92:  We Honour My Uncle

A close-up of the nose and squinting eyes of Gib's niece - a blacl, white, and orange cat.There was much ado yesterday.

His Harryship rose before dawn, and all ran hither and yon to do his bidding.

He goes to join Mr Secretary [Sir Robert Cecil] on ambassage to the King of France.  They’ll beg him not to friend Spain.

All I can say is, Queen Puss should have sent that King the aid he sought.

What will Mr Secretary get for his pains?  Wet fur and no fish.  (As my mother would have sayt.)

His Harryship’s chamber was in disarray.  The kitchen cat and I made a good breakfast from his leavings.  Then I found paper, dipped his pen, and writ:

Touch not the basket of my Cat, nor the papers therein.  Burn this when you have read it.

H. Southampton.

I would be a poor skoller if I could not write as well as an Earl can.

Then I stepped out to where his horses waited, snorting and stamping.  They’ll not be so haughtie after being ridden through mire.

Our Earl was standing apart.  He was talking to a gardener.

“Most willingly, your lordship,” sayt the fellow, cap in hand, though he’d scarce enough hair to keep his brain warm.  “I’ll call my son.  He’ll count it an honour.”  And added in haste, lest he be thought insolent,Our childern loved that Gib.  Specially our poor Puss [Bess].

Then a strange thing happened.  A drop of water came from his eye and left a glistering trail upon his cheek.  He begged forgiveness, saying, “She’s in Heaven now.”

Our Earl placed a hand upon his shoulder.  “I well recall your daughter,” sayt he in his softest voice.  And how he praised her!  The pretty curtsey she had made him, her fair speech, her smile.

Yes, your Harryship, thought I.  Now I know why many love you.  But when your bum’s in the saddle and the world lies before you, will you spare a thought for my uncle or your gardener’s daughter?

Perchance I wrong him.

The horses moved off slow.  I walked a way behind them.

All saw a boy and girl come by with a small cart.  We heard the gardener call, “Do nowt blasphemious, mind.”

One of our Earl’s gentlemen sayt, “A funeral?  For a cat?”

He replied, “The first lesson that cat taught me was worth the learning.  I took him up, and he shat on me.

A lesson in warefulness?  I doubt he’s learnt it.

I went to find Linkin and Nero.  They told me a cat from our stable had been by, inviting all to farewell my uncle at our Field on the morrow.

Nero offered a song in his honour.

“What have you in mind?” I arrkst.  (I’ve not forgot how he contrived to insult me in the verse he made upon my late mother.)

“An excellent song,” sayt he.  “I heared it at our Earl’s house one summer eve as I sat ’neath a window.  Come again sweet love etcetera.”

“That’s a song about a wicked woman,” sayt Linkin.

John Dowland’s First Book of Songs and Airs, printed in 1597.

“True,” sayt Nero.  “She hoist her tail, and then distained the gentleman.”

“She brake his heart” sayt Linkin. “And made mock of him.”

“One fool deserves another,” sayt Nero. “I’ll amend the words.”

I feared the worst.

But what a throng of cats came to our assembly!

Most could not believe my uncle was gone from this world.  He was with us for so long he seemed immortal.

“He was not of an age,” sayt one, “but for all time.”

Then Nero rose up.  He sang:

Come again, all cats do now invite
Friend Gib, who came so oft to bring us true delight.

To sit, to whurr, to hear, to sing, to sigh
with him again in sweetest sympathy.

Come again, that we may cease to mourn
because he did depart, and leave us all forlorn.

We wait, we weep, we wail, we waul, we cry
to ease our grief in feline harmony.

Poor verse.  But all gave Nero great applauds.

Some cats (readie to woo us queens, and fire-hot to show theirselves) joined with him to sing the song again.

Brats began to yowl in the cottages nearby.  One dog barked, then another.

“Once more!” cried Nero.  And all gave voice.

How we sang!  Even the youngest cats let out a waul or two, though they could scarce have known my uncle.  Nor heard his tales, save from mothers wishing to affright them with monsters and wicked witches.

A cottage door oped, and a woman came at us with a broom.  We fled away like shadows.

A fit end to my uncle’s funeral.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorI’m taking a break from blogging, so this will be the last post for a month or so.

Gib’s niece (who would have written it early in February 1598) might not have liked Nero’s verse, but at least Gib had a poetick send off.  Unlike William Shakespeare, whose death seems to have gone unremarked by his fellow poets in 1616.

I hate to think what the “feline harmony” sounded like, but there are many modern renditions of John Dowland’s melancholy song that’s usually referred to as Come Again.  My favourites are by counter tenor/alto Daniel Taylor, and by tenor William Ferguson.

The Earl of Southampton had Queen Elizabeth’s permission to remain overseas for two years, and take with him 10 servants, 6 horses, and £200.  He also purchased a letter of credit for 1,000 crowns, payable to him in Rouen (Akrigg, p.69).

He must have been delighted to be on the move.  But he did take a fond farewell of Elizabeth Vernon shortly before he sailed.

 

86: The Fates of Nero

Our ships came safe home.  The Spanish rogues were coming to attack Fowl Mouth, but (as we hoped) the immortal wrath of the Queen Cat of Heaven wrought against them.  She would not suffer the rascals near our fowl.

A delicately coloured drawing of a small harbour with several ships, but only a small human settlement.
A section from a map of Fowl Mouth (better known as Falmouth, on the coast of Cornwall). Via Wikimedia Commons.

Our heroick Essicks has also fled.  He went to the country to scape the mortal wrath of Queen Puss [Bess].

The voyage yielded small profit for her, and she blames him for it.  But Siffrans Fear [Sir Francis Vere] found her taking the air in her garden at White Hall, and spake so loud in defence of Essicks that many standing by heared all.

A black and white drawing of a palce in semi-rural surrounds, fronting on to the river.
A 16th century sketch of the palace of Whitehall from the Thames, by Antony van den Wyngaerde. Via Wikimedia Commons.

I do not know if my lord is condoling with Essicks, or in London.  I dare say the Queen’s young Pusses think him heroick.

Some here say he sunk one of the King of Spain’s ships.  I know not the truth of that.

But, in the matter of truth, I reproved my niece for telling the stable cats that Linkin had murdered Nero.

“That was no lie,” sayt she.  “It was a poetick fiction.  Is it my fault they believed me?”

She told me her tale.  Too tedious to set down here, save that a cat named Lankin sought revenge on one called Miro, who had seemed his friend.

Then Lankin nosed Miro’s scents in his mistress’ bed.  So he waited in a secret place where none could witness what he did.  When Miro came by, Lankin leapt out and seized him by the throat, and made an end to him.

Next, Lankin took revenge on his false mistress.  He caught a mouse and dropped it by her petticoats.  The mouse ran under them.  Lankin did the like and, feigning hot pursuit of the mouse, he gave his mistress’ legs and bum a mighty clawing.

“Now, uncle,” sayt my niece, “if there were none to witness Lankin’s wicked murder, how could my report of it be true?”

A close-up of the nose and squinting eyes of Gib's niece - a blacl, white, and orange cat.She gave me the look direct.

I struck her on her saucie face, and she crept off.

Then I made my way to Linkin’s house, for I feared word of her slanders may have reached him.

But Linkin had his own tale to tell.

He sayt that a friend of Nero’s late master, knowing the Spanish were coming, went to Portsmouth to give what aid he could.  When all danger was passed, he lingered there rejoicing.

Then (sayt this man) what did he see but a black cat eating a crust in the gutter.  This cat was so thin, scabbed, and rusted, he knew him only by his lack of tail. 

He offered the cat a morsel of cheese, and captured him.  Once aboard the boat, the cat started whurring.  (The man shared this boat with Nero’s old master.)

And the man told Linkin’s mistress he believes that when last he went to Portsmouth, poor old Blackie (as he called him) lay hidden on the boat.  And slipt ashore, perchance to seek his master, then but recently deceased.

And he (the man), not knowing Blackie had been aboard, returned without him.

This cat now lies at Linkin’s house, where his mistress tends him.  Then he’ll go to lodge with the man who found him.

“So all’s well that ends well,” sayt I to Linkin.

Linkin knew not what to think.  He feared an imposture.  “He may well gull my poor mistress and that old pirate,” he sayt. “He shall not trump me.”

But whene’er Linkin goes to nose him and take what scents might lie beneath the stinks of gutter, this cat swears at him most horrible.

Linkin led me to the impostor, who lay resting in a scrap of winter sun.

A rusty-furred black cat. lying on his side.

I troubled not to nose him.  I arrkst, poetickal, “How now, you secret, black, and midnight cat?”

And he replied:

I held the Fates clamped tight betwixt my teeth,

And with my paw turned Fortune’s wheel about.

“What mean you by that, you clown?” arrkst Linkin.

“I mean my luck held,” sayt Nero.  “And with it the Garland’s.  But none heeded my advice, so we lost the King of Spain’s treasure by a whisker.  I will say no more.”

Certes, he’ll have much to say when he’s made his verses.  I hope I may live to hear them, true or false.

When I was private in my house again, I counted the winters I’ve seen.  I believe this to be my seventeenth.

I am of sound mind and in good heart, though my joints ake.  I have not lost my personal attractions.  Unlike Queen Puss who has few teeth remaining.  Or Nero, who Linkin’s mistress sayt should be new-named Rustie.

But sometimes I’m troubled by sharp pains in my loins, the like of which I never felt before.  Ask for me in spring, and you may find me a grave cat.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorA few quick points:

The Spanish hadn’t mustered the 30,000 men King Philip of Spain deemed necessary for an invasion, but they hoped to use Falmouth Harbour as a base from which to destroy the English navy.

The Earl of Essex, having little to show for his voyage, withdrew to his house at Wanstead.  A bad move, because it gave his enemies at Court a chance to work against him.

Sir Francis Vere seems to have been an honourable man.  He left a brief and business-like account of the Islands Voyage in his Commentaries, where he mentions his argument with the Queen.  Despite his annoyance with Essex over the level of command he was given, he didn’t want to see him unfairly blamed for the failure.

Gib’s niece has a lighter taste in her reading than her uncle does.  The ‘mouse under the petticoats’ incident is a steal from Beware the Cat.