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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry

The Tudor Lyric like so many poetic terms can have two definitions.

  • Tudor Lyric is a stanzaic form found in Shapes of Our Singing by Canadian poet, author and educator Robin Skelton. Skelton described the form as a popular choice of 16th century English poets. He believed it was influenced by the ancient Welsh meter, Rhupunt, possibly brought to the court under the reign of King Edward I when the Welsh were placed under English law. Skelton cited Sir Thomas Wyatt as one who often used this form although I was unable to find a single example of its use in the anthologies I have available. Obviously my medieval library needs expanding.

    The Tudor Lyric as described by Robin Skelton is:

    • stanzaic, written in any number of octaves.
    • accentual verse with 2 stresses and 4 syllables per line.
    • rhymed, aaabcccb dddefffe etc.


      Silenced by Judi Van Gorder


      With scratchy throat

      I can't emote

      or even quote

      the note out loud.

      So soon to bed

      the tome unread

      I lay my head

      upon a cloud.

  • The Tudor Lyric also refers to any English poetry of the 16th century which could be set to music. The period spanned the reign of the line of Tudors. Poetry during this time was often sung, usually accompanied by a lyre. Interestingly all Tudors, except Edward, were musical. Henry VIII and Elizabeth both wrote music, played instruments and sang their compositions for the royal court. Many lyrics of Henry VIII have been documented. The classic, Greensleeves has even been attributed to Henry although the true author remains unknown. Some believe he wrote it while he was moving on from Ann Boleyn.


    The English royal court of that time was where the arts flourished although early on in the competitive, romantic atmosphere, literature was often clichéd and patronizing of the royal family. It also was often a means to gain social or political favor. Much of Robert Sidney's work was written while in exile and his poetry was his way of trying to get back into the King's good graces.


    Some prominent poets of the era, were Sir Thomas Wyatt, Henry Howard Earl of Surrey, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Edmund Spencer, Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlow, William Shakespeare and John Donne. The form of writing was varied, sonnets, cinquains, odes, blank verse and many of the French and Italian forms were experimented with in English.

    Sometime I fled the fire by Sir Thomas Wyatt

    Sometime I fled the fire, that me so burnt,

    By sea, by land, by water, and by wind:

    And now, the coals I follow, that be quaint,

    From Douer to Calais, with willing mind,

    Lo, how desire is both furth sprung, and spent:

    And he may see, that whilom was so blind:

    And all his labor, laughs he now to scorn,

    Meshed in the briers, that erst was only torn.

    In court to serve, The courtiers life. by Sir Thomas Wyatt

    IN court to serve decked with fresh array,

    Of sugared meats feeling the sweet repast:

    The life in bankets, and sundry kinds of play,

    Amid the press of lordly lokes to waste,

    Hath with it ioynde oft times such bitter taste.

    That who so ioys such kind of life to hold,

    In prison is fettered with chains of gold.



    Alas, my love, you do me wrong,

    To cast me off discourteously.

    For I have loved you well and long,

    Delighting in your company.



    Greensleeves was all my joy

    Greensleeves was my delight,

    Greensleeves was my heart of gold,

    And who but my lady greensleeves.


    Your vows you've broken, like my heart,

    Oh, why did you so enrapture me?

    Now I remain in a world apart

    But my heart remains in captivity.




    I have been ready at your hand,

    To grant whatever you would crave,

    I have both wagered life and land,

    Your love and good-will for to have.




    If you intend thus to disdain,

    It does the more enrapture me,

    And even so, I still remain

    A lover in captivity.




    My men were clothed all in green,

    And they did ever wait on thee;

    All this was gallant to be seen,

    And yet thou wouldst not love me.




    Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,

    but still thou hadst it readily.

    Thy music still to play and sing;

    And yet thou wouldst not love me.




    Well, I will pray to God on high,

    that thou my constancy mayst see,

    And that yet once before I die,

    Thou wilt vouchsafe to love me.




    Ah, Greensleeves, now farewell, adieu,

    To God I pray to prosper thee,

    For I am still thy lover true,

    Come once again and love me.



    Pastime with good company By King Henry VIII 1513

    Pastime with good company

    I love and shall until I die.

    Grudge who likes, but none deny,

    So God be pleased, thus live will I.

    For my pastance:

    Hunt, sing, and dance.

    My heart is set!

    All goodly sport

    For my comfort.

    Who shall me let?


    Youth must have some dalliance,

    Of good or ill some pastance.

    Company I think then best --

    All thoughts and fantasies to digest.

    For idleness

    Is chief mistress

    Of vices all.

    Then who can say

    But mirth and play

    Is best of all?


    Company with honesty

    Is virtue -- vices to flee.

    Company is good and ill,

    But every man has his free will.

    The best ensue.

    The worst eschew.

    My mind shall be.

    Virtue to use.

    Vice to refuse.

    Thus shall I use me!



Pastime With Good Company from UTube

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