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The Mystery of Emaricdulfe

(Reprinted from SOBRANS, January 1998, pages 5–6)

Nearly a year ago, as I was finishing Alias Shakespeare, I happened on what may turn out to be one of the most important finds in the history of English literature.

While browsing through a couple of poetry anthologies, I ran across a few sonnets, author unknown, from an Elizabethan sonnet cycle oddly titled Emaricdulfe, published in 1595. I was already sure that the Earl of Oxford, better known as “William Shakespeare,” had written the lovely sonnet published under the mythological name “Phaeton” in 1591; could he have written these too?

I soon found the complete text of Emaricdulfe, and an hour with the 40 sonnets was enough to convince me that Shakespeare — that is, Oxford — had indeed written it. I was amazed, ecstatic.

The style, though erratic, was sufficient. But there also were details that had close matches in the Shakespeare works. The more I studied the poems, the more Shakespearean parallels I found. Eventually I identified more than 200 &3151; five per sonnet, or one every three lines!

At this point even my most devoted readers must be skeptical. So allow me to present some of the evidence.

Number 24 of the 40 sonnets is the most vivid and interesting example:
Oft have I heard honey-tongu’d ladies speak, 
Striving their amorous courtiers to enchant, 
And from their nectar lips such sweet words break, 
As neither art nor heavenly skill did want. 
But when Emaricdulfe gins to discourse, 
Her words are more than well-tun’d harmony, 
And every sentence of a greater force 
Than Mermaids’ song, or Sirens’ sorcery; 
And if to hear her speak, Laertes’ heir 
The wise Ulysses liv’d us now among, 
From her sweet words he could not stop his ear, 
As from the Sirens’ and the Mermaids’ song; 
And had she in the Sirens’ place but stood, 
Her heavenly voice had drown’d him in the flood. 

Obviously “Emaricdulfe” is a code name. Though these poems are highly stylized in the Petrarchan tradition and far from realistic, there would be no need for a code name if the lady they describe weren’t a real person. She is apparently a lady of the court (possibly Elizabeth I herself), and her admirers are courtiers. Presumably the author is a courtier too. This, of course, suggests Oxford; it can hardly be William of Stratford (who in any case would not be writing anonymously if he were the author).

But if the author is the poet we know as Shakespeare, and if he was writing anonymously (the title page identifies the author only as “E.C., Esquire”), “Shakespeare” very likely not his real name either. If he was a courtier, he was probably Oxford. In the future I’ll offer additional proof of this. For now I’ll content myself with showing only that “E.C.” and “Shakespeare” were the same poet.

Let’s begin with Shakespearean parallels in the poem cited above:
Line 1: “honey-tong’ed” Love’s Labor’s Lost: “honey-tongued Boyet”
Lines 2, 5, 6: “enchant ... discourse ... harmony” Venus and Adonis: “Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear”

Comedy of Errors: “of such enchanting presence and discourse”

Love’s Labour’s Lost: “doth ravish like enchanting harmony”
Line 3: “from their nectar lips” Venus: “such nectar from his lips”
Line 6: “well-tun’d harmony” Titus Andronicus: “the well-tuned horns”

The Rape of Lucrece: “well-tuned warble”

Sonnet 8: “well-tuned sounds”
Line 7: “And every sentence of a greater force”
Henry V: “sweet and honeyed sentences”
Lines 8, 12, 14: “Mermaids ... Sirens ... drown’d” 3 Henry VI: “I’ll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall”

Comedy of Errors: “O, train me not, sweet mermaid, with thy note / To drown me in thy sister’s flood of tears. Sing, siren, for thyself”
Line 9: “And if to hear her speak” Sonnet 130: “I love to hear her speak”
Lines 9–10: “Laertes’ heir The wise Ulysses”
Titus Andronicus: “wise Laertes’ son”
Lines 11–12: “stop his ear ... Mermaid’s song” Comedy of Errors: “I’ll stop mine ears against the mermaid’s song”

Lucrece: “As if some mermaid did their ears entice”

Venus: “Bewitching like the wanton mermaid’s song”
Lines 13–14 clinch it: “And had she in the Sirens’ place but stood,
Her heavenly voice had drown’d him in the flood.”
Lucrece: “That had Narcissus seen her as she stood,
Self-love had never drown’d him in the flood.”
And note this rhyme pattern, in another sonnet of Emaricdulfe, and compare a quatrain from Lucrece:
 O Lust, of sacred love the foul corrupter,
 Usurper of her heavenly dignity,
 Folly’s first child, good counsel’s interrupter,
 Foster’d by sloth, first step to infamy.
 Her house is sack’d, her quiet interrupted,
 Her mansion batter’d by the enemy;
 Her sacred temple spotted, spoil’d, corrupted,
 Grossly ingirt with daring infamy.
(Also compare the first quatrain with Venus: “love to heaven is fled, Since sweating lust on earth usurp’d his name.”)

The style and themes are equally Shakespearean; these lines, with their wistful reflection on beauty and mortality, would be at home among the 1609 Sonnets:
O foolish nature, why didst thou create 
A thing so fair, if fairness be neglected? 
But fairest things be subject unto fate, 
And in the end are by the fates rejected. 
If any doubt remains, consider some parallel lines and phrases from E.C. and Shakespeare:
EC:  “A beauteous issue of a beauteous mother”
WS:  “Sweet issue of a more sweet-smelling sire”; “When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear”
EC:  “Fair-springing branch sprung of a hopeful stock”
WS:   “That from his loins no hopeful branch might spring”
EC:  “For nature of the gods is to be merciful”
WS:   “Wilt thou draw near the nature of the gods? Draw near them then in being merciful."
EC:  “The stars that spangle heaven with glistering beauty”
WS:   “What stars do spangle heaven with such beauty?”
EC:  “to yield Them coward captives”
WS:   “The coward captive vanquished doth yield”
EC:  “a ship on Neptune’s back”
WS:   “o’er green Neptune’s back With ships made cities”
EC:  “True badge of faith”
WS:   “the badge of faith to prove them true”
EC:  “So pure a chest pure treasure may contain”
WS:   “Some purer chest to close a purer mind”
EC:  “in her heart enthroned”
WS:   “enthroned in the hearts of kings”; “enthroned In your dear heart”
EC:  “eyes that gaze upon thy beauty”
WS:   “an eye to gaze on beauty”
EC:  “my heart’s deep grief and sorrow”
WS:   “grief and sorrow still embrace his heart”
EC:  “love-lacking Vesta”
WS:   “love-lacking vestals”
EC:  “modest Diana”
WS:   “modest Dian”
EC:  “love-choking lust”
WS:   “choked by unresisted lust”
EC:  “the high house of fame”
WS:   “the house of fame”
EC:  “virtuous monuments”
WS:   “virtuous monument”
EC:  “heavenly mould”
WS:   “moulds from heaven”
EC:  “bastard of nature”
WS:   “nature’s bastards”
EC:  “my yielding heart”
WS:   “my unyielding heart”
EC:  “in wealthy nature’s scorn”
WS:   “in scorn of nature”
EC:  “heavenly shape”
WS:   “a shape of heaven”
EC:  “plough the seas”
WS:   “plough’st the foam”
EC:  “rich jewels”
WS:   “rich jewel”
EC:  “the whistling winds”
WS:   “the whistling wind”
EC:  “changed his hue”
WS:   “change this hue”
EC:  “christen anew”
WS:   “new-christened”
EC:  “love’s purity”
WS:   “purity in love”
EC:  “love-kindled”
WS:   “love-kindling”
EC:  “chaste vows”
WS:   “vowed chaste life”
EC:  “Juno for state”
WS:   “highest queen of state, Great Juno”
EC:  “higher strain”
WS:   “high strains”
EC:  “heavenly gifts”
WS:   “heavenly gift”
EC:  “so sweet a saint”
WS:   “sweet saint”
EC:  “there all enraged”
WS:   “here all enraged”
EC:  “high pitch”
WS:   “higher pitch”
EC:  “death’s ebon gates”
WS:   “death’s ebon dart”
EC:  “richest treasure”
WS:   “rich treasure”
EC:  “true types”
WS:   “true type”
E.C. and Shakespeare use identical phrases, including these: “the world’s report,” “sweet repose,” “golden slumber,” “virtue’s nest,” “holy fire,” “hell-born,” “endless date,” “deep unrest,” “golden tresses,” “cruel death,” “suffer shipwreck,” “pretty action,” “ten times happy,” “snow-white,” “true constancy,” “several graces,” “well-deserving,” “lily hand,” “honey sweet,” “outward graces,” “honey breath,” “the golden sun,” “weal and woe,” “sacred beauty,” and “princely beauty.”

And all this is the short list. Coincidence, copying, influence, plagiarism, and so forth are out of the question. Only one poet commanded this style.

The evidence could hardly be more conclusive. Yet no scholar has even noticed these parallels, which have been lying in plain sight for four centuries. It’s one of the most astounding oversights in the history of literary scholarship.

How could it happen? Simple. Most of the scholars have never taken the Shakespeare authorship question seriously. And by the same token, they’ve never questioned other Elizabethan authorship attributions.

And so this incredible treasure was left to me, courtesy of those countless academic scholars who, rejecting as absurd the possibility that Oxford was “Shakespeare,” therefore never paused to wonder whether other works from the same golden quill, under other guises, were waiting to be noticed.

Joseph Sobran

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