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Short poem

Henry Howard, earl of Surrey (1517?-1547)

Lady Surrey's Lament for her Absent Lord

              1Good ladies, you that have your pleasure in exile,
              2    Step in your foot, come take a place, and mourn with me a while,
              3And such as by their lords do set but little price,
              4    Let them sit still: it skills them not what chance come on the dice.
              5But ye whom Love hath bound by order of desire
              6    To love your lords, whose good deserts none other would require:
              7Come you yet once again, and set your foot by mine,
              8    Whose woeful plight and sorrows great no tongue may well define.
              9My love and lord, alas, in whom consists my wealth,
            10    Hath fortune sent to pass the seas in hazard of his health.
            11That I was wont for to embrace, contented mind's,
            12    Is now amid the foaming floods at pleasure of the winds.
            13There God him well preserve, and safely me him send,
            14    Without which hope, my life alas were shortly at an end.
            15Whose absence yet, although my hope doth tell me plain,
            16    With short return he comes anon, yet ceaseth not my pain.
            17The fearful dreams I have, oft times they grieve me so,
            18    That then I wake and stand in doubt, if they be true, or no.
            19Sometime the roaring seas, me seems, they grow so high,
            20    That my sweet lord in danger great, alas, doth often lie.
            21Another time the same doth tell me, he is come;
            22    And playing, where I shall him find with T., his little son.
            23So forth I go apace to see that liefsome sight,
            24    And with a kiss me thinks I say: "Now welcome home, my knight;
            25Welcome my sweet, alas, the stay of my welfare;
            26    Thy presence bringeth forth a truce betwixt me and my care."
            27Then lively doth he look, and salveth me again,
            28    And saith: "My dear, how is it now that you have all this pain?"
            29Wherewith the heavy cares that heap'd are in my breast,
            30    Break forth, and me dischargeth clean of all my huge unrest.
            31But when I me awake and find it but a dream,
            32    The anguish of my former woe beginneth more extreme,
            33And me tormenteth so, that uneath may I find
            34    Some hidden where, to steal the grief of my unquiet mind.
            35Thus every way you see with absence how I burn;
            36    And for my wound no cure there is but hope of good return;
            37Save when I feel, by sour how sweet is felt the more,
            38    It doth abate some of my pains that I abode before.
            39And then unto myself I say: "When that we two shall meet,
            40    But little time shall seem this pain, that joy shall be so sweet."
            41Ye winds, I you convert in chiefest of your rage,
            42    That you my lord me safely send, my sorrows to assuage;
            43And that I may not long abide in such excess,
            44    Do your good will to cure a wight that liveth in distress.


1] A dramatic monologue in which Surrey reveals to his wife that he does understand the answer to the question he poses in her dream (28), how it is that his return is met with weeping.
Probably written to his wife while Surrey was on military service in France during 1543-4. The long verse of twelve and fourteen syllables, common in sixteenth-century poetry, was called poulter's (i.e., poulterer's) measure by Gascoigne in his treatise on versification, Certain Notes of Instruction, 1575. Title devised by Padelford. Tottel's title: "Complaint of the absence of her louer being vpon the sea." Some of Tottel's alterations are so considerable that they may, in part, represent later authorial revision; e.g., line 20: "That my dear lord (ay me alas) methinks I see him die."

3] set but little price: value little.

4] skills them not: makes no difference to them.

7] set your foot by mine: vie with me in sorrow.

11] wont for: used.

22] T.: Thomas Howard, the poet's eldest son.

23] liefsome: pleasant.

27] salveth: salutes, greets.

33] uneath: scarcely.

44] wight: person.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Nott, George Fred., ed. The Works of Henry Howard earl of Surrey and of Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder. London: Longman, 1815-16. 2 vols. PR 2370 A1 1815 ROBA.
First publication date: 1557
RPO poem editor: F. D. Hoeniger
RP edition: 3RP 1.17.
Recent editing: 4:2002/5/29

Form: Poulter's Measure
Rhyme: couplets

Other poems by Henry Howard, earl of Surrey