Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
165. Mary Ambree

WHEN captains couragious, whom death could not daunte,
Did march to the siege of the citty of Gaunt,
They muster’d their souldiers by two and by three,
And the foremost in battle was Mary Ambree.

When brave Sir John Major was slaine in her sight,
Who was her true lover, her joy, and delight,
Because he was slaine most treacherouslie,
She vow’d to revenge him, did Mary Ambree.

She clothèd herselfe from the top to the toe
In buffe of the bravest, most seemelye to showe;        10
A faire shirt of mail then slippèd on she;
Was not this a brave bonny lass, Mary Ambree?

A helmet of proofe she strait did provide,
A strong arminge sword she girt by her side,
And on each hand a goodly faire gauntlett put shee;        15
Was not this a brave bonny lass, Mary Ambree?

Then tooke she her sworde and her target in hand,
Bidding all such as wo’ld to be sworn of her band;
To wayte on her person came thousand and three:
Was not this a brave bonny lass, Mary Ambree?        20

‘My soldiers,’ she saith, ‘soe valiant and bold,
Nowe follow your captaine, whom you doe beholde;
Still foremost in battel myself will I be’:
Was not this a brave bonny lass, Mary Ambree?

Then cry’d out her souldiers, and loude they did say,
‘Soe well thou becomest this gallant array,
Thy harte and thy weapons soe well do agree,
There was none that was ever like Mary Ambree.’

She chearèd her souldiers, that foughten for life,
With ancyent and standard, with drum and with fyfe,        30
With brave clanging trumpetts, that sounded so free;
Was not this a brave bonny lass, Mary Ambree?

‘Before I will see the worst of you all
To come into danger of death or of thrall,
This hand and this life I will venture so free’:        35
Was not this a brave bonny lass, Mary Ambree?

She led up her souldiers in battaile array
Gainst three times theyr number by break of the daye;
Seven howers in skirmish continuèd shee:
Was not this a brave bonny lass, Mary Ambree?        40

She fillèd the skyes with the smoke of her shott,
And her enemyes bodyes with bullets soe hott;
For one of her owne men a score killèd shee:
Was not this a brave bonny lass, Mary Ambree?

And when her false gunner, to spoyle her intent,
Away all her pellets and powder had sent,
Straight with her keen weapon she slasht him in three:
Was not this a brave bonny lass, Mary Ambree!

Being falselye betrayèd for lucre of hyre,
At length she was forcèd to make a retyre;        50
Then her souldiers into a strong castle drew she:
Was not this a brave bonny lass, Mary Ambree?

Her foes they beset her on everye side,
As thinking close siege shee co’ld never abide;
To beate down the wallès they all did decree:        55
But stoutlye defyed them brave Mary Ambree.

Then tooke she her sword and her target in hand,
And mounting the walls all undaunted did stand,
There daring their captaines to match any three:
O what a brave captaine was Mary Ambree!        60

‘Now saye, English captaine, what woldest thou give
To ransome thy selfe, which else must not live?
Come yield thy selfe quicklye, or slaine thou must bee.’—
O then smilèd sweetlye brave Mary Ambree.

‘Ye captaines couragious, of valour so bold,
Whom thinke you before you now you doe behold?’—
‘A knight, sir, of England, and captaine soe free,
Who shortèlye with us a pris’ner must bee.’—

‘No captaine of England; behold in your sight
Two brests in my bosome, and therfore no knight:        70
Noe knight, sirs, of England, nor captaine you see,
But a poor simple lass, callèd Mary Ambree.’—

‘But art thou a woman, as thou dost declare,
Whose valor hath prov’d so undaunted in warre?
If England doth yield such brave lasses as thee,        75
Full well may they conquer, faire Mary Ambree!’

Then to her owne country shee backe did returne,
Still holding the foes of faire England in scorne:
Therfore, English captaines of every degree,
Sing forth the brave valours of Mary Ambree!        80
GLOSS:  Gaunt] Ghent.  ancyent] ensign.


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