Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Last Poem by Anthony Woodville

When my love of writing and my love of history come together I become a very happy bunny! lol.  I wanted to share this poem as part of my 'Poets that I love' but not many people will have heard of Anthony Woodville - he isn't a famous poet. He is more well known to historians. I first came across his poem reading Philippa Gregory's 'The White Queen' - A wonderful book about Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's Queen, what a fascinating life she lead! I would highly recommend the book.

Here is his poem ~

Somewhat musing,
and more mouring,
In remembering 
This world being,
of such wheeling,
Me contrarying,
What may I guess?

I fear doubtless, 
Is now to seize
My woeful chance;
for unkindness, 
and no redress.
Me doth advance

with displeasure, 
to my grievance,
and no surance
of remedy;
Lo, in this trace,
Now in substance,
such is my dance,
willing to die.

Methinks truly
Bouden am I,
and that greatly.
To be content;
seeing plainly
Fortune doth wry
All contrary
from mine intent

My life was lent
Me to one intent.
It is nigh spent
Welcome, Fortune!
but I ne went
Thus to be shent
but she it meant;
such is her won 

I know this is hard to read, but to me it has such depth. It was written in 1483 the night before he was due to be beheaded, on the orders of Richard III. Anthony Woodville had been brought up in a wealthy family that were, by the skin of their teeth, surviving the Wars of the Roses. Like many other families they had changed sides and fought in many bloody battles. The whole family were suddenly brought into fame and wealth when Elizabeth Grey, Anthony's widowed sister becomes the Queen of Edward IV, some said at the time that she did so through witchcraft! She was after all the widow of a man that had fought and died opposing Edward IV.
So, after many years of being the favoured family of the royal court, the Woodvilles even earned themselves an Earldom, with Anthony becoming the 2nd Earl Rivers after his father. Their luck and influence ran out when Edward IV died, leaving his young son Edward V as his heir. Anthony was escorting Edward V to London for his coronation when he was captured by Richard III.

Many things are falsely written about Richard III, but this is not one of them. He imprisoned Anthony in Pontefract, charged with treason and without trial, beheaded him on the 25th of June 1483.

His poem is so poignant, having been written in the last few hours of his life. To me it speaks of an acceptance of fate. The wheel of fortune had taken his family to the highest heights and had now turned. I feel he realises in the end that life is a game, a game when in the 1400s life could be taken away at any moment by the displeasure of a ruthless monarch.
Anthony Woodville was a writer, musician and traveller and apparently the author of the first book printed on British soil.

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