The manuscript circulation of erotic poetry in early modern England

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A mayds Embleme Downe in a garden my sweete Rose did sport her For grace and beauty earth had none fayrer I went unto her and did gently court her Hoping that shee would [be] as kind as fayre But with a pretty grace shee smiling sayd my mother bid me keepe my mayden head her pretty words soe sweetly charmed me I could not chuse but take her by thee middle And sitting downe under a shadowy tree Fayre love (quoth I) come you expound a ridle The Fayrest of Flowers the delitious Rose with out a Pricke it never growes; with that a blush did dye her cheeks in graine And streight she askt me what did meane by this But ere I could my riddle more explaine She seald my lips up with a silent kisse enough (quoth she) you need noe more disclose Be you the Pricke, and I will bee thy Rose. This bawdy anonymous poem is found on folio 54 of Ashmole MS 47 in Oxford's Bodleian Library. The manuscript is a bound octavo volume of 167 leaves. The first 130 leaves, including this poem, were ‘closely written … in a coarse hand’ by an unknown compiler in the mid-seventeenth century. The concluding 37 leaves of the volume were used several years later by the antiquarian Elias Ashmole to copy out a variety of poetry. The volume was donated to the Bodleian with the rest of Ashmole's library on his death in 1692. Besides this anonymous verse, the volume contains copies of poems by Richard Corbett, William Strode, Richard Brome and other well-regarded poets of the period, as well as poems misattributed to John Donne, Ben Jonson and Sir Philip Sidney. While many items in the volume are lewd or humorous, it also contains such somber material as a poem attributed to King James I upon the death of his wife (f. 38r), two poems on the death of Prince Frederick, son of the Queen of Bohemia (f. 74v; f. 78v) and several epigrams on the death of children and infants (f. 38v; f. 52v). Devotional material is intermixed with secular texts. For example, William Strode's poem ‘On Death and Resurrection’ is found within two pages of John Taylor's bawdy verses ‘On a mayds legg’ (f. 43v; f. 42r).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Erotic Literature
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781316875117
ISBN (Print)9781107184077
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities

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