Up pretty early (though of late I have been faulty by an hour or two every morning of what I should do) and by water to the Temple, and there took leave of my cozen Roger Pepys, who goes out of town to-day. So to Westminster Hall, and there at Mrs. Michell’s shop sent for beer and sugar and drink, and made great cheer with it among her and Mrs. Howlett, her neighbour, and their daughters, especially Mrs. Howlett’s daughter, Betty, which is a pretty girl, and one I have long called wife, being, I formerly thought, like my own wife. After this good neighbourhood, which I do to give them occasion of speaking well and commending me in some company that now and then I know comes to their shop, I went to the Six clerks’ office, and there had a writ for Tom Trice, and paid 20s. for it to Wilkinson, and so up and down to many places, among others to the viall maker’s, and there saw the head, which now pleases me mightily, and so home, and being sent for presently to Mr. Bland’s, where Mr. Povy and Gauden and I were invited to dinner, which we had very finely and great plenty, but for drink, though many and good, I drank nothing but small beer and water, which I drank so much that I wish it may not do me hurt.
They had a kinswoman, they call daughter, in the house, a short, ugly, red-haired slut, that plays upon the virginalls, and sings, but after such a country manner I was weary of it, but yet could not but commend it. So by and by after dinner comes Monsr. Gotier, who is beginning to teach her, but, Lord! what a droll fellow it is to make her hold open her mouth, and telling this and that so drolly would make a man burst, but himself I perceive sings very well.
Anon we sat down again to a collacon of cheesecakes, tarts, custards, and such like, very handsome, and so up and away home, where I at the office a while, till disturbed by, Mr. Hill, of Cambridge, with whom I walked in the garden a while, and thence home and then in my dining room walked, talking of several matters of state till 11 at night, giving him a glass of wine.
I was not unwilling to hear him talk, though he is full of words, yet a man of large conversation, especially among the Presbyters and Independents; he tells me that certainly, let the Bishops alone, and they will ruin themselves, and he is confident that the King’s declaration about two years since will be the foundation of the settlement of the Church some time or other, for the King will find it hard to banish all those that will appear Nonconformists upon this Act that is coming out against them.
He being gone, I to bed.

beer and cheer and howl
form a neighborhood

the company of kin and others
a bland plenty

but so much hurt
in an ugly mouth

that sings like a glass ruin
of the church

so hard to banish
all nonconformists


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 24 July 1663.

Up and to my office, and thence by information from Mr. Ackworth I went down to Woolwich, and mustered the three East India ships that lie there, believing that there is greatjuggling between the Pursers and Clerks of the Cheque in cheating the King of the wages and victuals of men that do not give attendance, and I found very few on board.
So to the yard, and there mustered the yard, and found many faults, and discharged several fellows that were absent from their business.
I staid also at Mr. Ackworth’s desire at dinner with him and his wife, and there was a simple fellow, a gentleman I believe of the Court, their kinsman, that made me I could have little discourse or begin acquaintance with Ackworth’s wife: and so after dinner away, with all haste home, and there found Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten at the office, and by Sir W. Batten’s testimony and Sir G. Carteret’s concurrence was forced to consent to a business of Captain Cocke’s timber, as bad as anything we have lately disputed about, and all through Mr. Coventry’s not being with us.
So up and to supper with Sir W. Batten upon a soused mullett, very good meat, and so home and to bed.

information worth a lie
that great juggling of the ages
give it away
as testimony to sin
as bad meat


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 23 July 1663.

Two weeks and the doctor’s
prescription does not seem
to have worked…

You walk all day in the sun
and try to do the things
you are used to doing,

and which you call work or routine,
except for the constant, low-level
buzzing under your skin.

You wake in the middle of the night
from a burning sensation— an itch
in the groin, dull throbbing

temples: what is it? What’s set
the little cells ablaze? Why
are they no longer happy

to be fed bread, coffee, soup,
strawberries dipped in cream?
Your joints creak like a boat

left too long in water; knees
swell like cantaloupes, dull
with too much sugar

or salt or ill humor. Is this
what it means to crest the middle?
If so then perhaps you’re

better off taking that long-
deferred vacation, pouring cereal
into your heaviest piece of china.

Use the gifts of wine and scent,
the embroidered scarves someone
sent you from overseas. How

is it better to choose austerity
over the extravagance of using
it all up now, while you can?

 

In response to Via Negativa: Revision.

In the aviary, brilliance of a blue
peacock pheasant next to the small

lorikeet. The heat’s constant hum
and white flash above low buildings.

Throughout the grounds, in their
solitary spaces, the meerkats

and sloth bears loll on their sides.
Who placed the empty Pampers boxes

next to the hollowed-out log?
In the shallow pool, Caribbean

flamingoes tip their heads into water,
turning their bills into cups.

There are tigers somewhere behind
the glassed-in enclosure. There is

a lion lying in the yellow dust
beside a stone pillar, sadder

than the white flowers on the vine,
that open their throats only once a year.

Up, and by and by comes my uncle Thomas, to whom I paid 10l. for his last half year’s annuity, and did get his and his son’s hand and seal for the confirming to us Piggott’s mortgage, which was forgot to be expressed in our late agreement with him, though intended, and therefore they might have cavilled at it, if they would.
Thence abroad calling at several places upon some errands, among others to my brother Tom’s barber and had my hair cut, while his boy played on the viallin, a plain boy, but has a very good genius, and understands the book very well, but to see what a shift he made for a string of red silk was very pleasant. Thence to my Lord Crew’s. My Lord not being come home, I met and staid below with Captain Ferrers, who was come to wait upon my Lady Jemimah to St. James’s, she being one of the four ladies that hold up the mantle at the christening this afternoon of the Duke’s child (a boy).
In discourse of the ladies at Court, Captain Ferrers tells me that my Lady Castlemaine is now as great again as ever she was; and that her going away was only a fit of her own upon some slighting words of the King, so that she called for her coach at a quarter of an hour’s warning, and went to Richmond; and the King the next morning, under pretence of going a-hunting, went to see her and make friends, and never was a-hunting at all. After which she came back to Court, and commands the King as much as ever, and hath and doth what she will.
No longer ago than last night, there was a private entertainment made for the King and Queen at the Duke of Buckingham’s, and she was not invited: but being at my Lady Suffolk’s, her aunt’s (where my Lady Jemimah and Lord Sandwich dined) yesterday, she was heard to say, “Well; much good may it do them, and for all that I will be as merry as they:” and so she went home and caused a great supper to be prepared. And after the King had been with the Queen at Wallingford House, he came to my Lady Castlemaine’s, and was there all night, and my Lord Sandwich with him, which was the reason my Lord lay in town all night, which he has not done a great while before.
He tells me he believes that, as soon as the King can get a husband for Mrs. Stewart however, my Lady Castlemaine’s nose will be out of joynt; for that she comes to be in great esteem, and is more handsome than she.
I found by his words that my Lord Sandwich finds some pleasure in the country where he now is, whether he means one of the daughters of the house or no I know not, but hope the contrary, that he thinks he is very well pleased with staying there, but yet upon breaking up of the Parliament, which the King by a message to-day says shall be on Monday next, he resolves to go.
Ned Pickering, the coxcomb, notwithstanding all his hopes of my Lord’s assistance, wherein I am sorry to hear my Lord has much concerned himself, is defeated of the place he expected under the Queen.
He came hither by and by and brought some jewells for my Lady Jem. to put on, with which and her other clothes she looks passing well.
I staid and dined with my Lord Crew, who whether he was not so well pleased with me as he used to be, or that his head was full of business, as I believe it was, he hardly spoke one word to me all dinner time, we dining alone, only young Jack Crew, Sir Thomas’s son, with us.
After dinner I bade him farewell. Sir Thomas I hear has gone this morning ill to bed, so I had no mind to see him.
Thence homewards, and in the way first called at Wotton’s, the shoemaker’s, who tells me the reason of Harris’s going from Sir Wm. Davenant’s house, that he grew very proud and demanded 20l. for himself extraordinary, more than Betterton or any body else, upon every new play, and 10l. upon every revive; which with other things Sir W. Davenant would not give him, and so he swore he would never act there more, in expectation of being received in the other House; but the King will not suffer it, upon Sir W. Davenant’s desire that he would not, for then he might shut up house, and that is true. He tells me that his going is at present a great loss to the House, and that he fears he hath a stipend from the other House privately.
He tells the that the fellow grew very proud of late, the King and every body else crying him up so high, and that above Betterton, he being a more ayery man, as he is indeed. But yet Betterton, he says, they all say do act: some parts that none but himself can do.
Thence to my bookseller’s, and found my Waggoners done. The very binding cost me 14s., but they are well done, and so with a porter home with them, and so by water to Ratcliffe, and there went to speak with Cumberford the platt-maker, and there saw his manner of working, which is very fine and laborious. So down to Deptford, reading Ben Jonson’s “Devil is an asse,” and so to see Sir W. Pen, who I find walking out of doors a little, but could not stand long; but in doors and I with him, and staid a great while talking, I taking a liberty to tell him my thoughts in things of the office; that when he comes abroad again, he may know what to think of me, and to value me as he ought. Walked home as I used to do, and being weary, and after some discourse with Mr. Barrow, who came to see and take his leave of me, he being to-morrow to set out toward the Isle of Man, I went to bed.
This day I hear that the Moores have made some attaques upon the outworks of Tangier; but my Lord Tiviott; with the loss of about 200 men, did beat them off, and killed many of them.
To-morrow the King and Queen for certain go down to Tunbridge. But the King comes back again against Monday to raise the Parliament.

to whom might it call
her hair of red silk

no Christ is ever as light
as a private joy

that comes to be
more than pleasure

the country
where now is

not staying there
but breaking up

we put on other clothes
full of morning

who would not
who could not take
that loss


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 22 July 1663.

Grandfather burns away
feathers from flesh.
In the kitchen, the women

cut then soak pieces
of raw meat in water until
the murk runs clear.

There is ginger-root,
salt. Leaves from the alugbati
or the pepper plant, chunks

of green papaya. They tell me:
If you learn how to read, you
could live.
You could learn

from the things of this world
how to make what is necessary.
Whether or not you cry, certain

things will or will not get done.
This is not called misfortune.
This is only your life.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Forestry.

And so lay long in the morning, till I heard people knock at my door, and I took it to be about 8 o’clock (but afterwards found myself a little mistaken), and so I rose and ranted at Will and the maid, and swore I could find my heart to kick them down stairs, which the maid mumbled at mightily. It was my brother, who staid and talked with me, his chief business being about his going about to build his house new at the top, which will be a great charge for him, and above his judgment.
By and by comes Mr. Deane, of Woolwich, with his draught of a ship, and the bend and main lines in the body of a ship very finely, and which do please me mightily, and so am resolved to study hard, and learn of him to understand a body, and I find him a very pretty fellow in it, and rational, but a little conceited, but that’s no matter to me. At noon, by my Lady Batten’s desire, I went over the water to Mr. Castle’s, who brings his wife home to his own house to-day, where I found a great many good old women, and my Lady, Sir W. Batten, and Sir J. Minnes.
A good, handsome, plain dinner, and then walked in the garden; which is pleasant enough, more than I expected there, and so Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Batten, and I by water to the office, and there sat, and then I by water to the Temple about my law business, and back again home and wrote letters to my father and wife about my desire that they should observe the feast at Brampton, and have my Lady and the family, and so home to supper and bed, my head aching all the day from my last night’s bad rest, and yesterday’s distempering myself with over walking, and to-day knocking my head against a low door in Mr. Castle’s house.
This day the Parliament kept a fast for the present unseasonable weather.

in the morning a new draft
of the lines in the body

I study hard to understand it
but desire brings many hands

and more than I expected
the letters feast or fast


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 21 July 1663.

photo of shadow of a head and hand

Don’t scorn me, Ladies, just for having loved.
Yes, I have felt a thousand torches’ fire,
a thousand sorrows, thousand biting pains.
Yes, I have spent a lot of time in tears…
look, think before you start maligning me –
if I’ve done wrong I’m suffering for it now,
don’t make things worse than they already are.
You’d do well to remember Love appears
unbidden, needs no Vulcan to inflame
your ardour or Adonis leading you astray –
its merest whim can leave you overcome.
Think you’re immune, strangers to violent
passion as you are? So sure you’re not like me?
Beware: you could be all the more undone.


Ne reprenez, Dames, si j’ay aymé:
Si j’ay senti mile torches ardentes,
Mile travaus, mile douleurs mordentes:
Si en pleurant, j’ay mon tems consumé,

Las que mon nom n’en soit par vous blamé.
Si j’ay failli, les peines sont presentes,
N’aigrissez point leurs pointes violentes:
Mais estimez qu’Amour, à point nommé,

Sans votre ardeur d’un Volcan excuser,
Sans la beauté d’Adonis acuser,
Pourra, s’il veut, plus vous rendre amoureuses:

En ayant moins que moy d’ocasion,
Et plus d’estrange & forte passion.
Et gardez vous d’estre plus malheureuses.

 

Thank you, Louise Labé, for continuing to surprise and engage me across the centuries.

Previously: Sonnets VIII & IX and Sonnet XIV.

Up and to my office, and then walked to Woolwich, reading Bacon’s “Faber fortunae,”1 which the oftener I read the more I admire. There found Captain Cocke, and up and down to many places to look after matters, and so walked back again with him to his house, and there dined very finely. With much ado obtained an excuse from drinking of wine, and did only taste a drop of Sack which he had for his lady, who is, he fears, a little consumptive, and her beauty begins to want its colour. It was Malago Sack, which, he says, is certainly 30 years old, and I tasted a drop of it, and it was excellent wine, like a spirit rather than wine.
Thence by water to the office, and taking some papers by water to White Hall and St. James’s, but there being no meeting with the Duke to-day, I returned by water and down to Greenwich, to look after some blocks that I saw a load carried off by a cart from Woolwich, the King’s Yard. But I could not find them, and so returned, and being heartily weary I made haste to bed, and being in bed made Will read and construe three or four Latin verses in the Bible, and chide him for forgetting his grammar. So to sleep, and sleep ill all the night, being so weary, and feverish with it.

up and down
to many places

a sack which begins
to want its color

like a spirit of water
returned to the yard

the heart has read
a true grammar in it


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 20 July 1663.

When the hero as suitor stops
to bathe himself in the river,
we don’t know for sure

if it is to meet a ritual
requirement, or simply from
the desire to present

himself in the best possible way
to the girl and her parents.
However it is, the epic narrates

that as he rises from the waters,
all the fish float belly-up to the surface,
not one having survived the stink.

Which is to say, beware when love
goes disguised as valor and vice-
versa; beware the performance

preceding some virtue. It always takes
time for the consequences to clear,
for the water to return to normal.