More Skelton: Mistress Isabell & Mistress Gertrude

John Skelton ( c.1460-1529)

AG: There’s another one here [of John Skelton‘s] that we can have a look-see, there’s a nice easy one – To Mistress Isabell Pennell” – It’s not in the.. I think it is.. it’s not in the Norton, “not in the Norton” – it’s not in the Norton (anthology)..

[Allen reads the poem in its entirety] – “By Saint Mary, my lady…”

By Saint Mary, my lady,
Your mammy and your dady
Brought forth a goodly baby !
My maiden Isabel,
Reflaring rosabell,
The flagrant camamell,
The ruddy rosary,
The sovereign rosemary,
The pretty strawberry,
The columbine, the nepte,
The jeloffer well set,
The proper violet ;
Ennewëd your colowre
Is like the daisy flower
After the April shower ;
Star of the morrow gray,
The blossom on the spray,
The freshest flower of May :
Maidenly demure,
Of womanhood the lure ;
Wherefore I make you sure
It were an heavenly health,
It were and endless wealth,
A life for God himself,
To hear this nightingale
Among the birdës smale
Warbeling in the vale,—
Dug, dug, jug, jug,
Good year and good luck,
With chuck, chuck, chuck, chuck !

and reads the whole last part of the stanza again (from “It were an heavenly health..“)

AG: It’s really good – lines nine hundred and seventy three to one-thousand-and-three of this poem from “The Garland of Laurel”. There really must be an enormous… Is that a complete Skelton or..?
Anne Waldman: No, that was just a Selected
AG: Where did you get it?
Anne Waldman: In England…in Cambridge
AG: Who published that one?
Anne Waldman; Oxford University Press
AG: Oxford? How much?
Anne Waldman: One pound twenty five pence [sic – 1980]
AG: About three bucks..That’s good. So Skelton is really worth reading and most sophisticated poets, like,you know, really good poets who know the scene, have read through Skelton a lot and love Skelton because Skelton turns them on and Skelton was really simple and Skelton knows what’s what – and Skelton trips along/ and with Skelton you can’t go wrong!/ With Skelton, you can go back/ (you know, like go right on the track,/ where you were as a kid/ – and no-one will forbid/ you to go on with Skelton/ and make the merry mel-tones,

So Skelton just comes to mind, Skeltonics come to mind automatic. It’s a natural form that kids use, I guess. You recognize it, don’t you? Is there anybody who hasn’t.. doesn’t recognize that as some archetype, but it’s like an archetype that’s.. It’s weird. Skelton is famous among poets. They don’t read him really, except five or six pieces. (W.H.) Auden was really into Skelton and he’s got these long, long sections of Skelton in this big anthology that I’ve been using (you know, you’ve seen it, Poets of the English Language, I’ve mentioned it a number of times). I don’t know if we’ve got that in the library, we ought to get it. But I guess it’s getting back to early ear, you know, to childhood ear. And then, again, filling it with mature intelligence. So if you take the childish ear and childish rhythm and put important things in it, then you can get through to other people in some kind of memorable form, rememberable form.

So I guess Skelton is worth absorbing, all the way. There must be an awful lot.. (there’s a lot of Skelton I don’t know, actually) there must be an awful lot that’s really good. It would be interesting to have a, like a really great short course on Skelton. Yeah?… have a short course on Skelton that really did cover his high spots. Probably the anthologies have them – some – like if you.., They’ll come up in various anthologies, What have they got? Here’s The Oxford Book of English Poetry, let’s see what they’ve got of Skelton [Allen searches through the book]- You know, these two, and another one, yeah – They have “To Mistress Isabell Pennell” which I read,“To Mistress Margaret Hussey”, which you’ve got in your book, and they have a third –To Mistress Gertrude Statham (“Though ye were hard-hearted “With virtue well-renewed”)

Though ye were hard hearted.
And I with you thwarted
With words that smarted,
Yet now doubtless ye give me cause
To write of this goodly clause
Mistress Gertrude,
With womanhood endured,
With virtue well renewed,
I will that ye shall be
In all benignity
Like to Dame Pasiphe;
For now doubtless ye give me cause
To write of this goodly clause

Mistress Gertrude,
With womanhood endured,
With virtue well renewed,
Partly by your counsel.
Garnished with laurel
Was my fresh coronel;
Wherefore doubtless ye give me cause
To write of this goodly clause

Gad, He’s got these funny repeat cycles. Okay, then, Skelton – 1460 to 1529, or, what do they say here? – yeah, 1460 to 1529. And then I’ll.. there’s Wyatt where does Wyatt come? (rifling through) – We’ve got the popular ballads here. Wyatt is actually 1503 to 1542, so, roughly contemporary, so, before we get into the ballads, maybe a couple more Wyatt….

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventy-two-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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