[This interesting traditional ballad was first published by Mr.
Thomas Lyle in his Ancient Ballads and Songs, London, 1827. 'We
have not as yet,' says Mr. Lyle, 'been able to trace out the
historical incident upon which this ballad appears to have been
founded; yet those curious in such matters may consult, if they
list, Proceedings and Debates in the House of Commons, for 1621 and
1662, where they will find that some stormy debating in these
several years had been agitated in parliament regarding the corn
laws, which bear pretty close upon the leading features of the
ballad.' Does not the ballad, however, belong to a much earlier
period? The description of the combat, the presence of heralds,
the wearing of armour, &c., justify the conjecture. For De la
Ware, ought we not to read De la Mare? and is not Sir Thomas De la
Mare the hero? the De la Mare who in the reign of Edward III., A.D.
1377, was Speaker of the House of Commons. All historians are
agreed in representing him as a person using 'great freedom of
speach,' and which, indeed, he carried to such an extent as to
endanger his personal liberty. As bearing somewhat upon the
subject of the ballad, it may he observed that De la Mare was a
great advocate of popular rights, and particularly protested
against the inhabitants of England being subject to 'purveyance,'
asserting that 'if the royal revenue was faithfully administered,
there could be no necessity for laying burdens on the people.' In
the subsequent reign of Richard II, De In Mare was a prominent
character, and though history is silent on the subject, it is not
improbable that such a man might, even in the royal presence, have
defended the rights of the poor, and spoken in extenuation of the
agrarian insurrectionary movements which were then so prevalent and
so alarming. On the hypothesis of De la Mare being the hero, there
are other incidents in the tale which cannot be reconciled with
history, such as the title given to De la Mare, who certainly was
never ennobled; nor can we ascertain that he was ever mixed up in
any duel; nor does it appear clear who can be meant by the 'Welsh
Lord, the brave Duke of Devonshire,' that dukedom not having been
created till 1694 and no nobleman having derived any title whatever
from Devonshire previously to 1618, when Baron Cavendish, of
Hardwick, was created the first Earl of Devonshire. We may
therefore presume that for 'Devonshire' ought to be inserted the
name of some other county or place. Strict historical accuracy is,
however, hardly to be expected in any ballad, particularly in one
which, like the present, has evidently been corrupted in floating
down the stream of time. There is only one quarrel recorded at the
supposed period of our tale as having taken place betwixt two
noblemen, and which resulted in a hostile meeting, viz., that
wherein the belligerent parties were the Duke of Hereford (who
might by a 'ballad-monger' be deemed a Welsh lord) and the Duke of
Norfolk. This was in the reign of Richard II. No fight, however,
took place, owing to the interference of the king. Our minstrel
author may have had rather confused historical ideas, and so mixed
up certain passages in De la Mare's history with this squabble; and
we are strongly inclined to suspect that such is the case, and that
it will be found the real clue to the story. Vide Hume's History
of ENgland, chap. XVII. A.D. 1398. Lyle acknowledges that he has
taken some liberties with the oral version, but does not state what
they were, beyond that they consisted merely in 'smoothing down.'
Would that he had left it 'in the rough!' The last verse has every
appearance of being apocryphal; it looks like one of those
benedictory verses with which minstrels were, and still are, in the
habit of concluding their songs. Lyle says the tune 'is pleasing,
and peculiar to the ballad.' A homely version, presenting only
trivial variations from that of Mr. Lyle, is still printed and
- In the Parliament House, a great rout has been there,
- Betwixt our good King and the Lord Delaware:
- Says Lord Delaware to his Majesty full soon,
- 'Will it please you, my liege, to grant me a boon?'
- 'What's your boon,' says the King, 'now let me understand?'
- 'It's, give me all the poor men we've starving in this land;
- And without delay, I'll hie me to Lincolnshire,
- To sow hemp-seed and flax-seed, and hang them all there.
- 'For with hempen cord it's better to stop each poor man's breath,
- Than with famine you should see your subjects starve to death.'
- Up starts a Dutch Lord, who to Delaware did say,
- 'Thou deserves to be stabbed!' then he turned himself away;
- 'Thou deserves to be stabbed, and the dogs have thine ears,
- For insulting our King in this Parliament of peers.'
- Up sprang a Welsh Lord, the brave Duke of Devonshire,
- 'In young Delaware's defence, I'll fight this Dutch Lord, my sire;
- 'For he is in the right, and I'll make it so appear:
- Him I dare to single combat, for insulting Delaware.'
- A stage was soon erected, and to combat they went,
- For to kill, or to be killed, it was either's full intent.
- But the very first flourish, when the heralds gave command,
- The sword of brave Devonshire bent backward on his hand;
- In suspense he paused awhile, scanned his foe before he strake,
- Then against the King's armour, his bent sword he brake.
- Then he sprang from the stage, to a soldier in the ring,
- Saying, 'Lend your sword, that to an end this tragedy we bring:
- Though he's fighting me in armour, while I am fighting bare,
- Even more than this I'd venture for young Lord Delaware.'
- Leaping back on the stage, sword to buckler now resounds,
- Till he left the Dutch Lord a bleeding in his wounds:
- This seeing, cries the King to his guards without delay,
- 'Call Devonshire down, - take the dead man away!'
- 'No,' says brave Devonshire, 'I've fought him as a man,
- Since he's dead, I will keep the trophies I have won;
- For he fought me in your armour, while I fought him bare,
- And the same you must win back, my liege, if ever you them wear.'
- God bless the Church of England, may it prosper on each hand,
- And also every poor man now starving in this land;
- And while I pray success may crown our King upon his throne,
- I'll wish that every poor man may long enjoy his own.
In Three Parts.
First, giving an account of a gentlemen a having a wild son, and
who, foreseeing he would come to poverty, had a cottage built with
one door to it, always kept fast; and how, on his dying bed, he
charged him not to open it till he was poor and slighted, which the
young man promised he would perform. Secondly, of the young man's
pawning his estate to a vintner, who, when poor, kicked him out of
doors; when thinking it time to see his legacy, he broke open the
cottage door, where instead of money he found a gibbet and halter,
which he put round his neck, and jumping off the stool, the gibbet
broke, and a thousand pounds came down upon his head, which lay hid
in the ceiling. Thirdly, of his redeeming his estate, and fooling
the vintner out of two hundred pounds; who, for being jeered by his
neighbours, cut his own throat. And lastly, of the young man's
reformation. Very proper to be read by all who are given to
[Percy, in the introductory remarks to the ballad of The Heir of
Linne, says, 'the original of this ballad [The Heir of Linne] is
found in the editor's folio MS.; the breaches and defects of which
rendered the insertion of supplemental stanzas necessary. These it
is hoped the reader will pardon, as, indeed, the completion of the
story was suggested by a modern ballad on a similar subject.' The
ballad thus alluded to by Percy is The Drunkard's LEgacy, which, it
may be remarked, although styled by him a modern ballad, is only so
comparatively speaking; for it must have been written long anterior
to Percy's time, and, by his own admission, must be older than the
latter portion of the Heir of Linne. Our copy is taken from an old
chap-book, without date or printer's name, and which is decorated
with three rudely executed wood-cuts.]
- Young people all, I pray draw near,
- And listen to my ditty here;
- Which subject shows that drunkenness
- Brings many mortals to distress!
- As, for example, now I can
- Tell you of one, a gentleman,
- Who had a very good estate,
- His earthly travails they were great.
- We understand he had one son
- Who a lewd wicked race did run;
- He daily spent his father's store,
- When moneyless, he came for more.
- The father oftentimes with tears,
- Would this alarm sound in his ears;
- 'Son! thou dost all my comfort blast,
- And thou wilt come to want at last.'
- The son these words did little mind,
- To cards and dice he was inclined;
- Feeding his drunken appetite
- In taverns, which was his delight.
- The father, ere it was too late,
- He had a project in his pate,
- Before his aged days were run,
- To make provision for his son.
- Near to his house, we understand,
- He had a waste plat of land,
- Which did but little profit yield,
- On which he did a cottage build.
- The Wise Man's Project was its name;
- There were few windows in the same;
- Only one door, substantial thing,
- Shut by a lock, went by a spring.
- Soon after he had played this trick,
- It was his lot for to fall sick;
- As on his bed he did lament,
- Then for his drunken son he sent.
- He shortly came to his bedside;
- Seeing his son, he thus replied:
- 'I have sent for you to make my will,
- Which you must faithfully fulfil.
- 'In such a cottage is one door,
- Ne'er open it, do thou be sure,
- Until thou art so poor, that all
- Do then despise you, great and small.
- 'For, to my grief, I do perceive,
- When I am dead, this life you live
- Will soon melt all thou hast away;
- Do not forget these words, I pray.
- 'When thou hast made thy friends thy foes,
- Pawned all thy lands, and sold thy clothes;
- Break ope the door, and there depend
- To find something thy griefs to end.'
- This being spoke, the son did say,
- 'Your dying words I will obey.'
- Soon after this his father dear
- Did die, and buried was, we hear.
- Now, pray observe the second part,
- And you shall hear his sottish heart;
- He did the tavern so frequent,
- Till he three hundred pounds had spent.
- This being done, we understand
- He pawned the deeds of all his land
- Unto a tavern-keeper, who,
- When poor, did him no favour show.
- For, to fulfil his father's will,
- He did command this cottage still:
- At length great sorrow was his share,
- Quite moneyless, with garments bare.
- Being not able for to work,
- He in the tavern there did lurk;
- From box to box, among rich men,
- Who oftentimes reviled him then.
- To see him sneak so up and down,
- The vintner on him he did frown;
- And one night kicked him out of door,
- Charging him to come there no more.
- He in a stall did lie all night,
- In this most sad and wretched plight;
- Then thought it was high time to see
- His father's promised legacy.
- Next morning, then, oppressed with woe,
- This young man got an iron crow;
- And, as in tears he did lament,
- Unto this little cottage went.
- When he the door had open got,
- This poor, distressed, drunken sot,
- Who did for store of money hope,
- He saw a gibbet and a rope.
- Under this rope was placed a stool,
- Which made him look just like a fool;
- Crying, 'Alas! what shall I do?
- Destruction now appears in view!
- 'As my father foresaw this thing,
- What sottishness to me would bring;
- As moneyless, and free of grace,
- His legacy I will embrace.'
- So then, oppressed with discontent,
- Upon the stool he sighing went;
- And then, his precious life to check,
- Did place the rope about his neck.
- Crying, 'Thou, God, who sitt'st on high,
- And on my sorrow casts an eye;
- Thou knowest that I've not done well, -
- Preserve my precious soul from hell.
- ''Tis true the slighting of thy grace,
- Has brought me to this wretched case;
- And as through folly I'm undone,
- I'll now eclipse my morning sun.'
- When he with sighs these words had spoke,
- Jumped off, and down the gibbet broke;
- In falling, as it plain appears,
- Dropped down about this young man's ears,
- In shining gold, a thousand pound!
- Which made the blood his ears surround:
- Though in amaze, he cried, 'I'm sure
- This golden salve the sore will cure!
- 'Blessed be my father, then,' he cried,
- 'Who did this part for me so hide;
- And while I do alive remain,
- I never will get drunk again.'
- Now, by the third part you will hear,
- This young man, as it doth appear,
- With care he then secured his chink,
- And to the vintner's went to drink.
- When the proud vintner did him see,
- He frowned on him immediately,
- And said, 'Begone! or else with speed,
- I'll kick thee out of doors, indeed.'
- Smiling, the young man he did say,
- 'Thou cruel knave! tell me, I pray,
- As I have here consumed my store,
- How durst thee kick me out of door?
- 'To me thou hast been too severe;
- The deeds of eightscore pounds a-year,
- I pawned them for three hundred pounds,
- That I spent here; - what makes such frowns?'
- The vintner said unto him, 'Sirrah!
- Bring me one hundred pounds to-morrow
- By nine o'clock, - take them again;
- So get you out of doors till then.'
- He answered, 'If this chink I bring,
- I fear thou wilt do no such thing.
- He said, 'I'll give under my hand,
- A note, that I to this will stand.'
- Having the note, away he goes,
- And straightway went to one of those
- That made him drink when moneyless,
- And did the truth to him confess.
- They both went to this heap of gold,
- And in a bag he fairly told
- A thousand pounds, ill yellow-boys,
- And to the tavern went their ways.
- This bag they on the table set,
- Making the vintner for to fret;
- He said, 'Young man! this will not do,
- For I was but in jest with you.'
- So then bespoke the young man's friend:
- 'Vintner! thou mayest sure depend,
- In law this note it will you cast,
- And he must have his land at last.'
- This made the vintner to comply, -
- He fetched the deeds immediately;
- He had one hundred pounds, and then
- The young man got his deeds again.
- At length the vintner 'gan to think
- How he was fooled out of his chink;
- Said, 'When 'tis found how I came off,
- My neighbours will me game and scoff.'
- So to prevent their noise and clatter
- The vintner he, to mend the matter,
- In two days after, it doth appear,
- Did cut his throat from ear to ear.
- Thus he untimely left the world,
- That to this young man proved a churl.
- Now he who followed drunkenness,
- Lives sober, and doth lands possess.
- Instead of wasting of his store,
- As formerly, resolves no more
- To act the same, but does indeed
- Relieve all those that are in need.
- Let all young men now, for my sake,
- Take care how they such havoc make;
- For drunkenness, you plain may see,
- Had like his ruin for to be.
[We cannot trace this popular ditty beyond the reign of James II,
but we believe it to be older. The origin is to be found in an
early French chanson. The present version has been taken down from
the singing of an old Yorkshire yeoman. The third verse we have
never seen in print, but it is always sung in the west of
- Begone, dull care!
- I prithee begone from me;
- Begone, dull care!
- Thou and I can never agree.
- Long while thou hast been tarrying here,
- And fain thou wouldst me kill;
- But i' faith, dull care,
- Thou never shalt have thy will.
- Too much care
- Will make a young man grey;
- Too much care
- Will turn an old man to clay.
- My wife shall dance, and I shall sing,
- So merrily pass the day;
- For I hold it is the wisest thing,
- To drive dull care away.
- Hence, dull care,
- I'll none of thy company;
- Hence, dull care,
- Thou art no pair for me.
- We'll hunt the wild boar through the wold,
- So merrily pass the day;
- And then at night, o'er a cheerful bowl,
- We'll drive dull care away.
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Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs