John Skelton - ON THE DEATH OF THE NOBLE PRINCE, KING EDWARD THE FOURTH

ON THE DEATH OF THE NOBLE PRINCE, KING EDWARD THE FOURTH

PER SKELTONIDEM LAUREATUM

[From the ed. by Kynge and Marche of Certain books compiled by Master Skelton, n.d. collated with the same work, ed. Day, n.d. and ed. Lant, n.d.; with Marshe's ed. of Skelton's Works, 1568; occasionally with the Mirror for Magistrates, 1587 (in the earlier eds. of which the poem was incorporated,) and with a contemporary MS. in the possession of Miss Richardson Currer, which last has furnished a stanza hitherto unprinted.]

<1>

Miseremini mei,<2> ye that be my friends!
This world hath conformed me down to fall.
How may I endure, when that every thing ends?
What creature is born to be eternal?
Now there is no more but pray for me all:
Thus say I Edward, that late was your king,
And twenty-two years ruled this imperial,
Some unto pleasure, and some to no liking:
Mercy I ask of my misdoing;
What availeth it, friends, to be my foe, 10
Sith I cannot resist, nor amend your complaining?
Quia, ecce, nunc in pulvere dormio!<3>

I sleep now in mould, as it is natural
That earth unto earth hath his reverture.
What ordained God to be terrestrial
Without recourse to the earth of nature?
Who to live ever may himself assure?
What is it to trust on mutability,
Sith that in this world nothing may endure?
For now am I gone, that late was in prosperity: 20
To presume thereupon it is but a vanity,
Not certain, but as a cherry-fair<
4>, full of woe:
Reigned not I of late in great felicity?
Et, ecce, nunc in pulvere dormio!

Where was in my life such one as I,
While Lady Fortune with me had continuance?
Granted not she me to have victory,
In England to reign, and to contribute France? <5>
She took me by the hand and led me a dance,
And with her sugared lips on me she smiled; 30
But, what for her dissembled countenance,
I could not beware till I was beguiled:
Now from this world she hath me exiled,
When I was lothest hence for to go,
And I am in age but, as who saith,<
6> a child,
Et, ecce, nunc in pulvere dormio!

I see well, they live that double my years:
Thus dealed this world with me as it list,
And hath me made, to you that be my peers,
Example to think on, had I wist.<7> 40
I stored my coffers and also my chest
With tasks taking of the commonalty;
I took their treasure, but of their prayers missed;
Whom I beseech with pure humility
For to forgive and have on me pity;
I was your king, and kept you from your foe:
I would now amend, but that will not be,
Quia, ecce, nunc in pulvere dormio!

I had enough, I held me not content,
Without remembrance that I should die;
50
And more ever to encroach ready was I bent,
I knew not how long I should it occupy:<
8>
I made the Tower strong,<9> I wist not why;
I knew not to whom I purchased Tattershall;<10>
I amended Dover<11> on the mountain high,
And London I provoked<12> to fortify the wall;
I made Nottingham<13> a place full royal,
Windsor,<14> Eltham,<15> and many other mo:
Yet, at the last, I went from them all,
Et, ecce, nunc in pulvere dormio! 60

Where is now my conquest and victory?
Where is my riches and my royal array?
Where be my coursers and my horses high?
Where is my mirth, my
solace, and my play?
As vanity, to nought all is wandered away.
O Lady Bess,<16> long for me may ye call!
For I am departed till doomsday;
But love ye that Lord that is sovereign of all.
Where be my castles and buildings royal?
But Windsor alone, now I have no mo,<17> 70
And of Eton the prayers perpetual,
Et, ecce, nunc in pulvere dormio!

Why should a man be proud or presume high?
Saint Bernard thereof nobly doth treat,<
18>
Saith a man is but a sack of stercory,
And shall return unto worm's meat.
Why, what came of Alexander the Great?
Or else of strong Sampson, who can tell?
Were not worms ordained their flesh to fret?
And of Solomon, that was of wit the well? 80
Absolon proffered his hair for to sell,
Yet for all his beauty worms eat him also;
And I but late in honour did excel,
Et, ecce, nunc in pulvere dormio!

I have played my pageant,<19> now am I passed;
Ye wot well all I was of no great eld:
Thus all thing concluded shall be at the last,
When Death approacheth, then lost is the field:
Then sithen this world me no longer upheld,
Nor nought would conserve me here in my place, 90
In manus tuas, Domine,<
20> my spirit up I yield,
Humbly beseeching thee, God, of thy grace!
O ye courteous commons, your hearts unbrace
Benignly now to pray for me also:
For right well you know your king I was,
Et, ecce, nunc in pulvere dormio!

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