Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, GASCOIGNE'S WOODMANSHIP, by GEORGE GASCOIGNE

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GASCOIGNE'S WOODMANSHIP, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: My worthy lord, I pray you wonder not
Last Line: A tedious tale in rime, but little reason.
Subject(s): Forests; Gamekeepers; Woods

My worthy Lord, I pray you wonder not,
To see your woodman shoote so ofte awrie,
Nor that he stands amased like a sot,
And lets the harmlesse deare (unhurt) go by.
Or if he strike a Doe which is but carren,
Laugh not good Lord, but favoure such a fault,
Take will in worth, he would faine hit the barren,
But though his harte be good, his happe is naught:
And therefore now I crave your Lordships leave,
To tell you plaine what is the cause of this:
First if it please your honour to perceyve,
What makes your woodman shoote so ofte amisse,
Beleeve me L. the case is nothing strange,
He shootes awrie almost at every marke,
His eyes have bene so used for to raunge,
That now God knowes they be both dimme and darke.
For proofe, he beares the note of follie now,
Who shotte sometimes to hit Philosophie,
And aske you why? forsooth I make avow,
Bicause his wanton wittes went all awrie.
Next that, he shot to be a man of lawe,
And spent sometime with learned Litleton,
Yet in the end, he proved but a dawe,
For lawe was darke and he had quickly done.
Then could he with Fitzharbert such a braine,
As Tully had, to write the lawe by arte,
So that with pleasure or with litle paine,
He might perhaps have caught a trewants parte.
But all to late, he most mislikte the thing,
Which most might helpe to guide his arrow streight:
He winked wrong, and so let slippe the string,
Which cast him wide, for all his queint conceit.
From thence he shotte to catch a courtly grace,
And thought even there to wield the world at will,
But out alas he much mistooke the place,
And shot awrie at every rover still.
The blasing baits which drawe the gazing eye,
Unfethered there his first affection,
No wonder then although he shot awrie,
Wanting the feathers of discretion.
Yet more than them, the marks of dignitie,
He much mistooke and shot the wronger way,
Thinking the purse of prodigalitie,
Had bene best meane to purchase such a pray.
He thought the flattring face which fleareth still,
Had bene full fraught with all fidelitie,
And that such wordes as courtiers use at will,
Could not have varied from the veritie.
But when his bonet buttened with gold,
His comelie cape begarded all with gay,
His bumbast hose, with linings manifold,
His knit silke stocks and all his queint aray,
Had pickt his purse of all the Peter pence,
Which might have paide for his promotion,
Then (all to late) he found that light expence,
Had quite quencht out the courts devotion.
So that since then the tast of miserie,
Hath bene alwayes full bitter in his bit,
And why? forsooth bicause he shot awrie,
Mistaking still the markes which others hit.
But now behold what marke the man doth find,
He shootes to be a souldier in his age,
Mistrusting all the vertues of the minde,
He trusts the power of his personage.
As though long limmes led by a lusty hart,
Might yet suffice to make him rich againe;
But Flushyng fraies have taught him such a parte,
That now he thinks the warres yeeld no such gaine.
And sure I feare, unlesse your lordship deigne,
To traine him yet into some better trade,
It will be long before he hit the veine,
Whereby he may a richer man be made.
He cannot climbe as other catchers can,
To leade a charge before himselfe be led;
He cannot spoile the simple sakeles man,
Which is content to feede him with his bread.
He cannot pinch the painefull souldiers pay,
And sheare him out his share in ragged sheetes,
He cannot stoupe to take a greedy pray
Upon his fellowes groveling in the streetes.
He cannot pull the spoyle from such as pill,
And seeme full angrie at such foule offence,
Although the gayne content his greedie will,
Under the cloake of contrarie pretence:
And now adayes, the man that shootes not so,
May shoote amisse, even as your Woodman dothe:
But then you marvell why I lette them go,
And never shoote, but saye farewell forsooth:
Alas my Lord, while I doe muze hereon,
And call to minde my youthfull yeares myspente,
They give mee suche a boane to gnawe upon,
That all my senses are in silence pente.
My minde is rapte in contemplation,
Wherein my dazeled eyes onely beholde,
The blacke houre of my constellation,
Which framed mee so lucklesse on the molde:
Yet therewithall I can not but confesse,
That vayne presumption makes my heart to swell,
For thus I thinke, not all the worlde (I guesse)
Shootes bet than I, nay some shootes not so well.
In Aristotle somewhat did I learne,
To guyde my manners all by comelynesse,
And Tullie taught me somewhat to discerne
Betweene sweete speeche and barbarous rudenesse.
Olde Parkyns, Rastall, and Dan Bractens bookes.
The craftie Courtyers with their guylefull lookes,
Muste needes put some experience in my mawe:
Yet cannot these with manye maystries mo,
Make me shoote streyght at any gaynfull pricke,
Where some that never handled such a bow,
Can hit the white, or touch it neare the quicke,
Who can nor speake, nor write in pleasant wise,
Nor leade their life by Aristotles rule,
Nor pleade a case more than my Lord Maiors mule,
Yet can they hit the marks that I do misse,
And winne the meane which may the man mainteine,
Nowe when my mynde dothe mumble upon this,
No wonder then although I pyne for payne:
And whyles myne eyes beholde this mirroure thus,
The hearde goeth by, and farewell gentle does:
So that your lordship quickely may discusse
What blyndes myne eyes so ofte (as I suppose).
But since my Muse can to my Lorde reherse
What makes me misse, and why I doe not shoote,
Let me imagine in this woorthless verse:
If right before mee, at my standings foote
There stroode a Doe, and I shoulde strike hir deade,
And then shee prove a carrion carkas too,
What figure might I fynde within my head,
To scuse the rage which rulde mee so to doo?
Some myghte interprete by playne paraphras,
That lacke of skill or fortune ledde the chaunce,
But I muste otherwyse expunde the case,
I say Jehova did this Doe advaunce,
And made hir bolde to stande before mee so,
Till I had thrust myne arrowe to hir harte,
That by the sodaine of hir overthrowe,
I myght endevour to amende my parte,
And turne myne eyes that they no more beholde,
Suche guylefull markes as seeme more than they be:
And though they glister outwardely lyje golde,
Are inwardly but brasse, as men may see:
And when I see the milke hang in hir teate,
Me thinkes it sayth, olde babe nowe learne to sucke,
Who in thy youthe couldst never learne that feate
To hitte the whytes whiche live with all good lucke.
Thus have I tolde my Lorde, (God graunt in season)
A tedious tale in rime, but little reason.

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