Thursday, July 15, 2010

An answer song to Sir John Suckling's 'Why so pale and wan?'

The 1638 Folio of Suckling’s Aglaura on EEBO, with its alternate Act V, also preserves an answer song to Suckling’s famous lyric, ‘Why so pale and wan fond Lover?’, written alongside the original on [Sig G2].

Thomas Clayton does not note the existence of this answer poem in my edition of the Cavalier Poets. I suppose it will have been mentioned in other editions. I have tried to find it via searches on EEBO and LION full texts, but it does not seem to have gone into print in the 17th century. Not a distinguished poem, of course, though the down to basics aspect of the original has a conceptual simplicity which hardly spurs inventiveness in any answer poem.

Clayton notes that at least five contemporary settings of the original song survive. An answer poem was inevitable, and this could have been sung by the witty Orithie in response to Orsames. The dialogue lets us know that the poem had been around for a few years before Suckling put it in his notorious play.

The person who wrote the answer poem also appended an alternate, softened ending to the original ‘Or else – Then quite forsake her’, which does suggest that the oath, and maybe the suggestion of the devil ‘taking’ the young woman who refuses love in a sexual way was seen as potentially in need of toning-down.

There are no other annotations in this copy that I can see. I have modernised the spelling in my transcript.

Nay Ladies, you shall find me,
as free, as the Musicians of the woods
themselves; what I have, you shall not need to call for,
nor shall it cost you any thing.


Why so pale and wan fond Lover?
Prithee why so pale?
Will, when looking well can’t move her,
Looking ill prevail?
Prithee why so pale?

Why so dull and mute young Sinner?
Prithee why so mute?
Will, when speaking well can’t win her,
Saying nothing do’t?
Prithee why so mute?

Quit, quit, for shame, this will not move
This cannot take her;
If of her self she will not Love,
Nothing can make her,
The Devil take her.
 or else
Then quite forsake her.

I should have guessed, it had been the issue of
your brain, if I had not been told so;
A little foolish counsel (Madam) I gave a friend
of mine four or five years ago, when he was
falling into a Consumption …

Why so fierce & grim proud railer?
Prithee, why so grim?
Thou didst look as pale or paler,
When thou wast fool’d like him.
Prithee, why so grim?

Why so stout thou bold adviser?
Prithee why so stout?
If men would be somewhat wiser,
Women would not flout
Prithee, why so stout?

A Fool he came so let him go,
As he came hither,
The winds to Gotham freely blow,
To carry thither,
Two Fools together.

My other picture is one of the cannily ‘mad men’ of Gotham, as in the last stanza here, expecting a hedge to prevent a cuckoo from flying away, from the 1690 printing (!) of Andrew Boord’s Merie tales of the made men of Gotam gathered to gether by A.B. of phisike doctour of 1565.

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