Percy's Reliques - The Lady Isabella's Tragedy.

The Lady Isabella's Tragedy.

††††††††††† This ballad is given from an old black-letter copy in the Pepys Collection, collated with another in the British Museum, H. 263. folio. It is there intitled, "The Lady Isabella's Tragedy, or the Step-Mother's Cruelty: being a relation of a lamentable and cruel murther, committed on the body of the Lady Isabella, the only daughter to a noble Duke, &c. To the tune of The Lady's Fall." To some copies are annexed eight more modern stanzas, intitled, "The Dutchess's and Cook's Lamentation."

THERE was a lord of worthy fame,
And a hunting he would ride,
Attended by a noble traine
Of gentrye by his side.

And while he did in chase remaine,
To see both sport and playe;
His ladye went, as she did feigne,
Unto the church to praye.

This lord he had a daughter deare,
Whose beauty shone so bright,
She was belov'd, both far and neare,
Of many a lord and knight.

Fair Isabella was she call'd,
A creature faire was she;
She was her fathers only joye,
As you shall after see.

Therefore her cruel step-mother
Did envye her so much,
That daye by daye she sought her life,
Her malice it was such.

She bargain'd with the master-cook,
To take her life awaye:
And taking of her daughters book,
She thus to her did saye:

"Go home, sweet daughter, I thee praye,
Go hasten presentlie;
And tell unto the master-cook
These wordes that I tell thee:

"And bid him dresse to dinner straight
That faire and milk-white doe,
That in the parke doth shine so bright,
There's none so faire to showe."

This ladye fearing of no harme,
Obey'd her mothers will;
And presentlye she hasted home,
Her pleasure to fulfill.

She streight into the kitchen went,
Her message for to tell;
And there she spied the master-cook,
Who did with malice swell.

"Nowe, master-cook, it must be soe,
Do that which I thee tell:
You needes must dresse the milk-white doe,
Which you do knowe full well."

Then streight his cruell bloodye hands,
He on the ladye layd;
Who quivering and shaking stands,
While thus to her he sayd:

"Thou art the doe that I must dresse,
See here, behold my knife;
For it is pointed presently
To ridd thee of thy life."

"O then," cried out the scullion-boye,
As loud as loud might bee;
"O save her life, good master cook,
And make your pyes of mee!

"For pityes sake do not destroye
My ladye with your knife;
You know shee is her father's joye,
For Christes sake save her life."

"I will not save her life," he sayd,
Nor make my pyes of thee;
Yet if thou dost this deed bewraye,
Thy butcher I will bee."

"Now when this lord he did come home
For to sit downe and eat;
He called for his daughter deare,
To come and carve his meat.

"Now sit you down," his ladye sayd,
"O sit you downe to meat:
Into some nunnery she is gone,
Your daughter deare forget."

Then solemnlye he made a vowe,
Before the companže,
That he would neither eat nor drinke
Until he did her see.

O then bespake the scullion-boye,
With a loud voice so hye:
"If now you will your daughter see,
My lord, cut up that pye:"

"Wherein her fleshe is minced small,
And parched with the fire;
All caused by her step-mother,
Who did her death desire.

"And cursed bee the master-cook,
O cursed may he bee
I proffered him my own heart's blood,
From death to set her free."

Then all in blacke this lord did mourne,
And for his daughters sake,
He judged her cruell step-mother
To be burnt at a stake.

Likewise he judg'd the master-cook
In boiling lead to stand;
And made the simple scullion-boye
The heire of all his land.

 

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