London Hast Thou Accused Me

Henry Howard, earl of Surrey (1543) Henry Howard, earl of Surrey wrote "London, hast though accused me" while inside London's notorious Fleet prison. In this 68-line poem, the 26-year-old earl attempts to justify the actions that had resulted in his being locked up: breaking Lenten fast, running riot with a group of companions through the streets of London, and assaulting its citizens.

The poem, which begins, "London, hast thou accused me / of breech of laws, the root of strife" asserts that the poet was not really breaking the laws of city, but was attempting to warn its populace of the coming wrath of God for their own lawlessness. The next lines contain an allusion in which Surrey claims that he had become "A figure of the Lord's behest" (l. 21), a type of Jeremiah sent to reprove his people of their dissolute ways. The poem features an enumeration (ll. 28-41) of the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, wrath, sloth, covet-ousness, lechery, gluttony), indicating how the poet wished his late-night rampage to have been a curative to London's "proud people that dread no fall, / Clothed with falsehood and unright" (ll. 45-46). The poem's other major structural feature comes as a kind of climax in the form of a series of biblical allusions (ll. 56-64) that predict London's apocalyptic fall. In the end, Surrey predicts "none thy ruin shall bemoan" (l. 65), because no one except the righteous shall remain.

Critics of the poem come in two varieties: those who see it as a lark and those who see it as something serious. The former often claim that Surrey wrote the poem to reflect the mood with which he had enjoyed his revels; the latter point to its intricate and sophisticated poetic qualities, even likening its structure to the

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