Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
53. Old Robin of Portingale

GOD! let never soe old a man
  Marry soe young a wife
As did old Robin of Portingale!
  He may rue all the days of his life.

For the Mayor’s daughter of Lin, God wot,
  He chose her to his wife,
And thought to have lived in quietnesse
  With her all the dayes of his life.

They had not in their wed-bed laid,
  Scarcely were both on sleepe,        10
But up she rose, and forth she goes
  To Sir Gyles, and fast can weepe.

Saies, ‘Sleepe you, wake you, faire Sir Gyles?
  Or be you not within?
[Or hear you not your true love        15
  That tirleth at the pin?’]—

‘But I am waking, sweete,’ he said,
  ‘Lady, what is your will?’—
I have unbethought me of a wile
  How my wed lord we shall spill.        20

‘Four and twenty knights,’ she sayes,
  ‘That dwells about this towne,
E’en four and twenty of my next cozens
  Will help to ding him downe.’

With that beheard his little foot-page,
  Was watering his master’s steed;
Soe [sore a hearing it was to him]
  His very heart did bleed.

He mournèd, sikt, and wept full sore;
  I swear by the Holy Rood        30
The teares he for his master wept
  Were blent water and bloude.

With that beheard his dear mastèr
  As he in his garden sate;
Sayes, ‘Ever alack, my little page,        35
  What causes thee to weepe?

‘Hath any one done to thee wronge,
  Any of thy fellowes here?
Or is any of thy good friends dead,
  What makes thee shed such teares?        40

‘Or if it be my head-cookes-man
  Griev’d againe he shall be,
Nor noe man within my house
  Shall doe wrong unto thee.’—

‘But it is not your head-cookes-man,
  Nor none of his degree;
But or tomorrow, ere it be noone
  You are deemèd to die.

‘And of that thanke your head-stewàrd,
  And, after, your ladie fair.’—        50
‘If it be true, my little foot-page,
  Of my land I’ll make thee heir.’—

‘If it be not true, my deare master,
  God let me never thye.’—
‘If it be not true, thou little foot-page,        55
  A dead corse shalt thou be.’

He callèd down his head-cookes-man
  In kitchen supper to dress;
‘All and anon, my deere master!
  Anon at your request!’—        60

[‘Let supper be drest, and of the best
  Let it preparèd be]
And call you downe my faire lady,
  This night to supp with mee.’

And downe then came that fair lady,
  ’Was clad all in purple and palle;
The rings that were upon her fingers
  Cast light thorrow the hall.

‘What is your will, my owne wed lord,
  What is your will with mee?’—        70
‘’Tis I am sicke, fayre lady,
  Sore sicke and like to dye.’—

‘But an you be sicke, my owne wed lord,
  Soe sore it grieveth mee;
But my five maidens and my selfe        75
  [Will bedd you presentlye].

‘And at the waking of your first sleepe
  You shall have a hott drinke made,
And at the waking of your next sleepe
  Your sorrowes will have a slake.’        80

He put a silk cote on his backe
  ’Was thirteen inches folde,
And put a steele cap upon his head
  ’Was gilded with good red gold.

And he layd a bright browne sword by his side,
  And another at his feete,
And full well knew Old Robin then
  Whether he shold wake or sleepe.

And about the middle time of the night
  Came twenty-four Knights in;        90
Sir Gyles he was the foremost man,
  Soe well he knew that ginne.

Old Robin with a bright browne sword
  Sir Gyles’ head he did winne,
Soe did he all those twenty-four,        95
  Ne’er a one went quicke out [agen];

None but one little foot-page
  Crept forth at a window of stone;
And he had two armes when he came in
  And [when he went out he had one].        100

Upp then came that ladie light,
  With torches burning bright;
Shee thought to have brought Sir Gyles a drinke,
  But shee found her owne wed Knight.

And the first thing that shee stumbled upon
  Was of Sir Gyles his foote;
Sayes, ‘Ever alacke, and woe is me,
  Here lies my sweet hart-roote!’

And the second thing shee stumbled upon
  Was of Sir Gyles his head;        110
Sayes, ‘Ever alacke, and woe is me,
  Here lyes my true-love deade!’

He cut the papps beside her brest,
  And bade her wish her will;
And he cutt the eares beside her heade,        115
  And bade her wish on still.

‘Mickle is the men’s blood I have spent
  To doe thee and me some good’;
Sayes, ‘Ever alacke, my fayre lady,
  I thinke that I was woode!’        120

And he shope the cross on his right sho’lder
  Of the white flesh and the redd,
And he went him into the Holy Land,
  Wheras Christ was quicke and deade.
GLOSS:  unbethought] bethought.  ding] smite.  sikt] sighed.  againe] in return.  deemèd] doomed.  thye] thrive.  palle] fine cloth.  ginne] gin, contrivance, here a door-latch.  quicke] alive.  hart-roote] heart-root, dear one.  woode] mad


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