Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Georgian Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Georgian Verse.  1909.
 
Bristowe Tragedie
By Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770)
 
Or the Dethe of Sir Charles Bawdin

THE FEATHERED 1 songster chaunticleer
  Han wounde hys bugle horne,
And tolde the earlie villager
  The commynge of the morne:
 
Kynge Edwarde sawe the ruddie streakes        5
  Of lyghte eclypse the greie;
And herde the raven’s crokynge throte
  Proclayme the fated daie.
 
‘Thou’rt ryghte,’ quod he, ‘for, by the Godde
  That syttes enthron’d on hyghe!        10
Charles Bawdin, and hys fellowes twaine,
  To-daie shall surelie die.’
 
Thenne wythe a jugge of nappy ale
  Hys knyghtes dydd onne hymn waite;
‘Goe tell the traytour, thatt to-daie        15
  Hee leaves thys mortall state.’
 
Syr Canterlone thenne bendedd lowe,
  With harte brymm-fulle of woe;
Hee journey’d to the castle-gate,
  And to Syr Charles dydd goe.        20
 
Butt whenne hee came, hys children twaine,
  And eke hys lovynge wyfe,
Wythe brinie tears dydd wett the floore,
  For goode Syr Charleses lyfe.
 
‘O goode Syr Charles!’ sayd Canterlone,        25
  ‘Badde tydyngs I doe brynge.’
‘Speke boldlie, manne,’ sayd brave Syr Charles,
  ‘Whatte says the traytor kynge?’
 
‘I greeve to telle; before yonne Sonne
  Does fromme the welkin flye,        30
Hee hathe uponne hys honour sworne,
  Thatt thou shalt surelie die.’
 
‘Wee all must die,’ quod brave Syr Charles;
  ‘Of thatte I’m not affearde;
Whatte bootes to lyve a little space?        35
  Thanke Jesu, I’m prepar’d:
 
‘Butt telle thye kynge, for myne hee’s not,
  I’de sooner die to-daie
Thanne lyve hys slave, as manie are,
  Though I shoulde lyve for aie.’        40
 
Thenne Canterlone hee dydd goe out,
  To telle the maior straite
To gett all thynges ynne reddyness
  For goode Syr Charleses fate.
 
Thenne Maisterr Canynge saughte the kynge,        45
  And fell down onne hys knee;
‘I’m come,’ quod hee, ‘unto your grace
  To move your clemencye.’
 
Thenne quod the kynge, ‘Youre tale speke out,
  You have been much oure friende;        50
Whatever youre request may bee
  Wee wylle to ytte attende.’
 
‘My nobile leige! alle my request,
  Ys for a nobile knyghte,
Who, though mayhap hee has donne wronge,        55
  Hee thoughte ytte stylle was ryghte:
 
‘Hee has a spouse and children twaine,
  Alle rewyn’d are for aie;
Yff that you are resolved to lett
  Charles Bawdin die to-daie.’        60
 
‘Speke not of such a traytour vile,’
  The kynge ynn furie sayde;
‘Before the evening starre doth sheene,
  Bawdin shall loose hys hedde:
 
‘Justice does loudlie for hym calle,        65
  And hee shalle have hys meede:
Speke, maister Canynge! Whatte thynge else
  Att present doe you neede?’
 
‘My nobile leige!’ goode Canynge sayde,
  ‘Leave justice to our Godde,        70
And laye the yronne rule asyde;
  Be thyne the olyve rodde.
 
‘Was Godde to serche our hertes and reines,
  The best were synners grete;
Christ’s vycarr only knowes ne synne,        75
  Ynne alle thys mortall state.
 
‘Lette mercie rule thyne infante reigne,
  ’Twylle faste thye crowne fulle sure;
From race to race thye familie
  Alle sov’reigns shall endure:        80
 
‘But yff wythe bloode and slaughter thou
  Beginne thy infante reigne,
Thy crowne uponne thy childrennes brows
  Wylle never long remayne.’
 
‘Canynge, awaie! thys traytour vile        85
  Has scorn’d my power and mee;
Howe canst thou thenne for such a manne
  Entreate my clemencye?’
 
‘Mie nobile leige! the trulie brave
  Wylle valorous actions prize;        90
Respect a brave and nobile mynde,
  Although ynne enemies.’
 
‘Canynge, awaie! By Godde ynne Heaven
  Thatt dydd mee being gyve,
I wylle nott taste a bitt of breade        95
  Whilst thys Syr Charles dothe lyve.
 
‘By Marie, and alle Seinctes ynne Heaven,
  Thys sunne shall be hys laste.’
Thenne Canynge dropt a brinie teare,
  And from the presence paste.        100
 
Wyth herte brymm-fulle of gnawynge grief,
  Hee to Syr Charles dydd goe,
And sat hymn downe uponne a stoole,
  And teares beganne to flowe.
 
‘Wee all must die,’ quod brave Syr Charles;        105
  ‘Whatte bootes ytte howe or whenne;
Dethe ys the sure, the certaine fate
  Of all wee mortall menne.
 
‘Saye why, my friend, thie honest soul
  Runns overr att thyne eye;        110
Is ytte for my most welcome doome,
  Thatt thou dost child-lyke crye?’
 
Quod godlie Canynge, ‘I doe weepe,
  Thatt thou soe soone must dye,
And leave thy sonnes and helpless wyfe;        115
  ’Tys thys thatt wettes myne eye.’
 
‘Thenne drie the tears thatt out thyne eye
  From godlie fountaines sprynge;
Dethe I despise, and alle the power
  Of Edwarde, traytour kynge.        120
 
‘Whan through the tyrant’s welcom means
  I shall resigne my lyfe,
The Godde I serve wylle soone provyde
  For bothe mye sonnes and wyfe.
 
‘Before I sawe the lyghtsome sunne,        125
  Thys was appointed mee;
Shall mortall manne repyne or grudge
  What Godde ordeynes to bee?
 
‘Howe oft ynne battaile have I stoode,
  Whan thousands dy’d arounde;        130
Whan smokynge streemes of crimson bloode
  Imbrew’d the fatten’d grounde:
 
‘Howe dydd I knowe thatt every darte,
  That cutte the airie waie,
Myghte notte fynde passage toe my harte,        135
  And close myne eyes for aie?
 
‘And shall I nowe, forr feare of dethe,
  Looke wanne and bee dysmayde?
No! fromme my herte flie childyshe feere,
  Bee alle the manne display’d.        140
 
‘Ah! goddelyke Henrie! Godde forefende,
  And guard thee and thye sonne,
Yff ’tis hys wylle; but yff ’tis nott,
  Why thenne hys wylle bee donne.
 
‘My honest friende, my faulte has beene        145
  To serve Godde and mye prynce;
And thatt I no tyme-server am,
  My dethe wylle soone convynce.
 
‘Ynne Londonne citye was I borne,
  Of parents of grete note;        150
My fadre dydd a nobile armes
  Emblazon onne hys cote:
 
‘I make ne doubte butt hee ys gone
  Where soone I hope to goe;
Where wee for ever shall bee blest,        155
  From oute the reech of woe.
 
‘Hee taughte mee justice and the laws
  Wyth pitie to unite;
And eke hee taughte mee howe to knowe
  The wronge cause fromme the ryghte:        160
 
‘Hee taughte mee wyth a prudent hande
  To feede the hungrie poore,
Ne lett mye servants dryve awaie
  The hungrie fromme my doore:
 
‘And none can saye butt alle mye lyfe        165
  I have hys wordyes kept;
And summ’d the actyonns of the daie
  Eche nyghte before I slept.
 
‘I have a spouse, goe aske of her
  Yff I defyl’d her bedde?        170
I have a kynge, and none can laie
  Black treason onne my hedde.
 
‘Ynne Lent, and onne the holie eve,
  Fromme fleshe I dydd refrayne;
Whie should I thenne appeare dismay’d        175
  To leave thys worlde of payne?
 
‘Ne, hapless Henrie! I rejoyce,
  I shall ne see thye dethe;
Moste willynglie ynne thye just cause
  Doe I resign my brethe.        180
 
‘Oh, fickle people! rewyn’d londe!
  Thou wylt kenne peace ne moe;
Whyle Richard’s sonnes exalt themselves,
  Thye brookes wythe bloude wylle flowe.
 
‘Saie, were ye tyr’d of godlie peace,        185
  And godlie Henrie’s reigne,
Thatt you dyd choppe your easie daies
  For those of bloude and peyne?
 
‘Whatte though I onne a sledde be drawne,
  And mangled by a hynde,        190
I doe defye the traytor’s power,
  Hee can ne harm my mynd;
 
‘Whatte though, uphoisted onne a pole,
  Mye lymbes shall rotte ynne ayre,
And ne ryche monument of brasse        195
  Charles Bawdin’s name shall bear;
 
‘Yett ynne the holie booke above,
  Whyche tyme can’t eate awaie,
There wythe the servants of the Lord
  Mye name shall lyve for aie.        200
 
‘Thenne welcome dethe! for lyfe eterne
  I leave thys mortall lyfe:
Farewell vayne world, and alle that’s deare,
  Mye sonnes and lovynge wyfe!
 
‘Nowe dethe as welcome to mee comes,        205
  As e’er the moneth of Maie;
Nor woulde I even wyshe to lyve,
  Wyth my dere wyfe to staie.’
 
Quod Cantynge, ‘’Tys a goodlie thynge
  To bee prepar’d to die;        210
And from thys world of peyne and grefe
  To Godde ynne heaven to flie.’
 
And nowe the belle began to tolle,
  And claryonnes to sound;
Syr Charles hee herde the horses feete        215
  A prauncyng onne the grounde:
 
And just before the officers
  His lovynge wyfe came ynne,
Weepynge unfeigned teeres of woe,
  Wythe loude and dysmalle dynne.        220
 
‘Sweet Florence! nowe I praie forbere,
  Ynne quiet lett mee die;
Praie Godde, thatt every Christian soule
  Maye looke onne dethe as I.
 
‘Sweet Florence! why these brinie teers?        225
  Theye washe my soule awaie,
And almost make mee wyshe for lyfe,
  Wyth thee, sweete dame, to staie.
 
‘’Tys butt a journie I shalle goe
  Untoe the lande of blysse;        230
Nowe, as a proofe of husbande’s love,
  Receive thys holie kysse.’
 
Thenne Florence, fault’ring ynne her saie,
  Tremblynge these wordyes spoke,
‘Ah, cruele Edwarde! bloudie kynge!        235
  Mye herte ys welle nyghe broke:
 
‘Ah, sweete Syr Charles! why wylt thou goe,
  Wythoute thye lovynge wyfe?
The cruelle axe thatt cuttes thy necke,
  Ytte eke shall ende mye lyfe.’        240
 
And nowe the officers came ynne
  To brynge Syr Charles awaie,
Whoe turnedd toe hys lovynge wyfe,
  And thus to her dydd saie:
 
‘I goe to lyfe, and nott to dethe;        245
  Truste thou ynne Godde above,
And teache thy sonnes to feare the Lorde,
  And ynne theyre hertes hym love:
 
‘Teache them to runne the nobile race
  Thatt I theyre fader runne;        250
Florence! shou’d dethe thee take—adieu!
  Yee officers, leade onne.’
 
Thenne Florence rav’d as anie madde,
  And dydd her tresses tere;
‘Oh staie, mye husbande, lorde, and lyfe!’        255
  Syr Charles thenne dropt a teare.
 
’Tyll tyredd oute wythe ravynge loude,
  Shee fellen onne the flore;
Syr Charles exerted alle hys myghte,
  And march’d fromme oute the dore.        260
 
Uponne a sledde hee mounted thenne,
  Wythe lookes full brave and swete;
Lookes, thatt enshone ne more concern
  Thanne anie ynne the strete.
 
Before hym went the council-menne,        265
  Ynne scarlett robes and golde,
And tassils spanglynge ynne the sunne,
  Muche glorious to beholde:
 
The Freers of Seincte Augustyne next
  Appeared to the syghte,        270
Alle cladd ynne homelie russet weedes,
  Of godlie monkysh plyghte:
 
Ynne diffraunt partes a godlie psaume,
  Moste sweetlie theye dydd chaunt;
Behynde theyre backes syx mynstrelles came,        275
  Who tun’d the strunge bataunt.
 
Thenne fyve-and-twentye archers came;
  Echone the bowe dydd bende,
From rescue of Kynge Henrie’s friends
  Syr Charles forr to defend.        280
 
Bolde as a lyon came Syr Charles,
  Drawne onne a clothe-layde sledde,
Bye two blacke stedes ynne trappynges white,
  Wyth plumes uponne theyre hedde:
 
Behynde hym fyve-and-twentye moe        285
  Of archers stronge and stoute,
Wyth bended bowe echone ynne hande,
  Marchèd ynne goodlie route;
 
Seincte Jameses Freers marched next,
  Echone hys parte dydd chaunt;        290
Behynde theyre backes syx mynstrelles came,
  Who tun’d the strunge bataunt:
 
Thenne came the maior and eldermene,
  Ynne clothe of scarlett deck’t;
And theyre attendynge mene echone,        295
  Lyke easterne princes trickt:
 
And after them, a multitude
  Of citizenns dydd thronge;
The wyndowes were alle fulle of heddes,
  As hee dydd passe alonge.        300
 
And whenne hee came to the hyghe crosse,
  Syr Charles dydd turne and saie,
‘O thou, thatt savest manne fromme synne,
  Washe mye soule clean thys daie!’
 
Att the grete mynsterr wyndowe sat        305
  The kynge ynne myckle state,
To see Charles Bawdin goe alonge
  To hys most welcom fate.
 
Soone as the sledde drewe nyghe enowe,
  Thatt Edwarde hee myghte heare,        310
The brave Syr Charles hee dydd stande uppe,
  And thus hys wordes declare:
 
‘Thou seest me, Edwarde! traytour vile!
  Expos’d to infamie;
Butt bee assur’d, disloyall manne!        315
  I’m greaterr nowe thanne thee.
 
‘Bye foule proceedyngs, murdre, bloude,
  Thou wearest nowe a crowne;
And hast appoynted mee to die,
  By power nott thyne owne.        320
 
‘Thou thynkest I shall die to-daie;
  I have beene dede ’till nowe,
And soone shall lyve to weare a crowne
  For aie uponne my browe:
 
‘Whylst thou, perhapps, for som few yeares,        325
  Shalt rull thys fickle lande,
To lett them knowe howe wyde the rule
  ’Twixt kynge and tyrant hande:
 
‘Thye power unjust, thou traytour slave!
  Shall falle onne thye owne hedde’—        330
Fromme out of hearyng of the kynge
  Departed thenne the sledde.
 
Kynge Edwarde’s soule rush’d to hys face,
  Hee turn’d hys hedde awaie,
And to hys broder Gloucester        335
  Hee thus dydd speke and saie:
 
‘To hym that soe much dreaded dethe
  Ne ghastlie terrors brynge,
Beholde the manne! hee spake the truthe,
  Hee’s greater thanne a kynge!’        340
 
‘Soe let hym die!’ Duke Richard sayde;
  ‘And maye echone oure foes
Bende downe theyre neckes to bloudie axe
  And feede the carryon crowes.’
 
And nowe the horses gentlie drewe        345
  Syr Charles uppe the hyghe hylle;
The axe dydd glysterr ynne the sunne,
  His pretious bloude to spylle.
 
Syrr Charles dydd uppe the scaffold goe,
  As uppe a gilded carre        350
Of victorye, bye val’rous chiefs
  Gayn’d ynne the bloudie warre:
 
And to the people hee dyd saie,
  ‘Beholde you see mee dye,
For servynge loyally mye kynge,        355
  Mye kynge most ryghtfullie.
 
‘As longe as Edwarde rules thys land,
  Ne quiet you wylle knowe:
Your sonnes and husbandes shalle bee slayne
  And brookes wythe bloude shall flowe.        360
 
‘You leave youre goode and lawfulle kynge,
  Whenne ynne adversitye;
Lyke mee, untoe the true cause stycke,
  And for the true cause dye.’
 
Thenne he, wyth preestes, uponne hys knees,        365
  A prayer to Godde dyd make,
Beseechynge hym unto hymselfe
  Hys partunge soule to take.
 
Thenne, kneelynge downe, hee layde hys hedde
  Most seemlie onne the blocke;        370
Whyche fromme hys bodie fayre at once
  The able heddes-manne stroke.
 
And oute the bloude beganne to flowe,
  And rounde the scaffolde twyne;
And teares, enowe to washe’t awaie,        375
  Dydd flow fromme each manne’s eyne.
 
The bloudie axe hys bodie fayre,
  Ynnto foure partes cutte;
And every parte, and eke hys hedde,
  Uponne a pole was putte.        380
 
One parte dydd rotte onne Kynwulph-hylle,
  One onne the mynster-tower,
And one from off the castle-gate
  The crowen dydd devoure;
 
The other onne Seyncte Powle’s goode gate,        385
  A dreery spectacle;
Hys hedde was plac’d onne the hyghe crosse,
  Ynne hyghe-streete most nobile.
 
Thus was the ende of Bawdin’s fate:
  Godde prosper longe oure kynge,        390
And grante hee maye, wyth Bawdin’s soule,
  Ynne heaven Godd’s mercie synge!
 
Note 1. This poem is an account of the execution of Sir Baldwin Fulford, a Lancastrian knight, who was put to death by order of Edward IV, in 1461. Edward is said to have watched the procession as it passed to the place of execution, from a window in St. Ewen’s Church. [back]
 
 
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