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.
 
Now What Is Love?
By Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?–1618)
 
NOW 1 what is Love, I pray thee, tell?
It is that fountain and that well
Where pleasure and repentance dwell;
It is perhaps the sauncing bell 2
That tolls all into heaven or hell:        5
And this is Love, as I hear tell.
 
Yet what is Love, I prithee, say?
It is a work on holiday,
It is December matched with May,
When lusty bloods in fresh array        10
Hear ten months after of the play:
And this is Love, as I hear say.
 
Yet what is Love, good shepherd sain?
It is a sunshine mixed with rain,
It is a toothache or like pain,        15
It is a game where none hath gain;
The lass saith no, yet would full fain:
And this is Love, as I hear sain. 3
 
Yet, shepherd, what is Love, I pray?
It is a yes, it is a nay,        20
A pretty kind of sporting fray,
It is a thing will soon away.
Then, nymphs, take vantage while ye may:
And this is Love, as I hear say.
 
Yet what is Love, good shepherd, show?        25
A thing that creeps, it cannot go,
A prize that passeth to and fro,
A thing for one, a thing for moe,
And he that proves shall find it so;
And, shepherd, this is Love, I trow.        30
 
Note 1. Now what is Love, I pray thee, tell?  Mr. Bullen says: “This poem originally appeared in The Phœnix’ Nest, 1593; it is also printed (in form of a dialogue) in England’s Helicon, 1600, and Davison’s Poetical Rhapsody, 1602. It is ascribed to Raleigh in a MS. list of Davison’s.” (Lyrics from the Elizabethan Song-Books.) As with Prof. Schelling, The Phœnix’ Nest has been inaccessible to me; I quote his note from A Book of Elizabethan Lyrics: “I can find this poem in neither Mr. Bullen’s ed. of England’s Helicon, nor in Nicholas’ ed. of the Rhapsody, moreover neither the older nor the newer ed. of Hannah’s Raleigh mentions it so far as I can discover. The poem does occur in Robert Jones’ Second Book, 1601 (see Bullen, ibid., p. 89), and also in Heywood’s Rape of Lucrece, 1609. I notice that Mr. Gosse appears recently to have accepted it as Heywood’s. (The Jacobean Poets, p. 121.) This seems highly improbable. In the absence of proofs I have no opinion to offer. The somewhat antiquated language, especially the sauncing bell, seems to suggest an early date, however.” [back]
Note 2. Sauncing bell: saints’-bell (quod ad sancta vocat); the little bell that called to prayers. Another form is “sacring bell,” the bell that is sounded at the elevation of the Host. (Bullen.) [back]
Note 3. Sain: p.p. of say. [back]
 
 
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