Albion's England

Original Text: 
William Warner, Albions England (London: G. Robinson for T. Cadmna, 1586). Cf. 1612 edition: stc Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto). Facs. edn. (Hildesheim: G. Ohms, 1971). PR 2384 W3 A63 1971 Victoria College Library
2Where diversely in divers broils the Saxons lost and won,--
4In loyal concord during life these kingly friends remain.
5When Adelbright should leave his life, to Edel thus he says:
6"By those same bonds of happy love, that held us friends always,
7By our bi-parted crown, of which the moiety is mine,
8By God, to whom my soul must pass, and so in time may thine,
9I pray thee, nay I conjure thee, to nourish as thine own
10Thy niece, my daughter Argentile, till she to age be grown;
11And then, as thou receivest it, resign to her my throne."
12A promise had for this bequest, the testator he dies;
13But all that Edel undertook, he afterward denies.
14Yet well he fosters for a time the damsel, that was grown
15The fairest lady under Heaven; whose beauty being known,
16A many princes seek her love, but none might her obtain:
18And for that cause from sight of such he did his ward restrain.
20The maid, with whom he fell in love as much as one might be.
22Nor he, nor any noble man admitted to her view.
23One while in melancholy fits he pines himself away,
24Anon he thought by force of arms to win her, if he may,
25And still against the king's restraint did secretly inveigh.
26At length the high controller Love, whom none may disobey,
27Imbased him from lordliness, unto a kitchen drudge:
28That so at least of life or death she might become his judge.
29Access so had to see, and speak, he did his love bewray,
30And tells his birth: her answer was she husbandless would stay.
31Meanwhile the king did beat his brains his booty to achieve,
32Nor caring what became of her, so he by her might thrive.
33At last his resolution was some peasant should her wive.
34And (which was working to his wish) he did observe with joy
36The king, perceiving such his vein, promotes his vassal still,
37Lest that the baseness of the man should let, perhaps, his will.
38Assured therefore of his love, but not suspecting who
39The lover was, the king himself in his behalf did woo.
40The lady, resolute from love, unkindly takes that he
41Should bar the noble, and unto so base a match agree;
42And therefore shifting out of doors, departed thence by stealth,
43Preferring poverty before a dangerous life in wealth.
44When Curan heard of her escape, the anguish in his heart
45Was more than much, and after her from court he did depart:
46Forgetful of himself, his birth, his country, friends, and all,
48Nor means he after to frequent or court or stately towns,
50A brace of years he lived thus, well pleased so to live,
51And shepherd-like to feed a flock himself did wholly give.
52So wasting love, by work, and want, grew almost to the wane;
53But then began a second love, the worser of the twain.
54A country wench, a neatherd's maid, where Curan kept his sheep,
55Did feed her drove: and now on her was all the shepherd's keep.
60A sheave of bread as brown as nut, and cheese as white as snow;
61And wildings or the season's fruit he did in scrip bestow.
62And whilst his pie-bald cur did sleep, and sheep-hook lay him by,
63On hollow quills of oaten straw he piped melody;
64But when he spied her, his saint, he wip'd his greasy shoes,
65And clear'd the drivel from his beard and thus the shepherd woos:
66"I have, sweet wench, a piece of cheese, as good as tooth may chaw,
71Am I (I pray thee) beggarly, that such a flock enjoy?
72I know I am not; yet that thou dost hold me in disdain
75The match, that thou (I know not why) mayst, but mislik'st to have.
82"Then choose a shepherd. With the Sun he doth his flock unfold,
83And all the day on hill or plain he merry chat can hold;
84And with the Sun doth fold again; then jogging home betime,
85He turns a crab, or tunes a round, or sings some merry rhyme.
86Nor lacks he gleeful tales to tell, whilst round the bowl doth trot;
87And sitteth singing care away, till he to bed hath got.
88There sleeps he soundly all the night, forgetting morrow cares,
90Or storms by seas, or stirs on land, or crack of credit lost,
91Not spending franklier than his flock shall still defray the cost.
92Well know I, sooth they say that say, 'More quiet nights and days
93The shepherd sleeps and wakes than he whose cattle he doth graze.'
94Believe me, lass, a king is but a man, and so am I;
95Content is worth a monarchy, and mischiefs hit the high;
96As late it did a king and his, not dwelling far from hence,
97Who left a daughter, (save thyself) for fair a matchless wench."--
98Here did he pause, as if his tongue had done his heart offence.--
100How fair she was, and who she was. "She bore," quoth he, "the bell
101For beauty. Though I clownish am, I know what beauty is;
102Or did I not, yet seeing thee, I senseless were to miss.
103Suppose her beauty Helen's-like, or Helen's somewhat less,
104And every star consorting to a pure complexion guess.
105Her stature comely tall, her gait well graced, and her wit
106To marvel at, not meddle with, as matchless I omit.
107A globe-like head, a gold-like hair, a forehead smooth and high,
108An even nose, on either side did shine a greyish eye;
109Two rosy cheeks, round ruddy lips, white just-set teeth within;
111Her snowish neck with blueish veins stood bolt upright upon
113Add more to beauty; wand like was her middle;
116"And more, her long and limber arms had white and azure wrists;
117And slender fingers answer to her smooth and lily fists.
119For amorous eyes, observing form, think parts obscured best.
120"With these (O thing divine) with these, her tongue of speech was spare;
122With Phœbe, Juno, and with both, herself contends in face;
123Where equal mixture did not want of mild and stately grace.
124Her smiles were sober, and her looks were cheerful unto all;
126A quiet mind, a patient mood, and not disdaining any;
127Not gibing, gadding, gaudy, and her faculties were many.
128A nymph, no tongue, no heart, no eye, might praise, might wish, might see
129For life, for love, for form, more good, more worth, more fair than she.
130Yea such a one, as such was none, save only she was such.
131Of Argentile to say the most, were to be silent much."
132"I knew the lady very well, but worthless of such praise,"
134The coat of beauty. Credit me, thy latter speech betrays
135Thy clownish shape a coined show. But wherefore dost thou weep?"
136The shepherd wept, and she was woe, and both doth silence keep.
137"In truth," quoth he, "I am not such as seeming I profess:
138But then for her, and now for thee, I from myself digress.
139Her loved I,--wretch that I am and recreant to be!--
140I loved her, that hated love. But now I die for thee.
141At Kirkland is my father's court, and Curan is my name,
142In Edel's court sometimes in pomp, till love controll'd the same;
143But now--What now? Dear heart, how now? What ailest thou to weep?"
144The damsel wept, and he was woe, and both did silence keep.
145"I grant," quoth she, "it was too much, that you did love so much;
146But whom your former could not move, your second love doth touch.
147The twice beloved Argentile submitteth her to thee;
148And for thy double love presents herself, a single fee;
149In passion, not in person chang'd, and I, my lord, am she."
150They sweetly surfeiting in joy, and silent for a space,
151Whenas the ecstasy had end did tenderly embrace,
152And for their wedding, and their wish got fitting time and place.
153Not England (for of Hengest then was named so this land)
154Than Curan had an hardier knight, his force could none withstand;
155Whose sheep-hook laid apart, he then had higher things in hand,
156First, making known his lawful claim in Argentile her right,
158And so from treacherous Edel took at once his life and crown,
159And of Northumberland was king, long reigning in renown.


1] First published in part in 1586, enlarged and republished in 1589, 1592, and later. A poetical narrative of British history, from the mythical Brutus to Queen Elizabeth. This chapter is a version of the tale of Havelok the Dane, which is based in part on the exploits of Olaf (or Havelok) Cuaran, the Viking opponent of Athelstan at Brunanburh (937), and afterwards King of Northumbria. Havelok is the hero of a romance in French (ca. 1200) and in English (ca. 1300) and his adventures are recorded in many mediaeval chronicles. Warner obtained the story from a chronicle of England printed by Caxton in 1480.
Brutons. The spelling indicates their supposed origin from Brutus, the great-grandson of Eneas.
thus departed hence. After the Saxon conquest. Back to Line
3] Diria. Deira, the Anglian kingdom between the Humber and the Tees, founded in the 6th century. Back to Line
17] gripple. Grasping. Back to Line
19] Danske. Denmark. Back to Line
21] Kept in mew. Caged. Back to Line
35] How Curan . . . scaped many an amorous toy. How many a foolish sign of love escaped unawares from Curan. Back to Line
47] thrall. Bondage, thraldom. Back to Line
49] grounds. Fields. Back to Line
56] holy. Intended only for use on holidays.
russets. Garments of coarse woollen cloth of a reddish-brown colour. Back to Line
57] startops. Startups, high boots. Back to Line
58] tarbox. A box of tar used as a salve for sheep. Back to Line
59] grout. Unfermented malt.
whig. Whey or buttermilk. Back to Line
67] wildings. Crab-apples.
souling. Serving as a relish. A "soul" or "sowl" was something eaten with bread as a relish. Back to Line
68] lardry. Larder, stock of provisions. Back to Line
70] elvish. Like an elf, i.e. shy. Back to Line
73] brim. Loudly current. (O.E. breme, famous). Back to Line
74] quaint. Fastidious. Back to Line
89] uttering. Selling. Back to Line
99] Neatress. A female neatherd or cattle-keeper. Back to Line
110] in mean. Moderate. Back to Line
112] portly. Stately. Back to Line
118] in print. Perfect. Back to Line
121] the ball from Ide to bear. To win the apple by the judgment of Paris. Back to Line
125] men. Honey (Latin mel). Back to Line
133] blaze the coat of. Describe minutely. Literally "describe heraldically the shield of". Back to Line
157] Brenitia. An Anglian kingdom extending from the Tees to the Forth, founded by Ida, ca. 550. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.192; RPO 1996-2000.