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A noble and vertuouse pastyme

from Sir Thomas Elyot’s The Boke Named the Gouernour (1531)

A man in his naturall perfection is fiers,
hardy, stronge in opinion, covaitous of glorie,
desirous of knowledge, seekyng goode order,
appetiting by generation to brynge forthe his semblable.
The good nature of a woman is to be milde,
timerouse, tractable, benign,
of sure remembrance, and shamefast.
Behold a man and a woman daunsinge to gether!
Suppose a concorde of all the saide qualities,
beinge ioyned to gether and set in ordre:
Fiersenesse ioyned with mildnesse maketh Severitie;
Audacitie with timerositie maketh Magnanimitie;
Desire of knowlege with sure remembrance procureth Sapience;
Shamfastnes ioyned to Appetite of generation maketh Continence,
which is a meane betwene Chastitie and inordinate lustes.

And for as moche as by the association of a man and a woman
in daunsinge may be signified matrimonie,
I coulde in declarynge the dignitie and commoditie of that sacrament
make intiere volumes . . .


©Helen May Williams 2014
Written in response to a workshop run By Peter George, which examined the second of the Four Quartets and challenged us to take inspiration from Eliot’s writing.

Helen May Williams is a poet and author, living in West Wales. She formerly taught at the University of Warwick and has written extensively on twentieth-century poetry. She runs the Poetry Society’s Carmarthen-based Stanza group and is an active member of Penfro Poets. Her poetry book, The Princess of Vix, is published by Three Drops Press.