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Scogan's Moral Balade


Before 1 The heading from Ashmole 59 contextualizes this piece as an occasional poem, sent to and read at a supper of the Merchants' Guild in the Vintry, in the presence of the four sons of Henry IV when they were teenagers. John was not created duke of Bedford until 1415; the other sons are Henry ("my lord the Prince"), Thomas (duke of Clarence), and Humphrey (duke of Gloucester). Skeat, who dates the poem c. 1406-07, probably correctly suspects that the biographical information was supplied by the scribe John Shirley, who is well-known for his personalized, chatty marginal notes. See Connolly, John Shirley, pp. 145-69.
On Henry Scogan, see Farnham, "John (Henry) Scogan"; Kittredge, "Henry Scogan"; and Hallmundsson, "Chaucer's Circle."
feorthe merchande. The fourth meeting of merchants or the fourth of four quarterly meetings of the guild (Skeat, Chaucerian, p. xlii).
Lowys Johan. Connolly describes the Welshman Lewis John, Esquire, who, among other things, served as steward to Henry IV's dowager queen, Joan of Navarre, and as chief butler under Henry V, as a "protégé of Thomas Chaucer" (John Shirley, p. 137). See Carr, "Sir Lewis John."

26 Latin marginalia: Delicta juventutis mee et ignorancias meas ne memineris me domine ["Lord, do not remember the sins of my youth and my idiocies"].

49 Latin marginalia: nota per Shirley ["written by Shirley"].

51 Latin marginalia: fides sine operibus nihil est ["Faith without works is nothing"], from James 2:17: "So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself."

67-68 He saide that the fader . . . Beqwathe nothing. The sentiment is found in both Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale (CT III[D]1121-22), and Gentilesse (lines 16-18).

97 By auncestrye thus may yee no thing clayme. The quotation is from Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale (CT III[D]1131-32): "For of oure eldres may we no thyng clayme / But temporel thyng, that man may hurte and mayme."

105 Latin marginalia:"Geffrey Chaucier made theos thre balades nexst that folowen." The poem is Chaucer's Gentilesse, which touches upon one of Chaucer's favorite Boethian themes: that nobility depends upon character, not birth. See also the"pillow sermon" in The Wife of Bath's Tale (CT III[D]1111-76).

112 first stocke. Variously interpreted by Chaucerians as referring to a first human ancestor, to the first generation of nobles, to Adam, or to God. Scogan explicitly chooses a genealogical source of virtue:"Thane is Gode stocke of vertuous noblesse" (line 100). See Allen,"'Firste Stok.'"

119 richchesse. The doubling of the double consonant is a habit of the scribe, John Shirley.

121 Latin marginalia (in later hand): Nam genus et proauos et quae non fecimus ipsi Vix ea nostra voco ["For race and ancestors and whatever we ourselves have not made, those things I scarcely call ours"].

150 Boece. Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (c. 480-524). The allusion appears to be to, which, in Chaucer's translation of Boece reads:
Yif thou desirest or wolt usen grapes, ne seek thou nat with a glotonos hand the streyne and presse the stalkes of the vyne in the first somer sesoun; for Bachus, the god of wyn, hath rather yyven his yiftes to autumpne (the lattere ende of somer).
162 vertue causethe suffisaunce. This is ultimately a Boethian notion. See Consolation of Philosophy

166 Tulius Hastilius. Tulius Hostillius (673-42 BC), the legendary third king of Rome popularly known for his humble origins and his charity to the poor. Also cited in Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale (CT III[D]1165-67): "Thenketh hou noble, as seith Valerius, / Was thilke Tullius Hostillius, / That out of poverte roos to heigh noblesse."

168-79 eke redethe . . . what meschaunces they hade. Scogan no doubt culled his exemplary figures -- Julius Caesar (line 168), Nero (line 174), Balthasar (line 175), and Antiochus (line 177) -- from Chaucer's Monk's Tale. Compare, for instance, Scogan's description of Antiochus (lines 177-78) to Chaucer's: "For he so soore fil out of his char / That it his limes and his skyn totar" (CT VII[B2]2610-11).


Skeat's text of the poem is based on Thynne, with some variants supplied from Caxton, A, and H. H lacks the text of Gentilesse; I have based my text on A, correcting some of its obvious errors with readings from H. Since the texts of H and Ff are not readily available, I have provided their significant variants here.

Abbreviations: see the Introduction to Good Counsel, Wisdom, and Advice.

1-8 Ff omits.
called. H omits.
balade folowing. H: litel tretice.
ful. H omits.
Yitte howe. H: Although.
estates. H: estate.
yet. H omits.
That. H omits.
yee take. H: takith.

8 herkyne. H: herk.

9 sore. Ff: me sore.

10 is upon me. Ff: uppon me is.

11 juventé. H: yong age.

13 comunely. H, Ff: certaynly.

14 beon. H: be.

15 And. H, Ff omit.
wolde. Ff: ne wolde.
no. H: never no.
to. H: un to.

17 I aske. H: yowth (error).
of. Ff: to.

18 lorde. H, Ff: god.

20 Bytwene. H: betwixt.
Thee. Ff: me.

21 ne. H: nor; Ff: and.
blynde prosperitee. Ff: parfyte unyte (error).

22-23 Ff omits.

24 vyce. H: vyces.

25 lyf. H: tyme.

27 me. A: thee (error).

29 Of. Ff: In.
forgete. Ff: to f.

32 or Thou. Ff: or that you.

33 lordes. Ff: maysters.

34 alle whome. H: whiche that; Ff: whiche.

36 eloste. H: lost.

38 vyces list t'. Ff: lustes and vyces.

39 Therfore. H: Wherfor; Ff: Wherfore syrs.
lordes tendrely. H: lordis especially; Ff: specyally.

41 Plantethe. Ff: And p.

42 vertue . . . beo. H: vertu yowre growyng be.

43 ay. H: alwey.

44 make. Ff: makyn.

45 For to withstonde . . . affraye. H: The fiende for to withstond and his affray; Ff omits for.

47 use it. H: werke it; Ff: worcheth.

48 That. H: And that.
yowe. H omits.

49 heede alsoo. H: also heede; Ff: hede.

50 wrote. H, Ff: writen.
noble. H, Ff: grete.

52 estate. H: eche estate.
withoute intelligence. H: with necligence.

53 Ff transposes with 129.

54-56 Ff transposes with 131-33.

56 youre. H omits.

57-88 Ff transposes with 134-65.

57 ne. H: nor.

59 Thenkethe also. H: Thynk eke.
vertue. H: vertues.

60 whiles. H: while.
beon. H: be.

64 alle. H omits.
loke that yee folowe. H: therfor folowith.

65 Chaucier. H: Chaunchier; Ff: Chauncer.

66 langage. Ff: longe age.

67 He. H omits.
that. H, Ff omit.
nowe. H, Ff: that is.

68 nothing. Ff: not.

69 Unto his sone; therfore. Ff: Therfore every wy ??? to be.

70 beseching. H: sechyng.
Ff transposes with 102.

71 for. H omits.

72 feyre. H omits.
Ff transposes with 104.

73 Here. H: Here by.

74 of youre. H: by wey of.

76 of. H: be.

78 soo wyse. H: suche a.

80 wawes. H: welthis.

85 vertue. H: the vertu.
vyce. H: the vyces.

86 awe. H: hym away.

87 leese. H: lesith.

88 give. H omits (error).

89-93 Ff transposes with 65-9.
89 Takethe. H: Take.
folkes. H: men.

poure. H: yowre.

92 By. H: Thurgh.

94 Offt. H omits.
Ff transposes with 102.

95 for. H: of.
Ff transposes with 71.

96 Ff transposes with 104.

97 By auncestrye thus may yee. H: Thus by youre auncestris ye may.

98 my. H omits.
Chaucier. H: Chauncer.
dothe. H: sayde.

102 That. H: And.
mankynde that. H: us al.
Ff: Besychynge hym oft that for us all deyed.

103 his. H: hym in.

105-25 H omits.

120 se. A: seeme (error).

127 he. H omits.

128 losse. A: lesse.

129 Wherfore. H: Therfor; Ff: Wherfore syrs.

130 estates. H: estate.

131 T'enprynte. Ff: To plant.

132 into. Ff: in.

134 For. H omits; Ff: But.
lordes. Ff: yonge men.
of coustume. H, Ff: have a maner.

135 of you here of a gode. H, Ff: shewe you a vertuous.

136 unsure youthe. H: fervent love; Ff: fervent youthe.

137 Suche artes. H, Ff: that art.
list not. H, Ff: have no joy.

139 variaunce. H, Ff: governaunce.

140 calme. A: worlde.
laste yeere. H: laste.

142 not, by. Ff: not.

143 there. H, Ff omit.
rage. H, Ff: full rage.

144 Right even so. H, Ff: In the same wise.
his. H omits.

145 croked. H: febilnes.

146 Soone affter that. H, Ff: And sone after.
kalendes. H, Ff: the k.

147 And of youre. H: And if; Ff: Yf ye in.

148 Alle folke. H: Thanne men; Ff: All men.

149 youthe and slouthe you al misgyded. H: yowth from worshyp yow devided; Ff: slouthe from worshyp yow devided.

150 that. H, Ff: the.
Boece. H: Boys.

153 Plenty of. H, Ff: Plentyuous.

155 whylest. H, Ff: while.

156 Yee may wele. Ff: Thus may ye.

157 ay michil. H, Ff: moche.

158 Sithe, there ageinst, that. H, Ff: Seeth here ageyn how.

161 Al. H, Ff: As.
al ryots. H, Ff: riot.

163 H omits (error).

164 Thus who. H: And who so.
gret. H, Ff: al.

167 came frome povertee. H: from poverte cam.

168 eke redethe. H: redith eke.

169 poure. A: a poure (error).

171 lande. H: contre.
the. H omits.

172 unto. H: us to (error).

173 do to. H: to do.

174 of. A: to.

175 heede also. H: also heede.

177 Looke. H: Lo.

178 That. H: There.
also heos. H omits.
totare. H: altotare.

179 meschaunces. H: mychaunce.

180 that. H omits.

181 is. H: he is.

182 more. H: no more.
hereby. H: here

184 done exyle. H: exilen al.

185 eche to cheesen. A: dethe to cheesen; H: to chese. I follow Skeat's emendation.

186 Dothe as yowe. H: Do ye as ye.
me. H: myn (error).

187 wil. H: wolde.

188 you conferme. H: conferme yow.

Here folowethe nexst a moral balade to my lord the Prince, to my lord of Clarence, to my
lord of Bedford, and to my lorde of Gloucestre, by Henry Scogan, at a souper of feorthe
merchande in the Vyntre in London, at the hous of Lowys Johan.

My noble sonnes and eke my lordes dere,
I, youre fadre called, unworthely,
Sende unto yowe this balade folowing here,
Writen of myne owen hande ful rudely;
Yitte howe it be that I not reverently
Have writen to yowre estates, yet I yowe prey,
That myne unkonyng yee take benignely
For Goddes sake, and herkyne what I seye.

I compleye sore whane I remembre me
The sodeyne age that is upon me falle;
More I compleyne my mispent juventé,
The whiche is inpossible ageine to calle;
But comunely, the moste compleynte of alle
Is foreto thenke that I have beon so nyce,
And that I wolde no vertue to me calle
In al my youthe, but vyces ay cheryce.

Of whiche I aske mercy of Thee, Lord,
That art Almighty Lorde in Magestee,
Byseching Thee to make so even acorde
Bytwene Thee and my soule, that vanytee
Of worldely louste ne blynde prosperitee
Have no lordship over my flesshe so freel:
Thou Lord of reste and parfite unitee,
Putte fro me vyce and kepe my soules heel.

And gif me might, while I have lyf and space,
Me to confourme fully to thy plesaunce;
Shewe upon me th'aboundance of thi grace;
In gode werkis graunte me perseverance;
Of al my youthe forgete the ignorance;
Gyf me gode wille to serve Thee ay to qweme;
Sette ay my lyff affter Thy governaunce,
And able me to mercy or Thou deeme.

My lordes dere, why I this compleinte wryte
To yowe, alle whome I love entierely,
Is for to warne yowe, as I cane endyte,
That tyme eloste in yowthe folely,
Grevethe a wight goostely and bodely,
I mene hem that to vyces list t'entende;
Therfore I prey you lordes tendrely,
Youre youthe in vertue shapethe to dispende.

Plantethe the roote of youthe in suche a wyse
That in vertue youre growing beo alweye;
Looke ay, goodenesse beo in youre excercyse,
That shal you mighty make, at eche assaye,
For to withstonde the feonde at eche affraye;
Passethe wisely this paraillous pilgrymage;
Thenke on this worde and use it every daye:
That shal yowe gif a parfyte floured age.

Takethe heede alsoo, howe that theos noble clerkis
Wrote in theire bookis of noble sapience,
Seying that feythe is ded withowten werkis;
So is estate withoute intelligence
Of vertue; therfore, with diligence,
Shapethe of vertue so to plante the roote,
That yee thereof have ful exparience,
To worship of youre lyf and soules boote.

Thenkethe also that lordshipe ne estate,
Withoute vertue, may not longe endure;
Thenkethe also how vices and vertue at debate
Have beon, and shal, whiles the worlde may dure;
And ay the vicyous, by aventure,
Is overthrowe; and thenkithe evermore
That God is lorde of vertue and figure
Of alle godenes: loke that yee folowe His lore.

My maistre Chaucier, God his soule have,
That in his langage was so curyous,
He saide that the fader, nowe dede and grave,
Beqwathe nothing his vertue with his hous
Unto his sone; therfore, laborious
Aught you to beo, beseching God of grace,
To geve you might for to be vertuous,
Thorughe whiche yee might gete part of His feyre place.

Here may yee see that vertuous noblesse
Comthe not to yowe of youre auncestrye,
But it comthe thorugh leofful besynesse,
Of honeste lyff, and noght of slougardery;
Wherfore, in youthe, I rede you edefye
The hous of vertue in soo wyse manere,
That in youre age it may you kepe and guye
Frome the tempeste of worldly wawes here.

Thenkethe how bytwene vertue and estate
There is a perfite blessed mariage;
Vertue is cause of pees, vyce of debate
In mannes soule; for whiche, with full corage
Cherisshethe vertue, vyce to outrage,
Dryveth awe, let hem have no wonnyng
In youre soules; leese not the heritage
Whiche God hathe give to vertuous living.

Takethe heede also howe folkes of poure degree
Thorughe vertue have be sette in gret honnour,
And ever have lyved in gret prosperitee
By cherisshinge of vertuous labour;
Thenkthe also howe many a governour
Calde to estate hath offt be sette ful lowe
Thorughe misusing of right, and for errour;
Therfore, I counsayle yowe vertue to knowe.

By auncestrye thus may yee no thing clayme,
As that my maistre Chaucier dothe expresse,
But temporell thinge that man may hurte and mayme;
Thane is Gode stocke of vertuous noblesse.
And sithe that He is Lord of blessednesse,
That made us alle and for mankynde that dyed,
Folowe His vertue with full besynesse,
And of this thinge herke howe my maistre seyde:

"The first fader and foundour of gentylesse,
What man that claymethe gentyle for to be,
Moste felowe heos traas and alle heos wittes dresse,
Vertue to suwe and vyces for to flee;
For unto vertue longethe dignytee,
And nought the reverse, savely dar I deeme,
Al were he mytre, croune, or dyademe.

"This first stocke was grounde of rightwysnesse,
Truwe of his worde, sobur, pitous, and fre,
Clene of his gooste, and loved besynesse,
Ageinst the vice of slouthe, in honestee;
And but his heyre love vertue as did he,
He nys not gentyle, thaughe him ryche seeme,
Al were he mytre, crowne, or dyademe.

"Vyce may wele be an heyre til olde richchesse,
But there may noman, as thou maist wele se,
Beqweythe his heyre his vertuous noblesse;
That is appropred unto no degree,
But to first fadre in magestee
That mathe his heyre him that wol him qweme,
Al were he mytre, crowne, or dyademe."

Loo here, this noble poete of Brettayne
Howe hyely he, in vertuous sentence,
The losse in youthe of vertue can compleyne;
Wherfore, I prey yowe, doothe youre diligence,
For youre estates and Goddes reverence,
T'enprynte vertue fully in youre mynde,
That whane yee come into youre juges presence,
Yee be not sette as vertulesse byhinde.

For yee lordes, of coustume nowe adayes,
Thaughe one of you here of a gode matere,
Youre unsure youthe is of so fals alayes,
That of suche artes you list not to here.
But as a shippe that is withouten stere,
Dryvethe up and doune, withouten variaunce,
Weoning the calme wol laste yeere by yeere,
Right so fare yee, thorughe veray ignoraunce.

For verray shame, knowe yee not, by raisoun,
That affter an ebbe there comethe a flode rage?
Right even so, whane youthe passethe his saysoun,
Comthe croked and unweldy palled age;
Soone affter that komthe kalendes of dotage;
And of youre youthe no vertue have provyded,
Alle folke wol seye: "Fye on youre vasellage!"
Thus hathe youre youthe and slouthe you al misgyded.

Boece, that clerk, as men may rede and see,
Seythe in his Booke of Consolacyoun
What man desyrethe to have of vyne or tree
Plenty of fruyt in the riping saysoun,
Most ay eschuwe to doone oppressioun
Unto the roote whylest it is yonge and grene;
Yee may wele see by this conclusioun,
That youthe vertulesse dothe ay michil teene.

Sithe, there ageinst, that vertuous noblesse
Rooted in youthe, with goode perseverance,
Dryvethe aweye al vyce and wrecchednesse,
Al slogardrye, al ryots, and dispence;
Seothe eke howe vertue causethe suffisaunce,
And suffisaunce exylethe coveityse:
Thus who hathe vertue hathe gret habondaunce
Of wele, als far as raison can devyse.

Takethe heede of Tulius Hastilius,
That came frome povertee to hye degré
Thorughe vertue; eke redethe of Julius
The conquerrour, howe poure a man was he;
Yitte thorughe his vertue and humanyté,
Of many a lande hade he the governance:
Thus vertue bringethe unto gret degree
Eche wight that list do to him attendaunce.

Rede there ageine of Nero vertulesse,
Takethe heede also of proude Baltasare;
They hated vertue, equytee, and pees.
Looke howe Anthyocus fel frome his chare,
That he his skyn and also heos boones totare;
Looke what meschaunces they hade for theire vices!
Who so that wil not by theos signes beware,
I dare wele seye infortunate or nyce is.

I cane more, but hereby may yee se,
Howe vertue causethe perfyte sikurnesse,
And vyces done exyle prosparitee;
The beste is eche to cheesen, as I gesse.
Dothe as yowe list, I me excuse expresse;
I wil be sorye if that yee mischeese.
God you conferme in vertuous goodnesse,
So that thorughe necgligence yee nothing leese.
(see note)

also; (t-note)


group [of high rank]
error (ignorance)
listen to; (t-note)

grieve; (t-note)
mourn; youth; (t-note)

commonly; (t-note)
Is to think; been so ignorant; (t-note)
always cherished

lust (pleasure) nor; (t-note)
frail; (t-note)
health; (t-note)

give; time; (t-note)
satisfaction; (see note)
always properly

enable; judge; (t-note)

lost; foolishly; (t-note)
person spiritually
choose to be inclined to; (t-note)

be; (t-note)
fiend; attack; (t-note)

prosperous; (t-note)

(see note); (t-note)
wisdom; (t-note)
(see note)
noble rank; (t-note)

honor; benefit; (t-note)

high rank; (t-note)

in opposition; (t-note)

teaching; (t-note)

skillful; (t-note)
buried; (see note); (t-note)
Bestows; (t-note)
give; (t-note)

idleness; (t-note)
Therefore; advise
waves; (t-note)

noble rank


expel; (t-note)
away; dwelling; (t-note)
inheritance; (t-note)



high office; (t-note)
judgment; (t-note)

(see note); (t-note)

Therefore God is the source

diligence; (t-note)
listen to

(see note); (t-note)


Whether he wear miter

righteousness; (see note)


heir to; (see note)
(see note)
appropriated to no rank

makes; please

expression; (t-note)
lament; (t-note)
To imprint; (t-note)

custom; (t-note)
alloying; (t-note)
desire; hear; (t-note)
Assuming; (t-note)

raging; (t-note)
infirm; impaired; (t-note)
comes the beginning; (t-note)
knightly behavior; (t-note)
sloth; (t-note)

Boethius; (see note); (t-note)


much harm; (t-note)

Since, on the contrary; (t-note)

idleness; debauchery; expense; (t-note)
self-sufficiency; (see note)

(see note)
rank; (t-note)
Julius Caesar; (see note); (t-note)


Balthasar; (t-note)
chariot; (t-note)
tore; (t-note)
ignorant; (t-note)

openly; (t-note)

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