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Of Money

September 26, 2016

Of Money

Give money me, take friendship whoso list,
For friends are gone come once adversity.
When money yet remaineth safe in chest,
That quickly can thee bring from misery.
Fair face show friends when riches do abound;
Come time of proof, farewell, they must away.
Believe me well, they are not to be found,
If God but send thee once a lowering day.
Gold never starts aside, but in distress
Finds ways enough to ease thine heaviness.

–Barnabe Googe 1563

COMMENTARY: There are two obscure 16th century lyrical Barnabe’s, Barnes (see future post) and Googe (rhymes with hootch, I think, not scrooge). The chief difference between them is that Barnes, thirty years the younger, was a drinker, a fighter, a carouser, and an outlaw (eventually being tried for attempted murder) who wrote in the Petrarchan style (exagerated, elevated, fanciful) whereas our scroogish grubber of a Googe was a respected statesman, scholar, and soldier who wrote in what has come to be called the “plain style.”

The elements of the plain style–brevity, clarity, symmetry–are on display in this perverse 10-liner. It begins with a statement of the theme–“give money me, take friendship whoso list” in a direct, symmetrical line, broken in the middle. The poem then unfolds in a series of balanced contrasts: “friends are…while money is…” On a first reading, the ending may seem flat or dull or heavy, but, on consideration, Googe has embedded two ironies in the closing couplet. Gold is a metal, and therefore, physically heavy, but it eases emotional heaviness. Secondly, friends cause dismay by “starting aside” whereas money, in being abandoned or put aside brings pleasure.

One Comment
  1. “Provide, Provide”?

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