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Short poem

Isabella Whitney (ca. 1540-after 1580)

Will and Testament

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:
              3I never yet, to rue my smart,
              4        did finde that thou hadst pitie,
              5Wherefore small cause ther is, that I
              6        should greeve from thee to go:
              7But many Women foolyshly,
              8        lyke me, and other moe.
              9Doe such a fyxed fancy set,
            10        on those which least desarve,
            11That long it is ere wit we get,
            12        away from them to swarve,
            13But tyme with pittie oft wyl tel
            14        to those that wil her try:
            15Whether it best be more to mell,
            16        or vtterly defye.
            17And now hath time me put in mind,
            18        of thy great cruelnes:
            19That never once a help wold finde,
            20        to ease me in distres.
            21Thou never yet woldst credit geve
            22        to boord me for a yeare:
            23Nor with Apparell me releve
            24        except thou payed weare.
            25No, no, thou never didst me good,
            26        nor ever wilt, I know:
            27Yet am I in no angry moode,
            28        but wyll, or ere I goe,
            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:
            35And see that none you do deceave,
            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,
            42        my Soule and Body eke:
            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:
            63Braue buildyngs rare, of Churches store,
            64        and Pauls to the head.
            65Betweene the same: fayre streats there bee,
            66        and people goodly store:
            67Because their keeping craveth cost,
            68        I yet wil leave him more.
            69First for their foode, I Butchers leave,
            70        that every day shall kyll:
            71By Thames you shal have Brewers store,
            72        and Bakers at your wyll.
            73And such as orders doo obserue,
            74        and eat fish thrice a weeke:
            75I leave two Streets, full fraught therwith,
            76        they neede not farre to seeke.
            77Watlyng Streete, and Canwyck streete,
            78        I full of Wollen leave:
            79And Linnen store in Friday streete,
            80        if they mee not deceave.
            81And those which are of callyng such,
            82        that costlier they require:
            83I Mercers leave, with silke so rich,
            84        as any would desyre.
            85In Cheape of them, they store shal finde
            86        and likewise in that streete:
            87I Goldsmithes leave, with Iuels such,
            88        as are for Ladies meete.
            89And Plate to furnysh Cubbards with,
            90        full braue there shall you finde:
            91With Purle of Siluer and of Golde,
            92        to satisfye your minde.
            93With Hoods, Bungraces, Hats or Caps,
            94        such store are in that streete:
            95As if on ton side you should misse
            96        the tother serues you feete.
            97For Nets of every kynd of sort,
            98        I leave within the pawne:
            99French Ruffes, high Purles, Gorgets and Sleeves
          100        of any kind of Lawne.
          101For Purse or Kniues, for Combe or Glasse,
          102        or any needeful knacke
          103I by the Stoks have left a Boy,
          104        wil aske you what you lack.
          105I Hose doo leave in Birchin Lane,
          106        of any kynd of syse:
          107For Women stitchte, for men both Trunks
          108        and those of Gascoyne gise.
          109Bootes, Shoes or Pantables good store,
          110        Saint Martins hath for you:
          111In Cornwall, there I leave you Beds,
          112        and all that longs thereto.
          113For Women shall you Taylors have,
          114        by Bow, the chiefest dwel:
          115In every Lane you some shall finde,
          116        can doo indifferent well.
          117And for the men, few Streetes or Lanes,
          118        but Bodymakers bee:
          119And such as make the sweeping Cloakes,
          120        with Gardes beneth the Knee.
          121Artyllery at Temple Bar,
          122        and Dagges at Tower hyll:
          123Swords and Bucklers of the best,
          124        are nye the Fleete vntyll.
          125Now when thy Folke are fed and clad
          126        with such as I have namde:
          127For daynty mouthes, and stomacks weake
          128        some Iunckets must be framde.
          129Wherfore I Poticaries leave,
          130        with Banquets in their Shop:
          131Phisicians also for the sicke,
          132        Diseases for to stop.
          133Some Roysters styll, must bide in thee,
          134        and such as cut it out:
          135That with the guiltlesse quarel wyl,
          136        to let their blood about.
          137For them I cunning Surgions leave,
          138        some Playsters to apply.
          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:
          147At Mint, there is such store, it is
          148        vnpossible to tell it.
          149At Stiliarde store of Wines there bee,
          150        your dulled mindes to glad:
          151And handsome men, that must not wed
          152        except they leave their trade.
          153They oft shal seeke for proper Gyrles,
          154        and some perhaps shall fynde:
          155(That neede compels, or lucre lures
          156        to satisfye their mind.)
          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,
          162        which all the weeke doo drug:
          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:
          177And fyrst the Counter they shal have,
          178        least they should go to wrack:
          179Some Coggers, and some honest men,
          180        that Sergantes draw a back.
          181And such as Friends wyl not them bayle,
          182        whose coyne is very thin:
          183For them I leave a certayne hole,
          184        and little ease within.
          185The Newgate once a Monthe shal have
          186        a sessions for his share:
          187Least being heapt, Infection might
          188        procure a further care.
          189And at those sessions some shal skape,
          190        with burning nere the Thumb:
          191And afterward to beg their fees,
          192        tyll they have got the some.
          193And such whose deedes deserueth death,
          194        and twelue have found the same:
          195They shall be drawne vp Holborne hill,
          196        to come to further shame:
          197Well, yet to such I leave a Nag
          198        shal soone their sorowes cease:
          199For he shal either breake their necks
          200        or gallop from the preace.
          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
          212        to Ludgate nothing geve.
          213I am not now in case to lye,
          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.
          233Amongst them all, my Printer must,
          234        have somwhat to his share:
          235I wyll my Friends these Bookes to bye
          236        of him, with other ware.
          237For Maydens poore, I Widdoers ritch,
          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
          246        may not be mard with rust.
          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.
          253To Smithfeelde I must something leave
          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,
          258        of Horse and neat good store,
          259And in his Spitle, blynd and lame,
          260        to dwell for evermore.
          261And Bedlem must not be forgot,
          262        for that was oft my walke:
          263I people there too many leave,
          264        that out of tune doo talke.
          265At Bridewel there shal Bedelles be,
          266        and Matrones that shal styll
          267See Chalke wel chopt, and spinning plyde,
          268        and turning of the Mill.
          269For such as cannot quiet bee,
          270        but striue for House or Land:
          271At Th' innes of Court, I Lawyers leave
          272        to take their cause in hand.
          273And also leave I at ech Inne
          274        of Court, or Chauncerye:
          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.
          281And when they are with study cloyd:
          282        to recreate theyr minde:
          283Of Tennis Courts, of dauncing Scooles,
          284        and fence they store shal finde.
          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:
          295When I am gon, with consience,
          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,
          310        out of this vale so vile.
          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.
          357Paper, Pen and Standish were:
          358        at that same present by:
          359With Time, who promised to reveale,
          360        so fast as she could hye
          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.

6] to: not in original.

8] moe: more.

10] desarve: merit.

11] ere wit we get: before we understand.

12] swarve: turn.

13] tel: report, disclose.

14] try: test.

15] mell: associate.

19] finde: procure, furnish.

22] boord: feed.

24] payed weare: were paid.

28] or ere: before.

35] And see to it that no one trick you of what I bequeath you.

42] eke: also.

63] store: plenty.

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.

67] keeping: feeding, clothing, and housing.

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.

73] orders: religious orders, that is, ministers or clergy.

75] two Streets: one was Fish Street Hill, the main way to London Bridge; and another Billingsgate Market on Lower Thames Street.

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.

79] Friday streete: this ran between Cheapside and Old Fish Street.

83] Mercers: the guild that dealt in textiles, especially linen, silk, velvet, and wool.

85] Cheape: Cheapside, London's great market street, near which many guilds had their halls.

87] Goldsmithes: their hall was on Goldsmiths Row between Friday and Bread Streets.

89] Plate: silver or gold dishes and utensils.

91] Purle: twisted wire or thread used in ornamental lace and braid.

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.

95] ton: the one.

96] tother: the other. feete: featly, elegantly.

98] pawne: covered passage, gallery used to display and sell wares.

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.

100] Lawne: fine linen.

103] Stoks: the Stocks, a fish and meat market on the north side of St. Mary Woolchurch Haw.

105] Hose: stockings. Birchin Lane: north of Candlewick Street and St. Nicholas Lane.

106] syse: size, bigness.

107] Trunks: trunk-hose, baggy breeches reaching up to the thighs.

108] Gascoyne gise: the fashion of Gascony.

109] Pantables: pantofles, slippers.

110] Saint Martins: St. Martin's le Grans, a precinct famous at this time for its tailors.

111] Cornwall: obscure, if in London rather than the shire in the southwest of England.

114] Bow: the Church of St. Mary-le-Bow, on Cheapside.

118] Bodymakers: not in the OED, but evidently a term for tailors.

120] Gardes: "ornamental border or trimming on a garment" (OED, "guard", 11.a).

121] Temple Bar: a wooden gate at the western end of London city, the Strand to the west, and Fleet Street to the east.

122] Dagges: heavy pistols.

123] Bucklers: small round shields.

124] the Fleete: the river, the prison, or the street.

128] Iunckets: sweets, delicacies.

129] Poticaries: apothecaries.

133] bide: live. Roysters: roughnecks, rowdies.

134] cut it out: perhaps an allusion to purse-cutting.

138] Playsters: plasters, laid on a wound to close it up and to apply medication.

147] Mint: an area in southwast London frequented by thieves.

149] Stiliard: Steelyard, Upper Thames Street.

151] handsome men: apprentices bound to tradesmen.

153] Gyrles: young females.

156] the closing parenthesis is not in the original.

162] drug: drag or pull or draw (heavy) goods.

177] Counter: debtors' prison in the Poultry, the Poultry Compter.

178] wrack: ruin.

179] Coggers: cheats.

181] bayle: free on bail.

183] hole: deep prison cell.

184] little ease: later, the name for a narrow cell in which a prisoner could not lie down.

185] Newgate: main London prison on Newgate Street.

190] burning nere the Thumb: branding.

192] some: sum.

195] Holburn Hill: in the western suburbs of London on the way to Tyburn, the place of execution.

197] nag: metaphorically, the gallows.

200] prease: crowd, press.

212] Ludgate: debtors' prison.

213] in case: in a position.

233] my Printer: Richard Jones.

237] Widdoers: widowers, men in need a new wife.

246] mard: marred.

253] Smithfeelde: Smithfield market, a place of execution just outside the eastern city walls.

258] neat: cattle.

259] Spitle: St. Bartholomew Hospital in west Smithfield.

261] Bedlem: Bethlehem Hospital, a madhouse just outside Bishopsgate.

265] Bridewell: probably the prison and poorhouse on the banks of the Fleet River in west London. Bedelles: under-bailiffs, constables, beadles.

267] plyde: plied, undertaken.

271] innes of Court: legal colleges in London.

274] Chauncerye: court.

281] cloyd: cloyed, bored, tired.

284] fence: fencing.

295] consience: conscience.

310] vale: valley (of tears).

357] Standish: inkpot.

360] hye: speed.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Isabella Whitney, A sweet nosgay, or pleasant posye: contayning a hundred and ten phylosophicall flowers (London: Richard Jones, 1573): e2r-e8v.
First publication date: 1573
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2003
Recent editing: 1:2003/8/30

Rhyme: abcb ...

Other poems by Isabella Whitney