Scogan, Henry

Scogan, Henry
(ca. 1361–1407)
   Henry Scogan was an English poet and friend of Geoffrey CHAUCER. He was an esquire in the household of King Henry IV, and was tutor to the king’s sons, to whom he addressed his only surviving poem, A Moral Balade (ca. 1406). But Scogan is perhaps best known as the subject of Chaucer’s comic short poem, the Envoy to Scogan. In addition to being an esquire of the king, Scogan was lord of the manor of Haviles, a property he inherited upon the death of his brother in 1391. He became tutor to Henry IV’s sons: Henry the Prince of Wales, Thomas (later duke of Clarence), John (later duke of Bedford), and Humphrey (later duke of Gloucester), all born between 1388 and 1391. Thus the princes would have been between 15 and 18 years of age when Scogan wrote his poem, if Skeat’s suggestion of 1406–07 for the poem’s date is accurate—though that was based merely on Scogan’s reference to “old age” catching up to him in the poem. According to the copyist John SHIRLEY, the poem was first read at a supper organized by London merchants at which the four princes were guests of honor.
   A Moral Balade is a poem of 189 lines, made up of 21 eight-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbc. Between the 13th and 14th stanzas of his poem, Scogan inserts Chaucer’s short poem, the BALLADE Gentilesse (often subtitled, in manuscripts “A moral ballade,” like Scogan’s poem), which stands out because of its seven-line RHYME ROYAL stanzas. Scogan accuses himself in conventional ways of a misspent youth, says he is now old (though he couldn’t have been more than about 46), and gives the princes advice similar to that contained in Chaucer’s poem—that true nobility was not a matter of birth but rather of character. The poem, sometimes mistaken as Chaucer’s, was often printed in early editions of Chaucer’s works. But most readers will be better acquainted with Scogan through the poem that Chaucer addresses to him. That poem, usually dated 1393 because its allusion to torrential rains seems appropriate for that year, humorously takes Scogan to task for having abandoned his Lady because she would not return his love. Chaucer claims that Venus is weeping uncontrollably over the situation, and thus Scogan is responsible for the rains. It seems likely that Scogan had sent an equally humorous poem to Chaucer declaring his intention of giving up his love, and that Chaucer was responding with this poem. But that must remain conjecture, since the only extant work of Scogan’s that we have is the Moral Balade.
   ■ Ruud, Jay. “Chaucer’s Envoy to Scogan: ‘Tullius Kyndenesse’ and the Law of Kynde,” Chaucer Review 20 (1986): 323–330.
   ■ Scogan, Henry. “A Moral Balade,” in The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Vol 7, Chaucerian and Other Pieces, edited by Walter W. Skeat. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1897, 238–244.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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