An Elegie on Henry, fourth Erle of Northumberlande

John Skelton 1460 (Norfolk) – 1529 (London)

Ad dominum properato meum mea pagina Percy,
Qui Northumbrorum jura paterna gerit.
Ad nutum celebris tu porna repone leonis,
Quaeque suo patri tristia justa cano.
Ast ubi perlegit, dubiam sub mente volutet
Fortunam, cunceta quae male fida rotat.
Qui leo sit felix, et Nestoris occupet annos;
Ad libitum cujus ipse paratus ero.

Skelton Laureat Upon the Dolourus Dethe and Muche Lamentable Chaunce of the Most Honorable Erle of Northumberlande.

I wayle, I wepe, I sobbe, I sigh ful sore
The dedely fate, the dolefulle desteny
Of hym that is gone, alas! without restore,
Of the bloud royall descending nobelly;
Whose lordshyp doutles was slayne lamentably
Thorow treson, ageyn him compassed and wrought,
Trew to his prince in word, in dede, and thought.

Of hevenly poems, O Clyo, calde by name
In the colege of Musis goddess hystoriall,
Adres the to me, whiche am both halt and lame
In elect uteraunce to make memoryall!
To the for souccour, to the for helpe I call,
Mine homely rudnes and dryghnes to expell
With the freshe waters of Elyconys well.

Of noble actes aunciently enrolde
Of famous pryncis and lordes of astate,
Be thy report ar wont to be extold,
Regestringe trewly every formare date;
Of thy bountie after the usuall rate
Kyndell in me suche plenty of thy nobles,
Thes sorrowfulle dites that I may shew expres.

In sesons past, who hathe h[ea]rde or sene
Of formar writyng by any presidente
That vilane hastarddis in their furious tene,
Fulfylled with malice of froward entente,
Confetered togeder of commonn concente
Falsly to slee theyr moste singuler good lord?
It may be regestrede of shamefull recorde.

So noble a man, so valiaunt lord and knyght,
Fulfilled with honor, as all the world doth ken;
At his commaundement which had both day and nyght
Knyghtes and squyers, at every season when
He calde upon them, as meniall household men;
Were not these commons uncurteis karlis of kind
To slo their owne lord? God was not in their mynd.

And were not they to blame, I say also,
That were aboute him, his owne servants of trust,
To suffre him slayn of his mortall fo?
Fled away from hym, let hym ly in the dust;
They bode not till the reckenyng were discust;
What shuld I flatter? what shuld I glose or paint?
Fy, fy for shame, their heartes were to faint.

In England and Fraunce which gretly was redouted,
Of whom both Flaunders and Scotland stode in drede,
To whome great estates obeyed and lowted,
And mayny of rude villayns made hym for to blede;
Unkyndly they slew him; that holp them oft at nede:
He was their bulwark, their paves, and their wall,
Yet shamefully they slew hym; that shame mot them befal!

I say, ye comoners, why we ye so stark mad?
What frantyk frensy fyll in your brayne?
Where was your wit and reson ye should have had?
What wilful foly made yow to ryse agayne
Your naturall lord? alas, I cannot fayne:
Ye armyd you with will, and left your wit behynd;
Well may you be called comones most unkynd.

He was your chefteyne, your shelde, your chef defence,
Redy to assyst you in every time of nede;
Your worshyp depended of his excellence;
Alas, ye mad men, to far ye did excede;
Your hap was unhappy, to ill was your spede:
What moved you againe him to war or to fyght?
What alyde you to sle your lord again all ryght?

The ground of his quarel was for his soverain lord,
The well concerning of all the hole lande,
Demandyng suche duties as nedes most acord
To the ryght of his prince, which shold not be withstand;
For whose cause ye slew him with your owne hand:
But had his noble men done wel that day,
Ye had not been able to have sayd him nay.

But ther was fals packing, or els I am begylde;
How-be-it the mater was evydent and playne,
For if they had occupied their spere and their shilde,
This noble man doutles had not bene slayne.
But men say they wer lynked with a double chaine,
And held with the comones under a cloke,
Which kindeled the wild fyr that made all this smoke.

The commons renyed ther taxes to pay,
Of them demaunded and asked by the kynge;
With one voice importune they playnly sayd nay;
They buskt them on a bushment themselfe in baile to bring,
Againe the kyngs plesure to wrestle or to wring;
Bluntly as bestis with boste and with crye
They sayd they forsed not, nor carede not to dy.

The noblenes of the north, this valiant lord and knight,
As man that was innocent of trechery or traine,
Pressed forth boldly to withstand the myght,
And, lyke marciall Hector, he
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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John Skelton

John Skelton (1460-1529), also known as John Shelton, possibly born in Diss, Norfolk, was an English poet. more…

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