Henry Howard

(1517 – 19 January 1547 / Norfolk)

So Cruel Prison


So cruel prison how could betide, alas,
As proud Windsor? Where I in lust and joy
With a king's son my childish years did pass
In greater feast than Priam's sons of Troy;
Where each sweet place returns a taste full sour:
The large green courts, where we were wont to hove,
With eyes cast up unto the maidens' tower,
And easy sighs, such as folk draw in love;
The stately salles, the ladies bright of hue,
The dances short, long tales of great delight;
With words and looks that tigers could but rue,
Where each of us did plead the other's right;
The palm play where, despoiled for the game,
With dazed eyes oft we by gleams of love
Have miss'd the ball and got sight of our dame,
To bait her eyes, which kept the leads above;
The gravel'd ground, with sleeves tied on the helm,
On foaming horse, with swords and friendly hearts,
With cheer, as though the one should overwhelm,
Where we have fought, and chased oft with darts;
With silver drops the mead yet spread for ruth,
In active games of nimbleness and strength,
Where we did strain, trailed by swarms of youth,
Our tender limbs that yet shot up in length;
The secret groves which oft we made resound
Of pleasant plaint and of our ladies' praise,
Recording oft what grace each one had found,
What hope of speed, what dread of long delays;
The wild forest, the clothed holt with green,
With reins aval'd, and swift ybreathed horse,
With cry of hounds and merry blasts between,
Where we did chase the fearful hart a force;
The void walls eke that harbor'd us each night,
Wherewith, alas, revive within my breast
The sweet accord, such sleeps as yet delight,
The pleasant dreams, the quiet bed of rest;
The secret thoughts imparted with such trust,
The wanton talk, the divers change of play,
The friendship sworn, each promise kept so just,
Wherewith we pass'd the winter nights away.
And with this thought the blood forsakes the face,
The tears berain my cheeks of deadly hue,
The which as soon as sobbing sighs (alas)
Upsupped have, thus I my plaint renew:
"O place of bliss, renewer of my woes,
Give me account--where is my noble fere?
Whom in thy walls thou didst each night enclose,
To other lief, but unto me most dear."
Echo (alas) that doth my sorrow rue,
Returns thereto a hollow sound of plaint.
Thus I alone, where all my freedom grew,
In prison pine with bondage and restraint;
And with remembrance of the greater grief
To banish the less, I find my chief relief.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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