Monday, June 11, 2018

John Lydgate

John Lydgate (1370—1449) is a monk and quite prolific as a poet — actually one of England's most voluminous poets. When he was about fifteen, he became a novice at the Benedictine abbey of Bury Saint Edmunds, and later is believed to have attended Oxford University. He was greatly influenced by the work of Geoffrey Chaucer — and although he never met him, he did know the poet's son and his granddaughter. In fact, Alice Chaucer became one of his many patrons, as did the king's brother Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.

George MacDonald shares the following poem in his anthology England’s Antiphons. There he describes Lydgate as “the monk of Bury, a great imitator of Chaucer” — which strikes me as a compliment and a criticism rolled into one; the criticism, however, is one MacDonald extends to much of fifteenth century devotional verse.

Thank God For All

By a way wandering as I went,
Well sore I sorrowed, for sighing sad;
Of hard haps that I had hent
Mourning me made almost mad;

Till a letter all one me lad,
That well was written on a wall,
A blissful word that on I read,
That always said, 'Thank God for all.'

And yet I read furthermore —
Full good intent I took there till:
Christ may well your state restore;
Nought is to strive against his will; it is useless.
He may us spare and also spill:
Think right well we be his thrall, slaves.
What sorrow we suffer, loud or still,
Always thank God for all.

Though thou be both blind and lame,
Or any sickness be on thee set,
Thou think right well it is no shame — think thou.
The grace of God it hath thee gret.
In sorrow or care though ye be knit, snared.
And world's weal be from thee fall, fallen.
I cannot say thou mayst do bet, better.
But always thank God for all.

Though thou wield this world's good,
And royally lead thy life in rest,
Well shaped of bone and blood,
None the like by east nor west;
Think God thee sent as him lest; as it pleased him.
Riches turneth as a ball;
In all manner it is the best in every condition.
Always to thank God for all.

If thy good beginneth to pass,
And thou wax a poor man,
Take good comfort and bear good face,
And think on him that all good wan; did win.

Christ himself forsooth began —
He may renew both bower and hall:
No better counsel I ne kan am capable of.
But always thank God for all.

Think on Job that was so rich;
He waxed poor from day to day;
His beasts died in each ditch;
His cattle vanished all away;
He was put in poor array,
Neither in purple nor in pall,
But in simple weed, as clerks say, clothes: learned men.
And always he thanked God for all.

For Christ's love so do we;
He may both give and take;
In what mischief that we in be, whatever trouble we
He is mighty enough our sorrow to slake. be in.
Full good amends he will us make,
And we to him cry or call: if.
What grief or woe that do thee thrall,
Yet always thank God for all.

Though thou be in prison cast,
Or any distress men do thee bede, offer.
For Christ's love yet be steadfast,
And ever have mind on thy creed;
Think he faileth us never at need,
The dearworth duke that deem us shall;
When thou art sorry, thereof take heed,
And always thank God for all.

Though thy friends from thee fail,
And death by rene hend their life,
Why shouldest thou then weep or wail?
It is nought against God to strive: it is useless.

Himself maked both man and wife —
To his bliss he bring us all: may he bring.
However thou thole or thrive, suffer.
Always thank God for all.

What diverse sonde that God thee send,
Here or in any other place,
Take it with good intent;
The sooner God will send his grace.
Though thy body be brought full base, low.
Let not thy heart adown fall,
But think that God is where he was,
And always thank God for all.

Though thy neighbour have world at will,
And thou far'st not so well as he,
Be not so mad to think him ill, wish.
For his wealth envious to be:
The king of heaven himself can see
Who takes his sonde, great or small;
Thus each man in his degree,
I rede thank God for all. counsel.

For Christ's love, be not so wild,
But rule thee by reason within and without;
And take in good heart and mind
The sonde that God sent all about; the gospel.
Then dare I say withouten doubt,
That in heaven is made thy stall. place, seat, room.
Rich and poor that low will lowte, bow.
Always thank God for all.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.