Oxford’s Youthful Poetry: How Good (or Bad)?

The following comment about the poetry of Edward de Vere, earl of Oxford comes from Patricia A. McKnight, and I repeat it here because it’s such an important aspect of the authorship debate:

“I refer you to C. Spurgeon’s authoritative research, published in Shakespeare’s Imagery.   She compares the images used by a number of Elizabethan authors — including Marlowe and Ben Jonson — and Edward de Vere — to the images which are most prevalent in Shakespeare’s plays.  She points out that the poems attributed to de Vere are vastly inferior to those of Wm. Shakespeare. She definitively defeats the laughable idea that de Vere could have written Shakespeare’s sonnets or plays.”

Pretty strong, eh?  Well, those of us who conclude that Oxford used the pen name “William Shakespeare” had better answer this one — well, I believe we already have done so, but obviously the matter needs wider attention and debate, and we should be open to all points of view, the better to weigh them.

I encourage all reading this to contribute your own comments, on any side of the matter.

Here’s the preliminary and all-too-brief answer I offered Ms. McKnight:

“Thanks for this comment. I certainly do know of the Spurgeon book and agree that it’s highly regarded. I promise to read through it again and give a response. There are some Oxfordian responses generally — his poetry is youthful stuff, published when he was 26 but written much earlier, even in his teens; his poems were written as songs; and finally, here is that long foreground missing from Stratfordian biography, i.e., the apprenticeship work.

“I will give you some examples of how Oxford’s poetry foreshadows the later Shakespeare work — use of the same words, use of similar clusters of words; use of the same themes, etc.

“But I would rather you cite some examples of what you mean and, too, I’d rather be fully open to what you have concluded with obvious sincerity, which I respect.

“Here is one Oxford poem (actually song lyric), which you probably know:

If women could be fair and yet not fond
[song lyrics]

If women could be fair and yet not fond,
Or that their love were firm not fickle, still,
I would not marvel that they make men bond,
By service long to purchase their good will;
But when I see how frail those creatures are,
I muse that men forget themselves so far.

To mark the choice they make, and how they change,
How oft from Phoebus do they flee to Pan,
Unsettled still like haggards wild they range,
These gentle birds that fly from man to man;
Who would not scorn and shake them from the fist
And let them fly fair fools which way they list.

Yet for disport we fawn and flatter both,
To pass the time when nothing else can please,
And train them to our lure with subtle oath,
Till, weary of their wiles, ourselves we ease;
And then we say when we their fancy try,
To play with fools, O what a fool was I.

Finis. Earle of Oxenforde.

This is where I ended my commentary.  Here’s a remark about Oxford as lyric poet made by J. Thomas Looney in his groundbreaking book “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford, published in 1920:

“What distinguishes Oxford’s work from contemporary verse is its strength, reality, and true refinement.  When Philip Sidney learnt to ‘look into his heart and write,’ he only showed that he had at last learnt a lesson that his rival [Oxford] had been teaching him.  The reader may or may not be able to agree with the ideas and sentiments expressed by Oxford, but he will be unable to deny that every line written by the poet is a direct and real expression of himself in terms at once forceful and choice and no mere reflection of some fashionable pose.  Even in these early years he was the pioneer of realism in English poetry.”

Wow!  Is he right?  Is he wrong?  There’s more to talk about here.  Again I encourage contributions as we delve into Ms. McKnight’s comment, including Shakespeare’s Imagery.

Published in: Uncategorized on June 1, 2009 at 1:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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