Chidiock Tichborne

From Academic Kids

Chidiock Tichborne (1558September 20, 1586) is remembered as an English conspirator and poet.

He was born in Southampton in 1558 to Roman Catholic parents. Given the recent succession of Elizabeth I to the throne over Mary I, he was allowed to freely practice his religion for most of his early life. However in 1570 the Queen was excommunicated by the Pope for her support of the Protestant religion and in retaliation ended her tolerance of the Catholic Church. Catholicism was made illegal, and Roman Catholics were once more banned by law from practicing their religion.

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In 1583, Tichborne and his father were arrested and questioned concerning the use of "popish relics". Though released without charge, records suggest that this was not the last time they were to be questioned by the authorities over their religion.

In June 1586, Tichborne agreed to take part in the Babington Plot to murder Queen Elizabeth and replace her with the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots who was next in line to the throne. The plot was foiled by Sir Francis Walsingham using a double agent and though most of the conspirators fled, Tichborne had an injured leg and was forced to remain in London. On August 14, he was arrested and sentenced to death.

While in custody in the Tower of London on September 19 (the eve of his execution), Tichborne wrote to his wife Agnes. The letter contained three stanzas of poetry that are his only known piece of work, Tichborne's Elegy, also known by its first line My Prime of Youth is but a Frost of Cares. The poem is a dark look at a life tragically cut short and is a favourite of many scholars even to this day.

Tichborne was executed by hanging on September 20, 1586. He was disembowelled while still alive on the gallows at Tower Hill as a warning to other would-be conspirators; however when the Queen heard of this she was so disgusted she forbade this practice from ever taking place again.

Tichborne's Elegy

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain;
The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.
My tale was heard and yet it was not told,
My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green,
My youth is spent and yet I am not old,
I saw the world and yet I was not seen;
My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.
I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I looked for life and saw it was a shade,
I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I was but made;
My glass is full, and now my glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

This is the first printed version from Verses of Prayse and Joye (1586). This version differs slightly from the original text, in which the first line of the second verse reads "The spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung," and had various other minor textual differences.

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