pseudopodium
. . . Roxanne Shanté

. . .

What ever happened to Roxanne Shanté, the fiercest freestyler in the whole Old School?

This we learn from some English twerp tracking her down so's he could get her on his record and loop the one line where she mentions his name: She retired from music at age 21 to get her master's; she works for the state as a criminal psychologist and still lives in Queens. Which is certainly more interesting than the fate I'd dreamed up for her. But at least I'm in good unimaginative company, since it's also more interesting than the fate Nabokov dreamed up for his Lolita....

[... Jodie Foster as troubled Detective Lieutenant Dolly Schiller bursts into the dust-besparkled room in time to just barely not prevent Anthony Hopkins as Humbert Humbert's murder of Robin Williams as Clare Quilty ...]

. . .


Gascoigne's Lullaby

Sing lullaby as women do,
    Wherewith they bring their babes to rest,
And lullaby can I sing too
    As womanly as can the best.
With lullaby they still the child,
And if I be not much beguil'd,
    Full many wanton babes have I
    Which must be still'd with lullaby.

First lullaby my youthful years:
    It is now time to go to bed,
For crooked age and hoary hairs
    Have won the haven within my head.
With lullaby then youth be still,
With lullaby content thy will:
    Since courage quails and comes behind,
    Go sleep and so beguile thy mind.

Next lullaby my gazing eyes
    Which wonted were to glance apace,
For every glass may now suffice
    To show the furrows in my face.
With lullaby then wink awhile,
With lullaby your looks beguile:
    Let no fair face nor beauty bright
    Entice you eft with vain delight.

And lullaby my wanton will:
    Let reason's rule now reign thy thought,
Since all too late I find by skill
    How dear I have thy fancies bought.
With lullaby now take thine ease,
With lullaby thy doubts appease;
    For trust to this: if thou be still,
    My body shall obey thy will.

Eke lullaby my loving boy,
    My little Robin, take thy rest:
Since age is cold and nothing coy,
    Keep close thy coin, for so is best.
With lullaby be thou content,
With lullaby thy lusts relent;
    Let others pay which hath mo' pence:
    Thou art too poor for such expense.

Then lullaby my youth, mine eyes,
    My will, my ware, and all that was;
I can no mo' delays devise,
    But welcome pain, let pleasure pass.
With lullaby now take your leave,
With lullaby your dreams deceive,
    And when you rise with waking eye,
    Remember Gascoigne's Lullaby.

 
 

Note on the text

That closing line has always grabbed me in a "This Living Hand" way -- so proud of himself for his unpleasantly glistening little hook, he is! -- but it also says something about the state of English publishing in 1573. Court poets were supposed to be non-professionals, although their manuscripts would be circulated privately and then go on to be pirated and printed by enterprising booksellers, often anonymously.

So how could an ambitious young wannabe-court poet like George Gascoigne get famous in a hurry? By giving a purportedly hand-circulated and pirated collection of his work to a bookseller, and for extra security, in the great tradition of oral poets from Sappho to Roxanne Shanté, watermarking his name into the work itself.

Gascoigne quickly learned for himself just why anonymity was part of the court poet tradition, and two years later, he arranged a second edition of his works with many self-identifications erased. Among the revision's victims was "Gascoigne's Lullaby," with title changed to "The Lullaby of a Lover" and end changed to an unresounding thud.

 

 

 

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.