Virgidemiarum: Book I, Satire III

Original Text: 
Joseph Hall, Virgidemiarum, sixe bookes (London: T. Creede for R. Dexter, 1597). STC 12716
2They sit and muse on some no-vulgar writ:
3As frozen dunghills in a winter's morn,
4That void of vapours seemed all beforn,
5Soon as the sun sends out his piercing beams,
6Exhale out filthy smoke and stinking steams;
8Soon as the raging wine begins to reign.
9One higher pitch'd doth set his soaring thought
10On crowned kings, that fortune hath low brought;
11Or some upreared, high-aspiring swain,
13Then weeneth he his base drink-drowned spright
14Rapt to the three-fold loft of heaven height,
15When he conceives upon his feigned stage
16The stalking steps of his great personage,
18That his poor hearers' hair quite upright sets.
19Such soon as some brave-minded hungry youth
20Sees fitly frame to his wide-strained mouth,
21He vaunts his voice upon an hired stage,
22With high-set steps and princely carriage;
25There if he can with terms Italianate,
26Big-sounding sentences and words of state,
27Fair patch me up his pure iambic verse,
30Never but half so high tragedian.
31Now, lest such frightful shows of Fortune's fall,
32And bloody tyrant's rage, should chance appall
33The dead-struck audience, midst the silent rout,
35And laughs, and grins, and frames his mimic face,
36And justles straight into the prince's place;
37Then doth the theatre echo all aloud,
38With gladsome noise of that applauding crowd.
39A goodly hotch-potch! when vile russetings
40Are match'd with monarchs, and with mighty kings
41A goodly grace to sober tragic muse,
42When each base clown his clumsy fist doth bruise,
43And show his teeth in double rotten row,
45Meanwhile our poets in high parliament
46Sit watching every word and gesturement,
48Whispering their verdict in their fellow's ear.
49Woe to the word whose margent in their scroll
50Is noted with a black condemning coal.
51But if each period might the synod please,
52Ho!--bring the ivy boughs, and bands of bays.
53Now when they part and leave the naked stage,
54'Gins the bare hearer, in a guilty rage,
55To curse and ban, and blame his likerous eye,
56That thus hath lavish'd his late halfpenny.
57Shame that the Muses should be bought and sold,
58For every peasant's brass, on each scaffold.


1] A collection of six books of satires, of which the first three books (published anonymously in 1597) are called "Toothless Satires" and the remaining three (published, also anonymously, in 1598) "Biting Satires." Although Hall was not, as he claimed in the prologue, the first English satirist, his book inaugurated an outburst of verse satire. The general title is formed from a rare Latin word, virgidemia, a harvest of rods or blows. Back to Line
7] fore-barren. Previously barren. Back to Line
12] An allusion to Marlowe's Tamburlaine (published 1590). Back to Line
17] huff-cap. Swaggering. E.g., Tamburlaine's speech to the kings, harnessed to his chariot:
"Holla, ye pampered jades of Asia!
What! can ye draw but twenty miles a day ?"
Back to Line
23] side. Wide and long. Back to Line
24] that erst did scrub. Who formerly walked in mean attire.
brokery. Second-hand clothes. Back to Line
28] scaffolders. Spectators in the galleries. Back to Line
29] Corduban. An allusion to Seneca (4 B.C.-A.D. 65) a native of Corduba in Spain, reputed author of ten tragedies which served as models to all Renaissance dramatists. Back to Line
34] As in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus and The Jew of Malta. Back to Line
44] self-resembled. Apparently, resembling himself. Back to Line
47] doughty gear. Fine discourse. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.256; RPO 1996-2000.