'The Choise of Valentines' by Thomas Nashe

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To the right Honorable the lord S.

Pardon sweete flower of matchless Poetrie,
And fairest bud the red rose euer bare ;
Although my Muse deuor'st from deeper care
Presents thee with a wanton Elegie.
Ne blame my verse of loose unchastitie
For painting forth the things that hidden are,
Since all men acte what I in speache declare,
Onelie induced by varietie.
Complaints and praises euerie one can write,
And passion-out their pangu's in statelie rimes,
But of loues pleasure's none did euer write
That hath succeeded in theis latter times.
Accept of it Dear Lord in gentle gree,
And better lynes ere long shall honor thee.

The Choosing of Valentines.

It was the merie moneth of Februarie
When yong-men in their iollie roguerie
Rose earelie in the morne fore breake of daie
To seeke them valentines so trimme and gaie.
With whom they maie consorte in summer sheene,
And dance the heidegeies on our toune-greene.
As Ale's at Easter or at Pentecost
Perambulate the fields that flourish most,
And goe to som village abbordring neere
To taste the creame, and cakes and such good cheere,
Or see a playe of strange moralitie
Shewen by Bachelrie of Maningtree ;
Whereto the Contrie franklins flock-meale swarme,
And Ihon and Jone com marching arme in arme,
Euen on the hallowes of the blessed Saint,
That doeth true louers with those ioyes acquaint
I went poore pilgrim to my ladies shrine
To see if she would be my valentine.
But woe-alass, she was not to be found,
For she was shifted to an upper-ground.
Good Iustice Dudgein-haft, and crab-tree face,
With bills and staues had scared her from the place;
And now she was compell'd for Sanctuarie
To flye unto an house of venerie.
Thither went I, and bouldlie made enquire
If they had hackneis to lett-out to hire
And what they crau'd by order of their trade
To lett one ride a iournie on a iade.
Therwith out stept a foggie three-chinnd dame,
That us'd to take yong wenches for to tame,
And ask't me, if I ment as I profest,
Or onelie ask't a question but in iest.
In iest? quoth I; that terme it as you will,
I com for game, therfore giue me my Jill,
Why Sir, quoth shee, if that be your demande,
Come, laye me a Gods-pennie in my hand;
For, in our Oratorie siccarlie,
None enters heere to doe his nicerie,
But he must paye his offertorie first,
And then perhaps wee'le ease him of his thirst.
I hearing hir so ernest for the box
Gaue hir hir due, and shee the dore unlocks.
In am I entered : venus be my speede ;
But where's this female, that must doe this deede?
By blinde meanders, and by crankled wayes
Shee leades me onward (as my Aucthor saies)
Vntill we came within a shadie loft
Where venus bounzing vestalls skirmish oft.
And there shee sett me in a leather chaire,
And brought me forth of prettie Trulls a paire,
To chuse of them which might content myne eye;
But hir I sought I could nowhere espie.
I spake them faire, and wisht them well to fare,
Yett so it is, I must haue fresher ware.
Wherfore, dame Bawde, as daintie as yow bee,
Fetch gentle mistris Francis forth to me.
By Halliedame, quoth she, and Gods oune mother,
I well perceaue yow are a wylie brother.
For if there be a morsell of more price,
Yow'l smell it out, though I be ner'e so nice.
As yow desire, so shall yow swiue with hir,
But think your purse-strings shall abye-it deare ;
For, he that will eate quaile's must lauish crounes ;
And mistris Francis in hir veluet goune's
And ruffs, and periwigs as fresh as Maye,
Can not be kept with half a croune a daye.
Of price good hostess, we will not debate,
Though yow assize me at the highest rate ;
Onelie conduct me to this bonnie bell,
And tenne good gobs I will unto thee tell
Of golde or siluer, which shall lyke thee best,
So much doe I hir companie request.
Awaie she went : So sweete a thing is golde,
That (mauger) will inuade the strongest holde.
Hey-ho, she coms, that hath my heart in keepe,
Sing lullabie my cares, and falle a-sleepe.
Sweeping she coms, as she would brush the ground,
Hir ratling silke's my sences doe confound.
Oh, I am rauisht;voide the chamber streight,
For, I must needs upon hir with my weight.
My Tomalin, quoth shee, and then she smilde,
I, I, quoth I ; so more men are beguilde
With smiles, with flatt'ring worde's, and fained cheere,
When in their deede's their falsehood doeth appeere.
As how my lambkin? (blushing, she replide)
Because I in this dancing-schoole abide?
If that be it, that brede's this discontent,
We will remoue the camp incontinent.
For shelter onelie, sweete heart came I hither
And to auoide the troublous stormie weather.
But nowe the coast is cleare, we wilbe gonne,
Since but thy self, true louer I haue none.
With that she sprung full lightlie to my lips,
And fast about the neck me colle's and clips.
She wanton faint's, and falle's upon hir bed,
And often tosseth too and fro hir head.
She shutts hir eyes, and waggles with hir tongue:
Oh, who is able to abstaine so long?
I com, I com; sweete lyning be thy leaue,
Softlie my fingers, up theis curtaine, heaue
And make me happie stealing by degreese.
First bare hir leggs, then creepe up to hir kneese.
From thence ascend unto hir mannely thigh.
(A pox on lingring when I am so nighe)
Smock climbe a-pace, that I maie see my ioyes,
Oh heauen, and paradize are all but toyes,
Compar'd with this sight, I now behould,
Which well might keepe a man from being olde.
A prettie rysing wombe without a weame,
That shone as bright as anie siluer streame;
And bare out lyke the bending of an hill,
At whose decline a fountaine dwelleth still,
That hath his mouth besett with uglie bryers
Resembling much a duskie nett of wyres.
A loftie buttock barred with azure veine's
Whose comelie swelling, when my hand distreine's
Or wanton checketh with a harmeless stype,
It makes the fruites of loue eftsoone be rype ;
And pleasure pluckt too tymelie from the stemme
To dye ere it hath seene Ierusalem.
Oh Gods, that euer anie thing so sweete
So suddenlie shuld fade awaie and fleete.
Hir arme's are spread, and I am all unarm'd
Lyke one with Ouids cursed hemlock charm'd,
So are my limm's unwealdie for the fight,
That spend their strength in thought of hir delight.
What shall I doe to shewe myself a man?
It will not be for ought that beawtie can.
I kisse, I clap, I feele, I view at will,
Yett dead he lyes not thinking good or ill.
Vnhappie me, quoth shee, and wilt' not stand?
Com, lett me rubb and chafe it with my hand.
Perhaps the sillie worme is labour'd sore,
And wearied that it can doe no more.
If it be so (as I am greate a-dread)
I wish tenne thousand times, that I were dead.
How ere it is; no meanes shall want in me,
That maie auaile to his recouerie.
Which saide, she tooke and rould it on hir thigh,
And when she lookt' on't, she would weepe and sighe,
And dandled it, and dance't it up and doune,
Not ceasing, till she rais'd it from his swoune.
And then he flue on hir as he were wood,
And on her breeche did thack, and foyne a-good;
He rubd', and prickt, and pierst hir to the bones,
Digging as farre as eath he might for stones.
Now high, now lowe, now stryking short and thick ;
Now dyuing deepe he toucht hir to the quick.
Now with a gird, he would his course rebate;
Streite would he take him to a statelie gate,
Plaie while him list ; and thrust he neare so hard,
Poore pacient Grisill lyeth at hir warde,
And giue's, and take's as blythe and free as Maye,
And ere-more meete's him in the midle waye.
On him hir eyes continualy were fixt,
With hir eye-beames his melting looke's were mixt,
Which lyke the Sunne, that twixt tuo glasses plaies
From one to th'other cast's rebounding rayes.
He lyke a starre, that to reguild his beames
Sucks-in the influence of Phebus streames,
Imbathe's the lynes of his descending light
In the bright fountaines of hir clearest sight.
She faire as fairest Planet in the Skye
Hir purity to no man doeth denye.
The verie chamber, that enclowds hir shine,
Looke's lyke the pallace of that God deuine,
Who leade's the daie about the zodiake,
And everie euen discends to th'Oceane lake:
So fierce and feruent is hir radiance,
Such fyrie stake's she darts at euerie glance,
As might inflame the icie limmes of age,
And make pale death his surquedrie aswage
To stand and gaze upon hir Orient lamps
Where Cupid all his chiefest ioyes encamps,
And sitts, and playes with euerie atomie
That in hir Sunne-beames swarme aboundantlie.
Thus gazing, and thus striuing we perseuer,
But what so firme, that maie continue euer?
Oh not so fast, my rauisht Mistriss cryes,
Least my content, that on thy life relyes
Be brought too-soone from his delightfull seate,
And me unwares of hoped bliss defeate.
[Togeather lett our equall motions stirr
Togeather let vs liue and dye my deere]
Together lett us marche unto content,
And be consumed with one blandishment.
As she prescrib'd, so kept we crotchet-time,
And euerie stroake in ordre lyke a chyme.
Whilst she, that had preseru'd me by hir pittie,
Vnto our musike fram'd a groaning dittie.
Alass, alass, that loue should be a sinne,
Euen nowe my blisse and sorrow doeth beginne.
Houlde wyde thy lap, my louelie Danae,
And entretaine the golden shoure so free,
That trilling falles into thy treasurie,
As Aprill-drops not half so pleasant be,
Nor Nilus ouerflowe, to Ægipt-plaines,
As this sweet-streames, that all hir ioints imbaynes ;
With Oh, and Oh, she itching moues hir hipps,
And to and fro, full lightlie starts and skips.
She ierks hir leggs, and sprauleth with hir heeles,
No tongue maie tell the solace that she feeles.
I faint, I yeald; Oh death rock me a-sleepe ;
Sleepe - sleepe desire, entombed in the deepe.
Not so, my deare ; my dearest Saint replyde ;
For, from us yett thy spirit maie not glide
Vntill the sinnowie channels of our blood
Withould their source from this imprisoned flood ;
And then will we (that then will com to soone)
Dissolued lye as-though our dayes were donne.
The whilst I speake, my soule is fleeting hence,
And life forsakes his fleshie residence.
Staie, staie sweete ioye, and leaue me not forlorne,
Why shouldst thou fade, that art but newlie borne?
Staie but an houre ; an houre is not so much,
But half an houre ; if that thy haste be such :
Naie but a quarter ; I will aske no more,
That thy departure (which torments me sore)
Maie be alightned with a little pause,
And take awaie this passions sudden cause.
He heare's me not, hard-hearted as he is :
He is the sonne of Time, and hate's my blisse.
Time ner'e looke's back, the riuers ner'e returne ;
A second spring must help me or I burne.
No, no, the well is drye that should refresh me,
The glass is runne of all my destinie.
Nature of winter learneth nigardize,
Who, as he ouer-beare's the streame with ice,
That man nor beaste maie of their pleasance taste,
So shutts she up hir conduit all in haste,
And will not let hir Nectar ouer-flowe,
Least mortall men immortall ioyes should knowe.
Adiew unconstant loue, to thy disporte,
Adiew false mirth, and melodie too-short.
Adiew faint-hearted instrument of lust,
That falselie hast betrayde our equale trust.
Hence-forth no more will I implore thine ayde,
Or thee, or men of cowardize upbrayde.
My little dildo shall supply their kinde :
A knaue, that moues as light as leaues by winde ;
That bendeth not, nor fouldeth anie deale,
But stands as stiff, as he were made of steele,
And playes at peacock twixt my leggs right blythe,
And doeth my tickling swage with manie a sighe ;
For, by Saint Runnion he'le refresh me well,
And neuer make my tender bellie swell.
Poor Priapus, whose triumph now must falle,
Except thow thrust this weakeling to the walle.
Behould how he usurps in bed and bowre,
And undermine's thy kingdom euerie howre.
How slye he creepe's betwixt the barke and tree,
And sucks the sap, whilst sleepe detaineth thee.
He is my Mistris page at euerie stound,
And soone will tent a deepe intrenched wound.
He wayte's on Courtlie Nimphs, that be so coye,
And bids them skorne the blynd-alluring boye.
He giue's yong guirls their gamesom sustenance,
And euerie gaping mouth his full sufficeance.
He fortifies disdaine with forraine artes,
And wanton-chaste deludes all louing hearts.
If anie wight a cruell mistris serue's,
Or in dispaire (unhappie) pines and steru's
Curse Eunuke dilldo, senceless, counterfet,
Who sooth maie fill, but neuer can begett:
But if reuenge enraged with dispaire,
That such a dwarfe his wellfare should empaire,
Would faine this womans secretarie knowe,
Lett him attend the marks' that I shall showe.
He is a youth almost tuo handfulls highe,
Streight, round, and plumb, yett hauing but one eye,
Wherin the rhewme so feruentlie doeth raigne,
That Stigian gulph maie scarce his teares containe ;
Attired in white veluet or in silk,
And nourisht with whott water or with milk ;
Arm'd otherwhile in thick congealed glasse,
When he more glib to hell be lowe would passe,
Vpon a charriot of fiue wheeles he rydes,
The which an arme strong driuer stedfast guide's,
And often alters pace, as wayes grow deepe ;
(For who in pathe's unknowen, one gate can keepe?)
Sometimes he smoothlie slideth doune the hill ;
Another while the stones his feete doe kill :
In clammie waies he treaddeth by and by,
And plasheth and sprayeth all that be him nye.
So fares this iollie rider in his race,
Plunging, and soursing forward in lyke case,
Bedasht, bespurted, and beplodded foule,
God giue thee shame, thow blinde mischapen owle.
Fy - fy for grief ; a ladies chamberlaine,
And canst not thow thy tatling tongue refraine?
I reade thee beardles blab, beware of stripes,
And be aduised what thow vainelie pipes.
Thow wilt be whipt with nettles for this geare
If Cicelie shewe but of thy knauerie heere.
Saint Denis shield me from such female sprites.
Regarde not Dames, what Cupid's Poete writes.
I pennd this storie onelie for my self,
Who giuing suck unto a childish Elfe,
And quite discourag'd in my nurserie,
Since all my store seemes to hir, penurie.
I am not as was Hercules the stout,
That to the seauenth iournie could hould out.
I want those hearbe's and rootes of Indian soile,
That strengthen wearie members in their toile ;
Druggs and Electuaries of new deuise
Doe shunne my purse ; that trembles at the price.
Sufficeth, all I haue, I yeald hir hole,
Which for a poore man is a princelie dole.
I paie our hostess scott and lott at moste,
And looke as leane and lank as anie ghoste.
What can be added more to my renowne?
She lyeth breathlesse, I am taken doune,
The waues doe swell, the tydes climbe or'e the banks,
Iudge gentlemen if I deserue not thanks,
And so good night unto yow eue'rie one,
For loe, our threed is spunne, our plaie is donne.

Claudito iam riuos Priape, sat prata biberunt.Tho: Nashe

Thus hath my penne presum'd to please my friend ;
Oh mightst thow lykewise please Apollo's eye.
No: Honor brooke's no such impietie ;
Yett Ouids wanton Muse did not offend.
He is the fountain whence my streames doe flowe.
Forgiue me if I speake as I was taught,
A lyke to women, utter all I knowe,
As longing to unlade so bad a fraught.
My mynde once purg'd of such lasciuious witt,
With purifide word's, and hallowed verse
Thy praises in large volumes shall rehearce,
That better maie thy grauer view befitt.
Meanewhile yett rests, yow smile at what I write,
Or for attempting, banish me your sight.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Choice of Valentines by Thomas Nashe: A Literary Masterpiece

When it comes to poetry, there are few works that can match the elegance, wit, and charm of The Choice of Valentines by Thomas Nashe. This classic poem, written in the late 16th century, has stood the test of time and continues to captivate readers with its clever wordplay, vivid imagery, and humorous tone.

At its core, The Choice of Valentines is a playful exploration of the power dynamics at play in courtship and love. The poem is structured as a dialogue between two young men, Tomalin and Tom Tiler, who are vying for the affections of a woman named Madge. Each man presents his case, arguing that he is the better choice for her Valentine. What follows is a hilarious back-and-forth that showcases Nashe's skill as a wordsmith and his keen insight into human behavior.

One of the most striking things about The Choice of Valentines is the way in which Nashe manages to convey complex ideas and emotions through his use of language. Take, for example, the following passage:

"Her silent smiles and her wit so quaint, Show'd her wise in all that she did saynt; Yet, had I wist that would have had to do, When first I met with her, I had shun her to."

Here, Nashe is using a combination of archaic language and clever wordplay to describe the woman in question. He notes her "silent smiles," which suggest that she is a careful and thoughtful person, and her "wit so quaint," which implies that she is clever and quick-witted. He also uses the phrase "wise in all that she did saynt," which is a play on the word "saint" and suggests that she is virtuous and pure. Finally, he admits that if he had known what he was getting into when he first met her, he might have avoided her altogether.

This passage is just one example of the many ways in which Nashe uses language to create a rich and nuanced portrait of his characters. Through his careful choice of words and his masterful manipulation of language, he is able to bring these characters to life and make them feel like real people.

Another aspect of The Choice of Valentines that makes it such a compelling work of literature is its humor. Nashe has a keen sense of wit and a knack for using irony and satire to make his points. This is evident throughout the poem, but nowhere is it more apparent than in the exchanges between Tomalin and Tom Tiler.

For example, at one point in the poem, Tom Tiler boasts about his own virtues, saying:

"I am a tiler, and eke a thief, And evermore will be to my life's end, But then Madge shall be my sweeting."

This is a hilarious moment, as Tom Tiler is essentially admitting to being a criminal while at the same time trying to win the affections of a woman. Nashe uses this moment to poke fun at the absurdity of courtship and the way in which people sometimes say and do things that are completely at odds with their own values and beliefs.

Overall, The Choice of Valentines is a timeless work of literature that continues to resonate with readers today. It is a testament to Nashe's skill as a poet and his ability to capture the complexities of human behavior in a way that is both insightful and entertaining. If you haven't yet had the pleasure of reading this classic work, I highly recommend that you do so. You won't be disappointed!

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Choice of Valentines: A Masterpiece of Love Poetry

Love is a complex emotion that has been the subject of countless works of art, literature, and music. One such masterpiece of love poetry is "The Choice of Valentines" by Thomas Nashe. This poem, written in the late 16th century, is a beautiful and intricate exploration of the complexities of love and the choices we make in matters of the heart.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing his beloved, asking her to choose between two suitors. The first is a wealthy and powerful man, while the second is a poor but honest and loving man. The speaker then goes on to describe the virtues and flaws of each suitor, leaving the decision ultimately up to the woman.

The first suitor is described as a man of great wealth and power, with a "golden fleece" and "purple pall" to his name. He is a man of great status and influence, with the ability to provide his beloved with all the material comforts she could desire. However, the speaker also notes that this man is "proud and disdainful," and may not treat his beloved with the love and respect she deserves.

The second suitor, on the other hand, is described as a man of humble means, with "no wealth but love." He is a man who loves deeply and truly, and is willing to do anything for his beloved. However, the speaker also notes that this man may not be able to provide his beloved with the material comforts she desires, and may struggle to provide for her in the long term.

The choice between these two suitors is not an easy one, and the speaker acknowledges this. He notes that both men have their virtues and flaws, and that the decision ultimately comes down to what the woman values most in a partner. Is it material wealth and status, or is it love and devotion?

Throughout the poem, Nashe uses a variety of poetic techniques to convey the complexities of love and the difficult choices we must make in matters of the heart. He uses vivid imagery to describe the two suitors, painting a picture of their virtues and flaws in the reader's mind. He also uses repetition and parallelism to emphasize the similarities and differences between the two suitors, and to highlight the difficult decision the woman must make.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of language. Nashe's language is rich and complex, with a variety of poetic devices used to convey the depth of emotion and the complexity of the decision at hand. He uses metaphors and similes to compare the two suitors to various objects and animals, such as the "golden fleece" and the "humble bee." He also uses alliteration and assonance to create a musical quality to the poem, adding to its beauty and elegance.

Another notable aspect of the poem is its structure. The poem is written in rhyming couplets, with each couplet containing a complete thought or idea. This structure gives the poem a sense of balance and symmetry, and helps to emphasize the similarities and differences between the two suitors.

Overall, "The Choice of Valentines" is a masterpiece of love poetry that explores the complexities of love and the difficult choices we must make in matters of the heart. Nashe's use of language, imagery, and structure all contribute to the beauty and elegance of the poem, making it a timeless work of art that continues to resonate with readers today.

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