on the untimely death of the most Protestant divine,
Lady Jane Grey, daughter of Henry Duke of Suffolk,
who met death at the stroke of the axe with an uncommonly steadfast spirit.
Written by the learned Sir Thomas Chaloner.
Translated by J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Jane paid for her father’s sins by shedding her own blood,
and like a phoenix, she will live on for an eternity.
She is herself an eternal phoenix because of her attributes and accomplishments,
worthy of describing here now with inspiration from the goddesses Venus and Athena.
Jane was both beautiful and refined:
Men responded both to her lovely face and to her great intellect.
Had you seen her face yourself, its irresistible nobility would have inspired you.
Had you heard her refined speech, you would have been modest.
But just like the face of someone witnessing treachery,
She averted her eyes with appropriate modesty.
Such character (my goodness!) invested in so delicate a frame!
And she improved upon that with which she just happened to have been born.
Though she was not yet eighteen years old when she died,
she was well-educated, so much so that her learning astounded the professors.
And she was likewise exceptionally humble, gentle, and wise;
yet she was never seen to act superior.
And she who was the object of compassion while alive
went to her death with a happy heart.
She maintained a strong resolve in the face of death,
Or until she was executed like a female Socrates.
But lest anyone accuse me of making things up
in order to exaggerate her qualities in this elegy,
I swear to you by Venus the goddess of love and everything sacred to heroic Athena,
and by the nine Muses, by all the gods and goddesses,
I am not exaggerating. That is the method of the panegyrist of the living
rather than of the elegist of the dead.
But let’s start over: And the things that she did may be remembered through our speeches.
Like a winsome dove, Jane was thrown to the cruel lioness that was Mary.
And in this way the Privy Councillors offended Mary, forcing Jane to do their bidding.
She was rendered incapable of opposing them.
Let these events be examined by a fair judge, one who understands human hearts.
That which the law does not forbid, justice always allows.
But there was no justice then, though once Mary had her vengeance against Jane
(who if she sinned did so unknowingly) she was able to set aside cruelty.
God in heaven is brutally impartial when he becomes angry: And I think
it was because of Mary’s vengeance that God transferred the realm to Elizabeth.
And though Jane was riddled with fear in her final hours, she was able to overcome her fears
knowing that she was assured of salvation and heavenly reward.
And taking a dislike to the evil actions of the Privy Council, the god Nemesis punished
many of them with long, painful illnesses before their own deaths.
She inflicted one with dropsy, and another with painful kidney stones,
Judge Morgan was driven mad, while others suffered similar punishments.
So learn from this, you mortals: When the innocent are oppressed,
God will always avenge them.
And do not think that just because God does not immediately smite those
who contradict His Will that He is therefore harmless.
But let’s move on from these things, since they are known to godly people,
and they can be found in the holy Bible, which is like an eternal spring of truth.
It is proper that the Muses should grant me garlands of inspiration for this task,
just as those Muses gave the same to the ancient elegist Ovid,
and it is also proper for me to eulogize Jane with sad poetry,
she who perished in cruel disgrace like a twig snapped in half.
Oh Jane, oh lovely face, with a heart as strong as a giant Cyclops!
But the world treated her harshly.
Why wasn’t Jane able to change the religious beliefs of her royal cousin?
Was she unable to persuade even one among simple women?
Didn’t Jane feel sorry for those who died during the rebellions, just as she felt sorry for godly people,
despite being so familiar herself with evil-doing after having been harmed so severely?
Was she ever unable to maintain her upright dignity?
Wasn’t she endowed with rare attributes and great gifts from God?
How can so many great qualities be united in just one girl,
when they are brought together in so very few men?
I don’t even need to mention what she knew about music, dancing, and singing,
Or how she excelled at sewing with a needle or drawing with a pen.
Can you imagine? She was not only an expert in Hebrew,
but also knew Arabic and Aramaic.
And it isn’t even worth mentioning that she knew Greek and Latin,
since any civilized person knows those languages anyway.
Among modern languages, add French and Italian to her native English.
If counted up, she knew eight languages in all.
That ancient scholar, old St Jerome, knew five languages himself
but he would still envy Jane. She exceeded him by three!
If there is greater value in a beautiful body,
then her family background is nothing.
Her father stole for her the many titles owed to the Queen of England, Ireland and France,
while her mother gave her royal blood, but only under a dark star.
She was destroyed by these ‘gifts,’ without having sought them or stolen them for herself,
and any good she might have done was likewise destroyed.
Granted that the powerful Councillors were able to protect themselves from punishment,
but why did a lone girl have to die in all their places?
Mary forgave the Councillors for usurping the royal dignity,
but she did not release Jane; instead Mary imprisoned her.
Mary did not forgive Jane. She was not affected by Jane’s youth or courage,
nor by their mutual kinship, nor by pregnancy (which is a gift from God).
Jane’s age, her lineage, and her sex, as well as the obvious guilt of the Councillors,
should have convinced Mary of her innocence.
Yet Mary’s feelings were not altered by these things,
so Jane was required to extend her pale noble neck (how sad!)
under the executioner’s axe, and our heroine received
the death blow with calm.
But just as Achilles brought perpetual and enormous dishonor on his son Pyrrhus
by forcing him to slay the lady Polyxena, so too Mary will be remembered with disgrace.
The entire crowd watching the execution was overcome with tears,
but Jane, mindful of maintaining her grace, approached death with a dry eye.
And after delivering a powerful speech to those gathered there, sweet Jane
prayed quietly in order to absolve herself of any sin before dying.
Oh, pitiless Mary! At her hands Jane gushed forth a river of martyr’s blood,
by which she was at least cleansed and made holy.
Copyright © 2005 – 2016, J. Stephan Edwards
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