Elizabethan Sonnet Month
Giles Fletcher (1549-1611)
GILES FLETCHER, author of Licia, was one of that distinguished family that included Richard
Fletcher, the Bishop of London, and his son John Fletcher, the dramatist.
Giles Fletcher the elder was not thought of in his own time as a poet. Educated at Eton and Trinity,
Cambridge, where he was made LL.D. in 1581, a member of Parliament in '85, employed in many public
services at home and abroad during a career that lasted until 1611, in which year Dr. Fletcher died
at the age of seventy-two, he was known as a man of action, a man for public responsibility, rather
than as the retired scholar or riming courtier. Most important among the foreign embassages undertaken
by Fletcher was the one to Russia. The results were of great import to England, commercially and otherwise,
but the book he wrote on his return was, for political reasons, suppressed.
He returned from his embassage in '89; the book was suppressed in '91. Licia was published in '93. The
writing of Licia was "rather an effect than a cause of idleness;" he did it "only to try his humour,"
he says apologetically in the dedicatory addresses. "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 had only leisure to grow passionate."
Sonnets To Licia
- I. "Bright matchless star, the honour of the sky"
- II. "Weary was love and sought to take his rest"
- III. "The heavens beheld the beauty of my queen"
- IV. "Love and my love did range the forest wild"
- V. "Love with her hair my love by force hath tied"
- VI. "My love amazed did blush herself to see"
- VII. "Death in a rage assaulted once my heart"
- VIII. "Hard are the rocks, the marble, and the steel"
- IX. "Love was laid down, all weary fast asleep"
- X. "A painter drew the image of the boy"
- XI. "In Ida vale three queens the shepherd saw"
- XII. "I wish sometimes, although a worthless thing"
- XIII. "Enamored Jove commanding did entreat"
- XIV. "My love lay sleeping, where birds music made"
- XV. "I stood amazed, and saw my Licia shine"
- XVI. "Grant, fairest kind, a kiss unto thy friend"
- XVII. "As are the sands, fair Licia, on the shore"
- XVIII. "I swear, fair Licia, still for to be thine"
- XIX. "That time, fair Licia, when I stole a kiss"
- XX. "First did I fear, when first my love began"
- XXI. "Licia my love was sitting in a grove"
- XXII. "I might have died before my life begun"
- XXIII. "My love was masked, and arméd with a fan"
- XXIV. "Whenas my love lay sickly in her bed"
- XXV. "Seven are the lights that wander in the skies"
- XXVI. "I live, sweet love, whereas the gentle wind"
- XXVII. "The crystal stream wherein my love did swim"
- XXVIII. "In time the strong and stately turrets fall"
- XXIX. "Why died I not whenas I last did sleep?"
- XXX. "Whenas my Licia sailéd in the seas"
- XXXI. "Whenas her lute is tunéd to her voice"
- XXXII. "Years, months, days, hours, in sighs I sadly spend"
- XXXIII. "I wrote my sighs, and sent them to my love"
- XXXIV. "Pale are my looks, forsaken of my life"
- XXXV. "Whenas I wish, fair Licia, for a kiss"
- XXXVI. "Hear how my sighs are echoed of the wind"
- XXXVII. "I speak, fair Licia, what my torments be"
- XXXVIII. "Sweet, I protest, and seal it with an oath"
- XXXIX. "Fair matchless nymph, respect but what I crave"
- XL. "My grief begun, fair saint, when first I saw"
- XLI. "If, aged Charon, when my life shall end"
- XLII. "For if alone thou think to waft my love"
- XLIII. "Are those two stars, her eyes, my life's light gone"
- XLIV. "Cruel fair love, I justly do complain"
- XLV. "There shone a comet, and it was full west"
- XLVI. "If he be dead, in whom no heart remains"
- XLVII. "Like Memnon's rock, touched with the rising sun"
- XLVIII. "I saw, sweet Licia, when the spider ran"
- XLIX. "If that I die, fair Licia, with disdain"
- L. "Ah Licia, sigh and say thou art my own"
- LI. "When first the sun whom all my senses serve"
- LII. "O sugared talk, wherewith my thoughts do live"
- Sonnet about the Daughters of Lady Mollineux,
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.
Weary was love and sought to take his rest,
He made his choice, upon a virgin's lap;
And slyly crept from thence unto her breast,
Where still he meant to sport him in his hap;
The virgin frowned like Phœbus in a cloud;
Go pack, sir boy, here is no room for such,
My breast no wanton foolish boy 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 livéd in 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," saith he, whereat my love was wroth,
And scorned the boy, and checked him with a smile.
"I mounted am, and arméd with my spear;
Thou art too weak, thyself do not beguile;
I could thee conquer if I naked were."
With this ]ove wept, and then my love replied:
"Kiss me, sweet boy, so weep my boy no more."
Thus did my love, and then 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 ber 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, enthralled should be.
She in disdain her pretty son threw down,
And in his place, with love she chainéd me.
So now, sweet love, though 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 were 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 affrayed;
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 lives."
In Ida vale three queens the shepherd saw,
Queens of esteem, divine they were all three,
A sight of worth. But I a wonder shaw,
Their virtues all in one alone to be.
Licia the fair, surpassing Venus' 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 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 feels that covet for renown,
I blame myself that I have wished my loss,
And scorn a kingdom, though it give a crown.
Ah Licia, though 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 intrenched 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 seely 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 causéd 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 uséd for a fan,
Till by exchange my heart his feathers won.
I stood amazed, and saw my Licia shine,
Fairer than Phœbus, 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 a flame,
"Then burn me, sweet, with brightness of your eyes,
That phœnix-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 affrayed,
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,
Loath 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 colored flowers, garlands of the spring,
Or as the frosts not seen, not felt before,
Or as the fruits that autumn forth doth bring;
As twinkling stars, the tinsel of the night,