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And therfore, blind man, we pray thee bewray,
(And looke that the truth thou to us doe say)
Thy birth and thy parentage, what itt may bee;
For the love that thou bearest to pretty Bessee.

75

" Then give me leave, nobles and gentles, each one,
“ One song more to fing, and then I have done;
“ And if that itt may not winn good report,
" Then doe not give me a GROAT for my sport.

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" [Sir Simon de Montfort my subject fhal bee;
66 Once chiefe of all the great barons was hee,
" Yet fortune fo cruelle this lorde did abase,
s6 Now lofte and forgotten are hee and his race.

“ When the barons in armes did king Henrye oppose, 85
" Sir Simon de Montfort their leader they chose;
“ A leader of courage undaunted was hee,
66 And oft-times he made their enemyes

filce.

" At length in the battle on Eveshame plaire
" The barons were roured, and Montfort was slaine; go
6 Mofte fatall that battel did prove unto thee,
“ Thoughe thou wat not borne then, my prettye Bessee!

os

Along with the nobles, that fell at that tyde, 6. His eldest son Henrye, who fought by his side, * "l'as feile by a blowe, he receivde in the fight! 95 " A vluwe that deprivde him for ever of light,

" Among

“ Among the dead bodyes all lifelesle he laye,
“ Till evening drewe on of the following daye,
“When by a yong ladye discoverd was hee;
" And this was thy mother, my prettye Beslee!

100

" A barons faire daughter stept forth in the nighte “ To search for her father, who fell in the fight, “ And seeing yong Montfort, where gafping he laye, “ Was moved with pitye, wand brought hiin awaye.

" In secrette the nurst him, and fivaged his paine, 105 " While he throughe the realme was beleevd to be faine: 66 At lengthe his faire bride the consented to bee, “ And made hin glad father of prettye Bessee.

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" And nowe lest oure foes our lives tholde betraye,
6 We clothed ourselves in beggars arraye;
“ Her jewelles hee folde, and hither came wee:
" All our comfort and care was our prettye Eelsee.]

66 And here have wee lived in fortunes despite, " Thoughe povre, yet contented with humble delighte: " Full forty winters thus have I beene

115 “ A filly blind beggar of Bedrall-greene.

And here, noble lordes, is ended the song “Of one, that once to your own ranke did belong: “ And thus have you learned a fecieite froin mee, * That ne'er had beene knowne, but for prettye Beffze,"

126

Now when the faire companye everye one,
Had heard the strange tale in the song he had showne,
They all wete amazed, as well they might bee,
Both at the blinde beggar, and pretty Bessee.

With that the faire bride they all did embrace, 125
Saying, Sure thou art come of an honourable race,
Thy father likewise is of noble degree,
And thou art well worthy a lady to bee.

Thus was the feast ended with joye and delighte,
A bridegroome most happy then was the young knighte,
In joy and felicitie long lived hee,

131 All with his faire ladye, the pretty Beffee.

01*

+++ The word fit, for PART, often occurs in our an. cient ballads, and metrical romances; which being divided into several parts for the convenience of singing them at public entertainments, were in the intervals of the feast sung by FITS, or intermissions. So Puttenham in his Art of English Poesie, 1589, says, the Epithalamic was divided by breaches into three partes to Jerve for three several Fits,

times to be sung.p. 41. From the same writer we learn some curious particulars relative to the state of ballad-singing in that age, that will throw light on the present subject : speaking of the quick re. turns of one manner of tune in the short measures used by common rhymers; these, he says, "glut the eare, unless it be in small and popular musickes, sung by these Cantàbanqui,

upon benches and barrels heads, where they have none w other audience then beys or countrey fellowes, that paffe by " them in the ftreete; or else b; BLINDHARPERS, or such

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" like taverne Minstrels, that give a Fit of mirth for a

GROAT, their matter being for the most part sories of old time, as the tale of Sir Topas, the reportes of Bevis of

Southampton, Guy of Warwicke, Adam Bell and Clymme of the Clough, and

fuch other old romances or bistorical rimes, made purposely for recreation of the common people at Christmasse dinners and brideales, and in tavernes and

alehouses, and such other places of base reforte." p. 69.

This species of entertainment, which seems to have been bandeil down from the ancient bards, was in the time of Puttenham falling into neglect; but that it was not, even then, wholly excluded more genteel assemblies, he gives Us r001n to infer from another polage, We ourselves,

says this courtly I writer, have written for pleasure a little brief romance, or historical ditty in the English ting of " the Ise of Great Britaine in short and long meetres, and

by breaches or divisions [i.e pits] to be more commo

diously sung to the harpe in places of assembly, where the company fhal be desirous to heare of old adventures, * and valiaunces of noble knights in times past, as 6 those of king Arthur and his knights of the Round table, Sir Bevys of Southampton, Guy of Warwicke, and others

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like.p33:

In more ancient times no grand scene of fejlivity was compleat without one of these reciters to entertain the company with feats of arms, and tales of knighthood, or, as one of these old minstrels says, in the beginning of an ancient romance in the Editor's folio M/S.

" When meate and drinke is great plentyè,
" And lords and ladyes fiill wil bet,
* And fint and folace s lythe;

§ Perhaps Then itt is time for mee to speake blythe." Of keene knighies, and kempas great,

Such carping for to kythe."

Ile was one of Q: Elizabeth. gent. pensioners, it a time when 6!!! eubile band confijiet of ner of Ajlinguijbel birth and fortune. Vid. Atb. Ox.

If we consider that a GROAT in the age of Elizabeth was more than equivalent to a shilling now, we shall find that the old harpers were even then, when their art was on the decline, upon a far more reputable footing than the ba fingers of our time. The reciting of one such ballad as this of the Beggar of Bednal green, in 2 parts, was rewarded with half a crown of our money. And that they made a very respectable appearance, we may learn from the dress of the old beggar, in the preceding Ballad, p. 170, where he comes into company in the habit and haracter of one of these minstrels, being not known to be the bride's father, till after ber speech, ver. 63. The exordium of his fong, and his claiming a great for his reward, v. 7'), are peculiarly charačieristic of that profesion Mift of the old ballads begin in a pompolls manner, in order to captivate the atiention of the audience, and induce them to purchase a recital of the song: and they seldom conclude the first part without large promises of pill greater entertainment in ihe SECOND. This was a necessary pirce of art to incline the hearers to be at the cxpence of a second groat's-worih.--Many of the old romances extend to eight or nine fits, which would offord a confiderable profit to the reciter.

To return to the word fit; it seems at one time to have peculiarly fignified the parfe, or breathing-time, bet ween the Jezeral parls, (answering to Passus in the visions of Fierce Plowman) : thus in the ancierit Ballad of Chevy-CHASE, (Vol. 1. p. 9.) the first Part ends with this line,

The first fit here I fynde :" i.e, here I come to the firfi pause or intermifion. (See also Vol. I. p. 26.) By degrees it came to signify the whole part or division preceding the pause. (See Vol. I. PP. 164, 173.) This sense it had obtained so early as the time of Chaucer: who thus concludes the first part of his rhyme of Sir Thopas (writ in ridicule of the old vallüdl romances):

" Lo! lordis mine, here is a Fitt;
** If ye woll any more of it,
ós To tell it woll I fonde."

The

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