"This ballad is given from an old black-letter copy in the Pepys Collection, collated with another in the British Museum, H. 263, folio.
It is there entitled, _The Lady Isabella's Tragedy, or the Step-Mother's Cruelty; being a relation of a lamentable and cruel murther, committed on the body of the Lady Isabella, the only daughter of a noble Duke, &c.
To the tune of The Lady's Fall_. To some copies are annexed eight more modern stanzas, entitled, _The Dutchess's and Cook's Lamentation_."
Percy's _Reliques_, iii. 199.
The copy in Durfey's _Pills to Purge Melancholy_, v. 53, is nearly _verbatim_ the same.
There was a lord of worthy fame, And a hunting he would ride, Attended by a noble traine Of gentrye by his side.
And while he did in chase remaine, 5 To see both sport and playe, His ladye went, as she did feigne, Unto the church to praye.
This lord he had a daughter deare, Whose beauty shone so bright, 10 She was belov'd, both far and neare, Of many a lord and knight.
Fair Isabella was she call'd, A creature faire was shee; She was her fathers only joye; 15 As you shall after see.
Therefore her cruel step-mother Did envye her so much, That daye by daye she sought her life, Her malice it was such. 20
She bargain'd with the master-cook To take her life awaye; And taking of her daughter's book, She thus to her did saye:--
"Go home, sweet daughter, I thee praye, 25 Go hasten presentlie, And tell unto the master-cook These wordes that I tell thee.
"And bid him dresse to dinner streight That faire and milk-white doe 30 That in the parke doth shine so bright, There's none so faire to showe."
This ladye fearing of no harme, Obey'd her mothers will; And presentlye she hasted home, 35 Her pleasure to fulfill.
She streight into the kitchen went, Her message for to tell; And there she spied the master-cook, Who did with malice swell. 40
"Nowe, master-cook, it must be soe, Do that which I thee tell: You needes must dresse the milk-white doe, Which you do knowe full well."
Then streight his cruell bloodye hands, 45 He on the ladye layd; Who quivering and shaking stands, While thus to her he sayd:
"Thou art the doe that I must dresse; See here, behold my knife; 50 For it is pointed presently To ridd thee of thy life."
"O then," cried out the scullion-boye, As loud as loud might bee, "O save her life, good master-cook, 55 And make your pyes of mee!
"For pityes sake do not destroye My ladye with your knife; You know shee is her father's joye; For Christes sake save her life!" 60
"I will not save her life," he sayd, "Nor make my pyes of thee; Yet if thou dost this deed bewraye, Thy butcher I will bee."
Now when this lord he did come home 65 For to sitt down and eat, He called for his daughter deare, To come and carve his meat.
"Now sit you downe," his ladye sayd, "O sit you downe to meat; 70 Into some nunnery she is gone; Your daughter deare forget."
Then solemnlye he made a vowe Before the companie, That he would neither eat nor drinke, 75 Until he did her see.
O then bespake the scullion-boye.
With a loud voice so hye; "If now you will your daughter see, My lord, cut up that pye: 80
"Wherein her fleshe is minced small, And parched with the fire; All caused by her step-mother, Who did her death desire.
"And cursed bee the master-cook, 85 O cursed may he bee!
I proffered him my own heart's blood, From death to set her free."
Then all in blacke this lord did mourne, And for his daughters sake, 90 He judged her cruell step-mother To be burnt at a stake.
Likewise he judg'd the master-cook In boiling lead to stand.
And made the simple scullion-boye 95 The heire of all his land.
THE CRUEL BLACK.
_A Collection of Old Ballads_, (1723,) ii. 152: also Evans's _Old Ballads_, iii. 232. Entered in the Stationers' _Registers, 1569-70_. A writer in the _British Bibliographer_, (iv. 182,) has pointed out that this is only one of Bandello's novels versified. The novel is the 21st of the Third Part, (London, 1792.)
_A lamentable Ballad of the tragical End of a gallant Lord and virtuous Lady; together with the untimely Death of their two Children: wickedly performed by a Heathenish and Blood-thirsty Black-a-moor, their Servant; the like of which Cruelty and Murder was never before heard of._
In Rome a nobleman did wed A virgin of great fame; A fairer creature never did Dame Nature ever frame: By whom he had two children fair, 5 Whose beauty did excel; They were their parents only joy, They lov'd them both so well.
The lord he lov'd to hunt the buck, The tiger, and the boar; 10 And still for swiftness always took With him a black-a-moor: Which black-a-moor within the wood His lord he did offend, For which he did him then correct, 15 In hopes he would amend.
The day it grew unto an end; Then homewards he did haste, Where with his lady he did rest, Until the night was past. 20 Then in the morning he did rise, And did his servants call; A hunting he provides to go: Straight they were ready all
To cause the toyl the lady did 25 Intreat him not to go: "Alas, good lady," then quoth he, "Why art thou grieved so?
Content thyself, I will return With speed to thee again." 30 "Good father," quoth the little babes, "With us here still remain."
"Farewel, dear children, I will go A fine thing for to buy;"
But they, therewith nothing content, 35 Aloud began to cry.
The mother takes them by the hand, Saying, "Come, go with me Unto the highest tower, where Your father you shall see." 40
The black-a-moor, perceiving now, Who then did stay behind, His lord to be a hunting gone, Began to call to mind: "My master he did me correct, 45 My fault not being great; Now of his wife I'll be reveng'd, She shall not me intreat."
The place was moated round about; The bridge he up did draw; 50 The gates he bolted very fast; Of none he stood in awe.
He up into the tower went, The lady being there; Who, when she saw his countenance grim, 55 She straight began to fear.
But now my trembling heart it quakes To think what I must write; My senses all begin to fail, My soul it doth affright. 60 Yet must I make an end of this Which here I have begun, Which will make sad the hardest heart, Before that I have done.
This wretch unto the lady went, 65 And her with speed did will, His lust forthwith to satisfy, His mind for to fulfil.
The lady she amazed was, To hear the villain speak; 70 "Alas," quoth she, "what shall I do?
With grief my heart will break."
With that he took her in his arms; She straight for help did cry; "Content yourself, lady," he said, 75 "Your husband is not nigh: The bridge is drawn, the gates are shut, Therefore come lie with me, Or else I do protest and vow, Thy butcher I will be." 80
The crystal tears ran down her face, Her children cried amain, And sought to help their mother dear, But all it was in vain; For that egregious filthy rogue 85 Her hands behind her bound, And then perforce with all his might, He threw her on the ground.
With that she shriek'd, her children cried, And such a noise did make, 90 That town-folks, hearing her laments, Did seek their parts to take: But all in vain; no way was found To help the lady's need, Who cried to them most piteously, 95 "O help! O help with speed!"
Some run into the forest wide, Her lord home for to call; And they that stood still did lament This gallant lady's fall. 100 With speed her lord came posting home; He could not enter in; His lady's cries did pierce his heart; To call he did begin: