51: An Upcreeping Ear-licker

Gib, looking large-eyed and self important.Yes.  An upstart that thinks hisself a poet has been so bold as to come creeping after my lord.

I have his book before me.  “Right Honourable,” (writes he to my lord) “I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship.”

Thus he crawls, tail a-wag and belly to the ground, as such curs do.

“Only, if your honour seem but pleased,” (which is to say: rewards me well) “I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours” (as I now take advantage of you) “till I have honoured you with some graver labour.”

Well, I hope that labour may be grave indeed.  Whose grave, you may guess.

The cover of the first edition of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis, 1593.His poem was of Venus and Adonis.  The knave took it from the Book of Changes [Ovid’s Metamorphoses] wherein I have found some tales.

He changed the Adonis tale to suit hisself (as a poet should) but his embellishments are most lascivious. 

Adonis, a silly boy, goes hunting.  Venus, Queen of Love, calls to him, pulls him from his horse, drags him away, and flings him to the ground.

He hates her as I hate my empty bowl.  And he’s not willing to scruff her.  So she says he’s in love with himself like Narcissus. (Yes, he again.  Can these fools write of none other?)

A bed of wild violets.
“Be bold to play, our sport is not in sight:
These blue-vein’d violets whereon we lean
never can blab, nor know not what we mean.”

Adonis tries to flee, but his horse has run off after a hot mare.  Venus praises his horse most high.  All Adonis wants to do is catch him.  And run away from Venus.  He’s too young to do what she wills.  His day is spoiled.

In truth, I found this tale so tedious I did but skim the rest.  There was a hare that was of interest to me, and later some sorry dogs.  Nowt else.

Adonis did go to kill a boar, but the boar killed him.  All know that, because the ends of these old tales may never be changed.  Up came a flower from his blood, which Venus picked.  Then she flew away with two doves.

Word of doves inflamed my appetite, I do confess.  By good fortune, there was baked pigeon for my supper.  With gravy.

When I told of this nonsense at the Cats’ Field, the queen cats could not believe it.  My sister marvelled that any hot queen would molest an innocent kitling.

Some were offended.  One arrkst why Adonis had not called to his mother.  She would have chased that nastie goddess off.

The Mad Cat lost no time in saying that my newes proved the wickedness of poesie. “A poet, a liar, a lecher.  Who can tell one from another?” arrkst he.

A black cat looking excited

That made us merry.  Nero leapt up and sayt, “Friend, I fear you may be right.”

I sayt, “I fear there may be more such fooleries to come.”

“There will,” sayt Linkin the Law Cat.  “Two winters more, and our young Earl will be of full age and get his claws on all his money.  The starveling poets know it.”

“They’ll swoop like glutton gulls,” sayt Nero.

“And who is this upcreeping ear-licker that writ so foul?” my sister arrkst.

A scarlet macaw, from an eighteenth century painting.“Certes, no cat,” sayt Nero.  “Nor no gentleman neither.”

“I hear tell he’s a mere player,” sayt I.  “One that never utters a line of his own invention, but spews forth those of others.”

“Like to the parrot my master keeps, and fowl it be,” sayt Nero.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe narrative poem Venus and Adonis was published some time after 18 April 1593 when it was entered in the Register at Stationer’s Hall.  William Shakespeare’s name is not on the cover, but beneath the dedication.  His first appearance in print.

It was a bestseller, and said to be very popular with the younger sort.  Because Shakespeare’s Adonis sounds so young (a major change from Ovid’s version where Venus and Adonis are, briefly, a couple), modern readers are more likely to share the queen cats’ opinion.  But that wouldn’t have been how most Elizabethans read it. 

The plague continued in London throughout 1593, and the playhouses and other areas for public entertainment (such as bowling, and bear or bull baiting) were closed.  So what was Shakespeare doing that year?  Some have speculated that he may have entered the Earl’s service, and spent some time at Place House.  If so, Gib hasn’t confirmed his presence there.


18 thoughts on “51: An Upcreeping Ear-licker

  1. Chris White April 21, 2016 / 12:16 am

    Here’s my mark and welcome you are to it.
    Pigeon with gravy sounds quite. appetizing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi April 21, 2016 / 12:19 am

      You are aware that Gib was born in early 1580? ( Just so’s you don’t claim him as one of your own.)


  2. April Munday April 21, 2016 / 12:28 am

    It’s as well the young earl paid no attention to Gib’s opinion – for us, at least.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi April 21, 2016 / 12:40 am

      Yes! The dedication of the graver work (Lucrece) strikes me as being so upcreeping ear-licker, even by Elizabethan standards, that I think the Earl must have provided Shakespeare with some sort of assistance, even though no record has come to light. What fashionable youth wouldn’t like having a steamy bestseller dedicated to him? Gib, of course, as Earl’s Poet in situ has his own view.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. April Munday April 21, 2016 / 4:49 am

    The young earl does seem to have been impressed rather easily, not just by WS.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi April 21, 2016 / 11:32 am

      He sounds like an interesting character; that’s why I wish someone other than a seeker of Shakespeare would write his biography. Even his entry in the Oxford DNB echoes much of G P V Akrigg’s book, and has too much to say about Shakespeare.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. chattykerry April 21, 2016 / 5:08 am

    I love your tails of tales. I have been psychically begging our feral cat, Katniss, to feast upon some of the mourning doves to reduce the incessant cooing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Claudio LeChat April 21, 2016 / 11:59 pm

    My favourite line is:

    “He hates her as I hate my empty bowl.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi April 22, 2016 / 9:27 am

      I knew you’d be with Gib on that, Claudio.


  6. Rachel McAlpine April 22, 2016 / 9:00 am

    The sheer injustice of it all! To think that Shakespeare got all the glory and Gib’s great talent withered unworshipped. Even his companions failed to appreciate him. Well good on you, Toutparmoi, for promoting his works.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi April 22, 2016 / 12:17 pm

      It’s an ill wind…
      Gib’s feline companions might look on him with renewed respect now they know there’s a non-feline rival out there. And will Gib become more amiable towards Nero, who also has to vie with an upstart parrot for his master’s attention?

      Liked by 2 people

  7. larrypaulbrown April 23, 2016 / 11:12 am

    Having read your latest tale to my two, Rocky and Max (no fussy feline names for them) , they both purred approval and resumed their fantasies regarding the perching tweeters outside. In our opinions, Shakespeare was too…um, how shall I say it….too Shakespearean.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Robyn Haynes April 23, 2016 / 7:10 pm

    ‘“And who is this upcreeping ear-licker that writ so foul?” my sister arrkst.’ I’ve never heard such an entertaining description of the Bard. It’s interesting how the stories from ancient Greek times (and probably before) are told and retold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi April 23, 2016 / 7:45 pm

      Gib’s sister has a way with words. What a pity she never learnt to write.


  9. dornahainds August 21, 2016 / 7:40 am

    Brava! Such a fine example your words and telling of course, such fine example of Scintillating wit.’ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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