John Skelton

Here you will find the Long Poem The Bowge of Courte of poet John Skelton

The Bowge of Courte

In Autumpne whan the sonne in vyrgyne
By radyante hete enryped hath our corne
Whan luna full of mutabylyte
As Emperes the dyademe hath worne
Of our pole artyke smylynge halfe in scorne
At our foly and our vnstedfastnesse
The tyme whan Mars to werre hym dyd dres

I callynge to mynde the great auctoryte
Of poetes olde whyche full craftely
Under as couerte termes as coude be
Can touche a troughte and cloke it subtylly
Wyth fresshe vtteraunce full sentencyously
Dyuerse in style some spared not vyce to wrythe
Some of moralyte nobly dyde endyte

Wherby I rede theyr renome and theyr fame
Maye neuer dye bute euermore endure
I was sore moued to a force the same
But Ignoraunce full soone dyde me dyscure
And shewed that in this arte I was not sure
For to Illumyne she sayde I was to dulle
Auysynge me my penne awaye to pulle

And not to wrythe/ for he so wyll atteyne
Excedynge ferther than his connynge is
His hede maye be harde but feble is his brayne
Yet haue I knowen suche er this
But of reproche surely he maye not mys
That clymmeth hyer than he may fotynge haue
What and he slyde downe who shall hym saue

Thus vp & down my mynde was drawen & cast
That I ne wyste what to do was beste
Soo sore enwered that I was at the laste
Enforsed to slepe and for to take some reste
And to lye downe as soone as I me dreste
At harwyche porte slumbrynge as I laye
In myne hostes house called powers keye

Me thoughte I sawe a shyppe goodly of sayle
Come saylynge forth into that hauen brood
Her takelynge ryche and of hye apparayle
She kyste an anker and there she laye at rode
Marchauntes her borded to see what she had lode
Therein they founde Royall marchaundyse
Fraghted with plesure of what ye coude deuyse

But than I thoughte I wolde not dwell behynde
Amonge all other I put myselfe in prece
Than there coude I none aquentaunce fynde
There was moche noyse anone one cryed cese
Sharpely commaundynge eche man holde hys pece
Maysters he sayde the shyp that ye here see
The bowge of courte it hyghte for certeynte

The awnner therof is lady of estate
Whoos name to tell is dame saunce pere
Her marchaundyse is ryche and fortunate
But who wyll haue it muste paye therfore dere
This Royall chaffre that is shypped here
Is called fauore to stonde in her good grace
Than sholde ye see there pressynge in a pace

Of one and other that wolde this lady see
Whiche sat behynde a traues of sylke fyne
Of golde of tessew the fynest that myghte be
In a trone whiche fer clerer dyde shyne
Than Phebus in his spere celestyne
Whoos beaute honoure goodly porte
I haue to lytyll connynge to reporte

But of eche thynge there as I toke hede
Amonge all other was wrytten in her trone
In golde letters this worde whiche I dyde rede
Garder le fortune que est mauelz et bone
And as I stode redynge this verse myselfe allone
Her chyef gentylwoman daunger by her name
Gaue me a taunte and sayde I was to blame

To be so perte to prese so proudly vppe
She sayde she trowed that I had eten sause
She asked yf euer I dranke of saucys cuppe
And I than softly answered to that clause
That so to saye. I had gyuen her no cause
Than asked she me Syr so god the spede
What is thy name and I sayde it was drede

What mouyd the quod she hydder to come
Forsoth quod I to bye some of youre ware
And with that worde on me she gaue a glome
With browes bente and gan on me to stare
Full daynnously and fro me she dyde fare
Leuynge me stondynge as a mased man
To whome there came another gentylwoman

Desyre her name was and so she me tolde
Sayenge to me broder be of good chere
Abasshe you not but hardely be bolde
Auaunce yourselfe to aproche and come nere
What though our chaffer be neuer so dere
Yet I auyse you to speke for ony drede
Who spareth to speke in fayth he spareth to spede

Maystres quod I. I haue none aquentaunce
That wyll for me be medyatoure and mene
And this another I haue but smale substaunce
Pece quod Desyre ye speke not worth a bene
Yf ye haue not in fayth I wyll you lene
A precyous Iewell no rycher in this londe
Bone auenture haue here now in your honde

Shyfte now therwith let see as ye can
In bowge of courte cheuysaunce to make
For I dare saye that there nys erthly man
But an he can bone auenture take
There can no fauour nor frendshyp hym forsake
Bone auenture may brynge you in suche case
That ye shall stonde in fauoure and in grace

But of one thynge I werne you er I goo
She that styreth the shyp make her your frende
Maystres quod I. I praye you tell me why soo
And how I maye that waye & meanes fynde
Forsothe quod she howeuer blowe the wynde
Fortune gydeth and ruleth all oure shyppe
Whome she hateth shall ouer the seebo