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Short poem

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

London, hast thou Accused me

              1London, hast thou accused me
              2Of breach of laws, the root of strife?
              3Within whose breast did boil to see,
              4So fervent hot, thy dissolute life,
              5That even the hate of sins that grow
              6Within thy wicked walls so rife,
              7For to break forth did convert so
              8That terror could it not repress.
              9The which, by words since preachers know
            10What hope is left for to redress,
            11By unknown means it liked me
            12My hidden burden to express,
            13Whereby it might appear to thee
            14That secret sin hath secret spite;
            15From justice' rod no fault is free;
            16But that all such as work unright
            17In most quiet are next ill rest.
            18In secret silence of the night
            19This made me, with a reckless breast,
            20To wake thy sluggards with my bow--
            21A figure of the Lord's behest,
            22Whose scourge for sin the Scriptures show.
            23That, as the fearful thunder-clap
            24By sudden flame at hand we know,
            25Of pebble-stones the soundless rap
            26The dreadful plague might make thee see
            27Of God's wrath that doth thee enwrap;
            28That pride might know, from conscience free
            29How lofty works may her defend;
            30And envy find, as he hath sought,
            31How other seek him to offend;
            32And wrath taste of each cruel thought
            33The just shapp higher in the end;
            34And idle sloth, that never wrought,
            35To heaven his spirit lift may begin;
            36And greedy lucre live in dread
            37To see what hate ill-got goods win;
            38The lechers, ye that lusts do feed,
            39Perceive what secrecy is in sin;
            40And gluttons' hearts for sorrow bleed,
            41Awaked, when their fault they find:
            42In loathsome vice each drunken wight
            43To stir to God, this was my mind.
            44Thy windows had done me no spite;
            45But proud people that dread no fall,
            46Clothed with falsehood and unright,
            47Bred in the closures of thy wall;
            48But wrested to wrath in fervent zeal,
            49Thou haste to strife, my secret call.
            50Endured hearts no warning feel.
            51O shameless whore, is dread then gone
            52By such thy foes as meant thy weal?
            53O member of false Babylon!
            54The shop of craft, the den of ire!
            55Thy dreadful doom draws fast upon;
            56Thy martyrs' blood, by sword and fire,
            57In heaven and earth for justice call.
            58The Lord shall hear their just desire;
            59The flame of wrath shall on thee fall;
            60With famine and pest lamentably
            61Stricken shall be thy lechers all;
            62Thy proud towers and turrets high,
            63En'mies to God, beat stone from stone,
            64Thine idols burnt that wrought iniquity;
            65When none thy ruin shall bemoan,
            66But render unto the right wise Lord
            67That so hath judged Babylon,
            68Immortal praise with one accord.


1] First printed by Nott in 1816. Probably written in 1543, when Surrey and some of his boon companions were committed to Fleet Prison on the double charge of eating meat during Lent and of walking in "a lewd and unseemly manner" "in the night about the streets and breaking with stonebows of certain windows" (Acts of the Privy Council, spelling modernized). See line 20. The satire is of course mock-serious.

3] Within whose breast: Surrey's own.

7-8] For to break ... That: so turned me to break forth that even.

8] terror: fear of retribution.

10] I.e., no hope.

21-27] Cf. Isaiah 47 and Jeremiah 51:3.

28-41] The seven deadly sins are pride (28), envy (30), wrath (32), sloth (34), covetousness or lucre (36), lechery (38), and gluttony (40).

33] shapp: imagine, conceive.

42] wight: person.

43] mind: intention.

45-55] Cf. Revelation 18.

46] falsehood: MS. "falshed."

47] thy wall: London was a walled city at this time.

60] pest: plague.

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: 1816
RPO poem editor: F. D. Hoeniger
RP edition: 3RP 1.16.
Recent editing: 4:2002/5/29

Composition date: 1513
Rhyme: ababcdcd ...

Other poems by Henry Howard, earl of Surrey