(Poem #149) Bethsabe's Song
Hot sun, cool fire, tempered with sweet air, Black shade, fair nurse, shadow my white hair; Shine sun; burn, fire; breathe, air, and ease me; Black shade, fair nurse, shroud me and please me: Shadow, my sweet nurse, keep me from burning, Make not my glad cause cause of mourning. Let not my beauty's fire Inflame unstaid desire, Nor pierce any bright eye That wandereth lightly.
This is a surprisingly modern-sounding poem, when you consider that George Peele lived in the 16th century... there's something about the structure - specifically, about the repetition of words and constructs - that seems quite un-Elizabethan to me. Can't quite put my finger on it, though... I'd welcome some feedback on this one. Considerations of structure apart, this is actually a very beautiful vignette, given added poignancy by our knowledge of what the future holds in store . Bathsheba's beauty is both delicate (it needs to be 'shrouded' from the hot sun) and dangerous ('cause of mourning'); this irony  gives the poem its power. And of course, the verse (in and of itself) is of the highest quality... thomas.  In the Biblical story of David and Bathsheba, David catches a glimpse of Bathsheba at her bath , and is smitten; he sends her husband Uriah the Hittite off to the front 'where the fighting is most furious'; when Uriah is killed, David promptly marries his widow. It's actually a good deal more complex than my capsule re-telling makes it seem :-)  The love of paradox and irony, at least, is very Elizabethan, even if the rest of the poem is not.  There's a famous painting of this by Rembrandt, which you can see at [broken link] http://www.oir.ucf.edu/wm/paint/auth/rembrandt/1650/ [Biography] Peele, George b. , c. July 25, 1556, London, Eng. d. , c. Nov. 9, 1596 Elizabethan dramatist who experimented in many forms of theatrical art: pastoral, history, melodrama, tragedy, folk play, and pageant. Peele began his varied literary career while at Oxford by translating into English a play of Euripides. In 1581 he moved to London but returned to Oxford in 1583 as a technical director for Christ Church's presentation of two plays by the noted Latin dramatist William Gager (1555-1622). About this time Peele had joined a group of Oxonians living just outside the London city wall and had begun to experiment with poetry in various metres. From his association with these so-called university wits came two mythological pastoral plays: The Arraignment of Paris (1584) and the masque The Hunting of Cupid (1591). He then produced a series of annual pageants for the city. After the production of The Arraignment of Paris, which he had written for the Children of the Chapel, Peele devoted the rest of his life to writing for the popular stage (though he was also compelled to turn out commemorative poems to supplement his meagre income). Of the many playhouse dramas he must have contributed to, only four can be certainly ascribed to him: a tragedy, The Battle of Alcazar (1594); a comedy, The Old Wives' Tale (1595); a chronicle play, Edward I (1593); and a biblical tragedy in verse, The Love of King David and Fair Bethsabe (1599). -- EB [The University Wits] The first generation of professional playwrights in England was known collectively as the "university wits." Their nickname identifies their social pretensions, but their drama was primarily middle class, patriotic, and romantic. Their preferred subjects were historical or pseudo-historical, mixed with clowning, music, and love interest. At times plot virtually evaporated; George Peele's Old Wives' Tale (c. 1595) and Nashe's Summer's Last Will and Testament (1600) are simply popular shows, charming medleys of comic turns, spectacle, and song. Peele was a civic poet, and his serious plays are bold and pageant-like; The Arraignment of Paris (1584) is a pastoral entertainment, designed to compliment Elizabeth. [EndNote] I didn't realise that the poem was taken from a play. Oh well, you live and learn :-)