Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
The Fay’s Marriage
By Michael Drayton (1563–1631)
Mertilla, Claia, Cloris

A NYMPH 1 is married to a Fay,
Great preparations for the day;
All rites of nuptials they recite you,
To the bridal and invite you.
But will our Tita wed this Fay?
Yea, and to-morrow is the day.
But why should she bestow herself
Upon this dwarfish fairy elf?
Why, by her smallness you may find
That she is of the fairy kind,        10
And therefore apt to choose her make
Whence she did her beginning take:
Besides he’s deft and wondrous airy,
And of the noblest of the Fairy,
Chief of the Crickets of much fame,        15
In Fairy a most ancient name.
But to be brief, ’tis clearly done,
The pretty wench is wooed and won.
If this be so, let us provide
The ornaments to fit our bride;        20
For they knowing she doth come
From us in Elysium,
Queen Mab will look she should be drest
In those attires we think our best;
Therefore some curious things let’s give her,        25
Ere to her spouse we her deliver.
I’ll have a jewel for her ear
(Which for my sake I’ll have her wear),
’Tshall be a dewdrop, and therein
Of Cupids I will have a twin,        30
Which struggling, with their wings shall break
The bubble, out of which shall leak
So sweet a liquor, as shall move
Each thing that smells, to be in love.
Believe me, girl, this will be fine,
And, to this pendent, then take mine;
A cup in fashion of a fly,
Of the lynx’ piercing eye,
Wherein there sticks a sunny ray,
Shot in through the clearest day,        40
Whose brightness Venus’ self did move
Therein to put her drink of love,
Which for more strength she did distil,
The limbeck was a phœnix’ quill;
At this cup’s delicious brink,        45
A fly approaching but to drink,
Like amber, or some precious gum,
It transparent doth become.
For jewels for her ears she’s sped;
But for a dressing for her head        50
I think for her I’ll have a tire
That all the Fairies shall admire:
The yellows in the full-blown rose,
Which in the top it doth inclose,
Like drops of gold ore shall be hung        55
Upon her tresses, and among
Those scattered seeds (the eye to please)
The wings of the cantharides:
With some o’ the rainbow that doth rail
Those moons in, in the peacock’s tail:        60
Whose dainty colours being mixed
With the other beauties, and so fixed,
Her lovely tresses shall appear
As though upon a flame they were.
And, to be sure they shall be gay,        65
We’ll take those feathers from the jay;
About her eyes in circlets set,
To be our Tita’s coronet.
Then, dainty girls, I make no doubt,
But we shall neatly send her out:        70
But let’s amongst ourselves agree
Of what her wedding gown shall be.
Of pansy, pink, and primrose leaves,
Most curiously laid on in threaves:
And, all embroidery to supply,        75
Powdered with flowers of rosemary;
A trail about the skirt shall run,
The silk-worm’s finest, newly spun
And every seam the nymphs shall sew
With the smallest of the spinner’s clue:        80
And having done their work, again
These to the church shall bear her train:
Which for our Tita we will make
Of the cast slough of a snake,
Which, quivering as the wind doth blow,        85
The sun shall it like tinsel show.
And being led to meet her mate,
To make sure that she want no state,
Moons from the peacock’s tail we’ll shred,
With feathers from the pheasant’s head:        90
Mixed with the plume of, so high price,
The precious bird of Paradise;
Which to make up our nymphs shall ply
Into a curious canopy,
Borne, o’er her head, by our enquiry,        95
By elfs, the fittest of the Fairy.
But all this while we have forgot
Her buskins, neighbours, have we not?
We had, for those I’ll fit her now,
They shall be of the lady-cow:        100
The dainty shell upon her back
Of crimson strewed with spots of black;
Which as she holds a stately pace,
Her leg will wonderfully grace.
But then for music of the best,
This must be thought on for the feast.
The nightingale of birds most choice
To do her best shall strain her voice;
And to this bird to make a set,
The marvis, merle, and robinet,        110
The lark, the linnet, and the thrush,
That make a choir of every bush.
But for still music, we will keep
The wren, and titmouse, which to sleep
Shall sing the bride, when she’s alone,        115
The rest into their chambers gone.
And, like those upon ropes that walk,
On gossamer, from stalk to stalk,
The tripping fairy tricks shall play
The evening of the wedding-day.        120
But, for the bride-bed, what were fit,
That hath not been talked of yet.
Of leaves of roses white and red,
Shall be the covering of her bed,
The curtains, valence, tester, all,        125
Shall be the flower imperial:
And for the fringe, it all along
With azure harebells shall be hung:
Of lilies shall the pillows be,
With down stuffed of the butterfly.        130
Thus far we handsomely have gone,
Now for our prothalamion,
Or marriage song, of all the rest
A thing that much must grace our feast.
Let us practise, then, to sing it        135
Ere we before the assembly bring it;
We in dialogues must do it;
Then, my dainty girls, set to it.
This day must Tita married be;
Come, nymphs, this nuptial let us see.        140
But is it certain that ye say?
Will she wed the noble Fay?
Sprinkle the dainty flowers with dews,
Such as the gods at banquets use:
Let herbs and weeds turn all to roses,        145
And make proud the posts with posies:
Shoot your sweets into the air,
Charge the morning to be fair.
Claia and Mertilla
For our Tita is this day
To be married to a Fay.        150
By whom, then, shall our bride be led
To the temple to be wed?
Only by yourself and I;
Who that roomth should else supply?
Come, bright girls, come all together,
And bring all your offerings hither,
Ye most brave and buxom bevy,
All your goodly graces levy,
Come in majesty and state
Our bridal here to celebrate.        160
Mertilla and Claia
For our Tita is this day
Married to a noble Fay.
Whose lot will’t be the way to strow,
On which to church our bride must go?
That I think as fit’st of all
To lively Lelipa will fall.
Summon all the sweets that are,
To this nuptial to repair;
Till with their throngs themselves they smother,
Strongly stifling one another;        170
And at last they all consume,
And vanish in one rich perfume.
Mertilla and Claia
For our Tita is this day
Married to a noble Fay.
By whom must Tita married be?
’Tis fit we all to that should see.
The priest he purposely doth come,
The Arch-Flamen of Elysium.
With tapers let the temples shine,
Sing to Hymen hymns divine;        180
Load the altars till there rise
Clouds from the burnt sacrifice;
With your censers sling aloof
Their smells, till they ascend the roof.
Mertilla and Claia
For our Tita is this day
Married to a noble Fay.
But coming back when she is wed,
Who breaks the cake above her head?
That shall Mertilla, for she’s tallest,
And our Tita is the smallest.        190
Violins, strike up aloud,
Ply the gittern, scour the crowd,
Let the nimble hand belabour
The whistling pipe, and drumbling tabor:
To the full the bagpipe rack,        195
Till the swelling leather crack.
Mertilla and Claia
For our Tita is this day
Married to a noble Fay.
But when to dine she takes her seat,
What shall be our Tita’s meat?        200
The gods this feast, as to begin,
Have sent of their ambrosia in.
Then serve we up the straw’s rich berry,
The respas, and Elysian cherry;
The virgin honey from the flowers        205
In Hybla, wrought in Flora’s bowers;
Full bowls of nectar, and no girl,
Carouse but in dissolved pearl.
Mertilla and Claia
For our Tita is this day
Married to a noble Fay.        210
But when night comes, and she must go
To bed, dear nymphs, what must we do?
In the posset must be brought,
And points be from the bridegroom caught.
In masks, in dances, and delight,
And rare banquets spend the night;
Then about the room we ramble,
Scatter nuts, and for them scramble;
Over stools and tables tumble,
Never think of noise nor rumble.        220
Mertilla and Claia
For our Tita is this day
Married to a noble Fay.
Note 1. This beautiful poem is the Eighth Nimphall in The Muses Elizium, 1630. [back]

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