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High Spencer’s Feats in France

No: 158; variant: 158B

  1. OUR king lay at Westminster, as oft times he had done, And he sent for Hugh Spencer, to come to him anon.
  2. Then in came Hugh Spencer, low kneeling on his knee: ‘What’s the matter, my liege, you sent so speedily for me?’
  3. ‘Why you must go ambassadour to France now, to see Whether peace shall be taken, aye, or open wars must be.’
  4. ‘Who shall go with me?’ says Hugh Spencer, he: ‘That shall Hugh Willoughby and John of Atherly.’ ‘O then,’ says Hugh Spencer, ‘we’ll be a merry company.’
  5. When they came before the French king, they kneeled low on the knee: ‘O rise up, and stand up, whose men soer you be.’
  6. The first that made answer was Hugh Spencer, he: ‘We are English ambassadours, come hither to see Whether peace shall be taken, aye, or open wars must be.’
  7. Then spoke the French king, and he spoke courteously: The last time peace was broken, it was neer along of me.
  8. For you sunk my ships, slew my men, and thus did ye; And the last time peace was broken, it was neer along of me.
  9. Then in came Queen Maude, and full as ill was she: ‘A chamber of presence is better for thee, Then amongst English shepherds, low bending on the knee.’
  10. The first that made answer was Hugh Spencer, he: ‘We are no English shepherds, Queen Maude, I tell thee, But we’re knights, and knights fellows, the worst man in our company.’
  11. O then spoke Queen Maude, and full as ill was she: Thou shouldst be Hugh Spencer, thou talkst so boldly.
  12. And if thou beest Hugh Spencer, as well thou seemst to be, I’ve oft heard of thy justling, and some of it would fain see.
  13. I have a steed in my stable that thou canst not ride; I have a spear in my keeping that thou canst not guide; And I have a knight in my realm that thou darest not abide.
  14. Then Spencer askd Willoughby and John of Atherly Whether he should take this justling in hand, aye, or let be.
  15. O then spoke Hugh Willoughby and John of Atherly: If you won’t take it [in] hand, why turn it unto we.
  16. ‘It shall neer be said in England,’ says Hugh Spencer, he, ‘That I refused a good justling and turned it to ye.
  17. ‘Alas,’ says Hugh Spencer, ‘Full sore may I moan, I have nought here but an ambler, my good steed’s at home.’
  18. Then spoke a French knight, and he spoke courteously: I have thirty steeds in my stables, the best of them take to thee.
  19. ‘Gramercy,’ says Spencer, ‘aye, and gramercy; If eer thou comest to England, well rewarded shalt thou be.’
  20. The first steed they brought him, he was a milk-white: ‘Take that away,’ says Spencer, ‘For I do not him like.’
  21. The next steed they brought him, he was a good dun: ‘Take that away,’ says Spencer, ‘For he’s not for my turn.’
  22. The next steed they brought him, he was a dapple-grey: ‘Take that away,’ says Spencer, ‘For he is not used to the way.’
  23. The next steed they brought him, he was a coal-black; His eyes burnt in his head, as if fire were in flax; ‘Come saddle me that horse,’ says Spencer, ‘For I’ll have none but that.’
  24. When that horse was saddled, and Spencer got on, With his spear at his foot, O he was portly man!
  25. ‘Now I am on that steede-back that I could not ride, That spear in my keeping that I could not guide, Come shew me that French knight that I dare not abide.’
  26. ‘It is a sign by thy sharp shin, ay, and thy cropped knee, That are no fit match to justle with me:’ ‘Why it makes no matter,’ says Spencer, ‘you hear no brags of me.’
  27. The first time they rode together, now Sir Hugh and he, He turnd him in his saddle like an apple on a tree.
  28. The next time they rode together, now Sir Hugh and he, He lit upon his breast-plate, and he broke his spear in three.
  29. ‘A spear now,’ says Spencer, ae spear now get me:’ ‘ thou shalt have one,’ says Willoughby, ‘if in France one there be.’
  30. ‘O tye two together, and the stronger they’l be, For the French is the better, and the better shall be:’ ‘Why it makes no matter,’ says Spencer, ‘you hear no brags of me.’
  31. The next time they rode together, now Sir Hugh and he, He threw him fifteen foot from his saddle, and he broke his back in three: ‘Now I have slain thy justler, Queen Maude, I tell thee.’
  32. O then spoke Queen Maude, and full as ill was she: If thou’st slain my justler, by the Kings laws thou’st dye.
  33. ‘It shall neer be said in England,’ says Hugh Spencer, he; ‘It shall neer be said in England,’ says Hugh Willoughby;
  34. ‘It shall neer be said in England,’ says John of Atherly, ‘That a queen of another nation eer had her will of we.’
  35. They laid their heads together, and their backs to the wall; There were four score of the Queen’s guards, and they slew them all.
  36. Then spoke the French king, and he spoke courteously: O hold thy hand, Spencer, I dearly pray thee.
  37. Thou art sharp as thy spear, and as fierce as thy steed, And the stour of thy lilly-white hand makes my heart bleed.
  38. Thou hadst twenty ships hither, thou’st have twenty away; Then hold thy hand, Spencer, I dearly thee pray.