The Lady's Fall.
This ballad is given (with corrections) from the Editor's ancient folio manuscript, collated with two printed copies in black-letter; one in the British Museum, the other in the Pepys Collection. Its old title is, "A lamentable ballad of the Lady's Fall." To the tune of In Pescod Time, &c. The ballad here referred to is preserved in The Muses' Library, 8vo. p. 281. It is an allegory or vision, intitled The Shepherd's Slumber, and opens with some pretty rural images, viz.
"In pescod time when hound to horn
Gives eare till buck be kil'd,
And little lads with pipes of corne
Sate keeping beasts a-field.
I went to gather strawberries
By woods and groves full fair, &c."
MARKE well my heavy dolefull tale,
You loyall lovers all,
And heedfully beare in your brest
A gallant ladyes fall.
Long was she wooed, ere shee was wonne,
To lead a wedded life;
But folly wrought her overthrowe
Before shee was a wife.
Too soone, alas! shee gave consent
And yeelded to his will,
Though he protested to be true,
And faithfull to her still.
Shee felt her body altered quite,
Her bright hue waxed pale,
Her lovelye cheeks chang'd color white,
Her strength began to fayle.
Soe that with many a sorrowful sigh,
This beauteous ladye milde,
With greeved hart, perceived herselfe
To have conceived with childe.
Shee kept it from her parents sight
As close as close might bee,
And soe put on her silken gowne
None might her swelling see.
Unto her lover secretly
Her greefe shee did bewray,
And walking with him hand in hand,
These words to him did say:
"Behold, quoth shee, a maids distresse
By love brought to thy bowe,
Behold I goe with childe by thee,
Tho none thereof doth knowe.
"The litle babe springs in my wombe
To heare its fathers voyce,
Lett it not be a bastard called,
Sith I made thee my choyce:
Come, come, my love, perform thy vowe
And wed me out of hand;
O leave me not in this extreme
Of griefe, alas I to stand.
"Think on thy former promises,
Thy oathes and vowes eche one;
Remember with what bitter teares
To mee thou madest thy moane.
Convay me to some secrets place,
And marry me with speede,
Or with thy rapyer end my life,
Ere further shame proceede."
"Alacke! my beauteous love," quoth hee,
"My joye, and only dear;
Which way can I convay thee hence,
When dangers are so near?
Thy friends are all of hye degree,
And I of meane estate;
Full hard it is to gett thee forthe
Out of thy fathers gate."
"Dread not thy life to save my fame,
For, if thou taken bee,
Myselfe will step betweene the swords,
And take the harme on mee:
Soe shall I scape dishonor quite;
And if I should be slaine,
What could they say, but that true love
Had wrought a ladyes bane.
"But feare not any further harme,
Myselfe will soe devise,
That I will ryde away with thee
Unknowen of mortall eyes:
Disguised like some pretty page
Ile meete thee in the darke,
And all alone Ile come to thee
Hard by my fathers parke."
"And there," quoth hee, "Ile meete my deare
If God soe lend me life,
On this day month without all fayle
I will make thee my wife."
Then with a sweet and loving kisse,
They parted presentlye,
And att their partinge brinish teares
Stoode in eche others eye."
Att length the wished day was come,
On which this beauteous mayd,
With longing eyes, and strange attire,
For her true lover stayd.
When any person shee espyed
Come ryding ore the plaine,
She hop'd it was her owne true love:
But all her hopes were vaine.
Then did she weepe and sore bewayle
Her most unhappy fate;
Then did shee speake these woefull words,
As succourless she sate;
"O false, forsworne, and faithlesse man,
Disloyall in thy love,
Hast thou forgott thy promise past,
And wilt thou perjured prove?
"And hast thou now forsaken mee
In this my great distresse,
To end my dayes in open shame,
Which thou mightst well redresse?
Woe worth the time I eer believ'd
That flattering tongue of thine;
Wold God that I had never seene
The teares of thy false eyne."
And thus with many a sorrowful sigh,
Homewards shee went againe;
Noe rest came in her waterye eyes,
Shee felt such privye paine.
In travail strong shee fell that night,
With many a bitter throwe;
What woefull paines shee did then feel,
Doth eche good woman knowe.
Shee called up her waiting mayd,
That lay at her bedds feete,
Who musing at her mistress woe,
Began full fast to weepe:
"Weepe not," said shee, "but shutt the dores,
And windows round about,
Let none bewray my wretched state,
But keepe all persons out."
"O mistress, call your mother deare,
Of women you have neede,
And of some skilfull midwifes helpe,
That better may you speed."
Call not my mother for thy life,
Nor fetch no woman here;
The midwifes helpe comes all too late,
My death I doe not feare."
With that the babe sprang from her wombe
No creature being nye,
And with one sighe, which brake her hart,
This gentle dame did dye.
The lovely little infant young;
The mother being dead,
Resigned its new received breath
To him that had it made.
Next morning came her own true love,
Affrighted at the newes;
And he for sorrow slew himselfe,
Whom eche one did accuse.
The mother with her new borne babe,
Were laide both in one grave:
Their parents overworne with woe,
No joy thenceforth cold have.
Take heed, you dayntye damsells all,
Of flattering words beware,
And to the honour of your name
Have an especial care.
Too true, alas I this story is,
As many one can tell;
By others harmes learne to be wise,
And you shall do full well.