Walton Poole



Edwin Wolf II, ‘“If Shadows Be a Picture's Excellence”: An Experiment in Critical Bibliography’, PMLA, 63, No. 3 (September 1948), 831-57.


Little is known about Walton Poole, probably the member of that name in Gray's Inn in 1611, except that he was almost certainly the author of the poem “If shadows be a picture's excellence”. This was evidently written for his relative by marriage Lady Beata Poole (née Brydges, d.1637), wife of Sir Henry Poole, of Saperton, Gloucestershire. Written as a cheering commendation of her dark hair and eyes — a subject hardly unique to these verses — for some reason the poem became one of the most popular of the period, circulating widely in manuscript and surfacing particularly in scores of manuscript miscellanies (see PoW 1-77) before it was ever published.

A small number of other poems found attributed to Poole (PoW 77.5-109) are of less certain authorship, although the consistency of the ascriptions (‘Posuit: Wal: Poole’) to certain of them in Folger MS V.a.97 in particular is evidence in their favour. The most popular of them (also attributed to William Strode and to Dr Goad) was the epitaph on James I in 1625, ‘Can Christendoms great champion/monarch sink away’, which was recycled in 1632 for the death of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (PoW 78-100). There are no doubt many more manuscript copies of this poem than are recorded below.

One other poem on Lady Beata Poole is found in Folger MS V.a.103, Part I, f. 55r. It is a fourteen-line anagram headed ‘On Mrs Poole comonly called the Lady Poole’ and beginning ‘Lady in Call and Worth; Rich, Faire, and Wise’. It has, however, no attribution.

Peter Beal