Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
Elizabeth of Bohemia
By Sir Henry Wotton (1568–1639)
 
YOU 1 meaner beauties of the night,
  That poorly satisfy our eyes
More by your number than your light,
  You common people of the skies;
What are you when the moon shall rise?        5
 
You curious chanters of the wood,
  That warble forth Dame Nature’s lays,
Thinking your passions understood
  By your weak accents; what’s your praise
When Philomel her voice shall raise?        10
 
You violets that first appear,
  By your pure purple mantles known
Like the proud virgins of the year,
  As if the spring were all your own;
What are you when the rose is blown?        15
 
So, when my mistress shall be seen
  In form and beauty of her mind,
By virtue first, then choice, a Queen,
  Tell me, if she were not designed
Th’ eclipse and glory of her kind.        20
 
Note 1. This poem first appeared, with music, in 1624, in Michael Este’s Sixt Set of Books, and was numerously reprinted in divers collections for fifty years afterwards. Sir Henry Wotton, its author, was not the amorous man that his poem paints him. At the time of its writing he was a staid diplomatist of 52. The lady it praises was Elizabeth, daughter of James I. and wife of the Elector Palatine Frederick V., unhappily chosen King of Bohemia, September 19, 1619. Sir Henry, says Quiller-Couch, was employed on several embassies on behalf of this unhappy Queen, whose reign in Prague lasted but one winter. Howell reports in Familiar Letters that in “the Low Countries and some parts of Germany she is called the Queen of Boheme, and for her winning princely comportment the Queen of Hearts.” “Her later life,” says Prof. Schelling (A Book of Elizabethan Lyrics, p. 294), “was one of much trial and vicissitude, through which she appears to have preserved the amiability and something of the levity of the Stuarts.” This poem has been ascribed to Montrose, and even by Robert Chambers, in his Scottish Songs, to “Darnly in praise of Queen Mary before their marriage.” Hannah, quoting Rel. Wotton, records many variations in the words; and Quiller-Couch adds that the poem invited many imitators to add to it stanzas of their own manufacture. Line 1, You meaner beauties: cf. Carew’s line:
  O think not …
Can stoop to common beauties of the sky.
 
 
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