Two poems possibly written for Maud Stanhope

Posted: January 30, 2012 in Gervase Clifton, Maud Stanhope, Lady Willoughby, Thomas Nevill

In Sir Richard Roos: Lancastrian poet, Ethel Seaton deciphers anagrams in Roos’s poems in order to piece together just who and what the poems were about. Now, I’m not at all sure I fully understand the process, nor am I entirely sure how sound this process is, but using these clues, she has attributed two poems (one in the Devonshire ms and one in the Egerton ms) to Roos; the first written for Thomas Nevill and the second for Gervase Clyfton. (Both have also been attributed to sir Thomas Wyatt.) I linked to both of these in my last blog, but I thought it might be worth including them here in full:

Thomas’s poem

Ye know my herte my ladye dere
that sins the tyme I was  yor thrall
I have bene yors bothe hole and clere
tho my rewarde hathe bene but small
so am I yet and more then all
And ye kno well how I haue serued
as yf ye prove it shall apere
howe well / how longe
how faithefulye
and soffred wrong
how patientlye
then sins that I have neuer swarfde
let not my paines be ondeserude

Ye kno also though ye saye naye
that you alone are my desire
and you alone yt is that maye
asswage my fervent flaming fire
Soccor me then I you require
Ye kno yt ware a Iust request
sins ye do cause my heat I saye
yf that I bourne
that ye will warme
and not to tourne
all to my harme
sending soch flame from frossen brest
againste nature for my vnreste

And I kno well how scornefullye
ye have mistane my true entente
and hidreto how wrongfullye
I have founde cause for to repente
but if yor herte doth not relente
sins I do kno that this ye kno
ye shall fle me all wilfullye
for me and myne
and all I have
ye maye assine
to spill or save
whye are ye then so cruell foo
vnto yor owne that lovis you so.

from The Devonshire Manuscript

This poem need not suggest that Thomas was in love with his wife. It may have been commissioned for the wedding celebrations as an honour to the bride. It certainly celebrates the ideals of courtly love  – the faithful lover, the disdain of his lady love – and one suspects a man hostile, or even indifferent, to his bride might not have thought to have such a poem written. I’ve said before that the Nevills seems to have had remarkable luck with their marriage partners, or perhaps wise parents who cared enough about their children’s happiness to choose well, or maybe they were just determined not to spend their lives in marital misery and worked at it. Whatever the reality of it, I have a sense that, at the very least, their marriage began with hope, and perhaps the promise, of lasting affection. Whether that was sustained and sustainable is another matter.

Gervase’s poem

To seke eche where, where man doth lyve,
The See, the land, the Rock, the clyve,
Fraunce, Spayne and Ind and every where
Is none a greater gift to gyve,
Lesse sett by oft and is so lyff and dere,
Dare I well say than that I gyve to yere.
I cannot gyve browches nor Ringes,
Thes goldsmythes work and goodly thinges,
Piery nor perle oryente and clere,
But for all that is no man bringes
Leffer Juell vnto his lady dere,
Dare I well say, then that I gyve to yere.
Nor I seke not to fetche it farr,
Worse is it not tho it be narr,
And as it is it doeth appere
Vncontrefaict mistrust to barr,

Left hole and pure withouten pere,
Dare I well say the gift I gyve to yere.
To the therefore the same retain;
The like of the to have again,
Fraunce would I gyve if myn it were;
Is none alyve in whome doeth rayne
Lesser disdaine; frely, therfore, lo here,
Dare I well gyve, I say, my hert to yere.

from Collected Poems of Thomas Wyatt

This poem is to my ear much more straightforward than the first. Clyfton didn’t need to have the words dressed up in the imagery of courtly love, though there is certainly some there. He isn’t a poor man, exactly, nor without honour and position, but he is poorer than his wife. She is the one endowing him with wordly gifts, all he has to give her is his heart.

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