Background on Why Come Ye Nat to Courte?

Connected Background




Introduction and Background to

There is one manuscript witness of the poem: Oxford, Bodleian Library Rawlinson C.813 (STC 12653) also known as the Welles Anthology, ff. 36-43v, and two print sources: Copland’s Boke of Phyllyp Sparowe and Marshe’s Workes. The poem is dated by Scattergood at 1522.

The political poem is directed at Cardinal Wolsey, who according to the Skelton was facing a dilemma: neither Hampton Court or its rival York Place seemed attractive places to visit. According to Greg Walker, the former was “debased by Wolsey’s injustices and denuded of its courtiers by a potent mixture of his overbearing hegemony and the political elite’s own ignorance” (159). The rival court was “luxuriously appointed with the spoils of Wolsey’s acquisitive policies, and attracting all the traffic which ought to flow towards the king” (Walker 159). The detailed descriptions of both courts has been discussed in early and modern scholarship, as Skelton seems to have known the places well.

The relation between Skelton and Wolsey, which seemed to have changed drastically after Skelton wrote his critical poems Collyn Clout and Why Come Ye Nat to Courte?, has been one of the major subjects in Skelton studies. Greg Walker’s 2002 book Skelton and the Politics of the 1520s elaborates on this relation. According to Walker, Skelton evidently composed his anti-Wolsey poetry with a strong sense of public awareness: “they are a collection of writings aimed at the vilification of Wolsey, written to further the poet’s own fortunes” (185).