William Barlow

(1500-1568 / England)

The Breuyate And Shorte Tragycall Hystorie Of The Fayre Custance, The Emperours Doughter Of Rome - Poem by William Barlow

Soroufull was the kyng replete w wo & payne
Whan he the letter reed but yet his inwarde sore
He wolde to no ma showe but shortly wrot agayne
Sayeng: welcoe the sonde of Christ for euermore
To me a wretche whiche am newe lerned i thy lore
Welcoe thy grace good lorde thy lyking & plesauce
My hert & wyll I put vnto thyne ordynaunce.
Kepe ye right well my chylde albeit foule or fayre
And eke my louyng wife vntyll my home comyng
Christ whan hym lyst may sende me suche an hayre
Whiche shalbe moche fayrer & more for o pleasing
This letter he sealed full bytterly wepyng
And to the messanger he dyde it soone conuey
His leaue he taketh and forthe he rode his way
O beestly messanger fulfylled with drōkennesse
Strog is thy brethe thy lymmes disceyue the aye
Thou doest discouer counsayle and secretnesse
Thy brayne is troubled thou ianglyst as a Iaye
Thou tournest vp sodowne althyng out of array
For where as dronknesse dothe raigne in any rout
No coūsaile there is kept but it at last must out.
O cursed Donegylde I haue no Englysshe digne
Thy malice to declare nor halfe thy tiranny
Wherfore to the deuyll that office I resigne
Let hym indite and shewe thy wrathe & false enuy
O deuillisshe woman fye on thy trechery
Thou came of Iudas kyn for this I dare say well
Though here in erth y walke thy spirite is in hell.
In meane while his letters were stollen euerichon
And other letters made whiche said in this wyse:
The kynge comaundeth that the kepar anon
On payne of hangyng by lawe and high iustice
He shulde nat suffre thus written was precice
Custaunce in his realme no lengar to abyde
Nat vnto thre days ende for ought y might betyde
But in the same shippe wherin as he her founde
She and her yong son with suche as nedefull were
Alone he shulde her put and thrust her fro the l{ade}
w charge on payne of deth y she no more coe there.
O dissolate Custance in hert wele mayst thou fere
And slepe vnquietly awayting thy penaunce
Whan Donegild for the hath made such ordynace.

Howe the wofull Custaunce with her lytell son Maurice by the cursed trayson of Donegilde was set agayne in to the same shippe wherin she came thyder and so went fletyng vpon the see at her aduenture: And of her pituouse coplaynt. Cap. x.
The next mornyng whan the messanger awoke
Unto the castell he cometh at a brayd
And to the kepar the letters forthe he toke
Which seyng y tenour was marueylously dismaid
So straitly written full ofte (alas he said)
This fraile britell worlde how may it long endure
Sithe so unstedfast we se eche creature.
O Christ of heuyn if that it be thy wyll
As thou arte equall iudge: alas howe may this be
That thou doest suffre the innocentes to spyll
And wicked folke to lyue in great prosperite
Alas good Custance that wo is me for the
Sithe I thy turmētour must be or therfore dye
A shamfull dethe I se none other remedy.
Full tenderly wepte all they within the place
For ruthe whan the kyng this cruell letter sent
And shorte tale to make/with pale and deedly face
Custance at the last/towarde the shippe is went
There was non other mean but yet w good entent
The wyll of Crist she toke & knelyng by the strode
Welcome good lorde she said be vnto me thy sonde
He the whiche me kept from all the cryme & blame
While I vpon the lade haue bydden here with you
He can me saue also from perill harme and shame
Upon the salte see all though ye se nat howe
As strong as euer he was right so he is yet nowe
In him is all my trust and in his mother dere
Whiche shalbe vnto me my mast my sayle and stere
Her lytell yong childe lay wepyng in her arme
Of motherly pytie right rewfully she sayd
Peace nowe my childe for none shall do the harme
Wherwith her kercher of from her heed she brayd
And ouer his face anone the same she layd
And in her armes she rocked hym full fast
And towarde heuyn/her eyes vp she cast.
Mylde mother & quod she and blessed mayde Mary
Sothe it is that by a womans entycement
Mankynde was forlorne and dampned for to dye
Whom to redeme thy childe: on the crosse was rent
Thou lady with thyn eyes sawe all his tourment
Than: no comparison certesse there is bytwene
Thy sorowes of all that euer hath ben sene.
Thy childe y sawe slayne before thyne owne eye
And yet nowe lyueth my lytell childe alway
Nowe blessed lady to whom all creatures crye
The well of womanheed mother and mayden aye
Thou hauen of refuge the bright starre of the day
Upon my childe and me in this our harde distresse
Haue thou compassion of thy great goodnesse.
O lytell tendre babe: alas what is thy gylte
Thou neuer yet wrought no maner syn parde
Thy cruell father why wyll he haue the spylte
Of mercy dere kepar and tendre loue quod she
Wytsafe my lytell childe may tary here with the
If hym thou dare nat saue fro perisshyng & blame
yet ones wytsaue to kysse hym in his fathers name.
ters cause sent a senatour with a gret army to vengeance vpon the surreyns: Whiche senatour comyng howarde mette with Custance fletyng the see nat knowynge who she was and brought bothe her and her chylde to Rome home vnto his wyfe. Cap. xiii.
Of Custance lette vs stynt as for a lytell w
And of her father the worthy Emperour
Of Rome nowe speke we whiche by report
The dethe of {Christians} and of the dis
To his dout mos
I meane of
Whiche at
Wherfore the
Sent forthe a
Accompanyed with sorr
Upon the Surreyns
They brent ouerall and slew
And short tale to make this is th
The surreyns distroyed y romayns hoe did wede.
And as this Senatour repayred home agayne
To Rome warde sayling with laude and victory
The shippe he mette driuyng anon the s[illeg.]mayne
In whiche Custaunce satte and w[illeg.]itterly
Wherfor nor what she was nothing [illeg.] why
She went in suche degre & though she died w&supert; care
Of her estate to him she wolde no wise declare.
To Rome he brought her streight vnto his wyfe
ere she right well was kept & her yong son also
d with this Senatour she ladde a mery lyfe
hus hath our lady brought forthe of care and [illeg.]
staunce lyke as she hath done many other [illeg.]
d long tyme she dwelled in Rome rest & pesse
ertuous workes and parfite holynesse.
Senatours wife her aunt linally was
natwithstading she knewe her neuer y more
onger tary I wyll as in this case
nge Alba of whom I spake before
his wife wept sighyng sore
yll Custance

de cae to Rome by the noblese toke with hi dyuers ty[illeg.] Mauric the son of Custance ynges fest: & how the kyng by t remebred his wife Custance at whose fysnamy the kyng marueyled. Cap. xiiii.
Kyng Alba y which his moder thus had slayne
By great remorse of hert & inwarde repentaunce
Toke [illeg.] displeasure that to be shorte & playne
To R{ome st}reight he cae for to receyue penaunce
And as the pope wolde to byde his ordynaunce
As he shulde hym enioyne & Iesu Christ besought
His syns to forgyue wherin he had mis wrought.
The comon brute was soone thorowe Rome
How that kyng Alba shulde come on pilgrim
By Harbigem the which came hym beforne
Wherfore the Senatour as there was the vsage
ine hym richely rode with all his hole lynage
As well to manyfest his hye magnifycence
As to the kyng to do pleasure and reuerence.
Most amyable chere this noble Senatour
Made to kyng Alba and he to hym also
Eche vnto other dyd synguler honour
And so it befell that on a day or two
Whan that this Senatour to kyng Alba dyd go
To the triumphe and feest the trouthe to verify
Custance sonne he toke with hym in company.
Perchauce soe wolde suppose by cosent of Custace
That this senatour her sonne dyde leade to fest
To you I can nat expresse the circumstance
But be it as be may there was he at the fest
But certesse sothe it is right at his mothers hest
Before kyng Alba all the dyner space
The childe stode lokyng aye in the kynges face.
This childe to beholde the kyng had great woder
And of the senatour demaunded he anone
Sayeng: whose fayre childe is he y standes yoder
I can nat tell quod he by god and by saynt Iohan
A mother he hath but father knowe I none
That I dyd euer se and shortly in that stounde
He tolde how the mother & eke y childe were foude
certesse sir quod she vnto the trouthe to go
{As} good a lyuer as she: in all my life
I haue nat knowen nor fewe suche other mo
Of worldly women widowe mayde nor wife
Moche leauer she had to dye vpon a knife
Than sensualite her reason shulde subdue
In her all vice is deed and vertue floureth newe.
This childe of fauour resembled moche Custance
As lyke as possible a creature might be
Kyng Alba the face had in his remembraunce
Of noble Custaunce and theron mused he
Coniecting wheder the childes mother were she
Whiche was his spouse and wife & priuely he sight
And from the table he spedde in all he might.
Certesse quod the kyng I haue a dissye heed
Full well ought I [illeg.] me after rightfull iugement
That long or now my wife in the salte see is deed
And after a while he tourned his argument
Sayeng: why may nat Christ whiche is oīpotent
Kepe her nowe from dethe as he hath done before
For whom he lyst to saue shall neuer be forlore.
It is as possible that she be hider brought
Preserued fro harme of stormes tempestious
Sithe he is most of power that made all of nought
As wele as she before on see most peryllous
Was to our countre safe conueyed vnto vs
What god wyll haue done who may the same resist
He is the lorde of all he may do what he lyst.

Howe kynge Alba had knowledge of his faithfull spouse Custaunce and of their ioyouse metyng. Cap. xv.
Nat long tyme after home with the senatour
Went Alba on a day to se this wonders chaunce
The senatour made to Alba great honour
And hastely he sent after the fayre Custaunce:
Well ye may suppose she lyst nothing to daunce
Whan she the cause therof did knowe & vnderstode
Her blode was altred to here th ne sonde.
Alba at the fyrst whan he his
As astonyed right fayre he dyd
With wepyng teares of tenderly p
And at the fyrst sight that he vpon
He knewe well it was she but w
Her hert had suche distresse
For to remembre
Ofte tymes she [illeg.]own
Hymselfe he
Nowe lorde
As wisely on
As no more gy
Than is my son Maurice whi
And if I be the feede fetche me
Long lasted the sobbyng and intrinsec
Or that her wofull hert fro bitter teres
Great pite it was to here them bothe co
Ye reders all I pray my ladd[illeg.] to [illeg.]
Their wo I can nat shewe nor halfe the cyrcūstāce
I am so wery to speke of wofull chance.
Shortly to conclude whan she the certayne wyst
That Alba gyltlesse was of all her payne and wo
An hundred tymes I trowe eche of them other kyst
And suche gladnesse was made bytwene the two
That saue y ioye onely whiche neuer shall haue do
But lasteth there ere is none lyke ye may be sure
Norne while we in lyfe may dure

Emperour cāe to the senatours house where as kynge Alba and his Custaunce was and of the metynge bytwene }them{ Cap. xvi.
soght mekely
d ruyne
come & dyne
I you and pray
one worde of me ye say.
me wolde say the childe Maurice
e did relate vnto the Em&per;our
I gesse was nat so folysshe nice
To hym that is the chefe and heed of all honour
Aboue all erthely princes the fragrant flour
Wolde sende forthe any childe but best it is to deme
That he hym selfe went and so it might be seme.
Theperour at the fyrstdid graunt most louingly
To come to dyneras Alba hym besought
But fermely he behelde and loked busely
Upon the childe Maurice & on his dougter thought
Home went kyng Alba and duely as he ought
Prepared for the feest of all that might suffyce
By wisdome ordred as he coude well deuyse.
The daye appoynted cae that Alba gan hym dresse
And eke his wife Custance the Emperour to mete
And right well besene they ousnesse
But whan Custance sawe her father in the strete
Adowne she lighted and kneled at his fete
My father dere quod; she your yog {doughter Custace}
Is raced nowe full clene out ofance.
Your doughter Custance quod; she
Whiche long a go ye sent farre {forthe} vnto Surrye
She am I father whiche that in the salte see
All alone was put and dampned for to dye
Dere father nowe she said I pray you hertely
Sende me no more forthe so farre in Hethannesse
But thaake here my lorde of all his great kyndnesse.
The parfite inwarde ioye none can declare it all
Bitwene the thre made sithe they this wyse be met
But of this mater an ende nowe make I shall
The tyme fast passeth and long processe dothe let
These gladsome people were vnto dyner set
And thus in ioye and blysse at mete I let the dwell
A thousande tymes better than any tong can tell.
Mauricius this childe was after Emperour
Confirmed by the pope and lyued vertuously
Alway to holy churche he maynteyned honour
But all these stories I leaue and passe forthe by
At fyrst of Custaunce to speke purposed I
Mauricius lyfe I beare nat well in mynde
In olde romayne iestes his actes may ye fynde.

Howe kynge Alba departed from Rome with his wife Custance came home in to Englande: & howe after the deth {of} the kyng her husbande she {retur}ned vnto Rome agayne where as she her dayes/amonge her pay- frendes with great quietnesse. Cap. xvii.
Whan Alba sawe his tyme wouten more delay
His leaue of the Emperour he toke for to departe
And with his wife Custace he cae the gaynest way
Streight vnto Englade where they wease of hert
In quietnesse lyued but what wight may after
The course of fortune for welth wyll nat abyde
Tyme chaungeth as the mone mutable lyke ytyde
What creature lyueth in suche delyte a day
That is nat moued outher in conscience
With yre maltalent or some maner of fray
Enuyousnesse or pride or some concupiscence
All this I pronounce as touchyng my sentence
That small tyme lasted in ioye or with plesaunce
The lyfe of Alba with his true wyfe Custaunce.
For dethe wyll nat forgyue to hye ne lowe his rent
But after a yere or two was gone expresse
Kyng Alba from this lyfe discessed died and went
For whom Custance made great mone & heuynesse
To god she prayed his soule from payne release
And soone after that he was deed and layde in clay
Custance towarde Rome her dressed on the way.
Custaunce aryued at Rome that riche cyte
Wher as her frendes; were on lyue both hole & soude
Nowe hath she escaped all harde aduersite
And whan she her father the Emperour had foude
Upon bothe her knees she fell vnto the grounde
Wepyng in hert for ioye and with a corage bolde
Our lorde she thanked an hudred thousande folde.
Of all her trouble her sorowe care and drede
Whiche in her most peryle fro dethe dyd her defēde
And with her frendes there in quietnesse dyd lede
The rest of her lyfe and neuer dyd entende
Tyll dethe to disceuer and thus I make an ende
Of Custauce storie beseching Christ that he
Bring the vnto his blysse which shall it rede or se.


Lenuoy of Thomas Alsoppe.
Go forth y paflet small
Of mater Tragicall
Nothyng purueyed at all
Of style Heroycall
But full of speche rurall
And verses rustycall
Unto my maisters all
Besechig the which shall
Here of thy chance fatall
And the in speciall
Which most are doctrynate
With wisdome decorate
In science eleuate
And eche other estate
To be content algate
And nat to conspyrate
Agaynst the any hate
Though I infatuate
After this homely rate
Thy simple & processe wrate:
& where y dost repayre
Alway behaue the fayre
Be nothyng in dispayre
Thy selfe for to present
Though y be naked sent
Without y freshe garmet
Of termes eloquent
But pondre myne entent
say y right fayne I wolde
Do better if I coulde
Some men of grauite
How symple that thou be
May happen yet parde
To rede and ouer se
Thy rude barreyne store
Why may nat Wise me loke
Upon a folisshe boke
I trust no man of name
Though y be out of frae
In ernest nor in game
By speche wyll nat defae
Nor lay to the no blame
But count it my foly
Whiche so intentifely
In that wherin as I
Can nothing skyll truely
Haue made my selfe busy
For no cause els it was
But vacant tyme to pas
Nat with intencion
Of proude presumpcion
But where as trasgressyon
By way of locucion
Is made without reason
With humble submissyon
Under correction
In the protection
And wyse discrecion
Of eche maner person
Althing is said and don
And who so dothe the se
Pray them to & pardone me.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, October 8, 2010

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