The Godstow Nunnery walled enclosure is the more or less rectangular shape marked "W".
The small ruined nunnery is the shape at the bottom right of that rectangle. All easily accessible.
1910: This section in Thames Valley Villages by Charles G Harper
1138: Godstow Nunnery -
This house was founded the latter end of the reign of King Henry the First,
at the instance of Editha, a religious matron of Winchester,
widow of a knight, named Sir William Lamelyne.
The legend says, she was directed by a vision to repair to a place near Bisney, and there to erect a nunnery, where a light from Heaven should appear.
John of St John, Lord of Wolvercote and Stanton, gave the ground for the site of the building. She was likewise assisted by the contributions of diverse well disposed persons, insomuch that she soon compleated a convent for Benedictine Nuns, which was consecrated, anno Domini 1138, to the honour of the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist; the last perhaps in compliment to St John the benefactor.
The ceremony was performed with great solemnity, by Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, in the presence of King Stephen and his Queen, prince Eustace, the archbishop of Canterbury, and six other bishops, with several of the nobility, who most of them gave towards its endowment. Alhericas, bishop of Hostia, the pope's legate, then in England, released to everyone of these benefactors, one year of enjoined penance; and granted moreover a remission of forty days in every year, to all those who should in devotion visit the church of this house, on the day of St Prisca the virgin, or on the nativity of St John the baptist.
The lands given were confirmed by King Stephen, and by King Richard the First in the first year of his reign. Editha was abbess here over twenty-four ladies; her eldest daughter Emma being first, and her daughter Avis second prioress.
This nunnery was the residence, and afterwards the burial place of Rosamund Clifford, concubine to king Henry the Second, on whose account (as it is supposed) that king was a great benefactor, as was afterwards his son King John, who bestowed a fund for masses and prayers to be offered up for the soul of his father and that of the lady Rosamond.
The history of this unfortunate beauty is generally thus related. Rosamond, daughter of Walter, lord Clifford, was a young lady of exquisite beauty, fine accomplishments, blessed with most engaging wit and sweetness of temper; she had, as was the custom of those days, been educated in the nunnery of Godstow: Henry saw her, became enamoured, declared his passion, and triumphed over her honour.
This intrigue did not long remain a secret to Queen Elinor: Henry, fearfull of the effects of her jealousy, caused a wonderful maze or labyrinth, formed with arches and winding walls of stone, to be built at Woodstock, into whose recesses it was impossible for any stranger to penetrate. Hither he transported his lovely mistress, where she remained several years, and was frequently visited by the king, whose ardour was encreased rather than cloyed by enjoyment. The fruits of this intercourse were William Longsword, earl of Salisbury, and Geoffry, bishop of Lincoln.
Fred Thacker says:
Rosamund's death in 1177, in spite of the picturesque alternative of poisoned cup or dagger traditionally offered by Henry's jealous queen, was probably quite natural. The gypsies in Oxfordshire, even as late as 1870, told you how that Fair Rosamund was turned into a "holy briar," which bled if you plucked a twig. Requiescas in aeternum! "Let joy," sings old Tickell, her encomiast:
Let joy salute fair Rosamunda's shade,
And wreaths of myrtle crown the lovely maid
While now perhaps with Dido's ghost she roves,
And hears and tells the story of their loves,
Alike they mourn, alike they bless their fate;
Since Love, which made them wretched, made them great.
1191: In the Stripling Thames 1909, Fred Thacker continues with Stow's account -
"Hugh Bishop of Lincoln, came to the abbey of nunnes called Godstow;
and when he had entered the church to pray, he saw one tombe in the middle of the quire,
covered with a pall of silke, and set about with lights of waxe;
and demanded whose tombe it was, he was answered that it was the tombe of Rosamund,
sometime leman of Henry the Second, who for love of her had done much good to the church.
'Then' quoth the bishop, 'take out this place the Harlot, and bury her without the church, lest Christian religion should grow into contempt, and to the end that, through example of her, other women being made afraid may beware, and keep themselves from unlawful and advouterous conversation with men.'"
And he was obeyed with shuddering, the iron man. ...
But afterwards the indomitable nuns collected her bones into a silken scented bag, and reburied them in honour where the one surviving gable stands, writing upon her tomb her name and praise, and evading Hugh of Lincoln.
1538 (guess) A Letter of the Abbess of Godstow, complaining of Dr. London, who was making a bungling attempt to implement King Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries -
Pleasith it your Honor, with my moste humble Dowtye, to be advertised,
that where it hath pleasyd your Lordship to be the verie Meane to the King's Majestie,
for my preferment, most unworthie to be Abbes of this the King's Monasterie of Godystowe ;
in the which Offyce, I truste I have done the best in my Power to the Mayntenance of God's trewe Honour,
with all Truth and Obedience to the King's Majestie;
and was never moved nor desired by any Creature in the King's Behalf, or in your Lordship's Name,
to surrender and give upe the House ;
nor was never mynded nor intended so to do, otherwise than at the King's Gracious Commandement, or yours.
To the which I do, and have ever done, and will submit my self most humblie and obedientlie.
And I truste to God that I have never offendyd God's Laws, neither the King's wherebie that this poore Monasterie ought to be suppressed.
And this notwithstanding, my good Lorde, so it is, that Doctor London, whiche (as your Lordeship doth well know) was agaynst my Promotion, and hathe ever since borne me great Malys and Grudge, like my mortall Enemye, is sodenlie cummyd unto me, with a greate Rowte with him ; and here dothe threten me and my Sisters, saying, that he hath the King's Commission to suppress the House, spyte of my Tethe.
And when he sawe that I was contente that he shulde do all Things according to his Commission ; and shewyd him playne, that I wolde never surrender to his Hande, being my Ancyent Enemye; now he begins to intreat me, and to invegle my Sisters, one by one, otherwise than ever I hearde tell that any of the Kyng's Subjects hathe been handelyd: And here tarieth and contynueth, to my great Coste and Charges; and will not take my Answere, that I will not surrender, till I know the King's Gracious Commandement, or your good Lordeship's.
Therefore I do moste humblie beseche you to contynewe my good Lorde, as you ever have bene; and to directe your Honorable Letters to remove him hence.
And whensoever the Kyng's Gracious Commandement, or yours, shall come unto me, you shall find me most reddie and obedyant to folloe the same.
And notwithstand that Doctor London, like an untrew Man, hath informed your Lordship, that I am a Spoiler and a Waster, your good Lord ship shall knowe that the contrary is trewe. For I have not alienatyd one halporthe of goods of this Monasterie, movable, or unmovable, but have rather increasyd the same. Nor never made Lease of any Farme, or Peece of Grownde belongyng to this House ; or then hith bene in Tymes paste allwaies set under Covent Seal for the Wealthe of the House. And therefore my verie Truste is, that I shall fynd the Kynge as Gracious Lorde unto me, as he is to all other his Subjects.
Seyng I have not offendyd. And am and will be moste Obedyent to his most Gracious Commandment at all Tymes.
With the Grace of Allmighty Jesus, who ever preserve you in Honour longe to indure to his Pleasure. Amen.
Godistow the 5th Daie of November.
Your moste bownden Beds Woman,
Katharine Uplkeley, Abbes there.
1610: Camden -
Godstow, a little Nunnerie which Dame Ida a rich widow built, and King John both repaired and also endowed with yeerely revenews that these holy Virgins might relieve with their praier (for by this time had that perswasion possessed all mens minds) the soules of King Henrie the Second his father and of Rosamund. For there was she buried with this Epitaph in Rhyme:
Rose of the world, not rose the fresh pure floure,
Within this tombe hath taken up her boure.
She senteth now, and nothing sweet doth smell,
Which earst was wont to savour passing well.
We read that Hugh the Bishop of Lincolne, Diocesan of this place, comming hither caused her bones to be removed out of the Church as unworthy of Christian buriall for her unchast life. Neverthelesse the holy sisters there translated them againe into the Church and layed them up in a perfumed leather bagge enclossed in lead, as was found in her tombe at the dissolution of the house, and they erected a crosse there whereby the passengers were put in minde with two riming verses to serve God and pray for her. But I remember them not.
Camden's verse above is an extended version of the Latin -
Hic jacet in tumba, Rosa mundi, non Rosamunda,
Non redolet, sed olet, quae redolere solet.
Latin with a pun - was Rosamund the "Rose of the World", or was she "the Worldly Rose"?
Various other attempts have been made to paraphrase and improve her epitaph. Joel Cook, 1882: -
This tomb doth here enclose
the world's most beauteous rose
Rose passing sweet erewhile,
now naught but odor vile.
Here Rose the graced, not Rose the chaste, reposes;
The smell that rises is no smell of roses.
The rose of the world, but not the cleane flower,
Is now here graven; to whom beauty was lent:
In this grave full darke nowe is her bower,
That by her life was sweete and redolent:
But now that she is from this life blent,
Though she were sweete, now foully doth she stink.
A mirrour good for all men, that on her think.
Too heavy handed!
My own offering is -
Here lies the Rose of all the World most fair,
(This Rose by worldly names might seem less sweet)
But first time she arose, the scented air,
Gave hope that we in heaven with Rose might meet.
But this third burial was not to be undisturbed for the nunnery was suppressed by Henry VIII.
1631: Leland, Stowe's Annals -
Rosamund's tomb at Godstowe nunnery was taken up of late; it is a stone with this inscription,
Her bones were closed in lead, and within that the bones were closed in leather. When it was opened a very sweet smell came out of it.
So Rosamund came up smelling of Roses after all.
1760: ' On illicit love: Written among the ruins of Godstow nunnery, near Oxford' by John Brand
GODSTOW is at present a Ruin on the Margin of the Isis, at a small distance from Oxford. It was formerly a House of Nuns, famous perhaps on no account so much as for having been the Burial-place of Rosamond, daughter of Lord Clifford, the beautiful Paramour of Henry the Second.
This Monarch is said to have built a Labyrinth at Woodstock to conceal her from his jealous queen, who, during his absence, when he was called away by an unnatural Rebellion of his Sons, at the supposed Instigation of their Mother, found means to get access to her, and compelled her to swallow Poison.
Frequent Walks in this delightful Recess, sacred to the Moments of Contemplation, suggested the following Thoughts, for the Publication of which, let the alarming Progress of Lewdness, and consequently of Licentiousness of Manners, which indeed threatens the Dissolution of our State, be accepted as an Apology.
THE moral Muse, from yon monastic shade,
Where frown the Towers by envious Time decayed,
Invites my footsteps from the flowery plain,
And calls from Folly's rout to Fancy's train.
O hallowed Haunts! where Genius loves to stray,
Where silver Isis winds her murmuring way:
Whence seen from far, aspiring to the skies,
The awful Fanes of British Athens rise:
Where, thro' her reeds, a path as we explore,
Some startled Halcyon seeks the farther shore:
And all her woods, and winding groves among
The lonely Philomela swells her song:
Around; thy verdant olives, PEACE! arise;
Thy radiance, LEARNING! shines to distant skies!
... and another 16 pages ...
1780: from MR. URBAN, Oxford, June 4 1783, in The Gentleman's Magazine -
THE following description of the present state of Godstow Nunnery,
drawn up in the summer of 1780 by one who has taken many a solitary ramble round it,
is much at your service:-
GODSTOW NUNNERY Stands on the banks of the river Isis, at the distance of about two miles from Oxford. The site of it belongs to the Earl of Abingdon.
Little more remains at present than ragged walls, scattered over a considerable extent of ground. An arched gateway, and another venerable ruin, part of the tower of the conventual church are still standing.
Near the altar in this church Fair Rosamund was buried; but the body was afterwards removed, in token of her crime, by order of a Bp of Lincoln, the visitor.
The only entire part is a small building, formerly a private chapel. Not many years since a stone coffin, said to be Rosamund's, who perhaps was removed to this place from the church, was to be seen here.
The stone under which it lay is still shown, but is broken into four or five parts. The inscription, if it ever had any, is entirely obliterated.
Hentzner, a German, who travelled through England towards the end of Q. Elizabeth's reign, speaks of " Rosamund's Tomb of Stone," and tells us that in his time the letters were worn out, excepting what follows:
- - - Adorent,
Usque tibi detur requies, Rosamunda, precamur.
The building has been put to various uses, and at present serves occasionally for a stable.
The floor, I suppose for the sake of the stones, has been dug up,
and the walls, though they have been washed and rudely painted, are covered with [?].
On the south wall is the following inscription:
" Rosamund, the fair daughter of Walter Lord Clifford, concubine to Henry the Second, poisoned by Q. Eleanor, as some thought, ....ed[sic] at Woodstock; where K.Henry had made for her a house of wonderful working, so that no man or woman might come to her, but if he were entrusted by the king, or such as were right secret with him touching the matter.
This house after some was named Labarinthus, or Dedalus' work; which was thought to be a house wrought like unto a knot in a garden called a maze. But it was commonly said that the Queen came unto her by a clue of thread or silk, and so dealt with her, that she died not long after ; but when she died, she was buried at Godstow, in a house of nuns near Oxford, with these verses on her tomb:
Hic jacet in tomba Rosa Mundi, non Rosa Munda,
Non redolet, sed olet, quæ redolere solet. "
... There is in the " Carmina Quadragesimalia, Oxon. 1748," p. 3, so beautiful a description of Godstow Nunery, that I cannot forbear translating it for the entertainment of your learned readers ;
Where Rosamund's dust beneath the humble cell
Imparts vain glory to the wave-worn dell
Where mouldering piles are thinly scattered round,
And one lone arch nods o'er the untrodden ground
The sacred dome once reared its aweful head,
And sombrous groves their pious horrors spread.
Here once, preventing the proud bird of day,
The deep bell woke the pensive maids to pray
Here the pale taper, through the live-long night,
From narrow windows flung its glimmering light.
Now o'er the plain the mossy fragments fall,
And oxen feed along the grass-grown wall.
1784: A topographical and historical description of the University and city of Oxford
THE RUINS OF GODSTOWE.
The nunnery of Godstowe was founded during the latter end of the reign of Henry I. and is chiefly celebrated as the place where the beautiful and unfortunate Rosamond de Clifford was educated and buried ; her tomb was in the chapter house.
The buildings of this establishment were very extensive, and remained nearly entire till the reign of Charles I. when they became a garrison for his troops, and were accidentally destroyed by fire.
All that remains at present is part of the garden walls and the chapter house. The tower and other remains have been removed within the last twenty years, and the materials employed in the erection of Whytham Church.
This print is from a drawing by Melchor, from a sketch taken in 1732.
Godstow Nunnery Ruins, Melchor from a sketch of 1732
1791: Samuel Ireland -
THE Gothic simplicity and the antiquity
of Godstow bridge, with the adjoining remains
of the nunnery wall, and contiguous
woody scenery; the perpetual moving picture
on the water, produced by the passage
of west country barges, and the gayer scenery
presented by the pleasure boats, and select
parties from the neighbouring university,
render it in every point of view a happy subject for the pencil.
A CUT is now forming at some distance above the bridge, which will turn the current of the river a little from its present channel, towards the ruins of the nunnery wall, and when it falls in again with the old stream a little below the bridge, will considerably aid the navigation.
Godstow Bridge and the remains of the Nunnery, Samuel Ireland
1814: Letters from England: by don Manual Alvarez Espriella (Robert Southey) -
This place is celebrated for the ruins of a nunnery, wherein Fair Rosamund was buried,
the concubine of King Henry II., a woman as famous for her beauty and misfortunes
as our Raquel the Jewess, or the Inez de Castro of the Portugueze.
The popular songs say that Henry, when he went to the wars, hid her in a labyrinth in the adjoining park at Woodstock, to save her from his queen. The labyrinth consisted of subterranean vaults and passages, which led to a tower: through this, however, the jealous wife found her way, by means of a clue of thread, and made her rival choose between a dagger and a bowl of poison; she took the poison and died.
The English have many romances upon this subject, which are exceedingly beautiful. But the truth is, that she retired into this convent, and there closed a life of penitence by an edifying death.
She was buried in the middle of the quire, her tomb covered with a silken pall, and tapers kept burning before it, because the king for her sake had been a great benefactor to the church; till the bishop ordered her to be removed as being a harlot, and therefore unworthy so honourable a place of interrment.
Her bones were once more disturbed at the schism, when the nunnery was dissolved; and it is certain, by the testimony of the contemporary heretical writers themselves, that when the leather in which the body had been shrouded within the leaden coffin was opened, a sweet odour issued forth.
The remains of the building are trifling, and the only part of the chapel which is roofed, serves as a cow-house, according to the usual indecency with which such holy ruins are here profaned.
The man who showed us the place, told us it had been built in the times of the Romans, and seemed, as well he might, to think they were better times than his own.
The grave of Rosamund is still shown; a hazel tree grows over it, bearing every year a profusion of nuts which have no kernel. Enough of the last year's produce were lying under the tree to satisfy me of the truth of this, explain it how you will.
Godstow Abbey,Tombleson 1830
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
The Story of "Fair Rosamond" has been told in a hundred ways: the "fair and comely dame" who was loved by Henry II. was, according to the legend, concealed by the king in a bower at Woodstock from the jealous eyes of his queen, Eleanor. The theme was in high favour with the early minstrels, and historians have not disdained to preserve the memory of her surpassing beauty and her sad fate.
Listen to 'A Ballad of Olde England'
Her crispe lockes like threads of golde
Appeared to each man's sight;
Her sparkling eyes, like orient pearles,
Did cast a heavenlye light.
The blood within her crystal cheekes
Did such a colour drive,
As though the lillye and the rose
For mastership did strive.
This is part of "A Ballad of old England" - read (and hear) the complete ballad is at the end of this section.
She was, according to Stow, who follows Higden, the monk of Chester, the daughter of
Walter Lord Clifford, became the "lemman" of Henry II., and died at
Woodstock A.D. 1177, "poisoned by Queen Eleanor, as some thought." *
* Lord Lyttleton tells us that Henry II. met Rosamund de Clifford at Godstow, in 1149, on his return from Carlisle. She was at that time, in accordance with the custom of the age, a resident among the nuns here for educational purposes. She had two sons by the king: one the famous Earl of Salisbury, whose effigy is still to be seen in Salisbury Cathedral; the other was educated for the Church, and became Bishop of Lincoln, and ultimately Chancellor of England.
Stow proceeds to relate that her royal lover had made for her a house of wonderful working, so that no man or woman might come to her but he that was instructed by the king, or such as were right secret with him touching the matter. This house, after some, was named
Labyrinthus, or "Daedalus' worke, which was wrought like unto a knot, in a garden called a maze."
Drayton, using the poet's licence, describes it as "consisting of vaults underground, arched and walled." And, in the famous ballad of "Fair Rosamond", it is more minutely pictured as "a bower", curiously built of "stone and timber strong", having no fewer than one hundred and fifty doors, and so cunningly contrived with turnings round about, that none could obtain access to it except by "a clue of thread."
But jealousy is proverbially quick-sighted: Queen Eleanor discovered the secret, possessed herself of "the clue of thriddle, or silk", and so dealt with her rival that "she lived not long." Authorities differ as to the mode by which the queen obtained the necessary guide. Hollinshed seriously states that "the king had drawn it after him out of her chamber with his foot"; and Speed, that "it fell from Rosamond's lappe as she sate to take ayre, and, suddenly fleeing from the sight of the searcher, the end of her silk fastened to her foote, and the clue, still unwinding, remained behind." But historians content themselves with informing us that the lady "lived not long after", and do not insinuate that she was wounded with other weapons than sharp words, although tradition and the ballad-makers unite in charging the queen with the murder of Fair Rosamond by compelling her to drink poison. She was buried at "Godstow, in a house of nunnes beside Oxford", according to Stow, and "with these verses carved upon her tomb:" —
Hic jacct in tumba Rosa mundi, non Rosamunda!
Non redolet sed olet, quae redolere solet.
Her royal lover expended large sums in adorning her tomb. But, in the year 1191, Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, ordered the removal of her remains "without the church"; he was obeyed, but after his departure her bones were gathered in a perfumed bag, and laid again in their resting-place, "under a fayre large grave-stone, about whose edges a fillet of brass was inlaid, and thereon written her name and praise." This tomb was partially existing in the last century, and "from the remains of the inscription it appears that she lived to a considerable age", setting aside the popular tale; the most probable account of the close of her life is, that she broke off her connexion with the king, and retired to Godstow, spending there the remainder of her days in religious duties — a theory quite in accordance with the usages of the times in which she lived, and of which there are abundant examples.
RUINS OF GODSTOW NUNNERY
Of "The House of Nunnes" there now exist but a few ivy-clad walls;
it was consecrated for Benedictine nuns a.d. 1138, in the presence of
King Stephen and his queen; seven hundred years and more have passed
since then, and three hundred years since the last abbess resigned her
home to the physician. Dr. George Owen, to whom Henry VIII. had
given it; still the river rolls by its rugged courtyard and dilapidated
gables, recalling to mind the story of the fair and frail beauty who gives
the ruin a special place in history.
At the foot of Witham Hill — the hill that has so cheerful and fair an aspect from all points of the river within a range of several miles, and so agreeably enlivens the view from Oxford — is the ancient village of Witteham, or Wighthham, where a nunnery existed in the year 690. Here the Earls of Abingdon have now their seat, partly built, it is said, with the stones of Godstow.
1882: England, Picturesque and Descriptive, Joel Cook -
Godstow Nunnery, Joel Cook, 1882
1884: The Upper Thames, Harpers New Monthly Magazine -
Behold us as we glide past the ancient remains of the abbey and convent of Godstow,
where, says the historian,
the tenderest associations, allied to melancholy, naturally arise in reflecting on the fair but frail Rosamond, when, in the pride of youth, beauty, and innocence, she was wont to grace these precincts with her presence, and the gallant and enamored Henry, with all the ardency of early affection, first whispered to the beauteous maid his tale of love.
Our captain says this historian was an eloquent and discreet author.
The lieutenant says he was a bore, and the enamored Harry a humbug.
I support the [lieutenant], and we find the subject a fruitful topic, the general conclusion being that it is not safe for man or woman to put their trust in princes.
1909: The Stripling Thames, Fred Thacker -
Immediately beyond the lock there is much to linger and muse over; a scene of varied and romantic history ...
The story of Rosamund's life and death has all
the requirements for a modern sensation - a royal scandal, sex, murder and
religion - what more could a tabloid
journalist want? But the story also has the
marks of fairytale: a labyrinth; a silken thread; and a poisoned chalice.
It cries out for us to read between the lines!
It is said that the labyrinth was guarded by one of Henry's knights. The knight held the end of a silver thread which led to Rosamund. Queen Eleanor was very jealous and killed the knight, stole the thread and, when she caught up with Rosamund, killed her by making her drink from a poisoned chalice.
The story is set out in the old ballad.
Rosamund was understandably upset at being murdered and now her ghost is said to haunt the Trout Inn. I suspect this transfer would have surprised a twelth century nun though perhaps, given her history, she was a lady used to surprises.
Rosamund the Fair appears in two Walter Scott novels, The Talisman & Woodstock -
"Jane Clifford" was her name, as books aver,
"Fair Rosamond" was but her nom de guerre!
From The Genius of the Thames by Thomas Love Peacock -
The wind-flower waves, in lonely bloom,
On Godstow's desolated wall:
There thin shades flit through twilight gloom,
And murmured accents feebly fall.
The aged hazel nurtures there
Its hollow fruit, so seeming fair,
And lightly throws its humble shade,
Where Rosamunda's form is laid.
It is said that the Hazel tree there had apparently perfect fruits which were however empty. This would seem to me to have been a gift to a moralising poet - but Peacock leaves it without further comment.
Listen to 'Fair Rosamond'
When as King Henry rulde this land,
The second of that name,
Besides the queene, he dearly lovde
A faire and comely dame.
Most peerlesse was her beautye founde,
Her favour, and her face;
A sweeter creature in this worlde
Could never prince embrace.
Her crispe lockes like threads of golde,
Appeard to each man's sight;
Her sparkling eyes, like Orient pearles,
Did cast a heavenlye light.
The blood within her crystal cheekes
Did such a colour drive,
As though the lillye and the rose
For mastership did strive.
Yea Rosamonde, fair Rosamonde,
Her name was called so,
To whom our queene, Dame Ellinor,
Was known a deadlye foe.
The king therefore, for her defence
Against the furious queene,
At Woodstocke builded such a bower,
The like was never seene.
Most curiously that bower was built,
Of stone and timber strong;
An hundered and fifty doors
Did to this bower belong:
And they so cunninglye contriv'd,
With turnings round about,
That none but with a clue of thread
Could enter in or out.
And for his love and ladyes sake,
That was so faire and brighte,
The keeping of this bower he gave
Unto a valiant knighte.
But fortune, that doth often frowne
Where she before did smile,
The kinges delighte and ladyes joy
Full soon shee did beguile:
For why, the kinges ungracious sonne,
Whom he did high advance,
Against his father raised warres
Within the realme of France.
But yet before our comelye king
The English land forsooke,
Of Rosamond, his lady faire,
His farewelle thus he tooke:
"My Rosamonde, my only Rose,
That pleasest best mine eye,
The fairest flower in all the worlde
To feed my fantasye,--
"The flower of mine affected heart,
Whose sweetness doth excelle,
My royal Rose, a thousand times
I bid thee nowe farwelle!
"For I must leave my fairest flower,
My sweetest Rose, a space,
And cross the seas to famous France,
Proud rebelles to abase.
"But yet, my Rose, be sure thou shalt
My coming shortlye see,
And in my heart, when hence I am,
Ile beare my Rose with mee."
When Rosamond, that ladye brighte,
Did heare the king saye soe,
The sorrowe of her grieved heart
Her outward lookes did showe.
And from her cleare and crystall eyes
The teares gusht out apace,
Which, like the silver-pearled dewe,
Ranne downe her comely face.
Her lippes, erst like the corall redde,
Did waxe both wan and pale,
And for the sorrow she conceivde
Her vitall spirits faile.
And falling downe all in a swoone
Before King Henryes face,
Full oft he in his princelye armes
Her bodye did embrace.
And twentye times, with watery eyes,
He kist her tender cheeke,
Untill he had revivde againe
Her senses milde and meeke.
"Why grieves my Rose, my sweetest Rose?"
The king did often say:
"Because," quoth shee, "to bloodye warres
My lord must part awaye.
"But since your Grace on forrayne coastes,
Amonge your foes unkinde,
Must goe to hazard life and limbe,
Why should I staye behinde?
"Nay, rather let me, like a page,
Your sworde and target beare;
That on my breast the blowes may lighte,
Which would offend you there.
"Or lett mee, in your royal tent,
Prepare your bed at nighte,
And with sweete baths refresh your grace,
At your returne from fighte.
"So I your presence may enjoye
No toil I will refuse;
But wanting you, my life is death:
Nay, death Ild rather chuse."
"Content thy self, my dearest love,
Thy rest at home shall bee,
In Englandes sweet and pleasant isle;
For travell fits not thee.
"Faire ladies brooke not bloodye warres;
Soft peace their sexe delightes;
Not rugged campes, but courtlye bowers;
Gay feastes, not cruell fightes.
"My Rose shall safely here abide,
With musicke passe the daye,
Whilst I amonge the piercing pikes
My foes seeke far awaye.
"My Rose shall shine in pearle and golde,
Whilst Ime in armour dighte;
Gay galliards here my love shall dance,
Whilst I my foes goe fighte.
"And you, Sir Thomas, whom I truste
To bee my loves defence,
Be carefull of my gallant Rose
When I am parted hence."
And therewithall he fetcht a sigh,
As though his heart would breake;
And Rosamonde, for very griefe,
Not one plaine word could speake.
And at their parting well they mighte
In heart be grieved sore:
After that daye, faire Rosamonde
The king did see no more.
For when his Grace had past the seas,
And into France was gone,
With envious heart, Queene Ellinor
To Woodstocke came anone.
And forth she calls this trustye knighte
In an unhappy houre,
Who, with his clue of twined-thread,
Came from this famous bower.
And when that they had wounded him,
The queene this thread did gette,
And wente where Ladye Rosamonde
Was like an angell sette.
But when the queene with stedfast eye
Beheld her beauteous face,
She was amazed in her minde
At her exceeding grace.
"Cast off from thee those robes," she said,
"That riche and costlye bee;
And drinke thou up this deadlye draught
Which I have brought to thee."
Then presentlye upon her knees
Sweet Rosamonde did falle;
And pardon of the queene she crav'd
For her offences all.
"Take pitty on my youthfull yeares,"
Faire Rosamonde did crye;
"And lett mee not with poison stronge
Enforced bee to dye.
"I will renounce my sinfull life,
And in some cloyster bide;
Or else be banisht, if you please,
To range the world soe wide.
"And for the fault which I have done,
Though I was forc'd theretoe,
Preserve my life, and punish mee
As you thinke meet to doe."
And with these words, her lillie handes
She wrunge full often there;
And downe along her lovely face
Did trickle many a teare.
But nothing could this furious queene
Therewith appeased bee;
The cup of deadlye poyson stronge,
As she knelt on her knee,
She gave this comelye dame to drinke;
Who tooke it in her hand,
And from her bended knee arose,
And on her feet did stand,
And casting up her eyes to heaven,
Shee did for mercye calle;
And drinking up the poison stronge,
Her life she lost withalle.
And when that death through everye limbe
Had showde its greatest spite,
Her chiefest foes did plain confesse
Shee was a glorious wight.
Her body then they did entomb,
When life was fled away,
At Godstowe, neare to Oxford towne,
As may be seene this day.