Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
114. Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley
Fytte the Third

As they sat in Inglyswode,
  Under theyr trysty tre,
They thought they herd a woman wepe,
  But her they mought not se.

Sore syghèd there fayre Alyce, and sayd,
  ‘That ever I sawe thys day!
For nowe is my dere husband slayne:
  Alas! and wel-a-waye!

‘Myght I have spoken wyth hys dere brethren
  Or with eyther of them twayne,        10
To show to them what him befell,
  My hart were out of payne.’

Cloudesley walked a lytle beside,
  Looked under the grene wood lynde,
He was ware of his wife and chyldren three,        15
  Full wo in herte and mynde.

‘Welcome, wyfe,’ then sayde Wyllyam,
  ‘Under this trysty tre:
I had wende yesterday, by swete saynt John,
  Thou sholdest me never have se.’—        20

‘Now well is me that ye be here,
  My harte is out of wo.’—
‘Dame,’ he sayde, ‘be mery of chere,
  And thanke my brethren two.’

‘Herof to speake,’ said Adam Bell,
  ‘I-wis it is no bote:
The meate, that we must supp withall,
  It runneth yet fast on fote.’

Then went they downe into a launde.
  These noble archars all thre;        30
Eche of them slew a hart of greece.
  The best they cold there se.

‘Have here the best, Alyce, my wyfe,’
  Sayde Wyllyam of Cloudesley;
‘By cause ye so bouldly stode me by        35
  When I was slayne full nye.’

Then wente they to theyr suppere
  Wyth such meate as they had;
And thankèd God of theyr fortune:
  They were both mery and glad.        40

And when that they had suppèd well,
  Certayne withouten lease,
Cloudesley sayd, ‘We wyll to our Kynge,
  To get us a charter of peace.

‘Alyce shal be at sojournyng
  In a nunnery here besyde;
My tow sonnes shall wyth her go,
  And there they shall abyde.

‘My eldest son shall go wyth me;
  For hym have I no care:        50
And he shall bring you worde agayn,
  How that we do fare.’

Thus be these wightmen to London gone
  As fast as they myght hye,
Tyll they came to the Kynge’s pallàce,        55
  Where they woulde needès be.

And whan they came to the Kynge’s courte,
  Unto the pallace gate,
Of no man wold they aske no leave,
  But boldly went in therat.        60

They presyd prestly into the hall,
  Of no man had they dreade:
The porter came after, and dyd them call,
  And with them began to chyde.

The usher sayde, ‘Yemen, what wold ye have?
  I pray you tell to me.
You myght thus make offycers shent:
  Good syrs, of whence be ye?’—

‘Syr, we be outlawes of the forest,
  Certayne withouten lease;        70
And hether we be come to the Kyng,
  To get us a charter of peace.’

And whan they came before our Kynge,
  As it was the lawe of the lande,
They knelèd downe without lettyng,        75
  And eche held up his hand.

They sayd, ‘Lord, we beseche you here
  That ye wyll graunt us grace;
For we have slayne your fat falowe dere
  In many a sondry place.’        80

‘What be your names,’ then said our Kynge,
  ‘Anone that you tell me?’—
They sayd, ‘Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough,
  And Wyllyam of Cloudesley.’—

‘Be ye those theves,’ then sayd our Kynge,
  ‘That men have tolde of to me?
Here to God I make an avowe,
  Ye shal be hangèd al thre.

‘Ye shal be dead without mercy,
  As I am Kynge of this lande.’        90
He commanded his officers everich-one,
  Fast on them to lay hande.

There they toke these good yemen,
  And arested them al thre:
‘So may I thryve,’ sayd Adam Bell,        95
  ‘Thys game lyketh not me!

‘But, good lorde, we beseche you then,
  That yee graunt us grace,
Insomuche as we be to you comen,
  Or else we may fro you passe,        100

‘With such weapons as we have here,
  Tyll we be out of your place;
And yf we lyve this hundred yere,
  We wyll aske you no grace.’

‘Ye speake proudly,’ sayd the Kynge;
  ‘Ye shall be hangèd all thre.’
‘That were great pitye,’ then sayd the Quene,
  ‘If any grace myght be.

‘My lorde, whan I came fyrst into this lande
  To be your wedded wyfe,        110
The fyrst boone that I wold aske,
  Ye would graunt it me belyfe:

‘And I asked you never none tyll now;
  Therefore, lorde, graunt it me!’—
‘Now aske it, madam,’ sayd the Kynge,        115
  ‘And graunted it shal be.’—

‘Then, good my lord, I you beseche,
  These yemen graunt ye me.’—
‘Madame, ye myght have asked a boone
  That shuld have been worth them thre.        120

‘Ye myght have askèd towres and townes,
  Parkes and forestes plentye.’—
‘None soe pleasant to my pay,’ shee sayd;
  ‘Nor none so lefe to me.’—

‘Madame, sith it is your desyre,
  Your askyng graunted shal be;
But I had lever have geven you
  Good market-townès thre.’

The Quenè was a glad woman,
  And sayde, ‘Lord, gramarcy!        130
I dare and undertake for them
  That true men shal they be.

‘But good lord, speke som mery word,
  That comfort they may se.’—
‘I graunt you grace,’ then sayd our Kynge        135
  ‘Washe, felows, and to meate go ye.’

They had not setten but a whyle,
  Certayne without lesynge,
There came messengers out of the north
  With letters to our Kynge.        140

And whan they came before the Kynge,
  They knelt downe on theyr kne;
And sayd, ‘Lord, your officers grete you well,
  Of Carleile in the north countrè.’

‘How fareth my Justice,’ sayd the Kynge,
  ‘And my Sheryfe also?’—
‘Syr, they be slayne, without leasynge,
  And many an officer mo.’—

‘Who hath them slayne,’ sayd the Kynge,
  ‘Anone that thou tell me.’—        150
‘Adam Bell, and Clym of the Clough,
  And Wyllyam of Cloudesley.’—

‘Alas for rewth!’ then sayd our Kynge:
  ‘My herte is wonderous sore;
I had lever than a thousande pounde,        155
  I had knowne of thys before;

‘For I have y-graunted them grace,
  And that forthynketh me:
But had I knowne all thys before,
  They had been hangèd all thre.’        160

The Kyng hee opened the letter anone,
  Himselfe he red it thro,
And founde how these outlàwes had slain
  Thre hundred men and mo:

Fyrst the Justice, and the Sheryfe,
  And the Mayre of Carleile towne;
Of all the constables and catchipolles
  Alyve were scant left one:

The baylyes, and the bedyls both,
  And the sergeauntes of the law,        170
And forty fosters of the fe,
  These outlawes had y-slaw;

And broke his parks, and slayne his dere;
  Of all they chose the best;
So perèlous out-lawes as they were        175
  Walked not by easte nor west.

When the Kynge this letter had red,
  In hys herte he syghèd sore:
‘Take up the tables,’ anone he bad,
  ‘For I may eat no more.’        180

The Kynge callèd hys best archars
  To the buttes wyth hym to go:
‘I wyll se these felowes shote,’ he sayd,
  ‘In the north have wrought this wo.’

The Kynge’s bowmen buske them blyve,
  And the Quene’s archers also;
So dyd these thre wyght yemen;
  With them they thought to go.

There twyse or thryse they shote about
  For to assay theyr hande;        190
There was no shote these yemen shot,
  That any prycke myght stand.

Then spake Wyllyam of Cloudesley:
  ‘By God that for me dyed,
I hold hym never no good archar,        195
  That shoteth at buttes so wyde.’—

‘At what a butte now wold ye shote,
  I pray thee tell to me?’—
‘Nay, syr,’ he sayd, ‘at such a butte
  As men use in my countrè.’        200

Wyllyam wente into a fyeld,
  And with him his two brethren:
There they set up two hasell roddes
  Twenty score paces betwene.

‘I hold him an archar,’ said Cloudesley,
  ‘That yonder wande cleveth in two,’—
‘Here is none suche,’ sayd the Kynge,
  ‘Nor no man can so do.’

‘I shall assaye, syr,’ sayd Cloudesley,
  ‘Or that I farther go.’        210
Cloudesley with a bearyng arowe
  Clave the wand in two.

‘Thou art the best archer,’ then said the Kynge,
  ‘Forsothe that ever I se.’—
‘And yet for your love,’ sayd Wyllyam,        215
  ‘I wyll do more maystery.

‘I have a sonne is seven yere olde,
  He is to me full deare;
I wyll hym tye unto a stake;
  All shall se, that be here;        220

‘And lay an apple upon hys head,
  And go syxe score paces hym fro,
And I my selfe with a brode arow
  Shall cleve the apple in two.’

‘Now hastè the,’ then sayd the Kynge,
  ‘By hym that dyed on a tre,
But yf thou do not, as thou hest sayde,
  Hangèd shalt thou be.

‘An thou touche his head or gowne,
  In syght that men may se,        230
By all the sayntes that be in heaven,
  I shall hange you all thre!’

‘That I have promised,’ said Wyllyam,
  ‘That I wyll never forsake.’
And there even before the Kynge        235
  In the earth he drove a stake:

And bound thereto his eldest sonne,
  And bad hym stand styll thereat;
And turned the childè’s face him fro,
  Because he should not start.        240

An apple upon his head he set,
  And then his bowe he bent:
Syxe score paces they were out-met,
  And thether Cloudesley went

There he drew out a fayr brode arrowe,
  —Hys bowe was great and longe,—
He set that arrowe in his bowe,
  That was both styffe and stronge.

He prayèd the people, that was there,
  That they all styll wold stand,        250
‘For he that shoteth for such a wager,
  Behoveth a stedfast hand.’

Muche people prayèd for Cloudesley,
  That his lyfe savèd myght be,
And whan he made hym redy to shote,        255
  There was many weeping e’e.

But Cloudesley clefte the apple in two,
  That many a man it se;
‘Over God’s forbode,’ sayde the Kynge,
  ‘That thou shold shote at me!’        260

‘I geve thee eightene pence a day,
  And my bowè shalt thou bere,
And over all the north countrè
  I make the chyfe rydère.’

‘And I thyrtene pence,’ said the Quene,
  ‘By God, and by my fay;
Come feche thy payment when thou wylt,
  No man shall say the nay.

‘Wyllyam, I make the a gentleman
  Of clothyng, and of fe:        270
And thy brethren yemen of my chambre,
  For they are so semely to se.

‘Your sonne, for he is tendre of age,
  Of my wyne-seller he shall be;
And when he commeth to mans estate,        275
  Better avaunced shall he be.

‘And, Wyllyam, bring me your wife,’ said the Quene,
  ‘Me longeth her sore to se:
She shall be my chefe gentlewoman,
  To governe my nurserye.’        280

The yemen thanked them all courteously,
  And sayd, ‘To Rome wyl we wend,
Of all the synnes, that we have done,
  To be assoyld at his hand.’

So forth be gone these good yemèn,
  As fast as they might hye;
And after came and dwell’d with the Kynge,
  And dyed good men all thre.

Thus endeth the lyves of these good yemèn;
  God send them eternall blysse;        290
And all, that with a hand-bowe shoteth:
  That of heven they may never mysse!
GLOSS:  trysty tre] trysting tree.  launde] forest-park.  of greece] of grease, fat.  lease] lying.  tow] two.  wightmen] stout fellows.  presyd prestly] pressed quickly.  shent] ruined.  lettyng] delay.  belyfe] straightway.  pay] satisfaction.  lefe] dear.  forthynketh] repenteth.  fosters of the fe] foresters of the lordship.  buttes] targets.  buske them] busked, made them ready.  blyve] = belyfe supra, straightway.  prycke] mark.  bearyng arowe] a long arrow, tapered to carry far.  out-met] measured out.  rydère] ranger.


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