John Skelton, Laureate

John Skelton, Laureate

John Skelton, Laureate

John Skelton, Laureate

Excerpt

That this book is an uncomfortable compromise between a collection of scattered papers concerning John Skelton and an orderly "Life and Works" results partly from the nature of the material itself and partly from the manner in which the research was pursued. It was originally inspired by a lecture given about ten years ago by Professor Harry Morgan Ayres, at Columbia University. On the day after that lecture, with the thunder of Colin Clout still rumbling in my ears, I chanced upon a copy of Skelton, bought the volumes, and read. There was much that was fascinating, much that I failed to understand, and Speak, Parrot, in particular, appeared to me the most artfully compounded conglomeration of gibberish that I had ever encountered. Although I am now sure that Parrot is anything but gibberish (despite the fact that many passages remain dark to me), I am more than ever convinced that its author was a genius of high rank.

Study of Speak, Parrot led to a consideration of the course of events in Skelton's quarrel with Wolsey, and that in turn to problem after problem, until I had meddled with so many Skeltonic cruxes that it became necessary to call a halt in order to fashion the inchoate mass of material into a semblance of shape.

That shape is this book. It betrays its haphazard development both by what it omits and by what it stresses. For example, Colin Clout, generally accepted as the best of Skelton's poems, receives less discussion than the mediocre Replication. Magnificence and Elinor Rumming are allowed less extended treatment than the poems against the Scots. Furthermore, the first (and the longest) chapter of this . . .

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