To the City of London

Original Text: 
Wright, Thomas, and James Orchard Halliwell, eds., Reliquiae antiquae: Scraps from Ancient Manuscripts (London: J. R. Smith, 1845). PR 1502 .W7 Robarts Library
2     Soveraign of cities, semeliest in sight,
3Of high renoun, riches, and royaltie;
4     Of lordis, barons, and many goodly knyght;
5     Of most delectable lusty ladies bright;
6Of famous prelatis in habitis clericall;
7     Of merchauntis full of substaunce and myght:
8London, thou art the flour of Cities all.
12     Pryncesse of townes, of pleasure, and of joy,
14For manly power, with craftis naturall,
16London, thou art the flour of Cities all.
17Gemme of all joy, jasper of jocunditie,
18     Most myghty carbuncle of vertue and valour;
19Strong Troy in vigour and in strenuytie;
21     Empresse of townes, exalt in honour;
22In beawtie beryng the crone imperiall;
24London, thow art the floure of Cities all.
25Above all ryvers thy Ryver hath renowne,
28     Where many a swanne doth swymme with wyngis fare;
32London, thou art the floure of Cities all.
33Upon thy lusty Brigge of pylers white
35Upon thy stretis goth many a semely knyght
36     In velvet gownes and cheynes of fyne gold.
37     By Julyus Cesar thy Tour founded of old
38May be the hous of Mars victoryall,
39     Whos artillary with tonge may not be told:
40London, thou art the flour of Cities all.
41Strong be thy wallis that about the standis;
42     Wise be the people that within the dwellis;
43Fresh is thy ryver with his lusty strandis;
45     Riche be thy merchauntis in substaunce that excellis;
46Fair be thy wives, right lovesom, white and small;
48London, thow art the flour of Cities all.
50     With swerd of justice the rulith prudently.
51No Lord of Parys, Venyce, or Floraunce
52     In dignytie or honoure goeth to hym nye.
54Principall patrone and roose orygynalle,
55     Above all Maires as maister moost worthy:
56London, thou art the flour of Cities all.


1] This poem is extant in an early sixteenth century MS. chronicle, which states that at a reception given by the Lord Mayor of London in Christmas week, 1501, to the Scottish embassy which was discussing the marriage of James IV to Margaret, daughter of Henry VII, one of the attendants of the Bishop of Glasgow "made this Balade". As Dunbar seems to have been in England with this embassy and as he later (May 9, 1503) wrote a poem The Thrissill and the Rois to celebrate the approaching wedding, he is thought to be the author of the present poem. It contains non-Scottish forms, which may be due either to the English scribe or to the poet's adaptation of his language to his English patrons. There are two other MS. copies. The poem was first printed by Wright and Halliwell in Reliquiae Antiquae, 1845.
A per se. "A by itself", literally A which by itself makes a word, figuratively (since A is the first letter) unique, unmatched. Back to Line
9] Gladdith. Be glad.
Troy Novaunt. In his fabulous History of the Kings of Britain (1148), Geoffrey of Monmouth states that Brutus, descendant of Aeneas and founder of Britain, built a city on the Thames and called it New Troy, "until at last, by corruption of the word, it came to be called Trinovantum". It was re-built by King Lud, who called it Kaerlud, "and after that, by the corruption of the name, Kaerlondon". Back to Line
10] cleped. Called. Back to Line
11] stant. Standest. Back to Line
13] roy. King. Back to Line
15] Noy. Noah, Back to Line
20] geraflour. Gillyflower. Back to Line
23] preceding. Excelling. Back to Line
26] preclare. Famous. Back to Line
27] renneth. Run; Southern form of plural. Back to Line
29] are. Oar. Northern form. Back to Line
30] toppe-royall. Highest part of the mast or highest sail. Back to Line
31] patrone. Pattern.
not-compare. Unmatched. Back to Line
34] Been. The usual Northern form is a". Back to Line
44] sownyng. Sounding. Back to Line
47] kellis. Coifs, head-dresses. Back to Line
49] Maire. Mayor. Back to Line
53] guye. Guide. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
early 16th cent
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.53; RPO 1996-2000.