Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > British
The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. VI–IX: British
Chivalrous Adventures of an Apprentice
By Francis Beaumont (1584–1616) and John Fletcher (1579–1625)
From “The Knight of the Burning Pestle”

CITIZEN, a grocer; his WIFE; RALPH, their head apprentice; TIM and GEORGE, apprentices.

Cit.  Peace, fool! let Ralph alone. Mark you, Ralph, do not strain yourself too much at the first. Peace! Begin, Ralph.
  Ralph  (reads).  Then Palmerin and Trineus, snatching their lances from their dwarfs and clasping their helmets, galloped amain after the giant; and Palmerin, having gotten a sight of him, came posting amain, saying, “Stay, traitorous thief! for thou mayst not so carry away her that is worth the greatest lord in the world”; and, with these words, gave him a blow on the shoulder, that he struck him beside his elephant. And Trineus, coming to the knight that had Agricola behind him, set him soon beside his horse, with his neck broken in the fall, so that the princess, getting out of the throng, between joy and grief, said, “All happy knight, the mirror of all such as follow arms, now may I be well assured of the love thou bearest me.” I wonder why the kings do not raise an army of fourteen or fifteen hundred thousand men, as big as the army that the Prince of Portigo brought against Rosicler, and destroy these giants; they do much hurt to wandering damsels that go in quest of their knights.  2
  Wife.  Faith, husband, and Ralph says true, for they say the King of Portugal cannot sit at his meat but the giants and the ettins will come and snatch it from him.  3
  Cit.  Hold thy tongue! On, Ralph.  4
  Ralph.  And certainly those knights are much to be commended who, neglecting their possessions, wander with a squire and a dwarf through the deserts to relieve poor ladies.  5
  Wife.  Ay, by my faith are they, Ralph; let ’em say what they will, they are indeed. Our knights neglect their possessions well enough, but they do not the rest.  6
  Ralph.  There are no such courteous and fair well-spoken knights in this age; they will call one the son of a sea-cook, that Palmerin of England would have called fair sir; and one that Rosicler would have called right beautiful damsel, they will call old witch.  7
  Wife.  I’ll be sworn will they, Ralph. They have called me so an hundred times about a scurvy pipe of tobacco.  8
  Ralph.  But what brave spirit could be content to sit in his shop, with a flapet of wood, and a blue apron before him, selling Methridatam and Dragons’ Water to visited houses, that might pursue feats of arms, and through his noble achievements procure such a famous history to be written of his heroic prowess?  9
  Cit.  Well said, Ralph. Some more of those words, Ralph.  10
  Wife.  They go finely, by my troth.  11
  Ralph.  Why should I not then pursue this course, both for the credit of myself and our company? for among all the worthy books of achievements, I do not call to mind that I yet read of a grocer errant. I will be the said knight. Have you heard of any that hath wandered unfurnished of his squire and dwarf? My elder ’prentice Tim shall be my trusty squire, and little George my dwarf. Hence, my blue apron! Yet, in remembrance of my former trade, upon my shield shall be portrayed a burning pestle, and I will be called the Knight of the Burning Pestle.  12
  Wife.  Nay, I dare swear thou wilt not forget thy old trade; thou wert ever meek. Ralph! Tim!  13
  Tim.  Anon.  14
  Ralph.  My beloved squire, and George my dwarf, I charge you that from henceforth you never call me by any other name but the Right courteous and valiant Knight of the Burning Pestle; and that you never call any female by the name of a woman or wench, but fair lady, if she have her desires; if not, distressed damsel; that you call all forests and heaths, deserts; and all horses, palfreys.  15
  Wife.  This is very fine! Faith, do the gentlemen like Ralph, think you, husband?  16
  Cit.  Ay, I warrant thee, the players would give all the shoes in their shop for him.  17
  Ralph.  My beloved Squire Tim, stand out! Admit this were a desert, and over it a knight errant pricking, and I should bid you inquire of his intents, what would you say?  18
  Tim.  Sir, my master sent me to know whither you are riding?  19
  Ralph.  No, thus: Fair sir, the right courteous and valiant Knight of the Burning Pestle commanded me to inquire upon what adventure you are bound—whether to relieve some distressed damsel, or otherwise.  20
  Cit.  Dunder blockhead cannot remember.  21
  Wife.  I’ faith, and Ralph told him on’t before; all the gentlemen heard him. Did he not, gentlemen—did not Ralph tell him on’t?  22
  George.  Right courteous and valiant Knight of the Burning Pestle, here is a distressed damsel to have a halfpennyworth of pepper.  23
  Wife.  That’s a good boy. See, the little boy can hit it. By my troth it’s a fine child.  24
  Ralph.  Relieve her with all courteous language. Now shut up shop: no more my ’prentice, but my trusty squire and dwarf, I must bespeak my shield, and arming pestle.
*        *        *        *        *

  Ralph.  What knight is that, squire? Ask him if he keep
The passage bound by love of lady fair,  27
Or else but prickant.
  Hum.            Sir, I am no knight,
But a poor gentleman, that this same night  29
Had stolen from me, upon yonder green,  30
My lovely wife, and suffered (to be seen  31
Yet extant on my shoulders) such a greeting,  32
That while I live I shall think of that meeting.  33
  Wife.  Ay, Ralph; he beat him unmercifully, Ralph; an’ thou spar’st him, Ralph, I would thou wert hang’d.  34
  Cit.  No more, wife—no more.  35
  Ralph.  Where is the caitiff wretch hath done this deed?  36
Lady, your pardon, that I may proceed  37
Upon the quest of this injurious knight.  38
And thou, fair squire, repute me not the worse,  39
In leaving the great ’venture of the purse  40
And the rich casket, till some better leisure.  41
Enter JASPER and LUCE.

  Hum.  Here comes the broker hath purloined my treasure.
  Ralph.  Go, squire, and tell him I am here,  43
An errant knight at arms, to crave delivery  44
Of that fair lady to her own knight’s arms.  45
If he deny, bid him take choice of ground,  46
And so defy him.
  Squire.        From the knight that bears
The golden pestle, I defy thee, knight,  48
Unless thou make fair restitution  49
Of that bright lady.
  Jasp.            Tell the knight that sent thee
He is an ass, and I will keep the wench,  51
And knock his head-piece.  52
  Ralph.  Knight, thou art but dead,  53
If thou recall not thy uncourteous terms.  54
  Wife.  Break his pate, Ralph—break his pate, Ralph, soundly!  55
  Jasp.  Come, knight, I’m ready for you; now your pestle  (Snatches away pestle from RALPH.)  56
Shall try what temper, sir, your mortar’s of.  57
With that he stood upright in his stirrups,  58
And gave the knight of the calves-skin such a knock,  59
That he forsook his horse and down he fell,  60
And then he leaped upon him, and plucking off his helmet—  61
  Hum.  Nay, an’ my noble knight be down so soon,  62
Though I can scarcely go, I needs must run—  (Exeunt HUMPHREY and RALPH.)  63
  Wife.  Run, Ralph! Run, Ralph! Run for thy life, boy!  64
Jasper comes! Jasper comes!  65
  Jasp.  Come, Luce, we must have other arms for you.  66
Humphrey and Golden Pestle, both adieu.  (Exeunt JASPER and LUCE.)  67
  Wife.  Sure the devil, God bless us! is in this springald. Why, George, didst ever see such a fire-drake? I am afraid my boy’s miscarried. If he be, though he were Master Merrythought’s son a thousand times, if there be any law in England, I’ll make some of them smart for’t.  68
  Cit.  No, no, I have found out the matter, sweetheart. Jasper is enchanted; as sure as we are here, he is enchanted. He could no more have stood in Ralph’s hands than I can stand in my Lord Mayor’s. I’ll have a ring to discover all enchantments, and Ralph shall beat him yet. Be no more vexed, for it shall be so.  69

  Wife.  Oh, husband, here’s Ralph again! Stay, Ralph, let me speak with thee; how dost thou, Ralph? Art thou not shrewdly hurt? The foul great lunges laid unmercifully on thee! There’s some sugar-candy for thee; proceed, thou shalt have another bout with him.
  Cit.  If Ralph had him at the fencing-school, if he did not make a puppy of him, and drive him up and down the school, he should ne’er come in my shop more.  71
  Mist. Mer.  Truly, Master Knight of the Burning Pestle,  72
I am weary.  73
  Mich.  Indeed, la mother, and I’m very hungry.  74
  Ralph.  Take comfort, gentle dame, and your fair squire,  75
For in this desert there must needs be placed  76
Many strong castles, held by courteous knights,  77
And till I bring you safe to one of those,  78
I swear by this my order ne’er to leave you.  79
  Wife.  Well said, Ralph. George, Ralph was ever comfortable, was he not?  80
  Cit.  Yes, duck.  81
  Wife.  I shall ne’er forget him. When we had lost our child, you know it was strayed almost alone to Puddle Wharf, and the criers were abroad for it, and there it had drowned itself but for a sculler. Ralph was the most comfortablest to me. “Peace, mistress,” says he; “let it go, I’ll get you another as good.” Did he not, George? Did he not say so?  82
  Cit.  Yes, indeed did he, mouse.  83
  Dwarf.  I would we had a mess of pottage and a pot of drink, squire, and were going to bed.  84
  Squire.  Why, we are at Waltham town’s end, and that’s the Bell Inn.  85
  Dwarf.  Take courage, valiant knight, damsel, and squire;  86
I have discovered, not a stone’s cast off,  87
An ancient castle held by the old knight  88
Of the most holy order of the Bell,  89
Who gives to all knights errant entertain;  90
There plenty is of food, and all prepar’d  91
By the white hands of his own lady dear.  92
He hath three squires that welcome all his guests:  93
The first, high Chamberlino, who will see  94
Our beds prepared, and bring us snowy sheets;  95
The second, named Tapstero, who will see  96
Our pots full filléd, and no froth therein;  97
The third a gentle squire Ostlero called,  98
Who will our palfries slick with wisps of straw,  99
And in the manger put them oats enough,  100
And never grease their teeth with candle-snuff.  101
  Wife.  That same dwarf’s a pretty boy, but the squire’s a grout-nold.  102
  Ralph.  Knock at the gates, my squire, with stately lance.  103

  Tap.  Who’s there? You’re welcome, gentlemen. Will you see a room?
  Dwarf.  Right courteous and valiant Knight of the Burning Pestle, this is the squire Tapstero.  105
  Ralph.  Fair squire Tapstero, I, a wandering knight,  106
Called of the Burning Pestle, in the quest  107
Of this fair lady’s casket and wrought purse,  108
Losing myself in this vast wilderness,  109
Am to this castle well by fortune brought,  110
Where, hearing of the goodly entertain  111
Your knight of holy order of the Bell  112
Gives to all damsels, and all errant knights,  113
I thought to knock, and now am bold to enter.  114
  Tapst.  An’t please you see a chamber, you are very welcome.
*        *        *        *        *

  Host.  Not far from hence, near to a craggy cliff
At the north end of this distresséd town,  117
There doth stand a lowly house,  118
Ruggedly builded, and in it a cave,  119
In which an ugly giant now doth dwell,  120
Yclepéd Barbaroso. In his hand  121
He shakes a naked lance of purest steel,  122
With sleeves turned up; and he before him wears  123
A motley garment, to preserve his clothes  124
From blood of those knights which he massacres,  125
And ladies gent. Without his door doth hang  126
A copper basin, on a prickant spear;  127
At which, no sooner gentle knights can knock,  128
But the shrill sound fierce Barbaroso hears,  129
And rushing forth, brings in the errant knight,  130
And sets him down in an enchanted chair;  131
Then, with an engine which he hath prepar’d  132
With forty teeth, he claws his courtly crown,  133
Next makes him wink, and underneath his chin  134
He plants a brazen piece of mighty bore,  135
And knocks his bullets round about his cheeks;  136
While with his fingers, and an instrument  137
With which he snaps his hair off, he doth fill  138
The wretch’s ears with a most hideous noise.  139
Thus every knight adventurer he doth trim,  140
And now no creature dares encounter him.  141
  Ralph.  In God’s name, I will fight with him, kind sir.  142
Go but before me to this dismal cave  143
Where this huge giant Barbaroso dwells,  144
And by that virtue that brave Rosiclere  145
That wicked brood of ugly giant slew,  146
And Palmerin Frannarco overthrew:  147
I doubt not but to curb this traitor foul,  148
And to the devil send his guilty soul.  149
  Host.  Brave, sprighted knight, thus far I will perform  150
This your request; I’ll bring you within sight  151
Of this most loathsome place, inhabited  152
By a more loathsome man; but dare not stay,  153
For his main force swoops all he sees away.  154
  Ralph.  Saint George! set on! Before march squire and page.
*        *        *        *        *

  Host.  Puissant knight, yonder his mansion is—
Lo, where the spear and copper basin are!  157
Behold the string on which hangs many a tooth,  158
Drawn from the gentle jaw of wandering knights.  159
I dare not stay to sound; he will appear.  (Exit HOST.)  160
  Ralph.  Oh, faint not, heart! Susan, my lady dear,  161
The cobbler’s maid in Milk Street, for whose sake  162
I take these arms, oh, let the thought of thee  163
Carry thy knight through all adventurous deed,  164
And in the honour of thy beauteous self  165
May I destroy this monster Barbaroso.  166
Knock, squire, upon the basin till it break  167
With the shrill strokes, or till the giant speak.  168

Wife.  Oh, George, the giant, the giant! Now, Ralph, for thy life!
  Bar.  What fond, unknowing wight is this, that dares  170
So rudely knock at Barbaroso’s cell,  171
Where no man comes, but leaves his fleece behind?  172
  Ralph.  I, traitorous caitiff, who am sent by fate  173
To punish air the sad enormities  174
Thou hast committed against ladies gent,  175
And errant knights, traitor to God and men,  176
Prepare thyself! This is the dismal hour  177
Appointed for thee to give strict account  178
Of all thy beastly, treacherous villainies.  179
  Bar.  Foolhardy knight, full soon thou shalt repent  180
This fond reproach. Thy body will I bang,  (He takes down his pole.)  181
And lo, upon that string thy teeth shall hang.  182
Prepare thyself, for dead soon shalt thou be.  183
  Ralph.  Saint George for me!  (They fight.)  184
  Bar.  Gargantua for me!  185
  Wife.  To him, Ralph—to him! Hold up the giant! Set out thy leg before, Ralph!  186
  Cit.  Falsify a blow, Ralph—falsify a blow! The giant lies open on the left side.  187
  Wife.  Bear’t off, bear’t off still—there, boy! Oh, Ralph’s almost down—Ralph’s almost down!  188
  Ralph.  Susan, inspire me, now have up again.  189
  Wife.  Up, up, up, up, up! so, Ralph. Down with him—down with him, Ralph!  190
  Cit.  Fetch him over the hip, boy!  191
  Wife.  There, boy; kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, Ralph!  192
  Cit.  No, Ralph, get all out of him first.  193
  Ralph.  Presumptuous man, see to what desperate end  194
Thy treachery hath brought thee. The just gods,  195
Who never prosper those that do despise them,  196
For all the villainies which thou hast done  197
To knights and ladies, now have paid thee home  198
By my stiff arm, a knight adventurous.  199
But say, vile wretch, before I send thy soul  200
To sad Avernus, whither it must go,  201
What captives hold’st thou in thy sable cave?  202
  Bar.  Go in and free them all; thou hast the day.  203
  Ralph.  Go, squire and dwarf, search in this dreadful cave,  204
And free the wretched prisoners from their bonds.  (Exeunt SQUIRE and DWARF.)  205
  Bar.  I crave for mercy, as thou art a knight,  206
And scorn’st to spill the blood of those that beg.  207
  Ralph.  Thou show’st no mercy, nor shalt thou have any.  208
Prepare thyself, for thou shalt surely die.  209
Enter SQUIRE, leading 1st KNIGHT, with a basin under his chin.

  Squire.  Behold, brave knight, here is one prisoner,
Whom this wild man hath used as you see.  211
  Wife.  This is the wisest word I hear the squire speak.  212
  Ralph.  Speak what thou art, and how thou hast been us’d,  213
That I may give him condign punishment.  214
  1st Knight.  I am a knight that took my journey post  215
Northward from London, and in courteous wise  216
This giant train’d me to his loathsome den,  217
Under pretence of killing of the itch,  218
And all my body with a powder strew’d,  219
That smarts and stings; and cut away my beard,  220
And my curl’d locks wherein were ribands tied,  221
And with a water washed my tender eyes—  222
Whilst up and down about me still he skipt—  223
Whose virtue is, that till my eyes be wip’d  224
With a dry cloth, for this my foul disgrace,  225
I shall not dare to look a dog i’ th’ face.  226
  Wife.  Alas, poor knight! Relieve him, Ralph—relieve poor knights whilst you live!  227
  Ralph.  My trusty squire, convey him to the town,  228
Where he may find relief. Adieu, fair knight.  (Exit 1st KNIGHT.)  229
Enter DWARF, leading 2d KNIGHT, with a patch over his nose.

  Dwarf.  Puissant knight, of the Burning Pestle hight,
See here another wretch, whom this foul beast  231
Hath scotch’d and scor’d in this inhuman wise.  232
  Ralph.  Speak me thy name, and eke thy place of birth,  233
And what hath been thy usage in this cave.  234
  2d Knight.  I am a knight, Sir Partle is my name,  235
And by my birth I am a Londoner,  236
Free by my copy, but my ancestors  237
Were Frenchmen all; and riding hard this way  238
Upon a trotting horse, my bones did ache,  239
And I, faint knight, to ease my weary limbs,  240
Light at this cave, when straight this furious fiend,  241
With sharpest instrument of purest steel,  242
Did cut the gristle of my nose away,  243
And in the place this velvet plaster stands.  244
Relieve me, gentle knight, out of his hands.  245
  Wife.  Good Ralph, relieve Sir Partle, and send him away, for in truth his breath stinks.  246
  Ralph.  Convey him straight after the other knight. Sir Partle, fare you well.  247
  2d Knight.  Kind sir, good night.  (Exit.)  248
  (Voices within.)  Deliver us!  249
  Wife.  Hark, George, what a woful cry there is! I think some one is ill there.  250
  (Voices within.)  Deliver us!  251
  Ralph.  What ghastly noise is this? Speak, Barbaroso,  252
Or by this blazing steel thy head goes off.  253
  Bar.  Prisoners of mine, whom I in diet keep.  254
Send lower down into the cave,  255
And in a tub that’s heated smoking hot,  256
There may they find them, and deliver them.  257
  Ralph.  Run, squire and dwarf—deliver them with speed!
*        *        *        *        *

  Lady.  Welcome, Sir Knight, unto my father’s court,
King of Moldavia, unto me Pompiona,  260
His daughter dear. But sure you do not like  261
Your entertainment, that will stay with us  262
No longer but a night.
  Ralph.            Damsel right fair,
I am on many sad adventures bound,  264
That call me forth into the wilderness.  265
Besides, my horse’s back is something gall’d,  266
Which will enforce me ride a sober pace.  267
But many thanks, fair lady, be to you,  268
For using errant knight with courtesy.  269
  Lady.  But say, brave knight, what is your name and birth?  270
  Ralph.  My name is Ralph. I am an Englishman,  271
As true as steel, a hearty Englishman,  272
And ’prentice to a grocer in the Strand,  273
By deed indent, of which I have one part:  274
But fortune calling me to follow arms,  275
On me this holy order I did take,  276
Of Burning Pestle, which in all men’s eyes  277
I bear, confounding ladies’ enemies.  278
  Lady.  Oft have I heard of your brave countrymen,  279
And fertile soil, and store of wholesome food;  280
My father oft will tell me of a drink  281
In England found, and Nipitato call’d,  282
Which driveth all the sorrow from your hearts.  283
  Ralph.  Lady, ’tis true, you need not lay your lips  284
To better Nipitato than there is.  285
  Lady.  And of a wildfowl he will often speak,  286
Which powdered beef and mustard called is:  287
For there have been great wars ’twixt us and you;  288
But truly, Ralph, it was not long of me.  289
Tell me then, Ralph, could you contented be  290
To wear a lady’s favour in your shield?  291
  Ralph.  I am a knight of a religious order,  292
And will not wear a favour of a lady  293
That trust in Antichrist, and false traditions.  294
Besides, I have a lady of my own  295
In merry England, for whose virtuous sake  296
I took these arms, and Susan is her name;  297
A cobbler’s maid in Milk Street, whom I vow  298
Ne’er to forsake, while life and pestle last.  299
  Lady.  Happy that cobbling dame, who’er she be,  300
That for her own—dear Ralph!—hath gotten thee.  301
Unhappy I, that ne’er shall see the day  302
To see thee more, that bear’st my heart away.  303
  Ralph.  Lady, farewell. I must needs take my leave.  304
  Lady.  Hard-hearted Ralph, that ladies dost deceive.  305
  Ralph.  Lady, before I go, I must remember  306
Your father’s officers, who, truth to tell,  307
Have been about me very diligent:  308
Hold up thy snowy hand, thou princely maid:  309
There’s twelve pence for your father’s chamberlain,  310
And there’s another shilling for his cook,  311
For, by my troth, the goose was roasted well;  312
And twelve pence for your father’s horse-keeper,  313
For ’nointing my horse back; and for his butter,  314
There is another shilling; to the maid  315
That wash’d my boot-hose, there’s an English groat,  316
And twopence to the boy that wip’d my boots.  317
And last, fair lady, there is for yourself  318
Threepence to buy you pins at Bumbo Fair.  319
  Lady.  Full many thanks, and I will keep them safe  320
Till all the heads be off, for thy sake, Ralph.  321
  Ralph.  Advance, my squire and dwarf. I cannot stay.  322
  Lady.  Thou kill’st my heart in parting thus away.  323

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