Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
 
17. The Boy and the Mantle
 
A Ballad of King Arthur’s Court
 
 
I

IN the third day of May
  To Carleile did come
A kind curteous child
  That co’ld much of wisdome.
 
II

A kirtle and a mantle
        5
  This child had uppon,
With brauches and ringes
  Full richelye bedone.
 
III

He had a sute of silke
  About his middle drawne;        10
Without he co’ld of curtesye
  He thought it much shame.
 
IV

‘God speed thee, King Arthur,
  Sitting at thy meate;
And the goodly Queene Guenever!        15
  I cannot her forget.
 
V

‘I tell you, lords in this hall,
  I hett you all heed,
Except you be the more surer
  ‘Is for you to dread.’        20
 
VI

He pluck’d out of his potener,
  And longer wo’ld not dwell,
He pull’d forth a pretty mantle
  Betweene two nut-shells.
 
VII

‘Have thou here, King Arthur,
        25
  Have thou here of mee:
Give itt to thy comely queene
  Shapen as itt is alreadye.
 
VIII

‘Itt shall never become that wiffe
  That hath once done amisse.’        30
Then every knight in the king’s court
  Began to care for his.
 
IX

Forth came dame Guenever,
  To the mantle she her bed;
The ladye shee was new fangle        35
  But yett she was affrayd.
 
X

When shee had taken the mantle,
  She stoode as shee had beene madd;
It was from the top to the toe
  As sheeres had it shread.        40
 
XI

One while was it gaule,
  Another while was itt greene,
Another while was it wadded;
  Ill itt did her beseeme.
 
XII

Another while it was blacke,
        45
  And bore the worst hue:
‘By my troth,’ quoth King Arthur,
  ‘I thinke thou be not true.’
 
XIII

Shee threw downe the mantle,
  That bright was of blee;        50
Fast with a rudd red
  To her chamber can she flee.
 
XIV

She cursed the weaver and the walker
  That cloth that had wrought,
And bade a vengeance on his crowne        55
  That hither hath itt brought.
 
XV

‘I had rather be in a wood,
  Under a greenè tree,
Than in King Arthur’s court
  Shamèd for to bee.’        60
 
XVI

Kay call’d forth his ladye
  And bade her come neere;
Saies, ‘Madam, and thou be guiltye
  I pray thee hold thee here.’
 
XVII

Forth came his ladye
        65
  Shortlye and anon;
Boldlye to the mantle
  Then is she gone.
 
XVIII

When she had tane the mantle,
  And her about it cast        70
Then was she bare
  All unto the waist.
 
XIX

Then every knight
  That was in the King’s court
Talk’d, laugh’d and showted        75
  Full oft att that sport.
 
XX

She threw down the mantle
  That bright was of blee,
Fast with a red rudd
  To her chamber can she flee.        80
 
XXI

Forth came an old Knight
  Pattering ore a creede,
And he proferr’d to this little Boy
  Twenty markes to his meede;
 
XXII

And all the time of Christmasse
        85
  Willingly to ffeede;
For why this mantle might
  Doe his wiffe some need.
 
XXIII

When shee had tane the mantle
  Of cloth that was made,        90
Shee had no more left on her
  But a tassell and a threed:
That every knight in the King’s court
  Bade evill might shee speed.
 
XXIV

She threw downe the mantle,
        95
  That bright was of blee,
Fast with a red rudd
  To her chamber can she flee.
 
XXV

Craddocke call’d forth his ladye
  And bade her come in;        100
Saith, ‘Winne this mantle, ladye,
  With a little dinne.
 
XXVI

‘Winne this mantle, ladye,
  And it shal be thine
If thou never did amisse        105
  Since thou wast mine.
 
XXVII

Forth came Craddocke’s ladye
  Shortlye and anon,
But boldlye to the mantle
  Then is shee gone.        110
 
XXVIII

When she had tane the mantle
  And cast it her about,
Up at her great toe
  It began to crinkle and crowt:
Shee said, ‘Bowe downe, mantle,        115
  And shame me not for nought.
 
XXIX

‘Once I did amisse,
  I tell you certainlye,
When Craddocke’s mouth I kist
  Under a greenè tree;        120
When I kist Craddocke’s mouth
  Before he marryed mee.’
 
XXX

When shee had her shreeven
  And her sinnes shee had tolde,
The mantle stood about her        125
  Right as she wo’ld;
 
XXXI

Seemelye of coulour,
  Glittering like gold
Then every knight in Arthur’s court
  Did her behold.        130
 
XXXII

The little Boy stoode
  Looking over a dore;
[There as he look’d
  He was ware of a wyld bore.]
 
XXXIII

He was ware of a wyld bore
        135
  Wo’ld have werryed a man:
He pull’d forth a wood-kniffe
  Fast thither that he ran:
He brought in the bore’s head
  And quitted him like a man.        140
 
XXXIV

He brought in the bore’s head,
  And was wonderous bold;
He said there was never a cuckold’s kniffe
  Carve itt that co’ld.
 
XXXV

Some rubb’d their knives
        145
  Uppon a whetstone;
Some threw them under the table,
  And said they had none.
 
XXXVI

King Arthur and the child
  Stood looking them upon;        150
All their knives’ edges
  Turnèd backe againe.
 
XXXVII

Craddocke had a litle kniffe
  Of iron and of steele;
He birtled the bore’s head        155
  Wonderous weale,
That every knight in the King’s court
  Had a morssell.
 
XXXVIII

The litle Boy had a horne,
  Of red gold that ronge;        160
He said, ‘There was noe cuckolde
  Shall drinke of my horne,
But he sho’ld itt sheede
  Either behind or beforne.’
 
XXXIX

Some shedd it on their shoulder
        165
  And some on their knee;
He that co’ld not hitt his mouth
  Put it in his e’e;
And he that was a cuckold
  Every man might him see.        170
 
XL

Craddocke wan the horne
  And the bore’s head;
His ladye wan the mantle
  Unto her meede;
Everye such a lovely ladye        175
  God send her well to speede!
 
GLOSS:  co’ld] could, knew.  bedone] adorned.  hett] bid.  potener] pouch. purse.  care] bethink him.  bed] bid, offered.  new fangle] capricious.  gaule] gules, red.  wadded] of woad colour, blue.  blee] hue.  can] did.  walker] fuller.  rudd] complexion.  For why] because.  dinne] noise, i.e. ado.  crowt] pucker.  shreeven] shriven, confessed.  werryed] worried  birtled] brittled, cut up.  ronge] rung, resounded.  sheede] shed, spill.
 

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