1687 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Churchyard

William Winstanley, Lives of the Most Famous English Poets (1687) 61-63.



Thomas Churchyard was born in the Town of Shrewsbury, as himself doth affirm in his Book made in Verse of the Worthiness of Wales, taking Shropshire within the compass, (to use his own Expression) Wales the Park, and the Marches the Pale thereof. He was one equally addicted to Arts and Arms, serving under that renowned Captain Sir William Drury, in a rode he made into Scotland, as also under several other Commanders beyond Sea, as he declares in his Tragical Discourse of the Unhappy Mans Life, saying,

Full thirty years both Court and Wars I tryde,
And still I sought acquaintance with the best,
And served the State, and did such hap abide
As might befal, and Fortune sent the rest,
When Drum did sound, I was a Soldier prest
To Sea or Land, as Princes quarrel stood,
And for the same full oft I lost my blood.

But it seems he got little by the Wars but blows, as he declares himself a little after.

But God he knows, my gain was small I weene,
For though I did my credit still encrease,
I got no wealth by wars, ne yet by peace.

Yet it seems he was born of wealthy friends, and had an Estate left unto him, as in the same Work he doth declare.

So born I was to House and Land by right,
But in a Bag to Court I brought the same,
From Shrewsbury-Town, a seat of ancient fame.

Some conceive him to be as much beneath a Poet as above a Rymer, yet who so shall consider the time he wrote in, viz. the beginning of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, shall find his Verses to go abreast with the best of that Age. His Works, such as I have seen and have now in custody, are as followeth:

The Siege of Leith.
A Farewel to the World.
A feigned Fancy of the Spider and the Goat.
A doleful Discourse of a Lady and a Knight.
The Road into Scotland, by Sir William Drury.
Sir Simon Burley's Tragedy.
A Tragical Discourse of the Unhappy Mans Life.
A Discourse of Vertue.
Churchyard's Dream.
A Tale of a Fryar and a Shoomaker's wife.
The Siege of Edenborough-Castle.
Queen Elizabeth's Reception into Bristol.

These Twelve several Treatises he bound together, calling them Churchyard's Chips, and dedicated them to Sir Christopher Hatton. He also wrote the Falls of Shore's Wife and of Cardinal Wolsey; which are inserted into the Book of the Mirrour for Magistrates. Thus, like a stone, did he trundle about, but never gather'd any Moss, dying but poor, as may be seen by his Epitaph in Mr. Cambden's Remains, which runs thus:

Come Alecto, lend me thy Torch,
To find a Church-yard in a Church-porch:
Poverty and Poetry his Tomb doth enclose,
Wherefore good Neighbours be merry in prose.

His death, according to the most probable conjecture, may be presumed about the eleventh year of the Queen's Reign, Anno Dom. 1570.