1] The poem is written in 16th-century English, too late to be Henry VI's, but the poem may translate a Latin original by Henry. At any rate, the poem remains famous today, being in the 16th edition of Bartlett's Quotations (1992).
Sir John Harington writes to the son of James I: "My ancestor Sir James Haryington did once take prisoner, with his party, this poor Prince; for which the House of York did graunt him a parcel of lands in the northern counties, and which he was fool enough to lose again, after the battle of Bosworth ..." (I, 385); and "The verse I did mean to presente your Highnesse wyth is as doth now followe, and well suteth the temper and condition of him who made it" (I, 386).
2] staie: stay, support. The Oxford English Dictionary reports this sense ("stay," sb. 2) only in the 16th century.
5] pryvie pricke: secretly piercing spur (possibly quibbling on the penis and sexual pleasure, though this sense appears to be a 16th-century one).
7] unprompt: a rare word, no in the Oxford English Dictionary, perhaps meaning "slow to come."
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: Sir John Harington, "Sir John Harington to Prince Henry, 1609," Nugæ Antiquæ: Being a Miscellaneous Collection of Original Papers, in Prose and Verse; Written during the Reigns of Henry VIII. Edward VI. Queen Mary, Elizabeth, and King James, selected by Henry Harington, edited by Thomas Park (London: Vernor and Hood, and Cuthell and Martin, 1804): I, 386.DA 320 H37 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1779
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/17
Other poems by Henry VI