Pre-19th Century Poets-2

Text to the above poem:


Good-morrow to the day so fair,
Good-morning, sir, to you;
Good-morrow to mine own torn hair
Bedabbled with the dew.

Good-morning to this primrose too,
Good-morrow to each maid
That will with flowers the tomb bestrew
Wherein my love is laid.

Ah! woe is me, woe, woe is me!
Alack and well-a-day!
For pity, sir, find out that bee
Which bore my love away.

I’ll seek him in your bonnet brave,
I’ll seek him in your eyes;
Nay, now I think they’ve made his grave
I’ th’ bed of strawberries.

I’ll seek him there; I know ere this
The cold, cold earth doth shake him;
But I will go, or send a kiss
By you, sir, to awake him.

Pray hurt him not; though he be dead,
He knows well who do love him,
And who with green turfs rear his head,
And who do rudely move him.

He’s soft and tender (pray take heed);
With bands of cowslips bind him,
And bring him home—but ’tis decreed
That I shall never find him!




Sting perform’s Robert Southwell’s “The Burning Babe”:



As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,

Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;

And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,

A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;

Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed

As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.

“Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,

Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!

My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,

Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;

The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,

The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,

For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,

So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.”

With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,

And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.


by Robert Southwell, SJ (1561–1595)



ADIEU, farewell earth’s bliss!
This world uncertain is:
Fond are life’s lustful joys,
Death proves them all but toys.
None from his darts can fly;
I am sick, I must die–
Lord, have mercy on us!

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade;
All things to end are made;
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die–
Lord, have mercy on us!

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye;
I am sick, I must die–
Lord, have mercy on us!

Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector brave;
Swords may not fight with fate;
Earth still holds ope her gate;
Come, come! the bells do cry;
I am sick, I must die–
Lord, have mercy on us!

Wit with his wantonness
Tasteth death’s bitterness;
Hell’s executioner
Hath no ears for to hear
What vain art can reply;
I am sick, I must die–
Lord, have mercy on us!

Haste therefore each degree
To welcome destiny;
Heaven is our heritage,
Earth but a player’s stage.
Mount we unto the sky;
I am sick, I must die–
Lord, have mercy on us!




Written by Chidiock Tichborne (August 1562 – 20 September 1586), poet, nobleman and conspirator in the Tower of London on the eve of his execution 19 September 1586.
He had been sentenced for his role in the Babington Plot, a conspiracy that sought to free the unjustly held Mary, Queen of Scots from her 19 years of house arrest, and put her on the throne of her cousin, (and jailer) Elizabeth I.
As the scheme necessitated the assassination of Elizabeth, the discovery of the plot also sealed the fate of Mary Stuart. She would meet her fate at the block in February of the next year.
Tichborne and his fellow conspirators were drawn and quartered.
It is said that among Mary’s papers, found after her execution, was a copy of the Elegy, which had already become widely known in spite of Elizabeth’s ministers doing their best to suppress its circulation. They feared, quite rightly, that it would create sympathy for the traitors.
It is not clear exactly how old Tichborne was when he died, although the best estimate of historians has been 24.

The reader in the above video has adopted his pseudonym from this poem.  Written in the voice of a homeless “Bedlamite,” This anonymous poem was probably composed at the beginning of the 17th century; in How to Read and Why, noted critic Harold Bloom calls it “the greatest anonymous lyric in the [English] language.”

Tom O’ Bedlam’s Song


From the hagg and hungrie goblin

That into raggs would rend ye,

And the spirit that stands by the naked man

In the Book of Moones – defend ye!


That of your five sound senses

You never be forsaken,

Nor wander from your selves with Tom

Abroad to beg your bacon.


(Chorus; sung after every verse)


While I doe sing “any foode, any feedinge,

Money, drinke or clothing,”

Come dame or maid, be not afraid,

Poor Tom will injure nothing.


Of thirty bare years have I

Twice twenty been enraged,

And of forty been three times fifteen

In durance soundly caged.


On the lordly lofts of Bedlam,

With stubble soft and dainty,

Brave bracelets strong, sweet whips ding-dong,

With wholesome hunger plenty.


With a thought I took for Maudlin

And a cruse of cockle pottage,

With a thing thus tall, skie blesse you all,

I befell into this dotage.


I slept not since the Conquest,

Till then I never waked,

Till the roguish boy of love where I lay

Me found and stript me naked.


When I short have shorne my sowre face

And swigged my horny barrel,

In an oaken inn I pound my skin

As a suit of gilt apparel.


The moon’s my constant Mistrisse,

And the lowly owl my morrowe,

The flaming Drake and the Nightcrow make

Me music to my sorrow.


The palsie plagues my pulses

When I prigg your pigs or pullen,

Your culvers take, or matchless make

Your Chanticleers, or sullen.


When I want provant, with Humfrie

I sup, and when benighted,

I repose in Powles with waking souls

Yet never am affrighted.


I know more than Apollo,

For oft, when he lies sleeping

I see the stars at bloody wars

In the wounded welkin weeping,


The moone embrace her shepherd

And the queen of Love her warrior,

While the first doth horne the star of morne,

And the next the heavenly Farrier.


The Gipsie Snap and Pedro

Are none of Tom’s companions.

The punk I skorne and the cut purse sworne

And the roaring boyes bravadoe.


The meek, the white, the gentle,

Me handle touch and spare not

But those that crosse Tom Rynosseros

Do what the panther dare not.


With a host of furious fancies

Whereof I am commander,

With a burning spear and a horse of air,

To the wilderness I wander.


By a knight of ghostes and shadowes

I summon’d am to tourney

Ten leagues beyond the wild world’s end.

Methinks it is no journey.


— Anonymous