Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
4. Sir Aldingar

OUR King he kept a false steward,
  Men call’d him Sir Aldingar;
[He would have woo’d our comely Queene
  To be his paramour].

He would have woo’d our comely Queene,
  Her deere worship to betray:
Our Queene she was a good woman
  And evermore said him nay.

Sir Aldingar was offended in ’s mind,
  With her he was ne’er content,        10
But he sought what meanès he could find
  In a fyer to have her brent.

There came a lame lazar to the King’s gate,
  A lazar ’was blind and lame;
He took the lazar upon his backe,        15
  Upon the Queene’s bed did him lay.

Said, ‘Lye still, lazar, whereas thou lyest,
  Looke thou goe not away;
I’le make thee a whole man and a sound
  In two howres of a day.’        20

And then went forth Sir Aldingar
  Our Queene for to betray,
And then he met with our comely King;
  Says, ‘God you save and see!

‘If I had space, as I have grace,
  A message I’d say to thee.’—
‘Say on, say on, Sir Aldingar,
  Say thou on and unto me.’

‘I can shew you one of the grievous’t sights
  Ever Christian King did see;        30
Our Queene hath chosen a new, new love,
  She will have none of thee.

‘If she had chosen a right good knight.
  The lesse had beene her shame;
But she hath chosen a lazar man        35
  Which is both blind and lame.’—

‘If this be true, Sir Aldingar,
  That thou dost tell to me,
Then will I make thee a rich knight
  Both of gold and fee.        40

‘But if it be false, Sir Aldingar,
  That thou dost tell to me,
Then looke thou for no other death
  But to be hang’d on tree.’

When the King came into the Queene’s chamber,
  Standing her bed before,
‘There’s a lodly lome,’ says Harry the King
  For our dame Queene Elinor!

‘If thou were a man, as thou art none,
  It is here thou shouldest dye;        50
But a paire of new gallowes shall be built,
  Thou’st hang on them soe hye.

‘And a fayre fyer there shall be bett,
  And brent our Queene shall been.’
Forth then walk’d our comely King,        55
  And met with our comely Queene.

Saies, ‘God you save our Queene, Madam,
  And Christ you save and see!
Here you have chosen a new, new love,
  And you will have none of mee.        60

‘If you had chosen a right good knight,
  The lesse had beene your shame;
But you have chosen a lazar man
  That is both blind and lame.’

‘Ever alacke!’ said our comely Queene,
  ‘Sir Aldingar he is false;
But ever alacke!’ said our comely Queene,
  ‘And woe is me, and alas!

‘I had thought swevens had never been true
  I have proved them true [today]:        70
I dream’d in my swevens on Thursday at even
  In my bed wheras I lay,

‘I dreamèd a grype and a grimlie beast
  Had carried my crowne away,
My gorget and my kirtle of golde,        75
  And all my heade-geare [gay].

‘He wo’ld have worryed me with his tush,
  And borne me into his nest,
Saving there came a little hawke
  Flying out of the east.        80

‘—Saving there came a little hawke
  Which men call a merlion;
He stroke him downe untill the ground,
  That deade he did fall downe.

‘Gif I were a man, as I am none,
  A battell I wo’ld prove;
I wo’ld fight with that false traitor;
  At him I cast my glove!

‘Seeing I am able noe battell to make,
  You must grant me, my liege, a knight,        90
To fight with that traitor, Sir Aldingar,
  To maintaine me in my right.’

‘I’le give thee forty dayes,’ said our King,
  ‘To seeke thee a man therein;
If thou find not a man in forty dayes,        95
  In a hott fyer thou shalt brenn.’

Our Queene sent forth a messenger;
  He rode fast into the south;
He rode the countryes through and through
  Soe far unto Portsmouth.        100

[But for all his riding ne’er sped he
  To fetch help to our Queene;]
He co’ld find noe man in the south country
  ’Wo’ld fight with the knight soe keene.

The second messenger shee sent forth,
  Rode far into the east;
But—blessèd be God ’made sunn and moone!—
  He sped then all of the best.

As he rode then by one river side,
  There he mett with a little Child;        110
He seemèd noe more in a man’s likenesse
  Than a child of four yeeres old.

He ask’d the messenger how far he rode;
  Loth he was him to tell;
The little one was offended att him,        115
  Bade him adieu, farewell.

Said, ‘Turne thou againe, thou messenger,
  Greete our Queen well from me;
When bale is at hyest, boote is at nyest—
  Helpe enough there may bee.        120

‘Bid our Queene remember what she did dreame
  In her bedd wheras shee lay;
She dreamèd the grype and the grimlie beast
  Had carryed her crowne away;

‘Her gorgett and her kirtle of gold,
  Her head-geare [all soe drest]
He wo’ld have worryed her with his tush,
  And borne her into his nest.

‘Saving there came a little hawke,
  Men call him a merlion;        130
’Did strike him downe untill the ground
  That dead he did fall downe.

‘Bidd the Queene be merry att her heart,
  Evermore light and glad;
When bale is at hyest, boote is at nyest,        135
  Helpe enough [shall be had’].

Then the Queen’s messenger rode backe,
  A gladded man then was hee;
When that he came before our Queene,
  A gladd woman then was shee.        140

She gave the messenger twenty pound,
  O Lord, in gold and fee;
Saies, ‘Spend, nor spare while this doth last,
  Then fetch thou more of me.’

Our Queene was put in a tunne to burn;
  She thought noe thing but death:
When they were ware of the Little One
  ’Came ryding forth of the east.

With a mu[le and a bridle all of bells]
  A lovelye child was hee;        150
When that he came to that fyér
  He lighted the Queene full nigh.

Sayd, ‘Draw away these brands of fyer
  ’Lie burning before our Queene,
And fetch me hither Sir Aldingar        155
  That is a knight soe keene.’

When Aldingar saw that Little One,
  Full little of him hee thought;
If there had been halfe a hundred such
  Of them he would not have wrought.        160

He sayd, ‘Come hither, Sir Aldingar,
  Thou seemest as big as a fooder;
I trust God ere I have done with thee
  God will send us an auger.’

Sayes, ‘The first stroke that’s given, Sir Aldingar,
  I will give unto thee;
And if the second give thou may,
  Looke then thou spare not mee.’

This Little One pull’d forth a well good sword,
  I wis it well all of gilte.        170
It cast a light there over that field,
  It shone soe all of gilte.

He stroke the first stroke at Aldingar;
  [Noe second needed hee;
At the first stroke] he stroke away        175
  His leggs [all] by the knee.

Sayes, ‘Stand up, stand up, thou false traitor,
  And fight upon thy feete;
For, an thou thrive as thou begins,
  Of a height we shall be meete.’        180

‘A priest, a priest,’ sayes Aldingar,
  ‘Me for to housel and shrive!
A priest, a priest,’ sayes Aldingar,
  ‘While I am a man living alive!

‘I would have courted our comely Queene;
  To it shee wo’ld never consent;
I thought to betray her to our King
  In a fyer to have her brent.

‘There came a lame lazar to the King’s gate,
  A lazar both blind and lame;        190
I took the lazar upon my back,
  Upon the Queene’s bedd had him layn.

‘I bade him, Lye still, lazar, where he lay,
  Looke he went not away;
I wo’ld make him a whole man and a sound        195
  In two houres of a day.

‘A priest, a priest,’ sayes Aldingar,
  ‘To shrive me cleane of hell!
Ever alacke!’ sayes Sir Aldingar,
  ‘Falsing never doth well.        200

‘Forgive, forgive me, Queene, Madam!
  For Christ’s love forgive me!’—
‘God forgave his death, Aldingar,
  And freely I forgive thee.’—

‘Now take thy wife, thou King Harry,
  And love her as thou sho’ld;
Thy wife shee is as true to thee
  As stone lies in castle wall.’

The lazar under the gallow tree
  [Grew] a pretty man and small:        210
The lazar under the gallow tree
  Was made steward in King Harry’s hall.
GLOSS:  brent] burnt.  lodly] loathly.  lome] thing.  bett] kindled.  swevens] dreams.  grype] gryphon.  tush] tusk, beak.  merlion] merlin, a small falcon.  bale] evil, trouble.  boote] help, remedy.  tunne] barrel.  wrought] recked.  fooder] tun.  meete] matched, equal.


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