Henry Howard was born in 1517, the first son of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey. When his father became 3rd Duke of Norfolk in 1524, Henry was given the courtesy title of Earl of Surrey, which is the name under which his poetry is known. His short but eventful life fell entirely within the reign of Henry the Eighth, ending with his execution for treason in 1547. His most anthologised poem refers to period of separation from his wife while on military duty in France. It is a lament for their enforced separation, spoken, as it were, by his wife. It is untitled but begins ‘O happy dames, that may embrace/The frute of your delight…’ The whole poem is extraordinarily delicate and beautiful and I would single out the second stanza as of unrivalled perfection. Furthermore I have have always felt that the image was present to Shakespeare in lines from the Epilogue of Prospero, although scalding sighs have been replaced by gentle breath. Here follow Surrey and Shakespeare:-
In ship, freight with rememberance Of thoughtes and pleasures past, He sails that hath in governance My life, while it will last; With scalding sighs for lack of gale, Furdering his hope, that is his sail Toward me, the swete port of his avail. ____________________________________________ Gentle breath of yours my sails Must fill or else my project fails, Which was to please. Now I want Spirits to enforce, art to enchant; And my ending is despair Unless it be relieved by prayer; Which pierces so that it assaults Mercy itself and frees all faults. As you from crimes would pardoned be, Let your indulgence set me free.