Piers Plowman, tradition, social discontent, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, Edward VI, dream, misrule, council
Churchyard’s rival, Thomas Camel, who in one instance purports to be a cattle farmer. Most central to the controversy’s socio-political makeup is the convergence of the Piers Plowman tradition of social satire with patriotic flyting whereby the ploughman’s social discontent is combined with the staunch royalism of courtly flyting.
The controversy is a hybrid, the generic and political temperature of which is set by Churchyard’s liminal position as an emphatically loyal servant and champion of the young Edward VI who is simultaneously a malcontent and outsider under the regime of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (later Duke of Northumberland), and his allies.
Both Henry Orion St. Onge, Churchyard’s biographer, and Herbert L. Collmann, the only person to print in full any of these flyting verses in the last century, agree that the subject matter of Churchyard’s opening satire, ‘Dauy Dycars Dreame’, is innocuous. Consequently, they are unable to explain why it generated such a prolific flyting. John N. King, while recognising that Churchyard’s appropriation of the Piers tradition immediately announces it as a political satire, considers that the ballads “lack the urgency of [contemporary] commonwealth complaints”, and fails to ground the poem within the context of the contemporary political climate.
In fact, ‘Dauy Dycars Dreame’ is a radical
Mychell Loblee, 1560), STC 5225. All quotations are from this edition.
231 Piers Plowman was printed in 1550 by Robert Crowley who, as Daniel Knauss kindly pointed out to me, singles out Daw the Dikker (ditcher), the namesake of Churchyard’s persona Davy, in his prologue. This probably explains Churchyard’s appropriation of him for the dream since Dikker only appears occasionally in Piers, most pertinently when he is threatened with starvation, for which is blamed the misrule of the king and his council. See William Langland, Piers Plowman: A Parallel-Text Edition of the A, B, C and Z Versions, ed. A. V. C. Schmidt, 2 vols (London and NY: Longman, 1995), I. B VI. ll.314-29. Subsequent references for this text are given in parentheses following quotations.
232 King, (1982), p.249. Herbert L. Collmann thinks the poem “so little provocative in matter as scarcely to justify the appearance of others so numerous and lengthy”, Ballads and Broadsides Chiefly of the Elizabethan Period and Printed in Black-Letter, Most of Which Were Formerly in the Heber Collection and Are now in the Library at Britwell Court, Buckinghamshire, ed. Herbert L. Collmann (Oxford: Printed for the Roxburghe Club, 1912), p.58. St. Onge (1966) calls it “fairly innocuous” (p.38). Livingston (1991) follows suit and terms the ballad an