Know this old castle welle
Know this old castle welle, upon whose stone
You treadde, and in whos walles lived once a manne
Whose grace and vertue there twin hath bene none:
Though we may imitate him, as we canne.
Althogh many him knew, poor few they were
Ageynst the host of thoose who lacked that pryse.
Hope we thus that these rocks the wether beare
And by his memory virtue then ryse.
The keeps fundatioun Eneas set,
Its arches Boece and Pythagros raysed;
Orfeo the corte beautee and kyndnesse met
And Troilus the fruites of long labour praysed.
Step then onto this haloowed coble grounde
And thinke upon what of him now remaines:
The forme to which his spirit now lacks bounde,
Keeping what true nobilitie engraines.
In his brow, this halle, wisdome did resyde
And spring forwarde in aide to al he knew;
So that not he aloone his wit may gyde,
But in eache soul that sede of reason grew.
Upon the gate his face was flag of joye,
That he might share also of lyf his love:
None he denied, no thoughte was his annoy,
But to live righte and well as writ above.
He did serve honestely, with heralds tonge,
To speake corteous and eke in ful truth
For king and realme, and ladie, do no wronge
But give many harts a noble rebirth.
His eye, that towre above, which looked o’er all
And judged with oonly love and mercie greate,
Myghte have in other no swich wherwithal
To close off crueller mynd, his vice to beate.
These men, extentiounes of his mighty handes,
Worke and help with all that they may reche
To boost the folke of his beloved landes,
To his own payne would gladde he others tecche.
That throon was his herte, ne’er adorned welle
As oughte, if such virtue can be so clad
In stuff of manne that but gylds its small shelle;
Love like as his no vaulte cold yet be made.
His forme the rampart is, and walls without
That did encircle and enframe his soule.
There wille and wyt did conquer passions rout
And make best what man can hope to call whole.
Yet even nowe the fair halles empteed are,
And cracke the stones under the weight of tyme;
O happy knight, whose castell was thy care,
Sleepe well to musicke of a cosmic ryme.
And as for us, that shelter in hys shade,
May we but reade the longe lines of his face,
That somdaye share his virtu as a trade
And witnes how the Son doth mete His Grace.
This poem was written in honor of Duke Gyrth Oldcastle of Ravenspur, who passed away on November 12, 2004. He was a paragon of chivalry and courtesy, and while I did not know him well during his life, I hope that those who did might be comforted by the poor tribute I could offer to a man whom many of us in the SCA owe a great debt.
I based this poem (I hope fittingly!) on Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey's, 1542 (or so) tribute to Sir Thomas Wyatt, “Wyatt resteth here.”
Wyatt was essentially the first English Renaissance poet - he introduced the works of Petrarch to Henry VIII's court with his own sometimes-loose translations of the Rime Sparse.
Howard was a generation after Wyatt, and had an education that Wyatt couldn't afford - Howard studied the classics and looked to them for guidance and inspiration in his works. He invented blank verse to translate Virgil's Aeneid into a proper English form. He (like Wyatt in this regard) studied and imitated Chaucer for English poetry, but Howard also imitated Wyatt (beyond just translating Petrarch himself!), whom he considered the 'new' classic poet to emulate.
"Wyatt resteth here" is 38 lines long - 1 line for each year of Wyatt's life. I made Gyrth's 52 lines, because I understand he was very close to his 52nd birthday if not there already. Plus, it allows for every line to have a rhyme, while 51 doesn't.
I hoped to imitate the best of the English poets to give him something that he might find suitable, though perhaps (and modestly so) unwarranted.