Little Musgrave And Lady Barnard

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text here given is the version printed, with very few variations, in Wit Restor'd, 1658, Wit and Drollery, 1682, Dryden's Miscellany, 1716, etc. The Percy Folio contains a fragmentary version, consisting of some dozen stanzas. Child says that all the Scottish versions are late, and probably derived, though taken down from oral tradition, from printed copies. As recompense, we have the Scotch Bonny Birdy.

The Story would seem to be purely English. That it was popular long before the earliest known text is proved by quotations from it in old plays: as from Fair Margaret and Sweet William. Merrythought in The Knight of the Burning Pestle (1611) sings from this ballad a version of stanza 14, and Beaumont and Fletcher also put quotations into the mouths of characters in Bonduca (circ. 1619) and Monsieur Thomas (circ. 1639). Other plays before 1650 also mention it.

The reader should remember, once for all, that burdens are to be repeated in every verse, though printed only in the first.


As it fell one holy-day,
Hay downe
As many be in the yeare,
When young men and maids together did goe,
Their mattins and masse to heare;

Little Musgrave came to the church-dore;--
The preist was at private masse;--
But he had more minde of the faire women
Then he had of our lady['s] grace.

The one of them was clad in green,
Another was clad in pall,
And then came in my lord Barnard's wife,
The fairest amonst them all.

She cast an eye on Little Musgrave,
As bright as the summer sun;
And then bethought this Little Musgrave,
'This lady's heart have I woonn.'

Quoth she, 'I have loved thee, Little Musgrave,
Full long and many a day';
'So have I loved you, fair lady,
Yet never word durst I say.'

'I have a bower at Bucklesfordbery,
Full daintyly is it deight;
If thou wilt wend thither, thou Little Musgrave,
Thou's lig in mine armes all night.'

Quoth he, 'I thank yee, fair lady,
This kindnes thou showest to me;
But whether it be to my weal or woe,
This night I will lig with thee.'

With that he heard, a little tynë page,
By his ladye's coach as he ran:
'All though I am my ladye's foot-page,
Yet I am Lord Barnard's man.

'My lord Barnard shall knowe of this,
Whether I sink or swim';
And ever where the bridges were broake
He laid him downe to swimme.

'A sleepe or wake, thou Lord Barnard,
As thou art a man of life,
For Little Musgrave is at Bucklesfordbery,
A bed with thy own wedded wife.'

'If this be true, thou little tinny page,
This thing thou tellest to me,
Then all the land in Bucklesfordbery
I freely will give to thee.

'But if it be a ly, thou little tinny page,
This thing thou tellest to me,
On the hyest tree in Bucklesfordbery
Then hanged shalt thou be.'

He called up his merry men all:
'Come saddle me my steed;
This night must I to Bucklesfordbery,
For I never had greater need.'

And some of them whistled, and some of them sung,
And some these words did say,
And ever when my lord Barnard's horn blew,
'Away, Musgrave, away!'

'Methinks I hear the thresel-cock,
Methinks I hear the jaye;
Methinks I hear my Lord Barnard,
And I would I were away!'

'Lye still, lye still, thou little Musgrave,
And huggell me from the cold;
'Tis nothing but a shephard's boy
A driving his sheep to the fold.

'Is not thy hawke upon a perch,
Thy steed eats oats and hay,
And thou a fair lady in thine armes,
And wouldst thou bee away?'

With that my lord Barnard came to the dore,
And lit a stone upon;
He plucked out three silver keys
And he open'd the dores each one.

He lifted up the coverlett,
He lifted up the sheet:
'How now, how now, thou Little Musgrave,
Doest thou find my lady sweet?'

'I find her sweet,' quoth Little Musgrave,
'The more 'tis to my paine;
I would gladly give three hundred pounds
That I were on yonder plaine.'

'Arise, arise, thou Little Musgrave,
And put thy clothës on;
It shall nere be said in my country
I have killed a naked man.

'I have two swords in one scabberd,
Full deere they cost my purse;
And thou shalt have the best of them,
And I will have the worse.'

The first stroke that Little Musgrave stroke,
He hurt Lord Barnard sore;
The next stroke that Lord Barnard stroke,
Little Musgrave nere struck more.

With that bespake this faire lady,
In bed whereas she lay:
'Although thou'rt dead, thou Little Musgrave,
Yet I for thee will pray.

'And wish well to thy soule will I,
So long as I have life;
So will I not for thee, Barnard,
Although I am thy wedded wife.'

He cut her paps from off her brest;
Great pitty it was to see
That some drops of this ladies heart's blood
Ran trickling downe her knee.

'Woe worth you, woe worth, my mery men all,
You were nere borne for my good;
Why did you not offer to stay my hand,
When you see me wax so wood?

'For I have slaine the bravest sir knight
That ever rode on steed;
So have I done the fairest lady
That over did woman's deed.

'A grave, a grave,' Lord Barnard cry'd,
'To put these lovers in;
But lay my lady on the upper hand,
For she came of the better kin.'

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