A web-based edition of early seventeenth-century political poetry from manuscript sources. It brings into the public domain over 350 poems, many of which have never before been published.

C1i Downe came grave auntient Sir John Crooke

Notes. The chosen version of “The Parliament Fart”, in Bodleian MS Malone 23, is one of the longest and most careful copies in circulation. On the whole it lacks the transcription errors frequently found in other copies; the names of members, with one or two possible exceptions, are given correctly; and there is an effort to provide the poem with some regularity (e.g. collating couplets attributed to the same member). The framing verses designate the poem’s value as an artful piece of wit, and hence the product of a sophisticated and urbane political culture. Given its status within parliamentary and legal circles, the notes concentrate on identifying members of parliament to whom the poem refers, and situating them within this context. Moreover, given the way in which the poem accrued substance and meaning into the 1620s, the notes regularly identify dates of death for men mentioned who died in these years. The notes also contain references to important variants.

“The Censure of the Parliament Fart”

Never was bestowed such art

Upon the tuning of a Fart.

Downe came grave auntient Sir John Crooke1

And redd his message in his booke.

Fearie well, Quoth Sir William Morris,2 Soe:


But Henry Ludlowes3 Tayle cry’d Noe.

Up starts one fuller4 of devotion

Then Eloquence; and said a very ill motion

Not soe neither quoth Sir Henry Jenkin5

The Motion was good; but for the stincking


Well quoth Sir Henry Poole6 it was a bold tricke

To Fart in the nose of the bodie pollitique

Indeed I must confesse quoth Sir Edward Grevill7

The matter of it selfe was somewhat uncivill

Thanke God quoth Sir Edward Hungerford8


That this Fart proved not a Turdd

Quoth Sir Jerome the lesse9 there was noe such abuse

Ever offer’d in Poland, or Spruce10

Quoth Sir Jerome in folio,11 I sweare by the Masse

This Fart was enough to have brooke all my Glasse


Indeed quoth Sir John Trevor12 it gave a fowle knocke

As it lanched forth from his stincking Docke.13

I (quoth another) it once soe chanced

That a great Man farted as hee danced.14

Well then, quoth Sir William Lower15


This fart is noe Ordinance fitt for the Tower.

Quoth Sir Richard Houghton16 noe Justice of Quorum17

But would take it in snuffe 18 to have a fart lett before him.

If it would beare an action quoth Sir Thomas Holcrofte19

I would make of this fart a bolt, or a shafte.


Quoth Sir Walter Cope20 ’twas a fart rarely lett

I would ’tweere sweet enough for my Cabinett.

Such a Fart was never seene

Quoth the Learned Councell of the Queene.21

Noe (quoth Mr Pecke22 I have a President23 in store


That his Father farted the Session before

Nay then quoth Noy24 ’twas lawfully done

For this fart was entail’d25 from father to sonne

Quoth Mr Recorder26 a word for the cittie

To cutt of the aldermens right27 weere great pittie.


Well quoth Kitt Brookes28 wee give you a reason

Though he has right by discent he had not livery & seizin29

Ha ha quoth Mr Evans30 I smell a fee

I’ts a private motion heere’s something for mee31


Well saith Mr Moore32 letts this motion repeale

Whats good for the private is oft ill for comonweale33

A good yeare on this fart, quoth gentle Sir Harry34

He has caus’d such an Earthquake that my colepitts miscarry35

’Tis hard to recall a fart when its out


Quoth    with a loude shoote36


1   Sir John Crooke: Croke sat in the 1584, 1597 and 1601 Parliaments. He was the King’s Serjeant in the 1604 Parliament, and thus brought messages and bills from the Lords to the Commons. He died in 1620. <back>

2   Sir William Morris: Maurice, or Morris, sat in the 1593, 1601 and 1604 Parliaments. James I referred to him as his godfather, since Maurice hailed James “King of Great Britain” on his accession, in the belief that this fulfilled a Welsh prophecy. He was the most ardent and vocal apologist for the Union of the Kingdoms in the Commons, and the House frequently censured his speeches due to their length or departure from business. In the 1610 Parliament, his two-hour speech on Union was subject to interruption and whistling, and was eventually stopped by the Speaker. He died in 1622. <back>

3   Henry Ludlowes: Ludlow, a member of the Inner Temple, sat in the 1601 and 1604 Parliaments. Ludlow represented Wiltshire with James Kirton, John Hoskyns’ friend from the Middle Temple. <back>

4   one fuller: Nicholas Fuller, a member of Gray’s Inn, sat in the 1593, 1604 and 1614 Parliaments. He was a Puritan lawyer keen to secure ecclesiastical and moral reform, and willing to challenge the royal prerogative in relation to purveyance, the Union, and impositions. Toby Matthews, in a letter to John Donne describing the first Jacobean Parliament, said: “The vild [i.e. wild] Speakers are, Hoskyns, Fuller, with an &caetera of an hundred men” (Bald 145). Following his zealous opposition to the Crown in the 1606/07 sessions, he was censured over a legal decision by the Lord Chancellor, Thomas Egerton, Lord Ellesmere, as part of a campaign against those who too zealously studied the royal prerogative in the Commons (Cuddy 132-33). He died in 1620. <back>

5   Sir Henry Jenkin: Jenkin, a member of Lincoln’s Inn and a Justice of the Peace in Yorkshire, was elected to parliament in 1604. On 14 April 1604, during the purveyance debates, he cited the Magna Carta, defended freedom of election, and was called to order by the Speaker; on 20 Feb 1607 he followed a speech by Sir William Maurice with a prayer “that he might speak nothing impertinently and that the House would hear him with patience and attention”. <back>

6   Sir Henry Poole: Poole, a member of Lincoln’s Inn, sat in the 1597, 1604, 1610, 1621, 1624 and 1626 Parliaments. He established a reputation as a parliamentary wit in James’s first Parliament; his brother-in-law was Sir Henry Neville, Earl of Abergavenny, who contributed a panegyric verse to Coryats Crudities. In November 1606, he spoke against the ruling on the post nati, alongside Richard Martin. <back>

7   Sir Edward Grevill: Greville sat in the 1593 and 1604 Parliaments. <back>

8   Sir Edward Hungerford: Hungerford sat in the 1614, 1621, 1624, 1625, 1628 and 1640 Parliaments. A Sir John Hungerford, a kinsman of Sir Henry Poole, sat in the 1604 Parliament. (One source attributes the couplet to “Sir Tho: Hungerford”, and it is possible that “Tho:” may be a corruption of “John” (BL Add. MS 34218, fol. 21r).) <back>

9   Sir Jerome the lesse: Sir Jerome Bowes sat in the 1601 and 1604 Parliaments. Bowes was temporarily banished from court in 1577 for slandering Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He was appointed English ambassador to Russia in 1583, and died in 1616. <back>

10   Spruce: Prussia (derived from “Pruce”). <back>

11   Sir Jerome in folio: Sir Jerome Horsey sat in the 1593, 1597, 1601, 1604, 1614 and 1621 Parliaments, and was appointed High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1610. He went to Moscow as clerk of the Russia Company in 1573, and engaged in trade and diplomatic work until 1587. He was granted a licence in 1592 to make drinking glasses in England and Ireland for twelve years. Since this and the preceding couplet are always cited together, “the lesse” and “in folio” function as a means of distinguishing the two Jeromes, although the contemporary significance of these phrases is now lost. <back>

12   Sir John Trevor: Trevor sat in the 1593, 1597, 1601, 1604, 1614, 1621 and 1625 Parliaments. <back>

13   As it lanched...Docke: aligns the contemporary colloquial meaning of “dock” as “arse” with a pointed naval metaphor. On 25 February 1606, Bowyer recorded that on the first reading of a bill “manie cried (away with it) then MR. TREVER of the Inner Temple, being a follower of the Lord Admyrall [Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham], spake in favor of the bill...but the howse without farder question threw out the bill, Fearing least it would breade a new office which they though [i.e. ‘through’] some greate man aymed at ” (53). <back>

14   a great Man...danced: allusion to Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who famously farted in front of Elizabeth I. <back>

15   Sir William Lower: Lower sat in the 1601 and 1604 Parliaments. In 1614 he sent pursuivants after Sir Henry Goodyer, an act which may explain the couplet attributed to Lower in other copies: “Then all in anger sayd Sir Will: Lower / Wee may by our privilidge Comitt to the Tower” (BL Add. MS 34218, fol. 21r). <back>

16   Sir Richard Houghton: Houghton sat in the 1601 and 1604 Parliaments. <back>

17   Justice of Quorum: a Justice of the Peace whose presence was necessary to constitute a bench. <back>

18   take it in snuffe: take offence. <back>

19   Sir Thomas Holcrofte: Holcrofte sat in the 1593, 1601 and 1604 Parliaments. He died in 1620. <back>

20   Sir Walter Cope: Cope, a noted antiquary, sat in the 1589, 1601, 1604 and 1614 Parliaments. He was appointed secretary to Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, in 1609, and Master of the Wards in 1613. He died in 1615. <back>

21   Learned Councell of the Queene: Sir Robert Hitcham, who attended Gray’s Inn, was appointed Queen Anne’s Attorney-General in 1603, and sat in the 1597, 1604, 1614, 1624, 1625 and 1626 Parliaments. <back>

22   Mr Pecke: Edward Peake sat in the 1576, 1584, 1586, 1589, 1593, 1597, 1601 and 1604 Parliaments. He died in July 1607, before the fourth session of this parliament. <back>

23   President: i.e. “precedent”. After members of the House of Lords were outraged by a message from the Commons claiming that some of its members were barons, Richard Martin reported on 5 March 1607 that Peake had a precedent in the description of representatives of the Cinque Ports. <back>

24   Noy: there were three Noyes in Jacobean Parliaments: William Noye sat in the 1604, 1621, 1624, 1626 and 1628 Parliaments; John Noyes sat in the 1604 Parliament; and Peter Noyes sat in the 1614 Parliament. The most likely candidate, however, given the legal tenor of the couplet, was William Noy: a member of Lincoln’s Inn and a highly regarded lawyer. On 14 March 1606, William Noy argued against a higher subsidy to the King, implying that high taxation was the cause of civil war and brought the state into disrepute at home and abroad (Bowyer 80). <back>

25   entail’d: pun on “tail”; to entail is to settle land or an estate on a designated series of possessors, hence from father to son. A joke of this type was made at the time, since Bowyer puts it in his diary (see above, section Introduction). <back>

26   Mr Recorder: Sir Henry Mountague, Recorder of the City of London, sat in the 1593, 1597, 1603, 1604 and 1614 Parliaments, representing London in the last two of these. <back>

27   To cutt...right: i.e. to deny the powerful City of London representation and a voice in parliament. <back>

28   Kitt Brookes: Christopher Brooke, poet and member of Lincoln’s Inn, sat in the 1604, 1610, 1614, 1621, 1624 and 1628 Parliaments. He was active in opposition to the Union and impositions, and was identified by Francis Bacon as one of the popular or “opposite party” (Works 4.365). Variants on this couplet include: “Wee may be note so severe quoth Christopher Brooke / That it inter orata in the end of the Clarke booke” (BL Add. MS 23229, fol. 17r); “Nay quoth Kitt Brooke, I tooke it in ill part, / And ere I have done Ile abridge the fart” (BL Add. MS 58215, fol. 189r). <back>

29   livery & seizin: livery of seisin refers to the delivery of property into the corporal possession of a person. Since a fart is intangible this cannot be done. <back>

30   Mr Evans: Ralph Ewens, a member of Gray’s Inn, sat in the 1597 and 1601 parliaments, and was Clerk of the Commons in the 1604 Parliament. He died in 1611. <back>

31   I smell...for mee: fees were paid to the Speaker, Serjeant and possibly also the Clerk, to put private bills before the House. <back>

32   Mr Moore: Sir Francis Moore, a member of the Middle Temple, sat in the 1589, 1597, 1601, 1604 and 1614 Parliaments. He died in 1621. <back>

33   Whats good...comonweale: Moore was known for his opposition to monopolies. In 1606, he denounced a patent for blue starch as a monopoly; and in 1614, in a speech concerning the glass patent, he “declared that it was typical for monopolists to pretend that their patent was for the public good even though they were primarily concerned with private gain”. <back>

34   Sir Harry: Sir Henry Goodyer, a member of the Middle Temple and Gentleman of the Privy Chamber from 1605, sat in the 1604 Parliament. He was a close friend and correspondent of John Donne and the other “wits” credited with the composition of the “Parliaments Fart”. <back>

35   He has caus’d...miscarry: Goodyer held the monopoly on coal. <back>

36   Quoth...shoote: the manuscript leaves a gap here, and of the other versions that include this couplet there is no agreement whose name should appear. Contenders include: “Sir Thomas Holcraft” [i.e. Holcrofte, mentioned earlier in the poem] (Bodleian MS Ashmole 36-37), “Sir John Frogmorton” (BL MS Stowe 962) [i.e. John Throckmorton, who sat in the 1601 and 1604 Parliaments], and “Mr May” (BL MS Harley 5191) [i.e. Humphrey May, who sat in the 1604, 1614, 1621, 1625, 1624, 1626 and 1628 Parliaments]. A further couplet is attributed to May in other copies: “then spake Mr May this eloquent speech / would this accident had bin substance in his breech” (Rosenbach MS 1083/15, p. 57). <back>