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The Boy and the Mantle

No: 29; variant: 29

  1. IN the third day of May to Carleile did come A kind curteous child, that cold much of wisdome.
  2. A kirtle and a mantle this child had vppon, With brauches and ringes full richelye bedone.
  3. He had a sute of silke, about his middle drawne; Without he cold of curtesye, he thought itt much shame.
  4. 'God speed thee, King Arthur, sitting att thy meate! And the goodly Queene Gueneuer! I cannott her fforgett.
  5. 'I tell you lords in this hall, I hett you all heede, Except you be the more surer, is you for to dread.'
  6. He plucked out of his potewer, and longer wold not dwell, He pulled forth a pretty mantle, betweene two nut-shells.
  7. 'Haue thou here, King Arthure, haue thou heere of mee; Giue itt to thy comely queene, shapen as itt is alreadye.
  8. 'Itt shall neuer become that wiffe that hath once done amisse:' Then euery knight in the kings court began to care for his.
  9. Forth came dame Gueneuer, to the mantle shee her bed; The ladye shee was new-fangle, but yett shee was affrayd.
  10. When shee had taken the mantle, shee stoode as she had beene madd; It was from the top to the toe as sheeres had itt shread.
  11. One while was itt gaule, another while was itt greene; another while was itt wadded; ill itt did her beseeme.
  12. Another while was it blacke, and bore the worst hue; 'By my troth,' quoth King Arthur, 'I thinke thou be not true.'
  13. Shee threw downe the mantle, that bright was of blee, Fast with a rudd redd to her chamber can shee flee.
  14. Shee curst the weauer and the walker that clothe that had wrought, And bade a vengeance on his crowne that hither hath itt brought.
  15. 'I had rather be in a wood, vnder a greene tree, Then in King Arthurs court shamed for to bee.'
  16. Kay called forth his ladye, and bade her come neere; Saies, 'Madam, and thou be guiltye, I pray thee hold thee there.'
  17. Forth came his ladye shortlye and anon, Boldlye to the mantle then is shee gone.
  18. When she had tane the mantle, and cast it her about, Then was shee bare all aboue the buttocckes.
  19. Then euery knight that was in the kings court Talked, laughed, and showted, full oft att that sport.
  20. Shee threw downe the mantle, that bright was of blee, Ffast with a red rudd to her chamber can shee flee.
  21. Forth came an old knight, pattering ore a creede, And he proferred to this little boy twenty markes to his meede,
  22. And all the time of the Christmasse willinglye to ffeede; For why, this mantle might doe his wiffe some need.
  23. When shee had tane the mantle, of cloth that was made, Shee had no more left on her but a tassell and a threed: Then euery knight in the kings court bade euill might shee speed.
  24. Shee threw downe the mantle, that bright was of blee, And fast with a redd rudd to her chamber can shee flee.
  25. Craddocke called forth his ladye, and bade her come in; Saith, 'Winne this mantle, ladye, with a litle dinne.
  26. 'Winne this mantle, ladye, and it shalbe thine If thou neuer did amisse since thou wast mine.'
  27. Forth came Craddockes ladye shortlye and anon, But boldlye to the mantle then is shee gone.
  28. When shee had tane the mantle, and cast itt her about, Vpp att her great toe itt began to crinkle and crowt; Shee said, 'Bowe downe, mantle, and shame me not for nought.
  29. 'Once I did amisse, I tell you certainlye, When I kist Craddockes mouth vnder a greene tree, When I kist Craddockes mouth before he marryed mee.'
  30. When shee had her shreeuen, and her sines shee had tolde, The mantle stoode about her right as shee wold;
  31. Seemelye of coulour, glittering like gold; Then euery knight in Arthurs court did her behold.
  32. Then spake dame Gueneuer to Arthur our king: 'She hath tane yonder mantle, not with wright but with wronge!
  33. 'See you not yonder woman that maketh her selfe soe clene? I haue seene tane out of her bedd of men fiueteene;
  34. 'Preists, clarkes, and wedded men, from her by-deene; Yett she taketh the mantle, and maketh her-selfe cleane!'
  35. Then spake the litle boy that kept the mantle in hold; Sayes 'King, chasten thy wiffe; of her words shee is to bold.
  36. 'Shee is a bitch and a witch, and a whore bold; King, in thine owne hall thou art a cuchold.'
  37. The litle boy stoode looking ouer a dore; He was ware of a wyld bore, wold haue werryed a man.
  38. He pulld forth a wood kniffe, fast thither that he ran; He brought in the bores head, and quitted him like a man.
  39. He brought in the bores head, and was wonderous bold; He said there was neuer a cucholds kniffe carue itt that cold.
  40. Some rubbed their kniues vppon a whetstone; Some threw them vnder the table, and said they had none.
  41. King Arthur and the child stood looking them vpon; All their kniues edges turned backe againe.
  42. Craddoccke had a litle kniue of iron and of steele; He birtled the bores head wonderous weele, That euery knight in the kings court had a morssell.
  43. The litle boy had a horne, of red gold that ronge; He said, 'There was noe cuckolde shall drinke of my horne, But he shold itt sheede, either behind or beforne.'
  44. Some shedd on their shoulder, and some on their knee; He that cold not hitt his mouth put it in his eye; And he that was a cuckhold, euery man might him see.
  45. Craddoccke wan the horne and the bores head; His ladye wan the mantle vnto her meede; Euerye such a louely ladye, God send her well to speede!