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Tax Has Tenet Us Alle


1 Tax. The poll taxes of 1377, 1379, 1380-81, which were one of the chief causes of the rebellion of 1381. The manuscript lines are executed as long lines, with the Latin ending each line. Lines 1-4 might be considered an example of what Embree terms "the king's ignorance topos." See the note to lines 45-46 of Truthe, Reste, and Pes, and On the Times, lines 93-96.

3 smalle. The tax collectors diverted much of the collections to their own pockets.

9 Kent. "The first concentration of the peasants was at Maidstone under Wat Tyler, and the first town to endorse them was Canterbury" (RHR).

25 blwun. Wr, RA, blw_ (?). To "blow" boasts is to boast a lot as a "blowhard" might do.

29 endorst. Wr, RA, reads endost.

32 pro caede. Wr, RA, reads procede.

35 bischop. Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor of England, Simon Sudbury, who originated the poll tax. The rebels executed him in London. R. F. Green has argued that the verses below (from Syng y wold, butt, alas! [On the Times, Index § 3113]) allude to the archbishop and suggest that the whole poem points to events of 1380 rather than 1388, as previously believed:
Symon, þat fals man,
decori nocet ecclesiarum;
Myche sorwe he began,
virus diffudit amarum.
(C Text)
See "Jack Philipot, John of Gaunt, and a Poem of 1380," Speculum 66 (1991), 330-41 at p. 340. Green concludes: "This poem [Tax Has Tenet Us Alle] too is macaronic, and it bears a striking metrical and stylistic resemblance to On the Times. It is tempting to see these two pieces as the work of a single author, who, writing on the eve and on the morrow of the Peasants' Revolt, has, as it were, bequeathed us both prologue and epilogue to that dramatic event" (p. 341).

41-60 Not in the Cambridge MS. Supplied from the Oxford text, checked against RHR and Wr.

41 Jak Strawe. In the literature of the Peasants' Revolt, Jack Straw is often cited as a rebel leader. Straw and Thomas Farringdon burned Robert Hales's great manor of Highbury (see note to line 49). Compare also Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale: "Certes, he Jakke Straw and his meynee / Ne made nevere shoutes half so shrille / Whan that they wolden any Flemyng kille, / As thilke day was maad upon the fox" (VII.3394-97).

48 stiva. Wr, RA, reads otiva (?).

49 Hales. Sir Robert Hales, Prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem and Royal Treasurer. When Hales, along with Archbishop Simon Sudbury and others, took refuge in the Tower, the rebels dragged them out to Tower Hill and beheaded them (Friday, 14 June 1381).

52 stultis. Wr, RA, reads stultus.

55 Savoy. The wealthy and beautiful ("semely") palace of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, located on the Strand near the river Thames. On Thursday, 13 June, the rebels burned the Savoy to the ground and turned Gaunt's coat of arms upside down (sign of a traitor to the realm).

57 Arcan. Joshua had forbidden his troops to pillage Jericho after its fall but Achan disobeyed and was stoned to death (Joshua 7). The leaders of the Peasants' Revolt also issued orders against looting, but the orders were widely violated. Wr, RA, and Krochalis and Peters, who follow the Digby MS rather than the Cambridge MS, read Arcadon for Arcan don.

61-64 Owre kyng . . . paterna. Richard was the son of Edward, the Black Prince, celebrated military leader and hero of the battle of Poitiers (1356), who captured the French king John. The Black Prince led his captive through the streets of London in a triumphal procession. During the Peasants' Revolt, while some secluded themselves from the mob's fury, Richard valiantly confronted the rebels at Smithfield (Saturday, 15 June), parleying briefly with Walter (or Wat) Tyler, the rebel leader. When William Walworth, mayor of London, tried to arrest Tyler and when Tyler drew a dagger, a valet killed Tyler and the crowds eventually dispersed.

62 alii. Cambridge MS alios.

65-66 Jak Straw . . . superna. Jack Straw was executed but not at Smithfield. It was Wat Tyler who was struck down at the Smithfield conference.

65 he kest. So Cambridge MS; RHR þey cast.

(Corpus Christi Coll. Cambridge MS 369 fol. 46v)

Tax has tenet us alle,
   probat hoc mors tot validorum;                            
The kyng therof hade smalle,
    ffuit in manibus cupidorum.
Hit hade harde honsalle,
    dans causam fine dolorum.
Revrawnce nede most falle,
    propter peccata malorum.

In Kent this kare began,
    mox infestando potentes,
In rowte the rybawdus ran,
    sua pompis arma ferentes;
Folus dred no mon,
    regni regem neque gentes.
Churles were hor chevetan,
    vulgo pure dominantes.

Thus hor wayes thay wente,
    pravis pravos aemulantes.
To London fro Kent
    sunt predia depopulantes.
Ther was an uvel covent,
    australi parte vagantes;
Sythenne they sone were schent,
    qui tunc fuerant superantes.

Bondus they blwun bost,
    nolentes lege domari;
Nede they fre be most,
    vel nollent pacificari.
Charters were endorst,
    hos libertate morari;
Ther hor fredam thay lost,
    digni pro caede negari.

Laddus loude thay loghte,
   clamantes voce sonora;
The bischop wen thay sloghte,
    et corpora plura decora.
Maners down thay drowghte,
    in regno non meliora;
Harme thay dud inoghe,
    habuerunt libera lora.
Jak Strawe made yt stowte
    in profusa comitiva;
And seyd al schuld hem lowte,
    Anglorum corpora viva.
Sadly can they schowte,
    pulsant pietatis oliva,
The wycche were wont to lowte,
    aratrum traducere stiva.

Hales, that dowghty knyght,
    quo splenduit Anglia tota,
Dolefully he was dyght,
    cum stultis pace remota.
There he myght not fyght,
    nec Christo solvere vota.

Savoy semely sette,
    heu! funditus igne cadebat.
Arcan don there they bett,
    et eos virtute premebat.
Deth was ther dewe dett,
    qui captum quisque ferebat.

Owre kyng hadde no rest,
    alii latuere caverna;
To ride he was ful prest,
    recolendo gesta paterna.
Jak Straw down he kest
    Smethefeld virtute superna.
Lord, as thou may best,
    regem defende, guberna.
ruined; (see note)
death of so many worthy folk proves it
received little of it; (see note)
it was in the hands of greedy persons
providing cause in the end for grief
needs must
because of the sins of the wicked
unhappiness; (see note)
soon disturbing the powerful
In a mob the robbers ran
bearing arms in display
Fools; fear
Neither the king's rule nor the people
Scoundrels; chieftains
wholly dominating the people
the wicked emulating the wicked
emptying estates as they go
wandering through the south
Afterwards; destroyed
who were once the conquerors
Bondsmen boast; (see note)
unwilling to yield to the law
must needs be free
or they would not be peaceful
(see note)
allowing them to be free
their freedom
denied because of their murders; (see note)
Churls loudly laughed
crying with loud voices
when; slew; (see note)
and many more excellent people
Manors; pulled
none better in the realm
Injury; did enough
they had free rein
swaggered; (see note)
with his vast following
bow to them
all living Englishmen
Powerfully; shout
they beat down the olive of piety
Those who; defer
drawing the plow in the furrow; (see note)
(see note)
in whom all England shone
Grievously; dealt with
when fools banished peace; (see note)
nor reconcile his vows to Christ
(see note)
alas! it fell completely through fire
(see note)
And he through his virtue conquered them
their due debt
whoever made them captive
(see note)
others lay hidden in caves; (see note)
recalling the deeds of his father
(see note)
At Smithfield through heavenly grace
defend, rule the king

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