Fletcher — A Canto on the Death of Eliza — is the most poetical in the collection. It is a pastoral allegory, conceived in a spirit of grace and elegance.... The picture of the snake, 'sliding with shrinking silence,' is very happily imagined. It would be impossible more vividly to represent the sudden rustling of the leaves, and the 'shrinking' stillness that follows. The idea is partly borrowed from Virgil" Lives of Sacred Poets (1834) 32.

Thomas Corser: Giles Fletcher's poem "possesses much of his rich and luxuriant style, and is one of the most favourable specimens in the volume ... the reader will recognize an allusion to the early and well-known fable of the nightingale and the thorn so frequently introduced by our poetical writers, and the origin of which can hardly be traced" Collectanea Anglo-Poetica 10 (1880) 240.

Edmund Gosse: "The death of Queen Elizabeth gave him the his first opportunity of appearing before the public, in a Canto upon the Death of Eliza, which was printed at Cambridge in 1603. In many respects it is a remarkable little poem, especially in showing the lad to have been already intellectually and artistically adult. The form of the stanza chosen is exactly what Giles selected afterwards for his epic; and what has never been used (with a doubtful exception to be presently mentioned [Brittain's Ida]) before or since by any one but himself. The relation to Spenser, too, whose followers in style the whole family of the Fletchers distinctly were, is just as determined and scarcely more excessive than in his Christ's Victory. All that can be said is that the Canto displays none of those sudden intense beauties that are a wonder and a delight in its author's finished style" The Jacobean Poets (1894) 137-38.

W. J. Courthope: "Giles Fletcher, Phineas's younger brother, was not restrained by any scruples of false modesty in making an early appearance as an author. The date of his birth indeed cannot be exactly ascertained, though the place of it is known to have been London. He was admitted as a scholar in Trinity College, Cambridge, from Westminster School, in 1605, and, as he is not likely to have been more than 18 at that time, he can hardly have been born before 1587. While still at school he had given proof of his poetical powers in some verses written to commemorate the death of Elizabeth, which were published in 1603, with others composed by his brother Phineas, in a volume entitled Sorrow's Joy. As the productions of a boy of 16 or 17, this 'memorial canto' was remarkable, and it perhaps brought the poet to the notice of Dr. Nevile, Dean of Canterbury and Master of Trinity, to whom, in his dedication of Christ's Death and Victory, Giles acknowledges that he owes his scholarship" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 3:132-33.

Herbert E. Cory: "In 1603, in Sorrowe's Joy, a book of elegies on Queen Elizabeth, Giles and Phineas Fletcher made their first unobtrusive appearance in print by joining the group of poets who filled this volume with starched lamentations over their adored Eliza. The contribution of Phineas, the elder and more prolific, is significant as a much more elaborate stanzaic experiment than that of his brother. And throughout his many poems Phineas is notable for playing a considerable number of variations on the Spenserian stanza. Giles chose to imitate his master simply by taking the rhyme-royal ready-made and by adding an alexandrine. To this measure he remained faithful in his masterpiece. Significant, too, is the fact that the younger poet's A Canto upon the Death of Eliza, though very boyish, shows far more promise than Phineas Fletcher's On the Death of Queen Elizabeth. The younger brother was the first to publish his ambitious masterpiece, greater than anything Phineas ever did. With its rapturous close his inspiration seems to have flickered out. The gentle, fluent muse of the elder poet was with him throughout the leisurely course of his whole life" "Spenser, the Fletchers, and Milton" UCPMP 2 (1912) 314-15.



The earely Houres were readie to unlocke
The doore of Morne, to let abroad the Day,
When sad Ocyroe sitting on a rocke,
Hemmd in with teares, not glassing as they say
Shee woont, her damaske beuties (when to play
Shee bent her looser fancie) in the streame,
That sudding on the rocke, would closely seeme
To imitate her whitenesse with his frothy creame.

But hanging from the stone her carefull head,
That shewed (for griefe had made it so to shew)
A stone it selfe, thus onely differed,
That those without, these streames within did flow,
Both ever ranne, yet never lesse did grow,
And tearing from her head her amber haires,
Whose like or none, or onely Phaebus weares,
Shee strowd there on the flood to waite upon her teares.

About her many Nymphes sate weeping by,
That when shee sang were woont to daunce and leape.
And all the grasse that round about did lie,
Hung full of teares, as if that meant to weepe,
Whilest, th' undersliding streames did softly creepe,
And clung about the rocke with winding wreath,
To heare a Canto of Elizaes death:
Which thus poore nymph shee sung, whilest sorrowe lent her breath.

Tell me ye blushing currols that bunch out,
To cloath with beuteous red your ragged sire,
So let the sea-greene mosse curle round about
With soft embrace (as creeping vines doe wyre
Their loved Elmes) your sides in rosie tyre,
So let the ruddie vermeyle of your cheeke
Make staind carnations fresher liveries seeke,
So let your braunched armes grow crooked, smooth, and sleeke.

So from your growth late be you rent away,
And hung with silver bels and whistles shrill,
Unto those children be you given to play
Where blest Eliza raignd: so never ill
Betide your canes nor them with breaking spill,
Tell me if some uncivill hand should teare
Your branches hence, and place them otherwhere;
Could you still grow, and such fresh crimson ensignes beare?

Tell me sad Philomele that yonder sit'st
Piping thy songs unto the dauncing twig,
And to the waters fall thy musicke fit'st,
So let the friendly prickle never digge
Thy watchfull breast with wound or small or bigge,
Whereon thou lean'st, so let the hissing snake
Sliding with shrinking silence never take
Th' unwarie foote, whilst thou perhaps hangst halfe awake.

So let the loathed lapwing when her nest
Is stolne away, not as shee uses, flie,
Cousening the searcher of his promisd feast,
But widdowd of all hope still Itis crie,
And nought but Itis, Itis, till shee die.
Say sweetest querister of the airie quire
Doth not thy Tereu, Tereu then expire,
When winter robs thy house of all her greene attire?

Tell me ye velvet headed violets
That fringe the crooked banke with gawdie blewe,
So let with comely grace your prettie frets
Be spread, so let a thousand Zephyrs sue
To kisse your willing heads, that seeme t'eschew
Their wanton touch with maiden modestie,
So let the silver dewe but lightly lie
Like little watrie worlds within your azure skie,

So when your blazing leaves are broadly spread
Let wandring nymphes gather you in their lapps,
And send you where Eliza lieth dead,
To strow the sheete that her pale bodie wraps,
Aie me in this I envie your good haps:
Who would not die, there to be buried?
Say if the sunne denie his beames to shedde
Upon your living stalkes, grow you not withered?

Tell me thou wanton brooke, that slip'st away
T'avoid the straggling bankes still flowing cling,
So let thy waters cleanely tribute pay
Unmixt with mudde unto the sea your king,
So never let your streames leave murmuring
Untill they steale by many a secret furt
To kisse those walls that built Elizaes court,
Drie you not when your mother springs are choakt with durt?

Yes you all say, and I say with you all,
Naught without cause of joy can joyous bide,
Then me unhappie nymph whome the dire fall
Of my joyes spring, But there aye me shee cried,
And spake no more, for sorrow speech denied.
And downe into her watrie lodge did goe;
The very waters when shee sunke did showe
With many wrinckled ohs they sympathiz'd her woe.

The sunne in mourning cloudes inveloped
Flew fast into the westearne world to tell
News of her death. Heaven it selfe sorrowed
With teares that to the earthes danke bosome fell;
But when the next Aurora gan to deale
Handfuls of roses fore the teame of day
A sheapheard drove his flocke by chance that way
And made the nymph to dance that mourned yesterday.

[pp. 22-25]