Percy's Reliques - The Friar of Orders Gray.

The Friar of Orders Gray.

            Dispersed through Shakspeare's plays are innumerable little fragments of ancient ballads, the entire copies of which could not be recovered. Many of these being of the most beautiful and pathetic simplicity, the Editor was tempted to select some of them, and. with a few supplemental stanzas to connect them together, and form them into a little tale, which is here submitted to the reader's candour.

            One small fragment was taken from Beaumont and Fletcher.

IT was a friar of orders gray
Walkt forth to tell his beades;
And he met with a lady faire,
Clad in a pilgrime's weedes.

"Now Christ thee save, thou reverend friar,
I pray thee tell to me,
If ever at yon holy shrine
My true love thou didst see."

"And how should I know your true love
From many another one?"
"O by his cockle hat, and staff,
And by his sandal shoone.[l]

"But chiefly by his face and mien,
That were so fair to view;
His flaxen locks that sweetly curl'd,
And eyne of lovely blue."

"O lady, he is dead and gone
Lady, he's dead and gone!
And at his head a green grass turfe,
And at his heels a stone.

"Within these holy cloysters long
He languisht, and he dyed,
Lamenting of a ladyes Iove,
And 'playning of her pride.

"Here bore him barefac'd on his bier
Six proper youths and tall,
And many a tear bedew'd his grave
Within yon kirk-yard wall."

"And art thou dead, thou gentle youth
And art thou dead and gone!
And didst thou die for love of me!
Break, cruel heart of stone."

"O weep not, lady, weep not soe;
Some ghostly comfort seek:
Let not vain sorrow rive thy heart,
Ne teares bedew thy cheek."

"O do not, do not, holy friar,
My sorrow now reprove;
For I have lost the sweetest youth,
That e'er won ladyes love.

"And nowe, alas! for thy sad losse,
I'll evermore weep and sigh;
For thee I only wisht to live,
For thee I wish to dye."

"Weep no more, lady, weep no more,
Thy sorrowe is in vaine:
For violets pluckt the sweetest showers
Will ne'er make grow againe.

"Our joys as winged dreams doe flye,
Why then should sorrow last?
Since grief but aggravates thy losse,
Grieve not for what is past."

"O say not soe, thou holy friar;
I pray thee, say not soe:
For since my true-love dyed for mee,
'Tis meet my tears should flow.

"And will he ne'er come again?
Will he ne'er come again?"
"Ah! no, he is dead and laid in his grave,
For ever to remain."

"His cheek was redder than the rose;
The comliest youth was he!
But he is dead and laid in his grave:
Alas, and woe is me!"

"Sigh no more, lady, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever:
One foot on sea and one on land,
To one thing constant never.

"Hadst thou been fond, he had been false,
And left thee sad and heavy;
For young men ever were fickle found,
Since summer trees were leafy."

"Now say not so, thou holy friar,
I pray thee say not soe;
My love he had the truest heart:
O he was ever true!

"And art thou dead, thou much-lov'd youth,
And didst thou dye for mee?
Then farewell home; for ever-more
A pilgrim I will bee.

"But first upon my true-love's grave
My weary limbs I'll lay,
And thrice I'll kiss the green-grass turf,
That wraps his breathless clay."

"Yet stay, fair lady; rest awhile
Beneath this cloyster wall:
See through the hawthorn blows the cold wind,
And drizzly rain doth fall."

"O stay me not, thou holy friar;
O stay me not, I pray;
No drizzly rain that falls on me,
Can wash my fault away."

"Yet stay, fair lady, turn again,
And dry those pearly tears;
For see beneath this gown of gray
Thy own true-love appears.

"Here forc'd by grief, and hopeless love,
These holy weeds I sought;
And here amid these lonely walls
To end my days I thought.

"But haply for my year of grace[ 2]
Is not yet past away,
Might I still hope to win thy love,
No longer would I stay."

"Now farewell grief, and welcome joy
Once more unto my heart;
For since I have found thee, lovely youth,
We never more will part."

*** As the foregoing song has been thought to have suggested to our late excellent poet, Dr. Goldsmith, the plan of his beautiful ballad of Edwin and Emma (first printed in his Vicar of Wakefield), it is but justice to his memory to declare, that his poem was written first, and that if there is any imitation in the case, they will be found both to be indebted to the beautiful old ballad Gentle Herdsman, &c. printed in Series II. Book i. No. 14, of this work, which the Doctor had much admired in manuscript, and has finely improved.


1. These are the distinguishing marks of a pilgrim. The chief places of devotion being beyond sea, the pilgrims were wont to put cockle-shells in their hats to denote the intention or performance of their devotion. Warb. Shaksp. vol. viii. p. 224.

2. The year of probation, or noviciate.


Prev Next

Back to Introduction