Tuesday, May 06, 2008

there is none so subtle but love doth him abuse

I'm drafting my thesis these days. I just completed a first-draft section on the English writing masters of the early-modern period. These were men who taught good penmanship. Their students, who mostly aimed at employment in the business world, needed to be able to make documents that were legible and accurate without taking a long time in doing it. I'm just starting a second section on the commercial arithmetic that these writing masters also taught. During the period, use of roman numerals was giving way to arabic ones and side-by-side use of tally sticks, counting boards, and abacuses was giving way to computing with pen on paper. No matter how they were done, multiplication and particularly division were very difficult to master. Only with the gradual adoption of algebra would these tasks be made easy.

So, in doing this draft I've been putting some last touches on the research that supports it. And in doing this I searched the word "casting" in a database of early modern books. Casting was what you did on a counting board: you placed the counters (small stones or the like) in columns representing numerical place as you would when using an abacus. But the word casting shows up in lots of other documents of the time, mostly having to do with casting out devils, or feigning to cast out devils, or pretending devilry in order to take credit for casting it out ... like that.

And I came across the following fragment, which is one page someone saved from a larger text. Why they saved it and how it came to be in the database I do not know.

I could not resist taking a few moments to at least determine what it is and what it says.

Turns out it is a page from a poem from Robert Copland. He was an associate of England's first printer William Caxton and a printer himself. The book carries the very early date of 1530. You can read about him here. John Payne Collier gives more information about the man and his poem in his Illustrations of Early English Popular Literature, of 1863. The poem is a translation from an anonymous French author, though Copland does not trouble to tell us this (England's early printing was rife with unacknowledged translations). Just for context: the year of its publication was in the middle of the reign of Henry VIII and the heyday of the Protestant Reformation. His daughter Elizabeth, future Elizabeth I, Queen of England, would not be born for another three years.

Here is my fragment, followed by the whole text of the poem:

My fragment reads:
With her eyen pleasaunte castynge a regarde
In chastynge a laughter amerous,
Than with a praty smyle she doth me larde,
And that maketh me somewhat joyous;
But comynge to a bed delycyous
For to holde the spere in a full hande,
It plyeth and fayleth, for wyll not stonde.
Whan I herde her bable and langage,
Her gentyll termes spoken so properly,
I do me wyshe for to be in to the age

Of eyghten, neyntene, or foure and twenty:
Suche assautes than gyue wolde I,
That for it sholde haue no nede to craue
Of the grete pleasure that she sholde haue.
If that she go to banckettes and daunces,
She doth none offence therin certayne:
Nedes she must haue her pleasaunces
In some place to make her glad and fayne;
Wherfore I dare well say and susteyne
That after with me I wolde haue her ledde,
If ony soner I had ben to her wedde.
We twayne sholde haue all our yongenesse,
After maryage custome and ryght,
Passed in joye, solace, and gladnesse,
And is wherfore I haue me pyght:
Force it is to me that the fyre be night,
That at a nede I can not haue quenched.
To late maryed is for to be complayned.
Here's the whole (lengthy) work:
Copland, R.

Here begynneth the complaynte of them that ben to late maryed.

1: After playes, sportes, and daunces of solace,
2: We must thynke to come to prosperyte,
3: After that God of his haboundaunte grace
4: Wyll prouyde how that I may gouerne me,
5: In mynde I purpose wedded to be.
6: In a better lyfe may no man lyue in
7: Than to be maryed, and lyfe out of synne.
8: All yonge louers sholde them so affyle,
9: That they loue trewely, and so for to lyue;
10: With ardaunte wytte and perfyte style,
11: All vnto goodnesse themselfe for to gyue:
12: Than may they be sure that they shall thryue.
13: So wyll I lyue in maryage clene and pure,
14: To Goddes be houe and increasinge of nature.
15: To longe haue I lyued without ony make,
16: All to longe haue I vsed my yonge age;
17: I wyll all for go, and a wyfe to me take
18: For to increase both our twoos lynage:

page 4

19: For saynt Iohn sayth that he is sage
20: That ayenst his wyll doth him gouerne,
21: And our Lordes preceptes hym selfe for to learne.
22: There is no greter pleasure than for to haue
23: A wyfe that is full of prudence and wysdome.
24: Alas, for loue nygh I am in poynte to raue!
25: These cursed olde men haue an yll custome
26: Women for to blame, both all and some;
27: For that they can not theyr myndes full fyll,
28: Therfore they speke of them but all yll.
29: Now syth that I haue my tyme vsed
30: For to folowe my folyshe pleasaunces,
31: And haue my selfe oftentymes sore abused
32: At plaies and sportes, pompes and daunces,
33: Spendynge golde and syluer and grete fynaunces,
34: For faut of a wyfe the cause is all:
35: To late maryed, men may me call.
36: The holy sacramente of maryage,
37: Before holy chyrche, was ordeyned
38: For to increase humayne lynage:
39: He that doth other wyse is not receyued
40: Before God: thus was man guerdoned
41: With woman for to lyue at his owene wyll:
42: He is a fole that elles where doth nature spyll.

page 5

43: I haue done as the labourer doth
44: That somtyme is payned with trobyll grete,
45: For he leseth his payne, for certayne soth,
46: That in the hye waye soweth his whete:
47: Well I perceyue that I dyde me forgete,
48: Or that I put me in to housholde;
49: I haue lost my seed, my worke is but colde.
50: Women and maydens, both good and yll,
51: With me I helde my selfe for to please,
52: The one dyde rebell, the other abode styll,
53: Other made me well at myn ease.
54: Cupydo than came me for to cease,
55: Venus lyghted her bronde of fyre:
56: For such seruyce, suche guerdon and hyre.
57: Thus rauysshed in this sayd abusion,
58: I was taken with a cantelous wyle,
59: That me thought to make conclusyon
60: Of my weddynge within a whyle.
61: But yet dyde they me begyle;
62: They caused me for to make grete dyspence,
63: For I was no soner wed, through my neglygence,
64: I wolde do make comune, I wys,
65: My proper goodes; so was I lyght
66: Of wytte, and was all wayes redy, as is

page 6

67: A man of armes in poynt to fyght.
68: Other whyles I went me ryght
69: In to places my selfe solysytynge;
70: But nother frequented that beynge.
71: Yf I withhelde ony praty one,
72: Swetely ynough she made me chere,
73: Sayenge that she loued no persone
74: But me; and therto she dyde swere:
75: But whan I wente fro that place there,
76: Vnto another she dyde as moche,
77: For they loue none but for theyr poche.
78: I had fyue or sixe companyons
79: That haunted with me euery houre;
80: But I haue knowen to suche garsons
81: In secrete they haue done socoure,
82: Yf that they enioyed my paramoure,
83: With grete payne durste I it to them saye:
84: Force me was to kepe counseyll alwaye.
85: I wote well that I haue ryght sore varyed,
86: For to haue wylled for to lyue alone,
87: For to haue ben to late maryed,
88: For that I haue herde so longe a gone,
89: For she that abandoneth to more then one,

page 7

90: I dare wyll swere, and ther with it sust[a]yne,
91: That she abandoneth vnto a dosayne.
92: Folysshe regardes, full of vanyte,
93: I kest ouer twarte and eke contrauers;
94: To daye I had peas, rest and vnyte,
95: To morowe I had plete and processe dyuers:
96: Breke I dyde dores and fenesters;
97: Sargeauntes met me by the waye,
98: And enprysoned both me and my praye.
99: Subiecte I was to a meyny of bawdes,
100: And vnto a grete company of brothelles,
101: Whiche to me brought an hepe of rybaudes,
102: Dronkardes that loued well good morselles,
103: Knaues and theues that wolde pyke quarelles.
104: I gaue them clothes, I knewe not theyr vse;
105: There is none so subtyll but loue doth hym abuse.
106: Alas! I haue all my tyme spent and lost,
107: Whiche for to recouer is impossyble;
108: Spent haue I nature, at grete expens and cost;
109: Agenst the ryght canon and of the holy byble,
110: Offens done to God neuer ceasyble;
111: In daunger for to forfayte bothe soule and lyfe,
112: By defaute for to haue taken vnto me a wyfe.

page 8

113: Lyke vnto a best, an hors, or an asse,
114: That careth not for to tomble in the fen,
115: Yf that ony with me playenge there was,
116: An other to helpe I wolde go then:
117: Mo gallantes a man sholde se than ren
118: After a wentche, and lepe and hytche,
119: Than dogges do about a farowenge bytche.
120: She wolde to no maner a man escondyte;
121: Eche one she appetyted for to receyue,
122: Takynge therein pleasure and delyte,
123: To the ende theyr syluer for to haue:
124: But in the stede chyldren to conceyue,
125: Botches, pockes and goutes they engendre,
126: In hedes and in legges and in euery membre.
127: In this maner of sykenesse many ther be
128: That ben Impotentes hanged and dede,
129: But lytell semblaunce they make on to se
130: Taken as they ben, not beggynge theyr brede.
131: Hast you to be wedded, thus I you rede,
132: Vnto the ende that ye be not cappable
133: Of this grete daunger, deedly and vncurable.
134: Now am I out of this daunger so alenge,
135: Wherfore I am gladde it for to perseuer;
136: Longe about haue I ben me for to renge,

page 9

137: But it is better to late than to be neuer.
138: Certes I was not, in my lyfe tyll hyther,
139: So full of ioye that doth in my herte inspyre:
140: Wedded folke haue tyme at theyr desyre.
141: Out am I now of thought, dole and mone,
142: Lyuynge euer more ryght amorously,
143: For I haue a wyfe by my selfe alone,
144: At my commaundement both late and erely;
145: And yf it happen that I loke heuely,
146: My wyfe me kysseth, and than she me colleth,
147: And ryght woman there she me consolleth.
148: To that I wyll haue done she is redy,
149: Neuer wyll she ayenst my wyll saye:
150: She doth to me the best that she can truely,
151: Nothing of my volenty she doth me naye.
152: Yf I be angred or trobled ony waye,
153: Redy she is to chaunge my purpose,
154: Vnto the ende that I may haue all my repose.
155: I haue me all to longe refrayned;
156: Furnysshe I can not to all her pleasyre,
157: And for to promyse her I am constrayned
158: More then I can do to her desyre.
159: She appetyteth it moche, and doth me enspyre,

page 10

160: Gorgyously shewynge her fayre corsage,
161: But I am all caduc, and wery for age.
162: I ought to haue by this many chyldren,
163: Some sporte and playe, & some at fyre syttynge,
164: Other in the felde to shote, lepe and ren,
165: And some hardy, some mery and tryumphynge,
166: In whom I sholde haue all my delytynge;
167: But to late maryd, withouten dout,
168: May neuer se his chyldren ren out.
169: My wyfe shewed to me her proper dugge,
170: On the mornynge her delyte for to make,
171: And to haue me for to playe nugge a nugge.
172: Alas! I wolde it full fayne forsake,
173: But force it is suche lessons to take,
174: And to ryse vp erly, as I thynke best,
175: In the mornynge, and go vnto my rest.
176: Whan I se her lye in shetes fayre and whyte,
177: As rede as the button of the rose,
178: With good wyll wolde I take than delyte;
179: Neuertheles I lete her haue her repose,
180: For it is force that I cast agayne on the close,
181: And to make a pawse than I am conioynt,
182: For thynstrument is not yet well in poynt.

page 11

183: But yet somtyme I me constrayne
184: To take nature solace, thus thynke I,
185: But all sodeynly I me refrayne,
186: For I do fere to be to soone wery,
187: And than I slepe with courage all drery,
188: And yet am I, I can not passe
189: Vpon women more than euer I was.
190: Constrayned I am to be full of Ialousy,
191: Seynge that I can not content her mynde
192: Touchynge the playe of loue all softely:
193: Often ynough, the experyence to fynde,
194: She me assayeth and tourneth by kynde,
195: Castynge vnto me her beggynge legge,
196: But I do slepe; I care not for suche a begge.
197: With her eyen pleasaunte castynge a regarde
198: In chastynge a laughter amerous,
199: Than with a praty smyle she doth me larde,
200: And that maketh me somewhat joyous;
201: But comynge to a bed delycyous
202: For to holde the spere in a full hande,
203: It plyeth and fayleth, for wyll not stonde.
204: Whan I herde her bable and langage,
205: Her gentyll termes spoken so properly,
206: I do me wyshe for to be in to the age

page 12

207: Of eyghten, neyntene, or foure and twenty:
208: Suche assautes than gyue wolde I,
209: That for it sholde haue no nede to craue
210: Of the grete pleasure that she sholde haue.
211: If that she go to banckettes and daunces,
212: She doth none offence therin certayne:
213: Nedes she must haue her pleasaunces
214: In some place to make her glad and fayne;
215: Wherfore I dare well say and susteyne
216: That after with me I wolde haue her ledde,
217: If ony soner I had ben to her wedde.
218: We twayne sholde haue all our yongenesse,
219: After maryage custome and ryght,
220: Passed in joye, solace, and gladnesse,
221: And is wherfore I haue me pyght:
222: Force it is to me that the fyre be night,
223: That at a nede I can not haue quenched.
224: To late maryed is for to be complayned.
225: It is sayd, that a man in seruytude
226: Hym putteth whan he doth to woman bende;
227: He ne hath but only habytude
228: Vnto her the whiche well doth hym tende.
229: Who wyll to householde comprehende,

page 13

230: And there a bout studyeth in youth alwayes,
231: He shall haue honoure in his olde dayes.
232: Some chyldren vnto the courtes hauntes,
233: And ben puruayed of benefyces;
234: Some haunteth markettes and be marchauntes,
235: Byenge and fellynge theyr marchaundyses,
236: Or elles constytuted in offyces;
237: Theyr faders and moders haue grete solace,
238: That to late maryed by no waye hase.
239: I be wayll the tyme that is so spent
240: That I ne me hasted for to wedde,
241: For I shall haue herytage and rente,
242: Both golde and syluer and kynred;
243: But syth that our Lorde hath ordeyned
244: That I this sacrament take me vpon,
245: I wyll kepe it trewely at all season.
246: Theophrastus vs sheweth in his prose
247: That in maryage all is out of tune;
248: So doth also the romanute of the rose,
249: Composed by mayster Iohan de mehune:
250: Yet neuertheles it is all comune,
251: That they neuer were in bonde of maryage,
252: Wherfore at all auentures is theyr langage.

page 14

253: Matheolus, that was holden so wyse,
254: For to blame women was all his ebate,
255: Suppose that he was maryed twyse,
256: For he was so olde that balde was his pate;
257: For he came the last tyme so very late,
258: That in hym there was no puyssaunce,
259: Amyte, solace, joye ne pleasure.
260: But whan that a man may do no more,
261: He blame that that he can not do:
262: To late wedded the surplus, therfore,
263: May not furnysshe as other may do;
264: For whan he wened to satysfye, lo,
265: Nature at nede wyll not hym preuayle:
266: Suche wenes do to well that other whyle fayle.
267: Yf that there be ony tryfelers
268: That haue wylled for to blame maryage,
269: I dare well saye that they ben but lyers,
270: Or elles God fayled in the fyrste age:
271: Adam bereth wytnesse and tesmonage,
272: Maryed he was, and comen we ben;
273: God dyde choyse maryage vnto all men.
274: Now sith it is thus befall,
275: Why than ought we it to blame,
276: Vs for to put we ben holden all,

page 15

277: So sholde we alwayes holde with the same;
278: Or elles holy scrypture sayeth it is shame,
279: And that alleggeth all predycatours,
280: Our Lorde God hateth all fornycatours.
281: I am now sory that I haue no rathe
282: Put my selfe into maryages rout,
283: For many a folysshe loke it hathe:
284: It hath me cost here and there about;
285: But yet my soule is in grete doute,
286: For God fornycatures punyssheth,
287: And out of this realme he them banyssheth.
288: There is no man lyuynge that can commyt
289: Without outen the worke of nature,
290: But he in maryage doth commyse it,
291: As vs telleth the holy Scripture:
292: It is than foly to ony creature
293: Thus for to blame his creason
294: For ony maner of folysshe opynyon.
295: All they that by theyr subtyll artes
296: Hath wylled for to blame maryage,
297: I wyll susteyne that they be bastardes,
298: Or at least waye an euyll courage,
299: For to saye that therin is seruage

page 16

300: In maryage, but I it reny,
301: For therin is but humayne company.
302: Yf ther be yll women and rebell,
303: Shrewed, dispytous and eke felonyous,
304: There be other fayre and do full well,
305: Propre, gentyll, lusty and joyous,
306: That ben full of grace and vertuous;
307: They ben not all born vnder a sygnet:
308: Happy is he that a good one can get.
309: To late maryed now helpe than me
310: To make my sorowes and complayntes;
311: For by my fayth, I swere to the,
312: I haue suffred many dolours and crayntes,
313: And haue sustayned mo attayntes
314: Than euer dede Wat after the hounde:
315: At dyspence I lyued, and that haue I founde.
316: Galantes, playne ye the tyme that ye haue lost,
317: Marry you be tyme, as the wyse man sayth:
318: Tossed I haue ben fro pyler to post
319: In commyssynge natures werke alwayes:
320: I haue passed full many quasy dayes,
321: That now vnto good I can not mate,
322: For mary I dyde my selfe to late.

page 17

323: Rychely in a raye ought for to go
324: These women that be obedyent;
325: Better than these cursed wyues do
326: That ben not to theyr husbandes pacyent.
327: To take a wyfe was myn intent,
328: Goddes lawes to kepe and them to obserue,
329: Sauynge of nature, and heuen to preserue.
330: Afore that euer I was maryed
331: Bordeles I haunted, and places of infame,
332: But I am now vnto a wyfe alayed,
333: The worde to holde, and honoure Goddes neme.
334: That wycked man I holde to blame
335: That foloweth eyyll ruell, and wyll not amende,
336: Vnto his soulles helth, and honoure to pretende.
337: Whan a man to olde age is faden and fall,
338: Lerne this lesson, herken my sentence;
339: Fewe frendes meteth he with all
340: That wyll to his pouerte take ony intellygence.
341: Wo worthe, than crye they, of the expence
342: That they haue spent vnto youthes lust!
343: And now they must dye for hunger and thurst.
344: Better it is in youth a wyfe for to take,
345: And lyue with her to Goddes pleasaunce,

page 18

346: Than to go in age for Goddes sake,
347: In wor[l]dely sorowe and perturbaunce,
348: For youthes loue and vtteraunce,
349: And than to dye at the last ende,
350: And be dampned in hell with the foule fende.

The auctour
351: Rychenes in youth, with good gouernaunce,
352: Often helpeth age whan youth is gone his gate;
353: Both yonge and olde must haue theyr sustenaunce
354: Euer in this worlde, soo fekyll and rethrograte:
355: Ryght as an ampte, the whiche all gate,
356: Trusseth and caryeth for his lyues fode,
357: Eny thynge that whiche hym semeth to be good.
358: Crysten folke ought for to haue
359: Open hertes vnto God almyght,
360: Puttynge in theyr mynde thyr soule to saue,
361: Lernynge to come vnto the eternall lyght,
362: And kepe well theyr maryage and trouth plyght;
363: Nothynge alwaye of theyr last ende,
364: Durynge theyr lyues how they the tyme spende.
365: Here endeth the complaynt of to late maryed,
366: For spendynge of tyme or they a borde,

page 19

367: The sayd holy sacramente haue to long taryed,
368: Humayne nature tassemble, and it to accorde.
369: Enprynted in Fletestrete by Wynkyn de Worde,
370: Dwellynge in the famous cyte of London,
371: His hous in the same at the sygne of the Sonne.

English Poetry Database
Copland: Complaynte of them that ben to late maryed
Poet: Robert Copland
The Assemble of Foules. Here foloweth the assemble of foules veray pleasaunt and compendyous to rede or here compyled by the preclared and famous clerke Geffray Chaucer
City: London
Publisher: Imprynted ... by ... Wynkyn de Worde
Date: 1530
Description: [27] p.
Only introductory and concluding poems by Copland included

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