Background on Calliope

Connected Background



Introduction and Background to

The poem is taken from Marshe’s and Stow’s printing Workes STC 22608 from 1568 (DIMEV). It was untitled in Marshe’s print but has been given the editorial title of Calliope (Scattergood 420).

Calliope must have been written after Skelton’s induction as poet laureate by Henry VIII in 1488. Scattergood argues that the date for the poem must be set in April 1512; however, many different dates have been provided by other scholars.

In the poem, Skelton evokes Calliope, the muse of heroic poetry who, metaphorically speaking, gave the poet his title of poet laureate. Nonetheless, the title of the poem may also refer to a gift that Skelton received from the King after his inauguration. Henry VIII provided him with “a garment with the word “Calliope” embroidered in letters of gold. At the beginning of the poem, the poet asks the question, “Why were ye Calliope, embrawdered with letters of golde?” (Cheney 122).