Page images
PDF
EPUB

VI.

K. JOHN AND THE ABBOT OF CANTERBURY.

The common popular ballad of King JOHN AND THE ABBOT feen to have been abridged and modernized about the time of James I. from one niuch older, intitled, KING “ JOHN AND THE Bishop of CANTERBURY."

The Editor's folio MS. contains a copy of this last, but in 100 corrupt a state to be reprinted; it however afforded many lines worth reviving, which will be found inserted in the ensuing fianzas.

The archness of the following questions and answers bath been much admired by our old ballad-makers; for besides the two copies above mentioned, there is extant another bal. lad on the same subject (but of 110 great antiquity or merit), iniitlel, KING OLEREY AND THE ABBOT *.” Lastly, about the time of the civil wars, when the cry ran against the Bishops, fome Puritan worked up the same story into a very dilejul dirty, to a solemn tune, concerning 6. King HENRY AND A BISHOP," with this flinging moral:

66 Unlearned men hard matters out can find,
" When learned bishops princes eyes do blind."

* See the collection of Hift. Ballads, 3 vols. 1725. Mr. Wife fupe pofis 0 1. FREY to be a corruption of ALFkkd, in bis pamphlet concerning the White Horse in Beikirc, p. 15.

The

The following is chiefly printed from an ancient blackletter copy, to

The tune of Derry down.

[ocr errors]

A

N ancient story Ile tell you anon

Of a no-able prince, that was called king John; And he ruled England with maine and with might, For he did great wrong, and maintein'd little right.

;

[ocr errors]

And Ile tell you a story, a story so merrye,
Concerning the Abbot of Canterbùrye ;
How for his house-keeping, and high renowne,
They rode poste for him to fair London towne.

[ocr errors]

An hundred men, the king did heare say,
The abbot kept in his house every day;
And fifty golde chaynes, without any doubt,
In velvet coates waited the abbot about.

How now, father abbot, I heare it of thee,
Thou keepest a farre better house than mee,
And for thy house-keeping and high renowne,

feare thou work'st treason against my crown.

15

My liege, quo' the abbot, I would it were knowne,
I never spend nothing, but what is my owne;
And I trust, your grace will doe me no deere,
For spending of my owne true-gotten geere.

Yes,

20

Yes, yes, father abbot, thy fault it is highe,
And now for the same thou needeit must dye ;
For except thou canst answer me questions three,
Thy head shall be smitten from thy bodie.

And first, quo' the king, when I'm in this stead, 23
With my crowne of golde so faire on my head,
Among all my liege-men fo noble of birthe,
Thou must tell me to one penny what I am worthe.

30

Secondlye, tell me, without any doubt,
How soone I may ride the whole world about.
And at the third question thou must not Mrink,
But tell me here truly what I do think.

O, these are hard questions for my shallow witt,
Nor I cannot answer your grace as yet :
But if you will give me but three weekes space,
Ile do my endeavour to answer your grace.

35

Now three weeks space to thee will I give,
And that is the longest time thou hast to live;
For if thou dost not answer my questions three,
Thy lands and thy livings are forfeit to mee.

40

Away rode the abbot all fad at that word,
And he rode to Cambridge, and Oxenford;
But never a doctor there was so wise,
That could with his learning an answer devise.

Then home rode the abbot of comfort so cold, 45
And he mett his Mepheard a going to fold:
How now, my lord abbot, you are welcome home;
What newes do you bring us from good king John?

[ocr errors]

“ Sad newes, sad newes, shepheard, I must give ;
That I have but three days more to live :
For if I do not answer him questions three,
My head will be smitten from my bodie.

The first is to tell him there in that stead,
With his crowne of golde so fair on his head,
Amorg all his liege men so noble of birth,
To within one penny of what he is worth.

55

The seconde, to tell him, without any doubt,
How soone he may ride this whole world about:
And at the third question I must not shrinke,
But tell him there truly what he does thinke."

Now cheare up, fire abbot, did you never hear yet,
That a fool he may learn a wise mar. witt?
Lend me horfe, and serving men, and your apparel,
And I'll ride to London to answere your quarrel.

65

Nay frowne not, if it hath bin told unto mee,
I am like your lordnip, as ever may bee :
And if you will but lend me your gowne,
There is none shall knowe us at fair London towne.

Now

70

Now horses, and serving-men thou shalt have,
With sumptuous array most gallant and brave;
With crozier, and miter, and rochet, and cope,
Fit to appeare 'fore our fader the pope.”

Now welcome, fire abbot, the king he did say,
Tis well thou’rt come back to keepe thy day ;
For and if thou canst answer my questions three,
Thy life and thy living both saved Mall bee.

75

And first, when thou seest me here in this stead,
With my crown of golde so fair on my head,
Among all my liege-men so noble of birthe,
Tell me to one penny what I ain worth.

[ocr errors]

“ For thirty pence our Saivour was sold
Amonge the false sewes, as I have bin told;
And twenty nine is the worth of thee,
For I thinke, thou art one penny worser than hee."

85

The king he laughed, and swore by St. Bittel *,
I did not think I had been worth so littel!

Now secondly tell me, without any doubt,
How soone I may ride this whole world about.

6. You must rise with the sun, and ride with the same, Until the next morning he riseth againe;

90

Meaning probably St. Botolpb.

And

« PreviousContinue »