Showing how his daughter
was married to a Knight, and had three thousand pound to her
[Percy's copy of The Beggar's Daughter of Bednall Green is known to
be very incorrect: besides many alterations and improvements which
it received at the hands of the Bishop, it contains no less than
eight stanzas written by Robert Dodsley, the author of The Economy
of Human Life. So far as poetry is concerned, there cannot be a
question that the version in the Reliques is far superior to the
original, which is still a popular favourite, and a correct copy of
which is now given, as it appears in all the common broadside
editions that have been printed from 1672 to the present time.
Although the original copies have all perished, the ballad has been
very satisfactorily proved by Percy to have been written in the
reign of Elizabeth. The present reprint is from a modern copy,
carefully collated with one in the Bagford Collection, entitled,
'The rarest ballad that ever was seen,
The imprint to it is, 'Printed by and for W. Onley; and are to be
sold by C. Bates, at the sign of the Sun and Bible, in Pye Corner.'
The very antiquated orthography adopted in some editions does not
rest on any authority. For two tunes to The Blind Beggar, see
Of the Blind Beggar's Daughter of Bednal Green.'
- This song's of a beggar who long lost his sight,
- And had a fair daughter, most pleasant and bright,
- And many a gallant brave suitor had she,
- And none was so comely as pretty Bessee.
- And though she was of complexion most fair,
- And seeing she was but a beggar his heir,
- Of ancient housekeepers despised was she,
- Whose sons came as suitors to pretty Bessee.
- Wherefore in great sorrow fair Bessee did say:
- 'Good father and mother, let me now go away,
- To seek out my fortune, whatever it be.'
- This suit then was granted to pretty Bessee.
- This Bessee, that was of a beauty most bright,
- They clad in grey russet; and late in the night
- From father and mother alone parted she,
- Who sighed and sobbed for pretty Bessee.
- She went till she came to Stratford-at-Bow,
- Then she know not whither or which way to go,
- With tears she lamented her sad destiny;
- So sad and so heavy was pretty Bessee.
- She kept on her journey until it was day,
- And went unto Rumford, along the highway;
- And at the King's Arms entertained was she,
- So fair and well favoured was pretty Bessee.
- She had not been there one month at an end,
- But master and mistress and all was her friend:
- And every brave gallant that once did her see,
- Was straightway in love with pretty Bessee.
- Great gifts they did send her of silver and gold,
- And in their songs daily her love they extolled:
- Her beauty was blazed in every decree,
- So fair and so comely was pretty Bessee.
- The young men of Rumford in her had their joy,
- She showed herself courteous, but never too coy,
- And at their commandment still she would be,
- So fair and so comely was pretty Bessee.
- Four suitors at once unto her did go,
- They craved her favour, but still she said no;
- I would not have gentlemen marry with me!
- Yet ever they honoured pretty Bessee.
- Now one of them was a gallant young knight,
- And he came unto her disguised in the night;
- The second, a gentleman of high degree,
- Who wooed and sued for pretty Bessee.
- A merchant of London, whose wealth was not small,
- Was then the third suitor, and proper withal;
- Her master's own son the fourth man must be,
- Who swore he would die for pretty Bessee.
- 'If that thou wilt marry with me,' quoth the knight,
- 'I'll make thee a lady with joy and delight;
- My heart is enthralled in thy fair beauty,
- Then grant me thy favour, my pretty Bessee.'
- The gentleman said, 'Come marry with me,
- In silks and in velvet my Bessee shall be;
- My heart lies distracted, oh! hear me,' quoth he,
- 'And grant me thy love, my dear pretty Bessee.'
- 'Let me be thy husband,' the merchant did say,
- 'Thou shalt live in London most gallant and gay;
- My ships shall bring home rich jewels for thee,
- And I will for ever love pretty Bessee.'
- Then Bessee she sighed and thus she did say:
- 'My father and mother I mean to obey;
- First get their good will, and be faithful to me,
- And you shall enjoy your dear pretty Bessee.'
- To every one of them that answer she made,
- Therefore unto her they joyfully said:
- 'This thing to fulfil we all now agree,
- But where dwells thy father, my pretty Bessee?'
- 'My father,' quoth she, 'is soon to be seen:
- The silly blind beggar of Bednall Green,
- That daily sits begging for charity,
- He is the kind father of pretty Bessee.
- 'His marks and his token are knowen full well,
- He always is led by a dog and a bell;
- A poor silly old man, God knoweth, is he,
- Yet he's the true father of pretty Bessee.'
- 'Nay, nay,' quoth the merchant, 'thou art not for me.'
- 'She,' quoth the innholder, 'my wife shall not be.'
- 'I loathe,' said the gentleman, 'a beggar's degree,
- Therefore, now farewell, my pretty Bessee.'
- 'Why then,' quoth the knight, 'hap better or worse,
- I weigh not true love by the weight of the purse,
- And beauty is beauty in every degree,
- Then welcome to me, my dear pretty Bessee.
- 'With thee to thy father forthwith I will go.'
- 'Nay, forbear,' quoth his kinsman, 'it must not be so:
- A poor beggar's daughter a lady shan't be;
- Then take thy adieu of thy pretty Bessee.'
- As soon then as it was break of the day,
- The knight had from Rumford stole Bessee away;
- The young men of Rumford, so sick as may be,
- Rode after to fetch again pretty Bessee.
- As swift as the wind to ride they were seen,
- Until they came near unto Bednall Green,
- And as the knight lighted most courteously,
- They fought against him for pretty Bessee.
- But rescue came presently over the plain,
- Or else the knight there for his love had been slain;
- The fray being ended, they straightway did see
- His kinsman come railing at pretty Bessee.
- Then bespoke the blind beggar, 'Although I be poor,
- Rail not against my child at my own door,
- Though she be not decked in velvet and pearl,
- Yet I will drop angels with thee for my girl;
- 'And then if my gold should better her birth,
- And equal the gold you lay on the earth,
- Then neither rail you, nor grudge you to see
- The blind beggar's daughter a lady to be.
- 'But first, I will hear, and have it well known,
- The gold that you drop it shall be all your own.'
- With that they replied, 'Contented we be!'
- 'Then here's,' quoth the beggar, 'for pretty Bessee!'
- With that an angel he dropped on the ground,
- And dropped, in angels, full three thousand pound;
- And oftentimes it proved most plain,
- For the gentleman's one, the beggar dropped twain;
- So that the whole place wherein they did sit,
- With gold was covered every whit.
- The gentleman having dropped all his store,
- Said, 'Beggar! your hand hold, for I have no more.'
- 'Thou hast fulfilled thy promise aright,
- Then marry my girl,' quoth he to the knight;
- 'And then,' quoth he, 'I will throw you down,
- An hundred pound more to buy her a gown.'
- The gentlemen all, who his treasure had seen,
- Admired the beggar of Bednall Green;
- And those that had been her suitors before,
- Their tender flesh for anger they tore.
- Thus was the fair Bessee matched to a knight,
- And made a lady in other's despite.
- A fairer lady there never was seen
- Than the blind beggar's daughter of Bednall Green.
- But of her sumptuous marriage and feast,
- And what fine lords and ladies there prest,
- The second part shall set forth to your sight,
- With marvellous pleasure and wished-for delight.
- Of a blind beggar's daughter so bright,
- That late was betrothed to a young knight,
- All the whole discourse therefore you may see;
- But now comes the wedding of pretty Bessee.
- It was in a gallant palace most brave,
- Adorned with all the cost they could have,
- This wedding it was kept most sumptuously,
- And all for the love of pretty Bessee.
- And all kind of dainties and delicates sweet,
- Was brought to their banquet, as it was thought meet,
- Partridge, and plover, and venison most free,
- Against the brave wedding of pretty Bessee.
- The wedding through England was spread by report,
- So that a great number thereto did resort
- Of nobles and gentles of every degree,
- And all for the fame of pretty Bessee.
- To church then away went this gallant young knight,
- His bride followed after, an angel most bright,
- With troops of ladies, the like was ne'er seen,
- As went with sweet Bessee of Bednall Green.
- This wedding being solemnized then,
- With music performed by skilfullest men,
- The nobles and gentlemen down at the side,
- Each one beholding the beautiful bride.
- But after the sumptuous dinner was done,
- To talk and to reason a number begun,
- And of the blind beggar's daughter most bright;
- And what with his daughter he gave to the knight.
- Then spoke the nobles, 'Much marvel have we
- This jolly blind beggar we cannot yet see!'
- 'My lords,' quoth the bride, 'my father so base
- Is loth with his presence these states to disgrace.'
- 'The praise of a woman in question to bring,
- Before her own face is a flattering thing;
- But we think thy father's baseness,' quoth they,
- 'Might by thy beauty be clean put away.'
- They no sooner this pleasant word spoke,
- But in comes the beggar in a silken cloak,
- A velvet cap and a feather had he,
- And now a musician, forsooth, he would be.
- And being led in from catching of harm,
- He had a dainty lute under his arm,
- Said, 'Please you to hear any music of me,
- A song I will sing you of pretty Bessee.'
- With that his lute he twanged straightway,
- And thereon began most sweetly to play,
- And after a lesson was played two or three,
- He strained out this song most delicately:-
- 'A beggar's daughter did dwell on a green,
- Who for her beauty may well be a queen,
- A blithe bonny lass, and dainty was she,
- And many one called her pretty Bessee.
- 'Her father he had no goods nor no lands,
- But begged for a penny all day with his hands,
- And yet for her marriage gave thousands three,
- Yet still he hath somewhat for pretty Bessee.
- 'And here if any one do her disdain,
- Her father is ready with might and with main
- To prove she is come of noble degree,
- Therefore let none flout at my pretty Bessee.'
- With that the lords and the company round
- With a hearty laughter were ready to swound;
- At last said the lords, 'Full well we may see,
- The bride and the bridegroom's beholden to thee.'
- With that the fair bride all blushing did rise,
- With crystal water all in her bright eyes,
- 'Pardon my father, brave nobles,' quoth she,
- 'That through blind affection thus doats upon me.'
- 'If this be thy father,' the nobles did say,
- 'Well may he be proud of this happy day,
- Yet by his countenance well may we see,
- His birth with his fortune could never agree;
- And therefore, blind beggar, we pray thee bewray,
- And look to us then the truth thou dost say,
- Thy birth and thy parentage what it may be,
- E'en for the love thou bearest pretty Bessee.'
- 'Then give me leave, ye gentles each one,
- A song more to sing and then I'll begone,
- And if that I do not win good report,
- Then do not give me one groat for my sport:-
- 'When first our king his fame did advance,
- And sought his title in delicate France,
- In many places great perils passed he;
- But then was not born my pretty Bessee.
- 'And at those wars went over to fight,
- Many a brave duke, a lord, and a knight,
- And with them young Monford of courage so free;
- But then was not born my pretty Bessee.
- 'And there did young Monford with a blow on the face
- Lose both his eyes in a very short space;
- His life had been gone away with his sight,
- Had not a young woman gone forth in the night.
- 'Among the said men, her fancy did move,
- To search and to seek for her own true love,
- Who seeing young Monford there gasping to die,
- She saved his life through her charity.
- 'And then all our victuals in beggar's attire,
- At the hands of good people we then did require;
- At last into England, as now it is seen,
- We came, and remained in Bednall Green.
- 'And thus we have lived in Fortune's despite,
- Though poor, yet contented with humble delight,
- And in my old years, a comfort to me,
- God sent me a daughter called pretty Bessee.
- And thus, ye nobles, my song I do end,
- Hoping by the same no man to offend;
- Full forty long winters thus I have been,
- A silly blind beggar of Bednall Green.'
- Now when the company every one,
- Did hear the strange tale he told in his song,
- They were amazed, as well they might be,
- Both at the blind beggar and pretty Bessee.
- With that the fair bride they all did embrace,
- Saying, 'You are come of an honourable race,
- Thy father likewise is of high degree,
- And thou art right worthy a lady to be.'
- Thus was the feast ended with joy and delight,
- A happy bridegroom was made the young knight,
- Who lived in great joy and felicity,
- With his fair lady dear pretty Bessee.
[The authorship of this song is attributed to Richard Brome - (he
who once 'performed a servant's faithful part' for Ben Jonson) - in
a black-letter copy in the Bagford Collection, where it is entitled
The Beggars' Chorus in the 'Jovial Crew,' to an Excellent New Tune.
No such chorus, however, appears in the play, which was produced at
the Cock-pit in 1641; and the probability is, as Mr. Chappell
conjectures, that it was only interpolated in the performance. It
is sometimes called The Jovial Beggar. The tune has been from time
to time introduced into several ballad operas; and the song, says
Mr. Chappell, who publishes the air in his Popular Music, 'is the
prototype of many others, such as A Bowling We Will Go, A Fishing
We Will Go, A Hawking We Will Go, and A Fishing We Will Go. The
last named is still popular with those who take delight in hunting,
and the air is now scarcely known by any other title.]
- There was a jovial beggar,
- He had a wooden leg,
- Lame from his cradle,
- And forced for to beg.
- And a begging we will go, we'll go, we'll go;
- And a begging we will go!
- A bag for his oatmeal,
- Another for his salt;
- And a pair of crutches,
- To show that he can halt.
- And a begging, &c..
- A bag for his wheat,
- Another for his rye;
- A little bottle by his side,
- To drink when he's a-dry.
- And a begging, &c.
- Seven years I begged
- For my old Master Wild,
- He taught me to beg
- When I was but a child.
- And a begging, &c.
- I begged for my master,
- And got him store of pelf;
- But now, Jove be praised!
- I'm begging for myself.
- And a begging, &c.
- In a hollow tree
- I live, and pay no rent;
- Providence provides for me,
- And I am well content.
- And a begging, &c.
- Of all the occupations,
- A beggar's life's the best;
- For whene'er he's weary,
- He'll lay him down and rest.
- And a begging, &c.
- I fear no plots against me,
- I live in open cell;
- Then who would be a king
- When beggars live so well?
- And a begging we will go, we'll go, we'll go;
- And a begging we will go!
In Four Parts.
To the tune of The Royal Forester
[When we first met with this very pleasing English ballad, we
deemed the story to be wholly fictitious, but 'strange' as the
'relation' may appear, the incidents narrated are 'true' or at
least founded on fact. The scene of the ballad is Whitley Park,
near Reading, in Berkshire, and not, as some suppose, Calcot House,
which was not built till 1759. Whitley is mentioned as 'the
Abbot's Park, being at the entrance of Redding town.' At the
Dissolution the estate passed to the crown, and the mansion seems,
from time to time, to have been used as a royal 'palace' till the
reign of Elizabeth, by whom it was granted, along with the estate,
to Sir Francis Knollys; it was afterwards, by purchase, the
property of the Kendricks, an ancient race, descended from the
Saxon kings. William Kendrick, of Whitley, armr. was created a
baronet in 1679, and died in 1685, leaving issue one son, Sir
William Kendrick, of Whitley, Bart., who married Miss Mary House,
of Reading, and died in 1699, without issue male, leaving an only
daughter. It was this rich heiress, who possessed 'store of wealth
and beauty bright,' that is the heroine of the ballad. She married
Benjamin Child, Esq., a young and handsome, but very poor attorney
of Reading, and the marriage is traditionally reported to have been
brought about exactly as related in the ballad. We have not been
able to ascertain the exact date of the marriage, which was
celebrated in St. Mary's Church, Reading, the bride wearing a thick
veil; but the ceremony must have taken place some time about 1705.
In 1714, Mr. Child was high sheriff of Berkshire. As he was an
humble and obscure personage previously to his espousing the
heiress of Whitley, and, in fact, owed all his wealth and influence
to his marriage, it cannot be supposed that immediately after his
union he would be elevated to so important and dignified a post as
the high-shrievalty of the very aristocratical county of Berks. We
may, therefore, consider nine or ten years to have elapsed betwixt
his marriage and his holding the office of high sheriff, which he
filled when he was about thirty-two years of age. The author of
the ballad is unknown: supposing him to have composed it shortly
after the events which he records, we cannot be far wrong in fixing
its date about 1706. The earliest broadside we have seen contains
a rudely executed, but by no means bad likeness of Queen Anne, the
reigning monarch at that period.]
Showing Cupid's Conquest Over a Coy Lady of Five Thousand a Year.
- Bachelors of every station,
- Mark this strange and true relation,
- Which in brief to you I bring, -
- Never was a stranger thing!
- You shall find it worth the hearing;
- Loyal love is most endearing,
- When it takes the deepest root,
- Yielding charms and gold to boot.
- Some will wed for love of treasure;
- But the sweetest joy and pleasure
- Is in faithful love, you'll find,
- Graced with a noble mind.
- Such a noble disposition
- Had this lady, with submission,
- Of whom I this sonnet write,
- Store of wealth, and beauty bright.
- She had left, by a good grannum,
- Full five thousand pounds per annum,
- Which she held without control;
- Thus she did in riches roll.
- Though she had vast store of riches,
- Which some persons much bewitches,
- Yet she bore a virtuous mind,
- Not the least to pride inclined.
- Many noble persons courted
- This young lady, 'tis reported;
- But their labour proved in vain,
- They could not her favour gain.
- Though she made a strong resistance,
- Yet by Cupid's true assistance,
- She was conquered after all;
- How it was declare I shall.
- Being at a noble wedding,
- Near the famous town of Redding,
- A young gentleman she saw,
- Who belonged to the law.
- As she viewed his sweet behaviour,
- Every courteous carriage gave her
- New addition to her grief;
- Forced she was to seek relief.
- Privately she then enquired
- About him, so much admired;
- Both his name, and where he dwelt, -
- Such was the hot flame she felt.
- Then, at night, this youthful lady
- Called her coach, which being ready,
- Homewards straight she did return;
- But her heart with flames did burn.
Showing the Lady's letter of a challenge to fight him upon his
refusing to wed her in a mask, without knowing who she was.
- Night and morning, for a season,
- In her closet would she reason
- With herself, and often said,
- 'Why has love my heart betrayed?
- 'I, that have so many slighted,
- Am at length so well requited;
- For my griefs are not a few!
- Now I find what love can do.
- 'He that has my heart in keeping,
- Though I for his sake be weeping,
- Little knows what grief I feel;
- But I'll try it out with steel.
- 'For I will a challenge send him,
- And appoint where I'll attend him,
- In a grove, without delay,
- By the dawning of the day.
- 'He shall not the least discover
- That I am a virgin lover,
- By the challenge which I send;
- But for justice I contend.
- 'He has caused sad distraction,
- And I come for satisfaction,
- Which if he denies to give,
- One of us shall cease to live.'
- Having thus her mind revealed,
- She her letter closed and sealed;
- Which, when it came to his hand,
- The young man was at a stand.
- In her letter she conjured him
- For to meet, and well assured him,
- Recompence he must afford,
- Or dispute it with the sword.
- Having read this strange relation,
- He was in a consternation;
- But, advising with his friend,
- He persuades him to attend.
- 'Be of courage, and make ready,
- Faint heart never won fair lady;
- In regard it must be so,
- I along with you must go.'
Showing how they met by appointment in a grove, where she obliged
him to fight or wed her.
- Early on a summer's morning,
- When bright Phoebus was adorning
- Every bower with his beams,
- The fair lady came, it seems.
- At the bottom of a mountain,
- Near a pleasant crystal fountain,
- There she left her gilded coach,
- While the grove she did approach.
- Covered with her mask, and walking,
- There she met her lover talking
- With a friend that he had brought;
- So she asked him whom he sought.
- 'I am challenged by a gallant,
- Who resolves to try my talent;
- Who he is I cannot say,
- But I hope to show him play.'
- 'It is I that did invite you,
- You shall wed me, or I'll fight you,
- Underneath those spreading trees;
- Therefore, choose you which you please.
- 'You shall find I do not vapour,
- I have brought my trusty rapier;
- Therefore, take your choice,' said she,
- 'Either fight or marry me.'
- Said he, 'Madam, pray what mean you?
- In my life I've never seen you;
- Pray unmask, your visage show,
- Then I'll tell you aye or no.'
- 'I will not my face uncover
- Till the marriage ties are over;
- Therefore, choose you which you will,
- Wed me, sir, or try your skill.
- 'Step within that pleasant bower,
- With your friend one single hour;
- Strive your thoughts to reconcile,
- And I'll wander here the while.'
- While this beauteous lady waited,
- The young bachelors debated
- What was best for to be done:
- Quoth his friend, 'The hazard run.
- 'If my judgment can be trusted,
- Wed her first, you can't be worsted;
- If she's rich, you'll rise to fame,
- If she's poor, why! you're the same.'
- He consented to be married;
- All three in a coach were carried
- To a church without delay,
- Where he weds the lady gay.
- Though sweet pretty Cupids hovered
- Round her eyes, her face was covered
- With a mask, - he took her thus,
- Just for better or for worse.
- With a courteous kind behaviour,
- She presents his friend a favour,
- And withal dismissed him straight,
- That he might no longer wait.
Showing how they rode together in her gilded coach to her noble
seat, or castle, etc.
- As the gilded coach stood ready,
- The young lawyer and his lady
- Rode together, till they came
- To her house of state and fame;
- Which appeared like a castle,
- Where you might behold a parcel
- Of young cedars, tall and straight,
- Just before her palace gate.
- Hand in hand they walked together,
- To a hall, or parlour, rather,
- Which was beautiful and fair, -
- All alone she left him there.
- Two long hours there he waited
- Her return; - at length he fretted,
- And began to grieve at last,
- For he had not broke his fast.
- Still he sat like one amazed,
- Round a spacious room he gazed,
- Which was richly beautified;
- But, alas! he lost his bride.
- There was peeping, laughing, sneering,
- All within the lawyer's hearing;
- But his bride he could not see;
- 'Would I were at home!' thought he.
- While his heart was melancholy,
- Said the steward, brisk and jolly,
- 'Tell me, friend, how came you here?
- You've some bad design, I fear.'
- He replied, 'Dear loving master,
- You shall meet with no disaster
- Through my means, in any case, -
- Madam brought me to this place.'
- Then the steward did retire,
- Saying, that he would enquire
- Whether it was true or no:
- Ne'er was lover hampered so.
- Now the lady who had filled him
- With those fears, full well beheld him
- From a window, as she dressed,
- Pleased at the merry jest.
- When she had herself attired
- In rich robes, to be admired,
- She appeared in his sight,
- Like a moving angel bright.
- 'Sir! my servants have related,
- How some hours you have waited
- In my parlour, - tell me who
- In my house you ever knew?'
- 'Madam! if I have offended,
- It is more than I intended;
- A young lady brought me here:' -
- 'That is true,' said she, 'my dear.
- 'I can be no longer cruel
- To my joy, and only jewel;
- Thou art mine, and I am thine,
- Hand and heart I do resign!
- 'Once I was a wounded lover,
- Now these fears are fairly over;
- By receiving what I gave,
- Thou art lord of what I have.'
- Beauty, honour, love, and treasure,
- A rich golden stream of pleasure,
- With his lady he enjoys;
- Thanks to Cupid's kind decoys.
- Now he's clothed in rich attire,
- Not inferior to a squire;
- Beauty, honour, riches' store,
- What can man desire more?
[This Northumbrian ballad is of great antiquity, and bears
considerable resemblance to
The Baffled Knight; or, Lady's Policy,
inserted in Percy's Reliques. It is not in any popular collection.
In the broadside from which it is here printed, the title and
chorus are given, Blow the WInds, I-o, a form common to many
ballads and songs, but only to those of great antiquity. Chappell,
in his Popular Music, has an example in a song as old as 1698:-
'Here's a health to jolly Bacchus,
and in another well-known old catch the same form appears:-
I-ho! I-ho! I-ho!'
'A pye sat on a pear-tree,
'Io!' or, as we find it given in these lyrics, 'I-ho!' was an
ancient form of acclamation or triumph on joyful occasions and
anniversaries. It is common, with slight variations, to different
languages. In the Gothic, for example, Iola signifies to make
merry. It has been supposed by some etymologists that the word
'yule' is a corruption of 'Io!']
I-ho, I-ho, I-ho.'
- There was a shepherd's son,
- He kept sheep on yonder hill;
- He laid his pipe and his crook aside,
- And there he slept his fill.
- And blow the winds, I-ho!
- Sing, blow the winds, I-ho!
- Clear away the morning dew,
- And blow the winds, I-ho!
- He looked east, and he looked west,
- He took another look,
- And there he spied a lady gay,
- Was dipping in a brook.
- She said, 'Sir, don't touch my mantle,
- Come, let my clothes alone;
- I will give you as much money
- As you can carry home.'
- 'I will not touch your mantle,
- I'll let your clothes alone;
- I'll take you out of the water clear,
- My dear, to be my own.'
- He did not touch her mantle,
- He let her clothes alone;
- But he took her from the clear water,
- And all to be his own.
- He set her on a milk-white steed,
- Himself upon another;
- And there they rode along the road,
- Like sister, and like brother.
- And as they rode along the road,
- He spied some cocks of hay;
- 'Yonder,' he says, 'is a lovely place
- For men and maids to play!'
- And when they came to her father's gate,
- She pulled at a ring;
- And ready was the proud porter
- For to let the lady in.
- And when the gates were open,
- This lady jumped in;
- She says, 'You are a fool without,
- And I'm a maid within.
- 'Good morrow to you, modest boy,
- I thank you for your care;
- If you had been what you should have been,
- I would not have left you there.
- 'There is a horse in my father's stable,
- He stands beyond the thorn;
- He shakes his head above the trough,
- But dares not prie the corn.
- 'There is a bird in my father's flock,
- A double comb he wears;
- He flaps his wings, and crows full loud,
- But a capon's crest he bears.
- 'There is a flower in my father's garden,
- They call it marygold;
- The fool that will not when he may,
- He shall not when he wold.'
- Said the shepherd's son, as he doft his shoon,
- 'My feet they shall run bare,
- And if ever I meet another maid,
- I rede that maid beware.'
Being a true relation of the Lives and Characters of Roger Wrightson and
Martha Railton, of the Town of Bowes, in the County of York, who died for
love of each other, in March, 1714/5
Tune of Queen Dido.
[The Bowes Tragedy is the original of Mallet's Edition and Emma.
In these verses are preserved the village record of the incident
which suggested that poem. When Mallet published his ballad he
subjoined an attestation of the facts, which may be found in Evans'
Old Ballads, vol. ii. p. 237. Edit. 1784. Mallet alludes to the
statement in the parish registry of Bowes, that 'they both died of
love, and were buried in the same grave,' &c. The following is an
exact copy of the entry, as transcribed by Mr. Denham, 17th April,
1847. The words which we have printed in brackets are found
interlined in another and a later hand by some person who had
inspected the register:-
'Rodger Wrightson, Jun., and Martha Railton, both of Bowes, Buried
in one grave: He Died in a Fever, and upon tolling his passing
Bell, she cry'd out My heart is broke, and in a Few hours expir'd,
purely [or supposed] thro' Love, March 15, 1714/5, aged about 20
Mr. Denham says:-
'The Bowes Tragedy was, I understand, written immediately after the
death of the lovers, by the then master of Bowes Grammar School.
His name I never heard. My father, who died a few years ago (aged
nearly 80), knew a younger sister of Martha Railton's, who used to
sing it to strangers passing through Bowes. She was a poor woman,
advanced in years, and it brought her in many a piece of money.']
- Let Carthage Queen be now no more
- The subject of our mournful song;
- Nor such old tales which, heretofore,
- Did so amuse the teeming throng;
- Since the sad story which I'll tell,
- All other tragedies excel.
- Remote in Yorkshire, near to Bowes,
- Of late did Roger Wrightson dwell;
- He courted Martha Railton, whose
- Repute for virtue did excel;
- Yet Roger's friends would not agree,
- That he to her should married be.
- Their love continued one whole year,
- Full sore against their parents' will;
- And when he found them so severe,
- His loyal heart began to chill:
- And last Shrove Tuesday, took his bed,
- With grief and woe encompassed.
- Thus he continued twelve days' space,
- In anguish and in grief of mind;
- And no sweet peace in any case,
- This ardent lover's heart could find;
- But languished in a train of grief,
- Which pierced his heart beyond relief.
- Now anxious Martha sore distressed,
- A private message did him send,
- Lamenting that she could not rest,
- Till she had seen her loving friend:
- His answer was, 'Nay, nay, my dear,
- Our folks will angry be I fear.'
- Full fraught with grief, she took no rest,
- But spent her time in pain and fear,
- Till a few days before his death
- She sent an orange to her dear;
- But's cruel mother in disdain,
- Did send the orange back again.
- Three days before her lover died,
- Poor Martha with a bleeding heart,
- To see her dying lover hied,
- In hopes to ease him of his smart;
- Where she's conducted to the bed,
- In which this faithful young man laid.
- Where she with doleful cries beheld,
- Her fainting lover in despair;
- At which her heart with sorrow filled,
- Small was the comfort she had there;
- Though's mother showed her great respect,
- His sister did her much reject.
- She stayed two hours with her dear,
- In hopes for to declare her mind;
- But Hannah Wrightson (8) stood so near,
- No time to do it she could find:
- So that being almost dead with grief,
- Away she went without relief.
- Tears from her eyes did flow amain,
- And she full oft would sighing say,
- 'My constant love, alas! is slain,
- And to pale death, become a prey:
- Oh, Hannah, Hannah thou art base;
- Thy pride will turn to foul disgrace!'
- She spent her time in godly prayers,
- And quiet rest did from her fly;
- She to her friends full oft declares,
- She could not live if he did die:
- Thus she continued till the bell,
- Began to sound his fatal knell.
- And when she heard the dismal sound,
- Her godly book she cast away,
- With bitter cries would pierce the ground.
- Her fainting heart 'gan to decay:
- She to her pensive mother said,
- 'I cannot live now he is dead.'
- Then after three short minutes' space,
- As she in sorrow groaning lay,
- A gentleman did her embrace,
- And mildly unto her did say,
- 'Dear melting soul be not so sad,
- But let your passion be allayed.'
- Her answer was, 'My heart is burst,
- My span of life is near an end;
- My love from me by death is forced,
- My grief no soul can comprehend.'
- Then her poor heart it waxed faint,
- When she had ended her complaint.
- For three hours' space, as in a trance,
- This broken-hearted creature lay,
- Her mother wailing her mischance,
- To pacify her did essay:
- But all in vain, for strength being past,
- She seemingly did breathe her last.
- Her mother, thinking she was dead,
- Began to shriek and cry amain;
- And heavy lamentations made,
- Which called her spirit back again;
- To be an object of hard fate,
- And give to grief a longer date.
- Distorted with convulsions, she,
- In dreadful manner gasping lay,
- Of twelve long hours no moment free,
- Her bitter groans did her dismay:
- Then her poor heart being sadly broke,
- Submitted to the fatal stroke.
- When things were to this issue brought,
- Both in one grave were to he laid:
- But flinty-hearted Hannah thought,
- By stubborn means for to persuade,
- Their friends and neighbours from the same,
- For which she surely was to blame.
- And being asked the reason why,
- Such base objections she did make,
- She answered thus scornfully,
- In words not fit for Billingsgate:
- 'She might have taken fairer on -
- Or else be hanged:' Oh heart of stone!
- What hell-born fury had possessed,
- Thy vile inhuman spirit thus?
- What swelling rage was in thy breast,
- That could occasion this disgust,
- And make thee show such spleen and rage,
- Which life can't cure nor death assuage?
- Sure some of Satan's minor imps,
- Ordained were to be thy guide;
- To act the part of sordid pimps,
- And fill thy heart with haughty pride;
- But take this caveat once for all,
- Such devilish pride must have a fall.
- But when to church the corpse was brought,
- And both of them met at the gate;
- What mournful tears by friends were shed,
- When that alas it was too late, -
- When they in silent grave were laid,
- Instead of pleasing marriage-bed.
- You parents all both far and near,
- By this sad story warning take;
- Nor to your children be severe,
- When they their choice in love do make;
- Let not the love of cursed gold,
- True lovers from their love withhold.
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