by Thomas Watson

Sonnets 1-20


Centurie of

Transcribed by Barboura Flues. Web version created by Robert Brazil.
copyright © 2002

Some, but not all, footnotes are derived from the original publication.
Notes that derive from Graves' The Greek Myths are marked (Graves).
Notes from the transcriber are marked (BF).
Words/phrases described in the glossary are underlined.

H e k a t o m p a t h i a
Sonnets 1-20


The Author in this Passion taketh but occasion to open his estate in love; the miserable accidents whereof are sufficiently described hereafter in the copious variety of his devices: and whereas in this Sonnet he seemeth one while to despair, and yet by and by after to hav some hope of good success, the contrariety ought not to offend, if the nature and true quality of a love passion be well considered. And where he mentioneth that once he scorned love, he alludeth to a piece of work which he wrote long since, De Romedio Amoris, which he hath lately perfected, to the good liking of many that have seen and perused it, though not fully to his own fancy, which causeth him as yet to keep it back from the print.

Well fare the life sometimes I led ere this,
When yet no downy hair yclad my face:
My heart devoid of cares did bathe in bliss,
My thoughts were free in every time and place;
   But now (alas) all's foul, which then was fair,
   My wonted joys are turning to despair.
Where then I liv'd without control or check,
Another now is mistress of my mind,
Cupid hath clapt a yoke upon my neck,
Under whose weight I live in servile kind:
   I now cry creak, that ere I scorned love,
   Whose might is more than other Gods above.
I have essayed by labor to eschew
What fancy builds upon a love conceit,
But ne'ertheless my thought revives anew,
Where in fond love is wrapt, and works deceit:
   Some comfort yet I have to live her thrall,
   In whom as yet I find no fault at all.


In this passion the Author describeth in how piteous a case the heart of a lover is, being (as he feigneth here) separated from his own body, and removed into a darksome and solitary wilderness of woes. The conveyance of his invention is plain and pleasant enough of itself, and therefore needeth the less annotation before it.

My heart is set him down twixt hope and fears
Upon the stony bank of high desire,
To view his own made flood of blubbering tears
Whose waves are bitter salt, and hot as fire:
   There blows no blast of wind but ghostly groans
   Nor waves make other noise than piteous moans
As life were spent he waiteth Charon's boat,
And thinks he dwells on side of Stygian lake:
But black despair sometimes with open throat,
Or spiteful jealousy doth cause him quake,
   With howling shrieks on him they call and cry
   That he as yet shall neither live nor die;
Thus void of help he fits in heavy case,
And wanteth voice to make his just complaint.
No flower but Hyacinth in all the place,
No sun comes there, nor any heav'nly saint,
   But only she, which in himself remains,
   And joys her ease though he abound in pains.


This passion is all framed in manner of a dialogue, wherein the Author talketh with his own heart, being now through the commandment and force of love separated from his body miraculously, and against nature, to follow his mistress in hope, by long attendance upon her, to purchase in the end her love and favor, and by that means to make himself all one with her own heart.

Speak gentle heart, where is thy dwelling place?
With her, whose birth the heavens themselves have blest.
What dost thou there? Sometimes behold her face,
And lodge sometimes within her crystal breast:
   She cold, thou hot, how can you then agree?
   Not nature now, but love doth govern me.
With her wilt thou remain, and let me die?
If I return, we both shall die for grief;
If still thou stay, what good shall grow thereby?
I'll move her heart to purchase thy relief;
   What if her heart be hard and stop his cares?
   I'll sigh aloud and make him soft with tears:
If that prevail, wilt thou return from thence?
Not I alone, her heart shall come with me:
Then will you both live under my defense?
So long as life will let us both agree:
   Why then despair, go pack thee hence away,
    I live in hope to have a golden day.



The chief ground and matter of this Sonnet standeth upon the rehearsal of such things as by report of the Poets, are dedicated unto Venus, whereof the Author sometime wrote these three Latin verses.
   Mons Erycinus, Acidalius fons, alba columba,
   Hesperus, ora Pathos, Rofa, Myrtus, et insula Cyprus,
   Idaliumque nemus; Veneri haec sunt omnia sacra.

And Forcatulus the French Poet wrote upon the fame particulars, but more at large, he beginneth thus,
   Est arbor Veneri Myrtus gratissima, flores
   Tam Rosa, quam volucres alba columba praeit.
   Igniserum coeli prae cunctis diligit astris
   Hesperon, Idalium, soepe, adit una nemus, etc.

Sweet Venus, if as now thou stand my friend,
As once thou did'st unto King Priam's son,
My joyful muse shall never make an end
Of praising thee, and all that thou hast done:
Nor this my pen shall ever cease to write
   Of ought, wherein sweet Venus takes delight.
   My temples hedged in with Myrtle boughs
Shall set aside Apelles Laurel tree,
As did Anchises' son, when both his brows         [1]
With Myrtle he beset, to honor thee:
   Then will I say, the Rose of flowers is best.
   And silver Doves for birds excel the rest.
I'll praise no star but Hesperus alone,
Nor any hill but Erycinus mount,
Nor any wood but Idaly alone,
Nor any spring but Acidalian fount,
   Nor any land but only Cyprus shore,
   Nor Gods but Love, and what would Venus more?

1. Materna redimitus tempora Mirto. Virg.



All this Passion (two verses only excepted) is wholly translated out of Petrarch, where he writeth,
   S' amor non e, che dunque e quel ch'i sento? . . Part prima }
   Ma s egli e amor, per Dio che cosa, e quale? . .
Sonnet 103}
   Se buona, ond'e l'effetto aspro e mortale?
   Se ria, ond' e si dolce ogni tormento?

Herein certain contrarieties, which are incident to him that loveth extremely, are lively expressed by a Metaphor. And it may be noted that the Author in his first half verse of this translation varieth from that sense which Chaucer useth in translating the self same; which he doth upon no other warrant than his own simple private opinion, which yet he will not greatly stand upon.

If't be not love I feel, what is it then?
If love it be, what kind a thing is love?
If good, how chance he hurts so many men?
If bad, how haps that none his hurts disprove?
   If willingly I burn, how chance I wail?
   If gainst my will, what sorrow will avail?
O livesome death, O sweet and pleasant ill,
Against my mind how can thy might prevail?
If I bend back, and but refrain my will,
If I consent, I do not well to wail;
   {And touching him, whom will hath made a slave,
   The Proverb say'th of old, Self do, self have.}       [1]
Thus being toss'd with winds of sundry sort
Through dang'rous Seas but in a slender Boat,
With error stuff'd, and driv'n beside the port,
Where void of wisdom's freight it lies afloat.
   I wave in doubt what help I shall require,
   In Summer freeze, in winter burn like fire.

1. Adduntur Tuscano hij duo versus.


This passion is a translation into Latin of the self same sonnet of Petrarch which you read lastly alleged, and cometh somewhat nearer unto the Italian phrase than the English doth. The Author when he translated it, was not then minded ever to have emboldened himself so far as to thrust in foot amongst our English Poets. But being busied in translating Petrarch his sonnets into Latin new-clothed this amongst many others, which one day may perchance come to light: And because it befitteth this place, he is content you survey it here as a probable sign of his daily sufferance in love.

(Latin Poem #3)


This passion of love is lively expressed by the Author, in that he lavishly praiseth the person and beautiful ornaments of his love, one after another as they lie in order. He partly imitateth herein Aeneas Silvius, who setteth down the like in describing Lucretia the love of Euryalus; and partly he followeth Ariosto cant. 7, where he describeth Alcina; and partly borroweth from some others where they describe the famous Helen of Greece: you may therefore, if you please aptly call this sonnet as a Scholar of good judgment hath already Christened it ainh parasitikh.     [1]

Hark you that list to hear what saint I serve:
Her yellow locks exceed the beaten gold;
Her sparkling eyes in heav'n a place deserve;
Her forehead high and fair of comely mold;
   Her words are music all of silver sound;
   Her wit so sharp as like can scarce be found;
Each eyebrow hangs like Iris in the skies;
Her Eagle's nose is straight of stately frame;                [2]
On either cheek a Rose and Lily lies;
Her breath is sweet perfume, or holy flame;
   Her lips more red than any Coral stone;
   Her neck more white than aged Swans that moan;   [3]
Her breast transparent is, like Crystal rock;
Her fingers long, fit for Apollo's Lute;
Her slipper such as Momus dare not mock;               [4]
Her virtues all so great as make me mute:
   What other parts she hath I need not say,
   Whose face alone is cause of my decay.

1. parasitikh: parasitikh.
2. Nasus Aquilinus ex Persarum opinione maiestatem personae arguit.
3. Quale suo reciuit funere carmen Olor. Strozza. et vide Plin. de cantu Olarino lib. 10. nat. hist. cap. 23.
4. Vide Chiliad r. cent. 5 adag. 74. vbi. Erasm. ex Philostrati ad vxorem epistola mutuatur.


Acteon for espying Diana as she bathed her naked, was transformed into a Hart, and soon after torn in pieces by his own hounds, as Ovid describeth at large lib. 3. Metamorph. And Silius Italicus libr. 12. de bello Punico glanceth at it in this manner.
   Fama est, cum laceris Actaeon stebile membris
   Supplicium lueret fpectatae in sonte Dianae,
   Attonitum nouitate mala fugisse parentem
   Per freta Aristeum, etc.

The Author alluding in all this Passion unto the fault of Actaeon, and to the hurt which he sustained, setteth down his own amorous infelicity; as Ovid did after his banishment, when in another sense he applied this fiction unto himself, being exiled (as it should seem) for having at unawares taken Caesar in some great fault: for thus he writeth.
   Cur aliquid vidi, cur noxia lumina feci ? etc.
   Inscius Actaeon vidit fine veste Dianam,
   Praeda suit canibus nec minus ille suis.

Acteon lost in middle of his sport
Both shape and life, for looking but awry,
Diana was afraid he would report
What secrets he had seen in passing by:
   To tell but truth, the self same hurt have I
   By viewing her, for whom I daily die;
I leese my wonted shape, in that my mind
Doth suffer wrack upon the stony rock
Of her disdain, who contrary to kind
Doth bear a breast more hard than any stock;
   And former form of limbs is changed quite
   By cares in love, and want of due delight.
I leese my life in that each secret thought,
Which I conceive through wanton fond regard,
Doth make me say that life availeth nought
Where service cannot have a due reward:
   I dare not name the Nymph that works my smart,
   Though love hath grav'n her name within my heart.


Clytia (as Perottus witnesseth) was a glorious Nymph, and thereof had her name: for kleos in Greek signifieth glory: and therefore she aspired to be the love of Sol himself, who preferring Leucothoe before her, she was in short space over-gone with such extremity of care, that by compassion of the Gods she was transformed into a Marigold; which is significantly called Heliotropium, because even now after change of form she still observeth the rising and going down of her beloved the sun, as Ovid mentioneth,
  Illa suum, quamuis radice tenetur,
  Vertitur ad Solem, mutataque seruat amorem.
Metam. lib. 4.
And by this it may easily be guessed, why in this passion the Author compareth himself with the Marigold and his love unto the Sun.

The Marigold so likes the lovely Sun,
That when he sets the other hides her face,
And when he gins his morning course to run,
She spreads abroad, and shows her greatest grace;
   So shuts or sprouts my joy, as doth this flower,
   When my She-sun doth either laugh or lower.
When she departs my sight, I die for pain,
In closing up my heart with cloudy care;
And yet when once I view her face again,
I straight revive, and joy my wonted fare:
   Therewith my heart oft says, when all is done,
   That heav'n and earth have not a brighter sun.
A jealous thought yet puts my mind in fear,
Lest Jove himself descending from his throne
Should take by stealth and place her in his sphere,
Or in some higher globe to rule alone:
   Which if he should, the heav'ns might boast their prey
   But I (alas) might curse that dismal day.


The Author hath made two or three other passions upon this matter that is here contained, alluding to the loss of his sight and life since the time he first beheld her face, whose love hath thus bewitched him. But here he mentioneth the blindness of Tyresias to proceed of another cause than he doth in those his other Sonnets, And herein he leaneth not to the opinion of the greater sort of Poets, but unto some few, after whom Polytian hath written also, as followeth;
  Baculum dat deinde petentem
 Tyresiae magni, qui quondam Pallada nudam
  Vidit, et hoc raptam penfauit munere lucem.
  Suetus in offensos baculo duce tendere gressus
  Nec deest ipse sibi, quin sacro instincta furore
  Ora movet, tantique parat solatia damni.

Mine eyes die first, which last enjoyed life,     [1]
Not hurt by bleared eyes, but hurt with light
Of such a blazing star as kindleth strife
Within my breast as well by day as night:
   And yet no poisoned Cockatrice lurk'd there,
   Her virtuous beams dissuade such foolish fear.
Besides, I live as yet; though blinded now
Like him, that saw Minerva's naked side,
And lost his sight (poor soul) not knowing how;
Or like to him, whom evil chance betide,
   In straying far to light upon that place,
   Where mid'st a fount he found Diana's grace.
But he alone, who Polyphemus hight,
True pattern was of me and all my woe,
Of all the rest that ever lost their sight:
For being blind, yet love possess'd him so,
   That he each hour on ev'ry dale and hill
   Sung songs of love to a Galatea still.     [2]
1. Quod naturale esse, sit Plinius lib. ii. natur. his c. 36.
2. Galatea, daughter of Nereus, was a water nymph.


In this sonnet is covertly set forth how pleasant a passion the Author one day enjoyed, when by chance he overheard his mistress, whil'st she was singing privately by herself: And soon after into how sorrowful a dump, or sounden ecstasy he fell, when upon the first sight of him she abruptly finished her song and melody.

O Golden bird and Phoenix of our age,
Whose sweet records and more than earthly voice
By wondrous force did then my grief assuage
When nothing else could make my heart rejoice,
   Thy tunes (no doubt) had made a later end,
   If thou had'st known how much they stood my friend.
When silence drown'd the latter warbling note,
A sudden grief eclips'd my former joy,
My life itself in calling Charon's boat
Did sigh, and say that pleasure brought annoy;
   And blam'd mine ear for list'ning to the sound
   Of such a song, as had increas'd my wound.
My heavy heart rememb'ring what was past
Did sorrow more than any tongue can tell;
As did the damned souls that stood aghast,
When Orpheus with his wife return'd from hell:
   Yet who would think that Music which is sweet,
   In curing pains could cause delights to fleet?


The subject of the passion is all one with that which is next before it: but that the Author somewhat more highly here extolleth his lady's excellence, both for the singularity of her voice and her wonderful art in use and moderation of the same. But moreover, in this sonnet, the Author relateth how after the hearing of his mistress sing, his affection towards her by that means was more vehemently kindled than it had been at any time before.

I Marvel aye, why poets heretofore
Extoll'd Arion's harp or Mercury's,     [1]
Although the one did bring a fish to shore,
And th' other as a sign adorn'd the skies.     [2]
   If they with me had heard an Angel's voice,
   They would unsay themselves and praise my choice.
Not Philomela now deserves the prize,
Though sweetly she recount her cause of moan:
Nor Phoebus' art in musical device,
Although his lute and voice accord in one;
   Music herself, and all the Muses nine,
   For skill or voice their titles may resign.
O bitter sweet, or honey mix'd with gall,
My heart is hurt with over-much delight,
Mine ears well pleas'd with tunes, yet deaf withal:
Through music's help love hath increas'd his might;
   I stop mine ears as wise Ulysses bade,
   But all to late, now love hath made me mad.

1. Sic methymnaeo gauisus Arione Dolphin, Martial. lib. 8.
2. Consurgente freto cedit Lyra Cyllenaea Ruff. Fest.


The Author descanteth on forward upon the late effect, which the song of his Mistress hath wrought in him, by augmenting the heat of his former love. And in this passion after he hath set down some miraculous good effects of Music, he falleth into question with himself, what should be the cause why the sweet melody of his Mistress should so much hurt him, contrary to the kind and nature of musical harmony.

AEsclepias did cure with trumpets' sound
Such men as first had lost their hearing quite:
And many such as in their drink lay drown'd
Damon reviv'd with tunes of grave delight:
   And Theophrast when ought his mind oppress'd,
   Us'd music's help to bring himself to rest:
With sound of harp Thales did make recure
Of such as lay with pestilence forlorn:
With Organ pipes Xenocrates made pure
Their wits, whose minds long Lunacy had worn:
   How comes it then, that music in my mind
   Enforceth cause of hurt against her kind?
For since I heard a secret heav'nly song,
Love hath so wrought by virtue of conceit,
That I shall pine upon supposed wrong
Unless she yield, that did me such deceit:
   O ears now deaf, O wits all drown'd in cares,
   O heart surpris'd with plagues at unawares.


The Author still pursuing his invention upon the song of his Mistress, in the last staff of this sonnet he falleth into this fiction: that whilest he greedily laid open his ears to the hearing of his Lady's voice, as one more than half in a doubt, that Apollo himself had been at hand, Love espying a time of advantage, transformed himself into the substance of air, and so deceitfully entered into him with his own great good will and desire, and now by main force still holdeth his possession.

Some that report great Alexander's life,
They say, that harmony so mov'd his mind,
That oft he rose from meat to warlike strife
At sound of Trump, or noise of battle kind,
   And then, that music's force of softer vein
   Caus'd him return from strokes to meat again.
And as for me, I think it nothing strange,
That music having birth from heav'ns above,
By divers tunes can make the mind to change:
For I myself in hearing my sweet Love,
   By virtue of her song both tasted grief,
   And such delight as yielded some relief.
When first I gan to give attentive ear,
Thinking Apollo's voice did haunt the place,
I little thought my Lady had been there:
But whilest mine ears lay open in this case,
   Transform'd to air Love entered with my will,
   And now perforce doth keep possession still.


Still he followeth on which further device upon the late Melody of his Mistress: and in this sonnet doth namely prefer her before Music herself, and all the three Graces; affirming if either he or else Apollo be ordained a judge, to give sentence of their deserts on either side, that then his Lady cannot fail to bear both prick and prize away.

Now Music hide thy face or blush for shame,
Since thou hast heard her skill and warbling voice,
Who far before thyself deserves thy name,
And for a Science should be had in choice:
   Or if thou still thy title wilt retain,
   Equal her song with help of all thy train.
But as I deem, it better were to yield
Thy place to her, to whom the prize belongs,
Then after strife to leese both fame and field.
For though rude Satyrs like Marsyas' songs,
   And Coridon esteem his oaten quill:
   Compare them with her voice, and both are ill.
Nay, which is more, bring forth the Graces three,
And each of them let sing her song apart,
And who doth best twill soon appear by me,
When she shall make reply which rules my heart:
   Or if you needs will make Apollo judge,
   So sure I am to win I need not grudge.


In this passion the Author upon the late sweet song of his Mistress, maketh her his bird; and therewithal partly describeth her worthiness, and partly his own estate. The one part he showeth, by the color of her feathers, by her stately mind, and by that sovereignty which she hath over him: the other, by description of his delight in her company, and her strangeness, and drawing back from a due acceptance of his service.

My gentle bird, which sung so sweet of late,
Is not like those, that fly about by kind,
Her feathers are of gold, she wants a mate,
And knowing well her worth, is proud of mind:
   And whereas some do keep their birds in cage,
   My bird keeps me, and rules me as her page.
She feeds mine ear with tunes of rare delight,
Mine eye with loving looks, my heart with joy,
Wherehence I think my servitude but light,
Although in deed I suffer great annoy:
   And (sure) it is but reason, I suppose,
   He feel the prick, that seeks to pluck the Rose.
And who so mad, as would not with his will
Leese liberty and life to hear her sing,
Whose voice excels those harmonies that fill
Elysian fields, where grows eternal spring?
   If mighty Jove should hear what I have heard,
   She (sure) were his, and all my market marr'd.


The Author not yet having forgotten the song of his mistress, maketh her in this passion a second Phoenix, though not of Arabia, and yet no less acceptable to Apollo, than is that bird of Arabia. And the chief causes why Sol should favor her, he accounteth to be these two, her excellent beauty, and her skill in music, of which two qualities Sol is well known to be an especial chief patron, and sometimes the only author or giver of the same.

If Poets have done well in times long past,
To gloze on trifling toys of little price:
Why should not I presume to fain as fast,
Espying forth a ground of good device?
   A Sacred Nymph is ground whereon I'll write,
   The fairest Nymph that ever yet saw light.
And since her song hath fill'd mine ears with joy,
Her virtues pleas'd my mind, her face mine eye,
I dare affirm what some will think a toy,
She Phoenix is, though not of Araby;
   And yet the plumes about her neck are bright,
   And Sol himself in her hath chief delight.     [1]
You that will know why Sol affords her love,
Seek but the cause why Peacocks draw the place,
Where Juno sits; why Venus likes the Dove;
Or why the Owl befits Minerva's grace;
   Then if you grudge, that she to Sol belong,
   Mark but her face, and hear her skill in song.

1. Vide Plinium Natur. hist. lib. 10 cap. 2.


This sonnet is perfectly pathetical, and consisteth in two principal points: whereof the first containeth an accusation of Love for his hurtful effects and usual tyranny; the second part is a sudden recantation or excuse of the Author's evil words, by casting the same upon the neck of his beloved, as being the only cause of his late frenzy and blasphemous rage so lavishly poured forth in foul speeches.

Love is a sour delight; a sug'red grief;
A living death; an ever-dying life;
A breach of Reason's law; a secret thief;
A sea of tears; an ever-lasting strife;
   A bait for fools; a scourge of noble wits;
   A Deadly wound; a shot which ever hits.
Love is a blinded God; an angry boy;
A Labyrinth of doubts; an idle lust;
A slave to Beauty's will; a witless toy;
A ravening bird, a tyrant most unjust;
   A burning heat; a cold; a flatt'ring foe;
   A private hell; a very world of woe.
Yet mighty Love regard not what I say,
Which lie in trance bereft of all my wits,
But blame the light that leads me thus astray,
And makes my tongue blaspheme by frantic fits:
   Yet hurt her not, left I sustain the smart,
   Which am content to lodge her in my heart.


The Author in this passion reproveth the usual description of love; which old Poets have so long time embraced; and proveth by probabilities that he neither is a child (as they say) not blind, nor winged like a bird, nor armed archer like with bow and arrows, neither frantic, nor wise, nor yet unclothed, nor (to conclude) any God at all. And yet when he hath said all he can to this end, he crieth out upon the secret nature and quality of Love, as being that, whereunto he can by no means attain, although he have spent a long and tedious course of time in his service

If Cupid were a child, as Poets feign,
How comes it then that Mars doth fear his might?
If blind; how chance so many to their pain,
Whom he hath hit, can witness of his sight?
   If he have wings to fly where thinks him best,
   How haps he lurketh still within my breast?
If bow and shafts should be his chiefest tools,
Why doth he set so many hearts on fire?
If he were mad, how could he further fools
To whet their wits, as place and time require?
   If wise, how could so many leese their wits,
   Or dote through love, and die in frantic fits?
If naked still he wander too and fro,
How doth not Sun or frost offend his skin?
If that a God he be, how falls it so,
That all wants end, which he doth once begin?
   O wondrous thing, that I, whom Love hath spent,
   Can scarcely know himself, or his intent.


In this passion the Author being joyful for a kiss, which he had received of his Love, compareth the same unto that kiss, which sometime Venus bestowed upon Aesculapius, for having taken a Bramble out of her foot, which pricked her through the hidden spiteful deceit of Diana, by whom it was laid in her way, as Strozza writeth. And he enlargeth his invention upon the French proverbial speech, which importeth thus much in effect, that three things proceed from the mouth which are to be had in high account: Breath, Speech, and Kissing; the first argueth a man's life; the second, his thought; the third and last, his love.

In time long past, when in Diana's chase
A bramble bush prick'd Venus in the foot,
Old AEsculapius help'd her heavy case
Before the hurt had taken any root:
   Wherehence although his beard were crisping hard
   She yielded him a kiss for his reward.
My luck was like to his this other day,
When she, whom I on earth do worship most,
For kissing me vouchsafed thus to say,
Take this for once, and make thereof no boast:
   Forthwith my heart gave sign of joy by skips,     [1]
   As though our souls had join'd by joining lips.
And since that time I thought it not amiss
To judge which were the best of all these three;
Her breath, her speech, or that her dainty kiss,
And (sure) of all the kiss best liked me:
   For that was it, which did revive my heart
   Oppress'd and almost dead with daily smart.

1. Suquidem opinati sunt aliqui, in osculo fieri animarum combinationem.

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