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Philip Sparrow

by John Skelton


PLA ce bo!
Who is there, who?
Di le xi!
Dame Margery,
Fa, re, my, my.
Wherefore and why, why?
For the soul of Philip Sparrow
That was late slain at Carrow,
Among the Nunnės Black.
For that sweet soulės sake,
And for all sparrows’ souls,
Set in our bead-rolls,
Pater noster qui,
With an Ave Mari,
And with the corner of a Creed,
The more shall be your meed.
     When I remember again
How my Philip was slain,
Never half the pain
Was between you twain,
Pyramus and Thisbe,
As then befell to me.
I wept and I wailed,
The tearės down hailed,
But nothing it availed
To call Philip again
Whom Gib, our cat, hath slain.
     Gib, I say, our cat,
Worried her on that
Which I lovèd best.
It cannot be exprest
My sorrowful heaviness,
But all without redress!
For within that stound,
Half slumbering, in a sound
I fell down to the ground.
     Unneth I cast mine eyes
Toward the cloudy skies.
But when I did behold
My sparrow dead and cold,
No creature but that would
Have ruèd upon me
To behold and see
What heaviness did me pang:
Wherewith my hands I wrang,
That my sinews cracked,
As though I had been racked,
So pained and so strained
That no life wellnigh remained.
     I sighed and I sobbed,
For that I was robbed
Of my sparrow’s life.
O maiden, widow, and wife,
Of what estate ye be,
Of high or low degree,
Great sorrow then ye might see,
And learn to weep at me!
Such pains did me fret
That mine heart did beat,
My visage pale and dead,
Wan, and blue as lead:
The pangs of hateful death
Wellnigh had stopped my breath.
     Like Andromach, Hector’s wife,
Was weary of her life,
When she had lost her joy,
Noble Hector of Troy;
In like manner alsó
Increaseth my deadly woe,
For my sparrow is go.
     It was so pretty a fool,
It would sit on a stool,
And learned after my school
For to keep his cut,
With ‘Philip, keep your cut!’
     It had a velvet cap,
And would sit upon my lap
And seek after small worms,
And sometime white bread-crumbs;
And many times and oft
Between my breastės soft
It would lie and rest;
It was proper and prest.
     Sometime he would gasp
When he saw a wasp;
A fly or a gnat,
He would fly at that;
And prettily he would pant
When he saw an ant.
Lord, how he would pry
After the butterfly!
Lord, how he would hop
After the gressop!
And when I said, ‘Phip, Phip!’
Then he would leap and skip,
And take me by the lip.
Alas, it will me slo
That Philip is gone me fro!
     Si in i qui ta tes
Alas, I was evil at ease!
Di pro fun dis cla ma vi,
When I saw my sparrow die!
Norfolk Poems




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