Thursday, February 14, 2008

Henry Bold's bogus valentine

I thought I’d put together a quick post for Valentine’s Day, and was scanning Valentine poems in LION. Henry Bold’s ‘To his Mistris’ seemed familiar:

Chuse me your Valentine,
Next let us marry:
Love to the death will pine,
If we long tarry:

You have broke promise twice,
Dear to undo me;
If you prove faithless thrice,
None then will wooe you.

It is actually a poem by Robert Herrick, recycled with an omitted stanza, and not even taking the trouble to make the obvious correction to the rhyme at the end of the poem:

‘To his Mistresse.’

Choose me your Valentine;
Next, let us marry:
Love to the death will pine,
If we long tarry.

Promise, and keep your vowes,
Or vow ye never:
Loves doctrine disallowes
Troth-breakers ever.

You have broke promise twice
(Deare) to undoe me;
If you prove faithlesse thrice,
None then will wooe you.

As I read the full volume of Bold’s poems, Wit a Sporting in a Pleasant Grove of New Fancies (1657), more and more poems seemed familiar. These ‘new fancies’ were swathes of Herrick’s Hesperides of 1648, bits of Marlowe’s Ovid: a whole chamber of echoes. In the ODNB, Jonathan Pritchard’s life of Henry Bold (for he did exist, I had started to wonder if he wasn’t entirely a publisher’s figment, and invented name that told its own story – making Bold with other’s poems) tells the whole story, and explains my image for this post:

Wit a Sporting in a Pleasant Grove of New Fancies was the first work to appear under Bold’s initials but the volume is a comprehensive piracy. The portrait placed before the title-page, for example, professes to represent Bold but in fact depicts Christian Ravus, or Ravius, whose likeness had originally prefixed his Discourse of the Oriental Tongues (1649). The text itself also appropriates the work of others. Much of the first fifty pages is taken verbatim, but in a reordered sequence, from the secular section of Thomas Beedome's Poems Divine and Humane (1641); Robert Herrick’s Hesperides (1648) is the source for many more items scattered throughout the rest of the volume. In making those poems his own, Bold regularizes Beedome’s spelling and changes the names of the addressees (and, thus, the titles), lineation, and even the wording of Herrick’s verse.”

This was one of my favourites among Bold’s interventions into the text of the poet he is plagiarizing. He wants to avoid anything too memorable, of course, so Herrick’s first stanza in

To Anthea , who may command him any thing.

Bid me to live, and I will live
Thy Pro
testant to be:
Or bid me love, and I will give
A loving hear
t to thee.

became the lusterless:

To his Mistris to command him any thing.

Bid me to live, and I will live,
thy servant for to be;
Or bid me love, and I will give
A loving heart to thee…

Herrick was still alive, Beedome’s date of death is unknown, but he was probably dead when this Bold volume was concocted.


Mary, said...

Hello Dr Roy (could this be a real name, one hopes not)--

I've written a novel, Conceit, about John Donne and family that is doing quite well here in Canada. It was long-listed for the Giller soon after it came out Sept 2007, and there will be a paperback out July 2008. Anyway, I'm looking for ways to let people know that it is available from and more cheaply (even with international postage) from Reviews, etc., are up at and I'd love to hear comments via my contact page. If anybody out there has any suggestions about getting the word out, please toss them my way!

DrRoy said...

Here's John Donne still alive and kicking in present day culture. I never got round to reading 'Catch a Falling Star' by Elspeth Sandys (1978). I've been reading Adrienne Rich, and noting her explicit allusions to Donne. All good evidence against the maledictions of Stevie Davies.

bdh said...

That's very sporting of you Roy. I would have deleted the comment on the basis of that 'hopes not' schtick!

Mary, said...

Actually, I hadn't heard of Catch a Falling Star, but am curious about it now. Thanks for mentioning it. Apparently there are also a few other novels that have been written about John Donne.