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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

VIII. The English Chaucerians

§ 4. George Ashby

There is no poetry in Burgh: there could not well be any; and there is, and there could be, as little in George Ashby, clerk of the signet to queen Margaret of Anjou, who, being imprisoned in the Fleet, c. 1461–3, for debt and other causes which he makes more obscure, wrote there fifty rime royal stanzas of reflection and self-condolence on his state. At a more uncertain time, but in his own eightieth year, he composed, in the same metre, a longer poem on the Active Policy of a Prince, intended to instruct the ill-fated son of Margaret and Henry before they “stabbed [him] in the field by Tewkesbury.” A yet larger collection, in the same stanza but detached, of more “sayings of the philosophers” is also attributed to Ashby: didactic verse being particularly dear to that troubled and gloomy century. The sense is sound and often shrewd enough, showing the rather Philistine and hard but canny temper of the later Middle Ages; and the verse is not so irregular as in some of Ashby’s contemporaries. But it is not illumined by one spark of the divine fire. As none of these versifiers is everywhere accessible, a single stanza, fairly average in character, may be given:

  • Yf ye cannot bringe a man by mekenesse,
  • By swete glosyng wordes and fare langage,
  • To the entente of your noble highnesse,
  • Correcte him sharpely with rigorous rage,
  • To his chastysment and ferful damage.
  • For who that wol nat be feire entreted
  • Must be foule and rigorously threted.