This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Saturday Rave: To Mistress Isabel Pennell by John Skelton

The poet John Skelton was born in about 1460 when Henry VI was king of England, and died in 1529 in the reign of Henry VIII.

That means he was born in medieval times, but died a modern man.

Skelton's poems contain lots of lists, often of birds, and sometimes of flowers.

This poem is about a "goodly baby" (though I don't know how old Isabel was when the poem was written).

But I'll tell you something: I think that every baby should be welcomed into the world in the same way.

To Mistress Isabel Pennell

By Saint Mary, my lady,

Your mammy and your daddy,

Brought forth a goodly baby!

My maiden Isabel,

Reflaring rosabel,

The fragrant camomel;

The ruddy rosary,

The sovereign rosemary,

The pretty strawberry;

The columbine, the nept,

The gillyflower well set,

The proper violet:

Ennewed your colour

Is like the daisy flower

After the April shower;

Star of the morning gray,

The blossom on the spray,

The freshest flower of May;

Maidenly demure,

Of womanhood the lure;

Wherefore I make you sure

It were an heavenly health,

It were an endless wealth,

A life for God Himself,

To hear this nightingale

Among the birdes smale,

Warbling in the vale,

Dug, dug,

Jug, jug,

Good year and good luck,

With chuck, chuck, chuck, chuck!

Nept is catmint, reflaring rosabel means fragrant rosebud, and a rosary means a rose bush.

Chuck, as well as being a birdy sort of a noise, is a term of affection. It's still used in this way in Liverpool, England.

I'm not sure that this poem is great verse, but it's certainly cheerful verse.

And there's never enough of that.

Word To Consider Today: chuck. This used to mean hen, and this is how it's come to be a term of affection. If you're on the East Coast of Northern England rather than the West, hen is what they'll call you. Or perhaps even chick!



  1. It is indeed cheerful.
    It makes me think of spring, and all the goodies that come with it.
    Please appear soon spring!

    I use 'chuck' and 'chick' as terms of endearment, but I've not heard anybody else use them here. Probably the N.Z. part of me!
    I've only heard 'hen' used in a derogatory sense.

    1. In my part of England 'chick' was used in the sixties to mean a young, fashionable, attractive girl. So imagine my shock (and delight) at being so addressed at Newcastle Station recently. The usage is diferent there, obviously, but I was still dead chuffed.

  2. Oh yeah! There was an old man across our street when I was little that called my Mum 'chuck'. He was big, friendly and had a great red nose. I would have been too young to identify any sort of accent, but maybe he was from up north. I'd forgotten about that - thank you Sally.

    1. The Word Den: la madeleine do nos jours, Eddie.