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Formal mattersReading the materials of English Renaissance literature$

Allison K. Deutermann and András Kiséry

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780719085536

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719085536.001.0001

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Reading Shakespeare miscellaneously: Ben Jonson, Robert Chester, and the Vatum Chorus of Loves Martyr

Reading Shakespeare miscellaneously: Ben Jonson, Robert Chester, and the Vatum Chorus of Loves Martyr

(p.34) 2 Reading Shakespeare miscellaneously: Ben Jonson, Robert Chester, and the Vatum Chorus of Loves Martyr
Formal matters

Matthew Zarnowiecki

Manchester University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Matthew Zarnowiecki examines an Elizabethan literary and textual form that is a product of collective authorship: the poetic miscellany Love’s Martyr. Zarnowiecki sees the miscellany’s formal and material features as enabling particular ways of reading. Love’s Martyr invites, even demands, its readers approach its poems and essays as part of a collective poetic enterprise—as a chorus, or a conversation, on a single theme.

Keywords:   Ben Jonson, Shakespeare, John Marston, poetic miscellany

the well knitte and succinct combination of a Poem, dooth make our meaning better knowen and discerned, then if it were deliuered at random in prose.

Seneca, quoted in Meres, Palladis Tamia1

All nomination is too straight of sence.

John Marston, in Loves Martyr2

THE PHOENIX LIVES FIVE hundred years and dies in a blazing fire, and from its ashes arises the new phoenix. What is the new phoenix? Is it a copy of the old? The daughter of the previous? Its defining feature is singularity, yet its various symbolic resonances make it a polyvalent signifier.3 Such paradoxes motivate this chapter because Loves Martyr (1601) both invites and defies specific interpretation. Its two main entities are the phoenix and the turtle dove, which readers have long tried to link to historical persons in a direct, allegorical reading.4 More often, however, only Shakespeare's poem is read, often alongside other Shakespearean poems in an author-centred Works edition. One reading method searches every corner of Loves Martyr for clues about its historical context; the goal in this case is a totalizing reading, one that accounts for every allegorical connection between poem and people. The other reading method divorces Shakespeare's poem from all but generic and formal concerns: the New Critical fantasy of an isolated hermeneutic object that can be read to the exclusion of everything else.

An alternative to these reading styles is a method I call ‘medium-close reading.’ This method attempts to read Shakespeare's poem together with the others in its cohort. That is, it takes seriously the medium in which Shakespeare's poem was published, which is a miscellaneous, highly varied, and idiosyncratic book. Medium-close reading is a way of accounting for tensions readers encounter between text and context. It insists that a poem's subjects and concerns should be mutually informed by its material instantiation. Although I see it as a widely applicable reading method, in this case its main advantage is that ‘medium-close’ can also mean not too close, as in New Critical readings that ignore what surrounds a poem, and not too far, as in historicized allegorical readings that ignore a poem's imagined personae, its productive ambiguities, and its transferability to other contexts. For Loves Martyr, medium-close reading helps us to assess whether and how individual lyric poems are incorporated into a single entity, (p.35) the miscellany, which seems to defy totalizing description because it is so various. Loves Martyr virtually demands this balance between individual and whole because the phoenix, supposedly a singular entity, becomes a composite in this collection, as well as in Chester's narrative poem.

Miscellanies vex genre almost by definition: they are the genre genre-less, because anything can go in them.5 Still, it is important to attempt to identify just what kind of miscellany Loves Martyr is at the outset. There are two potential answers to this question because Loves Martyr has a second section, and a second, internal title page:Hereafter Follow Diverse Poeticall Essaies on the former Subject; viz: the Turtle and Phoenix. Done by the best and chiefest of our moderne writers, with their names subscribed to their particular workes: never before extant. And (now first) consecrated by them all generally, to the love and merite of the true-noble Knight, Sir Iohn Salisburie (sig. Z1r). This title precedes the section that receives the most attention, since it contains poems attributed to Shakespeare, Jonson, Marston, and Chapman. This version of miscellaneity stresses communal poetic action, since the claim is that all the poets are writing on the same subject. This section is thus closely related to group-authored collections of elegies, such as those that were addressed to Sir Philip Sidney: four Latin collections printed in 1587 and originating at the universities, and the related miscellaneous collections The Phoenix Nest (1593) and Astrophel (1595).6 In 1542, collected volumes of elegies were produced in both English and Latin to commemorate Sir Thomas Wyatt; other examples of collected epitaphs exist in the period. The miscellaneity of such volumes is partly based on different authors' responses to the same subject. While there may be competitive attempts to outdo or overgo others' poems, nevertheless the overall texts also emphasize communal authorship, showing the poets together producing a textual object that mirrors and enacts a larger, social grieving process.

Related to, but quite different from, this type of miscellaneous collection are those texts which arise out of exchanges among members of manuscript coteries. Arthur Marotti's label for this general phenomenon is ‘social textuality,’ and the answer poem serves as one of his chief examples.7 His examinations of miscellaneous collections in manuscript highlight the social exchanges inherent in producing verse in early modern England, from exchanging, copying, and answering poems; to the differences between miscellanies compiled at the Inns of Court, at the universities, and in the homes of noblemen and noblewomen; to the secretive exchanges of verse between thwarted lovers, or covert Catholics.8 Perhaps most germane to the discussion of Loves Martyr, however, is the phenomenon in which members of a coterie exchanged thematically related verse. Members might all contribute verse on a single theme, or pose each other subjects to write about, or gradually accumulate verses on a related topic, occasion, or person. One example of this practice is depicted in George Gascoigne's A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1573). Although we must take Gascoigne's headings sceptically, since he is constantly fictionalizing the situations of textual production, there is a group of five poems which the collection announces were posed to him by five different gentlemen on five different themes as a kind of poetical-social entrance test:

(p.36) And being required by five sundrie gentlemen to wrighte in verse somwhat worthy to be remembred, before he entred into their felowship, he compiled these five sundry sortes of metre uppon five sundry theames which they delivered unto him, and the firste was at request of Francis Kinwelmarshe who delivered him this theame Audaces fortuna iuvat. And thereupon he wrote thys Sonnet following.9

In these poems and the description of their production, we see something like the conditions of poetic production implied by the second, internal title page of Loves Martyr: ‘Diverse Poeticall Essaies on the former Subject; viz: the Turtle and Phoenix.’ In both cases, diversity and variability are emphasized. The writer's situation is that of being posed with a poetic subject that is relatively specific, yet allows for poetic licence and leeway.

In contrast to the miscellaneous, co-operative collections above are collections organized around an authorial rubric, but miscellaneous in their contents. These often credit one or more authors with the wide range of contents in the printed volume – often, but not always on the title page, and sometimes within the pages of the miscellany. The most influential Elizabethan printed verse miscellany, Songes and Sonettes, first printed by Richard Tottel in 1557, mentions Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey ‘and other’ on its title page. In 1563, Barnabe Googe's collection entitled Eglogs epytaphes, and sonettes was published. The former is a multi-author verse miscellany that mentions only one of its authors on the title page; the latter is a single-author verse miscellany that advertises the diversity of its contents.10 Other printed verse miscellanies that follow this general pattern include several whose contents are attributed to Nicholas Breton, George Gascoigne's revised 1575 Posies, the 1599 Passionate Pilgrime, and Loves Martyr.11 The distinction I am drawing has to do with the ways in which some miscellaneous texts represent the conditions of their composition, versus the ways in which other miscellaneous collections are subsequently compiled and reproduced. That is, the distinction concerns whether the miscellany is born miscellaneous, or whether it has miscellaneity thrust upon it through the acts of compilation, editing, and publication. Again, George Gascoigne's example is instructive. The 1573 Hundreth Sundrie Flowres seems to be a multi-authored text, including ‘The devises of sundrie Gentlemen’ (a significant section occupying sigs Miiiv–Eeiiv), translations of classical authors, and a complex paratextual story about how the collection came to be circulated and printed. But The Posies of George Gascoigne (1575) drops the previous façade of multiple authorship, and instead organizes the contents of the miscellany into ‘flowers,’ ‘weeds,’ and ‘herbs.’ Although these categories break down under pressure, the ostensible organization shapes the whole collection into a diverse set of texts, all by a single author, which provide different kinds of poetry (and prose and drama) for different readers and different purposes. Gascoigne's collection, formerly a diverse, group effort, now is a diverse set of materials by a single author.12

Loves Martyr, as we shall see, combines these two kinds of miscellaneity. Robert Chester's initial section, the bulk of the work, is a single-author miscellany that advertises the variety of its contents. Although no summary could adequately describe (p.37) the diversity of Chester's section, his contributions include an extensive catalogue of herbs, trees and flowers, beasts, and sea creatures; a poetic rendition of King Arthur's birth, life, and death along with accompanying verse orations; a complaint that the Phoenix's unparalleled beauty will die; a dialogue between the Phoenix and Nature; a poetical description of the world; a set of twenty-four poems to the Phoenix, in alphabetical order in which each poem begins all its lines with a single letter; and a set of fifty-eight acrostic poems (the printer gives up numbering them at thirty-four) all in praise of, pleading to, despair about, and hope of wooing the Phoenix, all ‘made by the Paphian Dove’ (sig. S3v). Chester's section is thus quite different from the ‘Poeticall Essaies,’ which comprise a much smaller verse miscellany appended to Chester's.13 This miscellany, to be sure, also advertises its ‘diverse’ contents, but its diversity is counterbalanced by the unity of purpose with which its authors seem to have approached its composition. As in miscellaneous collections of elegies, the most important feature of ‘Poeticall Essaies’ is that its poets are paying careful attention to a single theme. Not only this, but in some instances they seem to be reading each other's contributions, and even to be making formal choices that echo each other. My first argument, in brief, is that medium-close reading is the best way to account for the tension between unity and diversity, a tension which is overriding in this miscellany, from its smallest formal choices to its largest structural conceits.

Many, two, and one: Shakespeare in the Vatum Chorus of Loves Martyr

Loves Martyr begins with a mysterious premise, the union of the Phoenix with the Turtle. This premise thwarts the basic features of the phoenix: its singularity, and its sexlessness. The phoenix has no need of either sex or love because it does not reproduce so much as exist until the moment of self-immolation and self-rebirth. Chester's treatment, with the title page promising that the phoenix and turtle are ‘allegorically shadowing the truth of Love,’ has inspired a great deal of debate about who or what these two figures represent. Although I take up this question at greater length in the next section, it is important to note at the outset that most critics treat this as the key question regarding the collection, and Shakespeare's poem. What do the phoenix and turtle stand for? Who are they? The three usual hypotheses are that they are Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex, that they are Ursula Stanley and John Salusbury (married in December 1586), or that they are Lucy, Countess of Bedford and the third Earl of Bedford, Edward Russell.14 However, critics of the mid to late twentieth century offered other answers: the Phoenix and Turtle are Elizabeth I and her loving subjects (Axton and Hume); or they are figured in scholastic language as essences of Love, Beauty/Constancy, and Truth (Cunningham); or they demonstrate a hallmark of the uniting of truths effected by metaphor (Ong); or they simply are birds (Bradbrook).15

Cunningham's and Ong's reading methods treat Shakespeare's poem according to the New Critical ideal of the poem as an isolated hermeneutic object, often concerned (p.38) with metaphysical propositions. For them, Shakespeare's poem motivates investigating questions like whether two beings can achieve a united existence, whether Truth and Beauty can co-exist, and how the accidental properties of physical beings continue to exist once those physical beings have decayed, or in this case, burned to ashes. Shakespeare's poem, with its sustained attention to unity, certainly motivates these investigations. It also rewards close, formal reading because it is full of the cleft unities and opposing effects that are the foundation of readings like Ong's, which uses paradox to discuss how metaphor functions to create double or twin intellectual concepts.16 Even more New Critical in methodology is I. A. Richards's reading of the poem, which proceeds line by line, mentioning no other text except, oddly, The Tempest. Shakespeare's ‘Let the bird of lowdest lay,’ for these critics, should be read as a Donne-style metaphysical poem, a mysterious and highly wrought artistic object, to be appreciated in a hermeneutic vacuum.17

Shakespeare's poem, however, should be read not only for its formal particularities but also for its incorporation into a larger textual object, a composite of its companion poems. Its combination of distinguishability and unison with others is the core of the poem and of the larger collection, if we read them as I am proposing – miscellaneously rather than in isolation. Shakespeare's poem works with, and against, those that surround it. It thus replicates the concerns of Robert Chester's larger work, since the identity of the phoenix is at issue there, and in Shakespeare's poem, and in those of the other poets. The phoenix is no longer singular in this work: it is composed of the many poems contained in the miscellany. And most importantly, it is composed out of combinations, first of two-into-one, and ultimately of many into one. Treating Shakespeare's poem outside of this immediate context thus weakens what is a central concern both of his poem and of the larger ‘Poeticall essaies’ and Loves Martyr. It also overemphasizes Shakespeare's small place in a larger, more complex miscellaneous collection.

The unison of two into one is a key formal feature of Shakespeare's poem. As Colin Burrow perceptively notes, it ‘works the minor miracle of being two poems in one,’ and thus enacts ‘the dissolution of separate identities into a single whole.’18 These two poems are the thirteen-stanza ‘Let the bird of lowdest lay’ and the five-stanza ‘threnos’ that follows directly after. Shakespeare's poem is a single poem made out of two, or two poems that are related to each other, because the voice of Reason, referred to at the end of ‘Let the bird of lowdest lay,’ also speaks the ‘Threnos’ on the next page.19 Several other formal choices amplify the poem's unity of doubles. The first poem's rhyme scheme, ABBA, contains both unity and separation: each quatrain has a united rhyming couplet as its core, but with a separated, disjunct rhyme in the first and fourth lines. (It is this stanza Tennyson chooses for his long poem of lament and union, In Memoriam A.H.H.) At the opening of sigs Z3v–Z4r, divided unity is amplified by a coincidence of printing. The central stanza of the poem (the seventh of thirteen) breaks across the page, emphasizing both the idealised unity of the phoenix and turtle, and the material impossibility of that unity:

  • (p.39) So they loved as love in twaine,
  • Had the essence but in one,
  • [page break]
  • Two distincts, Division none,
  • Number there in love was slaine.

‘Threnos’ retains the rhythm of these lines, which we may define as either trochaic tetrameter or iambic tetrameter, with either the first or last foot being ‘broken,’ or cut in half.20 And while the text of ‘Threnos’ relentlessly emphasizes the death and dissolution of ‘these dead Birds,’ the triple rhymes and three-line stanzas reaffirm the lines quoted above, so that the unity of these ‘distincts’ effects a third, hybrid object (Z4r–Zv). This object is fundamentally different from the singular phoenix, not simply because in Shakespeare's ‘Threnos’ it appears to die rather than being reborn from ashes but because it is comprised of separate entities mysteriously united.

Shakespeare's contribution requires the reader to entertain the notion that the poem can be a divided, yet unified object. But we should also read the poem as distinct from, yet closely related to and integrated with, those that immediately surround it. For example, both before and after ‘Let the bird of lowdest lay,’ there are more traditional assertions about the Phoenix's singularity, and its ability to be reborn from the ashes of the previous phoenix. In ‘The First,’ and ‘The burning,’ the two poems preceding Shakespeare's, we find these expressions: ‘The world one Phoenix, till another burnes,’ ends the former; ‘One Phoenix borne, another Phoenix burne’ ends the latter (sig. Z3r). These poems are attributed to an unknown author, ‘Ignoto,’ while the two poems prior to these, the first addressed to Apollo and the Pierides and the second dedicated to Sir John Salusbury, are attributed to the ‘Vatum Chorus’ (sigs Z2r, Z2v).

This phrase is a crucial designation. Sidney famously links poets to vates in The Defence of Poesie, where his point is that ancient poets were associated with sacred discourse and with prophecy. Here, the designation probably means something closer to ‘chorus of poets.’ The sonnet ‘To the worthily honor'd Knight Sir John Salisburie’ clearly points to this meaning by creating a group-authored dedication. The juice from the Pierian spring, they say, has come from Apollo's hand, has been ‘infusde in our retentive braine,’ and finally ‘Is now distild thence, through our quilles againe.’ In the second stanza of this poem, we see references to ‘our verse,’ ‘our spirites’ and a collective disavowal of ‘mercenarie’ purposes in favour of the hope that the product will be ‘worthy our selues and you’ (sig. Z2v).

In other words, we ought to read Shakespeare's poem miscellaneously because he may well have written it miscellaneously, as a contribution to a set of poems all on a single theme, as the title page of the ‘Poeticall Essaies’ claims. In his comprehensive study of Loves Martyr, William Matchett is convinced of this compositional process: ‘Shakespeare's contribution adopted the requirements of a planned collection and was not merely, as some scholars have maintained, an odd poem on a vaguely related topic, a miscellaneous piece that Shakespeare happened to have around and was willing to (p.40) donate when asked.’21 Matchett's conclusion relies primarily on the formal judgement that not only Shakespeare's poems but Marston's, Jonson's, and those of ‘Ignoto’ seem to adhere to a pattern of paired poems. The pairing pattern seems more obvious in some cases than others. Jonson's first poem (titled Praeludium) ends with the line, ‘And now an Epode to deepe eares we sing,’ and the next poem, separated by a horizontal line, is titled ‘Epos’ (sig. Aa3v). But as Matchett admits, asserting that all poets create paired poems would not be accurate; Marston's contributions do not fit as well into this pattern, Jonson's third and fourth poems also seem unrelated to one another, and Chapman's contribution is a single poem. If the Vatum Chorus were specifically assigned to create paired poems, they responded quite variously to this request, or ignored it altogether.

The possibility of Shakespeare, Marston, Chapman, and Jonson composing specifically for this miscellany, nevertheless, is a tantalizing one. We have no direct evidence that Shakespeare actively participated in the circulation of manuscript coterie poetry; perhaps the closest we can come is the oft-cited passage in Francis Meres's 1598 Palladis Tamia, in which Meres seems to imply that Shakespeare did in fact circulate ‘his sugred Sonnets among his private friends’ (sigs Oo1v–Oo2r). Less often remarked is that, just prior to this mention of Shakespeare, Meres also claims that Michael Drayton ‘is now in penning in English verse a Poem called Polu-olbion Geographical and Hydrographicall’ (sig. Oo1r). Meres then provides a relatively detailed sketch of Drayton's project. Part of the value of Meres's citation is that it precedes the first (non-dramatic) printing of sonnets by Shakespeare, in the 1599 Passionate Pilgrime. Meres's knowledge of Drayton's Poly-Olbion, some twelve years before its first printing in 1612, provides additional circumstantial evidence that poetic works like Poly-Olbion and Shakespeare's sonnets were circulating in some form before their initial printed publications.22 The hypothesis that Shakespeare closely reserved some of his poetry, while taking great care with the printed publication of others, makes sense if we consider the poetic output of some of Shakespeare's near contemporaries, like Sir Philip Sidney and John Donne.23

There are careful intertextual references within the ‘Poeticall Essaies’ that show how the Vatum Chorus may have been composing, as a diverse group of poets, a single miscellaneous treatment. Some of these, like the related titles and marginal notations drawing attention to phoenix and turtle references, appear likely to have been the work of whoever compiled and arranged the miscellany, likely Robert Chester himself. For example, in Chapman's poem, the line ‘She was to him th’Analisde World of pleasure’ (sig. Aa2v) seems to recur in the title to the penultimate poem, ‘The Phoenix Analysde’ (sig. Bb1v). But in at least one instance, the first of Marston's four poems, it appears likely that composition did indeed proceed in some sort of coterie in which authors had access to one another's verses. Marston's poem seems to follow directly from Shakespeare's ‘Threnos.’ All four of Marston's poems meditate on perfection, but he begins by refuting the finality of Shakespeare's dead birds:

  • (p.41) O Twas a moving Epicedium!
  • Can Fire? can Time? can blackest Fate consume
  • So rare creation? No; tis thwart to sence,
  • Corruption quakes to touch such excellence,
  • Nature exclaimes for Justice, Justice Fate,
  • Ought into nought can never remigrate.
  • (sig. Aa1r)

From this point, Marston's poem enters into a series of meditations on an entity which the speaker struggles to name. He calls it ‘Perfection’ not only in this poem but in the three that follow, and also applies the Latin term Ens, which in early modern English was coming to mean ‘being’ in the metaphysical sense: existence, essence, and the ‘quiddity’ with which beings are endowed (Aa1v).24 These four poems attributed to Marston effect a brief, multi-faceted poetic treatment of perfection. Marston's contribution seems to spring from Shakespeare's, first reacting with contradiction, and then moving into its own, related, full-fledged subject.25 Miscellaneity in this case means that the loosely defined subject has itself spawned several different poetic meditations. Marston, at least, seems to be reading Shakespeare. Reading Shakespeare miscellaneously thus means incorporating ‘Let the bird of lowdest lay’ and ‘Threnos’ into a larger set of poems, and into a more diversified textual effect. (See Figure 2.1 for the page opening that offers a combined view of ‘Threnos’ and the beginning of Marston's section.) The poetic unit, thus expanded, meditates on the confounding unity of the birds, mourns the shocking death of the phoenix-beauty and the turtle-truth, but it also recuperates and reincorporates these entities back into a resurrection narrative that is more consonant with the phoenix myth. Marston creates no mere answer poem. Rather, his poem effects the phoenix's continuing identity. Shakespeare's dead birds ‘in cinders lie,’ while Marston recalls the phoenix to life, by reminding us that fire does not consume, but rather extends, the phoenix. The simple, human terms of Shakespeare's poem (‘dead Birds,’ ‘no posteritie,’ ‘married Chastitie’) are transmuted to Marston's startling new phoenix (sig. Z4v). He calls attention to its metaphysical ‘strangenesse’ but this aspect is united on the page with Shakespeare's simpler, heavier dirge.

The ‘constant fate’ of the phoenix and turtle: miscellaneity and specificity

The previous section argued that reading Shakespeare's poem miscellaneously involves examining the semi-permeable boundaries of the poems in Loves Martyr, especially in the ‘Poeticall Essaies.’ Shakespeare's poem is two poems in one, but his contribution also changes substantially when it is read alongside Marston's. Both poems imply, through their formal, thematic, and material features, that individuality (as inseparability) can occur on several levels. Although it is beyond the scope of this chapter to examine every potential connection, the ‘Poeticall Essaies’ ought to be read as (p.42)

Reading Shakespeare miscellaneously: Ben Jonson, Robert Chester, and the Vatum Chorus of Loves Martyr

Figure 2.1 Loves Martyr: or, Rosalins Complaint (London, 1601), sigs Z4v–Aa1r (By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library)

(p.43) inseparable also from the contributions of Robert Chester in Loves Martyr proper. The polyvocality of the Essaies helps to ease the sense of rupture that occurs multiple times in Chester's section, for example when we are abruptly confronted with ‘Cantoes Alphabet-wise’ and ‘Cantoes Verbally Written’ (sigs S3v, T3r). These are short, highly standardized lyric poems that jar both with Chester's larger narrative poem and with the Essaies. Largely uninspiring wooing poems, they nevertheless provide a startling, human dimension to the often unworldly love both in the Essaies and in the narrative poem. They may grate on readers with their relentless repetition, but they are as well integrated into the collection as any of the elements. If Shakespeare's ‘dead Birds’ and Marston's terms of Platonic idealism and perfection can be said to represent two extreme responses to the given theme of the phoenix and turtle, then the Cantoes suggest that the miscellany should also attempt to bridge these extremes by providing the alternative of a more familiar, Petrarchan, human, and lively amatory poetry.

In other words, Loves Martyr is a copious storehouse of potential ways to respond to the mystery it poses, of how the singular phoenix can unite with the faithful turtle, and what imaginative responses are possible to this rearrangement of standard poetic characters. This copiousness aligns Loves Martyr with other diverse and more ambitiously comprehensive miscellaneous collections of the time, including Songes and Sonettes. But the ‘Cantoes Alphabet-wise’ provide a different kind of miscellaneity. There are twenty-four poems, one for each letter of the alphabet, each one a single seven-line stanza in which each line begins with the given letter. This section of the miscellany thus springs from the commonplace tradition and connects Loves Martyr with its direct contemporaries: Englands Helicon (1600), a poetic compilation of some of the finest pastoral poetry of the age, including Sidney, Spenser, Drayton, Lodge, and others; Englands Parnassus (1600), which proceeds alphabetically by poetical subject, providing snippets of poems and authorial ascriptions; and Bel-vedére, Or the Garden of the Muses (1600), which also proceeds by subject. These turn-of-the-century printed collections of John Bodenham, Nicholas Ling, and Robert Allott reinvigorate the widespread and deeply ingrained habit of commonplace collection, in which the writer systematically organizes the items collected, often either categorically or alphabetically.26 As Stallybrass and Lesser have argued, English vernacular commonplacing occurs in English play texts as well as in the printed productions of the Bodenham circle, signalling a movement toward rendering not only Hamlet but many late sixteenth-and early seventeenth-century English poets worthy of entering into the realm of the timeless sentences, apophthegms, and aphorisms of more revered, classical authors. Heather James, in Chapter 1, also argues that the productions of the Bodenham circle are notable for their jettisoning of the classical tradition in favour of new, modern, vernacular authorities.27 For these critics, one crucial component of the process is an element of de-individuation. Although there are authorial attributions in the printed poetic commonplace book collections of the Bodenham circle, nevertheless the commonplace ‘is the opposite of the topical: suitable in any period, always potentially applicable but never specifically rooted in any given moment or political situation.’28

(p.44) Ben Jonson's contributions to Loves Martyr demonstrate the problems of poetic specificity in this volume. As we have seen above, Loves Martyr has enjoyed a long history of speculative attachment of its narrative elements, principally the ‘characters’ of the phoenix and turtle, to actual people. This mode of reading, of course, ties Loves Martyr to a particular time and place. It requires that the meaning of Loves Martyr and the ‘Poeticall Essaies’ primarily resides in what these poems can tell us about particular poets' responses to, portrayals of, and socio-poetic engagements with the Earl of Essex, or with Sir John Salusbury, or with Lucy, Countess of Bedford. This method of reading reaches its apotheosis in the conjectures of William Matchett, who contends that Chester's collection was originally dedicated to Essex, that it made a serious case for a marriage with Elizabeth, and that its dedicatee was quickly changed to John Salusbury, whose fortunes were waxing and who could serve as a plausible stand-in when disaster struck in 1601.29

With regard to miscellaneous reading, the main problem with this theory is not its practical plausibility (though there are severe limits there too) so much as its insistence that we confine the available meanings of the poems in Loves Martyr to the immediate events and relationships of early 1601. As Jonson's own poems demonstrate in several ways, lyric poems, like the phoenix itself, are not bound to time and place; still less to addressee. Instead, the re-purposing of Jonson's poems in Loves Martyr (and elsewhere) shows the limits of poetic identity when one version of a poem is reborn from the ashes of another. This is all the more important to Jonson's involvement in Loves Martyr because Robert Chester, Sir John Salusbury, and Jonson are all connected textually in a manuscript miscellany, Christ Church MS 184. This manuscript is especially important to the study of Ben Jonson's poetry because it contains an autograph copy of Jonson's poem beginning ‘Genius, where art thou? I should use.’ This poem was first printed in The Under-wood (1640), where it is titled ‘An Ode to James Earle of Desmond, writ in Queene ELIZABETHS time, since lost, and recovered’ and has a slightly different first line. The manuscript version of this poem precedes the Under-wood version by some forty years. It was originally on a loose sheet, and is now bound in Christ Church MS 184, which includes poetry in English and Welsh, and much Welsh heraldry material, some of it related to Sir John Salusbury. The Earl of Desmond is the declared addressee in 1640, but Mark Bland suggests that, since both Jonson and Salusbury were linked to Essex, Jonson may well have first addressed it to Essex, and then suppressed this connection after the events of 1601.30 Beyond the facts that this manuscript poem is on a single sheet in Jonson's hand, and bound into a manuscript miscellany closely connected to Salusbury, Bland presents other persuasive evidence to show that it represents sensitive political material circulating in a restricted manner. The evidence includes an epigrammatic tag attached only to the manuscript version: Nec te quaesiveris extra. In the context of Jonson and Salusbury, Bland translates this as a kind of coded message: ‘Outside of you, you will not have looked for this’ or ‘your thoughts you have kept to yourself, but I have understood them’ or ‘you will not have expected this from someone unknown to you.’31

(p.45) Textual critics are trained to consider that rarest of objects, the autograph poem, to be the defining version of the work, a singular literary phoenix. But ‘Genius where art thou’ / ‘An Ode to James Earle of Desmond’ turns out not to be very phoenix-like at all. It does not define the poem, nor our reception of it, because this and other poems like it are meant to be dispersed across time, occasion, and space: their identities are inherently composite. In their edition of Jonson's works, Herford and Simpson demonstrate this composite identity by duplicating the first 23 lines of the autograph poem alongside their edited version; their copy-text is the version in Underwood rather than the autograph.32 The poem, thus divided and de-individuated, must be read significantly differently depending on whether it is the version in the Christ Church manuscript miscellany or in the printed miscellany context of Jonson's Underwood. As with its final sententious phrase, ‘the poem’ as an individual identity is unsustainable across these different miscellaneous contexts.

I dwell on this poem in its different contexts, which after all is not even in Love's Martyr, because three of Jonson's four poems in the ‘Poetical Essaies’ are similarly repurposed. Most critical attention has gone to the final poem of the collection, ‘Splendor! O more then mortall,’ which exists in a copy dedicated (most likely) to Lucy, Countess of Bedford (sig. Bb1v).33 Far more interesting, for my purpose, is the dual, two-in-one combination of ‘Praeludium’ and ‘Epos,’ since these were more widely circulated in manuscript, including full alternative versions, extracts, and copies of the last line, which is itself extracted by Jonson from Seneca's Phaedra. In National Library of Wales MS 5390D, and Folger MS X.d.246, ‘Praeludium’ (titled ‘Proludium’) is followed by ‘Epos.’ The former manuscript is quite miscellaneous. Jonson's poems are surrounded by poetry by Elizabeth Cary, Sir Henry Wotton, Donne, Raleigh, and many others. There, the poem is thus part of a larger poetical miscellany, with its own particular idiosyncrasies. But Folger MS X.d.246 presents the poems entirely on their own, in what looks to be a fair copy on large conjugate folio sheets. These two poems, also appearing in several manuscripts as extracts, thus represent the full continuum of individuation, partial extraction, and full miscellaneous integration.34

How do we read Jonson's poems then? Three of the four in Loves Martyr guide the reader toward a practice of active attention to commonplacing, that is, to the ways in which sections of poetic objects can be copied, transferred, and re-purposed. The ‘Praeludium’ and ‘Epos’ unit demonstrates the free-floating nature of commonplace extracts in both Loves Martyr and other texts. In Loves Martyr, five different sections of ‘Epos’ are marked with gnomic quotation marks. Three of these have been traced to classical texts, including Gorgias, Horace's first verse epistle, and Seneca's Phaedra. Another section, which does not receive quotation marks, is from Lucian's Demosthenis encomium.35 In other words, those sections which the printed Loves Martyr marks as sententiae from Jonson's ‘Epos’ are themselves a miscellaneous collection of textual snippets excised and translated from a variety of classical sources. These include the brash first four lines on vice, and the last line on sin. It is overwhelmingly these sections of ‘Epos’ which later readers copy into their manuscripts.

(p.46) Jonson's final line, ‘Man may securely sinne, but safely never,’ is a key example of the tensions that arise when commonplacing, miscellaneous compilation, and a strong authorial presence are all combined (sig. Bb1v).36 It is triply marked in the text, since Jonson's poem marks it with the label ‘this Sentence’ in the previous line, and the printed text marks it with both italics and a gnomic quotation mark (see Figure 2.2). Commenting on precisely this phenomenon, Lesser and Stallybrass argue that multiply marked commonplace passages are more likely to arise from an ‘author's involvement’ than from textual interventions by the printer or compiler.37 But, in this case, Jonson's involvement does not simply call attention to his authorship of a quotable line. His sentence is both quotable and quoted; he himself is a textual conduit here, demonstrating the free-floating nature of this bit of text. His source is very likely Seneca's Phaedra (or Hippolytus): ‘scelus aliqua tutum, nulla securum tulit.’ The line is spoken by Phaedra's nurse, who warns against Phaedra's incestuous attraction to her son-in-law. A different translation bears out this torment: ‘Some have commit offence full safe from any bitter blame, / But none without the stinging pricks of conscience did the same.’38

Jonson's line, in Loves Martyr, is an adjusted and re-purposed aphorism. In both his and Seneca's contexts, the line seems to carry an admonitory purpose. Indeed, in Englands Parnassus, where the line (in Jonson's form) is re-copied, it is under the section on ‘Sinne.’39 But its free-floating and multiply valent meaning is never so obvious as when we return to the doomed attempt to restrict its meaning to 1601, to Elizabeth and Essex. A few lines before this point, Jonson's poet asks ‘What savage, brute Affection, / Would not be fearefull to off end a Dame / Of this excelling frame?’ (sig. Bb1r). The offence here is obscure. Certainly it is not incestuous lust. Nor is it likely that references to amorous infidelity should be allegorically understood as Essex's falsity to Queen Elizabeth. If anything, the generalizability and enigmatic nature of ‘Man may securely sinne, but safely neuer’ releases this line to a wide variety of applications.

Though his name appears twice on the final page of Loves Martyr, Jonson's authorship of these poems is doubly dissolved, first into the ‘we’ of the Vatum Chorus40 and second by his own dauntingly learned contributions; these, as we have seen, are made from the reanimated bones of phoenixes past. In fact, three of Jonson's four contributions are reanimated phoenixes: only the eight-line ‘The Phoenix Analysde’ occurs in Loves Martyr exclusively.

Jonson's poems here thus provide a twist to his famous line, of Shakespeare's being ‘not of an age, but for all time.’ For Jonson, Shakespeare, and the other poets, agelessness in this miscellaneous context means a poetry of composites rather than individuals. For that reason, we can also productively read Jonson's final two poems alongside Shakespeare's. To do so is to take seriously one of Shakespeare's key images, of the two who ‘To themselves yet either neither, / Simple were so well compounded’ (sig. Z4r). The compounded simple activates herbal and recipe language paradoxically; something is either a simple or a compound, but not both. When Jonson's ‘The Phoenix Analysde’ is compounded with Shakespeare's poems, particularly (p.47)

Reading Shakespeare miscellaneously: Ben Jonson, Robert Chester, and the Vatum Chorus of Loves Martyr

Figure 2.2 Loves Martyr: or, Rosalins Complaint (London, 1601), sigs Bb1v–Bb2r (By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library)

(p.48) ‘Threnos,’ we can see the blunt materiality of both of their phoenix–turtle depictions. Shakespeare's ‘dead Birds’ seem irrevocably physical things. Their deaths, contradicted and transmuted into perfections in Marston's poems, nevertheless resurface in Jonson's penultimate poem, when the speaker states the possibility that ‘a Bird so amiable, / Do turne into a Woman’ (sig. Bb1v). That woman, in a different manuscript version of the Ode that follows, is Lucy, Countess of Bedford. The blunt physicality of Shakespeare's poem is echoed in Jonson's diction, ‘a Bird’ and ‘a Woman,’ rather than the essences and perfections of Marston. Jonson's praise poem is not completely earthy, however. Its blazon is not of body parts but of the more refined aspects of nobility: ‘her illustrate brightnesse,’ her wit, her ‘judgement (adornd with Learning),’ and, finally, her breath, which is especially sweet because it is mixed with sound. That is, her discourse is praised rather than the more sensual, spiced air associated with the Arabian Phoenix. Yet Jonson also refers to more physical, human matters: the ‘stolne sports of Lovers,’ ‘a naked vestall / Closde in an orbe of Christall,’ and his own (seemingly Petrarchan) wading and drowning in poetic musings (sig. Bb1v–Bb2r). These references, especially with Jonson's more rollicking double rhymes, combine to achieve a mixed tone. We might even see this final poem as a compromise between Shakespeare's and Marston's contributions, one which draws attention to the larger Chester-Salusbury-Shakespeare-Marston-Chapman-Jonson work.

Jonson's phoenix and Shakespeare's phoenix can be seen as a compounded simple, at least here, in this specific miscellaneous context. Jonson's poem allows for the possibility of specific interpretive attachment, but Shakespeare's poem guides our sense of how this compounded, extended portrayal of the phoenix and turtle also releases each poem from singular allegorical attachments. One potential result of this compounded reading method is that Jonson's portrayal ceases to be the more mercenary, and Shakespeare's ceases to be the more detached.41 Rather, they present aspects of the same, larger, more confoundingly undivided portrayal of the phoenix and turtle. The phoenixes and turtles in this poetic miscellany unite and give form to a new dynastic arrangement (Chester's phoenix and turtle, in the midst of Arthurian legend), yet they die and leave no posterity (Shakespeare's version). They are the essence of unnameable perfection (Marston's version), yet they can also seem fleshy and particular (Jonson's versions). ‘Let the bird of lowdest lay,’ then, is not a single, Shakespearean poem at all, but instead a part of this extended poetic treatment. The other poems in its miscellaneous cohort force us to examine other conceptions of the phoenix and turtle, by the Vatum Chorus. These poets refuse a single, allegorical reading of Loves Martyr, especially the act of naming, which combines all the concerns of historicity, attachment of meaning, authorial intention, and community poetics. Rather than Shakespeare or Jonson, it is John Marston who best answers the question of the name, since he pointedly searches for the name of the subject of his poems. He at one point calls it ‘this creature’ (sig. Aa2r), and experiments with the name ‘perfection’ (sig. Aa1v), but even this conceptual and idealized name is too specific. Discarding options, Marston says that ‘All nomination is too straight of sence … No Suburbes[,] all is Mind / As (p.49) farre from spot, as possible defining’ (sig. Aa2r–v). This too-precise naming is what Love's Martyr stubbornly resists.42 It is, as miscellaneous poetry must be, both tightly restricted to its time and place, and free to re-emerge from its spiced fire into the next eon of potential meaning.





(1) Francis Meres, Palladis Tamia. Wits Treasury Being the Second Part of Wits Common Wealth (London: printed by P. Short, for Cuthbert Burbie, and are to be solde at his shop at the Royall Exchange, 1598; STC 17834), sig. Nn4r. All citations are to this edition.

(2) Robert Chester, Loves Martyr: Or, Rosalins Complaint (London, 1601; STC 5119), sig. Aa2r. All citations are to this edition.

(3) See R. van den Broek, The Myth of the Phoenix, According to Classical and Early Christian Traditions (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1972), esp. chapter 10. Commentators have debated whether, as van den Broek puts it, bodies subject to the law of generation and decay ‘can in essence be of one nature’, p. 359. As will become clear, this singular but multiple existence of the phoenix is key to Loves Martyr and to interpreting Shakespeare's poem. The phoenix can be found in English poetry as far back as the eighth or ninth centuries, with a translation of Lactantius's Phoenix, but Petrarch, Ronsard, and Desportes are the more likely contemporary influences. See Hyder Edward Rollins (ed.), The Phoenix Nest, 1593 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1931), pp. ix–x.

(4) The full title encourages allegorical reading: Robert Chester, Loves Martyr: Or, Rosalins Complaint. Allegorically Shadowing the Truth of Love, in the Constant Fate of the Phoenix and Turtle. A Poeme Enterlaced with Much Varietie and Raritie; Now First Translated Out of the Venerable Italian Torquato Caeliano, by Robert Chester. With the True Legend of Famous King Arthur, the Last of the Nine Worthies, Being the First Essay of a New Brytish Poet: Collected Out of Diverse Authenticall Records. To These Are Added Some New Compositions, of Severall Moderne Writers Whose Names Are Subscribed to Their Severall Workes, upon the First Subject: Viz. the Phoenix and Turtle. Mar: – Mutare Dominum Non Potest Liber Notus (London: Imprinted [by R. Field] for E. B[lount], 1601).

(5) Simple operational definitions of miscellanies include Joshua Eckhardt's (manuscript verse miscellanies) and mine (printed verse miscellanies), in The Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature, ed. Alan Stewart and Garrett Sullivan (n. p.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). For more comprehensive studies of the miscellany, see Elizabeth W. Pomeroy, The Elizabethan Miscellanies, Their Development and Conventions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973); Arthur F. Marotti, Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995); Joshua Eckhardt, Manuscript Verse Collectors and the Politics of Anti-Courtly Love Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

(6) See Dominic Baker-Smith, ‘“Great Expectation”: Sidney's death and the poets’, in Jan van Dorsten, Dominic Baker-Smith, and Arthur F. Kinney (eds), Sir Philip Sidney: 1586 and the Creation of a Legend (Leiden: Published for the Sir Thomas Browne Institute [by] J. Brill / Leiden University Press, 1986), pp. 83–103; G. W. Pigman, Grief and English Renaissance Elegy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 57. The Phoenix Nest and Astrophel are miscellaneous compilations guided by Sidney's name and poetry, not books composed on the occasion of his death. On The Phoenix Nest's miscellaneity, see Rollins, Phoenix (p.50) Nest; Marotti, English Renaissance Lyric, pp. 234–235; as an extended elegy to Sidney see Pomeroy, Elizabethan Miscellanies, chapter 5. Marcy L. North's The Anonymous Renaissance: Cultures of Discretion in Tudor-Stuart England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003) considers The Phoenix Nest a semi-anonymous work ‘combin[ing] the best of identity and discretion’, using only initials to credit contributions (p. 72). A key difference between The Phoenix Nest and the Phoenix of Loves Martyr is the fully shadowed identity of the phoenix and turtle (see below).

(7) Marotti, English Renaissance Lyric, esp. pp. 159–171.

(8) Ibid., chapter 1. The fascinating ‘Devonshire Manuscript’ miscellany (BL Add. MS 17492) includes both men's and women's hands and poetry, where, as Elizabeth Heale notes, ‘women are copying and perhaps responding to explicitly misogynist verses.’ Heale, ‘Women and the courtly love lyric: the Devonshire MS (BL Additional 17492)’, The Modern Language Review, 90 (1995), 296–313, at 312.

(9) George Gascoigne, A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres Bounde Up in One Small Poesie. Gathered Partely (by Translation) in the Fyne Outlandish Gardins of Euripides, Ovid, Petrarke, Ariosto, and Others: And Partly by Invention, Out of Our Owne Fruitefull Orchardes in Englande: Yelding Sundrie Sweete Savours of Tragical, Comical, and Morall Discourses, Bothe Pleasaunt and Profitable to the Well Smellyng Noses of Learned Readers (London: Imprinted [by Henrie Bynneman and Henry Middleton] for Richarde Smith, 1573; STC 11635). The poems are at sigs Uiiv–Xiiir. The subsequent prose description claims Gascoigne created these poems in a short time, mostly upon horseback, and in answer to the sundry themes, in sundry metres.

(10) Nevertheless, Googe's single-author miscellany includes others in its pages: the first name to greet the reader after the title page is Alexander Neuyll. Several answer poems are also included, and Googe professes the miscellany's contents were given to a printer by an unscrupulous friend.

(11) Printed miscellanies often display a loose attitude toward ascription; in manuscript miscellanies, attributions can be scarce, conjectured, absent, deliberately truncated, or falsified. On the fluidity of authorship, authorial ascriptions, and editorship in printed miscellanies see Rollins, Marotti, and Wall. For the early history of Passionate Pilgrime attributions, see Hyder Edward Rollins (ed.), A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare: The Poems (Philadelphia and London: J. B. Lippincott, 1938), pp. 538–558; Arthur F. Marotti, ‘Shakespeare's sonnets as literary property’, in Elizabeth D. Harvey and Katharine Eisaman Maus (eds), Soliciting Interpretation: Literary Theory and Seventeenth-century English Poetry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), pp. 143–173, and for a similar case see Rollins (ed.), Brittons Bowre of Delights, 1591 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1933), pp. ix–xvii. On the variety of attitudes toward authorship see Wendy Wall, The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), pp. 95–103.

(12) The ostensible reason for this change is reform, but critics rightly question whether prodigality and reform are strategic postures. See Richard C. McCoy, ‘Gascoigne's “Poëmata Castrata”: the wages of courtly success’, Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts, 27 (1985), 29–55; Gregory Kneidel, ‘Reforming George Gascoigne’, Exemplaria, 10 (1998), 329–370. On censorship see Cyndia Susan Clegg, Press Censorship in Elizabethan England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), chapter 5.

(13) With its own title page, and beginning in a new gathering, this section may have been separable from the main work. For an instance of this phenomenon see Steven K. Galbraith, ‘Spenser's First Folio: the build-it-yourself edition’, Spenser Studies, 21 (2006), 21–49. However, given the second title page's reference to the contents of Loves Martyr, and Salusbury as the dedicatee of both, it is more reasonable to see these as separable but united miscellanies – which, as I am arguing, is a deeply wrought thematic and structural property of the collection as a whole.

(14) See Alexander B. Grosart (ed.), Robert Chester's ‘Loves Martyr, or, Rosalins Complaint’: (1601) with Its Supplement, ‘Diverse Poeticall Essaies’ on the Turtle and Phoenix / by Shakspere, Ben Jonson, George Chapman, John Marston, Etc. (London: Publisht for the New Shakspere Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1878), pp. xxi–lvi; Carleton Brown (ed.), Poems by Sir John Salusbury and Robert Chester (Bryn Mawr: Bryn Mawr College, 1913), pp. liv–lxxiv; Bernard Newdigate, ‘The Phoenix and Turtle: was Lady Bedford the Phoenix?’, Times Literary Supplement (24 October 1936), 862. These theories are reviewed in William Matchett, The Phoenix and the Turtle: Shakespeare's Poem and Chester's Loues Martyr (London: Mouton & Co., 1965), chapter 4. My chapter is indebted to Matchett's work, though I disagree with his conclusions regarding allegorical readings of the collection.

(15) See Marie Axton, The Queen's Two Bodies: Drama and the Elizabethan Succession (London: Royal Historical Society, 1977); Anthea Hume, ‘Love's Martyr, “The Phoenix and the Turtle,” and the aftermath of the Essex rebellion’, Review of English Studies, n.s. 40 (1989), 48–71; J. V. Cunningham, ‘“Essence” and the Phoenix and Turtle’, English Literary History, 19 (1952), 265–276; Walter Ong, ‘Metaphor and the twinned vision (The Phoenix and the Turtle)’, The Sewanee Review, 63 (1955), 193–201; M. C. Bradbrook, ‘“The Phoenix and the Turtle”’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 6 (1955), 356–358.

(16) See Ong, ‘Metaphor and the twinned vision’, esp. 199–201.

(17) I. A. Richards, ‘The sense of poetry: Shakespeare's “The Phoenix and the Turtle”’, Daedalus, 87 (1958), 86–94. Richards takes the poem to be ‘the most mysterious poem in English,’ 86.

(18) William Shakespeare, The Complete Sonnets and Poems, ed. Colin Burrow (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 88.

(19) Matchett finds three voices in Shakespeare's poem: the poet's, Reason's, and those of the ‘chaste wings’ who praise the phoenix and turtle. These voices create a ‘texture of complexities,’ a claim that helps demonstrate how this poem's polyvocality relates to that of the larger collection. Matchett, Phoenix and Turtle, pp. 53–56.

(20) Concerning the rhythm, I agree with Matchett, Phoenix and Turtle, pp. 34–35.

(21) Ibid., p. 78. For the odd conjecture that Shakespeare's printed signature in Loves Martyr is authorial see Boris Borukhov, ‘R. Chester's Love's Martyr and the hyphenated Shakespeare’, Notes and Queries, 58 (2011), 258–260. Borukhov's hypothesis points up the larger problem that we have only internal evidence that there was any common manuscript shared between the poets of Loves Martyr.

(22) For theories on the early circulation of Shakespeare's sonnets see Gary Taylor, ‘Some manuscripts of Shakespeare's sonnets’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 68 (1985), 210–246; Arthur F. Marotti, ‘Shakespeare's sonnets and the manuscript circulation of texts in early modern England’, in Michael Schoenfeldt (ed.), A Companion to Shakespeare's Sonnets (Malden: Blackwell, 2007), pp. 185–203.

(23) There is good evidence that both authors restricted the manuscript circulation of some of their writings on the basis of genre. See H. R. Woudhuysen, Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 1558–1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996); Arthur F. Marotti, John Donne, Coterie Poet (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986), pp. 3–24 and passim.

(24) See OED definitions 1a, 1b, and 2a.

(25) Marston rejects the negativity of Shakespeare's poems and asserts a ‘pseudo-Platonic’ or ‘somewhat Platonic’ position, according to Matchett, Phoenix and Turtle, pp. 85–91. I too think Marston is closely reading Shakespeare's poem, but I disagree with the claim that Marston's lines provided an impetus for Chester to add the last ten lines to his ‘Conclusion’.

(26) See Ann Moss, Printed Commonplace-books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996). Moss shows that Georgius Maior's 1534 printed commonplace book Sententiae veterum poetarum combines poetry with the impetus to collect useful, apothegmatic or argumentative material using ‘the carefully crafted order of the commonplace-heads,’ p. 188.

(27) See Heather James, ‘The first English printed commonplace books and the rise of the common reader’, Chapter 1 above.

(28) Zachary Lesser and Peter Stallybrass, ‘The first literary Hamlet and the commonplacing of professional plays’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 59 (2008), 371–420, at 412. Compare James, ‘The first English printed commonplace books’ on how authority and abstraction are traded for the particularities of here and now, I and you in the process of making poetry and sententiae generalized and common, pp. 25–26. These are, of course, crucial components of lyric poetry, which are founded on, and play with, the particularities of amatory, pastoral, and elegiac deictic relationships. See Joel Fineman, Shakespeare's Perjured Eye: The Invention of Poetic Subjectivity in the Sonnets (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986).

(29) See Matchett, Phoenix and Turtle, chapter 5.

(30) Mark Bland, ‘“As Far from All Reuolt”: Sir John Salusbury, Christ Church MS 184 and Ben Jonson's First Ode’, English Manuscript Studies 1100–1700, 8 (2000), 43–78.

(31) Ibid., 55. These are all very loose elaborations of the original, Persius, Satire 1, which has a literal meaning along the lines of ‘don't look outside yourself.’ But this advice is encased in a larger sentence about Rome's corruption, and the satire viciously probes both literary and social depravities. See Guy Lee, trans., The Satires of Persius: The Latin Text with a Verse Translation (Wolfeboro: Francis Cairns, 1987). The example succinctly demonstrates the untimeliness and transferability of such mottoes. In Persius, the line compels the addressee to seek Rome's corruptions in himself. Jonson's meaning in Christ's Church MS 184 may well be, as Bland implies, that there is a secret understanding between poet and addressee. And for Emerson, who opens Self-reliance with this phrase as an epigraph, the phrase means something entirely different, encapsulated perhaps in ‘trust thyself’ or ‘Man is his own star’ or ‘I suppose no man can violate his nature.’

(32) C. H. Herford, Evelyn Simpson, and Percy Simpson (eds), Ben Jonson (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1925), Vol. 8, pp. 176–180.

(33) Bodleian MS Rawl. Poet. 31, where it is titled ‘To L:C: off: B’ and has a range of textual variants, the most significant of which is probably the first word: ‘Beautye’ rather than (p.53) ‘Splendor!’ For the misguided argument that the Phoenix of Loves Martyr is therefore Countess Bedford see Newdigate, ‘The Phoenix and Turtle: was Lady Bedford the Phoenix?’ As Herford and Simpson conclude in Ben Jonson, Vol. 11, p. 41, ‘all it proves is that he privately re-used the poem which he did not reprint later.’ According to Colin Burrow, poets needed to write ‘verses of praise which are both new and sufficiently abstract to be applied to a number of circumstances’; he assigns these mercenary concerns to the re-purposing of the poem. See Shakespeare, Complete Sonnets and Poems, ed. Burrow, p. 89. Undoubtedly such adaptations occurred, but I am more interested in the idea that ‘the poem’ can retain any sort of unitary identity across these material instantiations.

(34) The extracts of ‘Epos’ are in Folger MS V.a. 219 (extracting two sections with commonplace-marked text in Loves Martyr, and two without); Worcester College, Oxford MS 58 Adjunct (pp. 11–12), where they are subscribed ‘Ben Jo:fforest. Epod. II,’ and reproduce little else than those passages marked as commonplaces; and Bodleian MS Rawl. Poet. 117 (fol. 276vrev), which reproduces only the final couplet. The entire poem, as well as ‘Proludium,’ is copied in Folger MS X.d. 246; this manuscript consists solely of these two poems, on conjugate folio leaves. Descriptions of these manuscripts are from The Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450–1700, ed. Peter Beal. Web (Beta version), accessed 24 July 2011.

(35) George Parfitt (ed.), Ben Jonson: The Complete Poems (New York: Penguin Books, 1996), pp. 513–514.

(36) On epigrams and other short forms easily transferred between oral, manuscript, and print media, and the tensions they create between authorship and unascribed circulation see James Doelman, ‘Circulation of the late Elizabethan and early Stuart epigram’, Renaissance and Reformation, 29 (2005), 59–73; John Mulryan, ‘Jonson's epigrams and the adages of Erasmus: a holistic analysis’, Ben Jonson Journal, 12 (2005), 73–92; and Joseph Loewenstein's brilliant ‘The Jonsonian corpulence, or the poet as mouthpiece’, English Literary History, 53 (1986), 491–518.

(37) Lesser and Stallybrass, ‘Commonplacing of professional plays’, 403.

(38) Jasper Heywood et al., trans., Seneca His Tenne Tragedies, Translated Into Englysh (Imprinted At London In Fleetstreete neere vnto Saincte Dunstans church: by Thomas Marsh, 1581; STC 22221), sig. I2r. Jonson's text highlights the variability of epigram translation and appropriation in his more economical translation of the Latin.

(39) England's Parnassus, compiled by Robert Allot, imprinted at London for N.L[ing]. C.B[urby]. and T.H[ayes]., 1600, sig. S5v.

(40) As Herford and Simpson note, instances of ‘we’ and ‘our’ become ‘I’ and ‘my / mine’ in this poem as it appears in The Forest, 1616. See Ben Jonson, Vol. 8, pp. 107–108. This change potentially tempers the uniqueness of Jonson's poetic voice, especially since Chapman's poem, which precedes Jonson's, is the only one that advances a poetic ‘I.’ However, one also hears the royal ‘we’ in Jonson's poem, perhaps with a ring of poetic sway or sovereignty in the miscellaneous context. Hearing both the communal ‘we’ and the imperial ‘we’ might well be the intended effect here; the double possibility is activated by the context.

(41) This analysis, which seems likely but is hard to substantiate, is Colin Burrow's in Shakespeare, Complete Sonnets and Poems, ed. Burrow, p. 89.

(42) A final irony: the epigram on the title page, Mutare dominum non potest liber notus,’ can be translated as ‘A well-known book cannot change author,’ D. R. Shackleton Bailey, trans., Martial: Epigrams (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), Vol. 1, pp. 90–91. In context the line (1. 66) discourages plagiarism and asserts the author's ownership of both text and meaning. If anything, Loves Martyr shows the opposite: just how mutable its poems, masters, and meanings really are.