My worthy Lord, I pray you wonder not
To see your woodman shoot so oft awry,
Nor that he stands amazèd like a sot,
And lets the harmless deer unhurt go by.
Or if he strike a doe which is but carren,
Laugh not good Lord, but favor such a fault,
Take will in worth, he would fain hit the barren,
But though his heart be good, his hap is naught.
And therefore now I crave your Lordship's leave,
To tell you plain what is the cause of this.
First, if it please your honor to perceive
What makes your woodman shoot so oft amiss.
Believe me, Lord, the case is nothing strange:
He shoots awry almost at every mark,
His eyes have been so usèd for to range,
That now God knows they be both dim and dark.
For proof he bears the note of folly now,
Who shot sometimes to hit Philosophy,
And ask you why? forsooth I make avow,
Because his wanton wits went all awry.
Next that, he shot to be a man of law,
And spent some time with learnèd Littleton,
Yet in the end he provèd but a daw,
For law was dark and he had quickly done.
Then could he wish Fitzherbert such a brain
As Tully had, to write the law by art,
So that with pleasure, or with little pain,
He might perhaps have caught a truant's part.
But all too late, he most misliked the thing
Which most might help to guide his arrow straight;
He winkèd wrong, and so let slip the string,
Which cast him wide, for all his quaint conceit.
From thence he shot to catch a courtly grace,
And thought even there to weild the world at will,
But, out alas, he much mistook the place,
And shot awry at every rover still,
The blazing baits which draw the gazing eye
Unfeathered there his first affectiön;
No wonder then although he shot awry,
Wanting the feathers of discretiön.
Yet more than them, the marks of dignity
He much mistook, and shot the wronger way,
Thinking the purse of prodigality
Had been best mean to purchase such a prey.
He thought the flattering face which fleereth still,
Had been full fraught with all fidelity,
And that such words as courtiers use at will
Could not have varied from the verity.
But when his bonnet buttonèd with gold,
His comely cap beguarded all with gay,
His bombast hose, with linings manifold,
His knit silk stocks and all his quaint array,
Had picked his purse of all the Peter-pence,
Which might have paid for his promotiön,
Then (all too late) he found that light expense
Had quite quenched out the court's devotiön.
So that since then the taste of misery
Hath been always full bitter in his bit,
And why? forsooth because he shot awry,
Mistaking still the marks which others hit.
But now behold what marks the man doth find:
He shoots to be a solider in his age:
Mistrusting all the virtues of the mind,
He trusts the power of his personage.
As though long limbs led by a lusty heart
Might yet suffice to make him rich again;
But Flushing frays have taught him such a part
That now he thinks the wars yeild no such gain.
And sure I fear, unless your lordship deign
To train him yet into some better trade,
It will be long before he hit the vein
Whereby he may a richer man be made.
He cannot climb as other catchers can,
To lead a charge before himself be led.
He cannot spoil the simple sakeless man,
Which is content to feed him with his bread.
He cannot pinch the painful soldier's pay,
And shear him out his share in ragged sheets,
He cannot stoop to take a greedy prey
Upon his fellows groveling in the streets.
He cannot pull the spoil from such as pill,
And seem full angry at such foul offense,
Although the gain of content his greedy will,
Under the cloak of contrary pretence:
And nowadays, the man that shoots not so,
May shoot amiss, even as your woodman doth:
But then you marvel why I let them go,
And never shoot, but say farewell forsooth:
Alas, my Lord, while I do muse hereon,
And call to mind my youthful years misspent,
They give me such a bone to gnaw upon,
That all my senses are in silence pent.
My mind is rapt in contemplatiön,
Wherein my dazzled eyes only behold
The black hour of my constellatiön
Which framèd me so luckless on the mold.
Yet therewithal I cannot but confess,
That vain presumption makes my heart to swell,
For thus I think, not all the world (I guess)
Shoots bet than I, nay some shoots not so well.
In Aristotle somewhat did I learn,
To guide my manners all by comeliness,
And Tully taught me somewhat to discern
Between sweet speech and barbarous rudeness.
Old Parkins, Rastell, and Dan Bracton's books
Did lend me somewhat of the lawless law;
The crafty courtiers with their guileful looks
Must needs put some experience in my maw:
Yet cannot these with many mast'ries moe
Make me shoot straight at any gainful prick
Where some that never handled such a bow
Can hit the white or touch it near the quick,
Who can nor speak nor write in pleasant wise,
Nor lead their life by Aristotle's rule,
Nor argue well on questions that arise,
Nor plead a case more than my lord mayor's mule,
Yet can they hit the marks that I do miss,
And win the mean which may the man maintain.
Now when my mind doth mumble upon this,
No wonder then although I pine for pain:
And whiles mine eyes behold this mirror thus,
The herd goeth by, and farewell gentle does:
So that your lordship quikly may discuss
What blinds mine eys so oft (as I suppose).
But since my Muse can to my Lord rehearse
What makes me miss, and why I do not shoot,
Let me imagine in this worthless verse,
If right before me, at my standing's foot
There stood a doe, and I should strike her dead,
And then she prove a carrion carcass too,
What figure might I find within my head,
To scuse the rage which ruled me so to do?
Some might interpret with plain paraphrase,
That lack of skill or fortune led the chance,
But I must otherwise expound the case;
I say Jehovah did this doe advance,
And made her bold to stand before me so,
Till I had thrust mine arrow to her heart,
That by the sudden of her overthrow
I might endeavor to amend my part
And turn mine eyes that they no more behold
Such guileful marks as seem more than they be:
And though they glister outwardly like gold,
Are inwardly like brass, as men may see:
And when I see the milk hang in her teat,
Methinks it saith, old babe, now learn to suck,
Who in thy youth coulst never learn the feat
To hit the whites which live with all good luck.
Thus have I told my Lord (God grant in season)
A tedious tale in rhyme, but little reason.
Haud ictus sapio.