I wrote the esteemed Conrad as follows: “I thought ‘Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae‘ was a long title until I was flipping through my 1919 Poems and Prose of Ernest Dowson and saw ‘O Mors! quam amara est memoria tua homini pacem habenti in substantiis suis.'” As I hoped, he had a topper:

Fair, but these moderns have nothing on the 17c. My favourite is John Taylor’s charming poem entitled ‘The essence, quintessence, insence, innocence, lye-sence, & magnifisence of nonsence upon sence: or, Sence upon nonsence. The third part, the fourth impression, the fifth edition, the sixth addition, upon condition, that (by tradition) the reader may laugh if he list. In longitude, latitude, crassitude, magnitude, and amplitude, lengthened, widened, enlarged, augmented, encreased, made wider and sider, by the addition of letters, syllables, words, lines, and farfetch’d sentences. And the lamentable death and buriall of a Scottish Gallaway nagge. Written upon white paper, in a brown study, betwixt Lammas day and Cambridge, in the yeare aforesayd. Beginning at the latter end, and written by John Taylor at the sign of the poor Poets Head, in Phoenix Alley, near the middle of Long Acre, or Coven Garden. Anno, millimo, quillimo, trillimo, daffadillimo, pulcher’.

Of course, it looks much better in its proper layout, which you can see here; you can then proceed, if you like, to read the poem itself. (The odd form at the start of the first line, “MOūt meekly low, on blew presumptuous wings,” is an abbreviated form of “Mount”; the poem is dated 1653.)


  1. John Emerson says

    Is this euphuism? Or maybe a parody of it?

  2. Too late for actual euphuism, I think; might be a parody, but I suspect it’s just timeless scholarly high-jinks.

  3. Your Google Books link to the Taylor poem doesn’t work outside the USA. Here’s an alternate link to the text at the University of Virginia Library.

  4. J.W. Brewer says

    “Dresse me a dish of AE-dipthongs to supper.” Daffadillimo indeed!

  5. Written upon white paper, in a brown study
    Could this be the origin of the expression “in a brown study” ?? I surmise “the origin” only for the unconvincing reason that the expression occurs in an antient text. Maybe there are other, more wrinkled texts in which it appears.

  6. The OED dates “brown study” in the sense of ‘gloomy meditations’ back to 1555, so no, this is just Taylor making a joke on an expression already at least 100 years old. (And “study” meaning “room for writing in” dates from at least 1303.)
    Taylor was a deliberate contrarian: he is famous, in beer-writing circles, for writing in 1651, about 250 years after hopped beer arrived in England, “A Learned Lecture in Praise of Ale” (the original unhopped English malt drink) in which he declared that “Beere is a Dutch Boorish Liquor, a thing not knowne in England till of late dayes, an Alien to our Nation till such time as Hops and Heresies came amongst us.”

  7. Turkeys, heresy, hops, and beer
    Came into England all in one year.
         —quoted by Rudyard Kipling in Puck of Pook’s Hill
    Actually more like one decade: the 1520s.

  8. John Emerson says

    The holiday turkey was an English tradition which was exported to Massachusetts. Whether indigenous wild turkeys or imported domestic turkeys were eaten I don’t know. But the fact that the English name for the imported turkeys is used gives a possible clue.
    The turkey traveled around the world in a tremendous hurry, and it’s always referred to as a foreign bird (in Brazil a peru, in Scandinavia and Holland the bird of Calicut.)
    The guinea fowl has a similar story and the two birds were sometimes confused.

  9. Surely wild turkey was part of the “first thanksgiving”.

  10. John Emerson says

    Probably, but they could have brought them too. Or, alternatively, the first Thanksgiving had no turkey.
    Probably wild and domestic turkeys had diverged less at that time, so that they were recognizable the same bird.

  11. And who will describe for us the touching moment when wild and domestic turkeys confronted each other for the first time? Was there envy, fear, contempt?

  12. The wild and the tame belonged to two different subspecies, Meleagris gallopavo silvestris and M. g. gallopovo var. mexicana, so most likely their reaction was xenophobia.
    Here’s an excerpt from “Hal o’ the Draft”, the chapter in Kipling’s 1906 historical fantasy Puck of Pook’s Hill from which the above verse is drawn (though the verse itself is authentically 17th-century). The eponymous hero of the book is talking with the eponymous hero of the chapter, Sir Harry Dawes. Hal has been translated (as it were) from the 1490s, his proper era, to the early 20th century, for the delight and instruction of two rather historically-minded children (their outdoor playing place is called Volaterrae):
    “Body o’ me,” said Hal, staring at the hop-garden, where the hops were just ready to blossom. “What are these? Vines? No, not vines, and they twine the wrong way to beans.” He began to draw in his ready book.
    “Hops. New since your day,” said Puck. “They’re an herb of Mars, and their flowers dried flavour ale. We say — [quotes the verse above]”
    “Heresy I know. I’ve seen Hops — God be praised for their beauty! What is your Turkis?”
    The children laughed. They knew the Lindens turkeys, and as soon as they reached Lindens orchard on the hill the full flock charged at them.
    Out came Hal’s book at once. “Hoity-toity!” he cried. “Here’s Pride in purple feathers! Here’s wrathy contempt and the Pomps of the Flesh! How d’you call them?”
    “Turkeys! Turkeys!” the children shouted, as the old gobbler raved and flamed against Hal’s plum-coloured hose.
    “Save Your Magnificence!” he said. “I’ve drafted two good new things today.” And he doffed his cap to the bubbling bird.

  13. I’ll have to add Puck of Pook’s Hill to my reading list. What fun!

  14. There’s a 1910 sequel, Rewards and Fairies, that I’m reading now. Both books, like the Jungle Books, alternate tales with verses.

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