Monday, September 21, 2015


Pleasure and Pain

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), "Sonnet XXVI," Amoretti and Epithalamion (London: William Ponsonby, 1595):
Sweet is the Rose, but growes vpon a brere;
    Sweet is the Iunipere, but sharpe his bough;
    sweet is the Eglantine, but pricketh nere;
    sweet is the firbloome, but his braunches rough.
Sweet is the Cypresse, but his rynd is tough,        5
    sweet is the nut, but bitter is his pill;
    sweet is the broome-flowre, but yet sowre enough;
    and sweet is Moly, but his root is ill.
So euery sweet with soure is tempred still,
    that maketh it be coueted the more:        10
    for easie things that may be got at will,
    most sorts of men doe set but little store.
Why then should I accoumpt of little paine,
    that endlesse pleasure shall vnto me gaine.
4 firbloome: flower or fruit of the fir tree? (doesn't seem to be in the Oxford English Dictionary, either as is or s.vv. fir or bloom)

6 pill: "A covering or outer layer of a fruit or vegetable; a skin, husk, rind, or shell; the bark of a tree, or a layer of bark; spec. (a piece of) the thin rind or peel of a fruit or a tuberous or bulbous root" (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. pill, n.2; cf. peel)

Thanks to Dave Lull for elucidating firbloome. He adduces:

1) Ernest de Sélincourt, ed., Spenser's Minor Poems (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), note on p. 521:
Mr. W.W. Greg makes the interesting suggestion that 'firbloome' is possibly a misprint for 'firsbloom' (i.e. furze bloom).
2) G.C. Macaulay, review of 1) in Modern Language Review 7.1 (Jan., 1912) 114-117 (at 117):
Mr Greg's suggestion is right enough as regards the meaning, but there is no misprint: 'firbloome' is quite an admissible form. See N.E.D. under 'fur' and 'furze.'

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