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Berdan, John M.  Early Tudor Poetry, 1485-1547.
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1920.  92-102 ;  156-207 ;  212-219.

[Early Tudor Poetry: John Skelton]

....Up to this point in the discussion, there has been one characteristic common to all work, namely the lack of definite expression of the personality of the author. In spite of the Comfort of Lovers, Hawes remains a visionary figure. This condition is almost necessitated from the fact that each author wrote according to lines laid down by tradition. But such a state belongs rather to the Middle Ages than to the Renaissance. Then, if anything at all was stressed, it was individuality. What seems to the modern reader to be arrant boasting, to the man of that time appeared only the proper recognition of his own ego. In literature the time was at hand when a writer would employ the old formulae, but employ them as a medium for self-expression.

Practically such a condition is to be found in a poem of John Skelton. Of his life, beyond what may be legitimately, or illegitimately, deduced from his works, we know curiously little. Since the name Skelton, Schelton, Shelton, or Scheklton, is quite common, at once appears a prolific source of misinformation. In particular a contemporary John Skelton, afterwards knighted, adds to the confusion. Thus his life, a fascinating structure of inference and conjecture, is built around only a few definite dates. 2 We know neither when nor where he was born, nor who were his parents, nor where he received his education. 3 The first notice


2 The Life prefixed to the Dyce edition of 1843 is still in great measure the source of all subsequent statements. This may be corrected by the masterly study of Friedrich Brie, Skelton-studien, Englische Studien, 37 abnd, 1-86. As I shall have occasion to differ from certain positions taken by Dr. Brie, I wish here to express my hearty admiration for the skill with which he has brought order out of chaos.
3 One Scheklton, according to Cole's Collections, as quoted by Dyce, received the M. A. at Cambridge in 1484. That this is the poet is questioned in Vol. III of the Athenœ Cantabrigiensis.


shows him already with an established reputation. In 1490 Caxton in his preface to the Eneydos, after explaining his difficulties with the English language, unexpectedly addresses Skelton. 1

But I praye mayster Iohn Skelton, late created poete laureate in the vnyuersite of oxenforde, to ouersee and correcte this sayd booke, And taddresse and expowne where as shalle be founde faulte to theym that shall requyre it. For hym, I knowe for suffycyent to expowne and englysshe euery dyffyculte that is therin / For he hath late translated the epystlys of Tulle / and the boke of dyodorus syculus, and diuerse other werkes oute of latyn in-to englysshe, not in rude and olde langage, but in polysshed and ornate termes craftely, as he that hath redde vyrgyle / ouyde, tullye, and all the other noble poetes and oratours / to me vnknowen: And also he hath redde the ix. muses, and vaderstande theyr musicalle scyences, and to whom of theym eche scyence is appropred. I suppose he hath dronken of Elycons well.

This casual remark of Caxton gives the two influences that affect Skelton's work, namely his Latinity and his desire for expression in English. For his Latin we have also other evidence. The first Grace Book of the University of Cambridge gives the entry in 1493, 2 Conceditur Johanni Skeltonpoete in partibus transmarinis atque oxonie laurea ornato ut aput nos eadem decoraretur." According to this entry, then, he had been honored with the academic degree of poet laureate, by Oxford, Cambridge, and a foreign university, probably Louvain. 3 Warton, followed by all subsequent writers, adds another entry, 1504-5. 4 "Conceditur Johi Skelton Poete Laureat, quod possit stare eodem gradu hic quo stetit Oxoniis, et quod possit uti habitu sibi concesso a Principe." 5 What the "same degree here that he held at Oxford" was I do not know. 6 The assumption that it was again the degree of poet laureate seems improbable since that had already been given him at each uni-

1 E. E. T. S., Caxton's Eneydos, p. 3 .
2 Athenœ Cantabrigiensis, Vol. III.
3 Given by title of verses of Whittington, Dyce 1, XVI.
4 History English Poetry, 1873, iii , 127 , note.
5 This was verified for Dyce, i. xiii, note. On the other hand no such entry is given in the Athenæ Cant. nor is there any mention of it by Mullinger.
6 For Dyce the Rev. Dr. Bliss searched the archives at Oxford with no result. "No records remain between 1463 and 1498 that will give a correct list of degrees." After 1500 Wood gives no notice of such a degree conferred upon Skelton. The habit is presumably the one alluded to. Dyce, Vol. I, 124 and 197. Arno Thümmel , Studien über John Skelton ( Leipzig, 1905), pp. 48-50, appreciates the difficulty but offers no solution.


versity. It may have been the D. D. as Bale suggests. However that may be, it is the poet laureateship in which Skelton delights. In his curious (and unpleasant) series of mocking attacks upon Garnesche he plumes himself upon this particular degree. 1

Lytyll wyt in your scrybys nolle
That scrybblyd your fonde scrolle,
Vpon hym for to take,
Agennst me for to make
Lyke a doctor dawpate,
A lauryate poyete for to rate.
Yower termys ar to grose,
To far from the porpoes,
To contaminate
And to violate
The dygnyte lauryate. 2

And again:

What eylythe thé, rebawde, on me to raue?
A kyng to me myn habyte gaue:
At Oxforth, the vniversyte,
Auaunsid I was to that degre;
By hole consent of theyr senate,
I was made poete lawreate.
To cal me lorell ye ar to lewde:
Lythe and lystyn, all bechrewde!
Of the Musys nyne, Calliope
Hath pointyd me to rayle on thé.
It semyth nat thy pylld pate
Agenst a poyet lawreat
To take vpon thé for to scryue . . .
It ys for no bawdy knaue
The dignite lawreat for to haue. 23

In the postils to two poems Skelton is signed as "Orator regius," whatever that may mean. But that he had no definite connection with the court as our modern term implies is proved by the fact that his name does not figure on the rolls. It was an academic degree conferred for proficiency in the composition of Latin verse. The fact that he was so honored in three universities, even with-

1 Of course this has no connection with the modern office of poet laureate.
2 Dyce, i , 122 .
23 Dyce i , 128 - 129 .


out considering the mysterious second degree, shows that according to the educational standards of the time he was regarded as a man of great scholarly attainments.

Given a man with such scholastic antecedents, it was almost inevitable that he should experiment with a type of poem authorized by literary tradition; given a man with the renaissance craving for individualistic expression, and it was inevitable that the conventional form would be modified, even unconsciously, by his treatment. On the one side there will be careful adherence to the peculiarities of the form; on the other a complete breaking away from the typical mental attitude. So, whereas Hawes in his combination of the chivalric and erotic elements was a conscious innovator, mechanically creating a new type by a recombination of old forms, here there will be an unconscious adaptation of the old tradition to form a medium of expression for the new age. Such is the peculiarity of Skelton poem, The Bowge of Court. The poem is divided into the three conventional sections, the introduction, the poem proper, and the apologetic conclusion. In the first five stanzas, with the typical astronomical opening, the poet in the first person tells us that he wishes to write,

. . . callynge to mynde the greate auctoryte
Of poetes olde, whyche full craftely.
Under as couerte termes as coude be,
Can touche a trouth and cloke it subtylly
Wyth fresshe vtteraunce full sentencyously.

With becoming hesitation, however, he feels a lack of confidence in his ability to be sufficiently obscure. In this mood of doubt he falls asleep, and in his dream

At Harwyche Porte slumbrynge as I laye,
In myne hostes house called Powers Keye,

he sees a ship well freighted, called the Bowge of Courte. The aim of the voyagers is to obtain the jewel favor of the owner, dame Sauncepere. Shielded by silk she sits upon a throne over which is the motto Garder le fortune, que est mauelz et bone. Her chief gentlewoman, Danger, repulses him, but another, Desire, urges him on, and advises him to make friends with fortune, who controls the ship.


Whome she loueth, of all plesyre is ryche,
Whyles she laugheth and hath luste for to playe;
Whome she hateth, she casteth in the dyche,
For whan she frouneth, she thynketh to make a fray;
She cheryssheth him, and hym she casseth awaye.

With the rest, the poet, whose name is Drede, makes his suit to Fortune. Here the prologue ends. The poem proper is an account of the voyage. On board there are seven "full subtyll" characters, Favell (Duplicity), Suspecte (Suspicion), Harvy Hafter (a cheat), Dysdayne, Ryotte, Dyssymuler, and Subtylte. Each in turn is characterized, and has an interview with Drede. There is some dramatic action suggested. After the last, fearing for his life, he leaps overboard, and awakes. The "lytyll boke" ends with an apology, . . . it is only a dream, but sometimes in dreams truths appear.

Such is in bare outline the plan of the poem. At once merely by the outline it is apparent that we have here a composition of the type of the medieval tradition. It has all the earmarks, the dream structure, the allegory, the personifications and the rimeroyal. Still more, it has the peculiarities of the Lydgate school. The formal astronomical opening, the belief in the necessity of "couert termes," the suggestion of the apostrophe to the "lytyll boke" at the end, and the inevitable apology. You even find an occasional broken-backed Lydgatian line.

That Í ne wíste whât to dô was béste

Up to this point it is a perfect example of the school so worthily represented by Hawes.

The interesting feature about the poem is, not its similarity to the type, but its unconscious divergence from it. Skelton's personality is too powerful to be confined in any common mould. Seeing life with his own eyes, and not through literary tradition, he becomes concrete. The vague medieval meadow is a definite place, Harwich Port, and a definite inn, Powers' Quai. This becomes strongly marked when he deals with the personifications. Instead of Hawes' pictured figures, here the characters are strongly individualized. The description of Harvy Hafter may serve as an example:


Vpon his breste he bare a versynge boxe; (dicing)
His throte was clere and lustely coude fayne;
Me thoughte, his gowne was all furred wyth foxe;
And euer he sange, Sythe I am no thyng playne.
To kepe him frome pykynge it was a grete payne;
He gased on me with his gotyshe berde;
Whan I loked on hym, my purse was half aferde.

The last line is a triumph of suggestiveness. And the same brilliant characterization is shown in the speeches. For the sake of continuity Harvy is again chosen for illustration:

Syr, God you saue! why loke ye so sadde?
What thynge is that I maye do for you?
A wonder thynge that ye waxe not madde!
For, and I studye sholde as ye doo nowe,
My wytte wolde waste, I make God auowe.
Tell me your mynde: me thynke, ye make a verse;
I coude it skan, and ye wolde it reherse.

But to the poynte shortely to procede,
Where hathe your dwellynge ben, er ye cam here?
For, as I trowe, I haue sene you indede
Er this, whan that ye made me royall chere.
Holde vp the helme, loke vp, and lete God stere:
I wolde be mery, what wynde that euer blowe,
"Heue and how rombelow, row the bote, Noman rowe!"

"Prynces of yougthe" can ye synge by rote?
Or shall I sayle wyth you a felashyp assaye;
For on the booke I can not synge a note.
Wolde to God, it wolde please you some daye
A balade boke before me for to laye,
And lerne me to synge, Re, my, fa, sol!
And, whan I fayle, bobbe me on the noll.

Loo, what is to you a pleasure grete,
To haue that connyng and wayes that ye houe!
By Goddis soule, I wonder how ye gete
Soo grete pleasyre, or who to you it gaue:
Syr, pardon me, I am an homely knaue,
To be with you thus perte and thus bolde;
But ye be welcome to our housholde.

And, I dare saye, there is no man here inne
But wolde be glad of your company:


I wyste neuer man that so soone coude wynne
The fauoure that ye haue with my lady;
I praye to God that it maye neuer dy:
It is your fortune for to haue that grace;
As I be saued, it is a wonder case.

For, as for me, I serued here many a daye,
And yet vnneth I can haue my lyuynge;
But I requyre you no worde that I saye;
For, and I knowe ony erthly thynge
That is agayne you, ye shall haue wetynge:
And ye be welcome, syr, so God me saue:
I hope here after a frende of you to haue.

Here we are miles away from the stock epithet of the Lydgate school. Harvy is musical, and sings "Row the boat, Norman, row" 1 and "Princes of youth." But unhappily he sings by ear only. He is a homely knave and seeks to flatter by stressing the superior attainments of Drede. Yet he is completely insincere, and at another's suggestion is quite willing to throw Drede over board in a picked quarrel. The line,

Holde up the hëlme, loke up, and lete God stere,

is rather shocking coming from the mouth of such a character. Yet is it not natural for this type of rascal to throw thus the responsibility upon God? Harvy Hafter's easy-going philosophy is here suggestive, and it is worth comment that Skelton recognized that such a shifting of responsibility denotes weakness of character rather than strength. Thus each trait is carefully etched in. The result is that for the first time since Chaucer vivid characterization is placed in a framework of definitely conceived dramatic action.

With such treatment as this, naturally there is no ambiguity in the interpretation of the allegory. Bouge, from the French bouche, is merely the technical term for the table set by the king for the court. 2 As such it had been used half a century before Skelton. Here it is used to typify life at the Court. The conditions there were so unlike the present that it requires an effort of the imagina-

1 This is an actual song, the music of which is preserved in Chappell Popular Music of the Olden Time, II, 482.
2 The reader is refered to Chapter I of the present work.


tion to realize them. In the sixteenth century court a large number of individuals were brought together without any regard to congeniality and without very much to do. The duties were trivial. Yet however trivial they might seem abstractly, concretely upon them depended both one's reputation and one's income. The main object of a man's life was to acquire the favor of the monarch. If for any reason good or bad, important or trivial, noble or vile, you attracted the favorable notice of the king, you were successful. Thus all things were reduced to one level; whether you were a skillful statesman, or player on the lute, or a cunning deviser of royal debauch, it was immaterial. On the other hand, failure to obtain this, in the fullest sense of the word, spelled ruin. As the Duke of Norfolk said to More, "by God's body! Mr. More, indignatio principis mors est," and More proved the truth of the statement on Tower Hill. As there was no real dignity back of the life, and as there was no independence of thought, Skelton thinks that to gain this all-important favor of the King is only a matter of chance. And equally, he that possesses it is both flattered and hated by all the rest. The Court is peopled by liars and cheats, by suspicion and disdain. Success there is worse than failure and the honest man jumps over board!

If this be the interpretation, only by form does the poem belong to the type represented by the medieval tradition. If on that side it be compared to Hawes, its content recalls Barclay in both his Eclogues and in his Ship of Fools. First there is no question that there was some relation between them. Even granting that Bale's mention of a work by Barclay Contra Skeltonum be mythical, that Barclay did not approve of Skelton is shown in the final stanzas 1 of the Ship of Fools. There he plumes himself upon his virtuous writings, priding himself that

It longeth nat to my scyence nor cunnynge
For Phylyp the Sparowe the (Dirige) to sing.

To assume, however, that Skelton's verses good-humoredly advising those that disliked Philip Sparrow to do better themselves, 2 are a reply to Barclay, is to assume that Barclay was the only critic. Likewise to construe the passage in the Fourth Eclogue

1 Jamieson, op. cit., ii , 331 .
2 Dyce, 1 , 412 .


against poet laureates as an attack particularly aimed at Skelton is to state a tempting hypothesis. Of course it may be true, but equally of course it may seem true only because of our lack of data. It is fair, however, to feel that the traditional enmity between the two poets must have had some foundation.

But if there be any truth in this tradition it is somewhat surprising to find Skelton enlisted by modern scholarship as a follower of Barclay. 1 This is almost certainly an error, due to the inclusion among Skelton work of the Boke of Three Fooles. As this has been shown by Brie 2 to be merely a part of Watson's translation of the Narrenschiffs, all connection of Skelton with Barclay Ship of Fools is reduced to the fact that they each use the allegory of a boat. But even in English this metaphor is not uncommon. 3 Nor is the employment of it the same. In Barclay the figure of the boat is a mechanism in which to put his innumerable fools; in Skelton the boat itself represents the court. If it be necessary to find an original for the ship of state, the ode of Horace comes at once to mind. 4 Thus, while it may be possible that Locker's version of the Narrenschiffs ( 1497) suggested the idea, Skelton's employment of it is much more artistic. Much the same may be said of the assumed influence of Barclay Eclogues, which also attack court life. Barclay's criticisms are after all criticisms of superficial detail; Skelton sensed the fundamental wrong. And this superiority of Skelton is due, in the last analysis, to his deeper perception. Barclay is merely an adapter of other men's work, a humanist by courtesy. Skelton, on the other hand, brought from his wide reading a point of view that made him a sharp and original critic of English conditions.

The importance of this argument lies in the fact that the dating of the poem is based on internal evidence. If it shows the influence of the Ship of Fools unless Skelton saw the manuscript it must have been written after 1509; if it shows the influence of the

1 Herford, Literary Relations, pp. 354-355; Rey, Skelton's Satirical Poems, p. 51; Koelbing, Zur Charakteristik John Skelton's, p. 69; in the Chapter on Barclay and Skelton in the Cambridge Hist. of Lit., p. 83, written after Brie Studien had appeared, Koelbing recedes from this position, substitutes Brandt for Barclay, and tends to date the poem early.
2 Brie, op. cit., p. 18 .
3 Koelbingop. cit., p. 76. gives a long list of predecessors.
4 The Fourteenth Ode of the First Book.


Eclogues, it must have been composed about 1514. 1 But as it does not in any way show the influence of these works, there is no necessity for so late a date. In fact the cumbrous form, the careful following of the medieval tradition, point rather to very early work. Brie here makes a suggestion, entirely without any foundation, but fascinating in connection with my interpretation of the poem. We know that Skelton had been connected with the Court as tutor to Prince Henry. We know also that in 1498 he was ordained successively subdeacon, deacon, and priest. 2 But in 1504 he was Rector at Diss in Norfolk. 3

It is a not unnatural assumption that he received the rectorship of Diss as a regard for his tutorial services. On the other hand there has never been a reason assigned why a man sufficiently influential to be chosen as tutor to his Prince, and with the reputation of one of the leading scholars of his country, should be willing to bury himself in an obscure country town. Norfolk today is but ninety-five miles from London, but ninety-five miles over sixteenth century roads was a long journey fraught with discomfort and danger. 4 Skelton's own answer perhaps is to be found in the Bowge of Court. From a court in which there was not to be found one good man, where wretches plotted against him, he indignantly sought refuge in exile. 5 This is mere hypothesis, but it does cover all the few facts of the case. This hypothesis also explains the acidity of the poem. The allegory of the Romaunt of the Rose and of Lydgate has been turned into satire!

This medieval form, clear and definite, has already been twice modified by the literary necessities of the Renaissance; by Hawes, who combines with it a didactic chivalric romance, and again by Skelton, who forces it into the service of satire. Still another at-

1 See Chapter IV, p. 167. The latest date with the curious reason is given by Rey, op. cit.51: "And what is still more concluding for the posteriority of the 'Bowge of Court' is the circumstance that it was even written after the 'Garland' which dates, as the tittle-page indicates, from 1523; as the 'Bowge' does not form part of the list of Skelton's works in the 'Garland,' the assumption of the posteriority of the 'Bowge of Court' seems quite ascertained." As Dr. Rey states that he has used the three volume American reprint of the Dyce, I refer him to Vol. 2, p. 222 of that edition where in the Garland of Laurel he will find the line, "Item Bowehe of Court where Drede was begyled" . . .
2 Dyce, 1, XX.
3 Dyce, 1, XXVI.
4 Ante, pp. 48-49.
5 Brie, op. cit. p. 41.


tempt to use the old formula was made just after the middle of the sixteenth century by John Heywood.



After dealing with anonymous writers, unknown, unsexed, it is with relief that one turns to the rugged personality of Skelton. Here at least, however much you may dislike the type of work, you are dealing with a man.

His poem, the Bouge of Court, which belongs to the formal literary tradition, has been discussed, 3 and the suggestion was there made of his relations with the court. It will be remembered that Skelton was praised for his learning by Caxton, and correctly,


3 Chapter ii.


since apparently he had been given degrees by three universities. So far then as there is value in academic recognition, Skelton was quite rightly regarded as one of the learned men of his age. That the poet himself was conscious of these attainments, is equally certain. In reading his poems you are never allowed to forget that the author has enjoyed all the advantages that the quadrivium and the trivium could afford. Latin tags, Latin allusions, even Latin reminiscences occur at frequent intervals. In the Garland of Laurel he imagines himself received by the writers of all time. And a curious collection they are! Quintillian, Theocritus, Hesiod, Homer, Cicero, Sallust, Ovid, Lucan, Statius, Persius, Vergil, Juvenal, Livy, Aulus Gellius, Terence, Plautus, Seneca, Boethius, Maximianus, Boccaccio, Quintus Curtius, Macrobius, Poggio, Gaguin, Plutarch, Petrarch, Lucilius, Valerius Maximus, Vincentius, Propertius, Pisander, and the three English poets, Gower, Chaucer, and Lydgate. A somewhat similar, although not identical, catalogue is given in Philip Sparrow. If this may be considered as a list of reading to any degree typical of academic training it raises curious doubts in the mind of the modern. The extent of his reading is surpassed only by his entire lack of critical discrimination. Poetry, drama, and prose, Greek and Latin, ancient and modern, poets and poetasters are all piled pell mell. And the greater proportion of it is in classical Latin. Greek authors are but slightly mentioned (and these were probably read in translation), of the Italian humanists he knows but three, and there is but one Frenchman. 1 Such was the knowledge of the past at the opening of the sixteenth century. The classics were by no means forgotten.

On the other hand, however extensive may have been Skelton's knowledge of classical literature, it was surely not intensive. The medley of authors just quoted from the Garland of Laurel by no means shows the nice discrimination of a scholar. It savors of sacrilege to mention Homer and Virgil in the same breath with Lucilius

1 Perhaps it is necessary to point out that to Skelton all these authors wrote in Latin, that he shows no knowledge of the Italian. To the sixteenth century humanist, Petrarch was the author of the Africa, etc., Boccaccio of De Genealogia Deorum, etc., and Poggio of the Facetiae. Forgetting this cardinal fact some modern writers have lamented that he did not imitate Petrarch, the Petrarch of the Rime!


and Vicentius! And although Philip Sparrow is a dramatic monologue put into the mouth of a young girl, the medieval confusion of scriptural, classical, and imaginary authors and characters seems typical of Skelton himself. He belongs to the former age and is not favorable to the men of the "new learning". At least that is my interpretation of the significant omission of certain names in his list. The Garland of Laurel fortunately may be definitely dated. It is limited on one side from the fact that it was published in 1523; on the other, since Colin Clout and the Magnyfycence are both mentioned, it could not have been composed much before 1520. But by 1520 the English humanists were in full flower. Grocyn was dead, Linacre had published his Galen, Colet had founded his school, Lily had been teaching there eight years, More had published his Utopia, and Erasmus had become a world figure. Yet none of these appear. It is impossible that he should not have known them, or at least of them and their work. Linacre, for example, was a tutor to Prince Arthur certainly part of the time that Skelton held the same position with Prince Henry. And with the various academic degrees which Skelton held, it is scarcely probable that he was at no time brought into definite relation with some member of the group. But his feeling toward them was apparently the reverse of cordial. Bale records the beginning of some verses attacking Lily, Lily's response to which has been preserved. 1 The test was apparently his attitude toward Greek. He was thoroughly out of sympathy with the contention of Colet and Erasmus that Greek should be studied for its religious value. This at once lends significance to his acclaiming himself the British Catullus, without mentioning Horace. 2 He felt, truly enough, that the introduction of Greek into the schools would be the end of the old curriculum. This at least is his attitude in the passage from Speke, Parrot: 3

"Monon calon agaton, 4
Quod Parato
In Graeco

1 Dyce 1, xxxvii.
2 Verses cited p. 233.
3 Dyce, 2, 8-9.
4 Does this transliteration of the. Greek imply that the first printer of the poem had no Greek font?


Let Parrot, I pray you, haue lyberte to prate,
For aurea lingua Graeca ought to be magnifyed,
Yf it were cond perfytely, and after the rate,
As lingua Latina, in scole matter occupyed;
But our Grekis theyr Greke so well haue applyed,
That they cannot say in Greke, rydynge by the way,
How, hosteler, fetche my hors a botell of hay!

Neyther frame a silogisme in phrisesomorum,
Formaliter et Graece, cum medio termino:
Our Grekys ye walow in the washbol Argolicorum;
For though ye can tell in Greke what is phormio,
Yet ye seeke out your Greke in Capricornio;
For they (ye?) scrape out good scripture, and set in a gall,
Ye go about to amende, and ye mare all.

Some argue secundum quid ad simpliciter,
And yet he wolde be rekenyd pro Areopagita;
And some make distinctions multipliciter,
Whether ita were before non, or non before ita,
Nether wise nor well lernid, but like hermaphrodita:
Set sophia asyde, for euery Jack Raker
And euery mad medler must now be a maker.

In Academia Parrot dare no probleme kepe;
For Graece fari so occupyeth the chayre,
That Latinum fari may fall to rest and slepe,
And Syllogisari was drowned at Sturbrydge fayre;
Tryuyals and quatryuyals so sore now they appayre,
That Parrot the popagay hath pytye to beholde
How the rest of good lernyng is roufled up and trold.

Albertus de modo significandi,
And Donatus, be dryuen out of scole;
Prisians hed broken now handy dandy,
And Inter didascolos is rekened for a fole;
Alexander, a gander of Menanders pole,
With Da Cansales, is cast out of the gate,
And Da Racionales dare not shew his pate.

Plauti in his comedies a chyld shall now reherse,
And medyll with Quintylyan in his Declamacyons,
And Pety Caton can scantly construe a verse,
With Aveto in Graceco, and such solempne salutacyons,
Can skantly the tensis of his coniugacyons;
Settynge theyr myndys so moche of eloquens,
That of theyr scole maters lost is the hole sentens."


This passage is interesting as defining exactly Skelton's position. He is partly jealous of Greek as affecting the study of Latin and partly he is afraid of it as an instrument of scriptural reform. He is thus necessarily an opponent of the group of English humanists.

This is one, then, of the peculiarities of Skelton's position. Although he can, and occasionally does, write humanistic Latin, he is far from being a humanist. 1 The same is true as to his place in the English tradition. His Bouge of Court is an interesting individual modification of the conventional type of court allegory. 2 Consequently we find him echoing the conventional criticism in regard to the conventional trilogy of English authors. Gower "first garnished our Englysshe rude," then Chaucer polished it, and Lydgate added the finishing touches. 3 Owing to its early date, Gower's English is useless as a model, however excellent may be the content of his poems; Chaucer, on the contrary, is still available.

His termes were not darke,
But pleasaunt, easy, and playne;
No worde he wrote in vayne. 4

Lydgate "wryteth after an hyer rate" since it is difficult to understand his precise meaning. This is the stock criticism of the early sixteenth century. With a man uttering such views, it is natural to expect the use of the rime-royal as a stanza form. Actually he uses it not only in the longer poems, such as the Bouge of Court and the Garland of Laurel, but also for satire, as in the poems against Garnesche and in Speke, Parrot, for love pieces and poems on meditation. Not so normal are his experiments, where in one poem, The Auncient Acquaintance, he preserves the rime-scheme, although using lines with six accents, or with four accents as in the attack upon Mistress Anne. In this latter form is the dramatic song My darlyng dere, where the short lines lend themselves to vivid compression and swift narrative. Here, from the dramatic opening to the brutal ending, Skelton's own eulogy of

1 Cf., Chapter IV.
2 Cf. Chapter II.
3 The passage is quoted at length, page 53 .
4 It may be assumed here that Skelton is echoing Caxton views as expressed in his edition of the House of Fame. The reader is referred to Lounsbury's seventh chapter where the Caxton is quoted.


Chaucer may be applied to himself,--no word he wrote in vain. And this is the more worthy of comment as such work is not in accordance with the usual conception of Skelton's manner. One more characteristic of this division of his poems may be added. Skelton is curiously affected by the old English love for alliteration. In the poems against Garnishe,

Garnyshe, gargone, gastly, gryme,

it may perhaps be used merely for the comic affect. That certainly cannot explain its appearance,

I wayle, I wepe, I sobbe, I sigh ful sore,

in the elegy on the death of the Earl of Northumberland, nor its employment in the attack upon Mistress Anne.

Womanhod, wanton, ye want;
Youre medelyng, mastres, is manerles;
Plente of yll, of goodnes skant,
Ye rayll at ryot, recheles:
To prayse your porte it is nedeles;
For all your draffe yet and youre dreggys,
As well borne as ye full oft tyme beggys.

While of course it is not the old alliterative measure, such a line as

What dremyst thou, drunchard, drousy pate

would need little changing to make it conform to the old measure. It is allowable, I think, to infer that Skelton both knew and was affected by the earlier poetry.

Actually it is neither the humanistic Latin nor the poetry of the English tradition that is associated with the name of Skelton. His fiery genius found its expression in poems formed on quite other models. What those models were is easily inferred from his biography. A man very learned, yet born too early for the full tide of humanism to have reached northern Europe, would naturally be learned in the literature of Medieval Latin. When it is added that such a man was enrolled in the ranks of the Church, every indication points to a certain direction. Consequently it is not


surprising to find that he, like the others, ambidextrously, mixes Latin with his English. 1

What though ye can cownter Custodi nos?
As well it becomyth yow, a parysh towne clarke,
To syng Sospitati dedit œgros. . .

Another example is in Ware the Hawk, 2

Dir Dominus vobiscum,
Per aucupium

Ye made your hawke to cum
Desuper candelabrum
Christi crucifixi

To fede 'pon your fisty:
Dic, inimice crucis Christi,
Ubi didicisti
Facere hoc,
Domine Dawcocke

Here the Latin is used interchangeably with the English.

With this use of Latin one would expect Skelton to show his knowledge of the aureate language. He himself, in a Lydgatian mood, regrets that 3

My wordes vnpullysht be, nakide and playne,
Of aureat poems they want ellumynynge.

But the reader feels he is unjust to himself. Such a stanza as the following shows that he is quite comparable even to Hawes. 4

Allectuary arrectyd to redres
These feuerous axys, the dedely wo and payne
Of thoughtfull hertys plungyd in dystress;
Refresshyng myndys the Aprell shoure of rayne;
Condute of comforte, and well most souerayne;
Herber enverduryd, contynuall fressh and grene;
Of lusty somer the passyng goodly quene. . .

He then compares the lady's features to the topaz, ruby, sapphire, pearl, diamond, emerald, and

Relucent smaragd, obiecte incomperable.

1 Dyce, i, 17.
2 Dyce, i, 164-5.
3 Dyce, i, 11.
4 Dyce i, 25.


This is all rather quaint, artificial, and affected, unless one realizes that he was writing according to the dictates of his age. In the same way he uses repeticio, as in the Magnyfycence, where eight successive lines begin with the word counterfet. 1 And occasionally he uses actual cryptograms as where he substitutes numbers for letters or makes a jargon by transposing Latin syllables. In general it may be said that his knowledge both of the humanistic writers and the older English poets saved him from the excessive puerility of the worst of the school. Or perhaps there is so much more virility in his work than in that of the others, that the modern reader is more charitable and the puerility passes by unnoticed.

In the scansion of the line, to follow the former order, Skelton uses the free procedure noticed before. This is easily seen in his most regular poem, the Bouge of Courte. Here as he is writing the iambic pentameter, theoretically each line should have but ten syllables. This is usually the case.

In autumpne, whan the sonne in Virgine
By radyante hete enryped hath our corne;
Whan Luna, full of mutabylyte,
As emperes the dyademe hath worne
Of our pole artyke, smylynge halfe in scorne
At our foly and our vnstedfastnesse;
The tyme whan Mars to werre hym dyde dres . .

With the exception of the second line, where radyante was probably a trisyllable, every line has exactly ten syllables. That is not true of the next

I, callynge to mynde the greate auctorytè,

nor of

His hede maye be harde, but feble is his brayne . . . 2

This might be illustrated ad libitum. Obviously he writes by ear and provided that the accents fall correctly, he is little troubled by an extra syllable. The fact that the modern reader also is not troubled, shows how completely the old theory has been assimilated.

1 Dyce i, 240.
2 Dyce, i, 31.


In stanza forms there is the abundance of short riming lines, characteristic of the Medieval Latin.

As ye may see,
Regent is she
Of poetes al,
Whiche gaue to me
The high degre
Laureat to be
Of fame royall, 1

This is iambic diameter, trimembris, with riming iambic diameter.

So many pointed caps
Lased with double flaps,
And so gay felted hats,
Sawe I never:
So many good lessôns,
So many good sermons,
And so few devocions,
Sawe I never. 2

This is iambic trimeter, trimembris, with differentia repeated. The addresses to the various ladies in the Garland are attractive studies in the Medieval Latin meters. 3 These are obviously "lyrics" in the sense only that they are short emotional poems. Quite otherwise is it with at least some of the others; they are lyrics in that they were intended to be sung. Certainly that is the inference to be made from the title of the tract in which they are preserved. "Here folowythe dyuers Balettys and Dyties solacyous, deuysed by Master Skelton, Laureat." The poem My darling dere is headed by two lines obviously used as a chorus. But the question passes out of the bounds of inference with the poem Manerly Margery Mylk and Ale, since the music, written by Cornysshe, has been preserved for this. 4 From the music we

1 Dyce, i, 197.
2 Dyce, i, 148.
3 It is unnecessary to quote them since they are easily accessible in the Oxford Book of English Verse (30 and 31) amd similar collections.
4 Hawkins, History of Music, iii, 2. Ritson's note, "Since Sir J. Hawkins's transcript was made, the ms. appears to have received certain alterations, occasioned, as it should seem, but certainly not authorized, by the over-scrupulous delicacy of its late or present possessor" is inexplicable because the changes, as recorded by Dyce, are of the slightest.


see that it was a three part counterpuntal madrigal. As the second voice supports alternately either the first or third, the poem is a dialogue on seduction, all voices mingling in the refrain. When transposed into modern notation, the music is really very attractive, with a distinct swing in the refrain. 1 The peculiar feature is that to such music should be set a poem dealing so brutally with such a subject. Again, although the treatises explicitly limit the number of single rimes to four, the stanza form here consists of five riming lines and a couplet. As actually, however, medieval Latin songs of the tavern had five or more lines riming together, the presumption is strong that then, as now, popular song-writers overrode academic restraint, and that this, therefore, is a studentenlied rather than a lyric. Although Cornysshe was a member of the Chapel Royal, it seems unlikely that such a song could be sung before a mixed audience, even in the Court of Henry VII. Rather, it must be regarded as a rare example of the popular song of the day.

But not only does the music help us to a correct distribution of the parts in the dialogue, it is of still greater importance as indicating the pronunciation and the scansion. For necessarily the text must be substantially correct. In that case it can be stated positively that the final e was in no instance pronounced. So far as the number of syllables is concerned, the words were read nearly as they are today. In modern spelling the lines in the third verse would read

By Chríst, you sháll not, nó hardlý I wíll not bé japed + ́ bodilý.

They are clearly iambic tetrameter, the last accent falling upon the y rime. But they illustrate, also, the freedom used by the sixteenth century author in the number of his syllables, because, musically, the two short syllables in bodily are equalized with the one long syllable in hardly. The same condition is illustrated, in the extreme, by the fifth line of the first stanza,

Túlly valy stráwe, let bé I sáy.

Here the music shows the poet not only begins his line with four short syllables, but he throws his accent. He substitutes a num-

1 For the transcription I am indebted to Mr. Arthur Hague.


ber of short syllables for the anticipated iambus. And in this, with its musical setting, the modern reader need feel no surprise. Exactly the same thing is done in such a university song as

Ány kind of mán can make Alpha Delta Phí
Ány kind of mán makes Pśi U, etc.

But this triple movement is a far cry from the "regularity" of the eighteenth century.

Such poetic forms of Skelton as we have been discussing, however interesting in themselves, are not those by which he is best known. Skeltonical verse, or Skeltoniads as Drayton terms them, may be illustrated by the beginning of Colin Clout.

What can it auayle
To dryue forth a snayle,
Or to make a sayle
Of an herynges tayle;
To ryme or to rayle,
To wryte or to indyte,
Eyther for delyte
Or elles for despyte;
Or bokes to compyle
Of dyuers maner style,
Vyce to reuyle
And synne to exyle;
To teche or to preche,
As reason wyll reche?
Say this, and say that,
His hed is so fat,
He wotteth neuer what
Nor whereof he speketh;
He cryeth and he creketh,
He pryeth and he peketh,
He chydes and he chatters,
He prates and he patters,
He clytters and he clatters.
He medles and he smatters,
He gloses and he flatters;
Or yf he speake playne,
Than he lacketh brayne,
He is but a fole;
Let hym go to scole,
On a thre foted stole
That he may downe syt,


For he lacketh wyt;
And yf that he hyt
The nayle on the hede,
It standeth in no stede;
The deuyll, they say, is dede,
The deuell is dede.

The form consists obviously of riming trimeter lines forming a verse-paragraph closed by one diameter line. The origin of so marked a form seems to have puzzled scholars. And the puzzle merely increases when it is found both in French literature, as the fratrasie, and in Italian, as the frottola. Unless the hypotheses be adopted that either it originated independently in three countries, or that, originating in one, it was borrowed by the other two, a common source must be sought. Clearly this common source is to be found in the Medieval Latin. Still more, in the Renaissance such a form was regarded by the humanists as being characteristic of Medieval Latin. Consequently in the Epistolae Obscurorm Virorum the tetrameter variety was elaborately parodied. M. Petrus Negelinus writes pathetically. . .

Quamvis valde timeo esse ita audax, quod debeo vobis ostendere unum dictamen a me compositum, qua vos valde artificialis in compositione metrorum et dictaminorum; . . . Namque ego nondum habeo bonum fundamentum, et non sum perfecte instructus in arte pœtria et Rhetorica . . . Quapropter mitto vobis hic unum poema per me compilatum in lauden sancti Petri, et unis componista qui est bonus musicus in cantu chorali et figuralik composuit mihi quattuor voces super illud. Et ego feci magnam diligentiam quod potui its rigmizare, sicut est rigmizatum . . .

Sancte Petre domine
nobis miserere,
Quia tibi dominus
dedit cum istis clavibus
Potestatem maximam,
necnon specialem gratiam
Super omnes sanctos:
quia tu es privilegiatus,
Quod solvis est solutum,
in terris et per caelum,
Et quicquid hic ligaveris,
ligatum est in caelis
. . . etc.

Here this form of writing is obviously bound together with poor latinity. Again and again the authors return to the attack. The


"Obscure Men" write verse letters, satires, lyrics,--and usually in this rimed form. The conclusion is unavoidable that the ecclesiastical party normally wrote in this way, since otherwise the satire would have lacked point.

Fortunately the whole development of this type, the original Latin, the translation into English of the fourteenth century, the modification of the translation into the English of the fifteenth century, may be illustrated by a single poem. In the middle of the fourteenth century in his Polychronicon Higden inserted a rimed description of Wales. A few of the opening verses will show the type. 1

Libtri finis nunc Cambriam
Prius tangit quam Angliam;
Sic propero ad Walliam.
Ad Priami prosapiam;
Ad magni Jovis sanguinem,
Ad Dardani progeniem.
Sub titulis his quatuor
Terrae statum exordior;
Primo de causa nominis;
Secundo de praeconiis;
Tandem de gentis ritibus;
Quarto de mirabilibus.
Haec terra, quae nunc Wallia,
Quondam est dicta Cambria,
A Cambro Bruti filio,
Qui rexit hanc dominio
: etc.

But in 1387 John Trevesa, at the request of Thomas,Lord Berkeley, translated the whole into English, priding himself upon the exactness of the translation.

"In somme place I shall sette word for worde, and actyf for actyf, and passyf for passif arowe right as it stondeth withoute chaungynge of the ordre of wordes; but in somme place I must chaunge the ordre of wordes and sette actyf for passyf and ayenward; and in somme place I muste sette a reson for a worde, and telle what it meneth; but for al such chaungyng the menyng shal stande and not be chaunged. . . ." 2

1 The text is taken from the Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden, Vol. I, pp. 394-397, ed. by Churchill Babington, and published under the direction of the Master of the Rolls, 1865.
2 Quoted in Babington ed. of Higden, I, p. lxi.


With the duty of a translator so plainly stated, the relation between the Latin and the English is no longer in doubt.

How þe book takeþ in honde
Wales to fore Engelonde;
So I take my tales
And wende forþ in to Wales,
To that noble brood
Of Priamus his blood,
Knoweleche for to wynne
Of greet Iubiter his kynne,
For to haue in mynde
Dardanus his kynde.
In þis foure titles I fonde
To telle þe state of þat londe.
Cause of þe name I schall telle,
And þan preise þe lond I welle.
Than I schal write wiþ my pen
Alle þe maneres of þe men.
Then I schal fonde
To telle mervailes of þe longe.
Wales hatte now Wallis,
And somtyme highte Cambria,
For Camber, Brutes sone,
Was kyng, and þere dede won; etc.

But in 1482, nearly a hundred years later, Caxton brought out the Polychronicon itself with Trevesa's translation. In respect to this last, in his preface he says:

"I, William Caxton, a symple person, haue endeuoyred me to wryte fyrst ouer all the sayd book of proloconycon, and comewhat haue chaunged the rude and old Englyssh, that is to wete certayn wordes which in these days be neither vsyd ne vnderstanden, and furthermore haue put it in emprynte to thende that it maye be had and the maters therein comprised to be knowen." 1

In other words, Caxton has modernized the book so that it accords with the standards of his time. 2

Now this book taketh on honde
Wales after Englond,
So take I my tales,
And wende into Wales,
To that noble brood
Of Priamus blood,

1 Quoted in Babington ed. of Higden. Vol. I, p. lxiii.
2 Poems of Walter Mapes, ed. Th. Wright, Camden Society, p. 3 49).


Knoleche for to wynne
Of grete Jupiters kynne,
For to have in mynde
Dardanus kynde.
In thise foure titles I fonde
To alle the state of that londe;
Cause of the nam I shall telle;
And then preyse the lond and welle;
Then I shall write with my penne
Alle the maners of the menne;
Thenne I shall fonde
To telle mervailles of the londe.

Of the name, how it is named Walis.

Wales now is called Wallia,
And somtyme it heet Cambria.
For Camber Brutes sone
Was prince, and there dyde wone, etc.

But this English of the end of the fifteenth century is very like the "doggerel" of Skelton, the French of the fratrasie, or the Italian of the frottola.

If the reasoning be right, it goes far to explain the contemptuous attitude toward Skelton on the part of his contemporaries. In the vulgar tongue Skelton was reproducing forms and points of view that were associated in the mind of his age with lack of dignity and restraint. Thus Barclay writing the full-sailed rime-royal,--a measure sustained by the great literary tradition, goes out of his way to sneer at Skelton's performance:

It longeth nat to my scyence nor cunnynge
For Phylyp the Sparowe the (Dirige) to synge.

This might easily be interpreted as a personal fling at the author by Barclay; yet Skelton himself witnesses that this was a sufficiently ordinary attitude.

Of Phillip Sparow the lamentable fate,
The dolefull deteny, and the carefull chaunce,
Dyuysed by Skelton after the funerall rate;
Yet sum there be therewith that take greuaunce,
And grudge thereat with frownyng countenaunce;
But what of that? hard it is to please all men;
Who list amende it, let hym set to his penne. . . .

Garland of Laurel, ll. 1254- 1260.


Yet Philip Sparrow is a perfectly inoffensive poem, and written before the great satires. This disdain must have been due, then, not to the poem itself, but to the type to which it belonged, a type associated with the unruly side of university life. It is noticeable that the Garland of Laurel, Skeltonapologia pro vita sua, is itself composed in rime-royal. But as if in defiance of his critics, immediately after the passage quoted follow one hundred and fifteen lines in defense of Philip Sparrow in the Skeltonical measure! And that passage is itself broken by a conscious parade of four Latin hexameters. Here Skelton shows that he appreciates the force of the criticism, that he has the necessary learning to write in the manner of the age, and that he does not care to do so.

With an author of so dominant a personality as that of Skelton, the poems would differ also in content from conventional work. Before realism was invented he would look out on life with an eye, shrewd, perhaps jaundiced. With a courage such as his, he would speak out plainly. At all events that is clearly what Skelton did! The result is a long series of attacks and refutations. Nor is the sympathy of the modern reader always on the side of the author. Thus, one need not hold a brief for the Court of Henry VII without refusing to believe that it was peopled exclusively by such characters as those of the Bouge of Court. More did not find it so with Archbishop Morton. Nor did Skelton agree better with the scholars. He quarreled with Lily, with Barclay, with Gaguin (one of whose pieces Barclay translated). 1 None of these have survived, and from the list in the Garland, avowedly incomplete, we learn of others besides those that have come down to us. His attack seems to have been both general and particular, both national and individual, both jovial and bitter. As his poems against Garnesche are endorsed "By the kynges most noble commaundment", that was apparently a jesting match; and his epitaphs on John Clarke and John Jayberd, in however poor taste, were still intended to cause a smile. Quite otherwise is his exultation over the Scotch for the defeat at Flodden Field. In an entirely different vein is his Ware the Hawke, where, like a hawk, he pounces upon a parson for the truly objectionable practice of bringing his falcon

1 De fatuis mundanis, Englished by Barclay as Of Folys that ar ouer worldly, Jamieson ii, 317. Brie notes, p. 31, that the last is perhaps preserved in B. C. 1 65)b ms. at Trinity Coll. Cambridge.


into the church at Diss. 1 What he apparently considered his chief work, the poem beginning,

" Apollo that whirllid vp his chare," 2

has been lost. This was so bitter that Skelton himself wished to suppress it, as when Occupacyoun mentions it, the poet comments:

"With that I stode vp, half sodenly afrayd;
Suppleyng to Fame, I besought her grace,
And that it wolde please her, full tenderly I prayd,
Owt of her bokis Apollo to rase.
Nay, sir, she sayd, what so in this place
Of our noble courte is ones spoken owte,
It must nedes after rin all the worlde aboute.

God wrote, theis wordes made me full sad;
And when that I sawe it wolde no better be,
But that my peticyon wolde not be had,
What shulde I do but take it in gre?
For, by Juppiter and his high mageste,
I did what I cowde to scrape out the scrollis,
Apollo to rase out of her ragman rollis."

Although the poem be lost, it is possible, to guess its contents. A side note reads: Factum est cum Apollo esset Corinthi: Actus Apostolorum." The Vulgate gives the reference. 3 Apollo was a certain Jew, eloquent, mighty in the scriptures, and fervent in the spirit. Presumably Skelton, taking him as an exemplar, spoke his mind freely on the condition of the Church in

1 This peculiar vice is noticed also by Barclay:

"Another on his fyst a Sparhauke or fawcon
Or else a Cokow, and so wastynge his shone
Before the auters he to and fro doth wander
With euyn as great deuocyon oas a gander"

Ship of Fools, Jamieson, i, 221.

2 Dyce in his note on the passage, ii, 334 takes this as the line from Chaucer, the first line of the third part of the Squire's Tale. My suggestion is that Skelton is punning on it. Chare is a piece of work.
3 Judaeus autem quidam, Apollo nomine, Alexandrinus genere, vir eloquens, devenit Ephesum, potens in scripturis. Hic erat edoctus viam Domini; et fervens spiritu loquebatur, et docebat diligenter ea, quae sunt Jesu, sciens tantum baptisma Joannis. Acts XVIII, 24-5.


England. According to his own account the effect of his remarks was pronounced:

"That made sum to snurre and snuf in the wynde;
It made them to skip, to stampe, and to stare,
Whiche, if they be happy, haue cause to beware
In ryming and raylyng with hym for to mell,
For drede that he lerne them there A, B, C, to spell." 1

And the last lines certainly suggest that the poem was inspired by eloquence other than that of St. Paul teaching the doctrine of the Christ. 2

It must be confessed that such is his mental attitude, at least in the poems we have. Skelton is much more interested in smiting the enemy hip and thigh than he is in preaching the doctrine of heavenly love. He is a mighty warrior before the Lord. His Latin reading had not only given him a point of view from which to criticise English conditions, it had also furnished him models for exceedingly plain speaking.

"The famous poettes saturicall,
As Percius and Iuuynall,
Horace and noble Marciall," 3

at least with the exception of Horace, were not restrained. Martial's satires certainly are characterized by keen merciless dissection of conditions, extreme expression of his results, and a complete disregard of the consequence to himself. 4 Of course to the modern reader the poems pay the penalty of all satire, namely that they are unintelligible without notes. A realization of the questions at issue, whether the poem be Absalom and Achitophel, or

1 Dyce, i, 419-20.
2 In this interpretation I differ radically from Brie, op. cit., 72: "muss eine satir auf zeitgenössische dichter ( Barclay?) gewesen, sein, in der ihire werke verspottet wurden."
3 Dyce i, 130.
4 Thus Why Come Ye not to Court avowedly follows Juvenal, 1207-11;

"I am forcebly constrayned,
At Iuuynals request,
To wryght of this glorious gest,
Of this vayne gloryous best, . . ."


the Dunciad, or British Bards and Scotch Reviewers, is first essential before the reader can appreciate the brilliancy of the attack. Immediate success, gained by allusion to contemporaneous persons and events, is succeeded by increasing oblivion, as those persons and events recede into the past. Byron's bitterness toward Scott is still comprehended by the general reader, because the general reader still knows Scott, but who now cares for Pope's dunces? To a very large degree, Shadwell and Settle survive only because Dryden attacked them, and his scathing lines on Buckingham and Shaftesbury are most read in books of familiar quotations. To this general law of satire, in Skelton's case is added the particular disqualification that there is no general agreement in regard to the facts and that feeling still runs high. The literary value is consequently ignored in the heated controversy as to the truth of his accusations. On one side he is regarded as a coarse buffoon blaspheming in doggerel verse; on the other as an author who bears witness to the truth. Neither of these views concern us here. The only questions are, how far he believed what he said and to what extent he was able to give expression to his own convictions. And whatever opinion may be held as to the dignity of his manner, or the justification of his procedure, at least he must be credited with having produced work that by any criterion of literary criticism cannot be ignored.

Of this type of political poem there are five, thus listed in the edition of Dyce: A replycacion agaynst certayne yong scolers abiured of late, &c.; Colyn Clout; Speke, Parrot; Why come ye nat to Courte; and Howe the douty Duke of Albany, &c. The most salient characteristic of these poems taken as a group is the obscurity. For this there are three reasons. The first is that to some extent this obscurity was intentional. As has been seen in the Bouge of Court, Skelton on one side belongs to the school representing the medieval tradition, one of whose critical tenets was that the use of "covert terms" acted as a stimulant to the reader. But whereas a conventional poet, such as Hawes, merely resorts to allegory, Skelton refines the theory into cryptogram.

Loke on this tabull,
Whether thou art abull
To rede or to spell
What these verses tell.


Sicculo lutueris est colo būraarā Nixphedras uisarum caniuter tuntantes. 1

Henry Bradley, by recombining chosen syllables, has resolved 2 the lines into

Sic velut est Arabum phenix avis unica tantum.

Another illustration may be found in the Garland, where the letters in the name of his adversary are indicated by their numerical position in the alphabet. With a mind inclined naturally to such ingenuity, the temptation to deal in riddles must have been overpowering in those cases where the actions of powerful men were criticised. Such a method would be both profound and safe. On the other hand, in inverse proportion to the profundity of the poem would be its effect. Consequently Skelton is torn between two desires, first the natural wish to escape the consequences of too obvious expression of opinion, and secondly, the impulse to cast the weight of his influence on the side of the right. When one remembers both the power of Wolsey and his elaborate system of espionage, it is hard to restrain a thrill of admiration for this literary David. The end was of course inevitable. Goliath fell, it is true, but Skelton did not live to see the catastrophe he had helped to produce. In the sanctuary of St. Margaret at Westminister he dies beaten, his last words a confession of failure as he surrenders to the enemy dedicating with fulsome superlatives his last work to the Cardinal. 3

Another reason for the present difficulty in understanding the poems in their entirety arises from the first, and yet is distinct from it. As we do not know the exact date at which any poem was composed, or even published, we are never sure to what political event reference is made. With the exception of a copy of the Garland of Laurel, 1523, all of the early copies of the single poems are undated. As the first edition with a date, that of Thomas Marshe , 1568, is long posterior to the composition of the poems, there is very little external evidence. It is a happy chance that the one poem preserved in a dated issue is the Garland of Laurel,

1 Ware the Hauke, Dyce, i, 163.
2 The Academy, Aug. 1, 1896.
3 Dyce i, 206.


Inpryntyd by me Rycharde faukes . . . The yere of our lorde god. M. CCCCC. XXIII. The. iii. day of October. In this long poem to justify the poetic laurel awarded him by the Countess of Surrey, is enumerated "sum parte of Skeltons bokes and baladis with ditis of pleasure, in as moche as it were to longe a proces to reherse all by name that he hath compylyd." Here, then, we have a list of poems, although admittedly not exhaustive, that is authentic and the poems of which must have been composed before October 3rd, 1523. Yet, of the five poems grouped above, two only are mentioned. There is little external evidence to guide us.

There is yet another reason that invalidates the dating from the mention of the poems in the Garland, namely Skelton's manner of composition. It is inferentially probable that at least three of the poems are composites, formed from fragments written at different times. Consequently, while there is a certain unity in tone throughout any poem, the references to persons and events seem confused. An illustration of this difficulty is Speke, Parrot, a poem usually regarded as unintelligible. A cursory glance shows that, instead of a single poem, there is a group of short poems, several of which seem to be dated. Thus one section ends with the line "Penultimo die Octobris, 33°;" another, "In diebus Novembris, 34;" another, "15 kalendis Decembris, 34," etc. That these figures may refer to the year of the century is impossible, because Skelton died in 1529; that they may refer to the year of the reign of Henry VII is equally impossible, because he was on the throne but twenty-three years. Yet, since for years Skelton had been an official of the Court of Henry VII, and as such must have dated all his official papers from the accession of the King, it seems probable that for sentimental reasons or for the purpose of concealment he continued the reckoning. "Penultimo die Octobris, 33°" becomes merely October 30th, 1517. If this be true, Speke, Parrot forms a running commentary on the events in the years 1517 and 1518. Naturally at the time when they were written they were perfectly comprehensible to the court, for whom they were intended. So much was this the case that, in order to protect himself against a charge of treason, he uses nomenclature borrowed from the Book of Judges,--with the result that to the modern reader unable to date the poems accurately, the whole


seems a farago of nonsense. 1 Likewise it seems probable that Colin Clout also was composed at different times, and that upon a poem, written on general conditions, he grafted later additions attacking Cardinal Wolsey. The chronological order of the five satires probably is Speke, Parrot, 1517- 1518; Why Come Ye not to Court, 1521-23; The Duke of Albany, 1523; Colin Clout,-- 1525; and the Replycacion, 1527. 2

With these approximate dates for the composition of the poems, it is possible to show Skelton's conceptions developing through the ten years. First, his position must be remembered. In the Skelton of the apocryphal Merie Tales we have lost the real Skelton, chosen to be tutor to a prince of the blood royal, praised by Erasmus for his learning, and patronized by the great house of Howard. 3 A priori such a man would naturally be conscious of the existence of evil conditions and yet conservative in applying a cure. Naturally also he is intensely loyal to his former pupil, the King.

Cryst saue Kyng Henry the viii, our royall kyng,
The red rose in honour to florysh and sprynge!

With Kateryne incomparable, our ryall quene also,
That pereles pomegarnet, Chryst saue her noble grace!

Speke, Parrot, ll. 36-39

Six years later his loyalty is as intense and more voluble.

But nowe will I expounde
What noblenesse dothe abounde,
And what honour is founde,
And what vertues be resydent
In our royall regent,
Our perelesse president,
Our kyng most excellent:
In merciall prowes
Lyke unto Hercules;
In prudence and wysdom
Lyke vnto Salamon;

1 For a detailed interpretation, see Mod. Lang. Notes, Vol. xxx, 1915.
2 Publications of the Modern Language Association, December, 1914.
3 Henry Bradley speaks of Skelton as "that extraordinary windbag." Academy, August 1, 1896.


In his goodly person
Lyke vnto Absolon;
In loyalte and foy
Lyke to Ector of Troy;
And his glory to incres,
Lyke to Scipiades;
In royal mageste
Lyke vnto Ptholome,
Lyke to Duke Iosue,
And the valiaunt Machube,
That if I wolde reporte
All the roiall sorte
Of his nobilyte,
His magnanymyte,
His animosite,
His frugalite,
His lyberalite,
His affabilite,
His humanyte,
His stabilite,
His humilite,
His benignite,
His royal dignyte,
My lernying is to small
For to recount them all.

Duke of Albany, II., 423-458.

This appreciation of the royal virtues does not err on the side of understatement.

But this enthusiasm for the King does not extend to conditions in the kingdom. In an age of change he is unable to adjust himself to the new ideas. This feeling of protest finds expression--if so cryptic an utterance may be called expression,--in the group of poems, Speke, Parrot. The first part of it was obviously written in the medieval manner. The verse-form is the rime-royal; he triumphantly announces that it is an allegory.

But that metaphora, allegoria with all, Shall be his protectyon, his pauys, and his wall. 1

Here, as we have seen, he objects to the study of Greek on the ground that it is both useless and dangerous. Yet he does not stop at this point. He passes on to the really dangerous topic of

1 Dyce, ii, 10.


state affairs. Thus whatever appearance of unity there is is due to the device of putting widely different subject matters, written at different times, into the mouth of a parrot,--which occasionally makes confusion worse confounded by talking nonsense. The value of this device is at once clear; it enabled the author to string together whatever he chose, and also to shirk the responsibility for the interpretation of any part. The reader sees dangerous discussion of high polity; the author grins that he sees too much, that it is only a parrot speaking. The conclusion is inevitable that the events on which these poems form a commentary and the personalities alluded to under scriptural names, were so wellknown to the public that the poet feared to be more open. The key precedes the cypher. Speke, Parrot, then, marks a farther step than the Bouge of Court away from the medieval type. 1

It must be confessed that the resemblance between such work as Speke, Parrot, and this type of medieval poetry has become exceedingly tenuous. The complete severance is made in the next poem, Colin Clout. Here the dream-structure is abandoned in favor of a single dramatic ego; personification and allegory change to direct statement; and the rime-royal is abandoned in favor of the Skeltonical verse. The scheme of the poem is very simple. Under the name of Colin Clout, the author purports merely to repeat what is being said:

"Thus I, Colyn Cloute,
As I go about,
And wandrynge as I walke,
I here the people talke." 2

Consequently he does not guarantee the truth of what he hears:

"And eyther ye be to bad,
Or else they ar mad
Of this to reporte. . ." 3

And he is filled with indignation that they are so loose-tongued:

"But, under your supporte,
Tyll my dyenge day
I shall both wryte and say,

1 For further discussion, cf. Mod. Lang. Notes, vol. xxx ( 1915).
2 Lines 287-290.
3 Lines 504-506.


And ye shall do the same,
Howe they are to blame
You thus to dyffame:
For it maketh me sad
Howe that the people are glad
The Churche to depraue. . ." 1

Nor should he be blamed because his motives are the best:

"Make ye no murmuracyon,
Though I wryte after this facion;
Though I, Colyn Cloute,
Among the hole route
Of you that clerkes be,
Take nowe vpon me
Thus copyously to wryte,
I do it for no despyte.
Wherefore take no dysdayne
At my style rude and playne;
For I rebuke no man
That vertuous is: why than
Wreke ye your anger on me?" 2

It would be difficult to conceive a framework at once more flexible and more irritating than this. He is the friend that brings you unpleasant rumors about yourself, because he feels that you should know what is being said. And, as we have all found to our sorrow, there is no reply possible. One cannot argue--he does not say that he believes what he says--nor can you object to him--he tells you with the kindest of motives. You gnash your teeth in silent fury while he exhorts you to patience. Even in the conception of the mechanism of his poem Skelton is clever.

Not only is the mechanism irritating, it is also flexible. As he pretends only to report, he is enabled to discuss matters in any order. In an incoherent way he takes up the condition of the whole Church. To any thoughtful observer the situation during the second decade of the sixteenth century seemed full of danger. The pretensions of the Church, as voiced by the Pope, to supremacy in non-ecclesiastical affairs, however logical from medieval precedent, ran counter to the growth of national feeling that tended to exalt the monarchical idea. This was not peculiar to England.

1 Lines 507-515.
2 Lines 1081-1093.


Previously the conflict between Louis XII of France with the papacy indicated the same condition; but a few more years were to pass until Rome itself was to be given to be sacked by the troups of the Spanish Charles. Skelton is an acute diagnostician in selecting this as the root of the trouble.

"For, as farre as I can se,
It is wronge with eche degre:
For the temporalte
Accuseth the spiritualte;
The spirituall agayne
Dothe grudge and complayne
Vpon the temporall men:
Thus eche of other blother
The tone agayng the tother:
Alas, they make me shoder!
For in hoder moder
The Church is put in faute. . . ." 1

And it is the Church for which Skelton, as a member of the Church, is loyally fighting.

In the conflict between these two parties, the Church and the State, Skelton counsels that the Church should give way. It is here that, like Erasmus, he shows his humanistic bias. His learning gives him sufficient perspective to perceive that while both are in the wrong, the onus lies more heavily upon the Church. And with steady scalpel he exposes the corruptions. The first criticism of the Church is that it has become parasitic.

"Laye men say indede
How they take no hede
Theyr sely shepe to fede,
But plucke away and pull
The fleces of theyr wull. . .
All to haue promocyon,
There is theyr hole deuocyon,
With money, if it wyll hap,
To catche the forked cap (mitre) . . ." 2

"And surely thus they say,
Bysshoppes, if they may,
Small houses wolde kepe,
Theyr soules lene and dull,

1 Lines 59-70.
2 Lines 75-89.


But slumbre forth and slepe,
And assay to crepe
Within the noble walles
Of the kynges halles,
To fat theyr bodyes full,
Theyr soules lene and dull,
And haue full lytell care
How euyll theyr shepe fare. 1

Thus moved by an ambition, little spiritual, they are cowardly false to their trust,

How be it they are good men,
Moche herted lyke an hen. . . 2

And they have forgotten the lessons St. Thomas á Becket gave them! They sell the grace of the Holy Ghost! The result is the total disorganization of the Church.

And howe whan ye gyue orders
In your prouinciall borders,
As at Sitientes,
Some are insufficientes,
Some parum spaientes,
Some nihil intelligentes,
Some valde negligentes,
Some nullum sensum habentes,
But bestiall and vntaught;
But whan thei haue ones caught
Dominus vobiscum by the hede,
Than renne they in euery stede,
God wot, with dronken nolles;
Yet take they cure of soules,
And woteth neuer what thei rede,
Paternoster, Ave, nor Crede;
Construe not worth a whystle
Nether Gospel nor Pystle;
Theyr mattyns madly sayde,
Nothynge deuoutly prayd;
theyr lernynge is so small,
Theyr prymes and houres fall
And lepe out of theyr lyppes
Lyke sawdust or drye chyppes.
I speke not nowe of all,
But the moost parte in generall. 3

1 Lines 121-131.
2 Lines 168-169.
3 Lines 222-247.


And the ignorance of the clergy is both wide-spread and appalling, due primarily to the fact that the candidates are not selected with care.

In you the faute is supposed,
For that they are not apposed
By just examinacyon
In connyng and conuersacyon;
They haue none instructyon
To make a true constructyon:
A preest without a letter,
Without his vertue be gretter,
Doubtlesse were moche better
Vpon hym for to take
A mattocke or a rake.
Alas, for very shame!
Some can not declyne their name;
Some can not scarsly rede,
And yet he wyll not drede
For to kepe a cure,
And in nothyng is sure;
This Dominus vobiscum,
As wyse as Tom a thrum,
A chaplayne of trust
Layth all in the dust. 1

On account of this demoralization the laity feel that the clergy cannot be trusted. Here Skelton does not hesitate to put into words accusations that we are told today originated with the Reformers:

Of prebendaries and deanes,
Howe some of them gleanes
And gathereth vp the store
For to catche more and more;
Of persons and vycaryes
They make many outcryes;
They cannot kepe theyr wyues
From them for theyr lyues;
And thus the loselles stryues,
And lewedly sayes by Christ
Agaynst the sely preest. 2

The inevitable result is the Reformation.

And some haue a smacke
Of Luthers sacke,

1 Lines 266-286.
2 Lines 568-78.


And a brennyng sparke
Of Luthers warke,
And are somewhat suspecte
In Luthers secte;
And some of them barke,
Clatter and carpe
Of that heresy arte
Called Wicleuista,
And deuelysshe dogmatista;
And some be Hussyans,
And some be Arryans,
And some be Pollegians,
And make moche varyans
Bytwene the clergye
And the temporaltye . . . 1

In this passage Skelton is a loyal son of the Church. That it is possible for men to be seduced by the truth of the hideous heresies of Luther and Wycliff never enters his mind. The sole reason that he can conceive for such backsliding is that the evil lives of the clergy have rendered their Church contemptible.

And the responsibility for this wretched condition rests upon the bishops. Through pride, vain-glory and hypocrisy they have ceased to be "lanterns of light." They are of the world, worldly, forgetting the lessons of their Master.

Chryst by cruelte
Was nayled vpon a tre;
He payed a bytter pencyon
For mannes redemcyon,
He dranke eysell and gall
To redeme vs withall;
But swete ypocras ye drynke,
With, Let the cat wynke! 2

1 Lines 542-558.
2 Colin Clout, 452-59. That Skelton is not alone in his opinion, is shown by Hawes, Convercyon of Swerers:

My wordes my prelates vnto you do preche . . .
The worlde hathe cast you in suche blyndnes
Lyke vnto stones your hertes hathe hardnes. . .
Wo worthe your hertes so planted in pryde
Wo worthe your wrath and mortall enuye
Wo worthe slouth that dothe with you abyde
Wo worthe also inmesurable glotony
Wo worthe your tedyus synne of lechery, etc. etc.


Let them come forth at large, preach so simply that they may be understood, and all will be well. Thus Skelton is at one with Erasmus. He feels no need for reformation outside of the Church; it is reformation within the Church that is needed imperatively and rapidly. Therefore is he writing, not against the Church, but in behalf of the Church, and as a lover of the Church he cries out against those that defile Her sacraments. This attitude explains the bitterness of the poems,--the point of view of one that feels his cause betrayed, of the soldier abandoned by his general. The attack is also an appeal. And it is exactly this attitude that renders his criticisms significant. Personally he had nothing to gain and everything to lose. The heads of the Church, those from whom preferment was to be expected, were those that would be most antagonized. He is driven to speak by the force of his conscience. Nor is he an insignificant, peevish, unknown person,-he is one of the powers of the Church himself, and the greatest writer in England. Therefore naturally in these poems there is very real force.

The inevitable result of Skelton's analysis is that he tends more and more through these years to focus his invective upon Wolsey. To Skelton, Wolsey became more and more of the type that, by sacrificing the interests of the Church to those of the State, was betraying the Church. To him Wolsey did not have the prestige given by birth or education. When Skelton was at court Wolsey was a domestic chaplain, and, as a political factor, completely unknown. And as Wolsey, although Oxford B. A. and M. A., had never proceeded to the higher degrees, to the academic poet he seemed almost uneducated. 1

But how euer he was borne,
Men wolde haue the lesse scorne,
If he coulde consyder
His byrth and rowme togeder,
And call to his mynde
How noble and how kynde
To him he hathe founde
Our souereyne lorde, chyfe grounde
Of all this prelacy,
And set hym nobly

1 Why Come!, 492-532.


In great auctoryte,
Out from a low degre,
Whiche he can nat se:
For he was parde
No doctor of deuinyte,
Nor doctor of the law,
Nor of none other saw;
But a poore maister of arte,
God wot, had lytell parte
Of the quatriuials,
Nor yet of the triuials,
Nor of philosophy,
Nor of philology,
Nor of good pollycy,
Nor of astronomy,
Nor acquaynted worth a fly
With honorable Haly,
Nor with royall Ptholomy,
Nor with Albumasar,
To treate of any star
Fyxt or els mobyll;
His Latyne tonge dothe hobbyll,
He doth but cloute and cobbill
In Tullis faculte,
Called humanyte;
Yet proudly he dare pretende
How no man can him amende:
But haue ye nat harde this,
How an one eyed man is
Well syghted when
He is amonge blynde men?

To us, to whom the Shakespearean play has invested the fall of Wolsey with the sublimity of a great catastrophe, it is difficult to get the point of view of Skelton, to whom Wolsey was merely an ill-educated upstart that was criminally ruining his own order, that by pleasing a young king he might maintain himself in power. To Skelton there is no dignity, merely devilish ingenuity, in the career of Wolsey.

It is with this point of view that, from his coign of vantage in Norfolk, Skelton watched the rise of Wolsey. The beginning of the new reign was a period of storm and stress for the Church. To appreciate the questions at issue, it must be remembered that the Church was an entity, distinct from the State. Its independ-


ence had been established by the sacrifice of the life of St. Thomas at Canterbury. The situation has been well summarized by Professor Van Dyke: 1

American ecclesiastical establishments are entirely voluntary, they have almost no endowments, and this puts them so entirely in the hands of the laity whenever they choose to use their power, that it is difficult for an American to appreciate the situation in England at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The clergy were a corporate body, freed from the ordinary jurisdiction of the common law, deciding matters connected with marriage and wills by courts constituted by themselves, having sanctuaries where the criminal who entered was free from arrest, enjoying an income two and a half times that of the Crown, owning real estate estimated at one-third the total of the kingdom, casting in the persons of the twentysix bishops and the twenty-seven mitred abbots almost two-thirds of the votes in Henry VIII's first House of Lords, and able as great landed proprietors to exert influence on elections to the House of Commons. And this formidable body confessed supreme allegiance to a ruler living in Rome whose predecessors had repeatedly claimed the divine and unquestionable right to dictate to kings and nations about the conduct of their affairs.

But while theoretically the line of cleavage is thus distinct, practically action was usually unified, because the high officials of the Church were also apt to be high officials in the State. Yet obviously so complicated a situation would give rise to numerous complaints, and naturally the sympathy of the laity would be on the side of the State. This was shown by the law passed February 4th, 1513, that, for one year, the benefit of the clergy should be denied to all robbers and murderers, except such as were within the holy orders of a bishop, priest, or deacon. As such a law was a direct impingement by the State on the prerogatives of the Church, in 1515 it was attacked by the Abbot of Winchcomb. In turn the law was defended by Standish, Provincial of the Franciscans, who by this action naturally angered the clergy. He was therefore summoned to appear before the Convocation, a summons that he evaded by an appeal to the King. 2

Ultimately the judges determined that all the Convocation who had taken part in the proceedings against Dr. Standish were subject to prœmunire; that the King could hold a parliament by himself and the temporal lords and commons, without the spiritual lords, who had no place there, except by reason of their temporal

1 Renascence Portraits, by Paul Van Dyke, 1905, 183-4.
2 Letters and Papers, Vol. 2, Part 1, # 1313.


possessions. Then the judges and councillors, spiritual and temporal, assembled before the King at Baynard's castle, when the Archbishop of York, Cardinal, knelt before the King and said, in behalf of the clergy, that none of them had intended to do anything in derogation of the royal prerogative, and that for his part he owed his advancement solely to the King, and would never assent to anything in derogation of his authority; nevertheless that this matter of the convention of clerks before the temporal judge seemed to all the clergy to be against the liberties of the Church, which they were bound by oath to preserve. He therefore prayed the King that the matter might be determined by the Pope and his council at Rome. The King answered, "We think Dr. Standish has sufficiently replied to you in all points." . . . The Archbishop of Canterbury said, that in former days many holy fathers had resisted the law of the land on this point, and some had suffered martyrdom in the quarrel. . . . On this the King said, "We are, by the sufferance of God, King of England, and the Kings of England in times past never had any superior but God; know, therefore, that we will maintain the rights of the crown in this matter like our progenitors; . . . You interpret your decrees at your pleasure; but as for me, I will never consent to your desire, any more than my progenitors have done."

It is difficult to overstate the importance of this extraordinary trial; in theory the principle of the reformation is here enunciated as it was afterwards in fact. No wonder Skelton feels that 1

O causeles cowardes, O hartles hardynes!
O manles manhod, enfayntyd all with fere!
O connyng clergye, where ys your redynes
To practise or postyll thys prosses here and there?
For drede ye darre not medyll with suche gere,
Or elles ye pynche curtesy, trulye as I trowe,
Whyche of yow fyrste dare boldlye plucke the crowe.

When, from the point of view of a churchman, the gravity of the issue is considered, the action taken by Wolsey cannot be termed courageous, with his assertion "that for his part he owed his advancement solely to the King, and would never assent to anything in derogation of his authority." To Skelton, it seemed that the champion of the Church had betrayed the Church to the State. For, in Wolsey in 1514 were united almost the highest powers of each; on September 10th, he had been created Cardinal, and on December 24th, Lord Chancellor. The Parrot bitterly laments that

He caryeth a kyng in hys sleve.

1] Dyce, ii, 19.


Nay more, he is king! 1

Jupiter ut nitido deus est veneratus Olympo;
Hic coliturque deus.
Sunt data thura Jovi, rutilo solio residenti;
Cum Jove thura capit.
Jupiter astrorum rector dominusque polorum;
Anglica sceptra regit

With all this power he might have saved the Church! He did not rise to his opportunity because he himself was beneath contempt. 2

So myche raggyd ryghte of a rammes horne;
So rygorous revelyng in a prelate specially;
So bold and so braggyng, and was so baselye borne;
So lordlye of hys lokes and so dysdayneslye;
So fatte a magott, bred of a flesshe flye;
Was nevyr suche a ffylty gorgon, nor suche and epycure,
Syns Dewcalyons flodde, I make the faste and sure.

So myche preuye wachyng in cold wynters nyghtes;
So myche serchyng of loselles, and ys bymselfe so lewde;
So myche coniuracions for elvyshe myday sprettes;
So many bullys of pardon puplysshed and shewyd;
So myche crossyng and blyssyng, and hym all beshrewde;
Suche pollaxis and pyllers, suche mvlys trapte with gold;--
Sens Dewcalyons flodde in no cronycle ys told.
Dixit, quod Parrot.

Unhappily, on his secular side, non more than on his ecclesiastical, did Wolsey act to the satisfaction of Skelton. It may be possible, perhaps, to infer jealousy, as an unconscious motive, on the part of the former tutor that saw another so firmly fixed in the affections of the quondam pupil. But also his very admiration for the King made him protest against the assumption of authority on the part of the minister. The story is told in Guistinian Despatches, 3 that Francis I, on being told that Henry devoted himself to pleasure and solace, and left the cares of state to the Cardinal, rejoined, "By my faith, the Cardinal must bear him little good will; for it is not the office of a good servant to filch his mas-

1 Dyce, ii, 20.
2 Dyce, ii, 24.
3 Quoted by Brewer, Letters and Papers, Vol. 3, Part I, xxxii.


ter's honor." It is the old complaint of the ego et meus rex. To us, with our appreciation of Henry's character and knowledge of Wolsey's downfall, this may seem trivial; to them, the Cardinal's power as attested by his magnificence overshadowed that of the King himself. So Skelton asks in bitterness 1

Why come ye nat to court?--
To whyche court?
To the kynges court,
Or to Hampton Court?--
Nay, to the kynges court:
The kynges courte
Shulde haue the excellence
But Hampton Court
Hath the preemynence,
And Yorkes Place,
With my lordes grace,
To whose magnifycence
Is all the conflewence,
Sutys and supplycacyons,
Embassades of all nacyons.
Strawe for lawe cannon,
Or for the lawe common,
Or for lawe cyuyll!
It shall be as he wyll: . . . .
He dyggeth so in the trenche
Of the court royall,
That he ruleth them all,
So he dothe vndermynde,
And suche sleyghtes dothe fynde,
That the kynges mynde
By hym is subuerted,
And so streatly coarted
In credensynge his tales,
That all is but nutshales
That any other sayth;
He hath in him suche fayth.

Such faith, in itself a lovely thing, would not be dangerous if, as Skelton remarks, the object of the trust were worthy. This, however, according to Skelton, he was not. As Chancellor of State, his foreign policy was a failure. His expedition to Calais, July-November, 1521, in which he attempted to mediate between

1 Why Come Ye Nat to Court, Dyce, ii, 39-40.


Francis and the Emperor had made England only ridiculous. The truce between England and Scotland, September 11, 1522, surrendered the advantages gained, with a net loss; 1

Our mony madly lent,
And mor madly spent: . . .
Our armye waxeth dull,
With, tourne all home agayne,
With never a Scot slayne.

The wardens of the East and West Marches, and the Earl of Northumberland, are standing by idle. The explanation for this condition is not the inefficiency of either the troops or the commanders, because the good Earl of Surrey terrified the French. The fault is not with them, it is with the man higher up; the Cardinal was bribed; 2

But yet they ouer shote vs
Wyth crownes and wyth scutus;
With scutis and crownes of gold
I drede we are bought and solde;
It is a wonders warke:
They shote all at one marke,
At the Cardynals hat,
They shote all at that;
Oute of theyr stronge townes
They shote at him with crownes;
With crownes of golde enblased
They make him so amased,
And his eyen so dased,
That he ne se can
To know God nor man.

And in accusing John Meautis, the King's French Secretary, of treachery, he insinuates that Wolsey himself is in the pay of France. 3

To explain why the chief minister of England should thus sell himself Skelton argues his notorious need for money. Even houses of ill fame are protected openly by the Cardinal. This is not surprising, since he is a man notoriously immoral. He 4

1 Lines 140-1; 147-9.
2 Lines 166-180.
3 On March 15th, 1523, Brian Tuke is appointed secretary "vice John Meauties" but I do not know whether for the reason Skelton alleges.
4 Lines 222-223.


Spareth neither mayde ne wyfe: This is a postels lyfe!

But what could you expect from his birth? 1

How be it the primordyall
Of his wretched originall,
And his base progeny,
And his gresy genealogy,
He came of the sank royall, (sang royal)
That was cast out of a bochers stall.

Yet it is this wretched creature, without birth, without education, that dares affront the old nobility of England! 2

Our barons be so bolde,
Into a mouse hole they wolde
Rynne away and crepe,
Lyke a mayny of shepe;
Dare nat loke out at dur
For drede of the mastyue cur,
For drede of the bochers dogge
Wold wyrry them lyke an hogge.

For and this curre do gnar,
They must stande all a far,
To holde vp their hande at the bar.
For all their noble blode
He pluckes them by the hode,
And shakes them by the eare,
And brynge [s] them in suche feare;
He bayteth them lyke a bere,
Lyke an oxe, or a bull:
Theyr wyttes, he saith, are dull;
He sayth they haue no brayne
Theyr astate to mayntayne;
And maketh them to bow theyr kne
Before his maieste.

Consequently the only explanation he can find for the continued favor of the King toward the Cardinal is witchcraft, and he gravely cites a precedent in the time of Charlemagne! A more tempting precedent, however, occurs to him in the career of Cardinal Balue, who, like Wolsey, betrayed his king. 3

1 486 - 491 .
2 Lines 289-310.
3 Lines 736-740.


Wherefore he suffred payn,
Was hedyd, drawen, and quarterd,
And dyed stynkingly marterd.
Lo, yet for all that
He ware a cardynals hat,
In hym was small fayth . . .

Such in substance is Skelton's indictment against the great Cardinal, poured forth in lines that tumble over one another without order. He returns to the charge, repeats accusations, his allusions refer to events in an unchronological order, and there is no regular procedure. The probability is that the various sections of the poem were composed at quite different times. Thus at line 393, only a little beyond one quarter of the completed work, he remarks:

Thus wyll I conclude my style,
And fall to rest a whyle,
And so to rest a whyle, &c.

The natural result is that the poem is powerful only in detail. As a whole it has the incoherence of anger. It is not worth while, therefore, to discuss the historical accuracy of the accusations; in fact, with the able championing of Brewer, the modern reader in his admiration for the great qualities of Wolsey is apt to forget that there may be another side. What concerns us here is purely literary. As literature, its main characteristic is its audacity. In an age of privilege, the boldness with which the poet dares to express his scandals and the vigor of the expression are astounding. It is no wonder that half apologetically he shields himself behind the example of Juvenal. Its great merit is that it is a scathingly frank expression of personal opinion. And that, too, is its great weakness,--that it is the expression of merely personal opinion. This way explain why Wolsey could afford to overlook, provided he ever saw it, this attack upon his foreign policy and the personal invective accompanying it. The first was misunderstood and the second greatly exaggerated. And neither much interested the country at large. The average Englishman had not the materials at hand to enable him to discuss matters of state polity, and the vices of rulers tend toward enhancing their popularity with the common man by making them more human. In any case Wolsey's


birth, manner, education, and morality were equally well known to the King, who alone was the judge. Consequently, although it is not probable that he read Why Come Ye not to Court with pleasure, or that he liked its author, it is conceivable that he may have regarded Skelton as the pestiferous gadfly awakened by his own success.

But such reasoning scarcely holds with Skelton's most famous poem, Colin Clout,--more widely known than the rest, perhaps because from it Spenser borrowed his nom de plume. Of no poem, however, is the question of dating more difficult. In the enumeration in the Garland, while naturally its companion piece, Why Come Ye not to Court, is omitted, Colin Clout is listed as a "trifle " of "honest mirth" in the same category with Elinor Rumming, and the Latin side-note reads: "They smile more pleasantly at serious matters when described as jests." The inevitable inference is that the satire is general and not particular. On the other hand exactly the contrary, that the satire was directed at Wolsey and not in general, was the opinion of the poet's contemporaries. For example, Francis Thynne, writing long after of his father's difficulties, remarks: 1

. . . . wherevppon the kinge bydd hym goo his waye, and feare not. All whiche not withstandinge, my father was called in questione by the Bysshoppes, and heaved at by Cardinall Wolseye, his olde enymye for manye causes, but mostly for that my father had furthered Skelton to publishe his 'Collen Cloute' againste the Cardinall, the moste parte of whiche Booke was compiled in my fathers howse at Erithe in Kente.

Aside from the immaterial error of the place of composition, 2 this testimony is of the highest value. The father of the writer had been injured, because it was believed that he had aided in the composition of a particular poem. It is scarcely conceivable that the son should have been confused about so important an event in his family history. That Thynne was not mistaken is shown by the fact that among the Lansdowne MSS. 3 lines 462-480 of Colin Clout

1 Francis Thynne's Animadversions upon Speght's first ( 1598 A. D.) Edition of Chaucer's Workes, Chaucer Society, 1876, p. 10.
2 The house at Erith was not purchased by the elder Thynne until two years after Skelton's death. The entire passage is quoted in Chapter II, p. 117.
3 Dyce, i, 329.


appear as an independent poem, entitled "The profecy of Skelton, 1529," and the passage prophesying

A fatall fall of one
That shuld syt on a trone,
And rule all thynges alone. . .

can refer only to Wolsey. Another witness that in this poem Skelton is attacking Wolsey appears in William Bullein. 1 In 1564, if not earlier, 2 he wrote a Dialogue against the Feuer Pestilence, in which he thus mentions Skelton:

Skelton satte in the corner of a Piller with a Frostie bitten face, frownyng, and is scante yet cleane cooled of the hotte burnyng Cholour kindeled againste the cankered Cardinall Wolsey; wrytyng many sharpe Distichons with bloudie penne againste hym, and sente them by the infernal riuers Styx, Flegiton, and Acheron by the Feriman of helle, called Charon, to the saied Cardinall.

How the Cardinall came of nought,
And his Prelacie solde and bought;
And where suche Prelates bee
Sprong of lowe degree,
And spirituall dignitee,
Farewell benignitee,
Farewell simplicitee,
Farewell good charitee!

Thus paruum literatus
Came from Rome gatus,
Doctour dowpatus,
Scante a Bachelaratus:

And thus Skelton did ende
With Wolsey his friende.

The obvious inference from such scattered references is that not only was Colin Clout read with reference to the Cardinal, but also that it circulated in fragments.

This inference, made from external evidence, is corroborated by the internal evidence of the poem itself. Allusions are made to historic events that happened after the composition of the Garland. One illustration, that shows also the detailed nature of the attack, will suffice.

1 Early English Text Society, Extra Series, LII, 16.
2 The earliest edition reads "newly corrected."


Buyldyng royally
Theyr mancyons curyously,
With turrettes and with toures,
With halles and with boures,
Stretchynge to the starres,
With glasse wyndowes and barres;
Hangynge aboute the walles
Clothes of golde and palles,
Arras of ryche aray,
Fresshe as flours in May;
Wyth dame Dyana naked;
Howe lusty Venus quaked,
And howe Cupyde shaked
His dart, and bent his bowe
For to shote a crowe
At her tyrly tyrlowe;
And howe Parys of Troy
Daunced a lege de moy,
Made lusty sporte and ioy
With dame Helyn the quene;
With suche storyes bydene
Their chambres well besene;
With triumphes of Cesar,
And of Pompeyus war,
Of renowne and of fame
By them to get a name:
Nowe all the worlde stares,
How they ryde in goodly chares,
Conueyed by olyphantes,
With lauryat garlantes,
And by vnycornes
With their semely hornes;
Vpon these beestes rydynge,
Naked boyes strydynge,
With wanton wenches winkyng.
Nowe truly, to my thynkynge,
That is a speculacyon
And a mete meditacyon
For prelates of estate, . . . 1

These lines apparently describe, as was pointed out by Ernest Law, 2 a definite set of tapestries at Hampton Court. "Of these

1 Colyn Cloute. Lines 936-974.
2 A History of Hampton Court Palace, 2nd ed. 1890, 1, pp. 63-65. As sketches of the designs are here given, the reader may see for himself the accuracy of Skel-


six triumphs ( Wolsey having duplicates of those of Time and Eternity), we at once identify three, namely, those of Death, Renown, and Time, as still remaining at Hampton Court in Henry VIII's Great Watching or Guard Chamber; while the other three--of Love, Chastity, and Eternity, or Divinity,--complete the set of six designs, which were illustrative, in an allegorical form, of Petrarch's Triumphs. . . . In each piece a female, emblematic of the influence whose triumph is celebrated, is shown enthroned on a gorgeously magnificent car drawn by elephants, or unicorns, or bulls, richly caparisoned and decorated; while around them throng a host of attendants and historical personages, typical of the triumph portrayed. Thus, in the Triumph of Fame or Renown, we have figures representing Julius Caesar and Pompey; and in the first aspect of the Triumph of Chastity we see Venus, driven by naked cupids, and surrounded by heroines of amorous renown, attacked by Chastity. The reader will now recognize how pointed is the reference to these tapestries in the following lines of Skelton's satire. . . ." Unless there chanced to be in England and familiar to Skelton another set of tapestries allegorically representing Petrach's triumphs--an hypothesis that does not seem probable-Skelton's lines refer to these. They appear in Wolsey's inventory as "hangings bought of the 'xecutors of my lord of Durham anno xiiii∘ Reg. R. viii." But as Ruthall, Bishop of Durham, died February 4, 1523, the passage is either an attack upon Ruthall, or the list in the Garland was written at the earliest only eight months before it was published by Hawkes. Neither alternative seems very probable. Although Ruthall caused to be built the great chamber at Bishop Aukland, the expression "royally" seems overdone to apply to that; nor does eight months' intermission between the composition of a poem and the publication of it seem in accordance with the leisurely methods of printing used in the 16th century. The simplest explanation of the difficulty, therefore, is the assumption that there were two versions of the poem. The first was a general attack upon ecclesiastical conditions, and as such was alluded to in the Garland. Skelton then added passages specifically attacking Wolsey, although not by name. Both external and internal evidence show that in a poem criticising


ton's description. Mr. Law, however, gives no indication of the difficulty in the dating caused by his discovery.


general conditions of the clergy, he inserted individual poems attacking Wolsey in particular, erasing the lines of cleavage. 1

But the result of this condition, namely the joining of parts definitely attacking Wolsey upon parts that originally had little reference to him, is that the sixteenth century, not unnaturally, read Wolsey into the whole poem, that a satire upon a general condition became a satire upon a single individual. Wolsey is thus pilloried as the traitor to the Church. Whether or not this effect was intended consciously is impossible to say, although it may be argued that after the personalities in Why Come Ye not to Court there were no bounds to Skelton's audacity. Colin Clout becomes a passionate appeal to both the clergy and the laity to rebel. And the allusions are to events that, although now forgotten, at that time stirred all England. In 1523 the clergy of the Convocation, summoned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, on the first day of its meeting in St. Paul's were cited to appear before Wolsey in Westminster. There on June 2nd a war tax was voted "being no less than fifty per cent. income tax, to be paid by installments in five years." 2 Great was the indignation of the clergy over this assertion of the legatine power, "whiche was never sene before in England, wherof master Skelton a mery poet wrote.

'Gentle Paule laie doune thy swearde: For Peter of Westminster hath shaven thy beard.'" 3

Colin Clout if not so "mery" is at least more outspoken: 4

But they are loth to mell,
And loth to hang the bell
Aboute the cattes necke,
For drede to haue a cheeke;
They ar fayne to play deuz decke,
They ar made for the beeke.

1 Thus the lines, quoted by Bullein,

How the Cardinall came of nought
And his Prelacie solde and bought

becomes ( Dyce lines 585-6)

Howe prelacy is solde and bought,
And come vp of nought. .

2 Brewer, Reign of Henry VIII, i, 494.
3 Hall, King Henry the VIII, ed. by Charles Whibley, i, 287.
4 Dyce, i, 317-318.


How be it they are good men,
Moche herted lyke an hen:
Theyr lessons forgotten they haue
That Becket them gaue:
Thomasmanum mittit ad fortia,
Spernit damna, spernit opprobria,
Nulla Thomam frangit injuria
But nowe euery spirituall father,
Men say, they had rather
Spende moche of theyr share
Than to be combred with care:
Spende! nay, nay, but spare;
For let se who that dare
Sho the mockysshe mare;
They make her wynche and keke,
But it is not worth a leke:
Boldnesse is to seke
The Churche for to defend.

The clergy of Henry II, typified by St. Thomas à Becket, were willing to die to defend the rights of the Church against the State,-and the Church won; the clergy of Henry VIII, typified by Wolsey, weakly voted to surrender the possessions of the Church to the State, and had rather spend much of their share than to be encumbered with care. The biting antithesis is forced home! In 1524 Wolsey had procured from Clement VII bulls to enable him to found Cardinal College at Oxford and to endow it with the funds arising from the suppression of a number of small monasteries. Whatever may be the opinion of posterity concerning Wolsey's action in the matter, concerning the relative value of Cardinal College on the one hand and of the small monasteries on the other, to the sixteenth century it was a high-handed outrage. 1 To them, since by no possible latitude of construction could Wolsey be considered as carrying out the wishes of the donors, it seemed a misappropriation of funds. Skelton here is the mouthpiece of popular indignation: 2

Relygous men are fayne
For to tourne agayne
In secula seculorum,
And to forsake theyr corum.

1 James Gairdner, The English Church, p. 81.
2 Dyce. i, p. 325-327.


And vagabundare per forum.
And take a fyne moritorum,
Contra regulam morum,
Aut blacke monachorum,
Aut canonicorum,
Aut Bernardinorum,
Aut crucifixorum,
And to synge from place to place,
Lyke apostataas.

And the selfe same game
Begone ys nowe with shame
Amongest the sely nonnes:
My lady nowe she ronnes,
Dame Sybly our abbesse,
Dame Dorothe and lady Besse,
Dame Sare our pryoresse,
Out of theyr cloyster and quere
With an heuy chere,
Must cast up theyr blacke vayles,
And set vp theyr fucke sayles,
To catche wynde with their ventales--
What, Colyne, there thou shales!
Yet thus with yll hayles
The lay fee people rayles.

And all the fawte they lay
On you, prelates, and say
Ye do them wrong and no ryght
To put them thus to flyght;
No matyns at mydnyght,
Boke and chalys gone quyte;
And plucke awaye the leedes
Evyn ouer theyr heedes,
And sell away theyr belles,
And all that they haue elles:
Thus the people telles,
Rayles like rebelles,
Redys shrewdly and spelles,
And with foundacyons melles,
And talkys lyke tytyuelles,
Howe ye brake the dedes wylles,
Turne monasteris into water milles,
Of an abbay ye make a graunge;
Your workes, they saye, are straunge;
So that theyr founders soules
Haue lost theyr beade rolles,
The mony for theyr masses
Spent amonge wanton lasses;


The Diriges are forgotten;
Theyr founders lye there rotten,
But where theyr soules dwell,
Therwith I wyll not mell.
What coulde the Turke do more
With all his false lore,
Turke, Sarazyn, or Jew?
I reporte me to you,
O mercyfull Jesu,
You supporte and rescue,
My style for to dyrecte,
It may take some effecte!

Such quotations show wherein Colin Clout is more successful than its companion piece Why Come Ye not to Court. The latter is coarse, personal invective based on malignant gossip; the former appparently deduces its attacks from incontrovertible facts. In the first, the tone is that of a private quarrel; in the second, Skelton speaks with the nation behind him. And herein lies the power of the poem. The average man cared little for what did not immediately concern him, but in every act of his life the Church did concern him. When he saw her in danger, when the monks and nuns went wailing through the countryside, his anger was kindled. Thus whereas Why Come Ye not to Court presents the case of the Cardinal vs. the King, Colin Clout is Cardinal vs. the People. And no one was more keenly alive to the fact that his government was essentially popular than Henry himself. The popular discontent found its spokesman and its champion in the one poet that had both the courage and the ability to express it to the full. In Skelton the nation found its voice.

The explanation of such daring utterance as Colin Clout is fortunately given us by Skelton himself in his next poem, A Replycacion agaynst Certayne Yong Scolers Abiured of Late, &c. This poem must have been composed after December 8th, 1527, because it was on that date 1 that the young scholars, Thomas Bilney and Thomas Arthur, abjured. And it is almost a certainty that the reference is to them. The first part of it consists of invective in mingled verse and prose. Then follows, with a sub-title, 2

A confutacion responoyue, or an ineuytably prepensed answere to all waywarde or frowarde altercacyons that can or may be made or obiected agaynst Skelton laureate, deuyser of this Replycacyon, &c.

1 This was first shown by Brie.
2 Dyce, i, p. 219.


Apparently the poet feels that he may be criticised on the ground that it is none of his affair. To answer this objection he explains the function of the poet. If his opponents object that poetry "maye nat flye so hye" as to deal with matters appertaining to theology and philosophy, they are requested to remember the example set by David, whom Jerome (and the passage is cited at length with an English translation), calls prophet of prophets, and poet of poets. Thus with the functions of the poet are combined those of the prophet. Consequently for the poet he claims divine inspiration.

Howe there is a spyrituall,
And a mysteriall,
And a mysticall
Effecte energiall,
As Grekes do it call,
Of suche an industry,
And suche a pregnacy,
Of heuenly inspyracion
In laureate creacyon,
Of poetes commendacion,
That of diuyne myseracion
God maketh his habytacion
In poetes whiche excelles,
And soiourns with them and dwelles.

By whose inflammacion
Of spyrituall instygacion
And diuyne inspyracion,
We are kyndled in suche facyon
With hete of the Holy Gost,
Which is God of myghtes most,
That he our penne dothe lede,
And maketh in vs suche spede,
That forthwith we must nede
With penne and ynke procede,
Somtyme for affection,
Somtyme for sadde dyrection,
Somtyme for correction,
Somtyme vnder protection
Of pacient sufferance,
With sobre cyrcumstance,
Our myndes to auaunce
To no mannes anoyance. . . 1

1 Dyce, i, p. 222.


Such a passage, coming as it does in the dawn of the Renaissance, is interesting as being so extreme an expression of a theory of poetics afterwards elaborated by Sidney and still current today. According to this theory, the poet as vates is only the medium through which the Divine Will expresses itself. Consequently,-and Skelton does not hesitate to affirm the inevitable deduction,-the responsibility for that expression rests, not upon the poet, but upon God.

But this passage, coming in the context where it does, seems curiously apologetic. It is not quite clear for what he is apologizing. The body of the poem is an assertion of orthodoxy on the part of the poet and of virulent condemnation for those asserting the right of individual judgment contrary to the decrees of the Church. For this, surely, there would he no need to invoke the doctrine of plenary, poetic inspiration. The striking peculiarity of this situation becomes emphasized when taken in connection with the dedication of the poem.

Honorificatissimo, amplissimo, longeque reverendissimo in Christo patri, ac domino, domino Thomœ, &c. tituli sanctœ Ceciliœ, sacrosanctœ Romanœ ecclesiœ presbytero, Cardinali meritissimo, et apostolicœ sedis legato, a latereque legato superillustri, &c., Skeltonis laureatus, ora, reg., Humillimum dicit obsequium cum omni debita reverentia, tanto tamque magnifico digna principe sacerdotum, totiusque justitiœ œquabilissimo moderatore, necnon prœsentis opusculi fautore excellentissimo, &c., ad cujus auspicatissimam contemplationem, sub memorabili prelo gloriosœ immortalitatis, prœsens pagella felicitatur, &c.

When one realizes that the very honorable, very great and by far the most reverend father in Christ is the same Cardinal Wolsey to whom but two or three years before Skelton was alluding in terms the reverse of complimentary, the question arises what is the explanation of such an astounding change of front. The situation presupposes both a moral obloquy on the part of the author and a general obtuseness on the part of the Cardinal. The obvious solution is, by denying Skelton's authorship, to put the blame upon the printer. However true this may be of the other three similar dedications, 1 it certainly does not hold here. Although printed by Pynson without date, yet as Pynson died in 1530, only a year after Skelton himself, the publication of the poem

1 The other three dedications of Skelton's poems appear long after his death, and may perhaps be interpolations.


must have been at the extreme only three years after its composition, and probably was during the poet's lifetime. Under these conditions the motive that might cause Pynson in Skelton's name to forge a dedication to the poet's avowed enemy seems inexplicable. Consequently the inference seems unavoidable that here the dedication is genuine. And as there is no record of any act of Wolsey to justify such a change of opinion, the explanation must be sought in the life of Skelton himself. Although in all this we are wandering in a maze of inference and guesswork, the answer to the question seems to have been found in a discovery of Dr. SeBoyar. 1 In a report of the visitation of Bishop Nicke to the Cathedral of Norwich, 1526, he brought to light the fact that a Dominus Johannes Shelton has been accused of gravia crimina et nephanda peccata. The identification of this Dominus Johannes Shelton with the poet, whose name was sometimes so spelled, and who at this time was in the diocese of Norwich, seems to fill all the conditions. Traditionally it was with Bishop Nicke that his trouble arose. 2 The difficulty came from his disordered life in general, and in particular from his having a concubine. But that this was the charge does not seem probable. When Wolsey's own laxity in such matters is considered, to him as judge it could not have been a serious charge. On the other hand, at a time when heresy was a capital offense, such extreme denunciation against the officers of the Church might easily be construed as an attack upon the Church itself. And if it be true that in 1526 he was arrested on a charge of heresy, both the Replycacion and the dedication are explained. In the poem he shows himself a zealous follower of the doctrines of the Church, severely censuring those that asserted the right of individual judgment, and cleverly adding an apology for the freedom of his poetic utterance; he then dedicates it to the Cardinal as an appeal for justice, as one totius justitiœ œquabilissimo moderatore. If this be the explanation, the appeal failed, and Wolsey's resentment was stronger than his sense of justice, because on June 21st., 1529, Skelton died in the sanctuary of Westminster. Four months later, his great enemy

1 Modern Language Notes, December, 1913.
2 In the Merie Tales of Skelton and in A. C. Mery Talys, although the precise anecdotes may be apocryphal, there must be a broad outline of fact. The parts relating to Skelton in both of these are reprinted in Dyce, i, lvii-lxxiiii.


also died,--and in disgrace. To say that Skelton's satires caused the disgrace of Wolsey is absurd; to say that Skelton's satires, however, by powerfully stating popular discontent, and by this very expression increasing it, form an appreciable factor in the catastrophe is credible. As in the case of the humanistic prose, so out of English poetry was forged a weapon of attack,--and the power of the press became potent. From this point of view in the dedication there is an element of pathos. With the battle almost won, the poet surrenders in a sequence of fawning superlatives. Honorificatissimo, amplissimo, longeque reverendissimo in Christo patri!

This analysis of Skelton's satires becomes justifiable, when it is realised that he is interesting, not merely in himself, but as a type of many unknown writers. By his relations with the Court and, probably by his personal idiosyncrasies, his personality was dominant at the time and has come down through the ages. But the form that he used was not peculiar to himself. "Skeltonic" verse was not his invention. Such an adaptation of the Medieval Latin was normal with the pre-humanistic Churchman. And as such poems were satiric, naturally they were anonymous. 1 Provided the arrow struck, it was immaterial from which bow it came. Written to attack an institution or a person, at a time when such an attack involved the author in peril of his life, printed, if at all, in the form of a broadside, it is literature for the day and hour. The wonder is that so much of it has survived. To us, ignorant of the local conditions, much of it is necessarily obscure and time has blunted its edge. But as these poems are classed together because of the form, and as the form was the common inheritance of the age, there is no necessary similarity in content between them. For example, the Vox populi is an attack upon the economic conditions in the reign of Henry VII, and, as such, may be profitably compared with the first book of More Utopia; the Genealogye of Heresye, as the name implies, is against the reformers; and the Image of Ipocrysy is against the Church. Especially is it

1 It is to be remarked in passing that, as the first collected edition of Skelton's works, that of 1568, was forty years after his death, the canon of his writing is far from being settled, All that he wrote is not included in the Dyce edition, nor is all in the Dyce edition by him. A modern critical edition of Skelton is, therefore, greatly to be desired!


vident that, in the struggle following the Reformation, the same form was used by writers of both parties, because they had the same antecedents. And equally today such poems are interesting only to the antiquarian. In form they are characterized by the use of short riming couplets, or tercets, or even more, and by the fact that the poem is divided into verse paragraphs. In form, then, they resemble Skelton's satires. This is the simple type.

Unfortunately for the purpose of the analyst, as authors are moved not by one but by several impulses, their works are rarely representative of one force only. This is the difficulty of the class that we have now to consider. With a measure of propriety they might be discussed under Medieval Latin influence, under humanism, and under Germanic influence. The stanza forms employed are both the rime-royal and the tetrameter stanza riming abbacc; they are polemic dialogues, and many are printed, if not actually written, in Germany. On the other hand, the Germanic factor is due to the effect of political difficulties. They were written by Englishmen, largely concerning English affairs, and with the desire that they should be read in England. Therefore, the Germanic element is reduced to the lowest fraction. 1 The fact that they belong to the group of polemic dialogues shows the humanistic influence. It is true that in Medieval Latin, one finds the conflictus,--a debate between personages representing antithetic points of view. The peculiarity here, however, is, as in so many of the Colloquies of Erasmus, that the characters combine to present a single impression. The dialogue is used for exposition and for attack. But there is nothing surprising in this combination of the three factors, the Germanic influence, humanism and the Medieval Latin. It belongs to the period. The cleavage between the Catholics and the Reformers has now become world-wide. The tone on each side has become contemptuous and bitter. No longer is it possible, as it was for Skelton and Erasmus, both to love the Church and to criticise her because of that love. The criticism, now, is generated by hate. But the methods by which the humanists had made effective their criticism had not been forgotten; their weapons were reforged for a more deadly battle. And if the Church had been restive under the well-intentioned satire of Erasmus and the State under the plain-speaking of Skelton, it was inevitable

1 The reader is requested to refer to pp. 381 f. for a detailed discussion.


that neither England nor any Catholic country would have been safe for these new writers,--that reformed Germany was of necessity their refuge.




But poetry of this type in the Medieval Latin was not limited to the satiric. With Latin the common medium, naturally the poetic measures used by the Church were also employed to express all varieties of secular matters. At the taverns university students carolled the charms of Bacchus and Venus; lovers extolled the delights of their mistresses, and travellers wrote accounts of their experiences. But through them all runs an element of the impromptu. It is this that gives the poems their charm. The writers do not take themselves seriously, they are weighed down neither with literary dogma, nor with conventional morality. They breathe immortal youth, with its joyousness, its passion, and its unrestraint. To this type, perfection of form and a nicely coordinated balance of parts is foreign. There is no total unity and no logical development. Here, in despite of the axiom, the parts are greater than the whole. This condition it is that has caused such a variance of opinion concerning Skelton poem, Phillip 



Sparrow. It is long, rambling, and incoherent. Its thirteen hundred and eighty-two lines are broken into three distinct parts; first a dramatic monologue, secondly, a commendation of the suppositions author of the first part, and thirdly, a protest against criticism. Between the three there is no organic relation. Over half of the whole is occupied by the dramatic monologue from which the entire collection takes its name. This purports to be the lament of Joanna Scroupe, staying with the black nuns at Carowe, for the loss of Phillip, her sparrow,

Whom Gyb our cat hath slayne. 1

On this thin theme are strung descriptions of the sparrow, invectives against the cat, a long disquisition on literature, a mock mass of the birds, etc. The form employed is riming couplets of short lines. Even by this short analysis, the poem obviously belongs to the type found in Medieval Latin.

But the fact that Phillip Sparrow is modelled after the neoLatin form, does not argue on the part of the poet ignorance of classical poetry. Although for his purpose he preferred this form, he both wrote humanistic Latin and read classical authors. His Poeta Skelton Laureatus Libellum suum Metrice Alloquitur is in regular elegiacs; his allusions to classical authors have already been mentioned. And he proclaimed himself the British Catullus. Therefore, those scholars that have seen in this poem a desire to imitate the second and third poems of Catullus are merely stating the case too strongly. Probably the fact that the Roman writer has previously bewailed the loss of a sparrow may have made the subject more attractive to the Englishman. Still more, certain similarities are suggestive. The lines,

It had a veluet cap,
And wold syt vpon my lap,
And seke after small wormes,
And somtyme white bred crommes;
And many tymes and ofte
Betweene my brestes softe
It wolde lye and rest;
It was propre and prest, 2

1 Line 27.
2 Lines, 120-7.


have a certain resemblance to the Latin

nec sese a gremio illius movebat,
sed circumsiliens modo hue modo illuc
ad solam dominam usque pipiabat

Not unnaturally, in so loose a form as that which he had chosen, there was a tendency to put in any reminiscence or allusion that seemed germane to the subject. Since he knew the classics, that knowledge occasionally appears.

But the value of the poem is not due to classical influence. That lies in the manner in which it mirrors the age and, also, the personality of the poet. The poem is read today partly because it furnishes so much information concerning literary conditions early in the sixteenth century. His struggle with the language, his estimation of Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate, his account of the books then read, all combine to create a legitimate, although scarcely a literary, interest. From this point of view it is regarded, not so much as a poem, as a document, and as such is often quoted, just as in the present work there has been occasion to quote from it. Useful as this may be, it is by no means the only interest in this "exquisite and original poem," as Coleridge calls it. Skelton is a "merry" poet. Written before his mind was occupied with the turmoil of the age, he flings himself into whimsicalities and fantasies. It becomes an intensely personal expression. Dignity, reserve, restraint are cast aside and the poet and the reader talk face to face. And this is the merit of the chosen form. Dignity, reserve, restraint are not characteristics of tavern intercourse. But the use of concrete detail is thus characteristic. By means of it, the situation is completely realized, Joanna Scroupe and her sparrow are sharply placed before the reader, and for the moment time has lost its power.

Somtyme he wolde gaspe
Whan he sawe a waspe;
A fly or a gnat,
He wolde flye at that;
And prytely he wold pant
Whan he saw an ant;
Lord, how he wolde pry
After the butterfly!
Lorde, how he wolde hop
After the gressop!


And whan I sayd, Phyp, Phyp,
Than he wold lepe and skyp,
And take me by the lyp.
Alas, it wyll me slo,
That Phillyp is gone me fro!

Such a passage as this, in its concreteness, strikes the keynote of the whole,--half humor and half pathos. The reader smiles at the grotesque catalogue and yet sympathizes with the little girl. It is not a great tragedy, but after all it was her sparrow. It is not a great tragedy, yet the woe of the child will today find response from those that love animals. Compared to it, Gray Ode on a Favorite Cat seems hard and unfeeling. Both are jeux d'esprit, but Skelton's poem has more of the heart. The result of a Renaissance personality, familiar with the great classical tradition, thus deliberately writing in a medieval form and with a medieval point of view, is to produce a poem unlike anything in the preceding literature.

It has been possible to show in the cases of the Bouge of Court, the satires, and Phillip Sparrow, from whence each derived the form and how that form was modified. The first derives from the medieval English tradition, the others from the medieval Latin. To the second group belongs the Tunnyng of Elynour Rummyng, a poem rather notorious than known. 1 Yet it persisted in literature for two centuries, 2 and more than all the rest of the poems put together explains the opprobrium Skelton's reputation received in the eighteenth century. After an introduction of ninety lines, describing Elinor Rumming, a disreputable aleswife, seven sections follow in which a series of scenes in the bar are presented. Not only is the subject itself a study of low life, the treatment, also, is realistic to the extreme. As a medium sample of the descriptive treatment, the following passage will serve.

With, Hey, dogge, hay,
Haue these hogges away!
With Get me a staffe,
The swyne eate my draffe!

1 Roscoe's comparison of it with I Beoni of Lorenzo d' Medeci is misleading except in so far as the subject matter is concerned. The Italian poem is a jocose parody of the Divina Commedia and is in terza rima.
2 It is included in a modern form in the 1687 edition of Cleveland Works.


Stryke the hogges with a clubbe,
They haue dronke vp my swyllynge tubbe!
For, be there neuer so much prese,
These swyne go to the hye dese,
The sowe with her pygges;
The bore his tayle wrygges,
His rumpe also he frygges
Agaynst the hye benche!
With, Fo, ther is a stenche!
Gather vp, thou wenche;
Seest thou not what is fall?
Take vp dyrt and all,
And bere out of the hall:
God gyue it yll preuynge,
Clenly as yuell cheuynge! 1

This is realism. In his effort to set before us the degradation and squalor of Elinor's habitation, the poet shrinks from no detail however disgusting, from no expression however coarse. The same is true equally of the characters both of Elinor herself and her clientele.

Another brought a spycke
Of a bacon flycke;
Her tonge was verye quycke,
But she spake somewhat thycke:
Her fellow did stammer and stut,
But she was a foule slut,
For her mouth fomyd
And her bely groned:
Jone sayne she had eaten a fyest;
By Christ, sayde she, thou lyest,
I haue as swete a breth
As thou, wyth shamfull deth! 2

In sharp hard lines disgusting details are thrust upon the disgusted reader. If truth be beauty,--and only then--is this beautiful, because it is faithful to fact. But in its grotesque fidelity it is vital, with a vitality similar to that in the pictures of Jan Steen and the Dutch school. In both the reader is convinced that he is perceiving life as lived in the sixteenth century. So, compared to them, Guido Reni's simpering madonnas become insipid, and Hawes's allegorical fantasies fade away. And however unpleas-

1 Lines 168-86.
2 Lines 335-46.


ant may be the impression, yet such an impression is given that it is impossible to forget.

Yet however unforgettable the impression, its unpleasantness is obvious even to the writer. He feels, himself, that he has gone rather far.

I haue wrytten to mytche
Of this mad mummynge
Of Elynour Rummynge 1

It is with this feeling, perhaps, that he adds to the work an apology.

Ebria, squalida, sordida foemina, prodiga verbis
Huc currat, properet, veniat! Sua gesta libellus
Iste volutabit: Paean sua plectra sonando
Materiam risus cantabit carmine rauco
. 2

It is thus a curious mingling of morality and humor. On the one side, like Barclay, he is a medieval preacher. He feels justified in descending into the depths that from them he may tell others to keep out. On the other, the reader has the unwilling conviction that descriptions written with such gusto show a familiarity with disreputable resorts unexpected in a scholar, and an enjoyment in them undesirable in a Churchman. Such a poem as this has done more to justify the epithet "merry" in an equivocal sense than the apocryphal Tales of Skelton. The coarse colloquialisms of Elinor Rumming, however strongly may be urged the excuse of morality, never would have come from the mouth of a "gentle" poet. They belong to the tavern, not to the cloister.

And his art, in its most characteristic phases, belongs to the tavern, not to the university. Although the impromptu nature of the work belongs to the type, Skelton's overflowing spirits know nothing of academic restraint. The poems as units are without form and void. When his mind is started upon one line of thought, he is unable to select; he goes on and on. This is the explanation of those wearisome catalogues. The funeral of Phillip Sparrow is attended by sixty-six birds. Joanna Scroupe's list of reading embraces all the books the poet knew. But this means that Skelton had not learned the value of emphasis. Elynour Rummyng consists

1 Lines 619-21.
2 Dyce i, p. 115.


of a series of descriptions of the various customers. And his satires are built upon a number of invectives, in which a concentric plan has been seen. Actually I question whether there was such a "concentric" conception in the mind of the poet, whether on the contrary the poems were not written each part by itself, without much regard to the relation of each part to the total work. At least there is no total effect.

Such considerations as these explain to some extent the contemptuous attitude toward Skelton's work adopted by his contemporaries, since contemptuous it surely is. In an age from which so little even of the literature has survived, lack of comment concerning a work means nothing; the surprising feature about Skelton is that so much criticism has come down to us and that it is all unfavorable. The greatest personal force in literature of his age, he yet pleases no one. Churchman and courtier, scholar and humanist, all deny him. And these comprise the reading public of his day. This is the situation that requires explanation. Yet that explanation is simple. To the Churchman and to the courtier he figured as the great opponent of their respective institutions. And however true and however forceful abstractly may be either Colin Clout or the Bouge of Court, exactly in proportion as they are true and forceful, to the members of neither organization could they have proved agreeable reading. To the scholar his work brought the unrestraint of the unruly side of university life; to the humanist he was perpetuating the Medieval Latin forms against which humanism was marshalled as enemy in chief. That Skelton did not sympathize with the humanists is clear from his work; that the humanists disliked Skelton might almost be posited a priori. To them Skelton's models, the Medieval Latinists, were simply ignoramuses. They never tired of ridiculing the false quantities, and the jingling rimes. 1 And since to them even the propriety of writing in English at all was questionable, the impropriety of writing English based upon such models was beyond a doubt. Naturally, then, Lily closes his epigram against Skelton by saying,

Et doctus fieri studes poeta; Doctrinam nec habes, nec es poeta. 2

1 Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum, passim.
2 Dyce, i, p. xxxviii.


This from the humanistic standpoint was the simple fact. According to the new learning, Skelton neither had the method, nor was he a poet. But unfortunately for Skelton, the new learning stamped its impress upon the Renaissance, even to our age in so far as we are part of the great movement. Consequently while the great authors of antiquity are now read and their manner studied, the Latinists of the Middle Ages are largely forgotten. In proportion as they were forgotten, Skelton became transformed from a powerful mordant satirist to a riotous buffoon. To the later Elizabethans he was a comic figure. Puttenham calls him a "rude rayling rhymer" belonging to the uncultivated stage in our language before it was polished by the introduction of Italian models. Meres add that " Skelton . . . applied his wit to scurrilities and ridiculous matters, such as among the Greeks were called Pantomimi, with us Buffoons." Pope's epithet "beastly" goes only one step farther. Even in 1871 Carew Hazlitt, in re-editing Warton, thinks it a "strange notion" that Skelton wrote English well! Judgments such as these are based upon a natural misconception of the type of work Skelton aimed to produce. Instead of being a wild, fantastic, literary figure, actually he wrote in the manner of a past age.

In this manner naturally he was not the only writer, and his seeming predominance is certainly due, although primarily of course to the vigor of his personality, in some degree, to the efforts of I. S. who newly collected his works, for Marshe's edition of 1568. As the poems apparently were in most cases issued separately, and as these separate issues survive if at all only in a single copy, were it not for his efforts, Skelton would be a much less imposing figure. Owing to his efforts, to the very bulk of the work, Skelton has imposed himself upon the imagination of the succeeding generations as sui generis at the expense of contemporary writers, and his reputation has swallowed theirs.