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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

Bristowe Tragedie

Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770)

Or the Dethe of Sir Charles Bawdin

THE FEATHERED songster chaunticleer

Han wounde hys bugle horne,

And tolde the earlie villager

The commynge of the morne:

Kynge Edwarde sawe the ruddie streakes

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!

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

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.

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,

‘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,

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?

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.’

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,

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;

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,

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.’

‘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,

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,

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,

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:

‘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

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;

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

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.

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;

‘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;

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;

’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.

‘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,

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;

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,

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.

‘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

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;

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,

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:

‘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

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?

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

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.

‘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,

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,

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

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.

‘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,

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;

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

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.

‘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?

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;

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!

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.’

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;

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;

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!’

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.

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,

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,

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,

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.

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

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;

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,

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.

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

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,

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!

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.

‘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,

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’—

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

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!’

‘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

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

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,

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.

‘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,

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;

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,

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.

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,

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,

And grante hee maye, wyth Bawdin’s soule,

Ynne heaven Godd’s mercie synge!