53:  Southampton’s Star

A painted image of Gib's dappled face.There are many comings and goings.  My lord’s friends visit him, and he rides out to visit them.  When my lord is away the fare is poor.  I get no choice of meats at supper.

When he’s here, I attend the performance of his dressing. 

Oh, how his linen must be of the whitest, his colours suited one to another, his barber ever on hand to arrange his hair. 

In truth, his barber has little else to do, for my lord has no whiskers to speak of.

I’ve heard talk of another performance, but I do not know what that may be.  So I keep my ears pricked, in hopes of learning something new.

And still they poets pursue him.  While my lord contemplates his image in his glass (so wide-eyed that, were he a cat, you would think he sought to fight hisself), a fellow stands by to read him his dedications.

A young man lying full-length on his side, with his head propped on his hand and a book beside him. He is in a formal, stylised garden setting.
Looking melancolie: Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, to whom The Honour of the Garter is dedicated. By Nicholas Hilliard, c.1595 via Wikimedia Commons.

And sometimes a poem or two.

A geck has writ on the honour of the garter, though I know not which garter it may be.  (I have stole a few from time to time.)

This poem was for another earl, not mine, but the starveling upcreeper that wrote it sought to praise my lord therein, naming him Southampton’s star.

Insolencie.  Southampton has but one star.  Me.

My lord loves to hear hisself praised.  I do believe his longing for praise is so great that even if his name were hallowed in every region of the globe it would not be enough for him.

I fear his head is fuller of wild fancies than mine own.  And I fear that some may praise him only to prey on him, while others laugh up their sleeves at him.

As some cats here make mock of me.

On a quiet day, when I was not obliged to conceal myself because of strangers in the house, I snapt a choice fish from the kitchen.  None saw me. 

Then I finished the rough of a deep-brained sonnet on my divided sole soul.  A fine conceit on the blue coat of my friend Smokie, and my white one with blue spots.  To signify the good and bad within me.

  And it joys me to write of my wickedness. 

Two cats am I, of sweetness and of spite;
each in my motley coat displays his hue.
My worser spirit is a cat full white;
my better angel hath a coat of blue.
To drive me to despair, my whitely cat
doth tempt my blueish self to wicked hurts:
to seat myself within my lord’s new hat,
and set my mark upon his cast-off shirts.
As cold as wintry wastes where poor folk freeze,
or starve and shrink in hovels without fires
is that cat’s heart.  Oh, how he hates the ease
of all not in accord with his desires.
So must I live, beset by pride and doubt,
till my blue angel smokes my bad cat out.

Alas, there is none I can tell this sonnet to.  It may cause them to think me more wicked than I am.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorI’m taking a short break, so there won’t be a post from Gib’s journal next week.  We’ll leave him brooding on the poets who’ve annoyed him, and celebrating his evil streak.

In 1593, shortly after the Venus and Adonis dedication, the Earl of Southampton was one of several aristocratic men and women whose virtues were extolled by Barnabe Barnes (c1571-1609) in dedicatory sonnets accompanying his not-very-readable Parthenophil and Parthenophe: Sonnets, Madrigals, Elegies and Odes.

The Honour of the Garter by George Peele (1556-1590) – “a Poem gratulatorie” – was dedicated to Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, who was created a Knight of the Garter on 26 June 1593.  Peele, presumably with an eye to future prospects, also managed to work in a compliment to the Earl of Southampton.

I think the Earl of Northumberland paid £3 to George Peele for his poem, and the same amount to Nicholas Hilliard for his portrait.


24 thoughts on “53:  Southampton’s Star

  1. Soul Gifts May 4, 2016 / 7:23 pm

    A well deserved break I’m sure. Enjoy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Monica Graff May 4, 2016 / 9:57 pm

    We’ll miss Gib, but can’t argue the merits of a short break. Hope you have an enjoyable one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 4, 2016 / 11:14 pm

      Thanks – the autumn weather here is very mild, so I hope it stays that way for my holiday.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. April Munday May 4, 2016 / 11:11 pm

    I laughed out loud at Gib’s protestation that he was Southampton’s star. Unfortunately, I’m at work. Fortunately, it’s the lunch break and they’re used to me.

    I think Gib is right to fear for the young earl. He is very young and seems to have no one to provide him with proper guidance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 4, 2016 / 11:38 pm

      Yes – once the young Earl’s grandfather was dead, there seems to have been a shortage of older male relatives to keep an eye on him. That may have been part of the attraction of the Earl of Essex and his family circle.

      Liked by 2 people

    • April Munday May 4, 2016 / 11:43 pm

      It’s a shame he didn’t spend less time looking in the mirror and more time asking himself whether or not what he wanted to do was a good idea. He could even have done both at the same time.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 4, 2016 / 11:48 pm

      An obsession with one’s own image can be a sign of insecurity. The Earl of Essex, on the other hand, was said to be very careless about his dress – though fond of taking baths.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Claudio LeChat May 4, 2016 / 11:32 pm

    Gib’s sonnet is a masterful portrayal of the cat’s “complexities”. But I would warn against too much public “self-incrimination”. It could get him into trouble…

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 4, 2016 / 11:40 pm

      Exactly. You never know how literally people may take a sonnet.


  5. Chris White May 5, 2016 / 12:10 am

    I just love that ‘starveling upcreeper’ expression. And your sonnet is quite magnificent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 5, 2016 / 8:33 am

      One of W.Shakespeare’s sonnets bears a strong resemblance to it. How did he get his hands on Gib’s work?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. camilledefleurville May 5, 2016 / 5:49 am

    No post from one of my most favourite bloggers? No news from THE Cat? Well, I shall read the entries I did not read beause I did not know THE Cat and reread the others. And I wish you “de très bonnes vacances”. Have a nice rest in a lovely weather.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 5, 2016 / 8:39 am

      Thank you, Camille – autumn’s my favourite time of year so I like to take a break then. And when I’m on holiday, I stay away from the internet!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Robyn Haynes May 9, 2016 / 8:46 pm

    Gib shows a fine insight into his Earl. Enjoy your break Denise!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Claremary P. Sweeney May 15, 2016 / 7:13 pm

    The sonnet was an extra bonus in your latest tale. Any cat person (I just replaced “person” with the word “owner”) can attest to the fact that our feline companions are creatures with many facets to their personalities. (And are owned by no one!)

    Liked by 1 person

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