After dinner, dame Eleanor being no less desirous to have F. J. company than dame Frances was to take him in some pretty trip, they began to question how they might best pass the day: the Lady Eleanor seemed desirous to keep her chamber, but Mistress Frances for another purpose seemed desirous to ride abroad thereby to take the open air. They agreed to ride a mile or twain for solace, and requested F. J. to accompany them, the which willingly granted.
Each one parted from other to prepare themselves, and now began the sport, for when F. J. was booted, his horses saddled, and he ready to ride, he gan miss his Rapier. Whereat all astonied he began to blame his man, but blame whom he would, found it could not be. At last, the Ladies going towards horseback called for him in the base Court and demanded if he were ready. To whom F. J. answered, "Madames, I am more than ready and yet not so ready as I would be," and immediately taking himself in trip, he thought best to utter no more of his conceit, but in haste more than good speed mounted his horse, & coming toward the dames presented himself, turning, bounding, & taking up his courser to the uttermost of his power in bravery. After suffering his horse to breathe himself, he gan also allay his own choler, & to the dames he said, "Fair Ladies, I am ready when it pleaseth you to ride where so you command."
"How ready soever you be, servant," quoth dame Eleanor, "it seemeth your horse is readier at your command then at ours."
"If he be at my command, Mistress," quoth he, "he shall be at yours."
"Gramercy, good servant," quoth she, "but my meaning is that I fear he be too stirring for our company."
"If he prove so, Mistress," quoth F. J., "I have here a soberer palfrey to serve you on."
The Dames being mounted, they rode forthwards by the space of a mile or very near, and F. J. (whether it were of his horse's courage or his own choler) came not so near them as they wished. At last the Lady Frances said unto him, "Master J., you said that you had a soberer horse, which if it be so, we would be glad of your company. But I believe by your countenance, your horse & you are agreed."
F. J., alighting, called his servant, changed horses with him, and overtaking the Dames, said to Mistress Frances: "And why do you think, fair Lady, that my horse and I are agreed?"
"Because by your countenance," quoth she, "it seemeth your patience is stirred."
"In good faith," quoth F. J., "you have guessed a right, but not with any of you."
"Then we care the less, servant," quoth Dame Eleanor.
"By my troth, Mistress," quoth F. J. (looking well about him that none might hear but they two), "it is with my servant, who hath lost my sword out of my chamber."
Dame Eleanor, little remembering the occasion, replied, "It is no matter, servant," quoth she, "you shall hear of it again, I warrant you, and presently we ride in God's peace and I trust shall have no need of it."
"Yet Mistress," quoth he, "a weapon serveth both uses, as well to defend as to offend."
"Now by my troth," quoth Dame Frances, "I have now my dream, for I dreamt this night that I was in a pleasant meadow alone, where I met with a tall Gentleman apparelled in a nightgown of silk all embroidered about with a guard of naked swords, and when he came towards me I seemed to be afraid of him, but he recomforted me saying, 'Be not afraid fair Lady, for I use this garment only for mine own defense: and in this sort went that warlike God Mars what time he taught dame Venus to make Vulcan a hammer of the new fashion.' Notwithstanding these comfortable words, the fright of the dream awaked me, and sithens unto this hour I have not slept at all."
"And what time of the night dreamt you this?" quoth F. J.
"In the grey morning, about dawning of the day. But why ask you?" quoth dame Frances.
F. J. with a great sigh answered, "Because that dreams are to be marked more at some hour of the night then at some other."
"Why are you so cunning at the interpretation of dreams, servant?" quoth the Lady Eleanor.
"Not very cunning, Mistress," quoth F. J., "but guess, like a young scholar."
The dames continued in these and like pleasant talks: but F. J. could not be merry, as one that esteemed the preservation of his Mistress' honor no less then the obtaining of his own delights: and yet to avoid further suspicion, he repressed his passions as much as he could.
The Lady Eleanor, more careless then considerative of her own case, pricking forwards said softly to F. J., "I had thought you had received small cause, servant, to be thus dumpish when I would be merry."
"Alas, dear Mistress," quoth F. J., "it is altogether for your sake that I am pensive."
Dame Frances with courtesy withdrew herself and gave them leave. When as F. J. declared unto his Mistress that his sword was taken out of his chamber, and that he dreaded much by the words of the Lady Frances that she had some understanding of the matter.
Dame Eleanor now calling to remembrance what had passed the same night, at the first was abashed, but immediately (for these women be readily witted) cheered her servant and willed him to commit unto her the salving of that sore. Thus they passed the rest of the way in pleasant talk with dame Frances, and so returned towards the Castle where F. J. suffered the two dames to go together, and he alone unto his chamber to bewail his own misgovernment.
But dame Eleanor (whether it were according to old custom or by wily policy) found mean that night that the sword was conveyed out of Mistress Frances' chamber and brought unto hers, and after redelivery of it unto F. J., she warned him to be more wary from that time forthwards.
Well, I dwell too long upon these particular points in discoursing this trifling history, but that the same is the more apt mean of introduction to the verses which I mean to rehearse unto you, and I think you will not disdain to read my conceit with his invention about declaration of his comedy. The next that ever F. J. wrote then upon any adventure happened between him and this fair Lady, was this, as I have heard him say, and upon this occasion. After he grew more bold & better acquainted with his Mistress' disposition, he adventured one Friday in the morning to go unto her chamber, and thereupon wrote as followeth, which he termed "A Friday's Breakfast."
That selfsame day, and of that day that hour,
When she doth reign that mockt Vulcan the Smith
And thought it meet to harbor in her bower,
Some gallant guest for her to dally with.
That blessed hour, that blist and happy day,
I thought it meet with hasty steppes to go:
Unto the lodge wherein my Lady lay,
To laugh for joy, or else to weep for woe.
And lo, my Lady of her wonted grace,
First lent her lips to me (as for a kiss)
And after that her body to embrace,
Wherein dame nature wrought nothing amiss.
What followed next, guess you that know the trade,
For in this sort, my Fridays feast I made.
This Sonnet is short and sweet, reasonably well, according to the occasion &c.
Many days passed these two lovers with great delight, their affairs being no less politicly governed than happily achieved. And surely I have heard F. J. affirm in sad earnest that he did not only love her, but was furthermore so ravished in Ecstasies with continual remembrance of his delights that he made an Idol of her in his inward conceit. So seemeth it by this challenge to beauty, which he wrote in her praise and upon her name.
Beauty, shut up thy shop and truss up all thy trash,
My Nell hath stolen thy finest stuff & left thee in the lash:
Thy market now is marred, thy gains are gone, god wot,
Thou hast no ware that may compare with this that I have got.
As for thy painted pale, and wrinkles surfled up,
Are dear enough for such as lust to drink of ev'ry cup.
Thy bodies bolst'red out with bombast and with bags,
Thy rolls, thy Ruffs, thy cauls, thy coifs, thy Jerkins & thy jags,
Thy curling and thy cost, thy friesling & thy fare,
To Court, to court with all those toys & there set forth such ware
Before their hungry eyes that gaze on every gest,
And choose the cheapest chaffer still to please their fancy best.
But I whose stedfast eyes could never cast a glance
With wand'ring look amid the press to take my choice, by chance
Have won by due desert a piece that hath no peer
And left the rest as refuse all to serve the market there.
There let him choose that list, there catch the best who can:
A painted blazing bait may serve to choke a gazing man,
But I have slipt thy flower that freshest is of hue,
I have thy corn, go sell thy chaff, I list to seek no new.
The windows of mine eyes are glaz'd with such delight
As each new face seems full of faults that blazeth in my sight.
And not without just cause I can compare her so;
Lo, here, my glove, I challenge him that can or dare say no.
Let Theseus come with club, or Paris brag with brand,
To prove how fair their Helen was that scourg'd the Grecian land,
Let mighty Mars himself, come armed to the field
And vaunt dame Venus to defend with helmet, spear & shield:
This hand that had good hap my Helen to embrace
Shall have like luck to foil her foes & daunt them with disgrace,
And cause them to confess by verdict and by oath
How far her lovely looks do stain the beauties of them both,
And that my Helen is more fair then Paris' wife,
And doth deserve more famous praise then Venus for her life.
Which if I not perform, my life then let me leese,
Or else be bound in chains of change to beg for beauties fees.
By this challenge, I guess that either he was then in an ecstasy or else sure I am now in a lunacy, for it is a proud challenge made to Beauty herself and all her companions, and imagining that Beauty having a shop where she uttered her wares of all sundry sorts, his Lady had stolen the finest away, leaving none behind her but painting, bolstering, forcing, and such like, the which in his rage he judgeth good enough to serve the Court. And thereupon grew a great quarrel when these verses were by the negligence of his Mistress dispersed into sundry hands, and so at last to the reading of a Courtier.
Well, F. J. had his desire if his Mistress liked them, but as I have heard him declare, she grew in jealousy that the same were not written by her, because her name was Eleanor and not Helen. And about this point have been divers and sundry opinions, for this and divers other of his most notable Poems have come to view of the world, although altogether without his consent. And some have attributed this praise unto a Helen, who deserved not so well as this dame Eleanor should seem to deserve by the relation of F. J., and yet never a barrel of good herring between them both. But that other Helen, because she was and is of so base condition as may deserve no manner commendation in any honest judgment, therefore I will excuse my friend F. J. and adventure my pen in his behalf, that he would never bestow verse of so mean a subject. And yet some of his acquaintance, being also acquainted (better than I) that F. J. was sometimes acquainted with Helen, have stood in argument with me, that it was written by Helen and not by Eleanor. Well, F. J. told me himself that it was written by this dame Eleanor, and that unto her he thus alleged, that he took it all for one name, or at least he never read of any Eleanor such matter as might sound worthy like commendation for beauty. And indeed, considering that it was in the first beginning of his writings, as then he was no writer of any long continuance, comparing also the time that such reports do spread of his acquaintance with Helen, it cannot be written less then six or seven years before he knew Helen. Marry, peradventure if there were any acquaintance between F. J. and that Helen afterwards (the which I dare not confess), he might adapt it to her name and so make it serve both their turns, as elder lovers have done before and still do and will do world without end. Amen.
Well, by whom he wrote it, I know not, but once I am sure that he wrote it, for he is no borrower of inventions, and this is all that I mean to prove, as one that send you his verses by stealth and do him double wrong to disclose unto any man the secret causes why they were devised, but this for your delight I do adventure, and to return to the purpose, he sought more certainly to please his Mistress Eleanor with this Sonnet written in her praise as followeth.
The stately Dames of Rome their Pearls did wear
About their necks to beautify their name,
But she (whom I do serve) her pearls doth bear
Close in her mouth, and smiling shows the same.
No wonder then, though ev'ry word she speaks
A Jewel seems in judgment of the wise,
Since that her sug'red tongue the passage breaks
Between two rocks bedeckt with pearls of price.
Her hair of gold, her front of Ivory,
A bloody heart within so white a breast,
Her teeth of Pearl, lips Ruby, crystal eye,
Needs must I honor her above the rest,
Since she is formed of none other mold
But Ruby, Crystal, Ivory, Pearl, and Gold.
Of this Sonnet, I am assured that it is but a translation, for I myself have seen the invention of an Italian, and Master J. hath a little dilated the same, but not much besides the sense of the first, and the addition very aptly applied: wherefore I cannot condemn his doing therein. And for the Sonnet, were it not a little too much praise (as the Italians do most commonly offend in the superlative), I could the more commend it: but I hope the party to whom it was dedicated had rather it were much more than any thing less.
Well, thus these two Lovers passed many days in exceeding contentation & more than speakable pleasures, in which time F. J. did compile very many verses according to sundry occasions proffered, whereof I have not obtained the most at his hands. And the reason that he denied me the same was that (as he alleged) they were for the most part sauced with a taste of glory, as you know that in such cases, a lover being charged with inexprimable joys, and therewith enjoined both by duty and discretion to keep the same covert, can by no means devise a greater consolation than to commit it into some ciphered words and figured speeches in verse, whereby he feeleth his heart half (or more than half) eased of swelling. For as sighs are some present ease to the pensive mind, even so we find by experience that such secret entercomoning of joys doth increase delight.
I would not have you conster my words to this effect, that I think a man cannot sufficiently rejoice in the lucky lots of love unless he impart the same to others. God forbid that ever I should enter into such an heresy, for I have always been of this opinion, that as to be fortunate in love is one of the most inward contentatious to man's mind of all earthly joys: even so, if he do but once bewray the same to any living creature, immediately either dread of discovering doth bruise his breast with an intolerable burden, or else he leeseth the principal virtue which gave effect to his gladness, not unlike to a 'pothecaries pot which, being filled with sweet ointments or perfumes, doth retain in itself some scent of the same, and being poured out doth return to the former state, hard, harsh, and of small savour. So the mind being fraught with delights, as long as it can keep them secretly enclosed, may continually feed upon the pleasant record thereof, as the well willing and ready horse biteth on the bridle, but having once disclosed them to any other, straightway we lose the hidden treasure of the same and are oppressed with sundry doubtful opinions and dreadful conceits. And yet for a man to record unto himself in the inward contemplation of his mind the often remembrance of his late received joys doth, as it were, ease the heart of burden and add unto the mind a fresh supply of delight, yea, and in verse principally (as I conceive), a man may best contrive this way of comfort in himself.
The Adventures of Master F. J. by George Gascoigne, 1573