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Ware the Hawk

by John Skelton

Prologus Skeltonidis Laureati super Ware the Hawk

This work deviséd is
For such as do amiss;
And specially to control
Such as have cure of soul,
That be so far abuséd
They cannot be excuséd
By reason nor by law;
But that they play the daw,
To hawk, or else to hunt
From the altar to the font,
Why cry unreverent,
Before the sacrament,
Within holy church's boundés,
That of our faith the ground is.
That priest that hawkés so
All grace is far him fro;
He seemeth a schismatic.
Or else an heretic,
For faith in him is faint.
Therefore to make complaint
Of such misadviséd
Parsons and disguiséd,
This book we have deviséd,
Compendiously compriséd,
No good priest to offend,
But such daws to amend,
In hope that no man shall
Be miscontent withal.

  I shall you make relation,
By way of apostrophation,
Under supportation
Of your patient toleration,
How I, Skelton Laureate,
Deviséd and also wrate
Upon a lewd curáte,
A parson beneficéd,
But nothing well adviséd.
He shall be as now nameless,
But he shall not be blameless,
Nor he shall not be shameless;
For sure he wrought amiss
To hawk in my church of Diss.
This fond frantic falconer,
With his polluted pawtener,
As priest unreverent,
Straight to the sacrament
He made his hawk to fly,
With hugeous shout and cry.
The high altar he stripped naked;
Thereon he stood and crakéd;
He shook down all the clothés,
And sware horrible oathés
Before the face of God,
By Moses and Aaron's rod,
Ere that he hence yede
His hawk should pray and feed
Upon a pigeon's maw.
The blood ran down raw
Upon the altar-stone;
The hawk tiréd on a bone;
And in the holy place
She dungéd there a chase
Upon my corporas' face.
Such sacrificium laudis
He made with such gambades.


His second hawk waxéd gery,
And was with flying weary;
She had flowen so oft,
That on the rood-loft
She perchéd her to rest.
The falconer then was prest,
Came running with a dow,
And cried 'Stow, stow, stow!'
But she would not bow.
He then, to be sure,
Calléd her with a lure.
Her meat was very crude,
She had not well endued;
She was not clean ensaiméd,
She was not well reclaiméd:
But the falconer unfainéd
Was much more feebler brainéd.
The hawk had no list
To come to his fist;
She lookéd as she had the frounce;
With that he gave her a bounce
Full upon the gorge.
I will not feign nor forge-
The hawké with that clap
Fell down with evil hap.
The church doors were sparréd.
Fast bolted and barréd,
Yet with a pretty gin
I fortuned to come in,
This rebel to behold,
Whereof I him controlled.
But he saidé that he would,
Against my mind and will,
In my church hawké still.


On Saint John decollation
He hawkéd in this fashion,
Tempore vesperarum.
Sed non secundum Sarum,
But like a March harum
His braines were so parum.
He said he would not let
His houndés for to fet
To hunt there by liberty
In the despite of me,
And to halloo there the fox.
Down went my offering-box,
Book, bell and candle.
All that he might handle-
Cross, staff, lectern and banner,
Fell down in this manner.

Norfolk Poems




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