Percy's Reliques - The King of France's Daughter.

The King of France's Daughter.

            The story of this ballad seems to be taken from an incident in the domestic history of Charles the Bald, king of France. His daughter Judith was betrothed to Ethelwulph, king of England: but before the marriage was consummated, Ethelwulph died, and she returned to France, whence she was carried off by Baldwyn, Forester of Flanders; who, after many crosses and difficulties, at length obtained the king's consent to their marriage, and was made Earl of Flanders. This happened about A.D. 863.-- See Rapin, Henault, and the French Historians.

            The following copy is given from the Editor's ancient folio manuscript, collated with another in black-letter in the Pepys Collection, intitled, "An excellent Ballad of a Prince of England's courtship to the King of France's Daughter, &c. To the Tune of Crimson Velvet."

            Many breaches having been made in this old song by the hand of time, principally (as might be expected) in the quick returns of the rhyme, an attempt is here made to repair them.

IN the dayes of old,
When faire France did flourish,
Storyes plaine have told,
Lovers felt annoye.
The queene a daughter bare,
Whom beautye's queene did nourish:
She was lovelye faire,
She was her father's joye.

A prince of England came,
Whose deeds did merit fame,
But he was exil'd, and outcast:
Love his soul did fire,
Shee granted his desire,
Their hearts in one were linked fast.
Which when her father proved,
Sorelye he was moved,
And tormented in his minde.
He sought for to prevent them
And, to discontent them,--
Fortune cross'd these lovers kinde.

When these princes twaine
Were thus barr'd of pleasure,
Through the kinges disdaine,
Which their joyes withstoode
The lady soone prepar'd
Her jewells and her treasure:
Having no regard
For state and royall bloode;
In homelye poore array
She went from court away,
To meet her joye and hearts delight;
Who in a forest great
Had taken up his seat,
To wayt her coming in the night.
But lo! what sudden danger
To this princely stranger
Chancèd, as he sat alone!
By outlawes he was robbed,
And with ponyards stabbed,
Uttering many a dying grone.

The princesse, arm'd by love,
And by chaste desire,
All the night did rove
Without dread at all:
Still unknowne she past
In her strange attire;
Coming at the last
Within echoes call
"You faire woods," quoth shee,
"Honoured may you bee,
Harbouring my hearts delight;
Which encompass here
My joye and only deare,
My trustye friend, and comelye knight.
Sweete, I come unto thee,
Sweete, I come to woo thee;
That thou mayst not angry bee
For my long delaying;
For thy curteous staying
Soone amends Ile make to thee."

Passing thus alone
Through the silent forest,
Many a grievous grone
Sounded in her eares;
She heard one complayne
And lament the sorest,
Seeming all in payne,
Shedding deadly teares.
"Farewell, my deare," quoth hee,
"Whom I must never see;
For why my life is att an end,
Through villaines crueltye;
For thy sweet sake I dye,
To show I am a faithfull friend.
Here I lye a bleeding,
While my thoughts are feeding
On the rarest beautye found.
O hard happ, that may be!
Little knowes my ladye
My heartes blood lyes on the ground."

With that a grone he sends
Which did burst asunder
All the tender bands
Of his gentle heart.
She, who knewe his voice,
At his wordes did wonder;
All her former joyes
Did to griefe convert.
Strait she ran to see
Who this man shold bee,
That soe like her love did seeme:
Her lovely lord she found
Lye slaine upon the ground,
Smear'd with gore a ghastlye streame.
Which his lady spying,
Shrieking, fainting, crying,
Her sorrows could not uttered bee:
"Fate," she cryed, "too cruell!
For thee -- my dearest jewell,
Would God! that I had dyed for thee."

His pale lippes, alas!
Twentye times she kissed,
And his face did wash
With her trickling teares;
Every gaping wound
Tenderlye she pressed,
And did wipe it round
With her golden haires.

"Speake, faire love," quoth shee,
"Speake, faire prince, to mee;
One sweete word of comfort give;
Lift up thy deare eyes,
Listen to my cryes,
Think in what sad griefe I live."
All in vaine she sued,
All in vaine she wooed,
The prince's life was fled and gone;
There stood she still mourning,
Till the suns retourning,
And bright day was coming on.

In this great distresse
Weeping, wayling ever,
Oft shee cryed, alas!
"What will become of mee?
To my fathers court
I returne will never,
But in lowlye sort
I will a servant bee.
While thus she made her mane,
Weeping all alone,
In this deepe and deadlye feare:
A for'ster all in greene,
Most comelye to be seene,
Ranging the woods did find her there.
Moved with her sorrowe,
"Maid," quoth hee, "good morrowe,
What hard happ has brought thee here?"
"Harder happ did never
Two kinde hearts dissever:
Here lyes slaine my brother deare.

"Where may I remaine,
Gentle for'ster, shew me,
'Till I can obtaine
A service in my neede?
Paines I will not spare:
This kinde favour doe mee,
It will ease my care;
Heaven shall be thy meede."
The for'ster all amazed,
On her beautye gazed,
Till his heart was set on fire.
"If, faire maid," quoth hee,
"You will goe with mee,
You shall have your hearts desire."
He brought her to his mother,
And above all other
He sett forth this maidens praise.
Long was his heart inflamed,
At length her love he gained,
And fortune crown'd his future dayes.

Thus unknowne he wedde
With a kings faire daughter:
Children seven they had,
Ere she told her birth:
Which when once he knew,
Humblye he besought her,
He to the world might shew
Her rank and princelye worth.
He cloath'd his children then,
(Not like other men)
In partye-colours strange to see;
The right side cloth of gold,
The left side to behold,
Of woollen cloth still framed hee.[ 1]
Men thereatt did wonder;
Golden fame did thunder
This strange deede in every place;
The king of France came thither,
It being pleasant weather,
In those woods the hart to chase.

The children then they bring,
So their mother will'd it,
Where the royall king
Must of force come bye.
Their mothers riche array,
Was of crimson velvet;
Their fathers all of gray,
Seemelye to the eye.
Then this famous king,
Noting every thing,
Askt how he durst be so bold
To let his wife soe weare,
And decke his children there
In costly robes of pearl and gold.
The forester replying,
And the cause descrying,[ 2]
To the king these words did say,
"Well may they, by their mother,
Weare rich clothes with other,
Being by birth a princesse gay."

The king aroused thus,
More heedfullye beheld them,
Till a crimson blush
His remembrance crost.
"The more I fix my mind
On thy wife and children,
The more methinks I find
The daughter which I lost."
Falling on her knee,
"I am that child", quoth shee;
"Pardon mee, my soveraine liege!
The king perceiving this,
His daughter deare did kiss,
While joyfull teares did stopp his speeche.
With his traine he tourned,
And with them sojourned.
Strait he dubb'd her husband knight;
Then made him Erle of Flanders,
And chiefe of his commanders;--
Thus were their sorrows put to flight.

NOTES

1 This will remind the reader of the livery and device of Charles Brandon, a private gentleman, who married the Queen Dowager of France, sister of Henry VIII. At a tournament, which he held at his wedding, the trappings of his horse were half cloth of gold, and half frieze, with the following motto:

Cloth of Gold do not despise,
Tho' thou art matcht with Cloth of Frieze;
Cloth of Frieze, be not too bold,
Tho' thou art matcht with Cloth of Gold."

            See Sir W. Temple's Misc. vol. iii. p. 356.

2. i.e. describing.-- See Gloss.

 

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