Muses no more but mazes

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Muse no more but mazes  (1590) 
by Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
A poem existing in four known manuscripts, attributed to Essex. The poem is an attack on Sir Walter Raleigh, who is satirised as a crow, parrot, cuckoo and ass. The poem appears to refer to some literary device ("conceit") in which Raleigh has put Essex in the shade in the eyes of the queen. May theorises that it was written in response to Raleigh's flattery of the queen in his 1590 dedicatory poem attached to The Faery Queen, and possibly to Raleigh's involvement in court intrigue against Essex's marriage in the same year.[1]

Notes

  1. Steven W. May, "The poems of Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford and Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex" in Studies in Philology, 77 (Winter 1980), Chapel Hill, pp.86-88.

Muses no more, but mazes be your names
When discord’s sound shall mar your concord sweet
Unkindly now your careful fancy frames,
When fortune treads your favours under feet;
But foul befall that cursed cuckoo’s throat
That so hath crossed sweet Philomela’s note.

And all unhappy hatched was that bird,
That parrot-like can never cease to prate;
But most untimely spoken was that word,
That brought the world in such a woeful state
That love and liking quite are overthrown
And in their place are grief and sorrows grown.

Is this the honour of a haughty thought,
For honour’s hate to have all spite at love?
Hath wretched skill this reason taught,
In this conceit such discontent to move,
That beauty is so of herself bereft,
That no good hope of aught good hap is left?

Oh let no phoenix look upon a crow,
Nor dainty hills bow down to dirty dales;
Let never heaven an hellish humour know,
Nor firm affect give ear to foolish tales;
For this in fine will fall to be the troth,
That filthy water makes unwholesome broth.

Woe to the world, the sun is in a cloud,
And darksome mists do overrun the day;
In high conceit, is not content allowed;
Favour must die and fancies wear away.
O heavens, what hell! The bands of love are broken,
Nor must a thought of such a thing be spoken.

Mars must become a coward of his mind,
Whiles Vulcan stands to prate of Venus’ toys.
Beauty must seem to go against her kind,
In crossing nature in her sweetest joys;
But oh, no more, it is too much to think,
So pure a mouth should puddle-water drink.

But since the world is at this woeful pass,
Let love’s submission honour’s wrath appease.
Let not a horse be mated with an ass,
Nor hateful tongue an happy heart disease;
So shall the world commend a sweet conceit,
And humble faith on heavenly favour wait.

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.