"It is a precious jewel to be plain," says a wonderful, anonymous poem set to music by John Dowland (1563-1626). Just saying the poem aloud creates a kind of tune. The unknown author, speaking as if he were a street vendor of gewgaws, claims a sincere plainness for his ways of writing and courting. Cunning as well as tuneful, the poem is a rather fancy assertion of being straightforward or unadorned. Writing a poem that imitates the call of a street vendor is a paradoxically elaborate way of suggesting that the "wares" offered are unpretentious and truehearted:
Fine Knacks for Ladies
Fine knacks for ladies, cheap, choice, brave and new!
Good pennyworths! but money cannot move.
I keep a fair but for the fair to view;
A beggar may be liberal of love.
Though all my wares be trash, the heart is true.
Great gifts are guiles and look for gifts again;
My trifles come as treasures from the mind.
It is a precious jewel to be plain;
Sometimes in shell the Orient's pearls we find.
Of others take a sheaf, of me a grain.
Within this pack pins, points, laces and gloves,