The Lumber Room

"Consign them to dust and damp by way of preserving them"

The letter in Roister Doister

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An early English example of resegmentation for change of meaning: Merygreeke’s letter to the Dame Custance, from Ralph Roister Doister (c. 1553), the first comedy to be written in the English language. [Aside: Shakespeare born in 1564 started had written all his plays before 1613, only 60 years from then.]

The example also shows that enjambment (no pause at end of line) did indeed exist in early English as well.

Scene 4

Sweete mistresse where as I loue you nothing at all,
Regarding your substance and richesse chiefe of all,
For your personage, beautie, demeanour and wit,
I commende me vnto you neuer a whit.
Sorie to heare report of your good welfare.
For (as I heare say) suche your conditions are,
That ye be worthie fauour of no liuing man,
To be abhorred of euery honest man.
To be taken for a woman enclined to vice.
Nothing at all to Vertue gyuing hir due price.
Whersore concerning mariage, ye are thought
Suche a fine Paragon, as nere honest man bought.
And nowe by these presentes I do you aduertise
That I am minded to marrie you in no wise.
For your goodes and substance, I coulde bee content
To take you as ye are. If ye mynde to bee my wyfe,
Ye shall be assured for the tyme of my lyfe,
I will keepe ye ryght well, from good rayment and fare,
Ye shall not be kepte but in sorowe and care.
Ye shall in no wyse lyue at your owne libertie,
Doe and say what ye lust, ye shall neuer please me,
But when ye are mery, I will be all sadde,
When ye are sory, I will be very gladde.
When ye seeke your heartes ease, I will be vnkinde,
At no tyme, in me shall ye muche gentlenesse finde.
But all things contrary to your will and minde,
Shall be done: otherwise I wyll not be behinde
To speake. And as for all them that woulde do you wrong
I will so helpe and mainteyne, ye shall not lyue long.
Nor any foolishe dolte, shall cumbre you but I.
Thus good mistresse Custance, the lorde you saue and kepe,
From me Roister Doister, whether I wake or slepe.
Who fauoureth you no lesse, (ye may be bolde)
Than this letter purporteth, which ye haue vnfolde.

Scene 5

Sweete mistresse, where as I loue you, nothing at all
Regarding your richesse and substance: chiefe of all
For your personage, beautie, demeanour and witte
I commende me vnto you: Neuer a whitte
Sory to heare reporte of your good welfare.
For (as I heare say) suche your conditions are,
That ye be worthie fauour: Of no liuing man
To be abhorred: of euery honest man
To be taken for a woman enclined to vice
Nothing at all: to vertue giuing hir due price.
Wherfore concerning mariage, ye are thought
Suche a fine Paragon, as nere honest man bought.
And nowe by these presents I doe you aduertise,
That I am minded to marrie you: In no wyse
For your goodes and substance: I can be content
To take you as you are: yf ye will be my wife,
Ye shall be assured for the time of my life,
I wyll keepe you right well: from good raiment and fare,
Ye shall not be kept: but in sorowe and care
Ye shall in no wyse lyue: at your owne libertie,
Doe and say what ye lust: ye shall neuer please me
But when ye are merrie: I will bee all sadde
When ye are sorie: I wyll be very gladde
When ye seeke your heartes ease: I will be vnkinde
At no time: in me shall ye muche gentlenesse finde.
But all things contrary to your will and minde
Shall be done otherwise: I wyll not be behynde
To speake: And as for all they that woulde do you wrong,
(I wyll so helpe and maintayne ye) shall not lyue long.
Nor any foolishe dolte shall cumber you, but I,
I, who ere say nay, wyll sticke by you tyll I die.
Thus good mistresse Custance, the lorde you saue and kepe.
From me Roister Doister, whether I wake or slepe,
Who fauoureth you no lesse, (ye may be bolde)
Than this letter purporteth, which ye haue vnfolde.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21350/21350-h/21350-h.htm

See also https://plus.google.com/+MohanKV/posts/MXGPBQfAsMz

Written by S

Tue, 2014-02-25 at 07:30:28

Posted in language, literature

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