Bartholomew Griffin was buried in Coventry in 1602. In 1596 he dedicated his “slender work” Fidessa to William Essex of Lamebourne in Berkshire. He adds an address to the Gentlemen of the Inns of Court, whom he begs to “censure mildly as protectors of a poor stranger” and “judge the best as encouragers of a young beginner.” Of the poet little further is known. From the sonnets themselves we learn that Fidessa was “of high regard,” the child of a beautiful mother and of a renowned father; she sprang in fact from the same root with the poet himself, who writes “Gent.” after his name on the title-page. She had been kind to him in sickness and had “yielded to each look of his a sweet reply.” After giving these slight hints, he pushes forth from the moorings of realism and sets sail on the ocean of the sonneteer’s fancy, meeting the usual adventures. His sonnets, while showing versatility and ingenuity, lack spontaneous feeling and have serious defects in form; yet these defects are in part offset by their conversational ease and dramatic vividness.
Fertur Fortunam Fortuna favere ferenti
Fidessa fair, long live a
Blest from thy cradle by a worthy mother,
High-thoughted like to her, with bounty laden,
Like pleasing grace affording, one and other;
Sweet model of thy far renowned sire!
Hold back a while thy ever-giving hand,
And though these free penned lines do nought require,
For that they scorn at base reward to stand,
Yet crave they most for that they beg the least
Dumb is the message of my hidden grief,
And store of speech by silence is increased;
O let me die or purchase some relief!
Bounteous Fidessa cannot be so cruel
As for to make my heart her fancy’s fuel!
How can that piercing crystal-painted
That gave the onset to my high aspiring.
Yielding each look of mine a sweet reply,
Adding new courage to my heart’s desiring,
How can it shut itself within her ark,
And keep herself and me both from the light,
Making us walk in all misguiding dark,
Aye to remain in confines of the night?
How is it that so little room contains it,
That guides the orient as the world the sun,
Which once obscured most bitterly complains it,
Because it knows and rules whate’er is done?
The reason is that they may dread her sight,
Who doth both give and take away their light.
Venus, and young Adonis sitting
Under a myrtle shade, began to woo him;
She told the youngling how god Mars did try her,
And as he fell to her, so fell she to him.
“Even thus,” quoth