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Poem by John Skelton


Upon a Dead Man's Head


Your ugly token
My mind hath broken
From worldly lust.
For I have discussed.
We are but dust
And die we must.
It is generall.
To be mortall.
I have well espied
No man may him hide!
With sinews witheréd,
From death hollow-eyed.
With bones shudderéd
With his worm-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 Gospell.
For whereso we dwell,
Death will us quell
And with us mell.
For all our pampered paunches
There may no fraunchise
For worldly bliss,
Redeem us from this,
Our days be dated,
To be check-mated,
With draughts of death
Stopping our breath,
Our eyen sinking,
Our bodies stinking,
Our gummys grinning,
Our souls brynning.
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 bottomless bale,
Nor to the lake
Of fiendys blake.
But grant us grace
To see thy face,
And to purchase
Thine heavenly place,
And thy palace
Full of solace
Above the sky,
That is so high.
Eternally
To behold and see
The Trinity. Amen.



John Skelton


John Skelton's other poems:
  1. A Lawde and Prayse
  2. The Prelates
  3. Woefully Arrayed
  4. The Book of Phillip Sparrow
  5. To the Second Person

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