1. This poem was evidently called forth by a real event; but the name of the "hawking parson" has not transpired. According to Barclay, skill in hawking sometimes advanced its possessor to a benefice;

"But if I durst truth plainly utter and express,
This is the special cause of this inconvenience,
That greatest fools, and fullest of lewdness,
Having least wit, and simplest science,
Are first promoted, and have greatest reverence,
For if one can flatter, and bear a hawk on his fist,
He shall be made Parson of Honington or of Clist."

The Ship of Fools, fol. 2. ed. 1570.

I may add, that afterwards, in the same work, when treating of indecorous behaviour at church, Barclay observes;

"Into the Church then comes another sot,
Without devotion, jetting up and down,
Or to be seen, and to show his garded coat:
Another on his fist a Sparhawk or Falcon," &c.
fol. 85.

2. abused] i.e. vitiated, depraved.

"Be all young gallants of these abused sort,
Which in young age unto the court resort?"
Barclay's Third Egloge, sig. C ii. ed. 1570.

3. disguised] i.e. guilty of unbecoming conduct: so again in our author's Colyn Cloute;

"They mought be better advised
Than to be so disguised."
v. 581.

4. Diss] A town in Norfolk, of which Skelton was rector; see Account of Skelton and his Writings.

5. pautener] i.e. a net-bag. "Pautner [Pawtenere, MS. Hari. 221.] Cassidile." Prompt. Parv. ed. 1499. "Will. Brito: Cassidile dicitur pera Aucupis in modum reticuli facta, in quo ponit quos in casse, id est, rete, cepit." (A bag of the type called a pera made by a bird-catcher, in which he puts the game he takes with a net") Du Cange's Gloss. in v. "Pera . . . anglice a scrip or a pautener." Ortus Vocab. fol. ed. W. de Worde, n. d.

6. tired] A term in falconry: the hawk tired on what was thrown to her, when she pulled at and tore it.

7. a chase] i.e. a spot. Compare a passage in that curious tract, by Walter Smith, xii Merry Jests of the widow Edith;

"Her pottage & eke her ale were well powdered
With an wholesome influence that surgeons call
Pouder Sinipari that will make one cast his gall:"

in consequence of which, she is compelled suddenly to quit the supper-table, and,

"When that she was up, she got her forth apace,
And ere she had walked xxx foot, she marked a chase
And eftsoons another, through the Hall as she yede," &c.
Sig. f iii. ed. 1573.

"A chase at tennis is that spot where a ball falls, beyond which the adversary must strike his ball to gain a point or chase. At long tennis, it is the spot where the ball leaves off rolling." Douce's Illust. of Shakespeare, i. 485. Compare our author's Why come ye not to Court, v. 880.

8. sacrificium laudis] "Sacrifice of praise" i.e. the Mass

9. gery] "Gerish, wilde or light headed, farouche." Palsgrave, p. 313.

"How gery fortune, furious and wood."
Lydgate's Fall of Prynces, B. iii. leaf lxxvii. ed. Wayland.

"And as a swallow gerish of her flight,
'Tween slow and swift, now crooked now upright:"
ibid. B. vi. leaf cxxxiiii.

Tyrwhitt explains "gery–changeable." Gloss. to Chaucer's Cant. Tales. Richardson observes that in the present passage of Skelton "it seems to be giddy (sc.) with turning round." Dict. in v.

10. the rood loft] A loft (generally placed just over the passage out of the church into the chancel,) where stood the rood,—an image of Christ on the cross, with figures of the Virgin Mary and Saint John on each side of it: compare v. 126 of the present poem:

"His hawk then flew upon
The rood with Mary and John."

11. And cried, Stow, stow, stow!] So Fancy, in our author's Magnificence, exclaims to his bird, (which, however, appears to have been an owl)

"Stow, bird, stow, stow!
It is best I feed my hawk now."

Compare Brathwait's Merlin;

"But stow, bird, stow,
See now the game's afoot,
And white-mail'd Nisus,
He is flying to't."
Odes, p. 250, appended to Nature's Embassy, 1621.

"Make them come from it to your fist, either much or little, with calling and chirping to them, saying: Towe, Towe, or Stow, Stow, as Falconers use." Turbervile's Book of Falconry, &c. p. 182. ed. 1611.

12. lure] i.e. "that whereto falconers call their young hawks, by casting it up in. the air, being made of feathers and leather in such wise that in the motion it looks not unlike a fowl." Latham, quoted by Halliwell, Dict.

13. the frounce] Is a distemper in which a whitish foam gathers in wrinkles (frounces) about the hawk's mouth and palate. "The Frounce proceedeth of moist and cold humours, which descend from the hawk's head to their palate and the root of the tongue. And of that cold is engendered in the tongue the Frounce," &c. Turbervile's Book of Falconry, &c. p. 303. ed. 1611.

14. CONSIDERATE] "Regard carefully"

15. On Saint John decollation] i.e. On the festival of the beheading of St. John. (29th August)

16. Tempore vesperarum,
Sed non secundum Sarum
] i.e. "At the time of vespers, but not according to (the ordinals of Osmond, Bishop of) Sarum." So in Sir D. Lyndsay's Complaint of the

"Suppose the geese and hens should cry alarum,
And we shall serve secundum usum Sarum."
Works, i. 327. ed. Chal.

The proverbial expression, "It is done secundum usum Sarum," is thus explained by Fuller: "It began on this occasion; Many Offices or forms of service were used in several Churches in England, as the Office of York, Hereford, Bangor, &c. which caused a deal of confusion in God's Worship, until Osmond Bishop of Sarum, about the year of our Lord 1090, made that Ordinal or Office which was generally received all over England, so that Churches thence forward easily understood one another, all speaking the same words in their liturgy. It is now applied to those persons which do, and actions which are formally and solemnly done, in so regular a way by authentic precedents, and patterns of unquestionable authority, that no just exception can be taken thereat." Worthies (Wiltshire), p. 146. ed. 1662.

17. parum] "Insufficient"

18. DELIBERATE] "Consider well"

19. With, troll, cytrace, and trovy] So in Apius and Virginia, by R. B., 1575;

"With hey trick, how trowle, trey trip, and trey trace."
 Sig. B.

20. Hankin Bovy] The name of a dance. Compare Thersytes, n. d.;

"And we will have minstrelsy
that shall pipe hankyn boby."
p. 62. Roxb. ed.

and Nash's Have with you to Saffron-walden, 1596; "No vulgar respects have I, what Hoppenny Hoe and his fellow Hankin Booby think of me." Sig. K 2: and Brome's Jovial Crew, 1652; "he makes us even sick of his sadness, that were wont to see my Gossips cock to-day, mould Cocklebread, dance clutterdepouch and Hannykin booby, bind barrels, or do any thing before him, and he would laugh at us." Act ii. sc. i. [For mould Cocklebread, sc. Aubrey in Thoms Anecd. & Tradit. (1697) p.94 "Young wenches have a wanton sport which they call moulding of cockle-bread, viz. they get upon a table-board, and then gather up their knees and their coats with their hands as high as they can, and then they wobble to and fro, as if they were kneading of dough, and say these words, viz. 'My dame is sick and gone to bed, And I'll go mould my Cockle-bread.'"]

21. gospellers ... epistolers] i.e. priests that chant the gospel and the epistle, respectively, at Mass.

22. guiding] "He controlled my living and guiding .... mores." Hormanni Vulgaria, sig. N vi. ed. 1530.

"Wise women has ways, and wonderful guidings."
Dunbar's tale of The Two Married Women and the Widow,—Poems, i. 77. ed. Laing.

23. The rood with Mary and John] See note 10 above.

24. VIGILATE] Be attentive.

25. maiden Meed] See the allegorical account of Meed in Piers Plowman; where we find,

"That is meed the maid, quod she, hath noyed me full oft."
Sig. B iv. ed. 1561.

26. DEPLORATE] "Lament this".

27. Exodi] i.e. the book of Exodus.

"In Exodi ben these mentions."

Lydgate's Fall of Princes, B. i. leaf vii. ed. Wayland.

28. de arca Domini] "about the Ark of the Covnenant"

29. Regum] i.e. The Third, now called The First, Book of Kings.

30. sanguis taurorum,
Aut sanguis vitulorum
] "The blood of a bull, or the blood of a calf".

31. DEVINITATE] Qy "Divinate"? ("Foretell, prophesy")

32. REFORMATE] "Transform"

33. Cacus] A cruel giant who ruled in Carthage.See extract from The Recuel of the Histories of Troy, in note 8 to Epitaph For John Clarke And Adam Udersall.

34. Olibrius] was "the provost" by whose order Saint Margaret, after being put to sundry tortures, was beheaded at Antioch. Golden Legend, fol. ccxiiii. sqq. ed. 1483. See also The Legend of Saint Margaret, printed from the Auchinleck MS., in Turnbull's Legendae Catholicae. Most readers will recollect Mr. Milman's dramatic poem, The Martyr of Antioch.

35. Phalary,
Rehearsed in Valery
] i.e. Phalaris, recorded in Valerius Maximus, (lib. iii. cap. iii. where it is related that the Agrigentines, at the instigation of Zeno Eleates, stoned the tyrant Phalaris to death. "'Tis plain," says Bentley, "he mistakes Phalaris for Nearchus." Diss. upon the Ep. of Phalaris,—Works, 1. 241. ed. Dyce, and lib. ix. cap. ii.)

36. Sardanapall] i.e. Sardanapalus, legendary king of Assyria. So our early writers often spell his name;

"Last of all was Sardanapall."

Lydgate's Fall of Princes, Book ii. leaf L. ed. Wayland.

37. Egeas] Is mentioned with various other evil personages in The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy,

"Herod thy other eame, and great Egeas."
Dunbar's Poems, ii. 86. ed. Laing.

and in the Second Part of Marlowe's Tamburlaine;

"The headstrong jades of Thrace Alcides tamed,
That King Egeus fed with human flesh."
Last sc. of act iv. sig G 3. ed. 1606.

38. Sir Ferumbras] A Saracen giant vanquished by Oliver. See note 11 to Poems Against Garnesche.

39. poll by poll] i.e. head by head,—one by one.

"And ye shall here the names poll by poll."
Cock Lorell's Boat, sig. B ii.

40. Aristobel] i.e. (I suppose) Aristobulus,—who, having succeeded his father Hyrcanus as high-priest and governor of Judea, assumed the title of king,—cast his mother into prison, and starved her to death,—caused his brother Antigonus to be assassinated,—and died after reigning a year. See Prideaux's Connect. Part ii. B. vi.

41. miscreants] i.e. infidels. "These three kings were the first of miscreants that believed on Christ." The three kings of Cologne, sig. C ii. ed. 1526.

42. The church of Saint Sophy] i.e. Hagia Sophia, in Constantinople.

43. PENSITATE] "Weigh this well"

44. Sicculo lutureis &c.] This cipher has been decoded by Henry Bradley, in The Academy, Vol 50 (1896) p. 83:

July 18,1896.

One of my friends, who has a morbid interest in John Skelton, recently asked me whether I could throw any light on the interpretation of two cryptographic passages in the writings of that extraordinary windbag. Although I do not think the illustration of Skelton is worthy of any great expenditure of labour, a childish fondness for puzzles has tempted me to try whether I could make anything of the passages in question. I think I have succeeded; possibly my solution may have been anticipated, but I am not aware that any explanation has been published.

One of the passages occurs in "The Garland of Laurel," after line 750 in Dyce's edition. Skelton indicates the name of one of his enemies by the following cipher:

17. 4. 2. 17. 5. 18.
18. 19. 1. 19. 8. 5. 12

The other passage is in "Ware the Hawk," between the lines numbered by Dyce 239 and 240, and is as follows:

"Sicculo lutueris est colo buraara
Nizphedras uisarum caniuter tuntantes
Raterplas Natabrian umsudus itnugenus
18.10. 2. 11. 19. 1. 13. 3. 3. 1. Teualet
Chartula stet, precor, haec nullo temeranda petulco:
Hoc rapiet numeros non homo sed mala bos.
Ex parte rem chartae adverte aperte, pone Musam Arethusam hanc."

The numerical ciphers, I think, are transparent enough. Skelton denotes the consonants by the numbers marking their places in the alphabet, and the vowels by the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. The three figures 2, 3, 4, have thus a twofold value: they may either mean b, c, d, or e, i, o respectively.

The name of Skelton's enemy is therefore ROGERUS STATHUM. Whether this person is otherwise known I have not ascertained. The other cipher reads SKELTONICA; but I suspect that Skelton has inadvertently written a 3 for a 4, and that the ciphers with the four succeeding letters are to be read Skeltonida vatem, which is elsewhere the Laureate's way of Latinising himself in the accusative. The rest of the first four lines is anagrammatic: the syllables of all the long words are transposed (without any other inversion), and after each word two, three, or four unmeaning letters are added to mislead the decipherer. The first four lines, therefore, yield the following hexameters

"Sic, velut est Arabum phenix avis unica tantum,
Terra Britanna suum genuit Skeltonida vatem."

("Just as Arabia has produced that exceptional bird, the Phoenix
The land of Britain has produced the poet Skelton. ")

The distich is certainly eminently Skeltonical, both in its Latinity and in its sentiment. Whether any anagram lurks in the last three lines of the passage, and whether there is any meaning in the inserted syllables culo, ris, colo, ram, dras, rum, ter, tes, plat, an, das, nus, let, are questions which I gladly leave to the future editor of Skelton.

The translation of the whole passage, therefore, is

"Just as Arabia has produced that exceptional bird, the Phoenix
The land of Britain has brought forth the poet Skelton.
I pray that this little paper may remain, to be violated by no wanton person
Not a man, only an evil ox may destroy these numbers.
Perceive the meaning of this paper, place there the Arethusan muse."

45. Construas hoc] "Translate that"

46. Master sophista,
Ye simplex syllogista,
Ye devilish dogmatista
] "Master sophist, Ye simple logician, Ye devilish theologian."

47. In ecclesia ista,
Domine concupisti
] "In that church, you defiled the Lord"

48. Nunquid sic dixisti?
Nunquid sic fecisti?
Sed ubi hoc legisti,
Aut unde hoc,
] "Did you never say so? Did you never act so? But where did you read that, or whence this?"

49. Latina sive Dorica] "In Latin or Greek"

50. Forica] To use your hawk's forica
In propitiatorio,
Tanquam diversorio
Unde hoc
] "To allow your hawk to use the propitiatory as a privy, as if it were in a tavern, whence that?" Propitiatory is the Mercy-seat or seat of atonement, Hebrews 9:5.

51. Jack Harris] Must not be mistaken for the name of the person who called forth this piece; we have been already told that he "shall be nameless," v. 38. So in our author's Magnificence, Courtly Abusion terms Cloaked Collusion "cankered Jack Hare." v. 768. There is a poem by Lydgate (at least attributed to him) concerning a personage called Jack Hare, of which the first stanza is as follows

"A froward knave plainly to describe,
And a sluggard plainly to declare,
A precious knave that cast him never to thrive,
His mouth well wet, his sleeves right threadbare,
A tournebroche, a boy for wat of ware
With lowering face nodding and slumbering,
Of new christened called Jack Hare,
Which of a bowl can pluck out the lining."
MS. Hail. 2251. fol. 14.

Since the above note was written, the ballad on Jack Hare has been edited from MS. Lansd. 699. fol. 88, by Mr. Halliwell, among Lydgate's Minor Poems, p. 52 (printed for the Percy Society). "The original of this," says Mr. H. (p. 267), "is an Anglo-Norman poem of the 13th century, in MS. Digb. Oxon. 86. fol. 94, entitled 'De Maimound mal esquier.'"

52. Quare aucuparis
Ad sacramentum altaris?
] "Why do you go bird-catching by the sacrament of the altar?"

53. Super arcam foederis
Unde hoc?
] "Over the Ark of the Covenant., whence that?"

54. Dominus Vobiscum] "The Lord be with you."

55. Per aucupium] "by bird-catching"

56. Desuper candelabrum

Christi Crucifixi] "From above the candlesticks of Christ crucified"

57. Dic, inimice crucis Christi,
Ubi didicisti
Facere hoc
] "Say, enemy of Christ's cross, where did you learn to do this?"

58. Nestorianus] "Nestoriani quidam heretici qui beatam mariam non dei, sed hominis dicunt genitricem" ("Nestorians are heretics who say the Blessed Virgin was the mother of a man, not of God") Ortus Vocab. fol. ed. W. de Worde, n. d.: but here Nestorianus seems to be put for Nestorius, the founder of the sect.

59. Ad ostium tabernaculi,
In que est corpus Domine
Cave hoc,] "Even to the door of the tabernacle, where the body of the Lord is: beware of that"

60. Diss church ye thus depraved] To deprave generally means—to vilify in words (as in our author's Colyn Cloute, "The Church to deprave," v. 515; but (and see the poem The Doughty Duke of Albany v. 191) here depraved must be equivalent to—defiled.

61. Quare? quia Evangelia,
Concha et conchylia,
Accipter et sonalia,
Et bruta animalia,
Caetera quoque talia
Tibi sunt aequalia
Unde hoc] "Why? Because the Gospels, holy vessels, a hawk and bells, and brutish animals, and other such things are alike to you. Whence that?"

62. Et relis et ralis,
Et reliqualis
] Perhaps means "You strike back, and rail, but are left behind." Occurs again in our author's
Garland of Laurel, v. 1216.

63. Galis] i.e. Galicia.

64 Non est brain-sick talis
Nec minus rationalis,
Nec magis bestialis
] "It is not so brain-sick, nor less reasonable, nor more

65. Vos valete,
Doctor indiscrete
!] "Goodbye, undistinguished doctor!"

Prev Next