Will and Testament

Original Text: 
Isabella Whitney, A sweet nosgay, or pleasant posye: contayning a hundred and ten phylosophicall flowers (London: Richard Jones, 1573): e2r-e8v.
The Aucthour (though loth to leave the Citie)
vpon her Friendes procurement, is constrained
to departe: wherfore (she fayneth as she would die)
and maketh her WYLL and Testæment, as foloweth:
With large Legacies of such Goods and riches
which she moste aboundantly hath left behind her:
and therof maketh LONDON sole executor to se
her Legacies performed.
A comunication which the Auctor had to London,
before she made her Wyll.
1The time is come I must departe
2        from thee, ah, famous Citie:
4        did finde that thou hadst pitie,
5Wherefore small cause ther is, that I
7But many Women foolyshly,
9Doe such a fyxed fancy set,
16        or vtterly defye.
17And now hath time me put in mind,
18        of thy great cruelnes:
20        to ease me in distres.
21Thou never yet woldst credit geve
23Nor with Apparell me releve
25No, no, thou never didst me good,
26        nor ever wilt, I know:
27Yet am I in no angry moode,
29In perfect love and charytie
30        my Testament here write:
31And leave to thee such Treasurye,
32        as I in it recyte.
33Now stand a side and geve me leave
34        to write my latest Wyll:
36        of that I leave them tyl.
The maner of her Wyll, and what she left to London: and to all those in it: at her departing.
37I whole in body, and in minde,
38        but very weake in Purse:
39Doo make, and write my Testament
40        for feare it wyll be wurse.
41And fyrst I wholy doo commend,
43To God the Father and the Son,
44        so long as I can speake.
45And after speach: my Soule to hym,
46        and Body to the Grave:
47Tyll time that all shall rise agayne,
48        their Judgement for to have.
49And then I hope they both shal meete.
50        to dwell for aye in ioye:
51Whereas I trust to see my Friends
52        releast, from all annoy.
53Thus have you heard touching my soule,
54        and body what I meane:
55I trust you all wyll witnes beare,
56        I have a stedfast brayne.
57And now let mee dispose such things,
58        as I shal leave behinde:
59That those which shall receave the same,
60        may know my wylling minde.
61I firste of all to London leave
62        because I there was bred:
65Betweene the same: fayre streats there bee,
66        and people goodly store:
68        I yet wil leave him more.
69First for their foode, I Butchers leave,
70        that every day shall kyll:
72        and Bakers at your wyll.
74        and eat fish thrice a weeke:
76        they neede not farre to seeke.
78        I full of Wollen leave:
80        if they mee not deceave.
81And those which are of callyng such,
82        that costlier they require:
84        as any would desyre.
86        and likewise in that streete:
88        as are for Ladies meete.
90        full braue there shall you finde:
92        to satisfye your minde.
94        such store are in that streete:
97For Nets of every kynd of sort,
101For Purse or Kniues, for Combe or Glasse,
102        or any needeful knacke
104        wil aske you what you lack.
112        and all that longs thereto.
113For Women shall you Taylors have,
115In every Lane you some shall finde,
116        can doo indifferent well.
117And for the men, few Streetes or Lanes,
119And such as make the sweeping Cloakes,
125Now when thy Folke are fed and clad
126        with such as I have namde:
127For daynty mouthes, and stomacks weake
130        with Banquets in their Shop:
131Phisicians also for the sicke,
132        Diseases for to stop.
135That with the guiltlesse quarel wyl,
136        to let their blood about.
137For them I cunning Surgions leave,
139That Ruffians may not styll be hangde,
140        nor quiet persons dye.
141For Salt, Otemeale, Candles, Sope,
142        or what you els doo want:
143In many places, Shops are full,
144        I left you nothing scant.
145Yf they that keepe what I you leave,
146        aske Mony: when they sell it:
148        vnpossible to tell it.
150        your dulled mindes to glad:
152        except they leave their trade.
154        and some perhaps shall fynde:
155(That neede compels, or lucre lures
157And neare the same, I houses leave,
158        for people to repayre:
159To bathe themselues, so to preuent
160        infection of the ayre.
161On Saturdayes I wish that those,
163Shall thyther trudge, to trim them vp
164        on Sondayes to looke smug.
165Yf any other thing be lackt
166        in thee, I wysh them looke:
167For there it is: I little brought
168        but nothyng from thee tooke.
169Now for the people in thee left,
170        I have done as I may:
171And that the poore, when I am gone,
172        have cause for me to pray.
173I wyll to prisons portions leave,
174        what though but very small:
175Yet that they may remember me,
176        occasion be it shall:
180        that Sergantes draw a back.
182        whose coyne is very thin:
186        a sessions for his share:
187Least being heapt, Infection might
188        procure a further care.
189And at those sessions some shal skape,
191And afterward to beg their fees,
193And such whose deedes deserueth death,
194        and twelue have found the same:
196        to come to further shame:
198        shal soone their sorowes cease:
199For he shal either breake their necks
201The Fleete, not in their circuit is,
202        yet if I geve him nought:
203It might procure his curse, ere I
204        unto the ground be brought.
205Wherfore I leave some Papist olde
206        to vnder prop his roofe:
207And to the poore within the same,
208        a Boxe for their behoofe.
209What makes you standers by to smile.
210        and laugh so in your sleeve:
211I thinke it is, because that I
214        here is no place of iest:
215I dyd reserve, that for my selfe,
216        yf I my health possest.
217And ever came in credit so
218        a debtor for to bee.
219When dayes of paiment did approch,
220        I thither ment to flee.
221To shroude my selfe amongst the rest,
222        that chuse to dye in debt:
223Rather then any Creditor,
224        should money from them get.
225Yet cause I feele my selfe so weake
226        that none mee credit dare:
227I heere reuoke: and doo it leave,
228        some Banckrupts to his share.
229To all the Bookebinders by Paulles
230        because I lyke their Arte:
231They e'ry weeke shal mony have,
232        when they from Bookes departe.
234        have somwhat to his share:
235I wyll my Friends these Bookes to bye
236        of him, with other ware.
238        do leave, that oft shall dote:
239And by that meanes shal mary them,
240        to set the Girles aflote.
241And wealthy Widdowes wil I leave,
242        to help yong Gentylmen:
243Which when you have, in any case
244        be courteous to them then:
245And see their Plate and Iewells eake
247Nor let their Bags too long be full,
248        for feare that they doo burst.
249To e'ry Gate vnder the walles,
250        that compas thee about:
251I Fruit wives leave to entertayne
252        such as come in and out.
254        my Parents there did dwell:
255So carelesse for to be of it,
256        none wolde accompt it well.
257Wherfore it thrice a weeke shall have,
260        to dwell for evermore.
262        for that was oft my walke:
263I people there too many leave,
264        that out of tune doo talke.
266        and Matrones that shal styll
268        and turning of the Mill.
269For such as cannot quiet bee,
270        but striue for House or Land:
272        to take their cause in hand.
273And also leave I at ech Inne
275Of Gentylmen, a youthfull roote,
276        full of Actiuytie:
277For whom I store of Bookes have left,
278        at each Bookebinders stall:
279And parte of all that London hath
280        to furnish them withall.
282        to recreate theyr minde:
283Of Tennis Courts, of dauncing Scooles,
285And every Sonday at the least,
286        I leave to make them sport.
287In diuers places Players, that
288        of wonders shall reporte.
289Now London have I (for thy sake)
290        within thee, and without:
291As coms into my memory,
292        dispearsed round about
293Such needfull thinges, as they should have
294        heere left now unto thee:
296        let them dispearced bee.
297And though I nothing named have,
298        to bury mee withall:
299Consider that aboue the ground,
300        annoyance bee I shall.
301And let me have a shrowding Sheete
302        to couer mee from shame:
303And in obliuyon bury mee
304        and never more mee name.
305Ringings nor other Ceremonies,
306        vse you not for cost:
307Nor at my buriall, make no feast,
308        your mony were but lost.
309Reioyce in God that I am gon,
311And that of ech thing, left such store,
312        as may your wants exile.
313I make thee sole executor, because
314        I lou'de thee best.
315And thee I put in trust, to geve
316        the goodes unto the rest.
317Because thou shalt a helper neede,
318        In this so great a chardge,
319I wysh good Fortune, be thy guide, least
320        thou shouldst run at lardge.
321The happy dayes and quiet times,
322        they both her Seruants bee.
323Which well wyll serue to fetch and bring,
324        such things as neede to thee.
325Wherfore (good London) not refuse,
326        for helper her to take:
327Thus being weake and wery both
328        an end heere wyll I make.
329To all that aske what end I made,
330        and how I went away:
331Thou answer maist like those which heere,
332        no longer tary may.
333And unto all that wysh mee well,
334        or rue that I am gon:
335Doo me comend, and bid them cease
336        my absence for to mone.
337And tell them further, if they wolde,
338        my presence styll have had:
339They should have sought to mend my luck;
340        which ever was too bad.
341So fare thou well a thousand times,
342        God sheelde thee from thy foe:
343And styll make thee victorious,
344        of those that seeke thy woe.
345And (though I am perswade) that I
346        shall never more thee see:
347Yet to the last, I shal not cease
348        to wish much good to thee.
349This, xx. of October I,
350        in ANNO DOMINI:
351A Thousand: v. hundred seuenty three
352        as Alminacks descry.
353Did write this Wyll with mine owne hand
354        and it to London gaue:
355In witnes of the standers by,
356        whose names yf you wyll have.
358        at that same present by:
359With Time, who promised to reveale,
361The same: least of my nearer kyn,
362        for any thing should vary:
363So finally I make an end
364        no longer can I tary.
by Is. W.


3] to rue my smart: to complain about my suffering. Back to Line
6] to: not in original. Back to Line
8] moe: more. Back to Line
10] desarve: merit. Back to Line
11] ere wit we get: before we understand. Back to Line
12] swarve: turn. Back to Line
13] tel: report, disclose. Back to Line
14] try: test. Back to Line
15] mell: associate. Back to Line
19] finde: procure, furnish. Back to Line
22] boord: feed. Back to Line
24] payed weare: were paid. Back to Line
28] or ere: before. Back to Line
35] And see to it that no one trick you of what I bequeath you. Back to Line
42] eke: also. Back to Line
63] store: plenty. Back to Line
64] Pauls to the head: (old) St. Paul's Cathedral, above them all. A fire had destroyed the roof and spire of Paul's in 1561, and at this time only the roof had been only partially repaired. The cathedral on this site today was restored in the seventeenth century. Back to Line
67] keeping: feeding, clothing, and housing. Back to Line
71] Thames: London's trade waterway to the world, across which at this time one could only walk or ride on London Bridge. The Brewers Guild Hall was then on Addle Street, which ran down to Upper Thames Street. Back to Line
73] orders: religious orders, that is, ministers or clergy. Back to Line
75] two Streets: one was Fish Street Hill, the main way to London Bridge; and another Billingsgate Market on Lower Thames Street. Back to Line
77] Watlyng Streete: originally a Roman road leading to Dover, but in London a street running east from near St. Paul's. Canwyck streete: Candlewick Street, the eastern extension of a mnain thoroughfare that extended from Watling Street through Budge Row and London Stone. Back to Line
79] Friday streete: this ran between Cheapside and Old Fish Street. Back to Line
83] Mercers: the guild that dealt in textiles, especially linen, silk, velvet, and wool. Back to Line
85] Cheape: Cheapside, London's great market street, near which many guilds had their halls. Back to Line
87] Goldsmithes: their hall was on Goldsmiths Row between Friday and Bread Streets. Back to Line
89] Plate: silver or gold dishes and utensils. Back to Line
91] Purle: twisted wire or thread used in ornamental lace and braid. Back to Line
93] Bungraces: bongraces were shades or curtains that hung down from the front of a woman's cap or bonnet to protect the face from the sun. Back to Line
95] ton: the one. Back to Line
96] tother: the other. feete: featly, elegantly. Back to Line
98] pawne: covered passage, gallery used to display and sell wares. Back to Line
99] French Ruffes: "article of neck-wear, usually consisting of starched linen or muslin arranged in horizontal flutings and standing out all round the neck" (OED, "ruff" 2, no. 2). high Purles: perhaps a silver- or gold-embroidered ruff worn around the neck. Gorgets: wimples (cloth covering neck and breast) or necklaces. Back to Line
100] Lawne: fine linen. Back to Line
103] Stoks: the Stocks, a fish and meat market on the north side of St. Mary Woolchurch Haw. Back to Line
105] Hose: stockings. Birchin Lane: north of Candlewick Street and St. Nicholas Lane. Back to Line
106] syse: size, bigness. Back to Line
107] Trunks: trunk-hose, baggy breeches reaching up to the thighs. Back to Line
108] Gascoyne gise: the fashion of Gascony. Back to Line
109] Pantables: pantofles, slippers. Back to Line
110] Saint Martins: St. Martin's le Grans, a precinct famous at this time for its tailors. Back to Line
111] Cornwall: obscure, if in London rather than the shire in the southwest of England. Back to Line
114] Bow: the Church of St. Mary-le-Bow, on Cheapside. Back to Line
118] Bodymakers: not in the OED, but evidently a term for tailors. Back to Line
120] Gardes: "ornamental border or trimming on a garment" (OED, "guard", 11.a). Back to Line
121] Temple Bar: a wooden gate at the western end of London city, the Strand to the west, and Fleet Street to the east. Back to Line
122] Dagges: heavy pistols. Back to Line
123] Bucklers: small round shields. Back to Line
124] the Fleete: the river, the prison, or the street. Back to Line
128] Iunckets: sweets, delicacies. Back to Line
129] Poticaries: apothecaries. Back to Line
133] bide: live. Roysters: roughnecks, rowdies. Back to Line
134] cut it out: perhaps an allusion to purse-cutting. Back to Line
138] Playsters: plasters, laid on a wound to close it up and to apply medication. Back to Line
147] Mint: an area in southwast London frequented by thieves. Back to Line
149] Stiliard: Steelyard, Upper Thames Street. Back to Line
151] handsome men: apprentices bound to tradesmen. Back to Line
153] Gyrles: young females. Back to Line
156] the closing parenthesis is not in the original. Back to Line
162] drug: drag or pull or draw (heavy) goods. Back to Line
177] Counter: debtors' prison in the Poultry, the Poultry Compter. Back to Line
178] wrack: ruin. Back to Line
179] Coggers: cheats. Back to Line
181] bayle: free on bail. Back to Line
183] hole: deep prison cell. Back to Line
184] little ease: later, the name for a narrow cell in which a prisoner could not lie down. Back to Line
185] Newgate: main London prison on Newgate Street. Back to Line
190] burning nere the Thumb: branding. Back to Line
192] some: sum. Back to Line
195] Holburn Hill: in the western suburbs of London on the way to Tyburn, the place of execution. Back to Line
197] nag: metaphorically, the gallows. Back to Line
200] prease: crowd, press. Back to Line
212] Ludgate: debtors' prison. Back to Line
213] in case: in a position. Back to Line
233] my Printer: Richard Jones. Back to Line
237] Widdoers: widowers, men in need a new wife. Back to Line
246] mard: marred. Back to Line
253] Smithfeelde: Smithfield market, a place of execution just outside the eastern city walls. Back to Line
258] neat: cattle. Back to Line
259] Spitle: St. Bartholomew Hospital in west Smithfield. Back to Line
261] Bedlem: Bethlehem Hospital, a madhouse just outside Bishopsgate. Back to Line
265] Bridewell: probably the prison and poorhouse on the banks of the Fleet River in west London. Bedelles: under-bailiffs, constables, beadles. Back to Line
267] plyde: plied, undertaken. Back to Line
271] innes of Court: legal colleges in London. Back to Line
274] Chauncerye: court. Back to Line
281] cloyd: cloyed, bored, tired. Back to Line
284] fence: fencing. Back to Line
295] consience: conscience. Back to Line
310] vale: valley (of tears). Back to Line
357] Standish: inkpot. Back to Line
360] hye: speed. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: