I vowed that when my lord next removed to the countrie, I would accompany him. Even if I had no choice but to run up his back and cling his neck as he quit our house.
But first I hoped to hear newes of our book.
How joyed I was when a minion came to tell me that Picker and Stealer had spied it out and hooked it.
“From the shop with the picture of the pied bull?” arrkst I, scarce able to believe mine ears, but knowing they’d took a book from there before.
“From the shop with a picture of a parrot,” sayt she, hawtie. “You find fault in that?”
“No!” cried I. “Such birds croak out others’ words. ’Tis very apt.”
“Then come to Paws’ yard on the morrow,” sayt she.
I fair flew there. Many cats were gathered in admiration.
I thrust through the throng to see this marvel for myself.
Those deemed worthy had been permit to set their marks on it.
I nosed Luvvie the player-cat, Onix and Kettie, and the cat from the print-shop.
Picker and Stealer invited me to mark it, too.
I begged leave to examine it first.
The front was not as I had hoped. There was no picture of my uncle’s coat [of arms].
The print-shop cat sayt, “That’s not my fault.”
Kettie sayt, “A picture needs a block. Belike the printers had none fitting, which is to be regret.”
“No matter,” I sayt, lest I be accused of fault-finding again, and turned to our dedication.
It made no sense. Words were in the wrong order. I never before saw such rubbish in any book, but I put on a good face.
“Now that do look right well,” I sayt. “Like it were cut in stone.”
“Like it were a moniment,” sayt Picker. “To cover the hole wherein some corpse is laid.”
Stealer sayt, “And under this moniment we mean to bury Snakes-Purr.”
“Not to praise him,” added Luvvie.
There came applauds and screechings, but I continued lifting pages.
Lines and whole verses of my uncle Gib’s making came at me.
“From fairest creatures we desire increase…” (My mother always sayt she never wanted no kits, and our uncle made some sonnets on that matter.)
“Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now
Will be a matted pelt of small worth held…”
(My mother was proud to bear the orange-tawny of the most noble and heroick Earl of Essex.)
“Muse to me, why dost thou mew so sadly?” (My mother, again. But she never mewed sadly, she wauled wicked words.)
Then my uncle’s musings on hisself and his friends.
And “When my friend swears his tale is made of truth…” (That were to honour a sea-cat named Nero, but my mother sayt it were too deep-brained for his liking, or hers.)
Oh, all were defiled by Snakes-Purr’s foul imaginings, but I knowed them and many more too.
I sayt, “My uncle’s work is here. And sure, there’s much else stole from other poets who will offer Snakes-Purr a beating.”
I sayt, “Some are such as the King hisself might have writ of his he-favourites!”
There came calls of, “What? Snakes-Purr stole from the King?” “He’ll hang!”
I added, “The last verses are woeful. Belike Snakes-Purr penned them hisself. They tell of a woman who permit a man to seize her by the scruff, and then was grieved when he ran away after.”
A queen cat called, “Who would wish a stinkard to stay after she’d done with him?”
“Whoever made that tale was no cat,” cried another.
“Woeful, woeful,” they sang, while several ugly fellows stepped forward offering to do their pleasure.
I turned, raised my tail, and marked our book long and well.
Picker and Stealer came and over-marked me. I was not vexed. They’d earned that honour.
Then they crept sly-faced towards me, and I knew our brief accord was over.
“We hear tell,” sayt Picker, “that when Kettie arrkst what your Earl calls you, you offered the name given you by our friends that keep the Tower.”
“Mr Wrissole’s Harry,” sayt Stealer. “Why that name, and none other?”
“My lady mother named me Harry,” sayt I. “And I shall tell her of how we’ve shamed Snakes-Purr publick, and showed him for the thief he is. So I must bid your ladyships and all farewell. I am going into the countrie.”
I promised Kettie and Onix I would remember them to my mother.
Then I fled away, as swift as I’d come.
We do what we can in this wicked world. I had done all I could to be quit of my vow to my mother, whether she liked it or no.
I was free to do as I chose. And I thought I would choose a quiet and private life.
However, he must have returned to Place House in Titchfield, because his memoirs survived along with those of Tricks and Gib. Tricks would have turned 15 in 1609, so I hope she was still alive, and impressed by the publication.
Few others seem to have been. There wasn’t a second print run. The sonnets weren’t republished until 1640 – with a far more respectful title page than that designed by Harry.
The woeful tale that Harry speaks of isn’t a sonnet, but a narrative poem called The Lover’s Complaint. It’s not always printed in modern editions of the sonnets, and its authorship has been disputed. That would not surprise Harry.