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.
 
A Bridal Song
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616) or John Fletcher (1579–1625)
 
ROSES, 1 their sharp spines being gone,
Not royal in their smells alone,
          But in their hue;
Maiden pinks, of odour faint,
Daisies smell-less, yet most quaint,        5
          And sweet thyme true;
 
Primrose, first-born child of Ver; 2
Merry spring-time’s harbinger,
          With hare-bells dim;
Oxlips in their cradles growing,        10
Marigolds on deathbeds blowing,
          Larks’-heel trim;
 
All dear Nature’s children sweet
Lie ’fore bride and bridegroom’s feet,
          Blessing their sense!        15
Not an angel of the air,
Bird melodious, or bird fair,
          Be absent hence!
 
The crow, the slanderous cuckoo, nor
The boding raven, nor chough hoar,        20
          Nor chattering pye,
May on our bride house perch or sing,
Or with them any discord bring,
          But from it fly!
 
Note 1. From The Two Noble Kinsmen, 1634. On the title-page of the first ed. of this play Shakespeare’s name is associated with Fletcher’s as joint author. There is naturally much difference of opinion as to the authorship of this song. The weight of authority seems to be against Shakespeare, although from internal evidence, strong arguments can be made against this opinion.
  There are, however, many instances in Fletcher’s lyrical poems when he, without apparent difference, achieves Shakespeare’s manner. Cf. song from Valentinian, Now the lusty spring is seen. Mr. Bullen says: “I have given the song tentatively to Fletcher, but I have a strong suspicion that it is by Shakespeare.” (Lyrics from Elizabethan Dramatists, 1889.) [back]
Note 2. Primrose, first-born child of Ver: the punctuation at the end of this line has heretofore been a comma, which resulted in a certain obscurity in the succeeding line. Mr. Quiller-Couch, in the following interesting note, explains the matter, and his suggestion has been followed in the present text.
  “The opening lines of the second stanza have generally been printed thus:
  “Primrose, first-born child of Ver,
Merry springtime’s harbinger,
          With her bells dim….
and many have wondered how Shakespeare or Fletcher came to write of the bells of a primrose…. I have always suspected, however, that there should be a semicolon after ‘Ver’ and that ‘merry springtime’s harbinger, with her bells dim,’ referred to a totally different flower—the snow-drop, to wit. And I now learn from Dr. Grosart, who has carefully examined the 1634, and early editions, that the text actually gives a semicolon. The snow-drop may very well come after the primrose in the song, which altogether ignores the process of the seasons.” (Adventures in Criticism, pp. 42–3.) [back]
 
 
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