We owe the preservation of this beautiful old ballad to _Arnold's Chronicle_, of which the earliest edition is thought to have been printed in 1502. In Laneham's account of Elizabeth's visit to Kenilworth, the _Nut-brown Maid_ is mentioned as a book by itself, and there is said to be at Oxford a list of books offered for sale at that place in 1520, among which is the _Not-Broon Mayd_, price one penny; still, the ballad is not known to exist at present in any other ancient form than that of the Chronicle. We have no means of determining the date of the composition, but Percy has justly remarked that it is not probable that an antiquary would have inserted a piece in his historical collections which he knew to be modern. The language is that of the time at which it was printed.
The ballad seems to have been long forgotten, when it was revived in _The Muse's Mercury_ for June, 1707, (Percy.) There Prior met with it, and, charmed with its merit, he took the story for the foundation of his _Henry and Emma_. Capel, in 1760, published a collated text from two different editions of the Chronicle,--we suppose that of 1502, and the second, which was printed in 1521, and exhibits some differences.
Percy adopted Capel's text with a few alterations, (_Reliques_, ii.
30.) The text of the edition of 1502 has been twice reprinted since Percy's time: in the _Censura Literaria_, vol. i. p. 15, and by Mr.
Wright, in a little black-letter volume, London, 1836. We have adopted Mr. Wright's text, not neglecting to compare it with that of Sir Egerton Brydges.
It will be interesting to compare with this matchless poem a ballad in other languages, which has the same drift;--_Die Lind im Thale_, or _Liebesprobe_, Erk, _Deutscher Liederhort_, p. 1, 3; Uhland, No. 116; Hoffmann, _Schlesische_ V. L., No. 22, _Niederlandische V. L._, No.
26; Haupt and Schmaler, _V. L. der Wenden_, i. 72 (Hoffmann).
In the sixteenth century a ridiculous attempt was made to supplant the popular ballads in the mouths and affections of the people by turning them into pious parodies. _The Nut-Brown Maid_ was treated in this way, and the result may be seen in _The New Not-borune Mayd_, printed by the Roxburghe Club, and by the Percy Society, vol. vi.
"Be it right or wrong, these men among On women do complaine, Affermyng this, how that it is A labour spent in vaine To love them wele, for never a dele 5 They love a man agayne: For lete a man do what he can Ther favour to attayne, Yet yf a newe do them pursue,[L9]
Ther furst trew lover than 10 Laboureth for nought, and from her thought He is a bannished man."
"I say not nay, but that all day It is bothe writ and sayde, That womans fayth is, as who sayth, 15 All utterly decayed: But nevertheles, right good witnes In this case might be layde, That they love trewe, and contynew,-- Recorde THE NUTBROWNE MAIDE; 20 Whiche from her love, whan her to prove He cam to make his mone, Wolde not departe, for in her herte She lovyd but hym allone."
"Than betwene us lete us discusse 25 What was all the maner Betwene them too; we wyl also Telle all the peyne and fere[L28]
That she was in; nowe I begynne, See that ye me answere:[L30] 30 Wherfore [all] ye that present be, I pray you geve an eare.
I am the knyght, I cum be nyght, As secret as I can, Sayng 'Alas! thus stondyth the case,[L35] 35 I am a bannisshed man!'"
"And I your wylle for to fulfylle In this wyl not refuse, Trusting to shewe, in wordis fewe, That men have an ille use, 40 To ther owne shame, wymen to blame, And causeles them accuse: Therfore to you I answere now, Alle wymen to excuse, 'Myn owne hert dere, with you what chiere? 45 I prey you telle anoon: For in my mynde, of all mankynde I love but you allon.'"
"It stondith so: a deed is do Wherof moche harme shal growe.[L50] 50 My desteny is for to dey A shamful dethe, I trowe, Or ellis to flee,--the ton must be: None other wey I knowe, But to withdrawe as an outlaw, 55 And take me to my bowe.
Wherfore, adew, my owne hert trewe, None other red I can; For I muste to the grene wode goo, Alone, a bannysshed man." 60
"O Lorde, what is this worldis blisse That chaungeth as the mone!
My somers day in lusty May Is derked before the none.
I here you saye Farwel: nay, nay, 65 We departe not soo sone.
Why say ye so? Wheder wyl ye goo?
Alas, what have ye done?
Alle my welfare to sorow and care Shulde chaunge, yf ye were gon: 70 For in my mynde, of all mankynde I love but you alone."
"I can beleve it shal you greve, And somewhat you distrayne; But aftyrwarde your paynes harde, 75 Within a day or tweyne, Shal sone aslake, and ye shal take Confort to you agayne.
Why shuld ye nought? for, to make thought Your labur were in vayne: 80 And thus I do, and pray you, too, As hertely as I can: For I muste too the grene wode goo, Alone, a banysshed man."
"Now syth that ye have shewed to me 85 The secret of your mynde, I shal be playne to you agayne, Lyke as ye shal me fynde: Syth it is so that ye wyll goo, I wol not leve behynde; 90 Shal never be sayd the Nutbrowne Mayd Was to her love unkind.
Make you redy, for soo am I, All though it were anoon; For in my mynde, of all mankynde 95 I love but you alone."
"Yet I you rede to take good hede What men wyl thinke and sey;[L98]
Of yonge and olde it shal be told, That ye be gone away 100 Your wanton wylle for to fulfylle, In grene wood you to play; And that ye myght from your delyte Noo lenger make delay.
Rather than ye shuld thus for me 105 Be called an ylle woman, Yet wolde I to the grene wodde goo Alone, a banysshed man."
"Though it be songe of olde and yonge That I shuld be to blame, 110 Theirs be the charge that speke so large In hurting of my name.
For I wyl prove that feythful love It is devoyd of shame, In your distresse and hevynesse, 115 To parte wyth you the same; And sure all thoo that doo not so, Trewe lovers ar they noon; But in my mynde, of all mankynde I love but you alone." 120
"I counsel yow remembre how It is noo maydens lawe, Nothing to dought, but to renne out To wod with an outlawe.
For ye must there in your hande bere 125 A bowe to bere and drawe, And as a theef thus must ye lyeve, Ever in drede and awe; By whiche to yow gret harme myght grow;-- Yet had I lever than 130 That I had too the grenewod goo Alone, a banysshyd man."
"I thinke not nay; but, as ye saye, It is noo maydens lore; But love may make me for your sake, 135 As ye have said before, To com on fote, to hunte and shote To gete us mete and store; For soo that I your company May have, I aske noo more; 140 From whiche to parte, it makith myn herte As colde as ony ston: For in my mynde, of all mankynde I love but you alone."
"For an outlawe this is the lawe, 145 That men hym take and binde, Without pytee hanged to bee, And waver with the wynde.
Yf I had neede, as God forbede, What rescous coude ye finde? 150 For sothe, I trowe, you and your bowe Shuld drawe for fere behynde:[L152]
And noo merveyle; for lytel avayle Were in your councel than; Wherfore I too the woode wyl goo 155 Alone, a banysshed man."
"Ful wel knowe ye that wymen bee Ful febyl for to fyght; Noo womanhed is it indeede, To bee bolde as a knight. 160 Yet in suche fere yf that ye were, Amonge enemys day and nyght, I wolde wythstonde, with bowe in hande, To greeve them as I myght, And you to save, as wymen have, 165 From deth many one: For in my mynde, of all mankynde I love but you alone."
"Yet take good hede; for ever I drede That ye coude not sustein 170 The thorney wayes, the depe valeis, The snowe, the frost, the reyn, The colde, the hete; for, drye or wete, We must lodge on the playn; And us aboove noon other rove 175 But a brake bussh or twayne; Whiche sone shulde greve you, I beleve, And ye wolde gladly than That I had too the grenewode goo Alone, a banysshyd man." 180
"Syth I have here been partynere With you of joy and blysse, I must also parte of your woo Endure, as reason is; Yet am I sure of oo plesure, 185 And shortly, it is this; That where ye bee, mesemeth, perde, I coude not fare amysse.
Wythout more speche, I you beseche That we were soon agone; 190 For in my mynde, of all mankynde I love but you alone."
"Yf ye goo thedyr, ye must consider, Whan ye have lust to dyne, Ther shel no mete be fore to gete, 195 Nor drinke, bere, ale, ne wine; Ne shetis clene to lye betwene, Made of thred and twyne: Noon other house but levys and bowes To kever your hed and myn.[L200] 200 Loo, myn herte swete, this ylle dyet Shuld make you pale and wan: Wherfore I to the wood wyl goo Alone, a banysshid man."
"Amonge the wylde dere suche an archier 205 As men say that ye bee Ne may not fayle of good vitayle, Where is so grete plente; And watir cleere of the ryvere Shal be ful swete to me, 210 Wyth whiche in hele I shal right wele Endure, as ye shall see: And er we go, a bed or too I can provide anoon; For in my mynde, of all mankynde 215 I love but you alone."
"Loo, yet before, ye must doo more, Yf ye wyl goo with me, As cutte your here up by your ere, Your kirtel by the knee; 220 Wyth bowe in hande, for to withstonde Your enmys, yf nede bee; And this same nyght, before daylight, To woodward wyl I flee; And [if] ye wyl all this fulfylle, 225 Doo it shortely as ye can: Ellis wil I to the grene wode goo Alone, a banysshyd man."
"I shal as now do more for you Than longeth to womanhede,[L230] 230 To short my here, a bowe to bere, To shote in tyme of nede: O my swete moder, before all other, For you have I most drede!
But now, adiew! I must ensue 235 Wher fortune duth me leede.
All this make ye; now lete us flee; The day cums fast upon;[L238]
For in my mynde, of all mankynde I love but you alone." 240
"Nay, nay, not soo; ye shal not goo; And I shal telle you why; Your appetyte is to be lyght Of love, I wele aspie: For right as ye have sayd to me, 245 In lyke wyse, hardely, Ye wolde answere, who so ever it were, In way of company.
It is sayd of olde, sone hote, sone colde, And so is a woman; 250 Wherfore I too the woode wyl goo Alone, a banysshid man."
"Yef ye take hede, yt is noo nede[L253]
Suche wordis to say bee me; For ofte ye preyd, and longe assayed, 255 Or I you lovid, perde.
And though that I of auncestry A barons doughter bee, Yet have you proved how I you loved, A squyer of lowe degree; 260 And ever shal, what so befalle, To dey therfore anoon; For in my mynde, of al mankynde I love but you alone."
"A barons childe to be begyled, 265 It were a curssed dede!
To be felow with an outlawe, Almyghty God forbede!
Yet bettyr were the power squyer Alone to forest yede, 270 Than ye shal saye another day, That be [my] wyked dede Ye were betrayed; wherfore, good maide, The best red that I can Is that I too the greene wode goo 275 Alone, a banysshed man."
"Whatsoever befalle, I never shal Of this thing you upbraid; But yf ye goo, and leve me soo, Than have ye me betraied. 280 Remembre you wele, how that ye dele, For yf ye, as ye sayde, Be so unkynde to leve behynd Your love, the Notbrowne Maide, Trust me truly, that I shal dey, 285 Sone after ye be gone; For in my mynde, of all mankynde I love but you alone."
"Yef that ye went, ye shulde repent, For in the forest now 290 I have purveid me of a maide, Whom I love more than you: Another fayrer than ever ye were, I dare it wel avowe; And of you bothe eche shulde be wrothe 295 With other, as I trowe.
It were myn ease to lyve in pease; So wyl I, yf I can; Wherfore I to the wode wyl goo Alone, a banysshid man." 300
"Though in the wood I undirstode Ye had a paramour, All this may nought remeve my thought, But that I wil be your; And she shal fynde me softe and kynde, 305 And curteis every our, Glad to fulfylle all that she wylle Commaunde me, to my power; For had ye, loo, an hundred moo, Yet wolde I be that one.[L310] 310 For in my mynde, of all mankynde I love but you alone."
"Myn oune dere love, I see the prove That ye be kynde and trewe; Of mayde and wyf, in all my lyf, 315 The best that ever I knewe.
Be mery and glad, be no more sad, The case is chaunged newe; For it were ruthe that for your trouth You shuld have cause to rewe. 320 Be not dismayed: whatsoever I sayd To you whan I began, I wyl not too the grene wod goo; I am noo banysshyd man."
"Theis tidingis be more glad to me 325 Than to be made a quene, Yf I were sure they shuld endure; But it is often seen, When men wyl breke promyse, they speke The wordis on the splene. 330 Ye shape some wyle me to begyle, And stele fro me, I wene; Then were the case wurs than it was, And I more woo-begone; For in my mynde, of all mankynde 335 I love but you alone."
"Ye shal not nede further to drede: I wyl not disparage You, God defende! sith you descende Of so grete a lynage. 340 Nou understonde, to Westmerlande, Which is my herytage, I wyl you bringe, and wyth a rynge, Be wey of maryage, I wyl you take, and lady make, 345 As shortly as I can: Thus have ye wone an erles son, And not a banysshyd man."
Here may ye see, that wymen be In love meke, kinde, and stable: 350 Late never man repreve them than, Or calle them variable; But rather prey God that we may To them be comfortable, Whiche somtyme provyth suche as loveth, 355 Yf they be charitable.
For sith men wolde that wymen sholde Be meke to them echeon, Moche more ought they to God obey, And serve but hym alone. 360