John Skelton - NOTES TO THE DEATH OF KING EDWARD IV

NOTES TO THE DEATH OF KING EDWARD IV

1. Edward the Fourth died April 9th, 1483, in the 41st year of his age and the 23d of his reign: see Sir H. Nicolas's Chron. of Hist. pp. 325, 349, sec. ed. These lines were probably composed soon after the king's death—per Skeltonidem laureatum having been subsequently added to the title.

2. Miseremini mei] "Have pity on me."

3. Quia, ecce, nunc in pulvere dormio!] "Behold, now I sleep in the dust!"

4. cherry-fair] Cherry-fairs are still held in some parts of England on Sunday evenings, in the cherry orchards. They are the resort of the gay and thoughtless, and as such afforded frequent metaphors to our early writers for the vanity of worldly things. See Brand's Antiquities, by Sir H. Ellis, vol. ii. p. 457.—Halliwell's Dict. in v.

"For all is but a cherry fair,
This world's good, so as they tell."
—Gower's Conf Am., Prol., fol. 3. ed. 1554.

"And that endureth but a throw,
Right as it were a cherry feast."
-Id. Ib. B. vi. fol. cxxxiii ed 1554.

"This world is but a cherry fair, when ye be highest ye mo aslake."
—Lydgate's verses entitled Make Amendes,— MS. Cott. Calig. A ii. fol. 67.

"Revolving all this life a cherry fair,
To look how soon she dead the fairest wight."
Poems by C. Duke of Orleans,—MS. Harl.
682. fol. 42.

"This world it turns even as a wheel,
All day by day it will impair,
And so, soon, this world's weal,
It fareth but as a cherry fair."
How the wise man taught his son,—Pieces of
An. Pop. Poetry,
p. 90. ed. Ritson.

5. to contribute France] i.e. to take tribute of France. In 1475, Edward withdrew from France with his army on condition that Louis should pay him immediately 75 thousand crowns, settle on him an annuity for life of 50 thousand more, &c. See Lingard's Hist. of Engl. v. 303. ed. 8vo.

6. as who saith] — A not unfrequent expression in our early poetry, equivalent to—as one may say, as the saying is.

7. Had I wist] i.e. Had I known,—the exclamation of one who repents of a thing done unadvisedly. It is very common in our early poetry. In The Paradise of dainty devises, 1576, the second copy of verses is entitled Beware of had I wist.

8. occupy] i.e. possess,—or, rather, use: "Surgeons occupy ointments, &c., Vulnarii medici utuntur," &c. Hormanni Vulgaria, sig. I. vi. ed. 1530.

9. I made the Tower strong] "Edward IV . . . fortified the Tower, and made it strong." Stow's Survey, B. i. 79. ed. 1720.

10. I knew not to whom I purchased Tattershall] I have not found elsewhere any mention of Edward the Fourth having possessed Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire. "It does not appear into whose hands the Tattershall estate fell after the death of the Lord Treasurer Cromwell [in 1455], until the year 1487, when Henry VII. granted the manor to his mother Margaret Countess of Richmond," &c. Hist. of the County of Lincoln, ii. 73.

11. I amended Dover] "K. Edw. IV. , by the advice of Lord Cobham, expended 10,000l. in repairing and fortifying the several works, and beautifying the apartments in it [Dover Castle]." Hasted's Hist. of Kent, iv. 63.

12. And London I provoked to fortify the wall] "In the Seventeenth of Edward iv. , Ralph Josceline, Mayor, caused part of the Wall about the City to be repaired, to wit, between Aldgate and Aldersgate," &c. Stow's Survey, B. I. 10. ed. 1720.

13. I made Nottingham a place full royal] Leland, describing Nottingham Castle, says; "But the most beautifullest Part and gallant Building for lodging is on the North side, where Edward the 4. began a right sumptuous piece of Stone Work, of the which he clearly finished one excellent goodly Tower of 3. Heights in Building, and brought up the other Part likewise from the Foundation with Stone and marvellous fair compassed windows to laying of the first soil for Chambers and there left." Itin. i. 107. ed. 1770.

14. Windsor] "The present magnificent fabric [St. George's Chapel at Windsor], which exhibits one of the most beautiful specimens in this or any other kingdom, of that richly ornamented species of architecture, which prevailed towards the close of the fifteenth and the commencement of the 16th century, was begun by King Edward IV. , who having found it necessary to take down the old chapel on account of its decayed state, resolved to build another on the same site, upon a larger scale, and committed the superintendence of the building to Richard Beauchamp, bishop of Salisbury. The work was not completed till the reign of King Henry VIII.," &c. Lysons's Berkshire, p 424: see too p. 468 of the same volume.—An account of the manors, &c., granted by Edward to Windsor College, will be found in Pote's Hist. of Wind. Castle, p. 107.

15. Eltham] "K. Edw. iv. repaired this house [Eltham Palace] with much cost, and enclosed Horne Park," &c. Hasted's Hist. of Kent, i. 51.

16. Lady Bess] Edward married, May 1st, 1464, the Lady Elizabeth Grey, widow of Sir John Grey, and daughter of Wydevile Lord Rivers by Jacquetta (or Jacqueline) Duchess of Bedford.

17. Where be my castles and buildings royal?
But Windsor alone, now I have no
mo] He [Edward IV. ] lies buried at Windsor, in the new Chapel (whose Foundation himself had laid, being all the Works of Piety by him left) under a Monument of Steel, polished and gilt, [iron gilt—see Lysons's Berkshire, p. 210.], representing a Pair of Gates, betwixt Two Towers, all of curious transparent Workmanship after the Gothic Manner, which is placed in the North-Arch, faced through with Touch-Stone, near to. the High-Altar." Sandford's Geneal. Hist. p. 413. ed. 1707.

18. Saint Bernard thereof nobly doth treat] In cap. iii. of Meditationes piissimae de cognitio humanae conditionis, a piece attributed to Saint Bernard, we find, "Nihil aliud est homo, quam sperma foetidum, saccus stercorum, cibus vermium . . . Cur ergo superbis homo . . . Quid superbis pulvis et cinis," &c. ("Man is nothing else than a rotten seed, a bag of excrement, food for worms . . . Why therefore the pride of man? why the pride of dust and ashes?") Bernardi Opp. ii. 335-36. ed. 1719. In a Rythmus de contemptu mundi, attributed to the same saint, are these lines ;

"Dic ubi Salomon, olim tam nobilis?
Vel ubi Samson est, dux invincibilis?
Vel pulcher Absalon, vultu mirabilis?
* * * *
O esca vermium O massa pulveris !
O roris vanitas, cur sic extolleris?"
Opp. ii. 913-14. ed. 1719,

("Say where is Solomon, once so noble?
Or where is Samson, the invincible warrior?
Or beautiful Absalom, with marvellous features?
* * * *
O food for worms, O pile of dust
O dew of vanity, why will you praise it so?")

(This Rythmus is printed by Mr. Wright among The Latin Poems attributed to Walter Lapes, p. 147.) So also Lydgate in a poem on the mutability of human affairs;

"And where is Salomon most sovereign of cunning;
Richest of building, of treasure incomparable?
Face of Absolon most fair, most amiable?
* * * *
And where is Alexander that conquered all?"
MS. Harl. 2255. fol. 4, 5.

19. I have played my pageant,]—my part on the stage of life. Compare

"Their pageants are past,
And ours wasteth fast,
Nothing doth
aye last
But the grace of God."
Feylde's Controv. between a lover and a jay, sig. B iii. n. d. 4to.

The word pageant was originally applied to the temporary erections (sometimes placed upon wheels) on which miracle-plays were exhibited, afterwards to the exhibition itself. See Sharp's Diss. on Coventry Pag. and Myst. p. 2; Collier's Hist. of Engl. Dram. Poet. ii. 151.

20. In manus tuas, Domine] "In your hands, Lord."

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