Percy's Reliques - The Not-Browne Mayd.

The Not-Browne Mayd.

            The sentimental beauties of this ancient ballad have always recommended it to readers of taste, notwithstanding the rust of antiquity which obscures the style and expression. Indeed, if it had no other merit than the having afforded the ground-work to Prior's Henry and Emma, this ought to preserve it from oblivion. That we are able to give it in so correct a manner, is owing to the great care and exactness of the accurate editor of the Prolusions, 8vo. 1760; who has formed the text from two copies found in two different editions of Arnolde's Chronicle, a book supposed to be first printed about 1521. From the copy in the Prolusions the following is printed, with a few additional improvements gathered from another edition of Arnolde's book[ 1] preserved in the Public Library at Cambridge. All the various readings of this copy will be found here, either received into the text, or noted in the margin. The references to the Prolusions will shew where they occur. In our ancient folio manuscript, described in the preface, is a very corrupt and defective copy of this ballad, which yet afforded a great improvement in one passage.-- See ver. 310.

            It has been a much easier task to settle the text of this poem than to ascertain its date. The ballad of The Nut Browne Mayd was first revived in The Muses' Mercury for June, 1707, 4to, being prefaced with a little "Essay on the old English Poets and Poetry:" in which this poem is concluded to be "near 300 years old," upon reasons which, though they appear inconclusive to us now, were sufficient to determine Prior, who there first met with it. However, this opinion had the approbation of the learned Wanley, an excellent judge of ancient books. For that whatever related to the reprinting of this old piece was referred to Wanley, appears from two letters of Prior's preserved in the British Museum [Harl. MSS. No. 3777]. The editor of the Prolusions thinks it cannot be older than the year 1500, because, in Sir Thomas More's tale of The Serjeant, &c. which was written about that time, there appears a sameness of rhythmus and orthography, and a very near affinity of words and phrases, with those of this ballad. But this reasoning is not conclusive; for if Sir Thomas More made this ballad his model, as is very likely, that will account for the sameness of measure, and in some respect for that of words and phrases, even though this had been written long before; and, as for the orthography, it is well known that the old printers reduced that of most books to the standard of their own times. Indeed, it is hardly probable that an antiquary like Arnolde would have inserted it among his historical collections, if it had been then a modern piece; at least, he would have been apt to have named its author. But to shew how little can be inferred from a resemblance of rhythmus or style, the Editor of these volumes has in his ancient folio manuscript a poem on the victory of Flodden-field, written in the same numbers, with the same alliterations, and in orthography, phraseology, and style, nearly resembling the Visions of Pierce Plowman, which are yet known to have been composed above 160 years before that battle. As this poem is a great curiosity, we shall give a few of the introductory lines:

"Grant, gracious God, grant me this time,
That I may say, or I cease, thy selven to please;
And Mary his mother, that maketh this world;
And all the seemlie saints, that sitten in heaven;
I will carpe of kings, that conquered full wide,
That dwelled in this land, that was alyes noble;
Henry the seventh, that soveraigne lord, &c."

With regard to the date of the following ballad, we have taken a middle course, neither placed it so high as Wanley and Prior, nor quite so low as the editor of the Prolusions: we should have followed the latter in dividing every other line into two, but that the whole would then have taken up more room than could be allowed it in this volume.

"BE it ryght, or wrong, these men among
On women do complayne;[ 2]
Affyrmynge this, how that it is
A labour spent in vayne,
To love them wele; for never a dele
They love a man agayne:
For late a man do what he can,
Theyr favour to attayne,
Yet, yf a newe do them persue,
Theyr first true lover than
Laboureth for nought; for from her thought
He is a banyshed man."

"I say nat nay, but that all day
It is bothe writ and sayd
That womens faith is, as who sayth,
All utterly decayd;
But, neverthelesse, ryght good wytnèsse
In this case might be layd,
That they love true, and continue
Recorde the Not-browne Mayde:
Which, when her love came, her to prove,
To her to make his mone,
Wolde nat depart; for in her hart
She loved but hym alone."

"Than betwaine us late us discus
What was all the manere
Betwayne them two: we wyll also
Tell all the payne, and fere,
That she was in. Nowe I begyn,
So that ye me answère;
Wherfore, all ye, that present be,
I pray you, gyve an ere.
I am the knyght: I come by nyght,
As secret as I can;
Sayinge, "Alas! thus standeth the case,
I am a banyshed man.'"

SHE

"And I your wyll for to fulfyll
In this wyll nat refuse;
Trustying to shewe, in wordès fewe,
That men have an yll use
(To theyr own shame) women to blame,
And causelesse them accuse;
Therfore to you I answere nowe,
All women to excuse,
Myne owne hart dere, with you what chere?
I pray you, tell anone;
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone."

HE

"It standeth so; a dede is do
Whereof grete harme shall growe:
My destiny is for to dy
A shamefull deth, I trowe;
Or elles to fle: the one must be.
None other way I knowe,
But to withdrawe as an outlawe,
And take me to my bowe.
Wherfore, adue, my owne hart true
None other rede I can:
For I must to the grene wode go,
Alone, a banyshed man."

SHE

"O Lord, what is thys worldys blysse,
That changeth as the mone!
My somers day in lusty May
Is derked before the none.
I here you say, farewell: Nay, nay
We depart nat so sone.
Why say ye so? wheder wyll ye go?
Alas! what have ye done?
All my welfare to sorrowe and care
Sholde chaunge, yf ye were gone;
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone."

HE

"I can beleve, it shall you greve,
And somewhat you dystrayne:
But, aftyrwarde, your paynes harde
Within a day or twayne
Shal sone aslake; and ye shall take
Comfort to you agayne.
Why sholde ye ought? for, to make thought,
Your labour were in vayne.
And thus I do; and pray you to
As hartely, as I can;
For I must to the grene wode go,
Alone, a banyshed man."

SHE

"Now, syth that ye have shewed to me
The secret of your mynde,
I shall be playne to you agayne,
Lyke as ye shall me fynde.
Syth it is so, that ye wyll go,
I wolle not leve behynde;
Shall never be sayd, the Not-browne Mayd
Was to her love unkynde:
Make you redy, for so am I,
Allthough it were anone;
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone."

HE

"Yet I you rede to take good hede
What men wyll thynke, and say:
Of yonge and olde it shall be tolde,
That ye be gone away,
Your wanton wyll for to fulfill,
In grene wode you to play;
And that ye myght from your delight
No lenger make delay.
Rather than ye sholde thus for me
Be called an yll woman,
Yet wolde I to the grene wode go,
Alone, a banyshed man."

SHE

"Though it be songe of old and yonge,
That I sholde be to blame,
Theyrs be the charge, that speke so large
In hurtynge of my name;
For I wyll prove, that faythfulle love
It is devoyd of shame;
In your dystresse, and hevynesse,
To part with you, the same:
And sure all tho, that do not so,
True lovers are they none;
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone."

HE

"I counceyle you, remember howe,
It is no maydens lawe,
Nothynge to dout, but to renne out
To wode with an outlawe
For ye must there in your hand bere
A bowe, redy to drawe;
And, as a thefe, thus must you lyve,
Ever in drede and awe;
Wherby to you grete harme myght groove
Yet had I lever than,
That I had to the grene wode go,
Alone, a banyshed man."

SHE

"I thinke nat nay; but as ye say,
It is no maydens lore:
But love may make me for your sake,
As I have sayd before,
To come on fote, to hunt, and shote
To gete us mete in store;
For so that I your company
May have, I aske no more:
From which to part, it maketh my hart
As colde as ony stone;
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone.

HE

For an outlawe this is the lawe,
That men hym take and bynde;
Without pytè, hanged to be,
And waver with the wynde.
If I had nede, (as God forbede!)
What rescous coude ye fynde?
Forsoth, I trowe, ye and your bowe
For fere wold drawe behynde:
And no mervayle; for lytell avayle
Were in your counceyle than:
Wherfore I wyll to the grene wode go,
Alone, a banyshed man."

SHE

"Ryght wele knowe ye, that women be
But feble for to fyght;
No womanhede it is indede
To be bolde as a knyght:
Yet, in such fere yf that ye were
With enemyes day or nyght,
I wolde withstand, with bowe in hande,
To greve them as I myght,
And you to save; as women have
From deth men many one:
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone."

HE

"Yet take good hede; for ever I drede
That ye coude nat sustayne
The thornie wages, the depe valèies,
The snowe, the frost, the rayne,
The colde, the hete: for dry, or wete,
We must lodge on the playne;
And, us above, none other rofe
But a brake bush, or twayne
Which sone sholde greve you, I belève;
And ye wolde gladly than
That I had to the grene wode go,
Alone, a banyshed man."

SHE

"Syth I have here bene partynère
With you of joy and blysse,
I must also parte of your wo
Endure, as reson is:
Yet am I sure of one plesùre;
And, shortely, it is this:
That, where ye be, me semeth, pardè,
I coude nat fare amysse.
Without more speche, I you beseche
That we were sone agone;
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone."

HE

"If ye go thyder, ye must consyder,
Whan ye have lust to dyne,
There shall no mete be for you gete,
Nor drinke, bere, ale, ne wyne.
No shetès clene, to lye betwene,
Made of threde and twyne;
None other house, but leves and bowes,
To cover your hed and myne,
O myne harte swete, this evyll dyète
Sholde make you pale and wan;
Wherfore I wyll to the grene wode go,
Alone, a banyshed man."

SHE

"Amonge the wylde dere, such an archere,
As men say that ye be,
Ne may nat fayle of good vitayle,
Where is so grete plente:
And water clere of the ryvere
Shall be full swete to me;
With which in hele I shall ryght wele
Endure, as ye shall see;
And, or we go, a bedde or two
I can provyde anone;
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone."

HE

"Lo yet, before, ye must do more,
Yf ye wyll go with me:
As cut your here up by your ere,
Your kyrtle by the kne;
With bowe in hande, for to withstande
Your enemyes, yf nede be:
And this same nyght before day-lyght,
To wode-warde wyll I fle.
Yf that ye wyll all this fulfill,
Do it shortely as ye can:
Els wyll I to the grene wode go,
Alone, a banyshed man."

SHE

"I shall as nowe do more for you
Than longeth to womanhede;
To shorte my here, a bowe to bere,
To shote in tyme of nede.
O my swete mother, before all other
For you I have most drede:
But nowe, adue I must ensue,
Where fortune doth me lede.
All this make ye: Now let us fle;
The day cometh fast upon;
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone."

HE

"Nay, nay, nat so; ye shall nat go,
And I shall tell ye why,--
Your appetyght is to be lyght
Of love, I wele espy:
For, lyke as ye have sayed to me,
In lyke wyse hardely
Ye wolde answère whosoever it were,
In way of company.
It is sayd of olde, Sone hote, sone colde;
And so is a womàn.
Wherfore I to the wode wyll go,
Alone, a banyshed man."

SHE

"Yf ye take hede, it is no nede
Such wordes to say by me;
For oft ye prayed, and longe assayed,
Or I you loved, pardè:
And though that I of auncestry
A barons daughter be,
Yet have you proved howe I you loved
A squyer of lowe degre;
And ever shall, whatso befall;
To dy therefore[ 3] anone;
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone."

HE

"A barons chylde to be begylde!
It were a cursed dede,
To be felàwe with an outlawe!
Almighty God forbede!
Yet beter were, the pore squyère
Alone to forest yede,
Than ye sholde say another day,
That, by my cursed dede,
Ye were betray'd: Wherfore, good mayd,
The best rede that I can,
Is, that I to the grene wode go
Alone, a banyshed man."

SHE

"Whatever befall, I never shall
Of this thyng you upbraid;
But yf ye go, and leve me so,
Than have ye me betrayd.
Remember you wele, bowe that ye dele;
For, yf ye, as ye sayd,
Be so unkynde, to leve behynde,
Your love, the Not-browne Mayd,
Trust me truly, that I shall dy
Sone after ye be gone;
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone."

HE

"Yf that ye went, ye sholde repent;
For in the forest nowe
I have purvayed me of a mayd,
Whom I love more than you;
Another fayrere, than ever ye were,
I dare it wele avowe;
And of you bothe eche sholde be wrothe
With other, as I trowe:
It were myne ese, to live in pese;
So wyll I, yf I can;
Wherfore I to the wode wyll go
Alone, a banyshed man."

SHE

"Though in the wode I undyrstode
Ye had a paramour,
All this may nought remove my thought,
But that I wyll be your:
And she shall fynde me soft, and kynde
And courteys every hour;
Glad to fulfyll all that she wyll
Commaunde me to my power:
For had ye, lo, an hundred mo,
Of them I wolde be one;
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone."

HE

"Myne owne dere love, I se the prove
That ye be kynde, and true;
Of mayde, and wyfe, in all my lyfe,
The best that ever I knewe.
Be mery and glad, be no more sad,
The case is chaunged newe;
For it were ruthe, that, for your truthe,
Ye sholde have cause to rewe.
Be nat dismayed; whatsoever I sayd
To you, whan I began;
I wyall nat to the grene wode go,
I am no banyshed man."

SHE

"These tydings be more gladd to me,
Than to be made a quene,
Yf I were sure they sholde endure:
But it is often sene,
Whan men wyll breke promyse, they speke
The wordès on the spleen.
Ye shape some wyle me to begyle,
And stele from me, I wene:
Than were the case worse than it was,
And I more wo-begone:
For, in my mynde, of all mankynde
I love but you alone."

HE

"Ye shall nat nede further to drede;
I wyll nat dysparàge
You, (God defend!) syth ye descend
Of so grete a lynàge.
Nowe undyrstande; to Westmarlande,
Which is myne herytage,
I wyll you brynge; and with a rynge,
By way of maryage
I wyll you take, and lady make,
As shortely as I can:
Thus have you won an erlys son,
And not a banyshed man."

AUTHOR

Here may ye se, that women be
In love, meke, kynde, and stable:
Late never man reprove them than,
Or call them variable;
But, rather, pray God, that we may
To them be comfortable;
Which sometyme proveth such as he loveth,
Yf they be charytable.
For syth men wolde that women sholde
Be meke to them each one;
Moche more ought they to God obey,
And serve but hym alone.

NOTES

1. This (which my friend Mr. Farmer supposes to be the first edition) is in folio; the folios are numbered at the bottom of the leaf: the song begins at folio 75. The poem has since been collated with a very fine copy that was in the collection of the late James West, Esq.

2. My friend, Mr. Farmer, proposes to read the first lines thus as a Latinism:

Be it right or wrong, 'tis men among,

On women to complayne.

3. i.e. for this cause; though I were to die for having loved you..

 

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