Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Enough's a Feast

Joshua Sylvester (1563-1618), in Orlando Gibbons, The First Set of Madrigals and Mottets (1612), nos. iii-vi, in English Madrigal Verse 1588-1632, ed. E.H. Fellowes, 2nd ed. (1929; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950), pp. 97-98 (line numbers added):
I weigh not fortune's frown nor smile,
   I joy not much in earthly joys,
I seek not state, I reck not style,
   I am not fond of fancy's toys.
I rest so pleased with what I have,        5
I wish no more, no more I crave.

I tremble not at noise of war,
   I quake not at the thunder's crack,
I shrink not at a blazing star,
   I sound not at the news of wrack.        10
I fear no loss, I hope no gain,
I envy none, I none disdain.

I see ambition never pleased,
   I see some Tantals starve in store,
I see gold's dropsy seldom eased,        15
   I see each Midas gape for more.
I neither want nor yet abound,
Enough's a feast, content is crowned.

I feign not friendship where I hate,
   I fawn not on the great for grace,        20
I prize, I praise a mean estate,
   Ne yet too lofty nor too base.
This, this is all my choice, my cheer,
A mind content, and conscience clear.
This recalls a poem attributed to Edward Dyer.

Some notes:

2 I joy not much in earthly joys: cf. Dyer 1 (I joy not in no earthly bliss)
3 style: "A legal, official, or honorific title" (Oxford English Dictionary, sense 18.a)
10 sound: swoon, faint (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. sound, v.4)
14 Tantals starve in store: people like Tantalus starve amidst plenty
15 gold's dropsy: Physicians thought that sufferers from dropsy were always thirsty, and that drinking did nothing to alleviate their thirst and in fact made their condition worse. Naturally this led to a comparison between avarice (a disease of the soul) and dropsy (a disease of the body). See Avarice and Dropsy.
17 I neither want nor yet abound: cf. Dyer 18 (I feel no want, nor have too much)
19 I feign not friendship where I hate: cf. Dyer 14 (I feign not love where most I hate)
23 This, this is all my choice: cf. Dyer 23 (This is my choice)

There is a performance of Gibbon's madrigal by Tessa Bonner and the Rose Consort of Viols here.

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