Benedict Burgh (1413 -1483)

Letter to Lydgate

The text is lightly glossed; see the glossary in the Riverside Chaucer for words not explained here











Ne drank I never at Pegases well;
The pale Pirus saw I never also
Ne wist I never where the Muses dwelle,
Ne of golden Tagus can I no thinge telle;
And to wete my lippes I coud not attain,
In Cithero or Elicon, sustres twain.

The craft of speche that some time founde was
Of the famous philosophers most perfite --
Aristotle, Gorgias, Hermagorus --
Not have I. So I have lered but a lite;
As for my party, though I repent I may go quit
Of Tullius, Fraunces, and Quintilian.
Fain wolde I lere, but I not conceive can.

The noble poet Virgil the Mantuan,
Homer the Greek and Torquat soverein
Naso aso, that sith this world firste began
The marvelest transforminge all best can devine
Terence the mery and plesant theatrine
Porcius, Lucan, Martian, and Horace,
Stace, Juvenall, and the laureate Bocase.

All these hath seyne your innate sapience,
Ye have gadred flowres in this motly mede
To you is given the verray price of excellence
Though they be go, yet the wordes be not dede;
Th' enlumined boke wherein a man shall rede.
This and mo be in this londe legible;
Ye be the same, ye be the golden bible.

O, yet I trust to be holde and see
This blisfull book with the golden claspes seven
Ther I will begin and lerne mine a.b.c.
That were my paradise, that were my heaven;
Greter felicitee can no man neven,
So God my soule save -- a, benedicite! --
Maister Lydgate, what man be ye!

Now God, my maister, preserve you long on live
That yet I may be your prentice or I die
Then sholde mine herte at the port of bliss arrive.
Ye be the flowre and tresure of poesye,
The garland of ivy, and laure of victorye
By my thought; and I might ben a emperour
For your konninge I shulde your heres honour


Writen at th' abbey of Bylegh Chebri Place
With frosty fingers, and nothinge pliaunt
When from the high hill -- I mene the Mount Canace --
Was sent into Briton the stormy persaunt,
That made me loke as lede and chaunge semblant.
And eke the sturdy wind of Hyperborye
Made me of chere unlusty, sad, and sorry.

The last moneth that men clepe Decembre,
When Phebus' chare was driven aboute the heven
If we reken right and well remembre,
Four times ones and aferward seven --
That is to say, passed ther were days eleven
Of the moneth when this unadvised letter
Writ was, but with your helpe here-after better.


Per magistrum burgh ad Ioannem lidgate.
[By Master Burgh to John Lydgate.]

two sisters

learned but little

Frances Petrarch

Torquat = Boethius
Naso = Ovid

theatrical writer


variegated meadow


ere, before

and = if
heres = hair CHECK

North Wind


Lightly glossed and regularized from the edition by Steele (ed.), Secreta Secretorum, EETS, 1894, pp. xxxi-xxxii. There is a better edition with helpful notes in Eleanor P. Hammond, English Verse Between Chaucer and Surrey, Duke Univ. Press, 1927, pp. 188-89 [Widener 10494.225.5].

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