John Skelton - UPON A DEAD MAN'S HEAD

UPON A DEAD MAN'S HEAD

SKELTON, LAUREATE

Upon a dead man's head that was sent to him from an honourable gentlewoman for a token, devised this ghostly meditation in English convenable, in sentence commendable, lamentable, lacrimable, profitable for the soul.

YOUR ugly token
My mind hath broken
From worldly lust:
For I have discussed
We are but dust,
And die we must.

It is general
To be mortal:
I have well espied
No man may him hide                                                          10
From Death hollow-eyed,
With sinews withered,
With bones
shidered,
With his worm-eaten maw,
And his ghastly jaw
Gasping aside,
Naked of hide,
Neither flesh nor fell.

Then, by my counsel,
Look that ye spell                                                                20
Well this gospel:
For whereso we dwell
Death will us quell,
And with us
mell.

For all our pampered paunches
There may no fraunches,
Nor worldly bliss,
Redeem us from this:
Our days be dated
To be checkmated <1>                                                        30
With
draughts of death
Stopping our breath:
Our eyes sinking,
Our bodies stinking,
Our gums grinning,
Our souls brinning.
To whom, then, shall we sue,
For to have rescue,
But to sweet Jesu
On us then for to rue?                                                          40

O goodly Child
Of Mary mild,
Then be our shield!
That we be not exiled
To the
dyne dale
Of bootless bale,
Nor to the lake
Of fiends black.

But grant us grace
To see thy face,                                                                    50
And to purchase
Thine heavenly place,
And thy palace
Full of
solace
Above the sky
That is so high;
Eternally
To behold and see
The Trinity!
Amen.

Myrres vous y.<2>

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