Lyric beauty – images of yearning and homesickness

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felt that the image was present to Shakespeare in lines from the Epilogue of Prospero, although scalding sighs have been replaced by gentle breath.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.

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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