To all Writing Ladies


It is to be observed that there is a secret working by Nature, as to cast an influence upon the minds of men: like as in contagions, when as the air is corrupted it produces several diseases, so several distempers of the mind by the inflammations of the spirits. And as in healthful ages, bodies are purified, so wits are refined; yet it seems to me as if there were several invisible spirits, that have several but visible powers, to work in several ages upon the minds of men. For in many ages men will be affected and disaffected alike: as in some ages so strongly and superstitiously devout that they make many gods, and in another age so atheistical as they believe in no god at all, and live to those principles. Some ages again have such strong faiths that they will not only die in their several opinions, but they will massacre, and cut one another’s throats, because their opinions are different. In some ages all men seek absolute power, and every man would be emperor of the world, which makes civil wars; for their ambition makes them restless, and their restlessness makes them seek change. Then in another age all live peaceable, and so obedient that the very governors rule with obedient power. In some ages again, all run after imitation, like a company of apes, as to imitate such a poet, to be of such a philosopher’s opinion. Some ages mixed, as moralists, poets, philosophers, and the like; and in some ages again, all affect singularity, and they are thought the wisest that can have the most extravagant opinions. In some ages learning flourisheth in arts and sciences; other ages so dull, as they lose what former ages had taught. And in some ages it seems as if there were a commonwealth of those governing spirits, where most rule at one time. Some ages, as in aristocracy, when some part did rule, and other ages a pure monarchy, when but one rules, and in some ages, it seems as if all those spirits were at defiance who should have most power, which makes them in confusion, and war; so confused are some ages, and it seems as if there were spirits of the feminine gender, as also the masculine. There will be many heroic women in some ages, in others very prophetical, in some ages very pious and devout—for our sex is wonderfully addicted to the spirits. But this age hath produced many effeminate writers, as well as preachers, and many effeminate rulers, as well as actors. And if it be an age when the effeminate spirits rule, as most visible they do in every kingdom, let us take the advantage, and make the best of our time, for fear their reign should not last long, whether it be in the Amazonian government, or in the politic commonwealth, or in flourishing monarchy, or in schools of divinity, or in lectures of philosophy, or in witty poetry, or anything that may bring honor to our sex, for they are poor, dejected spirits that are not ambitious of fame. And though we be inferior to men, let us show ourselves a degree above beasts, and not eat, and drink, and sleep away our time as they do, and live only to the sense, not to the reason, and so turn into forgotten dust. But let us strive to build us tombs while we live, of noble, honorable, and good actions, as2 least harmless,

That though our bodies die,
Our names may live to after memory.

To the Reader, Concerning Fairies

Worthy Readers,1

I wonder any should laugh or think it ridiculous to hear of fairies, and yet verily believe there are spirits, which spirits can have no description, because no dimension—and so of2 witches, which are said to change themselves into several forms, and then to return into their first form again ordinarily, which is altogether against nature—and yet3 laugh at the report of fairies as impossible, which are only small bodies not subject to our sense, although they4 be to our reason. For Nature can as well make small bodies as great, and thin bodies as well as5 thick. We may as well think there is no air, because we do not see it, or think6 there is no air in an empty barrel, or the like, because when we put our hands and7 arms into the same we do not feel it. And why should not they get through doors or walls as well as air doth, if their bodies were as thin? And if we can grant there may be a substance, although not subject to our sense, then we must grant that substance must have some form, and if some form, why8 not of man as well as9 of anything else? And why may not10 rational souls live in a small body as well as in a gross, and in a thin, as well as11 in a thick?

Shall we say dwarfs have less souls because they have less12 or thinner bodies? And if rational souls, why not saving souls? Wherefore13 there is no reason in nature, but that there may not only be such things as fairies, but these be14 as dear to God as we.

Upon the Theme of Love


O love, how thou art tired out with rhyme!
Thou art a tree whereon all poets climb,
And from thy tender branches everyone2
Doth take some3 fruit, which fancy feeds upon.
But now thy tree is left so bare and poor,                  5
That they can hardly gather one plum more.

The Brain Compared to the Elysium


The brain is the2 Elysian fields, for there3
All ghosts and spirits in strong dreams appear.
In gloomy shades do sleepy lovers4 walk,
And5 souls do entertain themselves with talk,
And heroes their great actions do relate,                                   5
Telling both their good fortune and6 sad fate,
What chanced to them when they awake7 did live,
Their world the light did great Apollo give;
And what in life they could a pleasure call,
Here in these fields they pass their time withal,                     10
Where Memory, the ferryman, with him8
Brings9 company, which through the senses swim.
The boat, imagination, ’s10 always full,
Which Charon roweth in the region skull,
In which the famous river Styx doth flow,11                            15
Wherein who’s dipped, straight doth forgetful grow.12
And13 this Elysium poets happy call,
Where poets, as great gods, do record14 all
The souls of those that15 they will choose for bliss,
And their sweet numbered verse their passport is.                20
And16 those that strive this happy place to have17
Must go to bed and sleep as in a grave.18
Yet what a stir do poets make, when they
By their wit, Mercury, those souls convey!
But what, cannot the godhead wit create,                                 25
Whose fancies are both destiny and fate?19
Fame is20 the thread which long or21 short they spin;
The world, as flax unto their distaff bring.22
This distaff spins fine canvas of conceit,
Wherein the sense is woven ev’n23 and straight;                    30
But if’t24 in knots and snarls entangled be,
The thread of fame doth run unevenly.
Those that care not to live in poets’ verse,
Let them lie dead upon oblivion’s hearse.

A Description of a Shepherd’s and a Shepherdess’s Life


The shepherdesses which great flocks do keep
Are dabbled high with dew following their sheep,
Milking their ewes, their hands do2 dirty make,
For being3 wet, dirt from their duggs do take.
Through the sun’s heat, their skin doth yellow grow;4            5
Their eyes are red, lips dry with winds5 that blow.6
There shepherds sit on tops of mountains7 high,
And8 on their feeding sheep do cast an eye,
Which to the mount’s steep sides they hanging feed
On short moist grass,9 not suffered to bear seed.                    10
Their feet are small, but strong each sinew’s10 string,
Which makes11 them fast to rocks and mountains cling.
The while the shepherd’s legs hang dangling down,
He12 sets his breech upon the hill’s high crown.
Like to13 a tanned hide, so is14 his skin;                                    15
No melting heat or numbing cold gets in,
And with a voice that’s harsh against his throat,
He strains to sing, yet knows not any note,
And, yawning, lazy15 lies upon his side,
Or straight upon his back with16 arms spread wide,             20
Or, snorting, sleeps, and dreams of Joan his17 maid,
Or of hobgoblins,18 wakes as being afraid—
Motion in his19 dull brains doth plow and sow,
Not plant and set, as skilfull gard’ners20 do—
Or21 takes his knife half broke, but ground again,22              25
And whittles sticks, his sheep-cote up to pin,23
Or cuts some holes in straw, to pipe thereon
Some amorous tunes, which pleaseth his love Joan.24
Thus rustic clowns are pleased to spend their times,
And not as poets feign, in verse and rhymes,25                       30
Making great kings and princes pastures keep,
And beauteous ladies follow26 flocks of sheep,
And dance27 ’bout maypoles in a rustic sort,
When ladies scorn to dance without a court.
For they their loves would28 hate if they should come          35
With leather jerkins, breeches made of thrum,
And buskins made of frieze that’s coarse and strong,
With29 clouted shoes, tied with a leather thong.
Those that are nicely bred fine clothes still love;
A fair white hand doth hate a30 dirty glove.                            40

The Allegory of Shepherds Is too Mean for Noble Persons.


To cover noble lovers with the2 weeds
Of ragged shepherds, too low3 thoughts it breeds,
Like as when men make gods to come4 down low,5
Take6 off all rev’rence7 and respect we owe.
Then rather make ladies8 fair nymphs to be,                             5
Who’re cloathed with beauty, bred with modesty;
Their9 tresses long hang on their shoulders10 white,
Which when they move, do give the gods delight.
Their11 quivers,12 hearts of men, which fast are tied,
And arrows of quick flying eyes beside,                                     10
Buskins, which,13 buckled close with plates of gold,
With strength their legs from base ways back14 do hold.
And make men15 champions, knights—which honor prize16
Above the tempting of alluring eyes—
Which17 seek to kill, or at the least to bind                                15
All evil passions in a wand’ring mind;
And18 take those castles kept by scandals strong,
That have by errors been enchanted long,
Rout monstrous vices, which do19 virtues eat:
These lovers worthy are of praises great.                                   20
So will high Fame aloud those praises sing;
Cupid those lovers shall to Hymen bring,
At Honor’s altar join both hearts and hands;
The gods will seal those20 matrimonial bands.

The House of Shame, wherein Dishonor Lives


Dishonor in the house of shame doth dwell;
The way is broad, and open is as2 Hell.
The porter’s he whom Baseness we3 do call,
And Idleness is4 usher of the hall.
The house with dark forgetfulness is hung,                                5
And round about ingratitude is flung,
Boldness for windows,5 which outface the light;
The curtains are dissembling,6 drawn with spite.
With covetousness all gilded are the rooves;7
The weathercock inconstancy still moves.8                              10
Instead of pillars, obstinacy9 stands,
Carved with perjury by cunning hands,
And Lust on beds of luxury doth10 lie,
Where chamberlains of jealousies out-spy.11
Gardens of riot, where the wanton walks,                                15
Lascivious arbors where Obsceneness talks,
Storehouses of12 theft ill-gotten goods lie13 in,
A secret door14 bolted with a false pin.
The bakehouse doth ill consciences15 make;
False hearts, as ovens16 hot, those hard do17 bake.                  20
The brewhouse yields designs of wicked brains,18
With corrupt measures and deceitful grains;19
Drunkness the cellar, stomachs for barrels go;20
Mouths are the taps, whence spew for drink doth flow.21
Kitchens of slander, where good names are burned,22           25
Spits of revenge, on which ill deeds are turned;23
The slaughter-house24 of horrid murder’s25 built,
A knife of cruelty, by which blood is spilt.26
In matrimonial bonds Dishonor’s linked27
With Infamy, which is as black as ink.                                        30

The Temple of Honor

Honor’s brave temple’s1 built both high and wide,
Whose walls are of clear glass on every side,
Where actions of all sorts are perfect seen,
Where Truth, the2 priest, approves which worthiest3 been,
And4 on the altar of the world them lays,                                  5
And offers them with sacrificing praise,
Which offerings are so clean and without stain,56
As Honor’s godhead cannot them disdain:7
As pious tears, with thoughts most chaste and pure;
And patient minds, afflictions to endure;                                 10
Wise8 brains, which bring things9 to a good10 effect;
And helping hands, where bribes are not11 suspect;
A tongue, which truth in eloquence doth dress;
And lips, which worth praises do express;
Eyes that pry out, and spy examples good;                               15
Feet that in ways of mischief never stood;
Hair from those heads12 that shaved for holy vow,
Which as a witness, blessing gods allow;
Breasts, from whence13 proceed all good desires,
Which lock up secrets, if that need14 requires;                        20
And hearts, from whence clear springs of love do rise,
Where loyal courage in the bottom lies;
Beside here’s spleens,15 which never16 malice bore;
And shoulders, which17 distressèd burdens wore;
And humble knees, that bow18 to ruling powers;                    25
And hands of bounty, which on mis’ry19 showers;
King’s crowns, which rule20 with justice, love, and peace,
Whose power serves21 from slavery to release;
Here speculations from much22 musing grow,
Which reason’s23 proof and time’s experience show;            30
Witty inventions, which men profit bring;
Inspired24 verse, which poets to25 gods sing;
White innocence, as girdles, virgins26 wear,
That only Hymen27 from their waist doth tear;
And Hymen’s torches, which burn bright and clear,             35
Show jealousy and falsehood ne’er come28 near;
Garlands of laurel, which keep ever green,
And29 for the best of poets crowns have been;
The olive branch, which emblem is30 of peace,
Is offered there31 for the world’s good increase;                     40
Mirtle is laid for lovers that32 are true;
And for misfortunes is33 the bitter rue;
Sighs, which from deep compassion do flow out;
And faith,34 which never knew to make a doubt.
These,35 offered all with grateful hearts in ranks,                  45
Were sprinkled with the pure36 essence of thanks,
Of pen’tent tears was th’holy water made;37
Love’s flaming fire was on the altar laid.38
The priests, which all the ceremonies there39
Did execute, the four chief virtues were;40                              50
These in41 procession Honor high did raise,
And with their anthems sweetly sang42 her praise.


Fame on her nimble wings doth1 actions bear,
Which fly about, and carry’m everywhere.
Sometime she overloaded2 is with all,
And then some down into oblivion fall.
But those that would3 to Fame’s high temple go,                 5
Must first great Honor’s temple quite pass through.

The Temple of Fame

This temple is divided in two parts:
Some open lie, others obscure1 as hearts;
Some light as day, others are2 dark as night,
By time’s obscurity worn out of sight.
The outward rooms are3 glorious to the eye,                             5
In which Fame’s image placed are4 on high,
Where5 all the windows are triangulars cut,
Where one face into millions is6 put,
And builded is in squares, just like a cube,7
Which way to double, hard is in dispute.8                                10
Echoes therein do like as9 balls rebound
From every corner, making a great sound.
The walls are hung with chapters10 all of gold,
In letters great all actions there are told.
The temple door is of prospective glass,                                    15
Through which a small beam of our eye can pass.
That11 makes truth there so12 difficult to know,
As a new world in the bright moon13 to show.
The steepl’and pillars are14 of goose-quills built,
And plastered over with white paper gilt;                                 20
The painting is with ink as15 black as jet,
In several works and figures like a net.
The steeple’s high, and yet16 not very light,
But as an17 evening is, ’twixt day and night.
Five tongues, the five bells through18 the world do ring,       25
And to each several ear much news do bring.
The philosopher’s tongue doth give a deep sound,19
But the historian’s is no better found;20
Th’orator’s tongue doth make great noise; the sound21
Of critics harsh, as full of flaws is found;22                               30
The small bell, a poet’s tongue, changes23 oft,
Whose motion is24 quick, smooth, even,25 and soft.
The ropes they hang26 by, one cannot27 well see,
For they are28 long small threads of vainglory.
And when they ring, they make a fine29 sweet chime,           35
Especially when poets’ tongues do30 rhyme.
The belfry-man’s31 a printer by his skill,
Who,32 if he pleases, may ring when he will.
When priest to matins, or to vespers go,
To the high altar they bow very33 low.                                       40
This altar, where34 they offer unto Fame,
Is made of brains, arms, and hearts, without35 blame,
On which lies wisdom, wit, strength, courage, love,
As36 sacrifices to great Fame37 above.
Vertues, arts, sciences as priests here stand,38                         45
But Fortune, prioress, doth all command.39
Incense of noble deeds to Fame she sends;
Nothing is offered, but what she commends,40
For Fortune brings more into Fame’s high court
Than all the41 virtues with their great resort.                           50