More on Edward de Vere as “Ever or Never”: Part Two of Reason No. 63 Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

Continuing our discussion of A Never Writer to an Ever Reader, the following post merely touches upon a tremendous amount of evidence that can be pulled together to form a complete picture…

Let us begin by recalling that a translation of Cardanus Comforte  was published in 1573 according to the “commandment” of twenty-three-year-old Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who contributed an eloquent prefatory letter and also a poem of several stanzas.  In the latter, Oxford defied his own social class by complaining that “the laboring man” does all the painful work while “the lord” gets all the benefits of it:

The laboring man that tills the fertile soil,

And reaps the harvest fruit, hath not indeed

The gain, but pain; but if for all his toil

He gets the straw, the lord will have the seed…

For he that beats the bush the bird not gets…

a hundredth - smaller

In the same year appeared what has been called the first English poetry anthology, entitled A Hundredth Sundrie Flowres, with verses attributed to various pen names (such as Ever or Never) plus the real name of Oxford’s friend George Gascoigne.  In one verse are these lines:

Thy brother Troilus eke, that gem of gentle deeds,

To think how abused he was, alas my heart it bleeds:

He beat about the bush, while others caught the birds,

Whom crafty Cresside mocked too much, yet fed him still with words…

Two years later the volume was drastically altered under the title The Posies of George Gascoigne, and to this day most scholars attribute both versions to Gascoigne.  It was not until Edward de Vere was identified as “Shakespeare” in 1920 that it became possible to see that Queen Elizabeth’s government saw fit to have Flowres censored, mangled and republished.

In 1926 B.M. Ward identified Oxford as the editor of Flowres and as the contributor of some sixteen of its poems; but in succeeding years, much more of the anthology has been seen as from his pen – including the eight poems attributed to Ever or Never.  Such insights, in turn, have revealed a great deal of evidence that Flowres was the creation of the young man whose genius would give the world the great works attributed to William Shakespeare.

Most of the early signed poetry of Edward de Vere and also in A Hundredth Sundry Flowres of 1573 was about his relationship to the Queen, with whom he had become passionately and intimately involved.  This was the highly sensitive part – that Oxford and Elizabeth were lovers; and her fickleness and lies had devastated him.  [The same theme is in the Dark Lady sonnets to Elizabeth, deepened by the bitterness and pain that grew within him over the years until her death in 1603, not to mention expressed by the same man in the fullness of his maturity as a writer.]

In “nearly all” the poems in Flowres, the late Charlton Ogburn Jr. wrote, “we read of the ups and downs of the fortunes of love.  In them the lover is paired with a gentlewoman explicitly or implicitly of high degree … I’d settle for most of its being addressed by Oxford to Elizabeth.  One is written to a ‘Gentlewoman’ for whom the poet has been unable to show his affection … Other verses reflect bitterly on the poet’s treatment at the hands of his lady.”

The poems by Ever or Never include lines such as:

My secret parts are so with secret sorrow soken,

As for the secret shame thereof, deserves not to be spoken…

My lord (quod I) this lady here,

Whom I esteem above the rest

[Oxford’s signed sonnet to Elizabeth, written about this time, asked rhetorically:  “Above the rest in Court who gave thee grace?”]

Down fell I then upon my knee,

All flat before dame beauty’s face,

And cried, Good Lady, pardon me,

Which here appeal unto your grace,

You know if I have been untrue,

It was in too much praising you…

[In the Shakespeare sonnets Oxford would continue to use “beauty” for Elizabeth  and/or her Tudor blood.]

Yet let your pity first be placed,

To save the man that meant you good,

So shall you show yourself a Queen,

And I may be your servant seen…

Thus am I Beauty’s bounden thrall,

At her command when she doth call…

[In a signed poem Oxford wrote, “And shall I live on th’earth to be her thrall?/ And shall I sue and serve her all in vain?/ And kiss the steps that she lets fall…”]

There is no cloud that can eclipse so bright a sunne as she…

I smile sometimes although my grief be great…

[In another of his early poems Oxford writes, “I am not as I seem to be,/ Nor when I smile I am not glad:/ A thrall although you count me free,/ I, most in mirth, most pensive sad.”]

In one line by Ever or Never, he writes:  “My muse is tied in chains” and in another verse of Flowres he writes, “My tongue is tied by one constraint” – just as “Shakespeare” will write in Sonnet 85 of “My tongue-tied Muse” and in Sonnet 66 about his art made “tongue-tied by authority.”

We can now draw a line spanning more than three decades connecting Flowres (1573), when the young Oxford who is Ever or Never is already likening himself and Elizabeth to Troilus and Cressida; to Ever or Never writing of himself as Troilus and the Queen as Cressida in Willobie his Avisa (1594); to the Never Writer addressing the Ever Reader of Troilus and Cressida (in the epistle written in 1603, the year before Oxford’s own death, and published in 1609 as by Shakespeare), in which Troilus declares:

True swains in love shall in the world to come

Approve their truths by Troilus: when their rhymes,

Full of protest, of oath and big compare,

Want similes, truth tired with iteration,

As true as steel, as plantage to the moon,

As sun to day, as turtle to her mate,

As iron to adamant, as earth to the centre,

Yet, after all comparisons of truth,

As truth’s authentic author to be cited,

‘As true as Troilus’ shall crown up the verse,

And sanctify the numbers.

A Hundredth Sundrie Flowres

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