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Well, — in King James’s golden days, —

For the days were golden then, —

They could not be less, for good Queen Bess

Had died aged threescore and ten,

And her days, we know,

Were all of them so;

While the Court poets sung, and the Court gallants swore

That the days were as golden still as before.

This sounds to me like King James's days were couldn't be less because Queen Elizabeth's days were always golden. Is it right?

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    The argument seems to be that those days could not be "less than golden" because Queen Bess lived to the age of 70, and everyone said the days were always as golden as before. Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 16:18
  • We're still waiting for the sentence to finish. We've got the equivalent of 'Well, in James' reign, [+ nested parentheticals];(sic) while X was happening.' Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 19:42

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This is a piece of satirical verse, so you would be wise not to take everything literally.

The satire goes like this:

  1. Everybody agrees that the days of Good Queen Bess (Queen Elizabeth I, a beloved monarch) were golden.
  2. In the court of King James, who succeeded her, the court poets and the court gallants (whose livelihood depended on the King's patronage) would not dream of saying that King James' days were less 'golden' than the previous monarch. For that reason the days "could not be less" than golden.

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