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VII.

K, JOHN AND THE ABBOT OF CANTERBURY.

The common popular ballad of KING JOHN AND THE ABBOT seems to have been abridged and modernized about the time of James I. from one much older, intitled, KING

JOHN AND THE Bishop of CANTERBURY.The Edi. tor's folio MS. contains a copy of this laft, but in too corrupt 4 ftate to be reprinted; it however afforded many lines werth revising, which will be found inserted in the ensuing ftanzas.

The archness of the following questions and anfwers bath been much admired by our old ballad-makers : for befides the two copies abovementioued, there is extant another ballad or the same subject, (but of no great antiguity or merit) intitled “ KING OLFREY AND THE ABBOT. Lalily, about the time of the civil wars, when the

cry

ran against the bifretis fome Puritan worked up the same story into a very doleful ditt, to a solemn tune, concerning

- KING HENRY AND A BiSHOP," with this fringing moral,

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

The following is chiefly printed from an ancient black-letter coty, To the tune of Derry down.

A

N ancient story Ile tell

you anon Of a notable 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.

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

1

JO

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,
I feare thou work'st treason against my crowne.

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.

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Yes, yes, father abbot, thy fault it is highe,
And now for the same thou needest 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,

25 With

my crowne of golde fo faire on my head, Among all my liege-men so noble of birthe Thou must tell me to one penny what I am worthe.

Secondlye,

30

Sccondlye, tell me, without any doubt,
How soone I may ride the whole world about;
And at the third question thou must not shrink;
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.

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

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

Sad newes, fad newes, shepheard, I must give;
That I have but three days more to live:
Forif I do not answere him questions three,
My head will

smitten from my bodie.

The

1

1

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

55

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

60

Now cheare up, fire abbot, did you never hear yet,
That a fool

may

learn a wise man witt? Lend me horse, and serving men, and your apparel, And I'll ride to London to answere your quarrel.

63

Nay frowne not, if it hath bin told unto mee,
I am like your lordship, as ever may bee :
And if

you

will but lend me your gowne, There is none shall knowe us at fair London towne.

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.

70

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

Vol. II,

75

And

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 am worth.

80

For thirty pence our Saviour was fold
Amonge the false Jewes, 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.

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You must rise with the sun, and ride with the same,
Until the next morning he riseth againe ;
And then your grace need not make any

doubt, But in twenty four hours you'll ride it about.

The king be laughed, and swore by St. Jone,
I did not think, it could be

gone

so soone! --Now from the third question thou must not shrinke, But tell me here truly what I do thinke.

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Yea, that shall I do, and make your grace merry:
You thinke l’in the abbot of Canterbùry;

Bat

Meaning probably St. Botolph.

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