Chidiock Tichborne At Dylan's blog,


Chidiock Tichborne

At Dylan's blog, we have what may be the single extant poem from his hand, and quite lovely it is too. Elegaic and moving, it is his own elegy, written prior to his execution for treason. I hadn't heard of the man, so I needed to do some work to find out more. Here from Louis Untermeyer is a précis. My apologies to Dylan, direct linking is broken, and I do not wish to lose this lovely poem to obscurity, so I repeat the entire thing below the excerpt from Untermeyer, including Dylan's lead comment. (Just drop me a line if you wish me to remove it--I'll log it on my PDA and get rid of it, if need be).

Louis Untermeyer source unattributed

Tichborne was not pre-eminently a poet but a conspirator. History is not sure of the part he played in the attempt to do away with Queen Elizabeth. Conjecture has it that he was born about 1558 somewhere in Southampton, and it is said that his father, Peter Tichburne, traced his descent from Roger de Tichburne, a knight in the reign of Henry II. His family was ardently Catholic and both Chidiock and his father were zealous champions of the Church of Rome; they did not scruple to abet the king of Spain in "holy" attacks on the English government. In 1583, Chidiock and his father were questioned concerning the possession and use of certain "popish relics"; somewhat later they were further implicated as to their "sacrilegious and subversive practices". In April 1586, Chidiock joined a group of onspirators. In June, at a meeting held in St.Giles-in-the-Fields he agreed to be one of the six who were pledged to murder the Queen and restore the kingdom to Rome. The conspiracy was discovered in time; most of the conspirators fled. But Tichborne, who had remained in London because of an injured leg, was captured on August 14th and taken to the Tower. On September 14th, he was tried and pled guilty. He was executed on September 20th. In a grim finale, history relates, he was "disembowelled before life was extinct" and the news of the barbarity "reached the ears of Elizabeth, who forbade the recurrence."

On September 19, 1586, the night before he was executed, Chidiock wrote to his wife Agnes. The letter enclosed three stanzas beginning:"My prime of youth is but a frost of cares."

This elegy is so restrained yet so eloquent, so spontaneous, and so skillfully made that it must be ranked among the little masterpieces of literature. The grave but not yet depressing music of the lines is emphasized by the repetition of the rhymed refrain, as though the poet were anticipating the slow tolling of the bell announcing his death.

He was twenty-eight years old.

Now, complete from Dylan's blog go there and see. (Once again, my apologies Dylan).

'My prime of youth is but a frost of cares'

[We note in this poem from the Glorious Sixteenth Century a kinship to a much later poem : Francis Thompson's "The Hound of Heaven," especially those lines near the middle of the poem : My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap ... My days have crackled and gone up in smoke, Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream ... with the difference that there seems to be no Godward-turning, no note of praise at the end of Tichborne's poem. A bleak psalm, well-wrought and simple, which speaks from the centre of a very sad heart.]

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain.
The day is gone and I yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

The spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung,
The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green,
My youth is gone, and yet I am but young,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seen,
My thread is cut, and yet it was not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I lookt for life and saw it was a shade,
I trode the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I am but made.
The glass is full, and now the glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 5, 2002 9:26 AM.

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