Anne Boleyn: O Death Rock Me Asleep

In the days immediately prior to her execution Anne Boleyn wrote from her prison cell in the Tower of London a last poem:

O death! rock me asleep,

Bring me on quiet rest;

Yet pass my guiltless ghost

Out of my careful breast:

Toll on the passing bell,

Ring out the doleful knell,

Let the sound of my death tell,

For I must die,

There is no remedy,

For now I die

My pains who can express?

Alas! they are so strong,

My dolor will not suffer strength

My life for to prolong:

Toll on the passing bell, etc.

Alone, in prison strong,

I wail my destiny,

Wo worth this cruel hap that I

Should taste this misery:

Toll on the passing bell,

Farewell my pleasures past,

Welcome my present pain;

I feel my torments so increase

That life cannot remain.

Cease now the passing bell,

Rung is my doleful knell,

For the sound my death doth tell,

Death doth draw nigh,

Sound my end dolefully,

For now I die.

Anne Boleyn was beheaded with the single stroke of a sword within the precincts of the Tower of London on 19 May 1536. She had, it was said, displayed a devilish spirit as if unconcerned by the fate that awaited her, though her voice was weak when she spoke and there were tears in her eyes.

 

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