_"When first our king his fame did advance, And sought his title in delicate France, In many places great perils past he, But then was not born my pretty Bessee._
_"And at those wars went over to fight, 85 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; 90 His life had been gone away with his sight, Had not a young woman gone forth in the night._
_"Among the slain men, her fancy did move[L93]
To search and to seek for her own true love, Who seeing young Monford there gasping to die, 95 She saved his life through her charity._
_"And then all our victuals in beggars 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._ 100
_"And thus we have lived in Fortune's despyght, 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, 105 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, 110 They were amazed, as well as they might be, Both at the blind beggar and pretty Bessee.
With that the fair bride they all bid embrace, Saying, "You are come of an honourable race; Thy father likewise is of high degree, 115 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. 120
1-4. This stanza is wrongly placed at the end of the First Part in the copy from which we reprint. In ed. 1723 it does not occur. v. 3.
therof you did, Percy, for, _therefore you may_.
23. gentlemen down at the side.
74. look to us then the truth.
93. said men.
THE FAMOUS FLOWER OF SERVING-MEN
THE LADY TURNED SERVING-MAN.
From _A Collection of Old Ballads_, i. 216. Percy's edition, (iii.
126,) was from a written copy, "containing some improvements, (perhaps modern ones.") Mr. Kinloch has printed a fragment of this piece in its Scottish dress, as taken down from the recitation of an old woman in Lanark,--_Sweet Willie_, p. 96. Several of the verses in the following are found also in _The Lament of the Border Widow_; see _ante_, iii.
A similar story is found in Swedish and Danish: _Liten Kerstin_, or _Stolts Botelid, Stalldrang, Svenska Folk-Visor_, ii. 15, 20, Arwidsson, ii. 179: _Stolt Ingeborgs Forklaedning, Danske Viser_, No.
You beauteous ladies, great and small, I write unto you one and all, Whereby that you may understand What I have suffer'd in this land.
I was by birth a lady fair, 5 My father's chief and only heir, But when my good old father died, Then I was made a young knight's bride.
And then my love built me a bower, Bedeck'd with many a fragrant flower; 10 A braver bower you ne'er did see, Than my true love did build for me.
But there came thieves late in the night, They robb'd my bower, and slew my knight, And after that my knight was slain, 15 I could no longer there remain.
My servants all from me did fly, In the midst of my extremity, And left me by myself alone, With a heart more cold than any stone. 20
Yet, though my heart was full of care, Heaven would not suffer me to despair; Wherefore in haste I chang'd my name From Fair Elise to Sweet William.
And therewithall I cut my hair, 25 And dress'd myself in man's attire, My doublet, hose, and beaver hat, And a golden band about my neck.
With a silver rapier by my side, So like a gallant I did ride; 30 The thing that I delighted on, It was to be a serving-man.
Thus in my sumptuous man's array I bravely rode along the way; And at the last it chanced so, 35 That I to the king's court did go.
Then to the king I bow'd full low, My love and duty for to show; And so much favour I did crave, That I a serving-man's place might have. 40
"Stand up, brave youth," the king replied, "Thy service shall not be denied; But tell me first what thou canst do; Thou shalt be fitted thereunto.
"Wilt thou be usher of my hall, 45 To wait upon my nobles all?
Or wilt thou be taster of my wine, To wait on me when I do dine?
"Or wilt thou be my chamberlain, To make my bed both soft and fine? 50 Or wilt thou be one of my guard?
And I will give thee thy reward."
Sweet William, with a smiling face, Said to the king, "If't please your grace To show such favour unto me, 55 Your chamberlain I fain would be."
The king then did the nobles call, To ask the counsel of them all; Who gave consent Sweet William he The king's own chamberlain should be. 60
Now mark what strange thing came to pass: As the king one day a hunting was, With all his lords and noble train, Sweet William did at home remain.
Sweet William had no company then 65 With him at home, but an old man; And when he saw the house was clear, He took a lute which he had there:
Upon the lute Sweet William play'd, And to the same he sung and said, 70 With a sweet and noble voice, Which made the old man to rejoice:
"My father was as brave a lord As ever Europe did afford, My mother was a lady bright, 75 My husband was a valiant knight:
"And I myself a lady gay, Bedeck'd with gorgeous rich array; The bravest lady in the land Had not more pleasure at command. 80
"I had my music every day, Harmonious lessons for to play; I had my virgins fair and free, Continually to wait on me.
"But now, alas! my husband's dead, 85 And all my friends are from me fled; My former joys are pass'd and gone, For I am now a serving-man."
At last the king from hunting came, And presently, upon the same, 90 He called for this good old man, And thus to speak the king began:
"What news, what news, old man?" quoth he; "What news hast thou to tell to me?"
"Brave news," the old man he did say, 95 "Sweet William is a lady gay."