The Catholic University of America

A Political Retrospect (1462)

 

 

Source:

Society of Antiquaries, MS. 101, fol. 98r, col. 1.

Editions:

  • Political Poems and Songs Relating to English History, ed. Thomas Wright, Rolls Series 14 (London, 1861), II, 267-70.
  • Historical Poems of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, ed. Rossell Hope Robbins (New York, 1959), pp. 222-226.

In 1462, a Yorkist poet celebrating the recent triumph of Edward IV over Henry VI composed a lengthy retrospect of recent English history in order to legitimize Edward's claim to the throne. The first four stanzas of the poem, which praise Archbishop Richard Scrope as a loyal defender of Yorkist politics and condemn Henry IV as a murderous usurper, are reprinted below.

 

To have in mynde callyng to Remembbraunse
The gret wrongys doon of oold antiquitey,
Unrightful heyres by wrong alyaunce
Usurpyng this Royaume caused gret adversitey;
Kyng Richard the secounde, high of dignytee,
Whiche of Ingeland was Rightful enheritoure,
In whos tyme ther was habundaunce with plentee
Of welthe & erthely Ioye withought langoure.

Than cam henry of derby, by force & myght,
& undir the colour of fals periury,
He toke this rightwys kyng, goddes trew knyght,
And hym in prison put perpetuelly.
Pyned to deth, alas, ful pyteuxly!
Holy bisshope Scrope, the blyssed confessour,
In that quarel toke hys deth ful paciently,
That all the world spak of that gret langoure.

Whos deth ys a very trew evidence
To all Ingeland for the iust title & lyne,
Which for the trowthe by tyranny & violence
Was put doun, and suspect hold benysyne;
Many a trew lord then put to mortil fyne;
Alway they have ben aboute with Rigoure
The lynaige of kyng richard to undirmyne,
That longe have lyved in gret langoure.

God smote the said henry for hys gret fersnesse,
With a lepre holdyng hym to hys end fynally,
Next hym henry the fyfte, of kynghtly prowesse,
Named the best of that lyne & progeny;
How-be-it he regned unrightfully,
Yit he upheld in Ingeland the honnour.
Henry, hys sone, of Wyndesore, by gret foly,
All hath retourned unto huge langoure.