The Bijou

The Bijou;

or Annual of Literature and the Arts

compiled by William Fraser

London: William Pickering,


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Ballad from the Norman French
By J.G. Lockhart Esq.
Here beginneth a song which made in the Wood of Bel-Regard by a Good Companion,
who put himself there to eschew the horrible Creature of Justices Trail-Baston.
IN rhyme I clothe derision, my fancy takes thereto 1
So scorn I this provision, provided here of new; 2
The thing whereof my geste I frame I wish 'twere yet to do, 3
An guard not God and Holy Dame, 'tis war that must ensue. 4

I mean the articles abhorred of this their Trail-baston; 5
Except the king himself our lord, God send his malison 6
On the devisers of the same: cursed be they everyone, 7
For full they be of sinful blame, and reason have they none. 8

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Sir, if my boy offended me now, and I my hand but lift 9
To teach him by a cuff or two what's governance and thrift: 10
This rascal vile his bill doth file, attaches me of wrong; 11
Forsooth, find bail, or lie in gaol, and rot the rogues among. 12

'Tis forty pennies that they ask, a ransom fine for me; 13
And twenty more ('tis but a score) for my Lord Sheriff's fee: 14
Else of his deepest dungeon the darkness I must dree; 15
Is this of justice, masters?— Behold my case and see. 16

Away, then, to the greenwood! to the pleasant shade away! 17
There evil none of law doth wonne, nor harmful perjury. 18
I'll to the wood of Bel-regard, where freely flies the jay, 19
And without fail the nightingale is chaunting of her lay. 20

But for that cursed dozen,God [sic] shew them small pitie! 21
Among their lying voices, they have indicted me 22
Of wicked thefts and robberies and other felonie, 23
That I dare no more, as heretofore, among my friends to be. 24

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In peace and war my service my lord the king hath ta'en, 25
In Flanders, and in Scotland, and in Gascoyne his domain; 26
But now I'll never, while I wis, be mounted man again, 27
To pleasure such a man as this I've spent much time in vain. 28

But if these cursed jurors do not amend them so 29
That I to my own country may freely ride and go, 30
The head that I can come at shall jump when I've my blow; 31
Their menacings, and all such things, them to the winds I throw. 32

The Martin and the Neville are worthy folk indeed; 33
Their prayers are sure, albeit we're poor— salvation be their meed! 34
But for Belflour and Spigurnel, they are a cruel seed; 35
God send them in my keeping— ha! They should not soon be freed! 36

I'd teach them well this noble game of Trail-baston to know; 37
On every chine I'd stamp the same, and every nape also; 38

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O'er every inch in all their frame I'd make my cudgel go; 39
To lop their tongues I'd think no shame, nor yet their lips to sew. 40

The man that did begin it first, without redemption 41
He is for evermore accurst— he never can atone: 42
Great sin is his, I tell ye true, for many an honest man 43
For fear hath joined the outlaw's crew, since these new laws began. 44

There's many a wildwood thief this hour was peaceful man whil'ere, 45
The fear of prison hath such power even guiltless breast to scare: 46
'Tis this which maketh many a one to sleep beneath the tree; 47
And he that these new laws begun, the curse of God take he! 48

Ye merchants and ye wandering freres, ye may well curse with me, 49
For ye are painful travellers, while laws like this shall be; 50
The king's broad letter in your hand but little can bestead, 51
For he perforce must bid men stand, that hath nor home nor bread. 52

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All ye who are indicted! I pray you come to me 53
To the greenwood, the pleasant wood, where's niether suit nor plea, 54
But only the wild creatures and many a spreading tree 55
For there's little in common law but doubt and misery. 56

If at your need you've skill to read, you're summon'd ne'er the less 57
To shew your lore the Bench before, and great is your redress; 58
Clerk the most clerkly though you be, expect the same penance: 59
'Tis true a Bishop turns the key: God grant deliverance. 60

In honesty I speak—for me, I'd rather sleep beneath 61
The canopy of the green tree, yea, on the naked heath, 62
Than lie even in a Bishop's vault for many a weary day; 63
And he that 'twixt such choice would halt, he is a fool I say. 64

I had a name that none could blame, but that is lost and gone, 65
For lawyer-tricks have made me mix with people that have none. 66

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I dare not shew my face no mo among my friends and kin: 67
The poor man now is sold I trow, whate'er the rich, may win. 68

To risk I cannot fancy much, what, lost, is ne'er repaid 69
To put my life within their clutch in truth I'm sore afraid; 70
This is no question about gold that might be won again, 71
If once they had me in their hold 'tis death they'd make my pain. 72

Some one perchance my friend will be, such hope not yet I lack; 73
The men that speak this ill of me, they speak behind my back; 74
I know it would their hearts delight, if they my blood could spill, 75
But God, in all the devil's spite, can save me if he will. 76

There's one can save me life and limb, the blessed Mary's child, 77
And I can broadly pray to him; my soul is undefiled: 78
The innocent he'll not despise, by envious tongues undone. 79
God curse the smiling enemies that I have leaned upon! 80

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If meeting a companion I shew my archerie, 81
My neighbour will be saying, "He's of some companie, 82
He goes to cage him in the wood, and worke his old foleye," 83
Thus men do hunt me like the boar, and life's no life for me. 84

But if I seem more cunning about the law than they, 85
"Ha! ha! Some old conspirator well trained in tricks," they'll say; 86
O wheresoe'er doth ride the Eyre, I must keep well away:— 87
Such neighbourhood I hold not good; shame fall on such I pray. 88

I pray you, all good people, to say for me a prayer, 89
That I in peace may once again to mine own land repair: 90
I never was a homicide—not within my will—I swear, 91
Nor robber, christian folk to spoil, that on their way did fare. 92

This rhyme was made within the wood, beneath a broad bay tree; 93
There singeth merle and nightingale, and falcon hovers free: 94
I wrote this skin, because within was much more sore memory, 95
And here I lay it by the way—that found my rhyme may be. 96
from The Bijou, 1828, pp. 4-10
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