Elizabethan Sonnet Month
June 2010


Having just read a book called, Elizabethan Sonnets: ed Maurice Evans, rev Roy J Booth, it was realised what a wonderfully rich period the Elizabethan era was for poetry. It was also realised that if asked, the average poet would only be able to bring to mind Shakespeare and possibly Spencer as sonnet writers of that time.

The purpose of this project is to introduce poets to the sonnets of other poets around the Elizabethan period, and as there is not a huge period of time from the introduction of the sonnet into England by Thomas Wyatt to the Elizabethan era; a little liberty will be taken and will start with him.

I also wonder how many of you realise that Shakespeare's sonnets were not printed until 1609, six years after the death of Elizabeth, in early 1603, and during the reign of James 1 who also wrote sonnets and continued the Elizabethan era and so both remain "In Time".

I will be posting a new sonnet by a poet of this era every day for the whole of June, and each poem selected will placed here in all its glory, and will also provide a link to another site dedicated to that poet where it's hoped in time all of that poets sonnets will appear. Jem Farmer will also provide a synopsis about that person.

Please feel free to contact me with your thoughts about this project.
I find no peace,Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542)
The Soote SeasonHenry Howard, Earl of Surrey
You must not wonder,George Gascoigne (1525-1577)
To Licia Sonnet 1 Giles Fletcher (1549-1611)
Upon the Motions of the FiendWilliam Alabaster (1568-1640)
Sir Walter Ralegh to His SonSir Walter Ralegh (c.1552-1618)
Happy ye leaves! whenas those lily handsEdmund Spenser (c.1552-1599)
Compare me to the child that plays with fireBartholomew Griffin
Caelica, I overnight was finely used,Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke
From Astrophel and StellaSir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)
I saw the object of my pining thoughtThomas Watson (c. 1557-1592)
After the death of her young sonneAnne Cecil de Vere,
To Delia 1Henry Constable (1562-1613)
Feed, silly sheepWilliam Smith
A Sonnet of the MoonCharles Best
Within her hair Venus and Cupid sport themEC
Soon as the azure-colored gates of th' eastRichard Lynche
But love whilst that thou mayst be loved againSamuel Daniel (1562-1619)
SonetMark Alexander Boyd (1562-1601)
They say that shadows of deceased ghostsJoshua Sylvester (1563-1618)
Like an adventurous seafarer am IMichael Drayton (1563-1631)
Mistress, behold, in this true-speaking glassBarnabe Barnes (c.1569-1609)
Pamphilia to AmphilathvsLady Mary Wroth (1587-1651)
Sonnet XVIIIWilliam Shakespeare (1564-1616)
To PandoraAlexander Craig (c.1567-1627)
The Holy RoodSir John Davies (1569-1626)
Against the Dispraisers of PoetryRichard Barnfield (1574-1627)
It shall be said I died for CoeliaWilliam Percy (1575-1648)
Phillis IThomas Lodge (1558-1625)
SonnetKing James 1 (1566-1625)
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Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542)

I find no peace, and all my war is done

I find no peace, and all my war is done:
I fear, and hope; I burn, and freeze like ice;
I fly above the wind, yet can I not arise;
And nought I have, and all the world I seize on;
That locketh nor loseth holdeth me in prison,
And holdeth me not, yet can I 'scape nowise:
Nor letteth me live, nor die at my devise,
And yet of death it giveth me occasion.
Without eyen I see, and without tongue I 'plain;
I desire to perish, and yet I ask health;
I love another, and thus I hate myself;
I feed me in sorrow, and laugh in all my pain.
Likewise displeaseth me both death and life,
And my delight is causer of this strife.

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547)

The Soote Season

The soote season, that bud and bloom forth brings,
With green hath clad the hill and eke the vale;
The nightingale with feathers new she sings;
The turtle to her make hath told her tale.
Summer is come, for every spray now springs,
The hart hath hung his old head on the pale;
The buck in brake his winter coat he flings;
The fishes flete with new repaired scale;
The adder all her slough away she slings;
The swift swallow pursueth the flyes smale;
The busy bee her honey now she mings,
Winter is worn that was the flowers' bale.
And thus I see among these pleasant things
Each care decays, and yet my sorrow springs.

George Gascoigne (1525-1577)

You must not wonder, though you think it strange

You must not wonder, though you think it strange,
To see me hold my lowering head so low;
And that mine eyes take no delight to range
About the gleams which on your face do grow.
The mouse which once hath broken out of trap
Is seldom teased with the trustless bait,
But lies aloof for fear of more mishap,
And feedeth still in doubt of deep deceit.
The scorched fly which once hath 'scap'd the flame
Will hardly come to play again with fire.
Whereby I learn that grievous is the game
Which follows fancy dazzled by desire.
So that I wink or else hold down my head,
Because your blazing eyes my bale have bred.

Giles Fletcher (1549-1611)

Sonnets To Licia


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 brasen tops your worthy self made proud;
The ground an 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.

William Alabaster (1567-1640)

Upon the Motions of the Fiend

With heat and cold I feel the spiteful fiend
To work one mischief by two contraries,
With lust he doth me scorch, with languor freeze,
But lust and languor both one Christ offend.
Let contraries with contraries contend,
Let fear of blame and love of Christ arise,
Hot love of Christ to melt in tears mine eyes,
Cold fear of just reproach my shame to extend,
That shame with heat may cool my looser thought,
And tears with cold heat my heart's sluggish deep.
O happy I if that such grace were wrought!
Till then, shame blush because tears cannot weep,
And tears weep you because shame cannot blush,
Till shame from tears, and tears from shame do flush.

Sir Walter Ralegh (1552-1618)

Sir Walter Ralegh to His Son

Three things there be that prosper up apace
And flourish, whilst they grow asunder far;
But on a day, they meet all in one place,
And when they meet, they one another mar.
And they be these: the wood, the weed, the wag.
The wood is that which makes the gallow tree;
The weed is that which strings the hangman's bag;
The wag, my pretty knave, betokeneth thee.
Mark well, dear boy, whilst these assemble not,
Green springs the tree, hemp grows, the wag is wild;
But when they meet, it makes the timber rot,
It frets the halter, and it chokes the child.
Then bless thee, and beware, and let us pray
We part not with thee at this meeting day.

Edmund Spenser (c.1552-1599)

Happy ye leaves! whenas those lily hands

Happy ye leaves! whenas those lily hands,
Which hold my life in their dead doing might,
Shall handle you, and hold in love's soft bands,
Like captives trembling at the victor's sight.
And happy lines! on which, with starry light,
Those lamping eyes will deign sometimes to look,
And read the sorrows of my dying sprite,
Written with tears in heart's close bleeding book.
And happy rhymes! bathed in the sacred brook
Of Helicon, whence she derived is,
When ye behold that angel's blessed look,
My soul's long lacked food, my heaven's bliss.
Leaves, lines, and rhymes seek her to please alone,
Whom if ye please, I care for other none.

Bartholomew Griffin

Compare me to the child that plays with fire

Compare me to the child that plays with fire,
Or to the fly that dieth in the flame,
Or to the foolish boy that did aspire
To touch the glory of high heaven's frame;
Compare me to Leander struggling in the waves,
Not able to attain his safety's shore,
Or to the sick that do expect their graves,
Or to the captive crying evermore;
Compare me to the weeping wounded hart,
Moaning with tears the period of his life,
Or to the boar that will not feel his smart
When he is stricken with the butcher's knife:
No man to these can fitly me compare;
These live to die, I die to live in care.

Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke (c.1554-1628)

Caelica, I overnight was finely used,

Caelica, I overnight was finely used,
Lodged in the midst of paradise, your heart;
Kind thoughts had charge I might not be refused,
Of every fruit and flower I had part.
But curious knowledge, blown with busy flame,
The sweetest fruits had in down shadows hidden,
And for it found mine eyes had seen the same,
I from my paradise was straight forbidden.
Where that cur, rumor, runs in every place,
Barking with care, begotten out of fear;
And glassy honor, tender of disgrace,
Stand seraphim to see I come not there;
While that fine soil which all these joys did yield,
By broken fence is proved a common field.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

From Astrophel and Stella (1591)

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That the dear she might take some pleasure of my pain,
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe:
Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain,
Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburned brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting Invention's stay;
Invention, Nature's child, fled stepdame Study's blows;
And others' feet still seemed but strangers in my way.
Thus, great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite:
"Fool," said my Muse to me, "look in thy heart, and write."

Thomas Watson (c. 1557-1592)

I saw the object of my pining thought

I saw the object of my pining thought
Within a garden of sweet nature's placing,
Wherein an arbor, artificial wrought
By workman's wondrous skill, the garden gracing,
Did boast his glory, glory far renowned,
For in his shady boughs my mistress slept;
And with a garland of his branches crowned,
Her dainty forehead from the sun ykept.
Imperious love upon her eyelids tending,
Playing his wanton sports at every beck
And into every finest limb descending
From eyes to lips, from lips to ivory neck,
And every limb supplied, and t'every part
Had free access, but durst not touch her heart.

Anne Cecil de Vere, Countess of Oxford (1556-88)

After the death of her young sonne

Had with the moorning the Gods left their willes undonea
They had not so soone herited such a soule:
Or if the mouth, tyme did not glotton up all.
Nor I, nor the world, were depriv'd of my Sonne,
Whose brest Venus, with a face dolefull and milde,
Doth washe with golden teares, inveying [sic] the skies
And when the water of the Goddesses eyes,
Makes almost, alive, the Marble, of my Childe:
One byds her leave styll, her dollor so extreme,
Telling her it is not, her young sonne Papheme,
To which she makes aunswer with a voice inflamed
(Feeling therewith her venime, to be more bitter)
As I was of Cupid, even so of it mother
"And a womans last chylde, is the most beloved"

Henry Constable (1562-1613)

To Delia I

Unto the boundless ocean of thy beauty
Runs this poor river, charged with streams of zeal,
Returning thee the tribute of my duty,
Which here my love, my youth, my plaints reveal.
Here I unclasp the book of my charged soul,
Where I have cast th' accounts of all my care;
Here have I summed my sighs. Here I enrol
How they were spent for thee. Look, what they are.
Look on the dear expenses of my youth,
And see how just I reckon with thine eyes.
Examine well thy beauty with my truth,
And cross my cares ere greater sums arise.
Read it, sweet maid, though it be done but slightly;
Who can show all his love, doth love but lightly.

William Smith

Feed, silly sheep, although your keeper pineth

Feed, silly sheep, although your keeper pineth
Yet like to Tantalus doth see his food.
Skip you and leap, no bright Apollo shineth,
Whilst I bewail my sorrows in yon wood
Where woeful Philomela doth record,
And sings with notes of sad and dire lament
The tragedy wrought by her sister's lord;
I'll bear a part in her black discontent.
That pipe which erst was wont to make you glee,
Upon these downs whereon you careless graze,
Shall to her mournful music tuned be,
Let not my plaints, poor lambkins, you amaze;
There underneath that dark and dusky bower
Whole showers of tears to Chloris I will pour.

Charles Best

A Sonnet of the Moon

Look how the pale queen of the silent night
Doth cause the ocean to attend upon her,
And he, as long as she is in his sight,
With her full tide is ready her to honor.
But when the silver waggon of the moon
Is mounted up so high he cannot follow,
The sea calls home his crystal waves to moan,
And with low ebb doth manifest his sorrow.
So you that are the sovereign of my heart
Have all my joys attending on your will;
My joys low-ebbing when you do depart,
When you return their tide my heart doth fill.
So as you come and as you do depart,
Joys ebb and flow within my tender heart.


Within her hair Venus and Cupid sport them

Within her hair Venus and Cupid sport them;
Some time they twist it, amber-like, in gold,
To which the whistling winds do oft resort them,
As if they strove to have the knots unrolled;
Some time they let their golden tresses dangle,
And therewith nets and amorous gins they make
Wherewith the hearts of lovers to entangle,
Which once enthralled, no ransom they will take.
But as two tyrants sitting in their thrones
Look on their slaves with tyrannizing eyes;
So they, no whit regarding lovers' moans,
Doom worlds of hearts to endless slaveries
Unless they subject-like swear to adore
And serve Emaricdulfe forevermore.

Richard Lynche

Soon as the azure-colored gates of th' east

Soon as the azure-colored gates of th' east
Were set wide open by the watchful morn,
I walked abroad, as having took no rest
(For nights are tedious to a man forlorn);
And viewing well each pearl-bedewéd flower,
Then waxing dry by splendor of the sun,
All scarlet-hued I saw him 'gin to lour
And blush, as though some heinous act were done.
At this amazed, I hied me home amain,
Thinking that I his anger causéd had.
And at his set, abroad I walked again;
When lo, the moon looked wondrous pale and sad:
Anger the one, and envy moved the other,
To see my love more fair than Love's fair mother.

Samuel Daniel (1562-1619)

But love whilst that thou mayst be loved again

But love whilst that thou mayst be loved again,
Now whilst thy May hath filled thy lap with flowers,
Now whilst thy beauty bears without a stain;
Now use the summer smiles ere winter lours.
And whilst thou spread'st unto the rising sun
The fairest flower that ever saw the light,
Now joy thy time before thy sweet be done;
And, Delia, think thy morning must have night,
And that thy brightness sets at length to west,
When thou wilt close up that which now thou show'st,
And think the same becomes thy fading best,
Which then shall most inveil and shadow most.
Men do not weigh the stalk for that it was,
When once they find her flower, her glory, pass.

Mark Alexander Boyd (1562-1601)


Fra bank to bank, fra wood to wood I rin,
Ourhailit with my feeble fantasie;
Like til a leaf that fallis from a tree,
Or til a reed ourblawin with the win.
Twa gods guides me: the ane of tham is blin,
Yea and a bairn brocht up in vanitie;
The next a wife ingenrit of the sea,
And lichter nor a dauphin with her fin.
Unhappy is the man for evermair
That tills the sand and sawis in the air;
But twice unhappier is he, I lairn,
That feidis in his hairt a mad desire,
And follows on a woman throw the fire,
Led by a blind and teachit by a bairn.

Joshua Sylvester (1563-1618)

They say that shadows of deceased ghosts

They say that shadows of deceased ghosts
Do haunt the houses and the graves about,
Of such whose life's lamp went untimely out,
Delighting still in their forsaken hosts:
So, in the place where cruel Love doth shoot
The fatal shaft that slew my love's delight,
I stalk, and walk, and wander day and night,
Even like a ghost with unperceived foot.
But those light ghosts are happier far than I,
For, at their pleasure, they can come and go
Unto the place that hides their treasure so,
And see the name with their fantastic eye:
Where I, alas, dare not approach the cruel
Proud moment that doth enclose my jewel.

Michael Drayton (1563-1631)

Like an adventurous seafarer am I

Like an adventurous seafarer am I,
Who hath some long and dang'rous voyage been,
And called to tell of his discovery,
How far he sailed, what countries he had seen;
Proceeding from the port whence he put forth,
Shows by his compass how his course he steered,
When east, when west, when south, and when by north,
As how the pole to ev'ry place was reared,
What capes he doubled, of what continent,
The gulfs and straits that strangely he had passed,
Where most becalmed, where with foul weather spent,
And on what rocks in peril to be cast:
Thus in my love, time calls me to relate
My tedious travels and oft-varying fate.

Barnabe Barnes (1569-1609)

Mistress, behold, in this true-speaking glass

Mistress, behold, in this true-speaking glass
Thy beauty's graces, of all women rarest,
Where thou mayst find how largely they surpass
And stain in glorious loveliness the fairest.
But read, sweet mistress, and behold it nearer,
Pond'ring my sorrow's outrage with some pity;
Then shalt thou find no worldly creature dearer
Than thou to me, thyself in each love ditty.
But in this mirror equally compare
Thy matchless beauty with mine endless grief;
There like thyself none can be found so fair,
Of chiefest pains there, are my pains the chief.
Betwixt these both, this one doubt shalt thou find:
Whether are here extremest in their kind.

Lady Mary Wroth (1587-1651)

Pamphilia to Amphilathvs I

When night's blacke Mantle could most darknesse proue,
And sleepe (deaths Image) did my senses hyre,
From Knowledge of my selfe, then thoughts did moue
Swifter then those, most [swiftnesse] neede require.
In sleepe, a Chariot drawne by wing'd Desire,
I saw; where sate bright Venus Queene of Loue
And at her feete her Sonne, still adding Fire
To burning hearts, which she did hold aboue,
But one heart flaming more then all the rest,
The Goddesse held, and put it to my breast,
Deare Sonne now, said she: thus must we winne;
He her obey'd, and martyr'd my poore heart.
I waking hop'd as dreames it would depart,
Yet since, O me, a Lover I haue beene.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Sonnet XVIII

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Alexander Craig (c.1567-1627)

To Pandora

Go you, O winds that blow from north to south,
Convey my secret sighs unto my sweet;
Deliver them from mine unto her mouth,
And make my commendations till we meet.
But if perhaps her proud aspiring sprite
Will not accept nor yet receive the same,
The breast and bulwark of her bosom beat,
Knock at her heart, and tell from whence you came;
Importune her, nor cease nor shrink for shame.
Sport with her curls of amber-colored hair,
And when she sighs, immix yourselves with thame,
Give her her own, and thus beguile the fair.
Blow winds, fly sighs, whereas my heart doth haunt,
And secretly commend me to my saunt.

Sir John Davies (1569-1626)

The Holy Rood

Although we do not all the good we love,
But still, in love, desire to do the same;
Nor leave the sins we hate, but hating move
Our soul and body's powers their powers to tame;
The good we do God takes as done aright,
That we desire to do he takes as done;
The sin we shun he will with grace requite,
And not impute the sin we seek to shun.
But good desires produce no worser deeds,
For God doth both together lightly give,
Because he knows a righteous man must needs
By faith, that works by love, forever live.
Then to do nought but only in desire
Is love that burns, but burns like painted fire.

Richard Barnfield (1574-1627)

Against the Dispraisers of Poetry

Chaucer is dead; and Gower lies in grave;
The Earl of Surrey long ago is gone;
Sir Philip Sidney's soul the heavens have;
George Gascoigne him before was tombed in stone.
Yet, though their bodies lie full low in ground,
As every thing must die that erst was born,
Their living fame no fortune can confound,
Nor ever shall their labors be forlorn.
And you, that discommend sweet poetry,
(So that the subject of the same be good)
Here may you see your fond simplicity,
Sith kings have favored it, of royal blood.
The King of Scots (now living) is a poet,

William Percy (1575-1648)

It shall be said I died for Coelia

It shall be said I died for Coelia;
Then quick, thou grisly man of Erebus,
Transport me hence unto Proserpina,
To be adjudged as--wilful amorous;
To be hung up within the liquid air,
For all the sighs which I in vain have wasted;
To be through Lethe's waters cleanséd fair,
For those dark clouds which have my looks o'ercasted;
To be condemned to everlasting fire,
Because at Cupid's fire I wilful brent me;
And to be clad for deadly dumps in mire.
Among so many plagues which shall torment me
One solace I shall find, when I am over,--
It will be known I died a constant lover.

Thomas Lodge (1558-1625)

Phillis I

Oh pleasing thoughts, apprentices of love,
Fore-runners of desire, sweet mithridates
The poison of my sorrows to remove,
With whom my hopes and fear full oft debates!
Enrich yourselves and me by your self riches,
Which are the thoughts you spend on heaven-bred beauty,
Rouse you my muse beyond our poets' pitches,
And, working wonders, yet say all is duty!
Use you no eaglets' eyes, nor phoenix' feathers,
To tower the heaven from whence heaven's wonder sallies.
For why? Your sun sings sweetly to her weathers,
Making a spring of winter in the valleys.
Show to the world though poor and scant my skill is
How sweet thoughts be, that are but thought on Phillis

King James 1 (1566-1625)


First love, as greatest God above the rest,
Graunt thou to me a pairt of my desyre :
That when in verse of thee I write my best,
This onely thing I earnestly requyre,
That thou my veine Poetique so inspyre,
As they may suirlie think, all that it reid,
When I descryve thy might and thundring fyre,
That they do see thy self in verie deid
From heaven thy greatest Thunders for to leid,
And syne vpon the Gyants heads to fall :
Or cumming to thy Semele with speid
In Thunders least, at her request and call :
Or throwing Phaethon downe from heaven to eard.
With threatning thunders, making monstrous reard.

Anon - Zepheria

Canzon 6

My fate, oh not my fault hath me debard
From forth thy fauors sunny Sanctuary,
Vnto the deare applause of thy regard,
Witnesse the world how my gest did marry.
My tears, my sighs, all haue I summ'd in thee:
Conceyt the totall, doe not partialize
And then accept of heir infinitie
As part payment to exacting eyes
And yet thy trophy to enoble more
My heart prepares anew to Thezaurize
Sighs and loue options sike as it sent of yore
Saue number they, faith only these englories:
Yet though I thus enwealthy thy exchequer
Seem it not strange, I liue Zepherias debte.

If you have any suggestions or questions regarding these poems please email me

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Only after the last tree has been cut down
Only after the last river has been poisoned
Only after the last fish has been caught
Only then will we realise that money cannot be eaten
- Cree Indian Prophesy