Upon a Dead Man's Head

By John Skelton

Your ugly token
My Mind Hath broken
From Worldly Lust:
For I have discussed
We Are but dust
and die we must.
It is general
To be mortal:
I have well espied
No Man may him hide
from Death hollow-eyed,
With sinews wydered,
With bones shydered,
With his work-eaten maw,
And his ghastly Jaw,
gasping aside,
Naked of Hide,
Neither flesh nor fell.
Then, by my counsel,
Look that ye spell,
Well this gospel:
For whereso we dwell
Death will us quell
And with us mell.
For all our pampered paunches
There may no fraunchis,
Nor worldly bliss,
Redeem us from this:
Our days be dated
To be Checkmated
With draughtes of death,
Stopped our breath:
Our eyen sinking,
Our gummes grinning,
Our soules brinning.
To whom, then, shall we sue,
For to have rescue,
But to sweet Jesu
On us then for to rue?
O goodly Child
Of Mary mild,
Then be our shield!
That we be not exiled
To the dyne dale
Of Bootless bale,
Nor to the lake
Of fiendes black.
But grant us grace
to see they Face,
And to they purchase
Thins heavenly place,
And they palace
Full of solace
Above the sky
That is so high:
To behold and see
The Trinity!

Myrres vous y.

To me John Skelton was one of the masters of the early Renaissance English poetry. However as you can see the thought contained in this poem is that of the Middle Ages. It is a good poem, and certainly one of the best of his I have read. It is also one of the grimmest. One can certainly hear some ultra grim and necro black metal band screeching out portions of this poem, if you exclude the religious parts, or make them tre Satanic. I suggest if you are interested in this era of poetry to read more of John Skelton's poetry.

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