John Skelton

(1460—1529) poet

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was created ‘poet‐laureate’ by the universities of Oxford, Louvain, and Cambridge, an academical distinction. He became tutor to Prince Henry (Henry VIII) and enjoyed court favour despite his outspokenness. He was admitted to holy orders in 1498 and became rector of Diss in Norfolk. His principal works include: The Bowge of Courte (c.1498, a satire on the court of Henry VII), A Garlande of Laurell (a self‐laudatory allegorical poem, describing the crowning of the author among the great poets of the world); Phyllyp Sparowe (a lamentation put into the mouth of Jane Scroupe, a young lady whose sparrow has been killed by a cat); Collyn Clout (a complaint by a vagabond of the misdeeds of ecclesiastics), which influenced Spenser. Not only this last poem, but also his satires ‘Speke Parrot’ and Why come ye nat to Courte, contained attacks on Cardinal Wolsey. His most vigorous poem was The Tunnyng of Elynour Rummyng. His play Magnyfycence is an example of the morality. Skelton's Ballade of the Scottysshe Kynge is a spirited celebration of the victory of Flodden.

The verse form known as ‘skeltonic verse’ is derived from his favourite metre, ‘a headlong voluble breathless doggrel, which rattling and clashing on through quick‐recurring rhymes…has taken from the name of its author the title of Skeltonical verse’ (J. C. Collins). As he himself said (Collyn Clout, 53–8):For though my ryme be ragged,Tattered and jagged,Rudely rayne‐beaten,Rusty and mothe‐eaten,Yf ye take well therwith,It hath in it some pyth.

Subjects: Literature.

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Works by John Skelton