Friday, November 15, 2013


Who Worketh Most, to Their Share Least Doth Fall

Edward de Vere (1550-1604), "The Earle of Oxenforde to the Reader," in Cardanus Comforte, translated into Englishe. And Published by commaundement of the righte Honourable the Earle of Oxenforde. Newly perused, corrected, and augmented (London: Thomas Marsh, 1576), no page numbers (line numbers added):
The labouring man, that tilles the fertile soyle,
And reapes the harvest fruict, hath not in deede
The gaine but payne, and if for al hys toyle
He gets the strawe, the Lord will have the seede.
The Manchet fyne, falles not unto his share        5
On coursest cheat, his hungrye stomacke feedes
The Landlord doth, possesse the fynest fare,
He pulles the flowers, the other pluckes but weedes.
The Mason poore that buildes the Lordly halles
Dwelles not in them, they are for hye degree,        10
His Cottage is, compact in paper walles
And not with bricke, or stone as others be.
The idle Drone, that labours not at all
Suckes up the sweete, of honny from the Bee
Who worketh most, to their share least doth fall,        15
With due desert, reward will never be.
The swiftest Hare, unto the Mastive slowe
Oft times doth fall, to him as for a praye:
The Greyhounde thereby, doth misse his game we know
For which he made, such speedy hast away.        20
So he that takes, the payne to penne the booke
Reapes not the giftes, of goodly golden Muse
But those gayne that, who on the worke shal looke,
And from the soure, the sweete by skill doth chuse.
  For he that beates the bushe the byrde not gets,        25
  But who sittes still, and holdeth fast the nets.
4 Manchet: "Wheaten bread of the finest quality" (Oxford English Dictionary)
6 coursest: coarsest
6 cheat: "Wheaten bread of the second quality, made of flour more coarsely sifted than that used for MANCHET n., the finest quality" (Oxford English Dictionary)
11 compact: composed, framed
17 Mastive: mastiff

Also in The Poems of Edward DeVere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford and of Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex, ed. Steven W. May = Studies in Philology, Volume LXXVII (Early Winter, 1980), Number 5, Texts and Studies, p. 25, with commentary on p. 67.

From Karl Maurer:
I find very curious the commas that appear after the 4th syllable in almost every line, i.e. in all but 2, 9, 19 and 25. What do you think they are for? They often have no grammatical purpose; for example, "So hee that takes, the payne to penne the booke". Do you think they are put just to mark the caesurae? For there is a caesura after every 4th syllable, except in lines 2 and 19.

But to me 19 seems corrupt: "The Greyhounde thereby, doth misse his game we know". Since every other line in the poem is impeccably metrical, the extra syllable seems impossible; and if I were editor, I’d conjecture "The Hound thereby, doth" etc.
Cf. The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare's Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 289 (discussing George Puttenham, Art of English Poesie):
This indicates Puttenham's perception of the end of a verse as a break equivalent to a full stop, and the caesura, or mid-line break, as equivalent to a comma.

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