John Skelton

(1460 - 1529 / Norfolk, England)

The Bowge of Courte


In Autumpne whan the sonne in vyrgyne
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 dyd dres

I callynge to mynde the great auctoryte
Of poetes olde whyche full craftely
Under as couerte termes as coude be
Can touche a troughte and cloke it subtylly
Wyth fresshe vtteraunce full sentencyously
Dyuerse in style some spared not vyce to wrythe
Some of moralyte nobly dyde endyte

Wherby I rede theyr renome and theyr fame
Maye neuer dye bute euermore endure
I was sore moued to a force the same
But Ignoraunce full soone dyde me dyscure
And shewed that in this arte I was not sure
For to Illumyne she sayde I was to dulle
Auysynge me my penne awaye to pulle

And not to wrythe/ for he so wyll atteyne
Excedynge ferther than his connynge is
His hede maye be harde but feble is his brayne
Yet haue I knowen suche er this
But of reproche surely he maye not mys
That clymmeth hyer than he may fotynge haue
What and he slyde downe who shall hym saue

Thus vp & down my mynde was drawen & cast
That I ne wyste what to do was beste
Soo sore enwered that I was at the laste
Enforsed to slepe and for to take some reste
And to lye downe as soone as I me dreste
At harwyche porte slumbrynge as I laye
In myne hostes house called powers keye

Me thoughte I sawe a shyppe goodly of sayle
Come saylynge forth into that hauen brood
Her takelynge ryche and of hye apparayle
She kyste an anker and there she laye at rode
Marchauntes her borded to see what she had lode
Therein they founde Royall marchaundyse
Fraghted with plesure of what ye coude deuyse

But than I thoughte I wolde not dwell behynde
Amonge all other I put myselfe in prece
Than there coude I none aquentaunce fynde
There was moche noyse anone one cryed cese
Sharpely commaundynge eche man holde hys pece
Maysters he sayde the shyp that ye here see
The bowge of courte it hyghte for certeynte

The awnner therof is lady of estate
Whoos name to tell is dame saunce pere
Her marchaundyse is ryche and fortunate
But who wyll haue it muste paye therfore dere
This Royall chaffre that is shypped here
Is called fauore to stonde in her good grace
Than sholde ye see there pressynge in a pace

Of one and other that wolde this lady see
Whiche sat behynde a traues of sylke fyne
Of golde of tessew the fynest that myghte be
In a trone whiche fer clerer dyde shyne
Than Phebus in his spere celestyne
Whoos beaute honoure goodly porte
I haue to lytyll connynge to reporte

But of eche thynge there as I toke hede
Amonge all other was wrytten in her trone
In golde letters this worde whiche I dyde rede
Garder le fortune que est mauelz et bone
And as I stode redynge this verse myselfe allone
Her chyef gentylwoman daunger by her name
Gaue me a taunte and sayde I was to blame

To be so perte to prese so proudly vppe
She sayde she trowed that I had eten sause
She asked yf euer I dranke of saucys cuppe
And I than softly answered to that clause
That so to saye. I had gyuen her no cause
Than asked she me Syr so god the spede
What is thy name and I sayde it was drede

What mouyd the quod she hydder to come
Forsoth quod I to bye some of youre ware
And with that worde on me she gaue a glome
With browes bente and gan on me to stare
Full daynnously and fro me she dyde fare
Leuynge me stondynge as a mased man
To whome there came another gentylwoman

Desyre her name was and so she me tolde
Sayenge to me broder be of good chere
Abasshe you not but hardely be bolde
Auaunce yourselfe to aproche and come nere
What though our chaffer be neuer so dere
Yet I auyse you to speke for ony drede
Who spareth to speke in fayth he spareth to spede

Maystres quod I. I haue none aquentaunce
That wyll for me be medyatoure and mene
And this another I haue but smale substaunce
Pece quod Desyre ye speke not worth a bene
Yf ye haue not in fayth I wyll you lene
A precyous Iewell no rycher in this londe
Bone auenture haue here now in your honde

Shyfte now therwith let see as ye can
In bowge of courte cheuysaunce to make
For I dare saye that there nys erthly man
But an he can bone auenture take
There can no fauour nor frendshyp hym forsake
Bone auenture may brynge you in suche case
That ye shall stonde in fauoure and in grace

But of one thynge I werne you er I goo
She that styreth the shyp make her your frende
Maystres quod I. I praye you tell me why soo
And how I maye that waye & meanes fynde
Forsothe quod she howeuer blowe the wynde
Fortune gydeth and ruleth all oure shyppe
Whome she hateth shall ouer the seeboorde skyp

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 a waye
Alas quod I how myghte I haue her sure
In fayth quod she by bone auenture

Thus in a rowe of martchauntes a grete route
Suwed to fortune that she wold be theyre frynde
They thronge in fast and flocked her aboute
And I with them prayed her to haue in mynde
She promysed to vs all she wolde be kynde
Of bowge of court she asketh what we wold haue
And we asked fauoure/ and fauour she vs gaue

Thus endeth the prologue. And begynneth the bowge of Courte breuely compyled.

Drede

The sayle is vp fortune ruleth our helme
We wante no wynde to passe now ouerall
Fauoure we haue toughther than ony elme
That wyll abyde and neuer frome vs fall
But vnder hony oftetyme lyeth bytter gall
For as methoughte in our shyppe I dyde see
Full subtyll persones in nombre foure and thre

The fyrste was Fauell full of flatery
Wyth fables false that well coude fayne a tale
The seconde was Suspecte whiche that dayly
Mysdempte eche man with face deedly & pale
And Haruy hafter that well coude picke a male
With other foure of theyr affynyte
Dysdayne. Ryotte. Dyssymuler. Subtylte.

Fortune theyr frende with whome oft she dyde daunce
They coude not faile thei thought they were so sure
And oftentymes I wolde myselfe auaunce
With them to make solace and pleasure
But my dysporte they coude not well endure
They sayde they hated for to dele with Drede
Than Fauell gan wyth fayre speche me to fede

Fauell.

Noothynge erthely that I wonder so sore
As of your connynge that is so excellent
Deynte to haue with vs suche one in store
So vertuously that hath his dayes spente
Fortune to you gyftes of grace hath lente
Loo what it is a man to haue connynge
All erthly tresoure it is surmountynge

Ye be an apte man as ony can be founde
To dwell with vs & serue my ladyes grace
Ye be to her yea worth a thousande pounde
I herde her speke of you within shorte space
Whan there were dyuerse that sore dyde you manace
And though I say it I was myselfe your frende
For here be dyuerse to you that be vnkynde

But this one thynge ye maye be sure of me
For by that lorde that bought dere all mankynde
I can not flater I muste be playne to the
And ye nede ought man shewe to me your mynde
For ye haue me whome faythfull ye shall fynde
Whyles I haue ought by god thou shalt not lacke
And yf nede be a bolde worde I dare cracke

Nay naye be sure whyles I am on your syde
Ye maye not fall truste me ye maye not fayle
Ye stonde in fauoure and fortune is your gyde
And as she wyll so shall our grete shyppe sayle
Thyse lewde cokwattes shall neuermore preuayle
Ageynste you hardely therfore be not afrayde
Farewell tyll soone but no worde that I sayde

Drede.

Than thanked I hym for his grete gentylnes
But as methoughte he ware on hym a cloke
That lyned was with doubtfull doublenes
Methoughte of wordes that he had full a poke
His stomak stuffed oftetymes dyde reboke
Suspycyon methoughte mette hym at a brayde
And I drewe nere to herke what they two sayde

In fayth quod suspecte) spake drede no worde of me
Why what than wylte thou lete men to speke
He sayth he can not well accorde with the
Twyst quod suspecte) goo playe hym I ne reke
By cryste quod fauell drede is soleyne freke
What lete vs holde him vp man for a whyle
Ye soo quod suspecte) he maye vs bothe begyle

And whan he came walkynge soberly
Wyth whom/ and /ha/ and with a croked loke
Methoughte his hede was full of gelousy
His eyen rollynge his hondes faste they quoke
And to me warde the strayte waye he toke
God spede broder to me quod he than
And thus to talke with me he began

Suspycyon

Ye remembre the gentylman ryghte nowe
That commaunde with you methought a praty space
Beware of him for I make god auowe
He wyll begyle you and speke fayre to your face
Ye neuer dwelte in suche another place
For here is none that dare well other truste
But I wolde telle you a thynge and I durste

Spake he a fayth no worde to you of me
I wote and he dyde ye wolde me telle
I haue a fauoure to you wherof it be
That I muste shewe you moche of my counselle
But I wonder what the deuyll of helle
He sayde of me whan he with you dyde talke
By myne auyse vse not with him to walke

The soueraynst thynge that ony man maye haue
Is lytyll to saye/ and moche to here and see
For but I trusted you so god me saue
I wolde noothynge so playne be
To you oonly methynke I durste shryue me
For now am I plenarely dysposed
To shewe you thynges that may not be disclosed


Drede

Than I assured hym my fydelyte
His counseyle secrete neuer to dyscure
Yf he coude fynde in herte to truste me
Els I prayed hym with all my besy cure
To kepe it hymselfe for than he myghte be sure
That noo man erthly coude hym bewreye
Whyles of his mynde it were lockte with the keye

By god quod he this and thus it is
And of his mynde he shewed me all and some
Farewell quod he we wyll talke more of this
Soo he departed there he wolde be come
I dare not speke I promysed to be dome
But as I stode musynge in my mynde
Haruy hafter came lepynge lyghte as lynde

Upon his breste he bare a versyngeboxe
His throte was clere and lustely coude fayne
Methoughte his gowne was all furred wyth foxe
And euer he sange/ sythe I am nothynge 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

Heruy hafter.

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 methynke 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 & lete god stere
I wolde be mery what wynde that euer blowe
Heue & how rombelow row the bote norman rowe

Prynces of youghte 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 baladeboke 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 connynge & wayes that ye haue
By goddis soule I wonder how ye gete
Soo greate pleasyre or who to you it gaue
Syr pardone 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 hereInne
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 hereafter a frende of you to haue

Drede.

Wyth that as he departed soo fro me
Anone ther mette with him as methoughte
A man/ but wonderly besene was he
He loked hawte he sette eche man at noughte
His gawdy garment with scornnys was all wrought
With Indygnacyon lyned was his hode
He frowned as he wolde swere by cockes blode

He bote the lyppe he loked passynge coye
His face was belymmed as byes had him stounge
It was no tyme with him to Iape nor toye
Enuye hathe wasted hys lyuer and his lounge
Hatred by the herte so had hym wrounge
That he loked pale as asshes to my syghte
Dysdayne I wene this comerous carkes hyghte

To heruy hafter than he spake of me
And I drewe nere to harke what they two sayde
Now quod Dysdayne as I shall saued be
I haue grete scorne & am ryghte euyll apayed
Than quod Heruy why arte thou so dysmayde
By cryste quod he for it is shame to saye
To see Iohan dawes that came but yesterdaye

How he is now taken in conceyte
This doctour dawcocke Drede I wene he hyghte
By goddis bones but yf we haue som sleyte
It is lyke he wyll stonde in our lyghte
By god quod Heruy & it so happen myghte
Lete vs therfore shortely at a worde
Fynde some mene to caste him ouer the borde

By him that me boughte than quod Dysdayne
I wonder sore he is in such conceyte
Turde quod Hafter I wyll the nothynge layne
There muste for hym be layde some prety beyte
We tweyne I trowe be not withoute dysceyte
Fyrste pycke a quarell & fall oute with hym then
And soo outface hym with a carde of ten

Forthwith he made on me a prowde assawte
With scornfull loke meuyd all in moode
He wente aboute to take me in a fawte
He frounde he stared he stampped where he stoode
I loked on hym I wende he had be woode
He set the arme proudly vnder the syde
And in this wyse he gan with me to chyde

Disdayne.

Remembrest thou what thou sayd yesternyght
Wylt thou abyde by the wordes agayne
By god I haue of the now grete dyspyte
I shall the angre ones in euery vayne
It is greate scorne to see suche an hayne
As thou arte one that cam but yesterdaye
With vs olde seruauntes such maysters to playe

I tell the I am of countenaunce
What weneste I were. I trowe thou knowe not me
By goddis woundes but for dysplesaunce
Of my querell soone wolde I venged be
But no force I shall ones mete with the
Come whan it wyll oppose the I shall
Whatsomeuer auenture therof fall

Trowest thou dreuyll I saye thou gawdy knaue
That I haue deynte to see the cherysshed thus
By goddis syde my sworde thy berde shall shaue
Well ones thou shalte be chermed I wus
Naye strawe for tales thou shalte not rule vs
We be thy betters and so thou shalte vs take
Or we shall the oute of thy clothes shake

Drede.

Wyth that came Ryotte russhynge all atones
A rusty gallande to ragged and to rente
And on the borde he whyrled a payre of bones
Quater treye dews he clatered as he wente
Nowe haue at all by saynte Thomas of kente
And euer he threwe & kyst I wote nere what
His here was growen thoroweoute his hat

Thenne I behelde how he dysgysed was
His hede was heuy for watchynge ouernyghte
His eyen blereed his face shone lyke a glas
His gowne so shorte that it ne couer myghte
His rumpe he wente so all for somer lyghte
His hose was garded wyth a lyste of grene
Yet at the knee they were broken I wene

His cote was checked with patches rede & blewe
Of kyrkeby kendall was his shorte demye
And ay he sange in fayth decon thou crewe
His elbowe bare he ware his gere so nye
His nose a droppynge his lyppes were full drye
And by his syde his whynarde & his pouche
The deuyll myghte daunce therin for ony crowche

Counter he coude (O lux) vpon a potte
An eestrychefedder of a capons tayle
He set vp fresshely vpon his hat a lofte
What reuellroute quod he and gan to rayle
How ofte he hadde hit Ienet on the tayle
Of felyce fetewse and lytell prety cate
How ofte he knocked at her klyckedgate

What sholde I tell more of his rebaudrye
I was ashamed so to here hym prate
He had no pleasure but in harlotrye
Ay quod he in the deuylles date
What arte thou I sawe the nowe but late
Forsothe quod I in this courte I dwell nowe
Welcome quod Ryote I make god auowe

Ryote.

And syr in fayth why comste not vs amonge
To make the mery as other felowes done
Thou muste swere and stare man aldaye longe
And wake all nyghte and slepe tyll it be none
Thou mayste not studye or muse on the mone
This worlde is nothynge but ete drynke & slepe
And thus with vs good company to kepe

Plucke vp thyne herte vpon a mery pyne
And lete us laugh a placke or tweyne at nale
What the deuyll man myrthe was neuer one
What loo man see here of dyce a bale
A brydelyngecaste for that is in thy male
Now haue at all that lyeth vpon the burde
Fye on this dyce they be not worth a turde

Haue at the hasarde or at the dosen browne
Or els I pas a peny to a pounde
Now wolde to god thou wolde leye money downe
Lorde how that I wolde caste it full rounde
Ay in my pouche a buckell I haue founde
The armes of calyce I haue no coyne nor crosse
I am not happy I renne ay on the losse

Now renne muste I to the stewys syde
To wete yf malkyn my lemman haue gete oughte
I lete her to hyre that men maye on her ryde
Her harnes easy ferre and nere is soughte
By goddis sydes syns I her thyder broughte
She hath gote me more money with her tayle
Than hath some shyppe that into bordews sayle

Had I as good an hors as she is a mare
I durste auenture to Iourney thorugh Fraunce
Who rydeth on her he nedeth not to care
For she is trussed for to breke a launce
It is a curtel that well can wynche & praunce
To her wyll I nowe all my pouerte lege
And tyll I come haue here is myne hat to plege

Drede

Gone is this knaue this rybaude foule & leude
He ran as fast as euer that he myghte
Unthryftynes in hym may well be shewed
For whome tyborne groneth both daye and nyghte
And as I stode and kyste asyde my syghte
Dysdayne I sawe with Dyssymulacyon
Standynge in sadde communicacion

But there was poyntynge & noddynge with his hede
And many wordes sayde in secrete wyse
They wandred ay and stode styll in no stede
Methoughte alwaye Dyscymular dyde deuyse
Me passynge sore myne herte than gan aryse
I dempte & drede theyr talkynge was not good
Anone dyscymular came where I stode

Than in his hode I sawe there faces tweyne
That one was lene & lyke a pyned goost
That other loked as he wolde me haue slayne
And to mewarde as he gan for to coost
Whan that he was euen at me almoost
I sawe a knyfe hyd in his one sleue
Wheron was wryten this worde myscheue

And in his other sleue methought I sawe
A spone of golde full of hony swete
To fede a fole and for to preye a dawe
And on that sleue these wordes were wrete
A false abstracte cometh from a fals concrete
His hode was syde his cope was roset graye
Thyse were the wordes he to me dyde saye

Dyssymulation

How do ye mayster ye loke so soberly
As I be saued at the dredefull daye
It is a perylous vyce this enuy
Alas a connynge man ne dwelle maye
In no place well but foles with hym fraye
But as for that connynge hath no foo
Saue hym that nought can/ scrypture sayth soo.

I knowe your vertu and your lytterkture
By that lytel connynge that I haue
Ye be malygned sore I you ensure
But ye haue crafte yourselfe alwaye to saue
It is grete scorne to se a mysproude knaue
With a clerke that connynge is to prate
Lete theym go lowse theym in the deuylles date

For allbeit that this longe not to me
Yet on my backe I bere suche lewde delynge
Ryghte now I spake with one I trowe I see
But what a strawe I maye not tell allthynge
By god I saye there is a grete hertebrennynge
Betwene the persone ye wote of you
Alas I coude not dele so with a Iew

I wolde eche man were as playne as I
It is a worlde I saye to here of some
I hate this faynynge fye vpon it fye
A man can not wote where to become
I wys I coude tell but humlery home
I dare not speke we be so layde awayte
For all our courte is full of dysceyte

Now by saynte fraunceys that holy man & frere
I hate this wayes agayne you that they take
Were I as you I wolde ryde them full nere
And by my trouthe but yf an ende they make
Yet wyll I saye some wordes for your sake
That shall them angre I holde thereon a grote
For some shall wene be hanged by the throte

I haue a stoppyngeoyster in my poke
Truste me and yf it come to a nede
But I am lothe for to reyse a smoke
Yf ye coude be otherwyse agrede
And so I wolde it were so god me spede
For this maye brede to a confusyon
Withoute god make a good conclusyon

Naye see where yonder stondeth the teder man
A flaterynge knaue & false he is god wote
The dreuyll stondeth to herken and he can
It were more thryft he boughte him a newe cote
It wyll not be/ his purse is not on flote
All that he wereth it is borowed ware
His wytte is thynne his hode is thredebare

More coude I saye but what this is ynowe
Adewe tyll soone we shall speke more of this
Ye muste be ruled as I shall tell you howe
Amendis maye be of that is now a mys
And I am your syr so haue I blys
In euery poynte that I can do or saye
Gyue me your honde farewell & haue good daye

Drede

Sodaynly as he departed me fro
Came pressynge in one in a wonder araye
Er I was ware behynde me he sayde bo
Thenne I astonyed of that sodeyne fraye
Sterte all at ones I lyked nothynge his playe
For yf I had not quyckely fledde the touche
He had plucte oute the nobles of my pouche

He was trussed in a garmente strayte
I haue not sene suche anothers page
For he coude well vpon a casket wayte
His hode all pounsed and garded lyke a cage
Lyghte lymefynger he toke none other wage
Harken quod he loo here myne honde in thyne
To vs welcome thou arte by saynte Quyntyne

Disceyte.

But by that lorde that is one two and thre
I haue an errande to rounde in your ere
He tolde me so by god ye maye truste me
Parde remembre whan ye were there
There I wynked on you/ wote ye not where
In (A) loco I mene iuxta (B)
Woo is hym that is blynde and maye not see

But to here the subtylte and the crafte
As I shall tell you yf ye wyll harke agayne
And whan I sawe the horsons wolde you hafte
To holde myne honde by god I had grete payne
For forthwyth there I had him slayne
But that I drede mordre wolde come oute
Who deleth with shrewes hath nede to loke aboute

Drede.

And as he rounded thus in myne ere
Of false collusyon confetryd by assente
Methoughte I see lewde felawes here and there
Came for to slee me of mortall entente
And as they came the shypborde faste I hente
And thoughte to lepe/ and euen with that woke
Caughte penne and ynke & wroth this lytyll boke

I wolde therwith no man were myscontente
Besechynge you that shall it see or rede
In euery poynte to be indyfferente
Syth all in substaunce of slumbrynge doth procede
I wyll not saye it is mater indede
But yet oftyme suche dremes be founde trewe
Now constrewe ye what is the resydewe

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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