Aloud – John Skelton – To Mistress Margaret Hussey

Pourbus_lady_pomander (1)

Lady with pomander

Whenever I open an anthology of English poetry this is always one of the first poems I turn to. I love its rhythms. I also think that, although we know nothing about Mistress Margaret Hussey, thousands of people down the centuries after having read this poem have thought they would have liked to meet her.




(listen to the poem here)



Merry Margaret,
As midsummer flower:
Gentle as falcon
Or hawk of the tower:
With solace and gladness,
Much mirth and no madness,
All good and no badness;
So joyously,
So maidenly,
So womanly
Her demeaning
In every thing,
Far, far passing
That I can indite,
Or suffice to write
Of Merry Margaret,
As midsummer flower,
Gentle as falcon,
Or hawk of the tower;
As patient and still
And as full of good will,
As fair Isaphill,
Coriander,
Sweet pomander,
Good Cassander,
Steadfast of thought,
Well made, well wrought,
Far may be sought
Ere that ye can find
So courteous, so kind
As Merry Margaret,
This midsummer flower,
Gentle as falcon
Or hawk of the tower.

(A few words which might be unfamiliar:

demeaning – demeanour

indite – put into words

Isaphill – Hypsipyle, princess of Lemnos, a paragon of womanly beauty and perfection

pomander – a mixture of perfumed or aromatic substances carried in a ball

Cassander – Cassandra)

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