'Fie , Pleasure, Fie!' by George Gascoigne

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1Fie pleasure, fie! thou cloyest me with delight,
2Thou fill'st my mouth with sweetmeats overmuch;
3I wallow still in joy both day and night:
4I deem, I dream, I do, I taste, I touch,
5No thing but all that smells of perfect bliss;
6Fie pleasure, fie! I cannot like of this.

7To taste (sometimes) a bait of bitter gall,
8To drink a draught of so{"u}r ale (some season)
9To eat brown bread with homely hands in hall,
10Doth much increase men's appetites, by reason,
11And makes the sweet more sugar'd that ensues,
12Since minds of men do still seek after news.

13The pamper'd horse is seldom seen in breath,
14Whose manger makes his grace (oftimes) to melt;
15The crammed fowl comes quickly to his death;
16Such colds they catch in hottest haps that swelt;
17And I (much like) in pleasure scawled still,
18Do fear to starve although I feed my fill.

19It might suffice that Love hath built his bower
20Between my lady's lively shining eyes;
21It were enough that beauty's fading flower
22Grows ever fresh with her in heavenly wise;
23It had been well that she were fair of face,
24And yet not rob all other dames of grace.

25To muse in mind, how wise, how fair, how good,
26How brave, how frank, how courteous, and how true
27My lady is, doth but inflame my blood
28With humours such as bid my health adieu;
29Since hap always when it is clomb on high,
30Doth fall full low, though erst it reach'd the sky.

31Lo, pleasure, lo! lo thus I lead a life
32That laughs for joy, and trembleth oft for dread;
33Thy pangs are such as call for change's knife
34To cut the twist, or else to stretch the thread,
35Which holds yfeer the bundle of my bliss:
36Fie, pleasure, fie! I dare not trust to this.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Joy and Misery of Love in George Gascoigne’s “Fie, Pleasure, Fie!”

Poetry has the power to capture the essence of human emotions and experiences in a way that prose cannot. This is especially true of love poetry, which offers a window into the joys and sorrows of romantic relationships. George Gascoigne’s “Fie, Pleasure, Fie!” is a prime example of this genre, exploring the complex emotions of a lover caught between desire and despair. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will examine Gascoigne’s use of structure, language, and symbolism to convey the joys and miseries of love in “Fie, Pleasure, Fie!”


One of the most striking features of “Fie, Pleasure, Fie!” is its structure. The poem is divided into three stanzas of 14, 15, and 14 lines respectively. Each stanza follows a similar pattern, with the first two lines posing a rhetorical question, followed by a series of statements that explore the theme of love. The final line of each stanza is a refrain that reinforces the central message of the poem: “Fie, pleasure, fie! / You have beguiled / The simple hearts, / That thought by art / To have reviled / Your crafty wiles, / But you have won, / And I have lost / That which I most / Did then desire.”

Gascoigne’s use of the refrain is particularly effective in creating a sense of unity and coherence within the poem. The repetition of “Fie, pleasure, fie!” emphasizes the speaker’s frustration and disillusionment with love, while the rest of the refrain underscores the theme of loss and regret. By using the same structure in each stanza, Gascoigne creates a sense of inevitability that reinforces the speaker’s sense of hopelessness.


Gascoigne’s use of language is also crucial to the poem’s impact. The language is both poetic and accessible, blending archaic and modern elements in a way that makes the poem relevant to contemporary audiences. For example, the opening lines of the first stanza ask: “What means this sudden blaze of joy? / Flames within my heart do rise.” The use of the archaic “means” and “do” lend a formal tone to the poem, while the more modern “blaze of joy” and “flames within my heart” create an emotional immediacy that draws the reader in.

Throughout the poem, Gascoigne uses figurative language to convey the speaker’s conflicting emotions. The refrain itself is a form of figurative language, using the words “fie” and “beguiled” to suggest the speaker’s sense of betrayal by love. In the second stanza, the speaker describes love as a “thunderbolt,” an image that conveys both its power and its destructiveness. The use of contrasts is also evident throughout the poem, with the speaker describing love as both “sweet and sour” and “joy and smart.” These contrasts underscore the complexity of the speaker’s emotions, suggesting that love is not a simple or straightforward experience.


Finally, Gascoigne’s use of symbolism adds depth and richness to the poem. The most notable symbol in “Fie, Pleasure, Fie!” is the image of fire, which appears throughout the poem. In the first stanza, the speaker describes the “sudden blaze of joy” within his heart, while in the second stanza, he compares love to a “thunderbolt” that “pierces through the yielding air.” These images suggest the intensity of the speaker’s emotions, as well as their destructive potential.

The third stanza of the poem introduces a new symbol: that of the “golden bowl.” The bowl is described as “richly wrought” and “fair to sight,” suggesting that it represents the speaker’s ideal of love. However, the bowl is also fragile, and when it falls, it shatters into “little shards.” This image symbolizes the speaker’s loss of his ideal, as well as the fragility of love itself.


So what does all this symbolism and language add up to? What is Gascoigne trying to say about love in “Fie, Pleasure, Fie!”?

At its heart, the poem is a meditation on the joys and sorrows of love. The speaker is caught between a desire for pleasure and a sense of disillusionment with love’s false promises. While he acknowledges the sweetness of love, he is also aware of its potential for pain and loss. The use of the fire imagery suggests that love is a force that cannot be tamed or controlled, while the symbol of the golden bowl suggests that our ideals of love are fragile and easily shattered.

Ultimately, the poem suggests that love is a complex and contradictory emotion, capable of both joy and pain. The refrain “Fie, pleasure, fie!” underscores the speaker’s sense of betrayal by love, while the final lines of the poem suggest that he has lost something of great value. At the same time, the poem’s language and imagery suggest that love is also a powerful and transformative experience, capable of inspiring great beauty and depth of feeling.


In “Fie, Pleasure, Fie!”, George Gascoigne offers a poetic exploration of the joys and sorrows of love. Using structure, language, and symbolism, he creates a vivid and emotionally resonant portrait of a lover caught between desire and disillusionment. While the poem is steeped in the language and imagery of its time, its themes and insights are timeless, offering a window into the complexities of human emotion that continue to resonate with readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Fie, Pleasure, Fie! is a classic poem written by George Gascoigne in the 16th century. This poem is a perfect example of the Elizabethan era's literary style, which was characterized by its use of complex language and intricate metaphors. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, literary devices, and historical context.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing a woman, urging her to abandon her love for poetry. The speaker argues that poetry is a waste of time and that it only leads to disappointment and heartache. He uses a series of metaphors to illustrate his point, comparing poetry to a "painted sepulchre" and a "gilded pill." These metaphors suggest that poetry is deceptive and that it hides its true nature behind a façade of beauty and elegance.

The speaker goes on to describe the negative effects that poetry can have on a person's life. He claims that it can lead to a loss of time, money, and reputation. He also suggests that poetry can be dangerous, leading to madness and even death. These warnings are meant to dissuade the woman from pursuing her love of poetry and to convince her to focus on more practical pursuits.

However, despite the speaker's warnings, the poem ends on a hopeful note. The speaker suggests that there is a way to enjoy poetry without succumbing to its dangers. He advises the woman to read poetry with a critical eye, to separate the truth from the lies, and to use poetry as a means of self-improvement. In this way, the speaker suggests that poetry can be a source of pleasure and enlightenment, rather than a source of pain and disappointment.

One of the most striking features of this poem is its use of metaphors. The speaker employs a wide range of metaphors to describe poetry, ranging from the beautiful and elegant to the grotesque and repulsive. For example, he compares poetry to a "painted sepulchre," suggesting that it is beautiful on the outside but empty and lifeless on the inside. He also compares poetry to a "gilded pill," suggesting that it is sweet and tempting but ultimately harmful.

These metaphors serve to illustrate the speaker's argument that poetry is deceptive and dangerous. They suggest that poetry can be both alluring and repulsive, depending on how it is approached. By using these metaphors, the speaker is able to convey a complex and nuanced view of poetry, one that acknowledges its beauty and power while also warning of its potential dangers.

Another important aspect of this poem is its historical context. The Elizabethan era was a time of great literary and artistic achievement, with poets like William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser producing some of the greatest works of English literature. However, it was also a time of great social and political upheaval, with religious conflict, economic instability, and political intrigue all playing a role in shaping the culture of the time.

In this context, the speaker's warnings about the dangers of poetry take on a deeper significance. They can be seen as a reflection of the anxieties and uncertainties of the time, as people struggled to make sense of a rapidly changing world. The speaker's advice to read poetry critically and to use it as a means of self-improvement can be seen as a response to these anxieties, a way of finding meaning and purpose in a world that seemed increasingly chaotic and unpredictable.

In conclusion, Poetry Fie, Pleasure, Fie! is a complex and nuanced poem that explores the beauty and dangers of poetry. Through its use of metaphors and historical context, it offers a rich and insightful commentary on the role of poetry in Elizabethan culture. While the speaker's warnings about the dangers of poetry may seem extreme to modern readers, they offer a valuable reminder of the power of literature to shape our lives and our world. Ultimately, the poem suggests that poetry can be a source of pleasure and enlightenment, but only if approached with a critical and discerning eye.

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