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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
 
69. The Nut-Brown Maid
 
 
I

He.  BE it right or wrong, these men among
On women do complain;
Affirming this, how that it is
A labour spent in vain
To love them wele; for never a dele        5
They love a man again:
For let a man do what he can
Their favour to attain,
Yet if a new to them pursue,
Their first true lover than        10
Laboureth for naught; for from her thought
He is a banished man.
 
II

She.  I say not nay, but that all day
It is both written and said
That woman’s faith is, as who saith.        15
All utterly decay’d:
But nevertheless, right good witnèss
In this case might be laid
That they love true and continùe:
Record the Nut-brown Maid,        20
Which, when her love came her to prove,
To her to make his moan,
Would not depart; for in her heart
She loved but him alone.
 
III

He.  Then between us let us discuss
        25
What was all the manere
Between them two: we will also
Tell all the pain in fere
That she was in. Now I begin,
So that ye me answere:        30
Wherefore all ye that present be,
I pray you, give an ear.
I am the Knight. I come by night,
As secret as I can,
Saying, Alas! thus standeth the case,        35
I am a banished man.
 
IV

She.  And I your will for to fulfil
In this will not refuse;
Trusting to show, in wordès few,
That men have an ill use—        40
To their own shame—women to blame,
And causeless them accuse.
Therefore to you I answer now,
All women to excuse:
Mine own heart dear, with you what cheer?        45
I pray you, tell anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.
 
V

He.  It standeth so: a deed is do
Whereof great harm shall grow:        50
My destiny is for to die
A shameful death, I trow;
Or else to flee. The t’ one must be.
None other way I know
But to withdraw as an outlaw,        55
And take me to my bow.
Wherefore adieu, mine own heart true!
None other rede I can:
For I must to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.        60
 
VI

She.  O Lord, what is this worldis bliss,
That changeth as the moon!
My summer’s day in lusty May
Is darked before the noon.
I hear you say, farewell: Nay, nay,        65
We dèpart not so soon.
Why say ye so? whither will ye go?
Alas! what have ye done?
All my welfàre to sorrow and care
Should change, if ye were gone:        70
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.
 
VII

He.  I can believe it shall you grieve,
And somewhat you distrain;
But afterward, your painès hard        75
Within a day or twain
Shall soon aslake; and ye shall take
Comfort to you again.
Why should ye ought? for, to make thought,
Your labour were in vain.        80
And thus I do; and pray you to,
As hartèly as I can:
For I must to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.
 
VIII

She.  Now, sith that ye have showed to me
        85
The secret of your mind,
I shall be plain to you again,
Like as ye shall me find.
Sith it is so that ye will go,
I will not live behind.        90
Shall never be said the Nut-brown Maid
Was to her love unkind.
Make you ready, for so am I,
Although it were anone:
For, in my mind, of all mankind        95
I love but you alone.
 
IX

He.  Yet I you rede to take good heed
What men will think and say:
Of young, of old, it shall be told
That ye be gone away        100
Your wanton will for to fulfil,
In green-wood you to play;
And that ye might for your delight
No longer make delay.
Rather than ye should thus for me        105
Be called an ill womàn
Yet would I to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.
 
X

She.  Though it be sung of old and young
That I should be to blame,        110
Theirs be the charge that speak so large
In hurting of my name:
For I will prove that faithful love
It is devoid of shame;
In your distress and heaviness        115
To part with you the same:
And sure all tho that do not so
True lovers are they none:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.        120
 
XI

He.  I counsel you, Remember how
It is no maiden’s law
Nothing to doubt, but to run out
To wood with an outlàw.
For ye must there in your hand bear        125
A bow ready to draw;
And as a thief thus must you live
Ever in dread and awe;
Whereby to you great harm might grow:
Yet had I liever than        130
That I had to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.
 
XII

She.  I think not nay but as ye say;
It is no maiden’s lore;
But love may make me for your sake,        135
As I have said before,
To come on foot, to hunt and shoot,
To get us meat and store;
For so that I your company
May have, I ask no more.        140
From which to part it maketh my heart
As cold as any stone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.
 
XIII

He.  For an outlàw this is the law,
        145
That men him take and bind:
Without pitie, hangèd to be,
And waver with the wind.
If I had need (as God forbede!)
What socours could ye find?        150
Forsooth, I trow, you and your bow
For fear would draw behind.
And no mervail; for little avail
Were in your counsel than:
Wherefore I’ll to the green-wood go,        155
Alone, a banished man.
 
XIV

She.  Right well know ye that women be
But feeble for to fight;
No womanhede it is, indeed,
To be bold as a knight:        160
Yet in such fear if that ye were
With enemies day and night,
I would withstand, with bow in hand,
To grieve them as I might,
And you to save; as women have        165
From death men many one:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.
 
XV

He.  Yet take good hede; for ever I drede
That ye could not sustain        170
The thorny ways, the deep vallèys,
The snow, the frost, the rain,
The cold, the heat; for dry or wete,
We must lodge on the plain;
And, us above, no other roof        175
But a brake bush or twain:
Which soon should grieve you, I believe;
And ye would gladly than
That I had to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.        180
 
XVI

She.  Sith I have here been partynere
With you of joy and bliss,
I must alsò part of your woe
Endure, as reason is:
Yet I am sure of one pleasùre,        185
And shortly it is this—
That where ye be, me seemeth, pardé,
I could not fare amiss.
Without more speech I you beseech
That we were shortly gone;        190
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.
 
XVII

He.  If ye go thyder, ye must consider,
When ye have lust to dine,
There shall no meat be for to gete,        195
Nether bere, ale, ne wine,
Ne shetès clean, to lie between,
Made of the thread and twine;
None other house, but leaves and boughs,
To cover your head and mine.        200
Lo, mine heart sweet, this ill diète
Should make you pale and wan:
Wherefore I’ll to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.
 
XVIII

She.  Among the wild deer such an archère,
        205
As men say that ye be,
Ne may not fail of good vitayle
Where is so great plentè
And water clear of the rivere
Shall be full sweet to me;        210
With which in hele I shall right wele
Endure, as ye shall see;
And, or we go, a bed or two
I can provide anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind        215
I love but you alone.
 
XIX

He.  Lo yet, before, ye must do more,
If ye will go with me:
As, cut your hair up by your ear,
Your kirtle by the knee;        220
With bow in hand for to withstand
Your enemies, if need be:
And this same night, before daylight,
To woodward will I flee.
If that ye will all this fulfil,        225
Do it shortly as ye can:
Else will I to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.
 
XX

She.  I shall as now do more for you
Than ’longeth to womanhede;        230
To short my hair, a bow to bear,
To shoot in time of need.
O my sweet mother! before all other
For you I have most drede!
But now, adieu! I must ensue        235
Where fortune doth me lead.
All this make ye: Now let us flee;
The day cometh fast upon:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.        240
 
XXI

He.  Nay, nay, not so; ye shall not go,
And I shall tell you why—
Your appetite is to be light
Of love, I well espy:
For, right as ye have said to me,        245
In likewise hardily
Ye would answere whosoever it were,
In way of company:
It is said of old, Soon hot, soon cold,
And so is a womàn:        250
Wherefore I to the wood will go,
Alone, a banished man.
 
XXII

She.  If ye take heed, it is no need
Such words to say to me;
For oft ye prayed, and long assayed,        255
Or I loved you, pardè:
And though that I of ancestry
A baron’s daughter be,
Yet have you proved how I you loved,
A squire of low degree;        260
And ever shall, whatso befall,
To die therefore anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.
 
XXIII

He.  A baron’s child to be beguiled,
        265
It were a cursèd deed!
To be felàw with an outlaw—
Almighty God forbede!
Yet better were the poor squyere
Alone to forest yede        270
Than ye shall say another day
That by my cursèd rede
Ye were betrayed. Wherefore, good maid,
The best rede that I can,
Is, that I to the green-wood go,        275
Alone, a banished man.
 
XXIV

She.  Whatever befall, I never shall
Of this thing be upbraid:
But if ye go, and leave me so,
Then have ye me betrayed.        280
Remember you wele, how that ye dele;
For if ye, as ye said,
Be so unkind to leave behind
Your love, the Nut-brown Maid,
Trust me truly that I shall die        285
Soon after ye be gone:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.
 
XXV

He.  If that ye went, ye should repent;
For in the forest now        290
I have purveyed me of a maid
Whom I love more than you:
Another more fair than ever ye were
I dare it well avow;
And of you both each should be wroth        295
With other, as I trow:
It were mine ease to live in peace;
So will I, if I can:
Wherefore I to the wood will go,
Alone, a banished man.        300
 
XXVI

She.  Though in the wood I understood
Ye had a paramour,
All this may nought remove my thought,
But that I will be your’:
And she shall find me soft and kind        305
And courteis every hour;
Glad to fulfil all that she will
Command me, to my power:
For had ye, lo, an hundred mo,
Yet would I be that one:        310
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.
 
XXVII

He.  Mine own dear love, I see the prove
That ye be kind and true;
Of maid, of wife, in all my life,        315
The best that ever I knew.
Be merry and glad; be no more sad;
The case is changéd new;
For it were ruth that for your truth
Ye should have cause to rue.        320
Be not dismayed, whatsoever I said
To you when I began;
I will not to the green-wood go;
I am no banished man.
 
XXVIII

She.  These tidings be more glad to me
        325
Than to be made a queen,
If I were sure they should endure;
But it is often seen
When men will break promise they speak
The wordis on the splene.        330
Ye shape some wile me to beguile,
And steal from me, I ween:
Then were the case worse than it was,
And I more wo-begone:
For, in my mind, of all mankind        335
I love but you alone.
 
XXIX

He.  Ye shall not nede further to drede:
I will not disparáge
You (God defend), sith you descend
Of so great a lináge.        340
Now understand: to Westmoreland,
Which is my heritage,
I will you bring; and with a ring,
By way of marriáge
I will you take, and lady make,        345
As shortly as I can:
Thus have you won an Earle’s son,
And not a banished man.
 
XXX

Here may ye see that women be
  In love meek, kind, and stable;        350
Let never man reprove them than,
  Or call them variable;
But rather pray God that we may
  To them be comfortable;
Which sometime proveth such as He loveth,        355
  If they be charitable.
For sith men would that women should
  Be meek to them each one;
Much more ought they to God obey,
  And serve but Him alone.        360
 
GLOSS:  never a dele] never a bit.  than] then.  in fere] in company, together.  rede I can] counsel I know.  distrain] distress.  part with] share with.  tho] those.  hele] health.  yede] went.  on the splene] in haste.
 

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