Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
Olden Love-making
By Nicholas Breton (1545–1626)
 
IN 1 time of yore when shepherds dwelt
  Upon the mountain rocks,
And simple people never felt
  The pain of lover’s mocks;
But little birds would carry tales        5
  ’Twixt Susan and her sweeting, 2
And all the dainty nightingales
  Did sing at lovers’ meeting:
Then might you see what looks did pass
  Where shepherds did assemble,        10
And where the life of true love was
  When hearts could not dissemble.
 
Then yea and nay was thought an oath
  That was not to be doubted,
And when it came to faith and troth        15
  We were not to be flouted.
Then did they talk of curds and cream,
  Of butter, cheese and milk;
There was no speech of sunny beam 3
  Nor of the golden silk.        20
Then for a gift a row of pins,
  A purse, a pair of knives,
Was all the way that love begins;
  And so the shepherd wives.
 
But now we have so much ado,        25
  And are so sore aggrievèd,
That when we go about to woo
  We cannot be believèd;
Such choice of jewels, rings and chains,
  That may but favour move,        30
And such intolerable pains
  Ere one can hit on love;
That if I still shall bide this life
  ’Twixt love and deadly hate,
I will go learn the country life        35
  Or leave the lover’s state.
 
Note 1. In time of yore when shepherds dwelt.  This poem was copied from the Cosens MS. by Dr. Grosart, and printed in his ed. of Breton, in Chertsey Worthies’ Library, on p. 19, of Daffodils and Primroses; As the MS. contains poems on the death of Sidney, it is surmised that the date of writing must be shortly after 1586. Mr. Bullen quotes this poem in the Introduction to his Lyrics from Elizabethan Romances, and says: “There can be no harm in quoting here one little poem, a description of love-making in the happy days of pastoral simplicity, when girls did not look for costly presents (rings, chains, etc.) from their lovers, but were content with a row of pins or an empty purse,—the days when truth was on every shepherd’s tongue and maids had not learned to dissemble. Whether there was ever such a time, since our first parents were driven out of Paradise, we need not stop to enquire. The old poets loved to talk about it.” [back]
Note 2. Sweetinge: sweet one. [back]
Note 3. Sunny beam: Prof. Schelling thinks that here the text is apparently corrupt. [back]
 
 
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