Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
 
47. Childe Maurice
 
 
I

CHILDE MAURICE hunted the Silver Wood,
  He whistled and he sang:
‘I think I see the woman yonder
  That I have lovèd lang.’
 
II

He callèd to his little man John,
        5
  ‘You don’t see what I see;
For yonder I see the very first woman
  That ever lovèd me.’
 
III

He says, ‘Come hither, my little man John,
  That I pay meat and fee,        10
For thou shalt go to John Steward’s wife
  And greet her well from me;
 
IV

‘And as it falls as many times
  As knots be knit in a kell,
Or merchantmen go to leeve Londòn        15
  To buy ware or to sell;
 
V

‘And as it falls as many times
  As any heart can think,
Or school-masters are in any school
  Writing with pen and ink.        20
 
VI

‘Here is a glove, a glove,’ he says,
  ‘Lined wi’ the silver-gris;
Bid her to come to Silver Wood
  To speak with Childe Maurice.
 
VII

‘And here is a ring, a ring,’ he says,
        25
  ‘A ring of the precious stone:
He prays her come to Silver Wood
  And ask the leave of none.’—
 
VIII

‘Well do I love your errand, master,
  But better I love my life.        30
Would ye have me go to John Steward’s castle,
  To tryst away his wife?’—
 
IX

‘Do not I give you meat?’ he says,
  ‘Do not I give you fee?
How daur you stop my errand        35
  When that I bid you flee?’
 
X

This little man John one while he yode,
  Another while he ran;
Until he came to John Steward’s castle
  I wis he never blan.        40
 
XI

He ask’d no porter’s leave, but ran
  Up hall and bower free,
And when he came to John Steward’s wife,
  Says, ‘God you save and see!
 
XII

‘I come, I am come from Childe Maurice—
        45
  A message unto thee!
And Childe Maurice he greets you well,
  And ever so well from me,
 
XIII

‘And as it falls as oftentimes
  As knots be knit in a kell,        50
Or merchantmen go to leeve Londòn
  To buy ware or to sell;
 
XIV

‘And as oftentimes he greets you well
  As any heart can think,
Or schoolmasters are in any school        55
  Writing with pen and ink.
 
XV

‘Here is a glove, a glove,’ he says,
  ‘Lined wi’ the silver-gris;
Ye’re bidden to come to Silver Wood
  To speak with Childe Maurice.        60
 
XVI

‘And here is a ring, a ring of gold,
  Set wi’ the precious stone:
He prays you to come to Silver Wood
  And ask the leave of none.’—
 
XVII

‘Now peace, now peace, thou little man John,
        65
  For Christ’s sake I pray thee!
For gif my lord heard one o’ thy words
  Thou must be hangèd hie!’
 
XVIII

O aye she stampèd with her foot
  And winkèd with her e’e;        70
But for all that she could say or do
  Forbidden he would not be.
 
XIX

‘It’s surely to my bower-woman,
  It cannot be to me!’—
‘Nay, I brought it to John Steward’s lady,        75
  And I trow that thou art she.’
 
XX

Out then spake the wily nurse,
  Wi’ the bairn just on her knee:
‘If this be come from Childe Maurice
  It’s dear welcome to me.’—        80
 
XXI

‘Thou liest, thou liest, thou wily nurse,
  So loud as I hear thee lie!
I brought it to John Steward’s lady,
  And I trow thou be not she.’
 
XXII

Then up and rose him John Steward,
        85
  And an angry man was he:
‘Did I think there was a lord in the world
  My lady loved but me!’
 
XXIII

He struck the table wi’ his foot,
  And kepp’d it with his knee,        90
Till silver cup and ezar dish
  In flinders they did flee.
 
XXIV

He call’d unto his horse-keeper,
  ‘Make ready you my steed!’
So did he to his chamberlain,        95
  ‘Go fetch my lady’s weed!’
 
XXV

O he dress’d himself in the holland smock,
  [The mantle and the snood],
And he cast a lease upon his back,
  And he rode to Silver Wood.        100
 
XXVI

And when he came to Silver Wood,
  No body saw he there
But Childe Maurice upon a block
  Combing his yellow hair.
 
XXVII

Childe Maurice sat in Silver Wood,
        105
  He whistled and he sang:
I think I see the woman come
  That I have lovèd lang.’
 
XXVIII

But then stood up him Childe Maurice
  His mother to help from horse:        110
‘O alas, alas!’ says Childe Maurice,
  ‘My mother was ne’er so gross!’
 
XXIX

‘No wonder, no wonder,’ John Steward he said,
  ‘My lady loved thee well,
For the fairest part of my body        115
  Is blacker than thy heel.’
 
XXX

John Steward had a little brown sword
  That hung low down by his knee;
He has cut the head off Childe Maurice
  And the body put on a tree.        120
 
XXXI

And he prick’d the head on his sword’s point,
  Went singing there beside,
And he rode till he came to the castle
  Whereas his lady ly’ed
 
XXXII

And when he came to his lady—
        125
  Look’d o’er the castle-wall—
He threw the head into her lap,
  Saying ‘Lady, tak’ the ball!’
 
XXXIII

Says, ‘Dost thou know Childe Maurice’ head,
  If that thou dost it see?        130
And lap it soft, and kiss it oft,
  For thou loved’st him better than me.’
 
XXXIV

But when she look’d on Childe Maurice’ head
  She ne’er spake words but three:
‘I never bare no child but one,        135
  And you have slain him, trulye.’
 
XXXV

And she has taken the bloody head
  And kiss’d it, cheek and chin:
‘I was once as full o’ Childe Maurice
  As the hip is o’ the stane.        140
 
XXXVI

‘I got him in my mother’s bower
  Wi’ mickle sin and shame;
I brought him up in the good greenwood
  Under the shower and rain.’
 
XXXVII

And she has taken her Childe Maurice
        145
  And kiss’d him, mouth and chin:
‘O better I love my Childe Maurice
  Than all my royal kin!’
 
XXXVIII

‘Woe be to thee!’ John Steward he said,
  And a woe, woe man was he;        150
For if you had told me he was your son
  He had never been slain by me.’
 
XXXIX

Says, ‘Wicked be my merry men all,
  I gave meat, drink and cloth!
But could they not have holden me        155
  When I was in all that wrath?’
 
GLOSS:  kell] hair-net, i.e. give her as many greetings as there are meshes in a net.  leeve] lovely.  silver-gris] a fur of silver-grey.  yode] walked.  blan] stopped, stayed.  kepp’d] caught.  ezar]?for ‘mazer,’ maple.  weed] clothing.  lease] leash, thong.  lyed] lived.  tak’] take, catch.
 

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