(1527) This is the third of five poems collectively given the title Dyvers Balettys and Dyties Solacyous. The collection was probably printed in 1527, but the composition date may be significantly earlier. The poem is composed of seven stanzas, each seven lines long, except for the final one, which ends with the tag line, "Quod Skelton laureat" (Says Skelton, laureate). This tag line is a concluding line common to four of the lines in the collection and many other John Skelton poems. The rhyme scheme is ababbcc, also known as rhyme royal. The concluding couplet at the end of each rhyme royal stanza might suggest that each stanza is a self-contained unit, when in fact the first five stanzas comprise one long sentence of praise to a woman. Because of that initial, very long sentence, the poem reads much like a list.
Each of the first five stanzas focuses on a different type of praise for the beloved woman. In the first, a series of the woman's mainly public virtues come tumbling forth. She has "knolege, aquayntance, resort, and fauour with grace" (l. 1), which might be rendered as "knowledge, acquaintances, places she is welcomed at, and graceful beauty." The second stanza notes the beloved's ability to soothe hearts filled with woe, pain, and distress. The third stanza is highly Petrarchan, offering comparisons of the beloved to topaz, rubies, and pearls, among other gems. The fourth stanza associates the woman with safety and light, comparing her to a clear image in a mirror; the evening star, Hesper-ides, which guides sailors; and an anchor. The fifth and final stanza of the initial sentence addresses the woman's effect upon the speaker, who is awed by her many wondrous qualities and rues her absence.
Although this poem uses Petrarchan conceits, it is unusual in that the speaker does not accuse the woman of cruelty in making the speaker suffer for love. The beloved can soothe pain, but she does not cause it. Instead, the blame is placed on "absens" (absence), which assails the speaker with "fere and drede" that "abashyth" him, although, he is careful to note, "I haue no need" (ll. 34-35). The persona recognizes that he has no definite need to worry without his beloved, but he cannot help it.
The tone of the speaker is somewhat impersonal in the first four stanzas; it is not at all clear for a long time that the speaker is speaking of his own love for the woman, although his heart does "oft lepe and sprynge" when contemplating her behavior, goodness, and womanhood (ll. 29-32). The speaker calls her the "Lodestar to lyght these louers to theyr porte" (l. 25) although it is not clear at first whether "these lovers" are the speaker and the woman, another couple, or lovers in general. By the sixth stanza, the speaker reveals his personal feelings for the woman. The speaker declares that if she wants to know why absence is his foe: "open myne hart, beholde my mynde expres: / I wold you coud!" In these lines, there is the sense that the breathless, fragmented stanzas before are just what the speaker here proposes: an unabashed, wholly exposed, opening up of himself.
Skelton says in the final stanza that he has "grauyd" (engraved) her "wythin the secret wall / of my trew hart" (ll. 48-49). He may have also "engraved" this woman elsewhere: The first letter of each stanza spells out KATERYN, which may well be the name of the otherwise unnamed woman so thoroughly blazoned forth in this poem.
Eish, Stanley. John Skelton's Poetry. New Haven, Conn., and
London: Yale University Press, 1965. Halpern, Richard. The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation.
Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991. Scattergood, John, ed. John Skelton: The Complete English Poems. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1983.
KYRIELLE A popular poetic form of the Middle Ages, the kyrielle is derived from the kyrie eleison (lord have mercy)—an element of the pre-Reformation liturgy. Kyrielles are usually written in quatrains, with the refrain as the last line. The most common rhyme scheme is: aabB, ccbB, ddbB, eebB, etc., with B being the refrain. Despite its liturgical origins, the kyrielle is not limited in subject to religious works. For instance, William Dunbar's "Lament for the Makaris" is a secular kyrielle. Thomas Campion also wrote in the kyrielle form, such as his poem "A Lenten Hymn." See also "Jolly Jankyn."
lai See lay.
la male règle Thomas Hoccleve (ca. 1405) Thomas Hoccleve's La Male Règle is a 448-line poem divided into 56 eight-line stanzas employing the rhyme scheme abab, bcbc; a suitable title translation might be misrule, since this poem is a confession of a misspent youth. Hoccleve begins with an apostrophe to Health—here a combination of physical wellness and material prosperity—and claims to have once possessed both but to have squandered them while working at the Privy Seal office where the king's official paperwork was processed. After several opening stanzas setting forth his miserable state, Hoccleve goes on to chastise his "unwar yowthe," condemning his rejection of Reason and grieving his subjection to Sickness.
In subsequent stanzas (16-25), Hoccleve is more specific about his faults: He was a too-frequent patron of the Paul's Head Tavern, indulging in both wine and women. Hoccleve maintains that he never had intercourse with these women, but he confesses that his abstinence was mainly due to an embarrassment concerning sexual matters: "Whan that men speke of it in my presence, / For shame I wexe as reed as is the gleede" (ll. 158-159). Hoccleve admits to overtipping the tavern keepers who called him "gentleman," and to squandering his Privy Seal pay by taking boats down the Thames when it was inconvenient to walk. The flattery of shopkeepers, boatmen, and other beneficiaries of his largesse contributed to his profligate existence.
The final 20 stanzas are less cohesive than foregoing ones, as Hoccleve ranges widely over a number of subjects: the demonic influence of excess, the fickleness of friends, and the importance of a good reputation. In stanza 50, he begins to bring his poem to a close by asking himself, "Ey what is me that to my self, thus longe, / Clappid have I . . .[?]" (ll. 393-394). Hoccleve attributes his ranting speech to his straitened circumstances— especially financial. He concludes by turning his confession of misrule into a request for payment, asking Lord Fourneval, the treasurer, to pay his annual salary of 10 pounds. Hoccleve acknowledges that he does not want to be seen begging for his salary, but since begging is the custom, he fears that if he does not speak up, he will get nothing, so in the end the ailing poet maintains that coin is all the medicine he really needs.
Hoccleve's poem bears affinities with his other works such as the Regiment of Princes, Hoccleve's Complaint, and Dialogue with a Friend in offering autobiographical details. Scholars have attempted to ascertain whether or not these details relate to a persona or to Hoccleve himself. Studies have also attempted to define the "begging poem" genre, or the confessional poem. With this confessional petition, Hoccleve may be following his acquaintance, Geoffrey Chaucer, whose "Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse" shares a similar function, though without the penitential tone which marks La Male Règle.
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