“Youthful Verse”: Re-posting Reason 44 of 100 Reasons Shakespeare was the Earl of Oxford

(Note: one or two words below are blue in color and link to advertisements; I am currently unable to remove these pesky things, so please ignore them.)

Some who cling to the traditional Shakespearean biography sneer at Oxford’s poetry, declaring it too inferior to be written by the great author; what these critics may not realize, however, is that many (if not most) of the earl’s signed poems were actually songs. Moreover, most were published in The Paradise of Dainty Devices of 1576, when he was twenty-six, and that he may have written them much earlier. Much later, in The Arte of English Poesie of 1589, he would be cited first among “noblemen and gentlemen of Her Majesty’s own servants, who have written excellently well as it would appear if their doings could be found out and made public with the rest.”

Dr. Louis P. Benezet of Dartmouth College (1876-1961), a pioneer in educational reform, created a string of lines attributed to “Shakespeare” and mixed them with lines attributed to Oxford; then he challenged colleagues in the English Department to guess which lines were from which author.  If they failed to guess correctly (as usually happened), the next question was, “Well, do you think it’s possible that all those lines came from the same poet?”

Following is a section of that test, using some of Benezet’s examples with some new ones I’ve thrown in; this is followed by a section with the same lines plus the name of the author – Oxford or Shakespeare – to whom they are attributed. It’s not scientific and “proves” nothing; but before looking at the answers, try guessing which lines come from “Shakespeare” and which from Oxford:

Who taught thee how to make me love thee more

The more I hear and see just cause of hate?

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy

In true plain words by thy true telling friend

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

The Earl of Oxford’s initials E.O. are on the cover page of The Paradyse of Dainty Devices, 1576, with Edward de Vere’s early poems and songs among the collection

If women would be fair, and yet not fond

Or that their love were firm and not fickle still

For if I should despair, I should go mad

And shall I live on th’earth to be her thrall?

A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed

And since my mind, my wit, my head, my voice, and tongue are weak

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming

If care or skill could conquer vain desire

Or reason’s reins my strong affection stay

Past cure I am, now reason is past care

My death delayed to keep from life the harm of hapless days

Desire is death, which physic did except

I saw a fair young lady come, her secret fears to wail

A plaintful story from a sistering vale

The Answers:

Who taught thee how to make me love thee more

The more I hear and see just cause of hate?

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 150, lines 9-10

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure

= Oxford, Rawlinson MS, “Earl of Oxenforde”

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 152, line 10

In true plain words by thy true telling friend

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 82, line 12

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

= Oxford, Rawlinson MS (“Earl of Oxenforde”)

If women would be fair, and yet not fond

Or that their love were firm and not fickle still

= Oxford, Britton’s Bower of Delights

For if I should despair, I should go mad

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 140, line 9

And shall I live on th’earth to be her thrall?

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Device (“E.O.”), 1576

A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 133, line 8

And since my mind, my wit, my head, my voice, and tongue are weak

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, (“E.O.”), 1576

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 102, line 1

If care or skill could conquer vain desire

Or reason’s reins my strong affection stay

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices (“E.O.”) in 1577 edition

Past cure I am, now reason is past care

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 147, line 9

My death delayed to keep from life the harm of hapless days

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices (“E.O.”), 1576

Desire is death, which physic did except

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 147, line 8

I saw a fair young lady come, her secret fears to wail

= Oxford, “Verses made by the Earle of Oxforde,” Rawlinson MS

A plaintful story from a sistering vale

= Shakespeare, A Lover’s Complaint, line 2

There are hundreds of similarities between writings attributed to Oxford and to “Shakespeare,” for example:

= Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66:

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry:

As, to behold desert a beggar born

= Oxford:

Experience of my youth, made think humble truth

In deserts born

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 89:

As I’ll myself disgrace; knowing thy will,

I will acquaintance and look strange,

Be absent from thy walks, and in my tongue

Thy sweet beloved name no more shall dwell.

= Oxford:

Thus farewell, friend: I will continue strange,

Thou shalt not hear by word or writing aught.

Let it suffice, my vow shall never change;

As for the rest, I leave it to thy thought.

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 114:

And my great mind most kingly drinks it up

= Oxford:

My mind to me a kingdom is

Can it be that the poetry Oxford wrote during his youth is the missing early work – the all-important apprenticeship – of the young Shakespeare? If we went looking for evidence of Shakespeare’s early poetry, the verses attributed to de Vere when he was young are exactly what we should expect to find. The other side of that coin seems true as well: that the more mature poems and sonnets attributed to “Shakespeare” are exactly what we should expect to find from the pen of the older, more experienced de Vere; and that, of course, leads to the conclusion that, in fact, Oxford’s mature poetry was published under the “Shakespeare” pen name.

Note: This blog post is now number 21 in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.

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