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Short poem

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

So Cruel Prison

              1So cruel prison how could betide, alas,
              2As proud Windsor? Where I in lust and joy
              3With a king's son my childish years did pass
              4In greater feast than Priam's sons of Troy;
              5Where each sweet place returns a taste full sour:
              6The large green courts, where we were wont to hove,
              7With eyes cast up unto the maidens' tower,
              8And easy sighs, such as folk draw in love;
              9The stately salles, the ladies bright of hue,
            10The dances short, long tales of great delight;
            11With words and looks that tigers could but rue,
            12Where each of us did plead the other's right;
            13The palm play where, despoiled for the game,
            14With dazed eyes oft we by gleams of love
            15Have miss'd the ball and got sight of our dame,
            16To bait her eyes, which kept the leads above;
            17The gravel'd ground, with sleeves tied on the helm,
            18On foaming horse, with swords and friendly hearts,
            19With cheer, as though the one should overwhelm,
            20Where we have fought, and chased oft with darts;
            21With silver drops the mead yet spread for ruth,
            22In active games of nimbleness and strength,
            23Where we did strain, trailed by swarms of youth,
            24Our tender limbs that yet shot up in length;
            25The secret groves which oft we made resound
            26Of pleasant plaint and of our ladies' praise,
            27Recording oft what grace each one had found,
            28What hope of speed, what dread of long delays;
            29The wild forest, the clothed holt with green,
            30With reins aval'd, and swift ybreathed horse,
            31With cry of hounds and merry blasts between,
            32Where we did chase the fearful hart a force;
            33The void walls eke that harbor'd us each night,
            34Wherewith, alas, revive within my breast
            35The sweet accord, such sleeps as yet delight,
            36The pleasant dreams, the quiet bed of rest;
            37The secret thoughts imparted with such trust,
            38The wanton talk, the divers change of play,
            39The friendship sworn, each promise kept so just,
            40Wherewith we pass'd the winter nights away.
            41And with this thought the blood forsakes the face,
            42The tears berain my cheeks of deadly hue,
            43The which as soon as sobbing sighs (alas)
            44Upsupped have, thus I my plaint renew:
            45"O place of bliss, renewer of my woes,
            46Give me account--where is my noble fere?
            47Whom in thy walls thou didst each night enclose,
            48To other lief, but unto me most dear."
            49Echo (alas) that doth my sorrow rue,
            50Returns thereto a hollow sound of plaint.
            51Thus I alone, where all my freedom grew,
            52In prison pine with bondage and restraint;
            53And with remembrance of the greater grief
            54To banish the less, I find my chief relief.


1] Tottel's title: "Prisoned in Windsor, he recounteth his pleasure there passed." Written during the summer of 1537, while Surrey was confined at Windsor for having struck a courtier. He recalls the years he had spent there in his boyhood with Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, illegitimate son of Henry VIII (see line 3).

2] lust: delight.

4] Priam's sons of Troy:

6] hove: linger.

9] salles: halls, NS.: "sales."

13] palm play: a game resembling handball.
despoiled for: disrobed for the sake of.

16] leads: literally, the frames holding the glass of painted windows; here more probably the leaden window sills.

17] sleeves: lady's sleeves worn by the knight as a love-token.

19] cheer: facial aspect.

20] darts: javelins.

28] speed: success.

29] holt: wood.

30] aval'd: slackened, lowered.
ybreathed: breathing.

32] a force: i.e., with dogs.

33] eke: also.

44] Upsupped: supped up.

48] other lief: others dear.

49-50] because Henry Fitzroy died the previous year.

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 1.14.
Recent editing: 4:2002/5/29

Composition date: 1537
Rhyme: ababcdcd ...

Other poems by Henry Howard, earl of Surrey