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JOHN SKELTON



 Nota bene : The following is a modernization with glosses
 of Skelton's Vppon a deedmans hed.  Original words have
 been retained where the modern counterparts would have
 compromised the integrity of the rhyme scheme.

 To preserve metre, “è”  has been used to indicate a voiced “e”—
 for example, where “fendys” would have been  modernized as
 “fiends”, the metre requires it to be read “fiendès”.

 Furthermore, it is important to remember to read the text
 as one would read, say, Chaucer.   That is, “dyne dale”, for
 example, would read as four syllables, [di:nè da:lè], instead
 of the modern two syllables.

 This text is ©2001-2007 Anniina Jokinen. All rights reserved.




SKELTON LAUREAT,           

Upon a dead man's head that was sent to him from
   an honorable gentlewoman for a token, devised
   this ghostly meditation in English covenable, in
   sentence commendable, lamentable, lachrymable,
   profitable for the soul.

  YOUR ugly token
My mind hath broken
From worldly lust;
For I have discussed
We are but dust,
And die we must.
    It is general
To be mortal:
I have well espied
No man may him hide
From Death hollow-eyed
With sinews witherèd,
With bonès shatterèd,
With his worm-eaten maw,
And his ghastly jaw
Gasping aside,
Naked of hide,
Neither flesh nor fell.
    Then, by my counsel,
Look that ye spell
Well this gospel:
For whereso we dwell
Death will us quell
And with us mell.
    For all our pampered paunches,
There may no fraunchis,
Nor worldly bliss,
Redeem us from this:
Our days be dated
To be checkmated
With draughtès of death,
Stopping our breath;
Our eyen sinking,
Our bodies stinking,
Our gummès grinning,
Our soulès brinning.
To whom, then, shall we sue,
For to have rescue,
But to sweet Jesu,
On us then for to rue?
   O goodly Child
Of Mary mild,
Then be our shield !
That we be not exiled
To the dyne dale
Of bottomless bale,
Nor to the lake
Of fiendès blake.
    But grant us grace
To see thy face,
And to purchase
Thine heavenly place,
And thy palace,
Full of solace,
Above the sky,
That is so high;
Eternally
To behold and see
The Trinity!
    Amen.
Mirres vous y.*



* Mirres vous y. Fr. trans. "See yourself therein",
i.e. recognize your own mortality at seeing this
dead man's head. —AJ



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Site copyright ©1996-2019 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
Created by Anniina Jokinen on August 25, 2000. Last updated January 30, 2019.

 



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Persons of Interest
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Historical Events
Field of the Cloth of Gold, 1520
Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536
The Babington Plot, 1586
The Spanish Armada, 1588


Elizabethan Theatre
See section
English Renaissance Drama


Images of London:
London in the time of Henry VII. MS. Roy. 16 F. ii.
London, 1510, the earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's Panoramic View of London, 1616. COLOR



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