Essayes Of

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A Colomne of 18 lynes seruing for a Preface to the Tragedie ensuyng.

[syllables 1] Elf [syllables 1]

[syllables 2] Echo [syllables 2]

[syllables 3] help, that both [syllables 3]

[syllables 4] together we, [syllables 4]

[syllables 5] Since cause there be, may [syllables 5]

[syllables 6] now lament with tearis, My [syllables 6]

[syllables 7] murnefull yearis. Ye furies als [syllables 7]

[syllables 8] with him, Euen Pluto grim, who duells [syllables 8]

[syllables 9] in dark, that he, Since cheif we se him [syllables 9]

[syllables 10] to you all that bearis The style men fearis of [syllables 10]

[syllables 11] Dirae, I request, Eche greizlie ghest that dwells [syllables 11]

[syllables 12] beneth the see, With all yon thre, whose hairs are snaiks [syllables 12]

[syllables 12] full blew, And all your crew, assist me in thir twa: [syllables 12]

[syllables 11] Repeit and sha my Tragedie full neir, The [syllables 11]

[syllables 10] chance fell heir▪ then secundlie is best, Deuills [syllables 10]

[syllables 9] void of rest▪ ye moue all that it reid, [syllables 9]

[syllables 8] With me in deid lyke dolour them [syllables 8]

[syllables 7] to griv', I then will liv' in [syllables 7]

[syllables 6] lesser greif therebj. Kyth [syllables 6]

[syllables 5] heir and try your force [syllables 5]

[syllables 4] ay bent and quick, [syllables 4]

[syllables 3] Excell in [syllables 3]

[syllables 2] sik like [syllables 2]

[syllables 1] ill, [syllables 1]

and murne with

me. From Delphos syne

Apollo cum with speid: Whose

shining light my cairs will dim in deid.

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The expansion of the former Colomne.

Elf Echo help, that both together w E

(S ince cause there be) may now lamēt with teari S

M y murnefull yearis. Ye furies als with hi M

E uen Pluto grim, who dwels in dark, that h E

S ince cheif we se him to you all that beari S

T he style men fearis of Dirae: I reques T

E che greizlie ghest, that dwells beneth the S E

With all yon thre, whose hairis ar snaiks full ble W

A nd all your crew, assist me in thir tw A

R epeit and sha my Tragedie full nei R

T he chance fell heir. Then secoundlie is bes T

D euils void of rest, ye moue all that it rei D

W ith me, indeid, lyke dolour thame to gri V

I then will liv', in lesser greif therebi I

K ythe heir and trie, your force ay bent and quic K

E xcell in sik lyke ill, and murne with m E

From Delphos syne Apollo cum with speid,

VVhose shining light my cairs wil dim in deid.

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THE dyuers falls, that Fortune geuis to men,

By turning ouer her quheill to their annoy,

When I do heare thē grudge, although they ken

That old blind Dame, delytes to let the ioy

Of all, suche is her vse, which dois conuoy

Her quheill by gess: not looking to the right,

Bot still turnis vp that pairt quhilk is too light.

Thus quhen I hard so many did complaine,

Some for the losse of worldly wealth and geir,

Some death of frends, quho can not come againe,

Some losse of health, which vnto all is deir,

Some losse of fame, which still with it dois beir

Ane greif to them, who mereits it indeid:

Yet for all thir appearis there some remeid.

For as to geir, lyke chance as made you want it,

Restore you may the same againe or mair.

For death of frends, although the same (I grant it)

Can noght returne, yet men are not so rair,

Bot ye may get the lyke. For seiknes sair

Your health may come: or to ane better place

Ye must. For fame, good deids will mend disgrace.

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Then, fra I saw (as I already told)

How men complaind for things whilk might amend,

How Dauid Lindsay did complaine of old

His Papingo, her death, and sudden end,

Ane common foule, whose kinde be all is kend.

All these hes moved me presently to tell

Ane Tragedie, in griefs thir to excell.

For I complaine not of sic common cace,

Which diuersly by diuers means dois fall:

But I lament my Phoenix rare, whose race,

Whose kynde, whose kin, whose ofspring, they be all

In her alone, whome I the Phoenix call.

That fowle which only one at onis did liue,

Not liues, alas! though I her praise reviue.

In Arabie cald Foelix was she bredd

This foule, excelling Iris farr in hew.

Whose body whole, with purpour was owercledd,

Whose taill of coulour was celestiall blew,

With skarlat pennis that through it mixed grew:

Her craig was like the yallowe burnisht gold,

And she her self thre hundreth yeare was old.

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She might haue liued as long againe and mair,

If fortune had not stayde dame Naturs will:

Six hundreth yeares and fourtie was her scair,

Which Nature ordained her for to fulfill.

Her natiue soile she hanted euer still,

Except to Egypt whiles she tooke her course,

Wherethrough great Nylus down runs frō his sourse.

Like as ane hors, when he is barded haile,

An fethered pannach set vpon his heid,

Will make him seame more braue: Or to assaile

The enemie, he that the troups dois leid,

Ane pannache on his healme will set in deid:

Euen so, had Nature, to decore her face,

Giuen her ane tap, for to augment her grace.

In quantitie, she dois resemble neare

Vnto the foule of mightie Iove, by name

The Aegle calld: oft in the time of yeare,

She vsde to soir, and flie through diuers realme,

Out through the Azure skyes, whill she did shame

The Sunne himself, her coulour was so bright,

Till he abashit beholding such a light.

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Thus whill she vsde to scum the skyes about,

At last she chanced to sore out ower the see

Calld Mare Rubrum: yet her course held out

Whill that she past whole Asie Syne to flie

To Europe small she did resolue. To drie

Her voyage out, at last she came in end

Into this land, ane stranger heir vnkend.

Ilk man did maruell at her forme most rare.

The winter came, and storms cled all the feild:

Which storms, the land of fruit and corne made bare,

Then did she flie into an house for beild,

VVhich from the storms might saue her as an sheild.

There, in that house she first began to tame,

I came, syne tooke her furth out of the same.

Fra I her gat, yet none could gess what sort

Of foule she was, nor from what countrey cum:

Nor I my self: except that be her port,

And glistring hewes I knew that she was sum

Rare stranger foule, which oft had vsde to scum

Through diuers lands, delyting in her flight;

VVhich made vs see, so strange and rare a sight.

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Whill at the last, I chanced to call to minde

How that her nature, did resemble neir

To that of Phoenix which I red. Her kinde,

Her hewe, her shape, did mak it plaine appeir,

She was the same, which now was lighted heir.

This made me to esteme of her the more,

Her name and rarenes did her so decore.

Thus being tamed, and throughly weill acquent.

She toke delyte (as she was wount before)

VVhat tyme that Titan with his beames vpsprent,

To take her flight, amongs the skyes to soire.

Then came to her of fowlis, a woundrous store

Of diuers kinds, some simple fowlis, some ill

And rauening fowlis, whilks simple onis did kill.

And euen as they do swarme about their king

The hunnie Bees, that works into the hyue:

VVhen he delyts furth of the skepps to spring,

Then all the leaue will follow him belyue,

Syne to be nixt him bisselie they striue:

So, all thir fowlis did follow her with beir,

For loue of her, fowlis reuening did no deir.

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Such was the loue, and reuerence they her bure,

Ilk day whill euen, ay whill they shedd at night.

Fra time it darkned, I was euer sure

Of her returne, remaining whill the light,

And Phoebus rysing with his garland bright.

Such was her trueth, fra time that she was tame,

She, who in brightnes Titans self did shame.

By vse of this, and hanting it, at last

She made the soules, fra time that I went out,

Aboue my head to flie, and follow fast

Her, who was chief and leader of the rout.

When it grew lait, she made them flie, but doubt,

Or feare, euen in the closse with her of will,

Syne she her self, perkt in my chalmer still.

When as the countreys round about did heare

Of this her byding in this countrey cold,

Which not but hills, and darknes ay dois beare,

(And for this cause was Scotia calld of old,)

Her lyking here, when it was to them told,

And how she greind not to go backe againe:

The loue they bure her, turnd into disdaine.

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Lo, here the fruicts, whilks of Inuy dois breid,

To harme them all, who vertue dois imbrace.

Lo, here the fruicts, from her whilks dois proceid,

To harme them all, that be in better cace

Then others be. So followed they the trace

Of proud Inuy, thir countrey is lying neir,

That such a foule, should lyke to tary heir.

Whill Fortoun at the last, not onely moued

Inuy to this, which could her not content,

Whill that Inuy, did sease some foules that loued

Her anis as semed: but yet their ill intent

Kythed, when they saw all other foules still bent

To follow her, misknowing them at all.

This made them worke her vndeserued fall.

Thir were the rau•ning fowls, whome of I spak

Before, the whilks (as I already shew)

Was wount into her presence to hald bak

Their crueltie, from simple ones, that flew

With her, ay whill Inuy all feare withdrew.

Thir ware, the Rauin, the Stainchell, & the Gled,

With others kynds, whome in this malice bred.

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Fra Malice thus was rooted be Inuy,

In them as sone the awin effects did shaw.

VVhich made them syne, vpon ane day, to spy

And wait till that, as she was wount, she flaw

Athort the skyes, syne did they neir her draw,

Among the other fowlis of dyuers kynds,

Although they ware farr dissonant in mynds.

For where as they ware wount her to obey,

Their mynde farr contrair then did plaine appeare.

For then they made her as a commoun prey

To them, of whome she looked for no deare,

They strake at her so bitterly, whill feare

Stayde other fowlis to preis for to defend her

From thir ingrate, whilks now had clene miskend her.

When she could find none other saue refuge

From these their bitter straiks, she fled at last

To me (as if she wolde wishe me to iudge

The wrong they did her) yet they followed fast

Till she be•uix my leggs her selfe did cast.

For sauing her from these, which her opprest,

Whose hote pursute, her suffred not to rest.

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Bot yet at all that servd not for remeid,

For noghttheles, they spaird her not a haire.

In stede of her, yea whyles they made to bleid

My leggs: (so grew their malice mair and mair)

Which made her both to rage and to dispair,

First, that but cause they did her such dishort:

Nixt, that she laked help in any sort.

Then hauing tane ane dry and wethered stra,

In deip dispair, and in ane lofty rage

She sprang vp heigh, outfl•ing euery fa:

Syne to Panchaia came, to change her age

Vpon Apollos altar, to asswage

With outward fyre her inward raging fyre:

Which then was all her cheif and whole desyre.

Then being carefull, the event to know

Of her, who homeward had returnde againe

Where she was bred, where storms dois neuer blow,

Nor bitter blasts, nor winter snows, nor raine,

But sommer still: that countray doeth so staine

All realmes in fairnes. There in haste I sent,

Of her to know they slew and event.

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The messinger went there into sic haste,

As could permit the farrnes of the way,

By crossing ower sa mony countreys waste

Or he come there. Syne with a lytle stay

Into that land, drew homeward euery day:

In his returne, lyke diligence he shew

As in his going there, through realmes anew.

Fra he returnd, then sone without delay

I speared at him, (the certeantie to try)

What word of Phoenix which was flowen away?

And if through all the lands he could her spy,

Where through he went, I bad him not deny,

But tell the trueth, yea whither good or ill

Was come of her, to wit it was my will.

He tolde me then, how she flew bak againe,

Where fra she came▪ and als he did receit,

How in Panchaia toun, she did remaine

On Phoebus altar, there for to compleit

With Thus and Myrrh, and other odours sweit

Of flowers of dyuers kyndes, and of Incens

Her nest With that he left me in suspens.

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Till that I charged him no wayes for to spair,

Bot presently to tell me out the rest.

He tauld me then, How Titans garland thair

Inflamde be heate, reflexing on her nest,

The withered stra, which when she was opprest

Heir be you fowlis, she bure ay whill she came

There, syne aboue her nest she laid the same.

And syne he tolde, how she had such desyre

To burne her self, as she sat downe therein.

Syne how the Sunne the withered stra did fyre,

Which brunt her nest, her fethers, bones, and skin

All turnd in ash. Whose end dois now begin

My woes: her death maks lyfe to greif in me.

She, whome I rew my eyes did euer see.

O deuills of darknes, contraire vnto light,

In Phoebus fowle, how could ye get such place,

Since ye are hated ay be Phoebus bright?

For still is sene his light dois darknes chace.

But yet ye went into that fowle, whose grace,

As Phoebus fowle, yet ward the Sunne him sell.

Her light his staind, whome in all light dois dwell.

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And thou (ô Phoenix) why was thow so moued

Thow foule of light, be enemies to thee,

For to forget thy heauenly hewes, whilkis loued

Were baith by men and fowlis that did them see?

And syne in hewe of ashe that they sould bee

Conuerted all: and that thy goodly shape

In Chaos sould, and noght the fyre escape?

And thow (ô reuthles Death) sould thow deuore

Her? who not only passed by all mens mynde

All other fowlis in hew, and shape, but more

In rarenes (sen there was none of her kynde

But she alone) whome with thy stounds thow pynde:

And at the last, hath perced her through the hart,

But reuth or pitie, with thy mortall dart.

Yet worst of all, she liued not half her age.

Why stayde thou Tyme at least, which all dois teare

To worke with her? O what a cruell rage,

To cut her off, before her threid did weare!

VVherein all Planets keeps their course, that yeare

It was not by the half yet worne away,

VVhich sould with her haue ended on a day.

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Then fra thir newis, in sorrows soped haill,

Had made vs both a while to holde our peace,

Then he began and said, Pairt of my taill

Is yet vntolde, Lo here one of her race,

Ane worme bred of her ashe: Though she, alace,

(Said he) be brunt, this lacks but plumes and breath

To be lyke her, new gendred by her death.


Apollo then, who brunt with thy reflex

Thine onely fowle, through loue that thou her bure,

Although thy fowle, (whose name doeth end in X)

Thy burning heat on nowayes could indure,

But brunt thereby: Yet will I the procure,

Late foe to Phoenix, now her freind to be:

Reuiuing her by that which made her die.

Draw farr from heir, mount heigh vp through the air,

To gar thy heat and beames be law and neir.

That in this countrey, which is colde and bair,

Thy glistring beames als ardent may appeir

As they were oft in Arabie: so heir

Let them be now, to mak ane Phoenix new

Euen of this worme of Phoenix ashe which grew.

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This if thow dois, as sure I hope thou shall,

My tragedie a comike end will haue:

Thy work thou hath begun, to end it all.

Els made ane worme, to make her out the laue.

This Epitaphe, then beis on Phoenix graue.

Here lyeth, vvhome too euen be her death and end

Apollo hath a longer lyfe her send.


Last month, I conducted stack tours for interview candidates for the post of Library and Archive Assistant.  This set me thinking about a snowy November day five years ago, when I was taken on a similar tour, little knowing that I would get the job and enjoy it so much I’d still be here now! (Thinking about this is almost setting me off on some kind of Montaigne like self-reflection on how a single day or event can change the course of your life…)

The one item that stood out for me that day was John Florio’s 1603 translation of Montaigne’s Essais (Volumes I and II published in 1580, Volume III in 1588). Not perhaps the most obvious item to be excited by, but having studied French literature at university, this really impressed me and I had to stop myself from taking it off the shelf to have a quick flick through it.

At the time, I had no idea of the significance of this book to a Shakespeare library. Researching for A Level displays last year, I found that whilst The Tempest is one of the few plays not to be strongly linked to any particular historical or contemporary narrative, one of the few proven sources is Montaigne’s essay “Des Cannibales”. What I hadn’t realised until recently is how directly Gonzalo’s speech (II, I, Lines 150-167) corresponds to Montaigne’s text.

“It is a nation, would I answer Plato, that hath no kinde of traffike, no knowledge of Letters, no intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate, nor of politike superioritie; no use of service, or riches or of povertie; no contracts, no successions, no partitions, no occupation but idle; no respect of kindred, no use of wine, corne, or mettle. The very words that import lying, falsehood, treason, dissimulations, covetousness, envie, detraction, and pardon, were never heard of amongst them. How dissonant would hee finde his imaginarie common-wealth from this perfection?”

Florio, John. the Essays of Montaigne Done into English, 1603, page 258


I’th’commonwealth I would by contraries

Execute all things. For no kind of traffic

Would I admit, no name of magistrate.

Letters should not be known. Riches, poverty,

And use of service, none. Contract, succession,

Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none.

No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil.

No occupation: all men idle, all,


........Treason, felony,

Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine

Would I not have;”

Shakespeare, William.  The Tempest. (New Penguin Edition, 1996, page 88)

Both employ a similar emphatic, spare style to outline the characteristics and merits of a kind of Utopian society, rich in natural abundance and with no need of artificial constructs, even down to word for word correspondence between the two texts.

Re-reading sections of Montaigne made me see other similarities between the two writers in that both could be considered somewhat timeless and indeed ahead of their time. It is also interesting to reflect on the extent to which a writer is themselves present in their own work. Montaigne makes no secret of the fact that he himself is the subject of his essays: Ainsi, Lecteur, je suis moy-mesme la matiere de mon livre”, whilst recognising that this very self is constantly evolving. It is frequently the case that people try to “read” Shakespeare in their reading of his plays. Whilst it is perhaps too simplistic to consider particular characters/aspects of the plays biographical, I would argue that a writer is necessarily present in their own work. Montaigne expounds the idea that the products of the mind, such as books, are more “ours”–a greater legacy–than our descendants (in De l’affection des pères aux enfants). Would Shakespeare’s family and contemporaries have recognised his voice in his plays as Montaigne hopes his Essais will provide a sense of his self after his death?

Montaigne’s work raises all sorts of questions about the self: not just that of the writer, but also that of the reader and their contribution to creating the meaning of a text (just as directors and even audiences could be said to be significant in creating the meaning of a play).

You may not feel like reading Montaigne in old French, or even in its entirety, but have a look at this collection of Montaigne's quotes to get a flavour of his wise words!

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