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High Spencer’s Feats in France

No: 158; variant: 158A

  1. THE court is kept att leeue London, And euermore shall be itt; The King sent for a bold embassador, And Sir Hugh Spencer that he hight.
  2. ‘Come hither, Spencer,’ saith our kinge, ‘And come thou hither vnto mee; I must make thee an embassadour Betweene the king of Ffrance and mee.
  3. ‘Thou must comend me to the king of Ffrance, And tell him thus and now ffrom mee, I wold know whether there shold be peace in his land, Or open warr kept still must bee.
  4. ‘Thou’st haue thy shipp at thy comande, Thou’st neither want for gold nor ffee; Thou’st haue a hundred armed men, All att thy bidding ffor to bee.’
  5. The wind itt serued, and they sayled, And towards Ffrance thus they be gone; The wind did bring them safe to shore, And safelye landed euerye one.
  6. The Ffrenchmen lay on the castle-wall, The English souldiers to behold: ‘You are welcome, traitors, out of England; The heads of you are bought and sold.’
  7. With that spake proud Spencer: My leege, soe itt may not bee; I am sent an embassador Ffrom our English king to yee.
  8. The king of England greetes you well, And hath sent this word by mee; He wold know whether there shold be peace in your land, Or open warres kept still must bee.
  9. ‘Comend me to the English kinge, And tell this now ffrom mee; There shall neuer peace be kept in my land While open warres kept there may bee.’
  10. With that came downe the queene of Ffrance, And an angry woman then was shee; Saies, Itt had beene as ffitt now for a king To be in his chamber with his ladye, Then to be pleading with traitors out of England, Kneeling low vppon their knee.
  11. But then bespake him proud Spencer, For noe man else durst speake but hee: You haue not wiped your mouth, madam, Since I heard you tell a lye.
  12. ‘O hold thy tounge, Spencer!’ shee said, ‘I doe not come to plead with thee; Darest thou ryde a course of warr With a knight that I shall put to thee?’
  13. ‘But euer alacke!’ then Spencer sayd, ‘I thinke I haue deserued Gods cursse; Ffor I haue not any armour heere, Nor yett I haue noe iusting-horsse.’
  14. ‘Thy shankes,’ quoth shee, ‘Beneath the knee Are verry small aboue the shinne Ffor to doe any such honourablle deeds As the Englishmen say thou has done.
  15. ‘Thy shankes beene small aboue thy shoone, And soe the beene aboue thy knee; Thou art to slender euery way Any good iuster ffor to bee.’
  16. ‘But euer alacke,’ said Spencer then, ‘For one steed of the English countrye!’ With that bespake and one Ffrench knight, This day thou’st haue the choyce of three.
  17. The first steed he ffeiched out, I-wis he was milke-white; The ffirst ffoot Spencer in stirropp sett, His backe did from his belly tyte.
  18. The second steed that he ffeitcht out, I-wis that hee was verry browne; The second ffoot Spencer in stirropp settt, That horsse and man and all ffell downe.
  19. The third steed that he ffeitched out, I-wis that he was verry blacke; The third ffoote Spencer into the stirropp sett, He leaped on to the geldings backe.
  20. ‘But euer alacke,’ said Spencer then, ‘For one good steed of the English countrye! Goe ffeitch me hither my old hacneye, That I brought with me hither beyond the sea.’
  21. But when his hackney there was brought, Spencer a merry man there was hee; Saies, With the grace of God and St George of England, The ffeild this day shall goe with mee.
  22. ‘I haue noe fforgotten,’ Spencer sayd, ‘Since there was ffeild foughten att Walsingam, When the horsse did heare the trumpetts sound, He did beare ore both horsse and man.’
  23. The day was sett, and togetther they mett, With great mirth and melodye, With minstrells playing, and trumpetts soundinge, With drumes striking loud and hye.
  24. The ffirst race that Spencer run, I-wis hee run itt wonderous sore; He [hitt] the knight vpon his brest, But his speare itt burst, and wold touch noe more.
  25. ‘But euer alacke,’ said Spencer then, ‘For one staffe of the English countrye! Without you’le bind me three together,’ Quoth hee, ‘They’le be to weake ffor mee.’
  26. With that bespake him the Ffrench knight, Sayes, Bind him together the whole thirtye, For I haue more strenght in my to hands Then is in all Spencers bodye.
  27. ‘But proue att parting,’ Spencer sayes, ‘Ffrench knight, here I tell itt thee; For I will lay thee five to four The bigger man I proue to bee.’
  28. But the day was sett, and together they mett, With great mirth and melodye, With minstrells playing, and trumpetts soundinge, With drummes strikeing loud and hye.
  29. The second race that Spencer run, I-wis hee ridd itt in much pride, And he hitt the knight vpon the brest, And draue him ore his horsse beside.
  30. But he run thorrow the Ffrench campe; Such a race was neuer run beffore; He killed of King Charles his men Att hand of thirteen or fourteen score.
  31. But he came backe againe to the K[ing], And kneeled him downe vpon his knee; Saies, A knight I haue slaine, and a steed I haue woone, The best that is in this countrye.
  32. ‘But nay, by my faith,’ then said the King, ‘Spencer, soe itt shall not bee; I’le haue that traitors head of thine, To enter plea at my iollye.’
  33. But Spencer looket him once about, He had true bretheren left but four; He killed ther of the Kings gard About twelve or thirteen score.
  34. ‘But hold thy hands,’ the King doth say, ‘Spencer, now I doe pray thee; And I will goe into litle England, Vnto that cruell kinge with thee.’
  35. ‘Nay, by my ffaith,’ Spencer sayd, ‘My leege, for soe itt shall not bee; For an you sett ffoot on English ground, You shall be hanged vpon a tree.’
  36. ‘Why then, comend [me] to that Englishe kinge, And tell him thus now ffrom mee, That there shall neuer be open warres kept in my land Whilest peace kept that there may bee.’