An Excelente Balade of Charitie

Original Text: 
[Thomas Chatterton], Poems, supposed to have been written at Bristol, by Thomas Rowley ... , ed. Thomas Tyrwhitt (London: T. Payne, 1777). B-10 8184 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
6'Twas nowe the pride, the manhode of the yeare,
8The sun was glemeing in the midde of daie,
11A hepe of cloudes of sable sullen hue,
12The which full fast unto the woodlande drewe,
14And the blacke tempeste swolne and gatherd up apace.
21He had no housen theere, ne anie covent nie.
27Is Charitie and Love aminge highe elves;
28Knightis and Barons live for pleasure and themselves.
29The gatherd storme is rype; the bigge drops falle;
32And the full flockes are drivynge ore the plaine;
38Shakes the hie spyre, and losst, dispended, drown'd,
41Again the levynne and the thunder poures,
43Spurreynge his palfrie oere the watrie plaine,
44The Abbote of Seyncte Godwynes convente came;
48The storme encreasen, and he drew aside,
51With a gold button fasten'd neere his chynne;
54Full well it shewn he thoughten coste no sinne:
58"O! let me waite within your covente dore,
59Till the sunne sheneth hie above our heade,
60And the loude tempeste of the aire is oer;
61Helpless and ould am I alas! and poor;
62No house, ne friend, ne moneie in my pouche;
64"Varlet," replyd the Abbatte, "cease your dinne;
65This is no season almes and prayers to give;
67None touch mie rynge who not in honour live."
68And now the sonne with the blacke cloudes did stryve,
70The Abbatte spurrde his steede, and eftsoones roadde awaie.
71Once moe the skie was blacke, the thunder rolde;
73Ne dighte full proude, ne buttoned up in golde;
76And from the pathwaie side then turned hee,
77Where the pore almer laie binethe the holmen tree.
78"An almes, sir priest!" the droppynge pilgrim sayde,
79"For sweete Seyncte Marie and your order sake."
80The Limitoure then loosen'd his pouche threade,
81And did thereoute a groate of silver take;
88Tis thyne; the Seynctes will give me mie rewarde."


1] First published in 1777. This was one of the "Rowley Poems," declared by Chatterton to have been written by a priest of the late fifteenth century, Thomas Rowley, Chatterton seems to have composed his poetry in the language of his own time; then to have substituted, where he conveniently could, antiquated words, and disguised the whole by a quaint spelling which he supposed resembled that of the fifteenth century. His chief sources for this process were Speght's edition of Chaucer, Bailey's Universal Etymological Dictionary, and Kersey's Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum. Skeat, in his edition of Chatterton, says: "Chatterton has ... employed no old words whatever but such as are contained in Kersey or Speght; the only exceptions to this rule occurring in the case of a few words which he modifed or invented." This next and the following notes in quotation marks are Chatterton's: "Thomas Rowley, the author, was born at Norton Malreward in Somersetshire, educated at the Convent of St. Kenna at Keynesham, and died at Westbury in Gloucestershire."
In Virgyne: in Virgo, the Sign of the Zodiac which the sun enters in August. Back to Line
2] mees: "meads." Back to Line
3] rodded: "reddened, ripened." Back to Line
4] mole: "soft." Back to Line
5] peede chelandri: "pied goldfinch." Back to Line
7] dighte: "drest, arrayed."
defte "neat, ornamental."
aumere: "a loose robe or mantle." Back to Line
9] welken: "the sky, the atmosphere." Back to Line
10] arist: "arose." Back to Line
13] hiltring: "hiding, shrouding."
attenes: "at once."
fetive: "beauteous." Back to Line
15] holme: a kind of oak. Back to Line
16] Seyncte Godwine's convent. "It would have been charitable, if the author had not pointed at personal characters in this Ballad of Charity. The Abbot of St. Godwin's at the time of the writing of this was Ralph de Bellomont, a great stickler for the Lancastrian family. Rowley was a Yorkist." Back to Line
17] moneynge: moaning. Back to Line
18] viewe: appearance.
ungentle: "beggarly."
weede: dress. Back to Line
19] bretful: "filled with." Back to Line
20] almer: "beggar." Back to Line
22] glommed: "clouded, dejected. A person of some note in the literary world is of opinion, that glum and glom are modern cant words; and from this circumstance doubts the authenticity of Rowley's Manuscripts. Glum-mong in the Saxon signifies twilight, a dark or dubious light: and the modern word gloomy is derived from the Saxon glum." Back to Line
23] forwynd: "dry, sapless." Back to Line
24] church-glebe-house: "the grave."
asshrewed: "accursed, unfortunate." Back to Line
25] kiste: "coffin."
dortoure: "a sleeping room." Back to Line
26] cale: cold.
gre: grow. Back to Line
30] forswat: "sun-burnt."
smethe: "smoke."
drenche: 'drink." Back to Line
31] pall: "A contraction from appall, to fright." Back to Line
33] flott: "fly." Back to Line
34] levynne: "lightning." Back to Line
35] smothe: "steam, or vapours."
lowings: "flames." Back to Line
36] clymmynge: "noisy." Back to Line
37] cheves: "moves."
embollen: "swelled, strengthened." Back to Line
39] gallard: "frighted." Back to Line
40] elmen: elm.
swanges: swings. Back to Line
42] braste: "burst."
attenes: at once.
stonen: stony. Back to Line
45] chapournette: "a small round hat, not unlike the Shapournette in heraldry, formerly worn by Ecclesiastics and Lawyers." Back to Line
46] pencte: "painted." Back to Line
47] aynewarde tolde his bederoll. "He told his beads backwards; a figurative expression to signify cursing." Back to Line
49] mist: "poor, needy." Back to Line
50] cope: "a cloke."
Lyncolne clothe: green cloth, for making which the town of Lincoln was famous. Back to Line
52] autremete: "a loose white robe, worn by Priests." Back to Line
53] shoone: shoes.
pyke: peaked.
loverds: "a lord." Back to Line
55] trammels: shackles used to make a horse amble. Back to Line
56] horse-millanare: horse-milliner. "I believe this trade is still in being, though but seldom employed." Back to Line
57] droppynge: drooping. Back to Line
63] yatte: that.
crouche: crucifix. Back to Line
66] faitour: "a beggar, or vagabond." Back to Line
69] shettynge: shooting. Back to Line
72] reyneynge: running. Back to Line
74] jape: "a short surplice, worn by Friars of an inferior class, and secular priests." Back to Line
75] Limitoure: a friar licensed to beg in a certain limited area. Chaucer's friar was a "lymytour"; Cf. "Prologue." The Canterbury Tales, 209.
of order: as to his order. Back to Line
82] mister: poor.
halline: "joy." Back to Line
83] eathe: "ease." Back to Line
84] nete: "nought." Back to Line
85] unhailie: "unhappy." Back to Line
86] scathe: scarcely. Back to Line
87] semecope: "a short under-cloke." Back to Line
89] aborde: went on. Back to Line
90] gloure: "glory." Back to Line
91] mittee: "mighty, rich." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
G. G. Falle
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.263.