Percy's Reliques - The Turnament of Tottenham;

The Turnament of Tottenham;


            [ 1] It does honour to the good sense of this nation, that while all Europe was captivated with the bewitching charms of chivalry and romance, two of our writers in the rudest times could see through the false glare that surrounded them, and discover whatever was absurd in them both. Chaucer wrote his rhyme of Sir Thopas in ridicule of the latter; and in the following poem we have a humorous burlesque of the former. Without pretending to decide whether the institution of chivalry was upon the whole useful or pernicious in the rude ages, a question that has lately employed many good writers,[ 2] it evidently encouraged a vindictive spirit, and gave such force to the custom of duelling, that there is little hope of its being abolished. This, together with the fatal consequences which often attended the diversion of the Turnament, was sufficient to render it obnoxious to the graver part of mankind. Accordingly the Church early denounced its censures against it, and the State was often prevailed on to attempt its suppression. But fashion and opinion are superior to authority: and the proclamations against tilting were as little regarded in those times, as the laws against duelling are in these. This did not escape the discernment of our poet, who easily perceived that inveterate opinions must be attacked by other weapons, besides proclamations and censures; he accordingly made use of the keen one of ridicule. With this view he has here introduced with admirable humour a parcel of clowns, imitating all the solemnities of the Tourney. Here we have the regular challenge -- the appointed day -- the lady for the prize -- the formal preparations -- the display of armour -- the scutcheons and devices -- the oaths taken on entering the lists -- the various accidents of the encounter -- the victor leading off the prize -- and the magnificent feasting -- with all the other solemn fopperies that usually attended the pompous Turnament. And how acutely the sharpness of the author's humour must have been felt in those days, we may learn from what we can perceive of its keenness now, when time has so much blunted the edge of its ridicule.

            The Turnament of Tottenham was first printed from an ancient manuscript in 1631, 4to., by the Rev. Wilhelm Bedwell, rector of Tottenham, who was one of the translators of the Bible. He tells us, it was written by Gilbert Pilkington, thought to have been some time parson of the same parish, and author of another piece, intitled, Passio Domini Jesu Christi. Bedwell, who was eminently skilled in the oriental and other languages, appears to have been but little conversant with the ancient writers of his own; and he so little entered into the spirit of the poem he was publishing, that he contends for its being a serious narrative of a real event, and thinks it must have been written before the time of Edward III. because Turnaments were prohibited in that reign. "I do verily believe," says he, "that this Turnament was acted before this proclamation of King Edward. For how durst any to attempt to do that, although in sport, which was so straightly forbidden, both by the civill and ecclesiasticall power? For although they fought not with lances, yet, as our author sayth, 'It was no childrens game.' And what would have become of him, thinke you, which should have slayne another in this manner of jesting? Would he not, trow you, have been hang'd for it in earnest? yea, and have bene buried like a dogge?" It is, however, well known that Turnaments were in use down to the reign of Elizabeth.

            In the former editions of this work, Bedwell's copy was reprinted here, with some few conjectural emendations; but as Bedwell seemed to have reduced the orthography at least, if not the phraseology, to the standard of his own time, it was with the greatest pleasure that the Editor was informed of an ancient manuscript copy preserved in the Museum [Harl. MSS. 5396.] which appeared to have been transcribed in the reign of King Henry VI. about 1456. This obliging information the Editor owed to the friendship of Thomas Tyrwhitt, Esq. and he has chiefly followed that more authentic transcript, improved however by some readings from Bedwell's book.

OF all thes kene conquerours to carpe it were kynde;
Of fele fey
ztyng folk ferly we fynde,
The Turnament of Totenham have we in mynde;
It were harme sych hardynes were holden byhynde,
In story as we rede
Of Hawkyn, of Herry,
Of Tomkyn, of Terry,
Of them that were dughty
And stalworth in dede.

It befel in Totenham on a dere day,
Ther was mad a shurtyng be the hy-way:
Theder corn al the men of the contray,
Of Hyssylton, of Hy-gate, and of Hakenay.
And all the swete swynkers.
Ther hopped Hawkyn,
Ther daunsed Dawkyn,
Ther trumped Tomkyn,
And all were trewe drynkers.

Tyl the day was gon and evyn-song past,
That thay schuld reckyn ther scot and ther counts cast
Perkyn the potter into the press past,
And sayd, "Randol the refe, a do
zter thou hast,
Tyb the dere:
Therfor faine wyt wold I,
Whych of all thys bachelery
Were best worthye
To wed hur to hys fere."

Upstyrt thos gadelyngys wyth ther lang staves,
And sayd, "Randol the refe, lo! thys lad raves;
Boldely amang us thy do
zter he craves;
We er rycher men than he, and mor gode haves
Of cattell and corn;"
Then sayd Perkyn, "To Tybbe I have hy
That I schal be alway redy in my ry
If that it schuld be thys day seveny
Or elles
zet to morn."

Then sayd Randolfe the refe, "Ever be he waryd,
That about thys carpyng lenger wold be taryd:
I wold not my do
zter, that scho were miscaryd,
But at hur most worschip I wold scho were maryd;
Therfor a Turnament schal begynne
Thys day seveny
Wyth a flayl for to fy
And he, that is most of might
Schal brouke hur wyth wynne.

"Whoso berys hym best in the turnament,
Hym schal be granted the gre be the comon assent,
For to wynne my do
zter wyth dughtynesse of dent,
And Coppell[ 3] my brode-henne that was bro
zt out of Kent:
And my dunnyd kowe
For no spens wyl I spare,
For no cattell wyl I care,
He schal have my gray mare,
And my spottyd sowe."

There was many a bold lad ther bodyes to bede:
Than thay toke thayr leve, and homward they
And all the weke afterward graythed ther wede,
Tyll it come to the day, that thay suld do ther dede.
They armed ham in mitts
Thay set on ther nollys,
For to kepe ther pollys,
Gode blake bollys,
For bateryng of bats.

Thay sowed tham in schepeskynnes, for thay schuld not brest:
Ilk-on toke a blak hat, insted of a crest:
A basket or a panyer before on ther brest,
And a flayle in ther hande; for to fyght press,
Furth gon thay fare:
Ther was kyd mekyl fors,
Who schuld best fend hys cors:
He that had no gode hors,
He gat hym[ 4] a mare.

Sych another gadryng have I not sene oft,
When all the gret company com rydand to the croft:
Tyb on a gray mare was set upon loft
On a sek ful of fedyrs for scho schuld syt soft,
And led 'till the gap.
For cryeng of the men
Forther wold not Tyb then,
Tyl scho had hur brode hen
Set in hur Lap.

A gay gyrdyl Tyb had on, borowed for the nonys,
And a garland on hur hed ful of rounde bonys,
And a broche on hut brest ful of sapphyre stonys,
Wyth the holy-rode tokenyng, was wrotyn for the nonys;
For no spendyngs thay had spared.
When joly Gyb saw hur thare,
He gyrd so hys gray mare,
That scho lete a fowkyn fare
At the rereward.

"I wow to God," quoth Herry, "I schal not lefe behynde,
May I mete wyth Bernard on Bayard the blynde,
Ich man kepe hym out of my wynde,
For whatsoever that he be, before me I fynde,
I wot I schall hym greve."
"Wele sayd," quoth Hawkyn.
"And I wow," quoth Dawkyn,
"May I mete wyth Tomkyn,
Hys flayle I schal hym reve."

"I make a vow," quoth Hud, "Tyb, son schal thou se,
Whych of all thys bachelery granted is the gre:
I schal scomfet thaym all, for the love of the;
In what place so I come thay schal have dout of me,
Myn armes ar so clere:
I bere a reddyl, and a rake,
Poudred wyth a brenand drake,
And three cantells of a cake
In ycha cornere."

"I vow to God," quoth Hawkyn, "yf I have the gowt,
Al that I fynde in the felde thrustand here aboute,
Have I twyse or thryes redyn thurgh the route,
In ycha stede ther thay me se, of me thay schal have doute,
When I begyn to play.
I make avowe that I ne schall,
But yf Tybbe wyl me call,
Or I be thryes don fall,
zt onys com away."

Then sayd Terry, and swore be hys crede;
"Saw thou never yong boy forther hys body bede,
For when thay fy
zt fastest and most ar in drede,
I schall take Tyb by the hand, and hur away lede:
I am armed at the full;
In myn armys I bere wele
A do
z trogh, and a pele,
A sadyll wythout a panell,
Wyth a fles of woll."

"I make a vow," quoth Dudman, and swor be the stra,
"Whyls me ys left my mare, thou gets hurr not swa;
For scho ys wele schapen, and li
zt as the rae,
Ther is no capul in thys myle befor hur schal ga;
Sche wul ne no
zt begyle:
Sche wyl me bere, I dar say,
On a lang somerys day,
Fro Hyssylton to Hakenay,
Nort other half myle."

"I make a vow," quoth Perkyn, "thow speks of cold rost,
I schal wyrch wyselyer withouten any bost:
Five of the best capulys, that ar in thys ost,
I wot I schal thaym wynne, and bryng thaym to my cost,
And here I grant thaym Tybbe.
Wele boyes here ys he,
That wyl fy
zt, and not fle,
For I am in my jolyte,
Wyth so forth, Gybbe."

When thay had ther vowes made, furth can thay hie,
Wyth flayles, and hornes, and trumpes mad of tre:
Ther were all the bachelerys of that contre;
Thay were dy
zt in aray, as thaymselfes wold be;
Thayr baners were ful bry
Of an old rotten fell;
The cheveron of a plow-mell;
And the schadow of a bell,
Poudred wyth the mone ly

I wot yt was no chylder game, whan thay togedyr met,
When icha freke in the feld on hys feloy bet,
And layd on styfly, for nothyng wold thay let,
And foght ferly fast, tyll ther horses swet,
And few wordys spoken.
Ther were flayles al to slatred,
Ther were scheldys al to flatred,
Bollys and dysches all to schatred,
And many hedys brokyn.

There was clynkyng of cart-sadelys, and clatteryng of cannes;
Of fele frekys in the feld brokyn were their fannes;
Of sum were the hedys brokyn, of sum the braynpannes,
And yll were thay besene, or thay went thanes
Wyth swyppyng of swepyls:
Thay were so wery for-foght,
Thay my
zt not fyzt mare oloft,
But creped about in the croft,
As thay were croked crepyls.

Perkyn was so wery, that he began to loute;
"Help, Hud, I am ded in thys ylk rowte:
An hors for forty pens, a gode and a stoute!
That I may ly
ztly come of my noye oute,
For no cost wyl I spare."
He styrt up as a snayle,
And hent a capul be the tayle,
And reft Dawkin hys flayle,
And wan there a mare.

Perkyn wan five, and Hud wan twa
Glad and blythe thay ware, that they had don sa;
Thay wold have tham to Tyb, and present hur with tha
The Capulls were so wery, that thay my
zt not ga,
But styl gon thay stond.
"Alas!" quoth Hudde, "my joye I lese;
Mee had lever then a ston of chese,
That dere Tyb had al these,
And wyst it were my sond."

Perkyn turnyd hym about in that ych thrang,
Among those wery boyes he wrest and he wrang;
He threw tham doun to the erth, and thrast tham amang,
When he saw Tyrry away with Tyb fang,
And after hym ran;
Off his horse he hym drogh,
And gaf hym of hys flayl inogh:
"We te he!" quoth Tyb, and lugh,
"Ye er a dughty man."

Thus thay tugged, and rugged, tyl yt was nere nyzt:
All the wyves of Tottenham came to se that sy
Wyth wyspes, and kexis, and ryschys there ly
To fetch hom ther husbandes, that were tham trouth ply
And sum bro
zt gret harwos,
Ther husbandes hom to fetch,
Sum on dores, and sum on hech,
Sum on hyrdyllys, and some on crech,
And sum on whele-barows.

They gaderyd Perkyn about, on everych syde,
And grant hym ther the gre, the more was hys pryde:
Tyb and he wyth gret mirth, hom ward con thay ryde,
And were al ny
zt togedyr, tyl the morn tyde;
And thay to church went:
So wele hys nedys he has sped,
That dere Tyb he hath wed;
The prayse-folks that hur led,
Were of the Turnament.

To that ylk fest com many for the nones;
Some come hyphalte, and sum trippand thither on the stonys
Sum a star in hys hand, and sum two at onys;
Of sum where the hedes broken, of some the schulder bonys;
With sorrow came thay thedyr.
Wo was Hawkyn, wo was Herry,
Wo was Tomkyn, wo was Terry,
And so was all the bachelary,
When thay met togedyr.

[ 5] At that fest thay wer servyd with a ryche aray,
Every five and fyve had a cokenay;
And so thay sat in jolyte al the lung day;
And at the last thay went to bed with ful gret deray:
Mekyl myrth was them among;
In every corner of the hous
Was melody delycyous
For to here precyus
Of six menys song.[ 6]


1. It has been thought that this ballad is a burlesque upon the old feudal custom of marrying an heiress to a knight who should vanquish all his opponents, at a solemn assembly holden for that purpose. (See Gentleman's Magazine for July, 1794, p.613)-- Editor.

2. See [Mr. Hurd's] Letters on Chivalry, 8vo. 1762. Mémoire de la Chevalerie, par M. de la Curne des Palais, 1759, 2 tom. 12mo. &c.

3. "Coppeld." We still use the phrase "a copple-crowned hen."

4. "He borrowed him." PC.

5. In the former impressions, this concluding stanza was only given from Bedwell's printed edition; but it is here copied from the old Manuscript, wherein it has been since found separated from the rest of the poem by several pages of a money-account and other heterogeneous matter.

6. "Six-men's song," i.e. a song for six voices. So Shakspeare uses Three-man song-men, in his Winter's Tale, act iii. sc. 3, to denote men that could sing catches composed for three voices. Of this sort are Weelkes's Madrigals mentioned below, Book v. Song 9. So again Shakspeare has three-men beetle; i.e. a beetle or rammer worked by three men. 2 Hen. IV. act. i. sc. 3.


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