Songes and Sonettes

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Introductory notes

The Tottel’s Miscellany was the first printed anthology of English poetry, published by Richard Tottel in 1557. This selection (from the second edition) includes a short poem by Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) on a starving mother consuming her child during the siege of Jerusalem; and a poem by Nicholas Grimald (1519-1562) on the death of the astronomer Zoroas, based on the Alexandreis of Philippe Gualter de Chatillon. In this poem, Zoroas, who is able to predict calamities such as famines and plagues with accuracy, fights the war with total awareness of his impending death. In the language of these poems, hunger, suffering, and death exemplify pathos and heroism.

written by the right honorable Lorde
Henry Haward late Earle of Sur-
rey, and other.

Apud Ricardum Tottel.
Cum privilegio ad impri-
mendum solum.

PUBLISHED BY Apud Richardum Tottel



1.1. Of the mother that eat her childe at the seige of Jerusalem.

IN doubtfull breast whiles motherly pity
With furious famine standeth at debate,
The mother sayth: O chyld unhappy
Returne thy bloud where thou hadst milke of late
Yeld me those limmes that I made unto thee,
And enter there where thou were generate.
For one of body against all nature,
To an other must I make sepulture.




2.1.1. The death of Zoroas, an Egiptian Astronomer, in the first fight, that Alexander had with the Persians.

The Memphite Zor [...]as, a cunning clarke:
To whom the heaven lay open, as his boke:
And in celestiall bodies he could tell
The movyng, metyng, light, aspect, eclips,
And influence, and constellacions all:
What earthly chances would betide: what yere
Of plenty, storde, what signe forwarned derth:
How winter gendreth snow, what temperature
In the primetide doth season well the soyl:
Why somer burns, why autumne hath ripe grapes:
Whether the circle, quadrate may become:
Whether our times heavens harmony can yelde:
Of four begins, among them selves how great
Proporcion is: what sway the erryng lightes
Doth send in course gayn that first movyng heaven:
What grees, one from another distant be:
what starre doth let the hurtfull sire to rage,
Or him more milde what opposition makes:
What fire doth [...] qualify Mavorses fire:
what house ech one doth seke: what planet raignes
Within this hemisphere, or that, small things
I speake, whole heaven he closeth in his brest.
This sage then, in the starres had spied: the fates
Threatned him death, without delay: and sithe
He saw, he could not fatall order change:
Forward he preast, in battayle that he might
Mete with the ruler of the Macedoins:
Of his right hand des [...]rous to be slayne,
The boldest beurn, and worthiest in the felde:
And, as a wight [...]ow weary of his life,
And sekyng death: in first front of his rage,
Comes desperatly to Alexanders face:
At him, with darts, one after other throwes:
With reckles wordes, and clamour him provokes:
And saith, Nectanabs bastard, shamefull stain
Of mothers bed: why losest thou thy strokes,
Cowards among? Turne thee to me, in case
Manhod there be so much left in thy hart:
Come fight with me: that on my helmet weare
Appolloes laurell, both for learnings laude,
And eke for martiall praise: that, in my shield,
The sevenfold sophie of Minerve contein:
A match, more meet, sir king, than any here.
The noble prince amoved, takes ruthe upon
The wilfull wight: and with soft wordes, ayen,
O monstrous man (quod he) what so thou art,
I pray the, lyve: ne do not, with thy death,
This lodge of lore, the Muses mansion marr.
That treasure house this hand shall never spoyl:
My sword shall never bruse that skilfull braine,
Long gatherd heapes of science sone to spyll.
O, how faire frutes may you to mortall men
From wisdomes garden geve? How many may
By you the wiser and the better prove?
what error, what mad moode, what phrensy thee
Perswades to be downe sent to depe Averne:
Where no arts florish, nor no knowledge vails?
For all these sawes, when thus the soverain sayd,
Alighted Zoroas: with sword unsheathed,
The careles king there smot, above the greve,
At thopenyng of his quishes: wounded him
So that the blood down reyled on the ground.
The Macedon perceivyng hurt, gan gnash:
But yet his minde he bent, in any wise,
Him to forbear: set spurs unto his st [...]de,
And turnde away: lest anger of his smart
Should cause revenger hand deale balefull blowes.
But of the Macedonian chieftains knights
One Meleager, could not beare this sight:
But ran upon the said Egyptian reuk:
And cut him in both knees: he fell to ground:
Wherwith a whole rout came of souldiers stern,
And all in pieces hewed the silly seg.
But happily the soule fled to the starre [...]:
Where under him, he hath full sight of all,
Wherat he gased here, with reaching looke.
The Persians wailde such sapience to forgo:
The very fone, the Macedonians wisht.
He wo [...]ld have lived: king Alexander self
Demde him a man, unmete to dye at all:
Who won like praise, for conquest of his yre,
As for stout men in field that day subdued:
Who princes taught, how to discerne a man,
That in his hed so rare a jewell beares.
But over all, those same Camenes, those same
Devine Camenes, whose honour he procurde,
As tender parent doth his daughters weal:
Lamented: and for thankes all that they can,
Do cherish'him deceast, and set him free,
From dark oblivion of devouring death.
This is a selection from the original text


blood, cannibalism, restless, sword

Source text

Title: Songes and Sonettes

Author: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Publisher: Apud Richardum Tottel

Publication date: 1557

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bibliographic name / number: STC (2nd ed.) / 13861 Bibliographic name / number: Case, A.E. Poetical miscellanies, 5(b). / Physical description: 117, [3] leaves Copy from: Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery Reel position: STC / 346:03

Digital edition

Original author(s): Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) tp, image no: 45, image 116-117


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: Britain > poetry

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.