I recently had the singular pleasure of writing for two friends at the same time. Mistress Elisabeth Piper and Dame Elanor of Eccleshall were both to be awarded the Order of the Carp for their excellence in persona development. In writing charter words for them, I wanted to base my work off of poems both appropriate for their personas, but also to expand my knowledge of 16th century women poets.
For Elisabeth’s words, I took inspiration from the writings of Anne Locke (c. 1533 – c. 1590). Locke was a poet, translator, and ardent Calvinist. She was a friend and frequent correspondent of John Knox, the Scottish firebrand preacher. Following the ascension of Mary Tudor, Locke spent eighteen months in exile in Geneva during which time she translated some of John Calvin’s sermons from French into English.
Her poetry was religious and dedicatory in nature. She is one of two people who may have been the author of A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner, the earliest known “sonnet sequence” in English. I took inspiration from her sonnet “My Many Sinnes in Nomber are Encreast”.
Carp for Elisabeth Piper
O, many points in nomber are encreast,
And are worthy of notice and of praise,
Of one Elisabeth, hight Piper, pieced
From parts which whole persona has she made.
The people crye: “Hark, King, and Queen we pray,
See this Elisabeth and notice take
Her garb, her camp, and of her music’s sway.
So by Thy mercie, for Thy mercies sake,
Give laud to her from hands, and lips, and grace.”
Her art is cause that We so nede to haue
Her music’s ayde in charming courtly case.
Her garb is cause that scarce We dare to craue.
So do We for her skill with cloth and harp
Admit her to the Order of the Carp.
I found inspiration for Elanor’s words in the poetry of Anne Askew (1521 – 1546). Askew was a writer, poet, and Reformationist preacher. She was forced into marriage at age fifteen and was shortly thereafter thrown out of her home for her religious views (her husband was a Catholic). She travelled to London and took up street preaching, where she met other, like-minded reformers. She was arrested three times for heresy; after her third arrest, she was tortured in the Tower of London (one of only two women known to have been tortured there) and burned at the stake. While tied to the stake, she listened to the sermon being preached by Bishop Shaxton and called out when he said things with which she either agreed or disagreed. I used Askew’s poem “Like As the Armed Knight” as a form to emulate. Unlike Elisabeth’s poem I really struggled with this one due to the iambic trimeter form. I found that the abbreviated number of syllables per line made for great difficulty in building imagery. All things considered, I’m happy with how it turned out.
Carp for Elanor of Eccleshall
Not oft use I to wright
In prose nor yet in rime,
Yet will I speke one sight
That I Detail from the Standebuch of Jost Amman, 1568 showing a frame saw Saws are among the most recogniza... More in my time.
I Detail from the Standebuch of Jost Amman, 1568 showing a frame saw Saws are among the most recogniza... More a noble Dame
In Eccleshall she sat
All dressed in garb well framed
And frilled from wrist to hat.
Complete was all her suit,
Each stitch her own hands’ art.
She played upon a lute
A tune which moved my heart.
Her camp in which she played
Was built by her own hands;
In comfort there friends stayed
And ate her fine viands.
Yon Elanor truth told
With beauty fills her life,
As like a minstrel bold
Oft moves us in delight.
Thus on this day do We,
In wisdom bold and sharp,
Admit her hence to the
Right Order of the Carp.