I have been a Foster

Original Text: 
British Library Add. MS 31922, fols. 65v-66; John Stevens, Music & Poetry in the Early Tudor Court (London: Methuen, 1961): 408-09.
2    Long and many a day.
3Foster will I be no more--
4    No longer shoot I may.
5    Yet have I been a foster.
6Hang I will my noble bow
7    Upon the greenwood bough,
8For I cannot shoot in plain
9    Nor yet in rough
10    Yet have I been a foster.
11Every bow for me is too big.
12    Mine arrow nigh worn is.
13The glue is slipped from the nick.
14    When I should shoot, I miss.
15    Yet have I been a foster.
17    Out of her court to go.
18Right plainly she shewith me
19    That beauty is my foe.
20    Yet have I been a foster.
21My beard is so hard, God wot,
22    When I should maidens kiss,
23They stand aback and make it strange.
24    Lo, age is cause of this.
25    Yet have I been a foster.
26Now will I take to me my beads
28And pray I will for them that may,
30    Yet have I been a foster.

Notes

1] foster: forester (i.e., one who keeps (the king's) forests and the game within it, i.e., deer. Back to Line
16] Lady Venus: this points to the performance of this song on January 6, 1514, at the royal palace of Richmond, Surrey, in an "Interlude with a moresque, devised by Sir Harry Guildford, of six persons including Ladies Venus and Beauty, and a fool" (Ian Lancashire, Dramatic Texts and Records of Britain: A Chronological Topography to 1558 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984): 255). Back to Line
27] my saints' book: a book of saints' lives, e.g., the well-known Golden Legend. Back to Line
29] The subtlety of the sexual innuendo utterly disappears here. The arrow--"glue"-less at the "nick" (13)--is phallic, and the bow vaginal (cf. line 11). Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1997.
Rhyme: