Askew (1546) Anne Askew (1521-1546) married a Catholic member of the gentry but converted to Protestantism and left her husband. Questioned numerous times for heresy, she was burned at the stake on July 16, 1546.
Besides being a prominent figure in the English Reformation, Askew is a notable presence in early modern literature. She wrote two spiritual autobiographies while imprisoned: The First Examynacyon and The Lattre Examynacyon. Her writings portray the state of doctrinal struggles in the mid-16th century as well as the importance of biblical learning for women.
"A Ballad Which Askew Made and Sang When in Newgate" appears at the end of The Lattre Examyna-cyon. It is divided into three sections of four stanzas each, corresponding to faith, hope, and charity. In the first section, the narrator compares herself with an "armed knight," protected by a shield of faith, ready to face the battlefield of the world. In the second section, hope causes the narrator to rejoice because Christ will fight with her and for her. Her hope in Christ is limitless before her enemies' unending "spight." In the final section on the theme of charity, the narrator recalls that "cruel wit" has swallowed up "rightwisness," or justice; nevertheless, she prays for her oppressors, displaying Christ-like charity.
This ballad reinforces not only the Protestant ideal that true faith lies within the Bible, but also illustrates the nationalist trend prompting a belief in an English Church. In particular, Askew's comparison of faith to a beset ship (stanza 9) recalls the Protestant view that the church (ship) needed reforms (storms) to restore it to the true faith (anchor).
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