John Lydgate: Poems


Early life and education

Lydgate admittedly lived a profligate life: "I lied to excuse myself. I stole apples … I made mouths at people like a wanton ape. I gambled at cherry stones. I was late to rise and dirty at meals. I was chief shammer of illness".[3] He was admitted to the Benedictine monastery of Bury St Edmunds Abbey at fifteen and took initial vows as a monk there a year later.

Patronage and works

Having literary ambitions (he was an admirer of Geoffrey Chaucer and a friend to his son, Thomas) he sought and obtained patronage for his literary work at the courts of Henry IV of England, Henry V of England and Henry VI of England. His patrons included, amongst many others, the mayor and aldermen of London, the chapter of St. Paul's Cathedral, Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick and Henry V and VI,

His main supporter from 1422 was Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.

In 1423 Lydgate was made prior of Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex. He soon resigned the office to concentrate on his travels and writing. He was a prolific writer of poems, allegories, fables and romances. His most famous works were his longer and more moralistic Troy Book, Siege of Thebes and the Fall of Princes. The Troy Book was a translation of the Latin prose narrative by Guido delle Colonne, Historia destructionis Troiae.

At one time, the long allegorical poem The Assembly of Gods was attributed to him,[4] but the work is now considered anonymous. Lydgate was also believed to have written London Lickpenny, a well-known satirical work; however, his authorship of this piece has been thoroughly discredited. He also translated the poems of Guillaume de Deguileville into English.

In his later years he lived and probably died at the monastery of Bury St. Edmunds. At some point in his life he returned to the village of his birth and added his signature and a coded message[3] in a graffito onto a wall[5] to St Mary's Church, Lidgate.

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