John Skelton

English poet

John Skelton (c. 1460 – June 21, 1529) was an English poet, variously asserted to have been born in Armathwaite, Cumberland, or Yorkshire. Many of his works included scathing indictments of the church or church figures, and although they were likely circulated in his day, they were not officially published until some time after his death.

John Skelton
John Skelton

QuotesEdit

  • There is nothynge that more dyspleaseth God,
    Than from theyr children to spare the rod.
    • Magnificence, A goodly interlude, line 1954 (written c. 1519, published c. 1533), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: He that spareth the rod hateth his son, Proverbs xiii. 24; They spare the rod and spoyl the child, Ralph Venning, Mysteries and Revelations (second ed.), p. 5. 1649; Spare the rod and spoil the child, Samuel Butler: Hudibras, pt. ii. c. i. l. 843
  • Gentle Paule, laie doune thy sweard,
    For Peter of Westminster hath shaven thy beard.
    • A Couplet on Wolsey's Dissolution of the Convocation at St Paul's (c. 1523), in criticism of Cardinal Wolsey's dissolution of convocation at St Paul's Cathedral, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 315
  • What dreamest thou, drunkard, drowsy pate?
    Thy lust and liking is from thee gone;
    Thou blinkard blowboll, thou wakest too late.
    • Lullay, Lullay, Like a Child (1527)

Garlande or Chaplet of Laurell (written c. 1495, printed 1523)Edit

  • O noble Chaucer, whos pullisshyd eloquence
    Oure Englysshe rude so fresshely hath set out,
    That bounde ar we with all deu reverence,
    With all our strength that we can brynge about,
    To owe to yow our servyce, and more if we mowte!
    But what sholde I say? Ye wote what I entende,
    Whiche glad am to please and loth to offende
    • Lines 421–427, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 284
  • Stedfast of thought,
    Wele made, wele wrought;
    Far may be sought
    Erst that ye can fynde
    So courteise, so kynde
    As mirry Margarete,
    This midsomer flowre,
    Jentyll as fawcoun
    Or hawke of the towre.
    • Lines 1029–1037, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 300

Jane Scroop (her lament for Philip Sparrow) (likely written c. 1505–1509)Edit

Lines 1–844 were likely written before Jane Scroop's mother, Lady Eleanor, died in 1505; lines 1268–1382 (the "addicyon") were written after 1509.
  • PLA ce bo!
    Who is there, who?
    Di le xi!
    Dame Margery,
    Fa, re, my, my.
    Wherefore and why, why?
    For the soul of Philip Sparrow
    That was late slain at Carrow,
    Among the Nunnės Black.
    For that sweet soulės sake,
    And for all sparrows' souls,
    Set in our bead-rolls,
    Pater noster qui,
    With an Ave Mari,
    And with the corner of a Creed,
    The more shall be your meed.
    • Lines 1-16; the poem is about a girl who is distraught that her family's pet cat has killed her pet bird, a sparrow; the poem is the basis for the later nursery rhyme, Who Killed Cock Robin? The opening line, PLA ce bo, is from a canticle for the dead.
  • When I remember again
    How my Philip was slain,
    Never half the pain
    Was between you twain,
    Pyramus and Thisbe,
    As then befell to me.
    I wept and I wailed,
    The tearės down hailed,
    But nothing it availed
    To call Philip again
    Whom Gib, our cat, hath slain.
    • Lines 17-27
  • Maide, wydowe, or wyffe.
    • Line 53
  • Like Andromach, Hector's wife,
    Was weary of her life,
    When she had lost her joy,
    Noble Hector of Troy;
    In like manner alsó
    Increaseth my deadly woe,
    For my sparrow is go.
    • Lines 64-70

Agynst the Scottes (written c. 1513)Edit

This poem was written after the Battle of Flodden on 9 September 1513.
  • Contynually I shall remember
    The mery moneth of September,
    With the ix day of the same,
    For then began our myrth and game.
    So that now I have devysed,
    And in my mynde I have comprised,
    Of the prowde Scot, kynge Jemmy,
    To write some lytell tragedy,
    For no maner consyderacyon
    Of any sorowfull lamentacyon,
    But for the specyall consolacyon
    Of all our royall Englysh nacyon.
    • Lines 65–76, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 102
  • At Branxton More and Flodden hylles,
    Our Englysh bowes, our Englysh bylles,
    Agaynst you gave so sharpe a shower,
    That of Scotland ye lost the flower.
    • Lines 131–134, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 104

Agenst Garnesche (written c. 1513)Edit

The subject of this poem, Sir Christopher Garneys, was knighted on 25 September 1513 and it may have been written shortly afterwards.
  • How olde proverbys says,
    That byrd ys not honest
    That fylythe hys owne nest.
    • III, lines 196–198, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 113. Compare: "It is a foule byrd that fyleth his owne nest", John Heywood, Proverbs (1546) part ii. chap. v
  • Thy myrrour may be the devyllys ars.
    • V, line 18, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 114
  • The honor of Englond I lernyd to spelle,
    In dygnyte roiall that doth excelle.
    • V, lines 95–96, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 115

Collyn Clout (written c. 1521–1522)Edit

  • For though my ryme be ragged,
    Tattered and jagged,
    Rudely rayne beaten,
    Rusty and moughte eaten,
    It hath in it some pyth.
    • Lines 53-58 (evaluating his own ability as a poet)
  • In the spight of his teeth.
  • He knew what is what.
    • Line 1106. Compare: "He knew what ’s what", Samuel Butler, Hudibras, part i, canto i, line 149
  • By hoke ne by croke.
    • Line 1240. Compare: "In hope her to attain by hook or crook", Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene, book iii, canto i, stanza 17
  • The wolfe from the dore.
    • Line 1531

Why Come Ye Nat to Courte? (written c. 1522, printed c. 1545)Edit

  • He ruleth all the roste.
  • Why come ye nat to court?
    To whyche court?
    To the kynges courte?
    Or to Hampton Court?
    • Lines 401–404, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 253
  • The kynges courte
    Shulde have the excellence;
    But Hampton Court
    Hath the preemynence!
    • Lines 406–409, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 253
  • Englande the flowre
    Of relucent honowre,
    In olde commemoration
    Most royall Englyssh nacion.
    • Lines 1037–1040, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 267

Howe the Douty Duke of Albany (written c. 1523)Edit

This poem was written after the Scottish army, commanded by the Duke of Albany, abandoned the siege of Wark Castle on 4 November 1523. Full title: Howe the Douty Duke of Albany lyke a cowarde knyght, ran awaye shamfully with an hundred thousande tratlande Scottes and faint harted Frenchemen, beside the water of Twede, etc.
  • O ye wretched Scottes,
    Ye puaunt pyspottes,
    It shalbe your lottes
    To be knytte up with knottes
    Of halters and ropes
    About your traytours throtes.
    • Lines 119–124, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 318
  • Twyt, Scot, go kepe thy den.
    Mell nat with Englyshe men.
    Thou dyd nothyng but barke
    At the castell of Warke.
    • Lines 145–148, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 319
  • Thou hast to lytell myght
    Agaynst Englande to fyght.
    • Lines 230–231, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 321

A Replycacion Agaynst Certayne Yong Scolers Abjured of Late, Etc. (printed c. 1528)Edit

This poem probably refers to two Cambridge scholars, Thomas Bilney and Thomas Arthur, who had been charged with heresy.
  • I saye, thou madde Marche hare,
    I wondre howe ye dare
    Open your janglyng jawes
    To prech in any clawes,
    Lyke pratynge poppyng dawes,
    Agaynst her excellence,
    Agaynst her reverence,
    Agaynst her preemynence,
    Agaynst her magnifycence,
    That never dyde offence.
    • Lines 35–44, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 331
  • Ye cobble and ye clout
    Holy scripture so about,
    That people are in great dout
    And feare leest they be out
    Of all good Christen order.
    Thus all thyng ye disorder
    Thorowe out every border.
    • Lines 222–228, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 335
  • If ye have reed de hyperdulia,
    Than ye know what betokeneth dulia:
    Than shall ye fynde it fyrme and stable,
    And to our faithe moche agreable,
    To worshyppe ymages of sayntes.
    • Lines 287–291, quoted in The Complete English Poems of John Skelton: Revised Edition, ed. John Scattergood (2015), p. 336

Quotes about SkeltonEdit

  • What memory or reason is sufficient
    To remembre the myracles of this lady
    What tong can expresse / or pen is convenient
    It were a pleasaunt werke for the monke of Bury
    For Chaucer or Skelton / fathers of eloquens
    Or for religious Barkley to shewe theyr diligens
    • Henry Bradshaw, 'Of divers Miracles', quoted in The Lyfe of Saynt Radegunde, ed. F. Brittain (1926), p. 37
  • I praye mayster Iohn Skelton late created poete laureate in the unyversite of oxenforde to oversee 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 every dyffyculte that is therin / For he hath late translated the epystlys of Tulle / and the boke of dyodorus syculus. and diverse 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 / ovyde. tullye. and all the other noble poetes and oratours / to me unknowen: And also he hath redde the ix. muses and understande theyr musicalle scyences. and to whom of theym eche scyence is appropred. I suppose he hath dronken of Elyons well.
  • In one respect the Garlande of Laurell stands without a parallel: the history of literature affords no second example of a poet having deliberately written sixteen hundred lines in honour of himself.
    • Alexander Dyce, 'Some Account of Skelton and His Writings', The Poetical Works of John Skelton, With Notes, and Some Account of the Author and His Writings, Vol. I (1843), p. xlix
  • Nor can much be said for John Skelton (1460?–1529), not the last poet-laureate hardly to deserve the first part of his title, though his idiosyncratic doggerel breathed vigour, a crude humour, and—especially in his attacks on Wolsey (Speke, Parrot and Why Come Ye Nat Courte?, 1522–3)—a genuine savagery. ... But the man who could think of commending a lady with the pedestrian lines "How shall I report/All the goodly sort/Of her features clear/That hath none earthly peer?" ... was a very long way from true poetry.
  • There is in your household that light and glory of English letters, Skelton, who is capable not only of stimulating your appetite for learning, but of satisfying your hunger well.
    • Erasmus's dedication to Prince Henry in a collection of poems (1499), quoted in William Nelson, John Skelton, Laureate (1939), p. 72
  • This land gently nourishes the poets who are my attendants, among whom Skelton is rightly to be celebrated.
    • Robert Whittington, 'In clarissimi Scheltonis Louaniensis poeta: laudes epigramma' (1519), quoted in John Skelton: The Critical Heritage, ed. Anthony S. G. Edwards (1981, 2002), p. 52

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