“Flower of Cities All” (William Dunbar, 1501)

The Tower of London and London Bridge in the fifteenth century

Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts and descriptions of the historic City of London,  this one written in the form of a poem written by a visiting Scottish ambassador, William Dunbar, in 1501 (i.e., at the beginning of the Tudor era) …

“LONDON, thou art of townes A per se.

Soveraign of cities, seemliest in sight,

Of high renoun, riches and royaltie;

Of lordis, barons, and many a goodly knyght;

Of most delectable lusty ladies bright;

Of famous prelatis, in habitis clericall;

Of merchauntis full of substaunce and of myght:

London, thou art the flour of Cities all.

Gladdith anon, thou lusty Troynovaunt,

Citie that some tyme cleped was New Troy;

In all the erth, imperiall as thou stant,

Pryncesse of townes, of pleasure and of joy,

A richer restith under no Christen roy;

For manly power, with craftis naturall,

Fourmeth none fairer sith the flode of Noy:

London, thou art the flour of Cities all.

Gemme of all joy, jasper of jocunditie,

Most myghty carbuncle of vertue and valour;

Strong Troy in vigour and in strenuytie;

Of royall cities rose and geraflour;

Empress of townes, exalt in honour;

In beawtie beryng the crone imperiall;

Swete paradise precelling in pleasure;

London, thou art the flour of Cities all.

Above all ryvers thy Ryver hath renowne,

Whose beryall stremys, pleasaunt and preclare,

Under thy lusty wallys renneth down,

Where many a swan doth swymme with wyngis fair;

Where many a barge doth saile and row with are;

Where many a ship doth rest with top-royall.

O, towne of townes! patrone and not compare,

London, thou art the flour of Cities all.

Upon thy lusty Brigge of pylers white

Been merchauntis full royall to behold;

Upon thy stretis goeth many a semely knyght

In velvet gownes and in cheynes of gold.

By Julyus Cesar thy Tour founded of old

May be the hous of Mars victoryall,

Whose artillary with tonge may not be told:

London, thou art the flour of Cities all.

Strong be thy wallis that about thee standis;

Wise be the people that within thee dwellis;

Fresh is thy ryver with his lusty strandis;

Blith be thy chirches, wele sownyng be thy bellis;

Rich be thy merchauntis in substaunce that excellis;

Fair be their wives, right lovesom, white and small;

Clere be thy virgyns, lusty under kellis:

London, thou art the flour of Cities all.

Thy famous Maire, by pryncely governaunce,

With sword of Justice thee ruleth prudently.

No Lord of Parys, Venyce, or Floraunce

In dignitye or honour goeth to hym nigh.

He is exampler, loode-ster, and guye;

Principall patrone and rose orygynalle,

Above all Maires as maister most worthy:

London, thou art the flour of Cities all”.

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