po·e·sy n. pl. po·e·sies 1. Poetical works; poetry. 2. The art or practice of composing poems. 3. The inspiration involved in composing poetry. [Middle English poesie, from Old French, from Latin posis, from Greek poisis, from poiein, to create; see kwei-2 in Indo-European roots.]

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Sunday, March 15, 2009



Though the word means the 15th of several months, most will associate it with the soothsayer's warning to Julius Caesar, "Beware the Ides of March," one of William Shakespeare's many enduring expressions.


As I've been working my way through reading Shakespeare's plays, this entire situation caught my fancy.

The British monarchy has a long and bloody history, interesting of course.

Plantaganet kings ruled from 1154-1399
The last of these, Richard II, was sent into exile and had his throne usurped by Henry IV of the House of Lancaster. Thus ruled his son, Henry V, and Henry VI, under whose reign France, won by his father, was lost.

Were there ever a more backstabbing, power-hungry bunch than Henry VI's cousins, protectors, so-called allies?

What of his treacherous wife?

Henry VI, considered weak and in need of protection, did not have the "kingly" qualities of his father and was often led astray by his advisers. It was but a matter of time before someone laid claim as a "rightful heir" to the throne.

That someone was Richard, Duke of York, who lays out a convoluted history in Shakespeare's play Henry VI Part 2. (below)

King Henry VI 1421-1471

Richard Plantagenet, third Duke of York, ca 1410-1460

Here is the scene:

Act 2. Scene II

SCENE II. London. YORK'S garden.


Now, my good Lords of Salisbury and Warwick,
Our simple supper ended, give me leave
In this close walk to satisfy myself,
In craving your opinion of my title,
Which is infallible, to England's crown.

My lord, I long to hear it at full.

Sweet York, begin: and if thy claim be good,
The Nevils are thy subjects to command.

Then thus:
Edward the Third, my lords, had seven sons:
The first, Edward the Black Prince, Prince of Wales;
The second, William of Hatfield, and the third,
Lionel Duke of Clarence: next to whom
Was John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster;
The fifth was Edmund Langley, Duke of York;
The sixth was Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester;
William of Windsor was the seventh and last.
Edward the Black Prince died before his father
And left behind him Richard, his only son,
Who after Edward the Third's death reign'd as king;
Till Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster,
The eldest son and heir of John of Gaunt,
Crown'd by the name of Henry the Fourth,
Seized on the realm, deposed the rightful king,
Sent his poor queen to France, from whence she came,
And him to Pomfret; where, as all you know,
Harmless Richard was murder'd traitorously.

Father, the duke hath told the truth:
Thus got the house of Lancaster the crown.

Which now they hold by force and not by right;
For Richard, the first son's heir, being dead,
The issue of the next son should have reign'd.

But William of Hatfield died without an heir.

The third son, Duke of Clarence, from whose line
I claimed the crown, had issue, Philippe, a daughter,
Who married Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March:
Edmund had issue, Roger Earl of March;
Roger had issue, Edmund, Anne and Eleanor.

This Edmund, in the reign of Bolingbroke,
As I have read, laid claim unto the crown;
And, but for Owen Glendower, had been king,
Who kept him in captivity till he died.
But to the rest.

His eldest sister, Anne,
My mother, being heir unto the crown
Married Richard Earl of Cambridge; who was son
To Edmund Langley, Edward the Third's fifth son.
By her I claim the kingdom: she was heir
To Roger Earl of March, who was the son
Of Edmund Mortimer, who married Philippe,
Sole daughter unto Lionel Duke of Clarence:
So, if the issue of the elder son
Succeed before the younger, I am king.

What plain proceeding is more plain than this?
Henry doth claim the crown from John of Gaunt,
The fourth son; York claims it from the third.
Till Lionel's issue fails, his should not reign:
It fails not yet, but flourishes in thee
And in thy sons, fair slips of such a stock.
Then, father Salisbury, kneel we together;
And in this private plot be we the first
That shall salute our rightful sovereign
With honour of his birthright to the crown.

Long live our sovereign Richard, England's king!

We thank you, lords. But I am not your king
Till I be crown'd and that my sword be stain'd
With heart-blood of the house of Lancaster;
And that's not suddenly to be perform'd,
But with advice and silent secrecy.
Do you as I do in these dangerous days:
Wink at the Duke of Suffolk's insolence,
At Beaufort's pride, at Somerset's ambition,
At Buckingham and all the crew of them,
Till they have snared the shepherd of the flock,
That virtuous prince, the good Duke Humphrey:
'Tis that they seek, and they in seeking that
Shall find their deaths, if York can prophesy.

My lord, break we off; we know your mind at full.

My heart assures me that the Earl of Warwick
Shall one day make the Duke of York a king.

And, Nevil, this I do assure myself:
Richard shall live to make the Earl of Warwick
The greatest man in England but the king.


Now my understanding is the Duke of York's claim is based on his relationship to the third son of Edward III, while the present ruler Henry VI's claim arises through the fourth son of King Edward III, grandfather of Richard II, last Plantagenet king.

Who has the greater right to be king? Why, the Duke of York, say his supporters.

But Henry VI had supporters of his own, and there are bloody battles, deaths, beheadings, vengeances carried out.

(I found the play quite exciting!)

In the end the Duke of York won the right to the crown, but agreed to wait until Henry VI's death before he became king.

Alas, he never was crowned--that was left to his sons.

But that's another play.

~Side note: the War of the Roses began in 1455 by Yorkists, resentful of the way The Lancasters seized the throne in 1399 from Richard II. The House of York was represented by a white rose, while Lancaster used a red rose. These civil wars continued until 1487

Can't leave without adding some Shakespeare sonnets, the first of these well-known:


Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.


Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlook'd for joy in that I honour most.
Great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun's eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil'd,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil'd:
Then happy I, that love and am beloved
Where I may not remove nor be removed.


When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.