Archive for ‘Historical’

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Lines 175-189 from “The Braggard Captain” by Titus Maccius Plautus

As I hope heav’n’s love,
‘Twere fit the Gods should order and provide,
That all men should not hold their lives alike,
Squar’d by one rule: but as a price is fix’d
On different wares, that so they may be sold
According to their value;—that the bad
Its owner may impoverish by its vileness
So it were just, the Gods in human life
Should make distinction due, and disproportion;
That on the well-disposed they should bestow
A long extent of years; the reprobate
And wicked they should soon deprive of life.
Were this provided, bad men would be fewer,
Less hardily they’d act their wicked deeds
Nor would there be a dearth of honest men.

From: Plautus, Titus Maccius and Thornton, Bonnell (ed. and transl.), The Comedies of Plautus, translated into familiar blank verse, Volume the First, 1772, J. Lister for T. Becket and P. A. de Hondt; R. Baldwin, T. Davies; and R. Davies: London, pp. 183-184.

Date: c200 BCE (original in Latin); 1767 (translation in English)

By: Titus Maccius Plautus (c254 BCE-184 BCE)

Translated by: Bonnell Thornton (1725-1768)

Sunday, 29 July 2018

They Went Forth to Battle, but They Always Fell by Shaemas O’Sheel

They went forth to battle, but they always fell;
Their eyes were fixed above the sullen shields;
Nobly they fought and bravely, but not well,
And sank heart-wounded by a subtle spell.
They knew not fear that to the foeman yields,
They were not weak, as one who vainly wields
A futile weapon; yet the sad scrolls tell
How on the hard-fought field they always fell.

It was a secret music that they heard,
A sad sweet plea for pity and for peace;
And that which pierced the heart was but a word,
Though the white breast was red-lipped where the sword
Pressed a fierce cruel kiss, to put surcease
On its hot thirst, but drank a hot increase.
Ah, they by some strange troubling doubt were stirred,
And died for hearing what no foeman heard.

They went forth to battle but they always fell;
Their might was not the might of lifted spears;
Over the battle-clamor came a spell
Of troubling music, and they fought not well.
Their wreaths are willows and their tribute, tears;
Their names are old sad stories in men’s ears;
Yet they will scatter the red hordes.


Date: 1928

By: Shaemas O’Sheel (1886-1954)

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Fable: Of the Cock and the Fox by John Dennis

A Cock stood Sentry on a Tree,
A shrowd experienc’d creature He,
A damn’d arch Bird, as one shall see.
Him Renard in his rounds espy’d,
And near he drew, and thus he cry’d,
Why how now, Coz! do’st hear the News?
There’s now an universal Truce;
Which must be follow’d by a Peace,
War amongst Animals must cease.
Come down, and let me hug thee, Dear Rogue.
Thought Chanticleer, thou art a meer Rogue,
A damn’d false Dog as e’re told lye,
Ile shew thee a Dog trick by and by.
Friend Renard, this is glorious News,
Who could have hop’d for such a Truce.
And yet I doubt not but it’s true,
For look you hitherwards, come two
Tall hide-bound Curs, who doubtless bring
Expresses to confirm the thing.
The first with meager mien and Phys-grim,
Is he who in single fight slew Isgrim:
The other’s he with whom thy Sire
Did in a close embrace expire.
Full stretch along the plain they scower
And in a minute of an hour,
Will tell us how th’ affair has pass’d.
Ah! Plague and Pox upon their hast;
Cryes Renard, who ran scampering thence,
So scar’d h’ has ne’re left stinking since.
Thus was the wily Beast defeated:
‘Tis just the Cheater should be cheated.

There’s no Man more obnoxious to deceit,
Than an experienc’d, and successful Cheat;
For he presuming on his own address,
Draws deep Security from long Success.
He’s oft too vain, another to suspect,
Now Caution of suspicion is th’ Effect,
And only Caution can from Fraud protect.
Those Sharpers who by cheating throve so fast,
They thought t’ have topp’d upon the World at last;
Did on the sudden one Tarpawlin meet,
Who gull’d them of their Gold and of their Fleet.

From: Dennis, John, Miscellanies in Verse and Prose a Quote, 2004, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oxford, pp. 111-113.

Date: 1693

By: John Dennis (1657-1734)

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Soothsayers by Quintus Ennius

For no Marsian augur (whom fools view with awe),
Nor diviner nor star-gazer, care I a straw;
The Egyptian quack, an expounder of dreams,
Is neither in science nor art what he seems;
Superstitious and shameless, they prowl through our streets,
Some hungry, some crazy, but all of them cheats.
Impostors who vaunt that to others they’ll show
A path, which themselves neither travel nor know.
Since they promise us wealth, if we pay for their pains,
Let them take from that wealth, and bestow what remains.

From: Dunlop, John, History of Roman Literature, From Its Earliest Period to the Augustan Age. In two volumes. Second Edition, Volume I, 1824, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green: London, p. 96.

Date: 2nd century BCE (original in Latin); 1828 (translation in English)

By: Quintus Ennius (c239 BCE-c169 BCE)

Translated by: John Colin Dunlop (1785-1842)

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Military Elegy: Courage by Tyrtæus

Ne’er would I praise that man, nor deign to sing,
First in the race, or strongest at the ring,
Not though he boast a ponderous Cyclop’s force,
Or rival Boreas in his rapid course;
Not tho’ Aurora might his name adore,
Tho’ eastern riches swell his countless store,
Tho’ power and splendour to his name belong,
And soft persuasion dwell upon his tongue,
Tho’ all but god-like valour, were his own:

My muse is sacred to the brave alone;
Who can look carnage in the face, and go
Against the foremost warriors of the foe.

By heaven high courage to mankind was lent,
Best attribute of youth, best ornament.
The man whom blood and danger fail to daunt,
Fearless who fights, and ever in the front,
Who bids his comrades barter useless breath
For a proud triumph, or a prouder death,
He is my theme — He only, who can brave
With single force the battle’s rolling wave,
Can turn his enemies to Might, and fall
Beloved, lamented, deified by all.
His household gods, his own parental land
High in renown, by him exalted stand;
Alike the heirs and founders of his name
Share his deserts and borrow from his fame
He, pierced in front with many a gaping wound,
Lies, great and glorious, on the bloody ground,
From every eye he draws one general tear,
And a whole nation follows to his bier;
Illustrious youths sigh o’er his early doom,
And late posterity reveres his tomb.
Ne’er shall his memorable virtue die,
Tho’ cold in earth, immortal as the sky;
He for his country fought, for her expired:
Oh would all imitate whom all admired!
But if he sleep not with the mighty dead,
And living laurels wreathe his honour’d head,
By old, by young, adored, he gently goes
Down a smooth pathway to his long repose,
Unaltering friends still love his hairs of snow,
And rising elders in his presence bow.
Would ye, like him, the wond’ring world engage,
Draw the keen blade, and let the battle rage!

From: Peter, William (ed.), Specimens of the Poets and Poetry of Greece and Rome by Various Translators, 1848, Carey and Hart: Philadelphia, p. 27.

Date: 7th century BCE (original in Greek); 1848 (translation in English)

By: Tyrtæus (7th century BCE)

Translated by: Francis Hodgson (1781-1852)

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

A New Touch on the Times by Molly Gutridge

Well adapted to the distressing situation of every Seaport Town
By a Daughter of Liberty, living in Marblehead.

Our best beloved they are gone,
We cannot tell they’ll e’er return,
For they are gone the ocean wide,
Which for us now they must provide.

For they go on the roaring seas,
For which we can’t get any ease,
For they are gone to work for us,
And that it is to fill our purse.

We must do as well as we can,
What could women do without man,
They could not do by night or day,
Go round the world and that they’ll say.

They could not do by day or night,
I think that man’s a woman’s delight,
It’s hard and cruel times to live,
Takes thirty dollars to buy a sieve.

To buy sieves and other things too,
To go thro’ the world how can we do,
For times they sure grow worse and worse,
I’m sure it sinks our scanty purse.

Had we a purse to reach the sky,
It would be all just vanity,
If we had that and ten times more,
’Twould be like sand upon the shore.

For money is not worth a pin,
Had we but felt we’ve any thing,
For salt is all the Farmer’s cry,
If we’ve no salt we sure must die.

We can’t get fire nor yet food,
Takes 20 weight of sugar for two foot of wood,
We cannot get bread nor yet meat,
We see the world is naught but cheat.

We cannot now get meat nor bread
By means of which we [shake our head]
All we can get it is but rice
And that is of a wretched price.

And as we go up and down,
We see the doings of this town.
Some say they an’t victuals nor drink,
Others say they are ready to sink.

Our lives they all are tired here,
We see all things so cruel dear,
Nothing now a-days to be got,
To put in kettle nor in pot.

These times will learn us to be wise,
We now do eat what we despis’d:
I now having something more to say,
We must go up and down the Bay.

To get a fish a-days to fry,
We can’t get fat were we to die,
Were we to try all thro’ the town,
The world is now turn’d upside down.

But there’s a gracious GOD above,
That deals with us in tender love,
If we be kind and just and true,
He’ll set and turn the world anew.

If we’ll repent of all our crimes,
He’ll set us now new heavenly times,
Times that will make us all to ring,
If we forsake our heinous sins.

For sin is all the cause of this,
We must not take it then amiss,
Wan’t it for our polluted tongues
This cruel war would ne’er begun.

We should hear no fife nor drum,
Nor training bands would never come:
Should we go on our sinful course,
Times will grow on us worse and worse.

Then gracious GOD now cause to cease,
This bloody war and give us peace!
And down our streets send plenty then
With hearts as one we’ll say Amen!

If we expect to be forgiv’n,
Let’s tread the road that leads to Heav’n,
In these times we can’t rub along.
I now have ended this my song.

From: Gutridge, Molly, A New Touch on the Times, 2013, Early American Imprints: New York.

Date: 1779

By: Molly Gutridge (fl. 1779)

Friday, 29 June 2018

Epigram: A Ship-Wreck’d Sailor by Theodoridas of Syracus

A ship-wreck’d sailor, buried on this coast,
Bids you set sail.
Full many a gallant ship, when we were lost,
Weathered the gale.

From: Wellesley, Henry, Anthologia Polyglotta. A selection of versions in various languages, chiefly from the Greek Anthology, 1849, John Murray: London, p. 300.

Date: 3rd century BCE (original in Greek); 1849 (translation in English)

By: Theodoridas of Syracuse (3rd century BCE)

Translated by: Henry Wellesley (1791-1866)

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Lines 1-14 from “A dutiful invective, against the moste haynous treasons of Ballard and Babington with other their adherents, latelie executed” by William Kempe

What madnes hath so mazd mens minds, that they cānot forsée,
The wretched ends of catives vile, which work by treacherie?
To overthrowe the blessed state, of happie common wealth,
or to deprive their soveraigne prince, of her long wished health.
If feare of God and of his lawes, were clearelie out of minde,
If feare of death (by Princes lawes) might not their dueties binde?
If vtter ruine of the Realme, and spoile of guiltlesse blood?
Might not suffice to stay the rage, of traitors cruell moode?
Yet, might they well consider, howe treasons come to nought,
And alwaies worke their overthrowe, by whom they first were wrought
And what they have pretended, that should on others light,
Hath happened on their cursed corpes, and them confounded quight.
Examples many have bene shewen, which plainly doe expresse,
How never traitor could prevaile, in that his wickednesse.

From: Kempe, William, A dutiful invective, against the moste haynous treasons of Ballard and Babington with other their adherents, latelie executed. Together, with the horrible attempts and actions of the Q. of Scottes and the sentence pronounced against her at Fodderingay. Newlie compiled and set foorth, in English verses: for a New yeares gifte to all loyall English subiects, 2003, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oxford, p. [unnumbered].

Date: 1587

By: William Kempe (d. 1603)

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

King Log – A Fable by Henry William Tytler

‘Tis said the croaking Race, of old,
Of Liberty grown tir’d,
Become seditious, vain and bold
From Jove a King desir’d,
The God, who Men and Croakers rules,
Smil’d at their discontent,
And soon, in pity to the Fools,
A harmless Monarch sent.
Red streams of Light’ning flash’d on high;
Loud Thunder shook the Bog;
And swift descended, from the sky,
A huge unwieldy Log.
Its dashing fall the Nation heard;
And trembled in their caves;
But, when the tumult ceas’d, they rear’d
Their heads above the waves,
At length, approaching by degrees,
And more familiar grown,
The State, with indignation, sees,
A Log upon the Throne.

Again loud clamours fill’d the place,
Their Chiefs, with one accord,
An active Ruler for the Race,
Besought from Heav’n’s high Lord,
The God, to punish discontent,
Denounc’d their future woe
And soon a vengeful Monarch sent,
To give the fated blow.
Lo! from the Lake’s remotest bed,
A hissing voice is heard;
And o’er the waves, his horrid head
A Water-Hydra rear’d.
With crest erect, and sparkling eyes,
He circles round the shores,
In ev’ry creek and corner pries,
And half the Race devours.
Ye Britons, to this Tale, give ear,
Which Æsop told before,
And you may now, with profit, hear,
As Athens did of yore.
Let Opposition cease to grieve
For good, yet unpossess’d,
Live while they may and still believe
The present hour the best.

From: Tytler, Henry William, Miscellanies in Verse, consisting of Poems, Tales, Translations, &c., 1828, Asiatic Press: Calcutta, pp. 252-253.

Date: c1790

By: Henry William Tytler (1752-1808)

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

A Contemplation on Bassets-down-Hill by the most Sacred adorer of the Muses by Anne Kemp

If that exact Appelles now did live.
And would a picture of Elizium give;
He might pourtrai’ of the prospect which this Hill
Doth shew; & make the eie command at will.
Heer’s many a shire whose pleasauntness for fight
Doth yield to the Spectators great delight.
Ther’s a large Field guilded with ceres gold;
Here a green mead doth many Heifers hold;
Ther’s pasture growne with virdant grass, whose store,
Of Argent-sheep shewes th’owner is not poore.
Here springs doe intricate Meanders make
Excelling farr Oblivion’s Lethe Lake.
There woods and Coppisses harbour as many
And sweet melodious Choristers, as any
Elizium yields; whose Philomel’ an lazes
Merit the highest of the Lyrick’s praise
Heer’s Flora deck’t with robes of Or, and Azur,
Fragrently smelling yield’s two senses pleasure.

Hence Zephirus doth breath his gentle gales
Coole on the Hills, and sweet throughout the Vales
How happy are they that in this Climate dwell?
Alas! they can’t their owne sweet welfare tell;
Scarce I my selfe whil’st I am here doe know it
Till I fee it’s Antithesis to shew it.
Here are no smoaking streets, nor howling cryes,
Deafning the eares, nor blinding of the eyes;
No noysome smells t’ infect, and choake the aire;
breeding diseases envious to the Faire.
Deceipt is here exil’d from Flesh, and Bloud:
(Strife only reigns, for all strive to be good.)
With Will his verse I here will make an end
And as the crab doth alwaies backward bend
So, though from this sweet place I goe away
My loyall heart will in this Climate stay.
Thus heartless, doth my worthless body rest
Whilest my heart liveth with the ever blest.


Date: 1658

By: Anne Kemp (fl. 1658)