Giles Fletcher

LICIA, or poems of love in honour of the admirable and singular virtues of his Lady. (1593)

Lucy Harington, The Countess of Bedford. A miniature by Isaac Oliver c. 1600




in honour of

the admirable and singular virtues of

his Lady.

To the imitation of

the best Latin Poets, and others.


The Rising to the Crown of


Auxit Musarum numerum SAPPHO addita Musis.

Fælix si sævus, sic voluisset Amor.

( The title page of Fletcher's Sonnets to Licia. )

The text is based on that published by Sidney Lee in Elizabethan Sonnets, 1904.

(A paraphrase of the Latin poems)

To Love

If, Cupid, Heaven is your home, you are the child of Venus, Nectar and Ambrosia are your food, then why do you spend days and nights with me? Why burn me with your flame, and quench my thirst with tears? Why destroy me? You are indeed descended from wild beasts. Are you worthy of such descent and of heaven? But I, I am merely a shadow, why do you torture me?

To the Reader

I fear not abuse, shouts, murmurings nor calumnies, nor any more serious objections. Not because I think myself a great poet beyond criticism; but because I am so ridiculous and unlearned that no expert would bother to take me to task. For who would ever undertake to wash an Ethiopian white?

Ad amorem.

Si coelum patria est puer beatum,
Si vero peperit VENUS benigna,
Si Nectar tibi Massicum ministrat;
Si sancta Ambrosia est cibus petitus,
Quid noctes habitas, diesque mecum?
Quid victum face supplicemque aduris?
Quid longam lachrimis sitim repellis?
Quid nostrae dape pasceris medullae?
O vere rabidum genus faerarum:
O domo stipe patriaque digne:
Jam levis sumus umbra, quid lacessis?

Ad Lectorem

Non convicia, nec latrationes,
Nec Ronchos timeo, calumniasve,
Nec ullos obelos severiores.
Non quod judicio meo Poeta
Sim tantus, nihil ut queat reprehendi:
Sed quod judicio meo Poeta
Sim tam ridiculus, parumque doctus,
Ut nullum fore judicem eruditum,
Meos carpere qui velit labores:
Nam quis Æthiopem velit lavare?

To the Worshipful, kind, wise, and virtuous Lady, the Lady MOLLINEUX, wife to the right Worshipful Sir RICHARD MOLLINEUX Knight

Howsoever, in the settled opinions of some wise heads, this trifling labour may easily incur the suspicion of two evils; either to be of an idle subject, and so frivolous; or vainly handled, and so odious: yet my resolute purpose was to proceed so far as the indifferent Reader might think this small pains to be rather an effect, than a cause of idleness. And howsoever LOVE, in this Age, hath behaved himself in that loose manner as it is counted a disgrace to give him but a kind look: yet I take the passion in itself to be of that honour and credit as it is the perfect resemblance of the greatest happiness; and rightly valued at his just price, in a mind that is sincerely and truly amorous, an affection of the greatest virtue, and able of himself to eternize the meanest vassal.

Concerning the handling of it, especially in this Age, men may wonder, if a Scholar, How I come by so much leisure? If otherwise, Why a Writer? Indeed to say truth, though I cannot justly challenge the first name; yet I wish none to be Writers, save only such as know Learning. And whereas my thoughts and some reasons drew me rather to have dealt in causes of greater weight; yet the present jar of this disagreeing Age drives me into a fit so melancholy as I only had leisure to grow passionate. And I see not why, upon our dissensions, I may not sit down idle, forsake my study, and go sing of Love; as well as our Brownists forsake the Church, and write of malice.

And that this is a matter not so unfit for a man, either that respecteth himself, or is a Scholar; peruse but the writings of former times: and you shall see, not only others in other countries, as Italy and France, Men of Learning and great parts to have written Poems and sonnets of Love; but even amongst us, men of best nobility and chiefest families to be the greatest Scholars and most renowned in this kind. But two reasons hath made it a thing foolishly odious in this Age. The one, that so many base companions are the greatest Writers. The other, that our English Genevian Purity hath quite debarred us of honest recreation: yet the great pillar, as they make him [i.e. JEAN CALVIN], of that Cause hath shewed us as much wit and learning in this kind as any other before or since.

Furthermore for all students, I will say thus much: that the base conceit which men generally have of their wants is such, as I scarce term him a Scholar that hath not all the accomplyments of a Gentleman; not sufficiently wise that will not take opportunity in some sort to shew it. For I can say thus much, that the University wherein I lived, and so I think the other, hath so many wise, excellent, sufficient men as, setting their learning aside wherein they are most excellent, yet in all habiliments of a Gentleman they are equal to any besides. This would that worthy SYDNEY oft confess; and [Sir JOHN] HARINGTON's ARIOSTO (which, Madam, was respected so much by you) sheweth that his abode was in King's College. Yet now it is grown to this pass, that Learning is highly respected; upon a persuasion that it is to be found everywhere: a thing untrue and unpossible.

Now in that I have written Love Sonnets: if any man measure my affection by my style, let him say, I am in love. No great matter! For if our purest Divines have not been so, why are so many married? I mislike not that, nor I would not have them mislike this. For a man may be in love, and not marry; and yet wise: but he cannot marry and not be in love, but be a mere fool.

Now for the manner. We will dispute that in some other place; yet take this by the way: though I am so liberal to grant thus much -a man may write of Love and not be in love; as well as of husbandry and not go to the plough; or of witches and be none; or of holiness and be flat profane.

But, wise and kind Lady, not to trouble your ears with this idle discourse, let this suffice. I found favours undeserved in such manner as my rude ability wants means to recompence; and therefore in the mean time I request you to accept this. If I had not wondered so at your admirable and rare virtues that my heart was surcharged with the exceeding measure of your worthiness, I had not written. You are happy every way, and so reputed. Live so, and I wish so you may live long ! Excuse me, favour me: and if I live (for I loathe to admire without thankfulness), ere long it shall be known what favours I received from wise Sir RICHARD; to whom in all kind affects I rest bound.

For the Reader, if he look for my letters to crave his favour; he is so far deceived. For if he mislike anything, I am sorry he took the pains to read: but if he do, let him dispraise: I much care not. For praise is not but as men please, and it is no chief felicity. For I have heard some men, and of late, for Sermons at Paul's Cross and for other pains, so commended by all, excepting some few Cynics that commend none that do well, that you would have thought England would have striven for their speedy preferment: but, like a wonder, it last but nine days; and all is quiet and forgotten. The best is, they are young men and may live to be preferred at another time. So what am I worse if men mislike and use terms? I can say as much by them. For our great men, I am sure, they want leisure to read: and if they had; yet for the most part, the worst speak worst.

Well let the Printer look he grow not a beggar by such bargains, the Reader that he lose not his labour, and for mine that is past! And whoso wisely, after an afternoon's sleep, gapes, and saith, "O how young men spend their time idly!"; first, let him spend his time better than to sleep: secondly, he knows not my age. I feared a hot ague; and with TASSO, I was content to let my Wit blood.

But leaving these to their dogged humour; and wishing your Ladyship all happiness, I humbly take my leave.

From my chamber. September 4, 1593.

To the Reader

I had thought, courteous and gentle Reader, not to have troubled thy patience with these lines: but that, in the neglect thereof, I should either scorn thee, as careless of thine opinion, a thing savouring of a proud humour; or despair to obtain thy favour, which I am loath to conceive of thy good nature.

If I were known, I would entreat in the best manner; and speak for him whom thou knewest. But being not known, thou speakest not against me; and therefore I much care not. For this kind of poetry wherein I wrote, I did it only to try my humour. And for the matter of Love, it may be I am so devoted to some one into whose hands these may light by chance, that she may say, which thou now sayest "That surely he is in love:" which if she do, then have I the full recompence of my labour; and the Poems have dealt sufficiently for the discharge of their own duty.

This Age is learnedly wise, and faultless in this kind of making their wits known: thinking so basely of our bare English, wherein thousands have travailed with such ill luck, that they deem themselves barbarous and the island barren, unless they have borrowed from Italy, Spain, and France their best and choicest conceits. For my own part, I am of this mind that our nation is so exquisite (neither would I overweeningly seem to flatter our home-spun stuff, or diminish the credit of our brave travellers) that neither Italy, Spain, nor France can go beyond us for exact invention. For if anything be odious amongst us, it is the exile of our old manners, and some base born phrases stuft up with such new terms, as a man may sooner feel us to flatter by our incrouching eloquence than suspect it from the ear.

And for the matter of Love, where every man takes upon himself to court exactly; I could justly grace (if it be a grace to be excellent in that kind) the Inns of Court, and some Gentlemen like[wise] Students in both Universities: whose learning and bringing up together with their fine natures make so sweet a harmony as, without partiality, the most injurious will prefer them before all others; and therefore they only are fitted to write of Love.

For others, for the most part, are men of mean reach, whose debased minds prey upon every bad dish. Men unfit to know what Love means; deluded fondly with their own conceit, misdeeming so divine a fancy; taking it to be the contentment of themselves, the shame of others, the wrong of virtue; and the refiner of the tongue boasting of some few favours. These and such like errors (errors hateful to an upright mind) commonly by learnless heads are reputed for Love's Kingdom. But vain men, naturally led; deluded themselves, [they] deceive others.

For Love is a goddess (pardon me though I speak like a Poet) not respecting the contentment of him that loves but the virtues of the beloved, satisfied with wondering, fed with admiration, respecting nothing but his Lady's worthiness, made as happy by love as by all favours, chaste by honour, far from violence: respecting but one; and that one in such kindness honesty truth constancy and honour, as were all the World offered to make a change, yet the boot were too small, and therefore bootless. This is Love, and far more than this; which I know a vulgar head, a base mind, an ordinary conceit, a common person will not, and cannot have. Thus do I commend that love wherewith, in these Poems, I have honoured the worthy LICIA.

But the love wherewith VENUS' son hath injuriously made spoil of thousands, is a cruel Tyrant: occasion of sighs, oracle of lies, enemy of pity, way of error, shape of inconstancy, temple of treason, faith without assurance, monarch of tears, murderer of ease, prison of hearts, monster of Nature, poisoned honey, impudent courtezan, furious bastard: and in one word, not Love.

Thus, Reader, take heed thou err not! Esteem Love as thou ought[est]!

If thou muse, What my LICIA is? Take her to be some DIANA, at the least chaste; or some MINERVA: no VENUS, fairer far. It may be she is Learning's Image, or some heavenly wonder: which the Precisest may not mislike. perhaps under that name I have shadowed "[The Holy] Discipline".It may be, I mean that kind courtesy which I found at the Patroness of these Poems, it may be some College. It may be my conceit, and pretend nothing. Whatsoever it be; if thou like it, take it! and thank the worthy Lady MOLLINEUX, for whose sake thou hast it: worthy indeed, and so not only reputed by me in private affection of thankfulness; but so equally to be esteemed by all that know her.

For if I had not received of her and good Sir RICHARD, of kind and wise Master LEE, of courteous Master HOUGHTON, all matchless, matched in one kindred, those unrequitable favours; I had not thus idly toyed.

If thou mislike it; yet she, or they, or both, or divine LICIA shall patronize it: or if none; I will, and can, do it myself. Yet I wish thy favour. Do but say, Thou art content; and I rest thine. If not, Farewell! till we both meet.
September 8. 1593.


the wise, kind, virtuous and fair.

Bright matchless Star, the honour of the sky!
From whose clear shine heaven's vault hath all his light.
I send these poems to your graceful eye.
Do you but take them, and they have their right.
I build besides a Temple to your name,
Wherein my thoughts shall daily sing your praise;
And will erect an Altar for the same,
Which shall your virtues and your honour raise.
But heaven the Temple of your honour is,
Whose brazen tops your worthy self made proud:
The ground and Altar, base for such a bliss,
With pity torn, because I sighed so loud.
    And since my skill no worship can impart:
    Make you an incense of my loving heart!


Sad, all alone, not long I musing sat
But that my thoughts compelled me to aspire.
A laurel garland in my hand I gat,
So the Muses I approached the nigher.
My suit was this, A Poet to become;
To drink with them, and from the heavens be fed.
PHOEBUS denied; and sware, "There was no room
Such to be Poets as fond Fancy led."
With that I mourned, and sat me down to weep.
VENUS she smiled, and smiling to me said, "Come drink with me, and sit thee still and sleep!"
This voice I heard, and VENUS I obeyed.
    That poison, Sweet, hath done me all this wrong;
    For now of Love must needs be all my Song.


Weary was LOVE, and sought to take his rest.
He made his choice upon a Virgin's lap;
And slyly crept from thence into her breast,
Where still he meant to sport him in his hap.
The Virgin frowned, like PHOEBUS in a cloud, "Go pack, sir boy, there is no room for such!
My breast no wanton foolish boys must shroud!"
This said my Love did give the Wag a touch.
Then as the foot, that treads the stinging snake,
Hastes to be gone, for fear what may ensue:
So LOVE, my Love was forced for to forsake;
And for more speed without his arrows flew.
    "Pardon!", he said, "for why you seemed to me,
    My mother VENUS in her pride to be."


The heavens beheld the beauty of my Queen;
And all amazed, to wonder thus began: "Why dotes not JOVE, as erst we all have seen,
And shapes himself like to a seemly man?
Mean are the matches which he sought before;
Like bloomless buds, too base to make compare:
And she alone hath treasured Beauty's store;
In whom all gifts and princely graces are."
CUPID replied, "I posted with the sun
To view the Maids that lived in all those days:
And none there was that might not well be won,
But She: most hard, most cold, made of delays."
    Heavens were deceived, and wrong they do esteem;
    She hath no heat, although She living seem.


LOVE and my Love did range the forest wild,
Mounted alike upon swift coursers both.
LOVE her encountered, though he was a child, "Let's strive!" said he. Whereat my love was wroth;
And scorned the boy, and checked him with a smile. "I mounted am and armèd with my spear.
Thou art too weak! Thyself do not beguile!
I could thee conquer, if I naked were!"
With this LOVE wept, and then my Love replied: "Kiss me, sweet boy, so! Weep, my boy, no more!"
Thus did my Love, and thus her force she tried:
LOVE was made ice, that fire was before.
    A kiss of hers (as I, poor soul, do prove)
    Can make the hottest freeze; and coldest love.


LOVE, with her hair, my Love by force hath tied;
To serve her lips, her eyes, her voice, her hand.
I smiled for joy when I the boy espied
To lie unchained, and live at her command.
She, if She look, or kiss, or sing, or smile;
CUPID withal doth smile, doth sing, doth kiss.
Lips, hands, voice, eyes, all hearts that may beguile;
Because She scorns, all hearts but only this.
VENUS for this in pride began to frown,
That CUPID, born a god, inthralled should be:
She, in disdain, her pretty son threw down;
And in his place, with love she chainèd me.
    So now, sweet Love, tho' I myself be thrall:
    Not her a goddess, but thyself, I call.


My love amazed did blush herself to see,
Pictured by Art, all naked as she was. "How could the Painter know so much by me,
Or Art effect what he hath brought to pass?
It is not like he naked me hath seen,
Or stood so nigh for to observe so much."
No, Sweet; his eyes so near have never been,
Nor could his hands by Art have cunning such;
I showed my heart, wherein you printed were,
You, naked you, as here you painted are;
In that, my Love, your picture I must wear,
And show't to all, unless you have more care.
    Then take my heart, and place it with your own;
    So shall you naked never more be known.


Death in a rage assaulted once my heart
With love of her, my love that doth deny.
I scorned his force, and wished him to depart,
I heartless was, and therefore could not die.
I live in her, in her I placed my life,
She guides my soul, and her I honour must.
Nor is this life, but yet a living strife,
A thing unmeet, and yet a thing most just.
CUPID enraged did fly to make me love,
My heart lay guarded with those burning eyes
The sparks whereof denied him to remove;
So conquered now, he like a captive lies;
    Thus two at once by love are both undone,
    My heart not loved; and armless VENUS' son.


Hard are the rocks, the marble, and the steel,
The ancient oak with wind and weather tossed;
But you, my love, far harder do I feel
Than flint, or these, or is the winter's frost.
My tears too weak, your heart they cannot move;
My sighs, that rock, like wind it cannot rent;
Too tiger-like, you swear you cannot love;
But tears and sighs you fruitless back have sent.
The frost too hard, not melted with my flame,
I cinders am, and yet you feel no heat.
Surpass not these, sweet love, for very shame!
But let my tears, my vows, my sighs entreat!
    Then shall I say, as I by trial find;
    These all are hard; but you, my Love, are kind.


Love was laid down, all weary fast asleep,
Whereas my love his armor took away;
The boy awaked, and straight began to weep,
But stood amazed, and knew not what to say. "Weep not, my boy," said VENUS to her son, "Thy weapons none can wield, but thou alone;
LICIA the fair, this harm to thee hath done,
I saw her here, and presently was gone;
She will restore them, for she hath no need
To take thy weapons, where thy valour lies;
For men to wound, the Fates have her decreed,
With favour, hands, with beauty, and with eyes."
    No, VENUS, no! she scorns them, credit me!
    But robbed thy son that none might care for thee!


A PAINTER drew the image of the boy,
Swift LOVE, with wings all naked, and yet blind;
With bow and arrows bent for to destroy;
I blamed his skill; and fault I thus did find "A needless task I see thy cunning take:
Misled by love, thy fancy thee betrayed.
Love is no boy, nor blind, as men him make;
Nor weapons wears, whereof to be afraid:
But if thou Love wilt paint with greatest skill;
A Love, a Maid, a goddess, and a Queen!
Wonder and view at LICIA's picture still!
For other Love the World hath never seen;
    For She alone, all hope, all comfort gives:
    Men's hearts, souls, all, led by her favour live."


In Ida Vale three Queens the Shepherd saw,
Queens of esteem, divine they were all three.
A sight of worth, but I a wonder show,
Their virtues all in one alone to be.
LICIA the fair, surpassing VENUS's pride,
(The matchless Queen, commander of the gods,
When, drawn with doves, she in her pomp doth ride)
Hath far more beauty, and more grace by odds:
JUNO, JOVE's wife, unmeet to make compare,
I grant a goddess, but not half so mild;
MINERVA wise, a virtue; but not rare.
Yet these are mean, if that my Love but smiled.
    She them surpasseth, when their prides are full
    As far as they surpass the meanest trull.


I wish sometimes, although a worthless thing,
Spurred by ambition, glad for to aspire,
Myself a Monarch, or some mighty King:
And then my thoughts do wish for to be higher.
But when I view what winds the cedars toss,
What storms men feel that covet for renown;
I blame myself that I have wished my loss,
And scorn a Kingdom, though it give a Crown.
A' LICIA, thou, the wonder of my thought,
My heart's content, procurer of my bliss,;
For whom a crown I do esteem as naught,
As Asia's wealth, too mean to buy a kiss.
    Kiss me, sweet Love! this favor do for me;
    Then Crowns and Kingdoms shall I scorn for thee.


Enamored JOVE, commanding, did entreat
CUPID to wound my Love: which he denied,
And swore he could not, for she wanted heat;
And would not love, as he full oft had tried.
JOVE, in a rage, impatient this to hear,
Replied with threats; "I'll make you to obey!"
Whereat the boy did fly away for fear
To LICIA's eyes, where safe entrenched he lay.
Then JOVE he scorned; and dared him to his face:
For now more safe than in the heavens he dwelled;
Nor could JOVE's wrath do wrong to such a place,
Where Grace and Honour have their kingdom held.
    Thus, in the pride and beauty of her eyes,
    The silly boy, the greatest god defies.


My Love lay sleeping, where birds music made,
Shutting her eyes, disdainful of the light:
The heat was great; but greater was the shade
Which her defended from his burning sight.
This CUPID saw, and came a kiss to take,
Sucking sweet nectar from her sugared breath.
She felt the touch, and blushed, and did awake,
Seeing t'was LOVE, which she did think was DEATH,
She cut his wings and causèd him to stay;
Making a vow, he should not thence depart
Unless to her, the wanton boy could pay
The truest, kindest, and most loving heart.
    His feathers still She usèd for a fan;
    Till, by exchange, my heart his feathers won.


I stood amazed, and saw my LICIA shine,
Fairer than PHOEBUS, in his brightest pride;
Set forth in colors by a hand divine,
Where naught was wanting but a soul to guide.
It was a picture, that I could descry,
Yet made with art so as it seemed to live;
Surpassing fair, and yet it had no eye,
Whereof my senses could no reason give.
With that the Painter bid me not to muse; "Her eyes are shut; but I deserve no blame:
For if she saw, in faith, it could not choose
But that the work had wholly been aflame,
    "Then burn me, Sweet, with brightness of your eyes;
    That, Phoenix-like, from thence I may arise.


"Grant, fairest kind, a kiss unto thy friend!"
A blush replied; and yet a kiss I had.
It is not heaven that can such nectar send ;
Whereat my senses, all amazed, were glad.
This done, she fled as one that was afraid,;
And I desired to kiss, by kissing more.
My Love she frowned; and I my kissing stayed:
Yet wished to kiss her as I did before.
Then as the vine, the propping elm doth clasp,
Loth to depart, till both together die,
So fold me, Sweet; until my latest gasp!
That in thy arms to death I kissed may lie.
    Thus whilst I live, for kisses I must call;
    Still kiss me, Sweet, or kiss me not at all!


As are the sands, fair LICIA, on the shore;
Or coloured flowers, garlands of the Spring;
Or as the frosts not seen nor felt before;
Or as the fruits that autumn forth doth bring;
As twinkling stars, the tinsel of the night;
Or as the fish that gallop in the seas;
As airs; each part that still escapes our sight:
So are my Sighs, controllers of my ease.
Yet these are such as needs must have an end,
For things finite, none else hath nature done:
Only the sighs, which from my heart I send
Will never cease, but where they first began.
    Accept them, Sweet, as incense due to thee!
    For you immortal made them so to be.


I swear, fair LICIA, still for to be thine;
By heart, by eyes, by what I held most dear!
Thou checkedst mine oath, and said "These were not mine;
And that I had no right by them to swear."
Then by my sighs, my passions, and my tears,
My vows, my prayers, my sorrow, and my love,
My grief, my joy, my hope, and hopeless fears,
My heart is thine, and never shall remove!
These are not thine, though sent unto thy view;
All else I grant, by right they are thine own.
Let these suffice that what I swear is true;
And more than this, if that it could be known.
    So shall all these, though troubles, ease my grief;
    If that they serve to work in thee belief.


That time, fair LICIA, when I stole a kiss,
From off those lips where CUPID lovely laid,
I quaked for cold: and found the cause was this:
My Life which loved, for love behind me stayed.
I sent my Heart, my Life for to recall,
But that was held, not able to return,
And both detained as captives were in thrall,
And judged by her, that both by sighs should burn.
Fair, burn them both! for that they were so bold;
But let the altar be within thy heart!
And I shall live, because my life you hold;
You that give life to every living part;
    A flame I took whenas I stole the kiss:
    Take you my life! yet can I live with this.


First did I fear, when first my love began;
Possessed in fits by watchful jealousy,
I sought to keep what I by favour wan,
And brooked no partner in my love to be.
But Tyrant sickness fed upon my Love,
And spread his ensigns dyed with colour white;
Then was Suspicion glad for to remove;
And loving much did fear to lose her quite.
Erect, fair Sweet, the colours thou didst wear!
Dislodge thy griefs, the short'ners of content!
For now of life, not love, is all my fear:
Lest life and love be both together spent.
    Live but, fair love, and banish thy disease!
    And love, kind Heart, both when and whom thou please!


LICIA, my Love, was sitting in a grove,
Tuning her smiles unto the chirping songs:
But straight she spied where two together strove,
Each one complaining of the other's wrongs.
CUPID did cry lamenting of the harm; "JOVE's messenger, thou wrong'st me too too far!
Use thou thy rod! rely upon the charm!
Think not by speech my force thou canst debar!" "A rod, sir boy, were fitter for a child!
My weapons oft, and tongue, and mind you took;
And in my wrong, at my distress thou smiled,
And scorned to grace me with a loving look."
    Speak you, Sweet Love, for you did all the wrong!
    That broke his arrows, and did bind his tongue.


"I might have died before my life began;
Whenas my father for his country's good,
The Persian's favor and the Sophy wan
And yet with danger of his dearest blood."
Thy father, Sweet, whom danger did beset,
Escapèd all: and for no other end
But only this, that you he might beget:
Whom heavens decreed into the world to send.
Then, father, thank thy daughter for thy life!
And Neptune praise that yielded so to thee,
To calm the tempest, when the storms were rife;
And that thy daughter should a VENUS be.
    I call thee VENUS, Sweet! but be not wroth;
    Thou art more chaste, yet seas did favour both.


My love was masked, and armèd with a fan;
To see the sun so careless of his light:
Which stood and gazed; and gazing waxèd wan
To see a star, himself that was more bright.
Some did surmize She hid her from the sun;
Of whom, in pride, She scorned for to be kissed:
And feared the harm by him to others done.
But these the reason of this wonder missed:
Nor durst the sun, if that her face were bare,
In greatest pride presume to take a kiss:
But she, more kind, did show she had more care
Than with her eyes eclipse him of his bliss.
    Unmask you, Sweet, and spare not! dim the sun!
    Your light's enough, although that his were done.


Whenas my Love lay sickly in her bed,
Pale Death did post, in hope to have a prey;
But she so spotless made him that he fled: "Unmeet to die," he cried, and could not stay.
Back he retired, and thus the heavens he told: "All things that are, are subject unto me;
Both towns, and men, and what the world doth hold:
But let fair LICIA still immortal be!"
The heavens did grant. A goddess she was made,
Immortal, fair, unfit to suffer change.
So now she lives, and never more shall fade.
In earth a goddess. What can be more strange?
    Then will I hope! A goddess, and so near;
    She cannot choose, my sighs and prayers but hear.


Seven are the lights that wander in the skies:
And at these seven, I wonder in my Love.
To see the moon, how pale she doth arise;
Standing amazed, as though she durst not move:
So is my sweet much paler than the snow,;
Constant her looks, those looks that cannot change.
MERCURY the next, a god sweet-tongued we know,
But her sweet voice doth wonders speak more strange.
The rising Sun doth boast him of his pride,
And yet my Love is far more fair than he.
The warlike MARS can wieldless weapons guide;
But yet that god is far more weak than She.
The lovely VENUS seemeth to be fair;
But at her best, my Love is far more bright.
SATURN, for age, with groans doth dim the air;
Whereas my Love, with smiles doth give it light.
    Gaze at her brows, where heaven engrafted is;
    Then sigh, and swear, There is no heaven but this.


I live, sweet Love, where as the gentle wind
Murmurs with sport, in midst of thickest boughs;
Where loving woodbine doth the harbour bind,
And chirping birds do echo forth my vows;
Where strongest elm can scarce support the vine,
And sweetest flowers enamelled have the ground;
Where Muses dwell; and yet hereat repine
That on the earth so rare a place was found.
But winds delight: I wish to be content.
I praise the woodbine: but I take no joy.
I moan the birds that music thus have spent.
As for the rest, they breed but mine annoy.
    Live then, fair LICIA, in this place alone:
    Then shall I joy, though all of these were gone.


The crystal stream, wherein my Love did swim,
Melted in tears, as partners of my woe;
Her shine was such as did the fountain dim,
The pearl-like fountain, whiter than the snow.
Then, like perfume resolvèd with a heat,
The fountain smoked, as if it thought to burn.
A wonder strange to see the cold so great,
And yet the fountain into smoke to turn.
I searched the cause, and found it to be this:
She touched the water, and it burnt with love.
Now, by her means it purchased hath that bliss
Which all diseases quickly can remove.
    Then if by you these streams thus blessèd be:
    Sweet, grant me love; and be not worse to me!


In time the strong and stately turrets fall.
In time the rose and silver lilies die.
In time the monarchs captive are and thrall.
In time the sea and rivers are made dry.
The hardest flint in time doth melt asunder
Still living fame, in time doth fade away.
The mountains proud we see in time come under:
And earth for aye we see in time decay.
The sun in time forgets for to retire
From out the East, where he was wont to rise.
The basest thoughts, we see in time aspire.
And greedy minds, in time do wealth despise.
    Thus all, sweet Fair, in time must have an end:
    Except thy beauty, virtues, and thy friend.


When as my LICIA sailèd in the seas,
Viewing with pride, god NEPTUNE's stately crown,
A calm she made, and brought the merchant ease;
The storm she stayed, and checked him with a frown.
Love at the stern sat smiling, and did sing
To see how seas had learned for to obey;
And balls of fire into the waves did fling.
And still the boy, full wanton, thus did say: "Both poles we burnt, whereon the world doth turn;
The round of heaven from earth unto the skies:
And now the seas we both intend to burn;
I with my bow, and LICIA with her eyes."
    Then since thy force, heavens, earth, nor seas can move;
    I conquered yield: and do confess I love.


When as her lute is tunèd to her voice,
The air grows proud for honour of that sound;
And rocks do leap, to show how they rejoice
That in the earth such music should be found.
Whenas her hair (more worth, more pale, than gold)
Like silver thread lies wafting in the air;
DIANA-like she looks, but yet more bold:
Cruel in chase, more chaste, and yet more fair.
When as she smiles, the cloud for envy breaks;
She JOVE in pride encounters with a check:
The sun doth shine for joy when as she speaks,
Thus heaven and earth do homage at her beck.
    Yet all these graces, blots; not graces are:
    If you, my Love, of love do take no care.


Years, months, days, hours, in sighs I sadly spend.
I black the night, wherein I sleepless toss.
I love my griefs, yet wish them at an end.
Thus time's expense increaseth but my loss.
I musing stand, and wonder at my Love,
That in so fair, should be a heart of steel.
And then I think my fancy to remove:
But then more painful I my passions feel.
Thus must I love, sweet Fair, until I die;
And your unkindness doth my love increase:
I conquered am, I can it not deny.
My life must end; yet shall my love not cease.
    Then heavens, make LICIA fair most kind to me;
    Or with my life, my love may finished be!


I wrote my sighs, and sent them to my Love;
I praised that fair that none enough could praise;
But plaints, nor praises, could fair LICIA move.
Above my reach she did her virtues raise.
And thus replied: "False Scrawl, untrue thou art!
To feign those sighs that nowhere can be found.
For half those praises came not from his heart;
Whose faith and love, as yet, was never found.
Thy master's life, false scrawl shall be thy doom!
Because he burns, I judge thee to the flame!
Both your attempts deserve no better room."
Thus, at her word, we ashes both became.
    Believe me, Fair, and let my paper live!
    Or be not fair, and so me freedom give.


Pale are my looks, forsaken of my life:
Cinders my bones; consumèd with thy flame.
Floods are my tears, to end this burning strife;
And yet I sigh, for to increase the same.
I mourn alone, because alone I burn:
Who doubts of this, then let him learn to love!
Her looks, cold ice into a flame can turn;
As I distressèd in myself do prove.
Respect, fair LICIA, what my torments are!
Count but the tithe both of my sighs and tears!
See how my love doth still increase my care!
And care's increase, my life to nothing wears.
    Send but a sigh my flame for to increase:
    Or lend a tear and cause it so to cease.


When as I wish, fair LICIA, for a kiss
From those sweet lips where rose and lilies strive
Straight do mine Eyes repine at such a bliss,
And seek my lips thereof for to deprive.
When as I seek to glut mine Eyes by sight;
My Lips repine, and call mine Eyes away.
Thus both contend to have each other's right;
And both conspire to work my full decay.
O force admired of beauty in her pride;
In whose each part such strange effects there be,
That all my forces in themselves divide,
And make my senses plainly disagree.
    If all were mine, this envy would be gone:
    Then grant me all, fair Sweet; or grant me none!


Hear how my Sighs are echoed by the wind!
See how my Tears are pitied by the rain!
Feel what a flame possessèd hath my mind!
Taste but the Grief which I possess in vain!
Then if my Sighs, the blustering wind surpass;
And wat'ry Tears, the drops of rain exceed;
And if no Flame like mine nor is, nor was;
Nor Grief like that whereon my soul doth feed:
Relent, fair LICIA! when my sighs do blow:
Yield at my Tears! that flintlike drops consume:
Accept the Flame! that doth my incense show:
Allow the Grief! that is my heart's perfume:
    Thus Sighs, and Tears, Flame, Grief, shall plead for me;
    So shall I pray, and you a goddess be.


I speak, fair LICIA, what my torments be;
But then my speech too partial do I find:
For hardly words can with those thoughts agree:
Those thoughts that swarm in such a troubled mind.
Then do I vow my tongue shall never speak,
Nor tell my grief that in my heart doth lie:
But cannon-like, I, then surcharged, do break.
And so my silence worse than speech I try.
Thus speech, or none, they both do breed my care:
I live dismayed, and kill my heart with grief.
In all respects my case alike doth fare.
To him that wants; and dare not ask relief.
    Then you, fair LICIA, sovereign of my heart,
    Read to yourself my anguish and my smart!


Sweet, I protest, and seal it with an oath,
I never saw that so my thoughts did please:
And yet content, displeased I see them wroth
To love so much, and cannot have their ease.
I told my thoughts, "My Sovereign made a pause:
Disposed to grant, but willing to delay."
They then repined, for that they knew no cause;
And swore they wished She flatly would say"Nay. "
Thus hath my love, my thoughts with treason filled;
And 'gainst my Sovereign taught them to repine:
So thus my treason, all my thoughts hath killed;
And made fair LICIA say, She is not mine.
    But thoughts too rash, my heart doth now repent:
    And, as you please, they swear they are content.


Fair matchless Nymph, respect but what I crave!
My thoughts are true, and honour is my love.
I fainting die, whom yet a smile might save.
You gave the wound, and can the hurt remove.
Those eyes, like stars that twinkle in the night;
And cheeks, like rubies pale in lilies dyed;
Those ebon hands that darting hath such might :
That in my soul, my love and life divide.
Accept the Passions of a man possesst !
Let love be loved, and grant me leave to live !
Disperse those clouds that darkened have my rest;
And let your heaven, a sun-like smile but give !
    Then shall I praise that heaven for such a sun;
    That saved my life, whenas my grief begun.


My grief began, fair Saint, when first I saw
Love, in those eyes, sit ruling with disdain;
Whose sweet commands did keep a world in awe:
And caused them serve, your favour to obtain.
I stood as one enchanted with a frown;
Yet smiled to see all creatures serve those eyes:
Where each with sighs paid tribute to that crown;
And thought them gracèd by your dumb repies.
But I, ambitious, could not be content
Till that my service, more than sighs made known;
And for that end, my heart to you I sent,
To say and swear that, Fair! it is your own.
    Then greater graces, LICIA, do impart,
    Not dumb replies, unto a speaking heart.


A Sonnet made upon the Two Twins, daughters of the
Lady MOLLINEUX ; both passing like, and exceeding[ly] fair.
Poets did feign that heavens a VENUS had;
Matchless herself; and CUPID was her son.
Men sued to these, and of their smiles were glad;
By whom so many famous were undone.
Now CUPID mourns that he hath lost his might,
And that these two so comely are to see;
And VENUS frowns, because they have her right:
Yet both so like that both shall blameless be.
With heaven's Two Twins for godhead these may strive;
And rule a World with least part of a frown:
Fairer than these Two Twins are not alive;
Both conquering Queens, and both deserve a Crown.
    My thoughts presage, which time to come shall try,
    That thousands conquered,for their love shall die.


If, aged CHARON, when my life shall end,
I pass thy ferry and my waftage pay,
Thy oars shall fail thy boat, and mast shall rend;
And through the deep shall be a dry foot-way.
For why? My heart with sighs doth breathe such flame
That air and water both incensèd be:
The boundless ocean from whose mouth they came,
(For from my heat not heaven itself is free!).
Then since to me thy loss can be no gain;
Avoid thy harm, and fly what I foretell!
Make thou thy Love with me for to be slain;
That I with her, and both with thee, may dwell.
    Thy fact thus, CHARON, both of us shall bless:
    Thou save thy boat, and I my love possess.
For if alone thou think to waft my Love,
Her cold is such as can the sea command;
And frozen ice shall let thy boat to move.
Nor can thy forces row it from the land.
But if thou, friendly, both at once shalt take;
Thyself mayst rest! For why? My sighs will blow.
Our cold and heat so sweet a thaw shall make
As that thy boat, without thy help, shall row.
Then will I sit and glut me on those eyes
Wherewith my life, my eyes could never fill.
Thus from thy boat that comfort shall arise,
The want whereof my life and hope did kill.
    Together placed, so thou her scorn shalt cross:
    Where if we part, thy boat must suffer loss.


Are those two stars, her eyes, my life's light, gone,?
By which my soul was freeèd from all dark:
And am I left distressed to live alone,
Where none my tears and mournful tale shall mark?
Ah sun! why shine thy looks, thy looks like gold;
When, horseman brave, thou risest in the East?
Ah CYNTHIA pale, to whom my griefs I told!
Why do you both rejoice both man and beast?
And I alone, alone that dark possess
By LICIA's absence, brighter than the Sun:
Whose smiling light did ease my sad distress,
And broke the clouds when tears like rain begun.
    Heavens grant that light, and so me waking keep:
    Or shut my eyes, and rock me fast asleep!


Cruel fair love! I justly do complain
Of too much rigour, and thy heart unkind;
That, for mine eyes, thou hast my body slain:
And would not grant that I should favour find.
I looked, fair Love! and you my Love looked fair.
I sighed for love, and you for sport did smile.
Your smiles were such as did perfume the air;
And this perfumèd, did my heart beguile.
Thus I confess the fault was in mine eyes,
Begun with sighs, and endèd with a flame.
I, for your love, did all the world despise;
And in these Poems honoured have your name.
    Then let your love so with my fault dispense,
    That all my parts feel not mine eyes' offence.


There shone a Comet, and it was full West.
My thoughts presagèd what it did portend:
I found it threatened, to my heart unrest;
And might, in time, my joys and comfort end.
I further sought, and found it was a Sun,
Which day, nor night, did never use to set.
It constant stood, when heavens did restless run;
And did their virtues and their forces let.
The world did muse and wonder what it meant:
A Sun to shine, and in the West to rise.
To search the truth, I strength and spirits spent.
At length I found it was my LICIA's eyes.
    Now never after soul shall live in dark,
    That hath the hap, this western Sun to mark.


If he be dead, in whom no heart remains,
Or lifeless be in whom no life is found;
If he do pine, that never comfort gains;
And be distressed that hath his deadly wound:
Then must I die, whose heart elsewhere is clad;
And lifeless pass the greedy worms to feed;
Then must I pine that never comfort had;
And be distressed, whose wound with tears doth bleed.
Which if I do, why do I not wax cold?
Why rest I not like one that wants a heart?
Why move I still like him that life doth hold;
And sense enjoy both of my joy and smart?
    Like Niobe Queen, which, made a stone, did weep:
    LICIA my heart, dead and alive, doth keep.


Like MEMNON's rock, touched with the rising sun,
Which yields a sound, and echoes forth a voice:
But when it's drowned in western seas is dumb;
And drowsy-like, leaves off to make a noise.
So I, my Love, enlightened with your shine,
A Poet's skill within my soul I shroud;
Not rude, like that which finer wits decline;
But such as Muses, to the best allowed.
But when your figure and your shape is gone
I speechless am, like as I was before:
Or if I write, my verse is filled with moan;
And blurred with tears, by falling in such store.
    Then muse not, LICIA, if my Muse be slack:
    For when I wrote, I did thy beauty lack.


I saw, sweet LICIA, when the Spider ran
Within your house, to weave a worthless web;
You present were, and feared her with your fan:
So that amazèd, speedily she fled.
She, in your house, such sweet perfumes did smell;
And heard the Muses with their notes refined:
Thus, filled with envy, could no longer dwell;
But straight returned, and at your house repined. "Then tell me, Spider, why of late I saw
Thee lose thy poison, and thy bowels gone?
Did these enchant and keep thy limbs in awe,
And made thy forces to be small or none?
    No, no! Thou didst, by chance, my LICIA see;
    Who, for her look, MINERVA seemed to be."


If that I die, fair LICIA, with disdain;
Or heartless live, surprisèd with thy wrong:
The heavens and earth shall accent both my pain,
And curse the time so cruel and so long.
If you be kind, my queen, as you are fair;
And aid my thoughts that still for conquest strive:
Then will I sing, and never more despair,
And praise your kindness whilst I am alive.
Till then I pay the tribute of my tears,
To move thy mercy and thy constant truth.
Respect, fair Love, how these with sorrow wear
The truest heart; unless it find some ruth.
    Then grace me, Sweet, and with thy favor raise me;
    So shall I live and all the world shall praise thee.


A' LICIA, sigh! and say, Thou art my own.
Nay, Be my own! as you full oft have said.
So shall your truth unto the World be known,
And I, resolved; where now I am afraid.
And if my tongue eternize can your praise,
Or silly speech increase your worthy fame;
If aught I can, to heaven your worth can raise,
The Age to come shall wonder at the same.
In this respect, your love, sweet Love, I told;
My faith and truth I vowed should be forever.
You were the cause, if that I were too bold;
Then pardon this my fault, or love me never
    But if you frown, I wish that none believe me:
    For, slain with sighs, I'll die before I grieve thee.


When first the Sun, whom all my senses serve,
Began to shine upon this earthly round;
The heavens for her, all graces did reserve;
That PANDOR-like, with all she might abound.
APOLLO placed his brightness in her eyes,
His skill presaging, and his music sweet.
MARS gave his force. All force she now defies.
VENUS her smiles; wherewith she MARS did meet.
Python a voice. DIANA made her chaste.
CERES gave plenty. CUPID lent his bow;
THETIS, her feet. There PALLAS wisdom placed.
With these, she, Queen-like, kept a World in awe.
    Yet all these honors deemèd are but pelf:
    For she is much more worthy, of herself.


O sugared talk! wherewith my thoughts do live.
O brows! Love's trophy, and my senses' shrine!
O charming smiles! that death or life can give.
O heavenly kisses! from a mouth divine.
O wreaths! too strong, and trammels made of hair!
O pearls! inclosèd in an ebon pale.
O rose and lilies! in a field most fair,
Where modest white doth make the red seem pale.
O voice! whose accents live within my heart.
O heavenly hand !that more than ATLAS holds.
O sighs perfumed! that can release my smart.
O happy they! whom in her arms she folds.
    Now if you ask, Where dwelleth all this bliss?
    Seek out my Love! and she will tell you this.

The following sonnet is not in Lee's collection but is to be found as No. 29 in the collection available through the Elizabethan Sonneteers web page, at -

Why died I not whenas I last did sleep?
O sleep too short that shadowed forth my dear!
Heavens, hear my prayers, nor thus me waking keep!
For this were heaven, if thus I sleeping were.
For in that dark there shone a princely light;
Two milk-white hills, both full of nectar sweet,
Her ebon thighs, the wonder of my sight,
Where all my senses with their objects meet,--
I pass these sports, in secret that are best,
Wherein my thoughts did seem alive to be;
We both did strive, and weary both did rest;
I kissed her still, and still she kissed me.
    Heavens, let me sleep, and shows my senses feed
    Or let me wake and happy be indeed!

An Ode

Love, I repent me that I thought
My sighs and languish dearly bought:
For sighs and languish both did prove
That he that languished sighed for love.
Cruel rigour, foe to State,
Looks disdainful, fraught with hate,
I did blame: but had no cause
(Love hath eyes, but hath no laws).
She was sad, and could not choose
To see me sigh, and sit and muse.
We both did love, and both did doubt
Lest any should our love find out.
Our hearts did speak by sighs most hidden;
This means was left: all else forbidden.
I did frown, her love to try,
She did sigh, and straight did cry.
Both of us did signs believe
Yet either grievèd friend to grieve.
I did look, and then did smile:
She left sighing all that while.
Both were glad to see that change;
Things in love that are not strange.
Suspicion, foolish foe to Reason,
Caused me to seek to find some treason.
I did court another Dame.
(False in love, it is a shame!)