A Robyn, Jolly Robyn.
In his Twelfth Night, Shakspeare introduces the Clown singing part of the two first stanzas of the following song; which has been recovered from an ancient manuscript of Dr. Harrington's at Bath, preserved among the many literary treasures transmitted to the ingenious and worthy possessor by a long line of most respectable ancestors. Of these only a small part hath been printed in the Nugĉ Antiquĉ, 3 vols. 12mo.; a work which the public impatiently wishes to see continued.
The song is thus given by Shakspeare, act iv. sc. 2. (Malone's edit, iv. 93.)
"Clown. Hey Robin, jolly Robin, [singing.]
Tell me how thy lady does.
Clown. My lady is unkind, perdy.
Clown. Alas, why is she so?
Mal. Fool, I say.--
Clown. She loves another. Who calls, ha?"
Dr. Farmer has conjectured that the song should begin thus:
"Hey, jolly Robin, tell to me
How does thy lady do?
My lady is unkind perdy
Alas, why is she so?"
But this ingenious emendation is now superseded by the proper readings of the old song itself, which is here printed from what appears the most ancient of Dr. Harrington's poetical manuscripts, and which has, therefore, been marked No. I. (scil. p. 68.) That volume seems to have been written in the reign of King Henry VIII. and, as it contains many of the poems of Sir Thomas Wyat, hath had almost all the contents attributed to him by marginal directions written with an old but later hand, and not always rightly, as, I think, might be made appear by other good authorities. Among the rest, this song is there attributed to Sir Thomas Wyat, also; but the discerning reader will probably judge it to belong to a more obsolete writer.
In the old manuscript, to the third and fifth stanzas is prefixed this title, Responce, and to the fourth and sixth, Le Plaintif; but in the last instance so evidently wrong, that it was thought better to omit these titles, and to mark the changes of the Dialogue by inverted commas. In other respects the manuscript is strictly followed, except where noted in the margin. Yet the first stanza appears to be defective, and it should seem that a line is wanting, unless the four first words were lengthened in the tune.
Tell me how thy leman doeth,
And thou shalt knowe of myn.
"My lady is unkynde perde."
Alack! why is she so?
"She loveth an other better than me;
And yet she will say no."
I fynde no such doublenes:
I fynde women true.
My lady loveth me dowtles,
And will change for no newe.
"Thou art happy while that doeth last,
But I say, as I fynde,
That women's love is but a blast,
And torneth with the wynde."
Suche folkes can take no harme by love,
That can abide their torn.
"But I alas can no way prove
In love, but lake and morn."
But if thou wilt avoyde thy harme
Lerne this lessen of me,
At others fieres thy selfe to warme,
And let them warme with the.