John Skelton - ON THE DEATH OF THE EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND

ON THE DEATH OF THE EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND

[From Marshe's ed. of Skelton's Works, 1568, collated with a copy of the poem in a MS. vol. now in the British Museum (MS.Reg 18 D ii fol. 165,) which formerly belonged to the fifth Earl of Northumberland, son of the nobleman whose fate is here lamented. This elegy was printed by Percy in his Reliques of An. Eng. Poetry (i. 95, ed 1794,) from the MS. just mentioned.]

POETA SKELTON LAUREATUS LIBELLUM SUUM METRICE ALLOQUITUR

Ad dominum properato meum, mea pagina, Percy,
Qui Northumbrorum iura paterna gerit;
Ad nutum celebris tu prona repone leonis

Quaeque suo patri tristia iusta cano.
Ast ubi perlegit, dubiam sub mente volutet
Fortunam, cuncta quae malefida rotat.
Qui leo sit felix, et Nestoris occupet annos;
Ad libitum cuius ipse paratus ero. <1>

SKELTON LAUREATE
UPON THE DOLOROUS DEATH AND MUCH LAMENTABLE CHANCE OF THE MOST HONOURABLE EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND

 <2>

I WAIL, I weep, I sob, I sigh full sore
The deadly fate, the doleful destiny
Of him that is gone, alas, without restore,
Of the blood royal descending nobly;<3>
Whose lordship doubtless was slain lamentably
Through treason, again him compassed and wrought,
True to his prince in word, in deed, and thought.

Of heavenly poems, O Clio called by name
In the College of Muses goddess historial,
Address thee to me, which am both halt and lame                          10
In elect utterance to make memorial!
To thee for succour, to thee for help I call,
Mine homely rudeness and dryness to expel
With the fresh waters of Helicon's well.

Of noble acts anciently enrolled
Of famous princes and lords of estate,
By thy report are wont to be extolled,
Registering truly every former date;
Of thy bounty after the usual rate
Kindle in me such plenty of thy noblesse                                       
20
These sorrowful ditties that I may show express.

In seasons past, who hath heard or seen
Of former writing by any precedent
That villein
haskards in their furious teen,
Fulfilled with malice of froward intent,
Confettered together of common consent
Falsely to slay their most singular good lord?
It may be registered of shameful record.

So noble a man, so valiant lord and knight,
Fulfilled with honour, as all the world doth ken;                            30
At his commandment which had both day and night
Knights and squires, at every season when
He called upon them, as menial household men:
Were not these commons uncourteous carls of kind<
4>
To slay their own lord? God was not in their mind!

And were not they to blame, I say, also,
That were about him, his own servants of trust,
To suffer him slain of his mortal foe?
Fled away from him, let him lie in the dust;
They bode not till the reckoning were discussed;                            40
What should I flatter? what should I glose or paint?
Fie, fie for shame, their hearts were too faint.

In England and France which greatly was redoubted,
Of whom both Flanders and Scotland stood in dread,
To whom great estates<
5> obeyed and louted,
A meiny of rude villeins made him for to bleed;
Unkindly they slew him, that holp them oft at need:
He was their bulwark, their pavis, and their wall,
Yet shamefully they slew him; that shame may them befall!

I say, ye commoners, why were ye so stark mad?                           50
What frantic frenzy fell in your brain?
Where was your wit and reason ye should have had?
What wilful folly made you to rise
again
Your natural lord? alas, I cannot feign:
Ye armed you with will, and left your wit behind:
Well may ye be called commons most unkind!

He was your chieftain, your shield, your chief defence,
Ready to assist you in every time of need;
Your worship depended of his excellence:
Alas, ye madmen, too far ye did exceed;                                        60
Your hap was unhappy, too ill was your speed:
What moved you
again him to war or to fight?
What ailed you to slay your lord again all right?

The ground of his quarrel was for his sovereign lord,
The well concerning of all the whole land,
Demanding such duties as needs must accord
To the right of his prince, which should not be withstand;
For whose cause ye slew him with your own hand.
But had his noblemen done well that day
Ye had not been able to have said him nay.                                    70

But there was false packing, or else I am beguiled;
How be it, the matter was evident and plain,
For if they had occupied their spear and their shield,
This nobleman doubtless had not been slain.
But men say they were linked with a double chain,
And held with the commons under a cloak,
Which kindled the wild fire that made all this smoke.

The commons renied their taxes to pay,
Of them demanded and asked by the king;
With one voice importune they plainly said nay;                             80
They
busked them on a bushment themselves in bale to bring,
Again the king's pleasure to wrestle or to wring;
Bluntly as beasts with boast and with cry.
They said they forced not, nor cared not to die.

The nobleness of the north, this valiant lord and knight,
As man that was innocent of treachery or train,
Pressed forth boldly to withstand the might,
And, like martial Hector, he fought them again,
Vigorously upon them with might and with main,
Trusting in noblemen that were with him there;                              90
But all they fled from him for falsehood or fear.

Barons, knights, squires, one and all,
Together with servants of his family,
Turned their backs, and let their master fall,
Of whose life they counted not a fly:
Take up who would, for there they let him lie.
Alas, his gold, his fee, his annual rent
Upon such a sort was ill bestowed and spent!

He was environed about on every side
With his enemies, that were stark mad and
wood;                          100
Yet while he stood he gave them wounds wide:
Alas for ruth! what though his mind were good,
His courage manly, yet there he shed his blood:
All left alone, alas, he fought in vain!
For cruelly among them there he was slain.

Alas for pity! that Percy thus was spilt,
The famous Earl of Northumberland!
Of knightly prowess the sword, pommel, and hilt,
The mighty lion<
1> doubted by sea and land:
O dolorous chance of Fortune's froward hand!                               110
What man, rememb'ring how shamefully he was slain,
From bitter weeping himself can restrain?

O cruel Mars, thou deadly god of war!
O dolorous Tuesday, dedicate to thy name,
When thou shook thy sword so noble a man to mar.
O ground ungracious, unhappy be thy fame,
Which wert endyed with red blood of the same
Most noble earl! O foul misused ground
Whereon he got his final deadly wound!

O Atropos, of the fatal sisters iii,                                                     120
Goddess most cruel unto the life of man,
All merciless, in thee is no pity!
O homicide, which slayest all that thou can,
So forcibly upon this earl thou ran
That with thy sword,
enharped of mortal dread,
Thou cut asunder his perfect vital thread!

My words unpolished be, naked and plain,
Of aureat poems they want illumining;
But by them to knowledge ye may attain
Of this lord's death and of his murdering;                                       130
Which whiles he lived had
foison of everything,
Of knights, of squires, chief lord of tower and town,
Till fickle Fortune began on him to frown.

Paregal to dukes, with kings he might compare,
Surmounting in honour all earls he did exceed;
To all countries about him report me I dare;
Like to Aeneas benign in word and deed,
Valiant as Hector in every martial need,
Provident, discreet, circumspect, and wise,
Till the chance ran again him of Fortune's double dice.                  140

What needeth me for to extol his fame
With my rude pen encankered all with rust,
Whose noble acts show worshiply his name,
Transcending far mine homely Muse, that must
Yet somewhat write
supprised with hearty lust,
Truly reporting his right noble estate,
Immortally which is immaculate?

His noble blood never distained was,
True to his prince for to defend his right,
Doubleness hating false matters to compass,                                   150
Traitory and treason he banished out of sight,
With truth to meddle was all his whole delight,
As all his country can testify the same:
To slay such a lord, alas, it was great shame!

If the whole choir of the Muses nine
In me all only were set and comprised,
Enbreathed with the blast of influence divine,
As perfectly as could be thought or devised:
To me also although it were promised
Of laureate Phoebus wholly the eloquence,                                    
160
All were too little for his magnificence.

O young lion,<6> but tender yet of age,
Grow and increase, remember thine estate;
God thee assist unto thine heritage,
And give thee grace to be more fortunate!
Again rebellions arm thee to make debate;
And, as the lion, which is of beasts king,
Unto thy subjects be courteous and benign.

I pray God send thee prosperous life and long,
Stable thy mind constant to be and fast,                                         170
Right to maintain, and to resist all wrong:
All flattering
faitours abhor and from thee cast;
Of foul detraction God keep thee from the blast!
Let double dealing in thee have no place,
And be not light of credence in no case.

With heavy cheer, with dolorous heart and mind,
Each man may sorrow in his inward thought
This lord's death, whose peer is hard to find,
Algife England and France were through sought.
All kings, all princes, all dukes, well they ought,                            180
Both temporal and spiritual, for to complain
This nobleman, that cruelly was slain:

More specially barons, and those knights bold,
And all other gentlemen with him entertained
In fee, as menial men of his household,
Whom he as lord worshiply maintained;
To sorrowful weeping they ought to be constrained,
As oft as they call to their remembrance
Of their good lord the fate and deadly chance.

O peerless Prince of heaven imperial!                                              190
That with one word formed all things of nought;
Heaven, hell, and earth obey unto thy call;
Which to thy resemblance wondrously hast wrought
All mankind, whom thou full dear hast bought,
With thy blood precious our finance thou did pay,
And us redeemed from the fiend's prey;

To thee pray we, as Prince incomparable,
As thou art of mercy and pity the well,
Thou bring unto thy joy interminable
The soul of this lord from all danger of hell,                                  
200
In endless bliss with thee to bide and dwell
In thy palace above the orient,
Where thou art Lord and God omnipotent.

O Queen of Mercy, O Lady full of grace,
Maiden most pure, and God's Mother dear,
To sorrowful hearts chief comfort and solace,
Of all women O flower withouten peer!
Pray to thy Son above the stars clear,
He to vouchsafe, by thy mediation,
To pardon thy servant, and bring to salvation.                               
210

In joy triumphant the heavenly hierarchy,
With all the whole sort of that glorious place,
His soul may receive into their company,
Thorough bounty of Him that formed all solace:
Well of pity, of mercy, and of grace,
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
In Trinity one God of might's most!

Non sapit, humanis qui certam ponere rebus
Spem cupit: est hominem raraque ficta fides.
<
7>

TETRASTICHON SKELTON. LAUREATI AD MAGISTRUM RUKSHAW, SACRAE THEOLOGIAE EGREGIUM PROFESSOREM<8>

Accipe nunc demum, doctor celeberrime Rukshaw,
Carmina, de calamo quae cecidere meo
Et quanquam placidis non sunt modulates camenis,
Sunt tamen ex nostro pectore prompta pio
.<9>

Vale feliciter, virorum laudatissime.<10>

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