Chapter One: Original Poems
From Universitätsbibliothek Basel MS L, 7-8,
the diary of Thomas Platter.
A[t] Woodstock Manor. 1555.
Oh fortune, thy wresting, wavering state
Hath fraught with cares my troubled wit,
Whose witness this present prison late
Could bear, where once was joy flown quite.
Thou caused'st the guilty to be loosed
From bands where innocents were enclosed,
And caused the guiltless to be reserved,
And freed those that death had well deserved.
But herein can be nothing wrought.
So God send to my foes as they have thought.
Finis. Elisabetha the prisoner, 1555
Elizabeth wrote these lines in charcoal on a wall at Woodstock Palace, where she was imprisoned by Queen Mary from June 1554 until April 17, 1555. The only extant contemporary texts were transcribed by Continental visitors to the palace (see the textual notes).
Platter's text has been reprinted in Clare Williams, Thomas Platter's Travels in England, 1599 (London, 1937), pp. 220-21, and in Thomas Platter, Beschreibung der Reisen durch Frankreich, Spanien, England und die Niederlande 1595-1600, ed. Rut Keiser (Basel, 1968), 2:859. I am grateful to Dr. Lukas Erne for checking this transcription against the original manuscript at Basel. See G. W. Groos, ed., The Diary of Baron Waldstein (London, 1981), pp. 117, 119, for the text copied at Woodstock by this nobleman in 1600. A third foreign visitor, Paul Hentzner, copied the poem on September 13, 1598. A corrupt version of his transcription was published in Itinerarivm Germaniae, Galliae; Angliae; Italiae; Scriptum a Paulo Hentznero J C (1612), sig. S4v-T1. A mutilated version of the poem in an eighteenth-century hand is found in British Library Add. MS 4457, f. 6.
Woodstock, 1555. John Foxe,
Actes and Monuments (1563), sig. 2nd 4N7v.
Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be.
Quod Elisabeth the prisoner.
According to Foxe, Elizabeth wrote these lines "with her diamond in a glass window" at Woodstock Palace, where, with Poem 1, they were routinely shown to visitors. Unlike Poem 1, however, this couplet was widely disseminated in England during the Queen's reign. It was printed in Foxe's "Book of Martyrs" (six editions during Elizabeth's reign, between 1563 and 1597), as well as in Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), vol. 3, sig. 5S2; in Anthony Munday's A Watch-Woord to Englande (1584), sig. I1; and in the notes to Sir John Harington's translation of Orlando Furioso (1591), sig. 2L2. Manuscript copies include Harington's draft of the Orlando Furioso (British Library Add. MS 18920, f. 322) and two seventeenth-century texts in NLW, Sotheby MS B2, f. 59v.
Royal Library, Windsor Castle,
holograph on the last page of text in a copy
of a French Psalter published in Paris ca. 1520.
No crooked leg, no bleared eye,
No part deformed out of kind,
Nor yet so ugly half can be
As is the inward, suspicious mind.
Your loving mistress,
Elizabeth inscribed these lines when she presented the psalter to a servant or friend at some time before November 17, 1558. Her signature establishes the approximate date, for after her name she drew a square knot with four loops. It mimics the knot that Henry VIII added to his signatures, and was the symbol Elizabeth ordinarily used as princess. She replaced the knot with the letter "R" (for Regina) upon becoming queen.
The text as transcribed here is published by gracious permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The verse and signature occupy most of the bottom half of the printed page and Elizabeth made no effort to present her work as a verse stanza: the lines break at "bleared," "out," "ugly," and "inward."
Folger MS V.b.317, f. 20v.
The doubt of future foes exiles my present joy,
And wit me warns to shun such snares as threatens
For falsehood now doth flow, and subjects' faith
Which should not be if reason ruled or wisdom
weaved the web.
But clouds of joys untried do cloak aspiring minds,
Which turns to rain of late repent by changèd course
The top of hope supposed, the root of rue shall be,
And fruitless all their grafted guile as shortly you
Their dazzled eyes with pride, which great ambition
Shall be unsealed by worthy wights whose foresight falsehood finds.
The daughter of debate, that discord aye doth sow
Shall reap no gain where former rule still peace hath
taught to know.
No foreign, banished wight shall anchor in this port;
Our realm brooks no seditious sects, let them elsewhere
My rusty sword through rest shall first his edge
To poll their tops who seek such change or gape for
The Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, had been held captive in England since 1568 when she fled Scotland after the scandal of her husband's murder. In the fall of 1569, English Catholics led by the earls of Northumberland and Westmorland attempted to
free Mary by force and overthrow the Elizabethan regime. Their uprising, termed the "Northern Rebellion," was effectively suppressed early in the new year. Elizabeth's prophetic and anxious response to this victory saw widespread circulation after Lady Willoughby copied the poem from the Queen's tablet.
This poem circulated in both manuscript and print. Contemporary transcribed copies include the Arundel Harington Manuscript of Tudor Poetry (f. 164v), ed. Ruth Hughey, 2 vols. (Columbus, Oh., 1960); another text from Harington family papers was published in Sir John Harington, Nugae Antiquae, ed. Henry Harington (London, 1769), 1:58-59; London, Inner Temple Petyt MS 538.10, f. 3v; L: Egerton MS 2642, f. 237v; Harleian MS 6933, f. 8; Harleian MS 7392(2), f. 27v; NLW, Ottley Papers; O: Digby MS 138, f. 159; Rawlinson Poet. MS 108, f. 44v. George Puttenham published a version of the poem in The Arte of English Poesie (1589), sig. 2E2v. The copy text has been emended at line 6, "rain" for "rage," and line 16, "poll" for the scribe's possible spelling variant, "pul."
Poems 5a, 5b
Pierpont Morgan Library, PML 7768, first flyleaf, recto.
Genus infoelix vitae
Multum vigilavi, laboravi, presto multis fui,
Stultitiam multorum perpessa sum,
Arrogantiam pertuli, Difficultates exorbui,
--This text refers to the