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Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century



An Elegy on Henry, fourth Earl of Northumberland, 14891
by John Skelton, Poet Laureate.

Poeta Skelton Laureatus libellum suum metrice alloquitur.

Ad dominum properato meum mea pagina Percy,
     Qui Northumbrorum jura paterna gerit,
Ad nutum Celebris tu prona repono leonis,
     Quæque suo patri tristia justa cano.
Ast ubi perlegit, dubiam sub mente volutet
     Fortunam, cuncta quæ male fida rotat.
Qui leo sit felix, et Nestoris occupet annos ;
     Ad libitum cujus ipse paratus ero.


I WAYLE, I wepe, I sobbe, I sigh ful sore
     The dedely fate, the dolefulle destenny 
Of him that is gone, alas ! withoute restore, 
     Of the blode royall descendinge nobelly ; 
     Whos lordshepe doubtles was slayne lamentably
Thorow tresun ageyn hym compassyd and wrought;
Trew to his prince, in word, in dede, and thought.

Of hevenly poems, O Clyo calde by name
     In the college of musis goddess hystoriall,
Adres the to me, whiche am both halt and lame
     In elect uteraunce to make memoryall:
     To the for soccour, to the for helpe I call
Myne homely rudnes and drighnes to expelle
With the freshe waters of Elyconys welle.

Of noble actes auncyently enrolde,
     Of famous princis and lordes of astate,
By thy report ar wonte to extold,
     Regestringe trewly every formare date:
     Of thy bountie after the usuall rate,
Kyndle in me suche plenty of thy noblès,
Thes sorrowfulle dities that I may shew expres.

In sesons past who hathe harde or sene
     Of formar writinge by any presidente
That vilane hastarddis in ther furious tene,
     Fulfyld with malice of froward entente,
     Confeterd togeder of commoun concente,
Falsly to slo ther moste singular goode lorde?
It may be registerde of shamefull recorde.

So noble a man, so valiaunt lorde and knight,
     Fulfilled with honor, as all the worlde dothe ken;
At his commaundement, whiche had both day and night
     Knyghtis and squyers, at every season when
     He calde upon them, as menyall houshold men
Were no thes commones uncurteis karlis of kynde
To slo their owne lorde? God was not in their minde.

And were not they to blame, I say also,
     That were aboute hym, his owno servants of trust,
To suffre hym slayn of his mortall fo ?
     Fled away from hym, let hym ly in the dust:
     They bode not till the rekening were discust.
What shuld I flatter? what shulde I glose or paynt ?
Fy, fy for shame, their harts wer to faint.

In Englande and Fraunce, which gretly was redouted;
     Of whom both Flaunders and Scotland stode in drede ;
To whome grete astates obeyde and lowttede:
     A mayny of rude villayns made him for to blede:
Unkindly they slew him, that holp them oft at nede
     He was their bulwark, their paves, and their wall,
Yet shamfully they slew hym; that shame mot them befal.

I say, ye commoners, why wer ye so stark mad ?
     What frantyk frensy fyll in youre brayne?
Where was your wit and reson, ye shuld have had ?
     What willfull foly made yow to ryse agayne
     Your naturall lord ? alas! I can not fayne.
Ye armed you with will, and left your wit behynd;
Well may you be called comones most unkynd.

He was your chyfteyne, your shelde, your chef defence,
     Redy to assyst you in every tyme of nede;
Your worship depended of his excellence:
     Alas ! ye mad men, to far ye did excede:
     Your hap was unhappy, to ill was your spede:
What movyd you agayn hym to war or to fight?
What aylde you to sle your lord agyn all right?

The grounde of his quarel was for his Sovreyn lord,
     The welle concernyng of all the hole lande,
Demaundyng soche dutyes as nedis most acord
     To the right of his prince which shold not be withstand;
     For whos cause ye slew hym with your awne hande:
But had his nobill men done wel that day,
Ye had not been hable to have saide him nay.

But ther was fals packinge, or els I am begylde;
     How-be-it the matter was evident and playne,
For yf they had occupied ther spere and ther shelde,
     This noble man doutles had not be slayne.
     Bot men say they wer lynked with a double chayn,
And held with the commouns under a cloke,
Whiche kindeled the wyld fyre that made all this smoke.

The commouns renyed ther taxes to pay
     Of them demaunded and asked by the kinge;
With one voice importune, they playnly said nay:
     They buskt them on a bushment themself in baile to bringe :
     Agayne the king's plesure to wrastle or to wringe,
Bluntly as bestis withe boste and with cry
They saide, they forsede not, nor carede not to dy.

The noblenes of the northe this valiant lorde and knyght,
     As man that was innocent of trechery or trayne,
Presed forthe boldly to witstaud the myght,
     And lyke marciall Hector, he fauht them agayne,
     Vigorously upon them with myght and with mayne,
Trustinge in noble men that wer with hym there:
Bot all they fled from hym for falshode or fere.

Barons, knights, squyers, one and alle,
     Togeder with servaunts of his famuly,
Turnd their backis, and let ther master fall,
     Of whos [life] they counted not a flye;
     Take up whos wolde for them, they let hym ly
Alas ! his golde, his fee, his annuall rente
Upon suche a sort was ille bestowde and spent.

He was envyronde aboute on every syde
     Withe his enemys, that were stark mad and wode;
Yet whils he stode he gave woundes wyde
     Alas for routhe ! what thouche his mynde were goode,
     His corage manly, yet ther he shed his bloode!
All left alone, alas! he fawte in vayne!
For cruelly amonge them ther he was slayne.

Alas for pite ! that Percy thus was spylt,
     The famous erle of Northumberlande :
Of knightly prowes the sworde pomel and hylt,
     The mighty lyoun* doutted by se and lande!
     O dolorous chaunce of fortuns fruward hande!
What man remembring how shamfully he was slayne,
From bitter weepinge himself kan restrayne!

O cruell Mars, thou dedly god of war!
     O dolorous Teusday, dedicate to thy name,
When thou shoke thy sworde so noble a man to mar!
     O grounde ungracious, unhappy be thy fame,
     Whiche wert endyed with rede blode of the same!
Moste noble erle! O fowle mysuryd grounde
Whereon he gat his fynal dedely wounde !

O Atropos, of the fatall systers thre,
     Goddes mooste cruell unto the lyf of man,
All merciles, in the ys no pitè!
     O homycide, whiche sleest all that thou kan,
     So forcibly upon this erle thow ran,
That with thy sworde enharpid of mortall drede,
Thou kit asonder his perfight vitall threde!

My wordis unpullysht be nakide and playne,
     Of aureat poems they want ellumynynge ;
Bot by them to knoulege ye may attayne
     Of this lordis dethe and of his murdrynge.
     Which whils he lyvyd had fuyson of every thing,
Of knights, of squyers, chef lord of toure and toune,
Tyl fykkill fortune began on hym to frowne.

Paregall to dukis, with kings he myght compare,
     Surmountinge in honor all erls he did excede,
To all cuntreis aboute hym reporte me I dare.
     Lyke to Eneas benygne in worde and dede,
     Valiaunt as Hector in every marciall nede,
Provydent, discrete, circumspect, and wyse,
Tyll the chaunce ran agayne him of fortune's duble dyse.

What nedethe me for to extoll his fame
     With my rude pen enkankerd all with rust?
Whos noble actis shew worsheply his name,
     Transcendyng far myne homely muse, that must
     Yet sumwhat wright supprisid with hartly lust,
Truly reportinge his right noble astate,
Immortally whiche is immaculate.

His noble blode never disteynyd was,
     Trew to his prince for to defende his right,
Doublenes hatinge, fals maters to compas,
     Treytory and treson he hannesht out of syght,
     With trowth to medle was all his hole delyght,
As all his kuntrey kan testefy the same:
To slo such a lord, alas, it was grete shame.

If the hole quere of the musis nyne
     In me all onely wer sett and comprisyde,
Enbrethed with the blast of influence dyvyne,
     As perfightly as could be thought or devysyd;
     To me also allthouche it were promysyde
Of laureat Phebus holy the eloquence,
All were too litill for his magnyficence.

O yonge lyon, bot tender yet of age,
     Grow and encrese, remembre thyn astate,
God the assyst unto thyn herytage,
     And geve the grace to be more fortunate,
     Agayne rebellyouns arme to make debate.
And, as the lyoune, whiche is of bestis kinge,
Unto thy subjectis be kurteis and benyngne.

I pray God sende the prosperous lyf and long,
     Stabille thy mynde constant to be and fast,
Right to mayntein, and to resist all wronge:
     All flattringe faytors abhor and from the cast,
     Of foule detraction God kepe the from the blast:
Let double delinge in tiie have no place,
And be not light of credence in no case.

Wythe hevy chere, with dolorous hart and mynd,
     Eche man may sorow in his inward thought,
Thys lords death, whose pere is hard to fynd
     Allgyf Englond and Fraunce were thorow saught.
     Al kings, all princes, all dukes, well they ought
Bothe temporall and spirituall for to complayne
This noble man, that crewelly was slayne.

More specially barons, and those knyghtes bold,
     And all other gentilmen with hym enterteynd
In fee, as menyall men of his housold,
     Whom he as lord worsheply manteynd:
     To soruwfull weping they ought to be constreynd,
As oft as thei call to ther remembraunce,
Of ther good lord the fate and dedely chaunce.

O perlese prince of hevyn emperyalle,
     That with one worde formed al thing of noughte;
Hevyn, hell, and erth obey unto thi kall;
     Which to thy resemblance wondersly hast wrought
     All mankynd, whom thou full dere hast boght,
With thy blode precious our finaunce thou dyd pay,
And us redemed, from the fendys pray:

To the pray we, as prince incomperable,
     As thou art of mercy and pite the well,
Thou bringe unto thy joy etermynable
     The sowle of this lorde from all daunger of hell,
     In endles blis with the to byde and dwell
In thy palace above the orient,
Where thou art lorde, and God omnipotent.

O queene of mercy, O lady full of grace,
     Maiden moste pure, and goddis moder dere,
To sorowfull harts chef comfort and solace,
     Of all women O floure withouten pere,
     Pray to thy son above the starris clere,
He to vouchesaf by thy mediatioun
To pardon thy servant, and bringe to salvacion.

In joy tryumphant the hevenly yerarchy,
     With all the hole sorte of that glorious place,
His soule mot recyve into ther company
     Thorowe bounte of hym that formed all solace:
     Well of pite, of mercy, and of grace,
The father, the son, and the holy goste
In Trinitate one God of myghts moste.






















* Alluding to his crest and supporters.
Doutted is contracted for redoubted.

1. Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, was killed by the commons,
revolting in Yorkshire against King Henry VII's new taxes.]

Percy, Thomas. Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.
Philadelphia: T. F. Bell, 1860. 82-85.

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Elizabethan Theatre
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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
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Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
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