Ballad of a Tyrannical Husband

Source: Taken verbatim from  Thomas Wright and James Orchard Haliwell, eds., Reliquiæ Antiquæ. Scraps from Ancient Manuscripts, Illustrating Chiefly Early English Literature and the English Language, 2 vols. (London: William Pickering, and Berlin: A. Asher, 1841-43), vol. II, pp.196-199.

From a MS. on paper of the reign of Henry VII. preserved in the Chetham Library at Manchester.


[p. 196]
Jhesu that arte jentylle, ffor joye off thy dame,
As thu wrought thys wyde worlde, in hevyn is thi home,
Save alle thys compeny and sheld them from schame,
That wylle lysten to me and tende to thys game.

God kepe all women that to thys towne longe,
Maydens, wedows, and wyvys amonge;
For moche the ar blamyd and sometyme with wronge,
I take wyttenes of alle ffolke the herythe thys song.

Listen, good serrys, bothe yong and olde,
By a good howsbande thys tale shalbe tolde;
He weddyd a womane that was ffayre and bolde,
And hade good i-now to wende as they wolde.

She was a good huswyfe, curteys and heynd,
And he was an angry man, and sone wold be tenyd,
Chydyng and brawlynge, and farde leyke a feynd,
As they that oftyn wylbe wrothe with ther best frend,

Tylle itt befelle uppon a day, shortt talle to make,
The goodman wold to the plow, his horse gan he take;
He calyd forthe hys oxsyn, the whyt and the blake,
And he seyd, “dame, dyght our denner betyme, for Godes sake.”

The goodman an hys lade to the plow be gone,
The goodwyf hade meche to doo, and servant had se none,
Many smale chyldren to kepe besyd hyrselfe alone,
She dyde mor then she myght withyn her owne wone.

[p. 197]
Home com the goodman be tyme off the day,
To loke that al thing wer acordyng to hes pay,
“Dame, ” he sed, “is owr dyner dyght?” “Syr,” sche sayd, “naye;
How wold yow have me doo mor then I cane?”

Than he began to chide and seyd, “Evelle mott thou the!
I wolde thou shuldes alle day go to plowe with me,
To walke in the clottes that be wette and meré,
Than sholdes thou wytt what it were a plowman to bee.”

Than sware the goodwyff, and thus gane she say,
“I have mor to doo then I doo may;
And ye shuld folowe me ffoly on day,
Ye wold be wery off your part, my hede dar I lay.”

“Wery! yn the devylles nam!” seyd the goodman,
“What hast thou to doo, but syttes her at hame?
Thou goyst to thi neybores howse, be on and be one,
And syttes ther janglynge with Jake an with John.”

Than sayd the goodwyffe, “feyr mot yow ffaylle!
I have mor ro do, who so wyst alle;
Whyn I lye in my bede, my slepe is butt smale,
Yett eyrly in the morneng ye wylle me up calle.

“Whan I lye al nyght wakyng with our cheylde,
I ryse up at morow and fynde owr howse wylde;
Then I melk owre kene and torne them on the felde,
Whylle yow slepe ffulle stylle, also Cryst me schelde!

“Than make I buter ferther on the day;
After make I chese, — thes holde yow a play;
They wylle owre cheldren wepe and upemost they,
Yett wylle yow blame me for owr good, and any be awey.

“Whan I have so done, yet ther comys more eene,
I geve our chekyns met, or elles the wylb[e] leyne:
Our hennes, our capons, and owr dokkes be-dene,
Yet tend I to owr goslyngs that gothe on the grene.

“I bake, I brew, yt wylle not elles be welle;
I bete and swyngylle flex, as ever have I heylle,
I hekylle the towe, I kave and I keylle,
I toose owlle and card het and spyn het on the wheylle.”

“Dame,” sed the goodman, “the develle have thy bones!
Thou nedyst not bake nor brew in fortynght past onys;
I sey no good that thou dost within thes wyd wonys,
But ever thow excusyst the with grontes and gronys.”

“Yefe a pece off lenyn and wolen I make onys a yere,
For to clothe owre self and owr cheldren in fere;
[p. 198]
Elles we shold go to the market, and by het ful deer,
I ame as bessy as I may in every [yere.]”

“Whan I have so donne, I loke on the sonne,
I ordene met for owr bestes agen that yow come home,
And met ffor owr selfe agen het be none,
Yet I have not a ffeyr word whan I have done.

“Soo I loke to owr good withowt and withyn,
That ther be none awey noder mor nor myn,
Glade to ples yow to pay, lest any bate begyn,
And fort to chid thus with me, i-feyght yow be in synne.”

Then sed the goodman in a sory tyme,
“Alle thys wold a good howsewyf do long ar het wer prime;
And sene the good that we have is halfe dele thyn,
Thow shalt laber for thy part as I doo for myne.”

“Therffor, dame, make the redy, I warne the, anone,
To morow with my lade to the plowe thou shalt gone;
And I wylbe howsewyfe and kype owr howse at home,
And take myn ese as thou hast done, by God and Seint John!”

“I graunt,” quod the goodwyfe, “as I wnderstonde,
To morow in the mornyng I wylbe walkande:
Yet wylle I ryse whylle ye be slepande,
And see that alle theng be redy led to your hand.”

Soo it past alle to the morow that het was dayleyght,
The goodwyfe thoght on her ded and upe she rose ryght;
“Dame,” seid the goodman, “I swere be Godes myght!
I wylle fette hom owr bestes, and helpe that the wer deght.”

The goodman to the feeld hyed hym fulle yarne;
The goodwyfe made butter, her dedes war full derne,
She toke ayen the butter-melke and put het in the cheyrne,
And seid yet off on pynt owr syer shalbe to lerne.

Home come the goodman and toke good kype,
How the wyfe had layd her flesche for to stepe:
She sayd, “Sir, al thes day ye ned not to slepe,
Kype wylle owr chelderne and let them not wepe.

“Yff yow goo to the kelme malt for to make,
Put smal feyr ondernethe, sir, for Godes sake;
The kelme is lowe and dry, good tend that ye take,
For and het fastyn on a feyr it wylb[e] eville to blake.

“Her sitt ij. gese abrode, kype them wylle from woo,
And thei may com to good, that wylle wesk sorow i-now.”
“Dame,” seid the goodmane, “hy the to the plow,
Teche me no more howsewyfre, for I can i-nowe.”

[p. 199]
Forthe went the goodwyff, curtes and hende,
Sche callyd to her lade, and to the plowe they wend;
They wer besé al day, a fytte here I fynde,
And I had dronke ones, ye shalle heyre the best behynd.”

A fytte.

Here begenethe a noder fytte, the sothe for to sey,
*      *      *

[The text breaks off here.]