Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
41. King Estmere

HEARKEN to me, gentlemen,
  Come and you shall heare;
Ile tell you of two of the boldest brether
  That ever bornè were.

The tone of them was Adler Younge,
  The tother was Kyng Estmere;
They were as bolde men in their deeds
  As any were, farr and neare.

As they were drinking ale and wine
  Within his brother’s hall,        10
‘When will ye marry a wyfe, brother,
  A wyfe to glad us all?’

Then bespake him Kyng Estmere,
  And answered him hartilye:
‘I know not that ladye in any land,        15
  That’s able to marrye with mee.’—

‘Kyng Adland hath a daughter, brother,
  Men call her bright and sheene;
If I were kyng here in your stead,
  That ladye shold be my queene.’—        20

Saies, ‘Reade me, reade me, deare brother,
  Throughout merry England,
Where we might find a messenger
  Betwixt us towe to sende.’—

Saies, ‘You shal ryde yourselfe, brother,
  Ile beare you companye;
Many a man throughe fals messengers is deceived,
  And I feare lest soe shold wee.’

Thus they renisht them to ryde,
  Of twoe good renisht steeds,        30
And when they came to Kyng Adland’s halle,
  Of redd gold shone their weeds.

And when they came to Kyng Adland’s halle,
  Before the goodlye gate,
There they found good Kyng Adland        35
  Rearing himselfe theratt.

‘Now Christ thee save, good Kyng Adland;
  Now Christ you save and see.’—
Sayd, ‘You be welcome, Kyng Estmere,
  Right hartilye to mee.’        40

‘You have a daughter,’ said Adler Younge,
  ‘Men call her bright and sheene;
My brother wold marrye her to his wife,
  Of Englande to be queene.’—

‘Yesterday was att my deere daughter
  Kyng Bremor his sonne of Spayn,
And then she nickèd him of naye,
  And I doubt sheele do you the same.’—

‘The Kyng of Spayne is a foule paynim,
  And ’lieveth on Mahound,        50
And pitye it were that fayre ladye
  Shold marry a heathen hound.

‘But grant to me,’ sayes Kyng Estmere,
  ‘For my love I you praye,
That I may see your daughter deere        55
  Before I goe hence awaye.’—

‘Although itt is seven yeers and more
  Since my daughter was in halle,
She shall come once downe for your sake,
  To glad my guestès alle.’        60

Downe then came that mayden fayre,
  With ladyes laced in pall,
And halfe a hundred of bold knightes,
  To bring her from bowre to hall,
And as many gentle squiers,        65
  To tend upon them all.

The talents of golde were on her head sette
  Hanged low downe to her knee,
And everye ring on her small finger
  Shone of the chrystall free.        70

Saies, ‘God you save, my deere madam,’
  Saies, ‘God you save and see!’—
Said, ‘You be welcome, Kyng Estmere,
  Right welcome unto mee.

‘And, if you love me, as you saye,
  Soe well and hartilee,
All that ever you are comen about
  Soone sped now itt shal bee.’

Then bespake her father deare:
  ‘My daughter, I saye naye;        80
Remember well the Kyng of Spayne,
  What he sayd yesterdaye.

‘He wold pull downe my halles and castles,
  And reave me of my lyfe;
I cannot blame him if he doe,        85
  If I reave him of his wyfe.’—

‘Your castles and your towres, father,
  Are stronglye built aboute,
And therefore of the Kyng his sonne of Spaine
  Wee neede not stande in doubt.        90

‘Plight me your troth, nowe, Kyng Estmere,
  By heaven and your righte hand,
That you will marrye me to your wyfe,
  And make me queene of your land.’

Then Kyng Estmere he plight his troth,
  By heaven and his righte hand,
That he wolde marrye her to his wyfe,
  And make her queene of his land.

And he tooke leave of that ladye fayre,
  To goe to his owne countree,        100
To fetche him dukes and lordes and knightes,
  That marryed they might bee.

They had not ridden scant a myle,
  A myle forthe of the towne,
But in did come the Kyng of Spayne,        105
  With kempès many one.

But in did come the Kyng of Spayne,
  With manye a bold barone,
Tone day to marrye Kyng Adland’s daughter,
  Tother daye to carrye her home.        110

Shee sent one after Kyng Estmere,
  In all the spede might bee,
That he must either turne againe and fighte,
  Or goe home and loose his ladye.

One whyle then the page he went,
  Another while he ranne;
Till he had oretaken Kyng Estmere,
  I-wis he never blanne.

‘Tydings, tydings, Kyng Estmere!’—
  ‘What tydings nowe, my boye?’—        120
‘O tydinges I can tell to you,
  That will you sore annoye.

‘You had not ridden scant a mile,
  A mile out of the towne,
But in did come the Kyng of Spayne,        125
  With kempès many a one:

‘But in did come the Kyng of Spayne,
  With manye a bold barone,
Tone daye to marrye Kyng Adland’s daughter,
  Tother daye to carry her home.        130

‘My ladye fayre she greetes you well,
  And ever-more well by mee;
You must either turne againe and fighte,
  Or goe home and loose your ladye.’—

Saies, ‘Reade me, reade me, deere brother,
  My reade shall ryse at thee;
Whether it is better to turne and fighte,
  Or goe home and loose my ladye.’

‘Now hearken to me,’ sayes Adler Yonge,
  ‘And your reade must rise at me;        140
I quicklye will devise a waye
  To sette thy ladye free.

‘My mother was a westerne woman,
  And learned in gramarye,
And when I learnèd at the schole,        145
  Something shee taught itt mee.

‘There growes an hearbe within this field,
  And iff it were but knowne,
His color, which is whyte and redd,
  It will make blacke and browne.        150

‘His color, which is browne and blacke,
  Itt will make redd and whyte;
That sworde is not in all Englande
  Upon his coate will byte.

‘And you shal be a harper, brother,
  Out of the north countrye,
And Ile be your boy, soe faine of fighte,
  And beare your harpe by your knee.

‘And you shal be the best harper
  That ever tooke harpe in hand,        160
And I wil be the best singer
  That ever sung in this lande.

‘Itt shal be written in our forheads,
  All and in grammarye,
That we towe are the boldest men        165
  That are in all Christentye.’

And thus they renisht them to ryde,
  Of tow good renisht steedes,
And when they came to Kyng Adland’s halle,
  Of redd gold shone their weedes.        170

And whan they came to Kyng Adland’s halle
  Untill the fayre hall yate,
There they found a proud portèr,
  Rearing himselfe thereatt.

Sayes, ‘Christ thee save, thou proud porter,’
  Sayes, ‘Christ thee save and see!’—
‘Nowe you be welcome,’ sayd the porter,
  ‘Of what land soever ye bee.’

‘Wee beenè harpers,’ sayd Adler Younge,
  ‘Come out of the northe countrye;        180
Wee beenè come hither untill this place
  This proud weddinge for to see.’—

Sayd, ‘And your color were white and redd,
  As it is blacke and browne,
I wold saye Kyng Estmere and his brother        185
  Were comen untill this towne.’

Then they pulled out a ryng of gold,
  Layd itt on the porter’s arme:
‘And ever we will thee, proud portèr,
  Thow wilt saye us no harme.’        190

Sore he looked on Kyng Estmere,
  And sore he handled the ryng,
Then opened to them the fayre hall yates,
  He lett for no kind of thyng.

Kyng Estmere he stabled his steede
  Soe fayre att the hall-bord;
The froth that came from his brydle bitte
  Light in Kyng Bremor’s beard.

Saies, ‘Stable thy steed, thou proud harpèr,’
  Saies, ‘Stable him in the stalle;        200
It doth not beseeme a proud harpèr
  To stable his steed in a kyng’s halle.’

‘My ladde he is so lither,’ he said,
  ‘He will doe nought that’s meete;
And is there any man in this hall        205
  Were able him to beate?’

‘Thou speakst proud words, ’sayes the Kyng of Spaine,
  ‘Thou harper, here to mee;
There is a man within this halle
  Will beate thy ladd and thee.’—        210

‘O let that man come downe,’ he said,
  ‘A sight of him wold I see;
And when hee hath beaten well my ladd,
  Then he shall beate of mee.’

Downe then came the kemperye man,
  And lookèd him in the eare;
For all the gold that was under heaven,
  He durst not neigh him neare.

‘And how nowe, kempe,’ said the Kyng of Spaine,
  ‘And how, what aileth thee?’—        220
He saies, ‘It is writt in his forhead,
  All and in gramarye,
That for all the gold that is under heaven,
  I dare not neigh him nye.’

Then Kyng Estmere pull’d forth his harpe,
  And play’d a pretty thinge;
The ladye upstart from the borde,
  And wold have gone from the king.

‘Stay thy harpe, thou proud harpèr,
  For God’s love I pray thee;        230
For and thou playes as thou beginns,
  Thou ’lt till my bryde from mee.’

He stroake upon his harpe againe,
  And play’d a pretty thinge;
The ladye lough a loud laughter,        235
  As shee sate by the king.

Saies, ‘Sell me thy harpe, thou proud harpèr,
  And thy stringës all;
For as many gold nobles thou shalt have,
  As heere bee ringes in the hall.’        240

‘What wold ye doe with my harpe,’ he sayd,
  ‘If I did sell itt yee?’—
‘To playe my wiffe and me a fitt,
  When abed together wee bee.’

‘Now sell me,’ quoth hee, ‘thy bryde soe gay,
  As shee sitts by thy knee;
And as many gold nobles I will give
  As leaves been on a tree.’

‘And what wold ye doe with my bryde soe gay,
  Iff I did sell her thee?        250
More seemelye it is for her fayre bodye
  To lye by mee then thee.’

Hee played agayne both loud and shrille,
  And Adler he did syng,
‘O ladye, this is thy owne true love,        255
  Noe harper, but a kyng.

‘O ladye, this is thy owne true love,
  As playnlye thou mayest see,
And Ile rid thee of that foule paynim
  Who partes thy love and thee.’        260

The ladye looked, the ladye blushte,
  And blushte and lookt agayne,
While Adler he hath drawne his brande,
  And hath the Sowdan slayne

Up then rose the kemperye men,
  And loud they gan to crye:
‘Ah! traytors, yee have slayne our kyng,
  And therefore yee shall dye.’

Kyng Estmere threwe the harpe asyde,
  And swith he drew his brand,        270
And Estmere he and Adler Yonge
  Right stiffe in stour can stand.

And aye their swordes soe sore can byte,
  Throughe help of gramarye,
That soone they have slayne the kempery men,        275
  Or forst them forth to flee.

Kyng Estmere tooke that fayre ladye,
  And marryed her to his wiffe,
And brought her home to merry England,
  With her to lead his life.        280
GLOSS:  renisht] perhaps for ‘revisht’, dressed, arrayed.  weeds] garments.  rearing] leaning.  nicked] refused.  pall] fine cloth.  kempès] fighting-men.  blanne] halted.  My reade shall ryse] my counsel shall arise, or spring, from thee.  yate] gate.  lither] naughty.  neigh] come nigh, approach.  till] entice.  fitt] strain of music.  swith] swiftly.  stour] press of fighting.


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