Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
Child Waters
CHILDE WATERS 1 in his stable stoode,
  And stroaket his milke-white steede;
To him came a faire young ladye
  As ere did weare womans weede.
Saies, ‘Christ you save, good Chyld Waters!’        5
  Sayes, ‘Christ you save and see!
My girdle of gold which was too longe
  Is now too short for mee.
‘And all is with one chyld of yours,
  I feele sturre att my side:        10
My gowne of greene, it is to strayght;
  Before it was to wide.’
‘If the child be mine, faire Ellen,’ he sayd,
  ‘Be mine, as you tell mee,
Take you Cheshire and Lancashire both,        15
  Take them your owne to bee.
‘If the child be mine, ffaire Ellen,’ he said,
  ‘Be mine, as you doe sweare,
Take you Cheshire and Lancashire both,
  And make that child your heyre.’        20
Shee saies, ‘I had rather have one kisse,
  Child Waters, of thy mouth,
Then I would have Cheshire and Lancashire both,
  That lyes by north and south.
‘And I had rather have a twinkling        25
  Child Waters, of your eye,
Then I would have Cheshire and Lancashire both,
  To take them mine oune to bee!’
‘To-morrow, Ellen, I must forth ryde
  Soe ffar into the north countrye;        30
The fairest lady that I can ffind,
  Ellen, must goe with mee.’
‘And ever I pray you, Child Watters,
  Your ffootpage let me bee!’
‘If you will my ffootpage be, Ellen,        35
  As you doe tell itt mee,
Then you must cut your gownne of greene
  An inch above your knee.
‘Soe must you doe your yellow locks
  Another inch above your eye;        40
You must tell no man what is my name;
  My ffootpage then you shall bee.’
All this long day Child Waters rode,
  Shee ran bare ffoote by his side;
Yett was he never soe curteous a knight,        45
  To say, ‘Ellen, will you ryde?’
But all this day Child Waters rode,
  She ran barffoote thorow the broome;
Yett he was never soe curteous a knight
  As to say, ‘Put on your shoone.’        50
‘Ride softlye,’ shee said, ‘Child Watters:
  Why do you ryde soe ffast?
The child, which is no mans but yours,
  My bodye itt will burst.’
He sayes, ‘Sees thou yonder water, Ellen,        55
  That fflowes from banke to brim?’
‘I trust to God, Child Waters,’ shee sayd,
  ‘You will never see mee swime.’
But when shee came to the waters side,
  Shee sayled to the chinne:        60
‘Except the lord of heaven be my speed,
  Now must I learne to swime.’
The salt waters bare up Ellens clothes,
  Oure Ladye bare upp her chinne,
And Child Waters was a woe man, good Lord,        65
  To see faire Ellen swime.
Ane when shee over the water was,
  Shee then came to his knee:
He said, ‘Come hither, ffaire Ellen,
  Loe yonder what I see!        70
‘Seest thou not yonder hall, Ellen?
  Of redd gold shine the yates;
There’s four and twenty ffayre ladyes,
  The ffairest is my wordlye make.
‘Seest thou not yonder hall, Ellen?        75
  Of redd gold shineth the tower;
There is four and twenty ffaire ladyes,
  The fairest is my paramoure.’
‘I doe see the hall now, Child Waters,
  That of redd gold shineth the yates;        80
God give good then of your selfe,
  And of your wordlye make!
‘I doe see the hall now, Child Waters,
  That of redd gold shineth the tower;
God give good then of your selfe,        85
  And of youre paramoure!’
There were four and twenty ladyes,
  Were playing att the ball;
And Ellen, was the ffairest ladye,
  Must bring his steed to the stall.        90
There were four and twenty faire ladyes
  Was playing att the chesse;
And Ellen, shee was ffairest ladye,
  Must bring his horsse to grasse.
And then bespake Child Waters sister,        95
  And these were the words said shee:
‘You have the prettyest ffootpage, brother,
  That ever I saw with mine eye;
‘But that his belly it is soe bigg,
  His girdle goes wondrous hye;        100
And ever I pray you, Child Waters,
  Let him go into the chamber with me.’
‘It is more meete for a little ffootpage,
  That has run through mosse and mire,
To take his supper upon his knee        105
  And sitt downe by the kitchin fyer,
Then to go into the chamber with any ladye
  That weares so rich attyre.’
‘I pray you now, good Child Waters,
  That I may creepe in att your bedds feete,        110
For there is noe place about this house
  Where I may say a sleepe.’
This night and itt drove on affterward
  Till itt was neere the day:
He sayd, ‘Rise up, my little ffoote page,        115
  And give my steed corne and hay;
And soe doe thou the good blacke oates,
  That he may carry me the better away.’
And up then rose ffaire Ellen,
  And gave his steed corne and hay,        120
And soe shee did the good blacke oates,
  That he might carry him the better away.
Shee layned her backe to the manger side,
  And greivouslye did groane;
And that beheard his mother deere,        125
  And heard her make her moane.
She said, ‘Rise up, thou Child Waters!
  I thinke thou art a cursed man;
For yonder is a ghost in thy stable,
  That greivously doth groane,        130
Or else some woman laboures of child,
  Shee is soe woe begone!’
But up then rose Child Waters,
  And did put on his shirt of silke;
Then he put on his other clothes        135
  On his body as white as milke.
And when he came to the stable dore,
  Full still that hee did stand,
That hee might heare now faire Ellen,
  How shee made her monand.        140
Shee said, ‘Lullabye, my owne deere child!
  Lullabye, deere child, deere!
I wold thy father were a king,
  Thy mother layd on a beere!’
‘Peace now,’ he said, ‘good faire Ellen!        145
  And be of good cheere, I thee pray,
And the bridall and the churching both,
  They shall bee upon one day.’
Note 1. From the Percy Folio, edited by Hales and Furnivall. Professor Gummere says (Old English Ballads, p. 354, 1894), “The great praise awarded to this ballad by Child and Grundtvig must not be thwarted in the minds of the reader by the impression of irritating cruelty in the hero and irritating patience in the heroine. We must take the only point of view recognized in ballad-times; this done, and allowances made for the roughness—not coarseness—of the details, we shall be ready to concede that no better ballad can be found in any tongue.” [back]

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