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
"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."
"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
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
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.
9. I made the Tower strong] "Edward IV . . . fortified the Tower, and made it strong."
10. I knew not to whom I purchased Tattershall] I have not found elsewhere any mention of Edward the Fourth having possessed
11. I amended
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
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 [
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
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
20. In manus tuas, Domine] "In your hands, Lord."