This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Saturday Rave: The Worst Poet in England.

"Wither was a man of real genius, but seems to have been partially insane."

Or so the Victorian critic and commentator George Gilfillan said, anyway.

Oh dear.

The Wither in question was the poet George Wither. He certainly managed to upset a lot of people, but then this was fatally easy at the time he lived, 1588 - 1667. However, getting on the wrong side of both Royalists and Parlimentarians does imply a certain lack of discretion.

I must admit, too, that getting imprisoned for libel for a book that mentioned no one by name was...original.

George Wither is most famous, of course, for having his life saved by Sir John Denham. After Wither was captured by Royalists during the English Civil War, Denham successfully pleaded that Wither's life should be spared on the grounds that while Wither lived Denham could not be accounted the worst poet in England.

George Wither.jpg

But whatever misadventures befell him, Wither produced a lot of work. He wrote a masque, lyrics, several pamphlets, royal, pastoral, religious and love poetry, as well as satire.

He has two poems in the Oxford Book of English Verse. The most famous one, A Lover's Resolution, begins:

Shall I, wasting in despair,
Die because a woman's fair?
Or make pale my cheeks with care
'Cause another's rosy are?
Be she fairer than the day,
Or the flowery meads in May,
If she be not so to me,
What care I how fair she be?

And ends:

Great, or good, or kind, or fair,
I will ne'er the more despair;
If she love me, this believe,
I will die ere she shall grieve.
If she slight me when I woo,
I can scorn and let her go.
For if she be not for me,
What care I for whom she be?

Which must be just about the sanest (if not the most wholly convincing) bit of love poetry in existence.

Word To Use Today: wither. This word might be something to do with the word weather, and also might be related to the German verwittern, to decay.

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