To see the Latin text, click on a green square. To see a textual note, click on a blue square.
1. A PARAPHRASE OF THE KING’S EPITAPH ON THE DEATH OF SIR PHILIP SIDNEY
Thou mighty Mars the Lord of souldiers brave,
And thou Minerve, that dois in wit excell,
And thou Apollo, that dois knowledge have,
Of every art that from Parnassus fell
With all you Sisters that thaireon do dwell,
Lament for him, who duelie serv’d you all
Whome in you widely all your arts did mell,
Bewaile (I say) his inexpected fall,
I neede not in remembrance forr to call
His race, his youth, the hope had of him ay
Since that in him doth cruell death appall
Both manhood, wit and learning every way,
But yet he doth in bed of honor rest,
And evermore of him shall live the best.
2. ON THE WONDERFUL YEAR OF 1588
The Pope is seeking to rule God’s kingdom, the King of Spain is seeking to rule the world, and the Duc du Guise seeks dominion over Hell. If they get what they want, this will be a year of wonders.
3. ON KING PHILIP OF SPAIN
Death forestalled his designs, Fortune disdains the defeated. How can he survive? How does he imagine he can surmount? The ambitious old man ambles away. Let him seek a cell, not a camp. Let him be a monk, if he cannot be a monarch.
4. ON THE SAME
Philip’s military enterprise and his fortune are like the sun: they rise in the east, and sink in the west.
5. ON THE SAME
Philip wants to join his eastern realms to those he owns in the west, but the Fates forbids him to conjoin these warring climes.
6. ON THE REBELS WHO FOLLOWED THE DUKE OF PARMA
Why do these timid rebels seek out Parma? These gentlemen require a shield, since they are so feeble with the sword.
7. TO HENRICK GYLDENSTIERNE, GOVERNER OF THE CASTLE OF BOHUS, HIS VERY BELOVED HOST
Such was the virtue, martial glory, and splendor of your ancestors in a family to which a golden star gave its name. It is very praiseworthy of your forebears to consort with the stars, but yours is even greater for having outshone your forefathers, as the sun outshines the stars, since you have gained your nation so many triumphs on the field of war, and your conquering hand has claimed so many trophies. Just as the seas glisten thanks to Phoebus’ rays, so Cimbria shines and cheers thanks to your victories. You are fitly named Gyldenstierne, but this is a name that fails to match your accomplishments. For you, a better name would be Gyldensen.
8. ON THE CHANCELLOR’S COURT
Here the law is sold, not given; it is pronounced but not dispensed, since this court won’t give you a single word for free.
9. ON TYCHO BRAHE’S ISLAND OF URANIBORG
The palace of the Muses, the world’s glory, the rival of Olympus, you nourishing house, you have a name worthy of that goddess.
Everything of wisdom or wonderment possessed by ancient Babylon, Greece, and Memphis, is possessed by this one man and this one house.
If it was a wonder that Hercules went to heaven as a reward for his endurance, or for a boy to be snatched and detained by the gods, how great the man who brought Urania down to earth from lofty Olympus, a man who ought to be counted among the sons of Uranus!
12. ON THE KING OF DENMARK’S BANQUET HALL
Let the gods hold their revels here with their nectar and ambrosia. Lofty Olympus has nothing more august.
13. A STAG SLAIN BY THE KING ADDRESSES HIS MAJESTY
Artfully swift, unmastered by nets, a stag of indomitable strength, James, I have fallen by your hand. This will serve as an omen that the things which others chase after in vain are destined to be obtained by your virtue and your lot in life.
14. ON A CERTAIN NOBLEMAN’S PORTRAIT, WHICH HE SENT TO HIS MISTRESS
I was free, but you have bound me as your captive, my life. If I can capture you in my turn, it will be sweet to be your captive.
15. HER ANSWER
It is foolish to approach so you can be caught, to be deceived by a likeness. Careless birds are not caught by an image.
16. ON LOVE
I don’t want the Venus of Cos, I don’t like Venus when she is purchased at the cost of any effort. Love is unwelcome when it is within your grasp, whereas the love that eludes you sets you afire.
17. ANOTHER ON LOVE
Either let Mother Venus put out the flame of my love, or let my flame set fire to my Venus.
18. ON SOMEONE’S MARRIAGE
Jupiter thundered in heaven, attesting by his lightning that this was a crime, and thus it was an ill-starred marriage.
19. TO A FRIEND ON HIS WEDDING DAY
Let your wedding be happy, your wife fruitful, your home happy, your life cheerful and prosperous, and your household blessed.
20. ON A CERTAIN COURTIER DEPARTING THE COURT BY ROYAL COMMAND
They say that Agathocles dined off earthenware dishes and was satisfied with figs served from a wooden board. For preening yourself for having been lifted up by a quite undeserved honor, the symbol of a lute suits you, my lyre-playing friend. You are unadorned by breeding or virtue, you have no martial glory, only your favor at court singles you out. You should be on guard not to wax proud: at length you must be wise and “know thyself.“ The court spins along with slippery fortune, and you are suffering a fall, What will you do, my ruined friend? You will not make your living with the help of Mars or Pallas. You’re finished, unless Apollo gives you back that disdained lyre.
21. ON HIS PARENTS, LORD LETHINGTON AND HIS WIFE, WHO DIED AT ALMOST THE SAME TIME
These two were joined by one marriage, one mind, and one life and one death. Just as they were one flesh, so they will be one set of remains.
22. THE WIFE ADDRESSES HER HUSBAND
As my life attested my dutifulness, so let my death attest my love. I shall gladly and cheerfully share your tomb, as I did your bed.
23. TO THE MOST SERENE KING OF SCOTS
Neither by my lot in life nor by merits do I deserve such a great gift, noble King, I am at a loss what gift to give in return. Janus will be unjointed if he goes without a gift, our ancestral custom will be ignored, I shall be called a stingy, hapless, helpless ingrate. What gifts can I find, worthy of such a great prince? What can I give you? What private property do I own, being a slave? Without fear of contradiction, I can claim to be yours by right of bond and ownership. Nothing remains for me, all I have is yours.
I give, grant, and dedicate myself to you as my gift. But what present am I giving you, when I am giving you something that is already yours?
Let two-faced Janus and this year bless and increase your scepter: let him return bearing your scepter, let the year pass in fruitfulness.
26. TO A CUCKOLDED LAWYER
Whoever denies that child whom your adulterous wife bore by her lover is legally yours is mistaken. You should have no doubt that an offspring lawfully born to a patron and lawfully reared is born of its father, and you should regard it as legitimate. The title of paterfamilias and the marriage are yours, the statement of your wife and your right as a husband proves to to be such, and its mother presents and dedicates it to you. In law, the right of possession over everything that grows on or falls to the ground belongs to the householder. A tree belongs to the field, crops to cultivated land, and a child to its mother. Thus whatever is sown in your soil is yours.
27. TO THE SAME
He who imagines and swears that another man’s child is his own is a warbler and a cuckoo for feeding a chick born to another bird. Or rather the adulterer is the cuckoo and you’re the warbler, and so you’re wearing the horns. I’ll change what I’ve written and call each man by his proper sobriquet.
Rufinus, while you stand surety that your clients will make their appearance at a stated time, your wife is assuredly playing the whore.
29. ON A PORTRAIT OF TYCHO BRAHE, TO THE ARTIST
Suppose the gods gave you the power to bring your portraits to life, you still couldn’t capture this man with your image and artistry. No art can reproduce the majesty of his face, nor can a small canvas contain such a great hero.
30. TO THE SAME
Your opus is indeed skilled, but it is nevertheless incomplete, since many things worthy of attention are missing: the man’s virtue, intelligence, beauty, and wit. These things cannot be captured by human art or intellect. You want to paint an accurate portrait? Paint God.
31. ON URANIA
What is possessed by Jove’s lofty home, by nature, the world, and the other world, is a wonderful work. Urania is justly separated from the world, because the world does not contain her. She is nature’s rival, just as Tycho is the rival of Jove.
32. TO TYCHO HIMSELF
Tycho, you reveal so many wonders and secrets of nature that you are both nature’s son and its father.
33. TO THE MOST SERENE JAMES VI KING OF SCOTS
You enliven Phoebus and moderate Mars with Apollo, you combine Bellona with the Muses. Alexander the Great was not your equal in intellect, accomplishments, and martial feats, just as learned Homer was not your equal for wit. The Macedonian had not your spirits, nor Homer your character. Neither could be your equal, but you can equal them both.
The nations banded gainst the Lord of might
Prepar’d a force, and set them to the way:
Mars drest himselfe in such an awfull plight,
The like whereof was never seene they say:
They forward came in monstrous aray,
Both Sea and land beset us every where:
Bragges threatned us a ruinous decay,
What came of that? the issue did declare.
The windes began to tosse them here and there,
The Seas begun in foming waves to swell:
The number that escap’d, it fell them faire:
The rest were swallowed vp in gulfes of hell:
But how were all these things miraculous done?
God laught at them out of his heavenly throne.
35. TO PATRICK GRAY
I am not sure whether you are a Paris or a Greek. You have the appearance of fair Paris, being his equal in beauty, gallantry, and love. You do not differ from him in being the light of your nation, nor in your fate and your ill auspices. And yet it was Greek faith that taught you to be Gray.