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St John's College T.9.30

Sixty-four sonnets by William Alabaster, transcribed 1627-8.


Sixty-four sonnets by William Alabaster (1568-1640) preceded by a prose meditation and a prayer. Written on seventeen of twenty-three leaves preceding the printed text Heures en françoys & latin à l'usage de Rome, corrigées & augmentées de plusieurs suffrages & oraisons, avec figures nouvelles, appropriées chascune en son lieu (Lyon: Guillaume Rouillé, 1558). The sonnets are written two to a page. The first sonnet is preceded by 'Anno dom 1627' and the sequence ends with 'Finis Anno dom 1628'. These are presumably the dates of transcription, since the sonnets were composed around 1597-8. Alabaster's English poems were for the most part not printed in his lifetime and survive in six manuscripts: Bodleian MS Eng. Poet. e. 57, Tanner MS 465 and 466, Corpus Christi College Oxford MS 309, Oscott College MS E.3.11, and St John's T.9.30. The sonnets have been published in G.M. Story and Helen Gardner, The sonnets of William Alabaster (London: O.U.P., 1959), referred to in the following list of contents as SG.


[i]. An admonition for the morninge. Begins: When thou arisest lett thie thoughts assend. Ends: and so committ thie selfe to him that keepes thee. According to Story and Gardner this is taken from Elizabeth Grymeston Miscelanea, Meditations, Memoratiues (London, 1604), chapter 3. (fo. 1)
[ii]. [Prayer]. Begins: In prayer (deare father) prepare and advise my hart. Ends: but make my devotion instant; and perswasion constant; that I shall prevaile. (fo. 1v)
1. Begins: The night the starlesse night of passion. Ends: The coldest ice of feare may not refuse. SG1. (fo. 2)
2. Begins: What meaneth this that Christ an hymne did singe. Ends: for sufferinges beforehand wee must tender. SG2. (fo. 2)
3. Begins: Over the brooke of Cedron Christ is gone. Ends: wee sinke wee reele Jesu stretch forth thie hand. SG3. (fo. 2v)
4. Begins: What blessed ferriman will undertake. Ends: dry’t with thie loue or drowne it with my teares. SG4. (fo. 2v)
5. Begins: Tis not enough over the brooke to stride. Ends: yett neuer come they to mount olivett. SG5. (fo. 3)
6. Begins: Upp to mount olivett my soule ascend. Ends: noe newes comes backe of one of all that roote. SG6. (fo. 3)
7. Begins: What should there bee in Christ to giue offence. Ends: tis night or ells how could wee soe mistake. SG7. (fo. 3v)
8. Begins: Alas our sheappeard now is strocke againe. Ends: butt liuinge from your sheapeard dye aliue. SG8. (fo. 3v)
9. Begins: When all forsake whose corrage darr abide. Ends: And married (incest with a sacred nunn. SG9. (fo. 4)
10. Begins: Though all forsake the Lord yett I will dye. Ends: To learne to say’t by heareing Christ say soe. SG10. (fo. 4)
11. Begins: His death begins within a farme within. Ends: but thinke not how hee cometh unto us. SG11. (fo. 4v)
12. Begins: My sinnes in multitude to Christ are gone. Ends: untill that his excuses all be spent. SG12. (fo. 4v)
13. Begins: My soule within the bedd of heauen doth growe. Ends: are teares with us but turn’d in heaven to grace. SG13. (fo. 5)
14. Begins: Doubt not my teares how you should soe aspire. Ends: keepeth accompt of teares as of his treasure. SG14. (fo. 5)
15. Begins: My soule a world is by contraccion. Ends: are turned into aprill showears of teares. SG15. (fo. 5v)
16. Begins: Three sortes of teares doe from myne eies distraine. Ends: for th’one without th’other will not bee. SG16. (fo. 5v)
17. Begins: Jesus thine eie of purenesse doth behold. Ends: his worthlessnes to Christ thereby endeares. SG17. (fo. 6)
18. Begins: My teares are of noe vulgar kinde I knowe. Ends: I loue to weepe because I loue to loue. SG18. (fo. 6)
19. Begins: See how the world doth now a newe beginn. Ends: but heauen is now contain’d by Christ god man. SG20. (fo. 6v)
20. Begins: Jesu thie loue within mee is soe manie. Ends: since my hart holdes not the hold thou my hart. SG19. (fo. 6v)
21. Begins: Sinke downe my soule into the lowest cell. Ends: Then that Christ went upp by goeinge downe. SG22. (fo. 7)
22. Begins: Jesus is risen from the infernall myre. Ends: false pathes , it is a dreadfull argument. SG23. (fo. 7)
23. Begins: O sweete and bitter monuments of paine. Ends: write thus uppon my soule thie Jesu still. SG24. (fo. 7v)
24. Begins: When to the closett of thie prayers devyne. Ends: or is my earthlie soule asspired higher. SG35. (fo. 7v)
25. Begins: To stile Christ praises with heauenlie muses winge. Ends: that are by Christ in us conioyn’d togeather. SG36. (fo. 8)
26. Begins: Haile gracefull morninge of eternall day. Ends: should haue a morninge that for euer lasteth. SG37. (fo. 8)
27. Begins: Behold a cluster to it selfe a vyne. Ends: where the onelie danger is to keepe a measure. SG32. (fo. 8v)
28. Begins: Ah mee that thornes his royall head should wound. Ends: what pleasure tis to smart for others gaine. SG25. (fo. 8v)
29. Begins: The earth which in delicious paradize. Ends: heare after should with rosall vertues crowne him. SG26. (fo. 9)
30. Begins: Now that the midday heate doth scorch my shame. Ends: o where was I that was not where I am. SG33. (fo. 9)
31. Begins: Eternitie the wombe of thinges created. Ends: that undercompasse of that life doe levell. SG38. (fo. 9v)
32. Begins: See how the sonne unfittinge doth uphold. Ends: glannce through myne eies and to my hart goe right. SG39. (fo. 9v)
33. Begins: Like as the winged spiritts alwaies stand. Ends: Loe heare I am lord whether wilt thou send mee. SG40. (fo. 10)
34. Begins: Loe heare I am lord whether wilt thou send mee. Ends: lord I am here (o) giue mee thie commission. SG41. (fo. 10)
35. Begins: Now I haue found the I will evermore. Ends: lord soe I am if heare my thoughts may rest. SG34. (fo. 10v)
36. Begins: O happie mother newe Jerusalem. Ends: soe both our loues are counted one in one meritt. SG42. (fo. 10v)
37. Begins: Thrise happie soules and spiritts imbodied. Ends: which still is heard but neuer learn’d the better. SG43. (fo. 11)
38. Begins: O sacred temple of unualted place. Ends: with interest of list I heare them singe. SG44. (fo. 11)
39. Begins: Holie holie holie lord unnamed. Ends: Holie Holie Holie lord unnamed. SG45. (fo. 11v)
40. Begins: Away feare with thie proiectes noe false fire. Ends: now bidd me into flame from smoake to come. SG46. (fo. 11v)
41. Begins: Lord I haue left all and my selfe behinde. Ends: Desire possession, possession desire. SG48. (fo. 12)
42. Begins: Deare and soe worthie both by your desart. Ends: And with sweete junketts doth her table spread. SG49. (fo. 12)
43. Begins: Shall I confesse my sinne then help me all. Ends: Shall I confesse my sinn then helpe me speak. SG52. (fo. 12v)
44. Begins: I singe of Christ o endlesse argument. Ends: To showe how he discended for our sinne. SG53. (fo. 12v)
45. Begins: Two yett butt one which eather other is. Ends: what wee confesse wee cannot reach unto. SG54. (fo. 13)
46. Begins: The unbounded sea of th’incarnacion. Ends: where diueinge neuer hath an end of sinkinge. SG55. (fo. 13)
47. Begins: Like as the fountaine of all light created. Ends: In makeinge man a god omnipotent. SG56. (fo. 13v)
48. Begins: Humanitie the feild of miseries. Ends: And still soreth gaze now noe more my mynde. SG57. (fo. 13v)
49. Begins: Longe time the parcells of created glorie. Ends: o modell more then the uniuersitie. SG58. (fo. 14)
50. Begins: God longed for mans loue and downe was sent. Ends: but why wee should or wee should not none are. SG59. (fo. 14)
51. Begins: God was in loue with man and sued then. Ends: how must wee loue him that soe loues his creature. SG61. (fo. 14v)
52. Begins: Godd and man though in this amphi. Ends: noe border unto the but to our eies. SG62. (fo. 14v)
53. Begins: My freindes whose kindnes doth ther judgment blynd. Ends: I haue no more to spend, nor haue I spent that. SG47. (fo. 15)
54. Begins: The first begininge of creation. Ends: Jesus if he weare learnd neede more to be knowne. SG63. (fo. 15)
55. Begins: Jesu the handle of the worldes great ball. Ends: yett Christ hold us sure or ells wee shall. SG64. (fo. 15v)
56. Begins: Why putt hee on the webb of humane nature. Ends: That God is best discerned not discerned. SG65. (fo. 15v)
57. Begins: By what glasse of resemblance may wee see. Ends: how are they then conioyned as god would. SG66. (fo. 16)
58. Begins: That power that tyed god and man in one. Ends: And looke about to see for whome they are. SG67. (fo. 16)
59. Begins: Myne eies are open yett perceiue I nought. Ends: my teares with mercie and my shame with grace. SG68. (fo. 16v)
60. Begins: With heate and cold I feele the sprightfull feinde. Ends: Till shame from teares and teares from shame doe flush. SG69. (fo. 16v)
61. Begins: The sonne beginnes uppon my hart to shyne. Ends: Thoughts teares and wordes all end in accion. SG70. (fo. 17)
62. Begins: When without teares I looke on Christ I see. Ends: or bringe me where eies teares nor blood shall neede. SG71. (fo. 17)
63. Begins: High towringe eagle rightlie may feast. Ends: is that such boldnes therefore it was riven. SG77. (fo. 17v)
64. Begins: To free our nature from captiuitie. Ends: And if hee weare not man they weare not ours. SG60. (fo. 17v)

Supplementary information 

195 x 130mm. 17 folios (+ blank leaves and printed book). Paper. 16th-century French (Lyon) binding of gold-tooled and painted brown calf over boards. The sonnets are in a single, neat hand, with few corrections.

Bequest of Thomas Baker (1656-1740) (inscription on flyleaf 'Tho: Baker Coll. Jo. socius ejectus'; ex dono book label inside front board). College bookplate of 1710 inside front board. Pencil note on flyleaf 'Sonnets: Dr William Alabaster. B[ertram]. Dobell.'


John W. Dickinson, 'Southwell's "Burning Babe" and William Alabaster'. Notes and Queries New Series Vol. VIII (1961) p.425-6.
Charles Sayle, 'A sonnet sequence of 1627-8'. Notes and Queries Seventh Series Vol. VIII (July-Dec. 1889) p.82-83.
G.M. Story and Helen Gardner, The sonnets of William Alabaster (London: O.U.P., 1959)