In John Skelton's The Bowge
of Courte, Crawford considers the attraction of allegorical enchantment as a form of self-defence.
In his early poem The Bowge
of Court (not later than 1499), a dream vision is structured by the idea of the list.
Scattergood explores this wide range of work--from The Bowge
of Courte to A Replycacion Agaynst Certayne Yong Scolers Abjured of Late--and chronicles Skelton's major life events and relationships with powerful individuals, like King Henry VIII and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.
These contexts situate Skelton first at the court of Henry VII, serving as tutor to the princes Arthur and Henry, and while producing works in both prose and verse relevant to the exercise of rule, also writing in The Bowge
of Court about the precariousness of court life and exploring the potentialities of elegy and different forms of lyric verse.
(32) 'Skelton's Bowge
of Court and the Crisis of Allegory in Late-Medieval England', in Nation, Court and Culture: New Essays on Fifteenth-Century English Poetry, ed.
Looking back on the history of English literature one can find an endless catalogue of political satires, ranging from an allegory of court life in John Skelton's The Bowge
No wonder, then, that if the romances - typically thought of as 'escape literature' - resonate with a sense of troubled times, and if texts as diverse as Mum and the Sothsegger, The Bowge
of Court, and Pasquil the Playne are sceptical of the availability of honest counsel to advance good government, as explored by Helen Barr and Kate Ward-Perkins in '"Spekyng for one's sustenance": The Rhetoric of Counsel in Mum and the Sothsegger, Skelton's Bowge
of Court, and Elyot's Pasquil the Playne', the overtly religious literature of the period should commonly be concerned with fear as much as hope, and death as much as life, offering vivid representations of immorality, and advocating instruction, amendment, and penance.
Later examples of Malkin and its variants occur in the Wakefield First Shepherds' Play (the story of Mall and her broken pitcher); the Wakefield Play of Herod, where a mother is abused as Mawd 'hag'; and Skelton's Bowge
of Courte, where the 'lemman' Malkyn lives in 'the stewys syde'.(11)
Skelton's most notable poem from the period of his tenure under Henry VII is Bowge
of Courte, a satire of the disheartening experience of life at court; it was not until his years at Diss that he attempted to write the poetry for which he is now best known.
16 I think of Hervy Hafter's bit of verse addressed to Drede in Skelton's "The Bowge
of Courte": "Tell me your mynde, me thynke ye make a verse.
His surviving works include A Garland of Laurel (c1520), an allegorical poem dealing with the crowning of Skelton himself as a great poet; Philip Sparrow (c1500), a lyric mourning the death of a sparrow, the pet of a young girl; Colin Clout (c1519), a satire on the abuses of the Church; The Bowge
of Court, a satire in allegory on life at the English court; Magnificence, a Morality Play; The Tunning of Elinour Rumming, a coarse and humorous work, giving a realistic picture of contemporary low life; and Why Come Ye Not to Court?
And he gaderip togidere pe watris of pe see as in a bowge
; and settip depe watris in tresouris.