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Selected Poetry of Anne Askew (1521-1546)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

  1. The Ballad which Anne Askew made and sang when she was in Newgate


Notes on Life and Works

Thomas Kyme, Anne's husband, expelled her from their Lincolnshire home, after Anne herself left him to preach in London, denying the doctrine of transubstantiation, which holds that the bread and wine of the Christian mass or communion are literally transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Anne held to the Protestant belief that the mass was an act of remembrance and spiritual communion with her God. Rather than keep silent about her faith, she spoke out. She was arrested in 1545, interrogated openly in London, tortured and racked by Sir Anthony Kingston, the Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley, and Richard Rich, and then -- her body covered in gunpowder -- burned at the stake on July 16, 1546, in Smithfield, just outside London Wall. She refused to recant; she especially refused to name others who shared her religious convictions. Her own description of her examinations, however, made their way to John Bale, who printed them abroad. Two years before the death of Henry VIII, Anne endured a martyrdom that many others, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, were to suffer until Elizabeth I came to the throne 22 years later, in 1558. Anne's perfect poem calmly expresses her indomitable spirit and submission to Paul's words in the New Testament, "Now there remain faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

Biographical information

Given name: Anne
Family name: Askew
Birth date: 1521
Death date: 16 July 1546
Nationality: English
Religion: Protestant
Literary period: Renaissance
Occupation: Preacher
Cause of death: burning at the stake
First RPO edition: 2002