A poem by the earl of Surrey
Margaret Wentworth, the wife of Sir John Seymour [ warden 1491 - 1536 ], was the subject of a well known poem by John Skelton. Her son's second wife, Anne Stanhope, was also a subject of a poem, this time produced by Henry Howard, earl of Surrey [1517–1547]. However, little of the content concerned romance, or admiration for the subject. According to his biographer, Susan Brigden, "there was deadly seriousness in his contrast between the nobility of the lion and the viciousness of the wolf. The lion vowed revenge".
The white lion was the heraldic emblem of the Howard family, and the wolf was the emblem of the Stanhope family. The poem was written no earlier than 1537, when Anne Stanhope, the wife of Sir Edward Seymour, was Viscountess Beauchamp. The Seymours were considered by Henry Howard as part of an upstart new nobility.
EACH beast can choose his fere according to his mind,
And eke can show a friendly chere, like to their beastly kind.
A lion saw I late, as white as any snow,
Which seemed well to lead the race, his port the same did show.
Upon the gentle beast to gaze it pleased me,
For still methought he seemed well of noble blood to be.
And as he pranced before, still seeking for a make,
As who would say, 'There is none here, I trow, will me forsake',
I might perceive a Wolf as white as whalèsbone,
A fairer beast of fresher hue, beheld I never none ;
Save that her looks were coy, and froward eke her grace :
Unto the which this gentle beast gan him advance apace,
And with a beck full low he bowed at her feet,
In humble wise, as who would say, 'I am too far unmeet.'
But such a scornful chere, wherewith she him rewarded !
Was never seen, I trow, the like, to such as well deserved.
With that she start aside well near a foot or twain,
And unto him thus gan she say, with spite and great disdain :
'Lion,' she said, 'if thou hadst known my mind before,
Thou hadst not spent thy travail thus, nor all thy pain for-lore.
Do way ! I let thee weet, thou shalt not play with me :
Go range about, where thou mayst find some meeter fere for thee.'
With that he beat his tail, his eyes began to flame ;
I might perceive his noble heart much moved by the same.
Yet saw I him refrain, and eke his wrath assuage,
And unto her thus gan he say, when he was past his rage :
' Cruel ! you do me wrong, to set me thus so light ;
Without desert for my good will to shew me such despite.
How can ye thus intreat a Lion of the race,
That with his paws a crowned king devoured in the place.2
Whose nature is to prey upon no simple food,
As long as he may suck the flesh, and drink of noble blood.
If you be fair and fresh, am I not of your hue ?3
And for my vaunt I dare well say, my blood is not untrue.
For you yourself have heard, it is not long ago,
Sith that for love one of the race did end his life in woe,
In tower both strong and high, for his assured truth,
Whereas in tears he spent his breath, alas ! the more the ruth.
This gentle beast so died, whom nothing could remove,
But willingly to lese his life for loss of his true love.4
Other there be whose lives do linger still in pain,
Against their will preserved are, that would have died fain.
But now I do perceive that nought it moveth you,
My good intent, my gentle heart, nor yet my kind so true.
But that your will is such to lure me to the trade,
As other some full many years trace by the craft ye made.
And thus behold my kinds, how that we differ far ;
I seek my foes ; and you your friends do threaten still with war.
I fawn where I am fled ; you slay, that seeks to you ;
I can devour no yielding prey ; you kill where you subdue.
My kind is to desire the honour of the field ;
And you with blood to slake your thirst on such as to you yield.
Wherefore I would you wist, that for your coyed looks,
I am no man that will be trapp'd, nor tangled with such hooks.
And though some lust to love, where blame full well they might ;
And to such beasts of current sought, that should have travail bright ;
I will observe the law that Nature gave to me,
To conquer such as will resist, and let the rest go free.
And as a falcon free, that soareth in the air,
Which never fed on hand nor lure ; nor for no stale 5 doth care ;
While that I live and breathe, such shall my custom be
In wildness of the woods to seek my prey, where pleaseth me ;
Where many one shall rue, that never made offence :
Thus your refuse against my power shall boot them no defence.
And for revenge thereof I vow and swear thereto,
A thousand spoils I shall commit I never thought to do.
And if to light on you my luck so good shall be,
I shall be glad to feed on that, that would have fed on me.
And thus farewell, Unkind, to whom I bent and bow ;
I would you wist, the ship is safe that bare his sails so low.
Sith that a Lion's heart is for a Wolf no prey,
With bloody mouth go slake your thirst on simple sheep, I say,
With more despite and ire than I can now express ;
Which to my pain, though I refrain, the cause you may well guess.
As for because myself was author of the game,
It boots me not that for my wrath I should disturb the same.'
1. Howard, Henry, earl of Surrey (1517–1547), poet and soldier by Susan Brigden Oxford University Press.
2.The Poetical Works of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854.