Ballad I: A Warning Piece To England


Being the fall of Queen Eleanor, wife to Edward the First, King
of England; who, for her pride, by God’s judgments, sunk into
the ground at Charing-Cross, and rose at Queenhithe.

When Edward was in England king,
   The first of all that name,
Proud Ellinor he made his queen,
   A stately Spanish dame;
Whose wicked life, and sinful pride.
   Thro’ England did excel:
To dainty dames and gallant maids
   This queen was known full well.

She was the first that did invent
   In coaches brave to ride;
She was the first that brought this land
   To deadly sin of pride.
No English tailor here could serve
   To make her rich attire;
But sent for tailors into Spain,
   To feed her vain desire:

They brought in fashions strange and new,
   With golden garments bright;
The farthingale, and mighty ruff,
   With gowns of rich delight:
The London dames in Spanish pride
   Did flourish everywhere;
Our English men, like women then,
   Did wear long locks of hair.

Both man and child, both maid and wife.
   Were drowned in pride of Spain,
And thought the Spanish tailors then
   Our English men did stain:
Whereat the queen did much despite,
   To see our English men
In vestures clad as brave to see
   As any Spaniard then.

She craved the king, that every man
   That wore long locks of hair,
Might then be cut and pollèd all,
   Or shavèd very near.
Whereat the king did seem content.
   And soon thereto agreed;
And first commanded, that his own
   Should then be cut with speed;

And after that, to please his queen.
   Proclaimèd thro’ the land.
That ev’ry man that wore long hair,
   Should poll him out of hand.
But yet this Spaniard, not content,
   To women bore a spite,
And then requested of the king,
   Against all law and right,

That ev’ry womankind should have
   Their right breast cut away,
And then with burning irons seared,
   The blood to stanch and stay.
King Edward then, perceiving well
   Her spite to womankind,
Devisèd soon by policy
   To turn her bloody mind:

He sent for burning irons straight,
   All sparkling hot to see;
And said, “O queen, come on thy way:
   I will begin with thee.”
Which words did much displease the queen,
   That penance to begin;
But asked him pardon on her knees;
   Who gave her grace therein.

But afterwards she chanced to pass
   Along brave London streets,
Whereas the mayor of London’s wife
   In stately sort she meets;
With music, mirth, and melody.
   Unto the church they went,
To give God thanks, that to th’ lord mayor,
   A noble son had sent.

It grievèd much this spiteful queen
   To see that any one
Should so exceed in mirth and joy,
   Except herself alone:
For which she after did devise
   Within her bloody mind,
And practiced still more secretly
   To kill this lady kind.

Unto the mayor of London then
   She sent her letters straight,
To send his lady to the court,
   Upon her grace to wait.
But when the London lady came
   Before proud El’nor’s face,
She stript her of her rich array.
   And kept her vile and base.

She sent her into Wales with speed,
   And kept her secret there;
And used her still more cruelly
   Than ever man did hear:
She made her wash, she made her starch,
   She made her drudge alway;
She made her nurse up children small,
   And labour night and day.

But this contented not the queen,
   But showed her most despite;
She bound this lady to a post,
   At twelve a clock at night;
And as, poor lady, she stood bound,
   The queen (in angry mood)
Did set two snakes unto her breast,
   That sucked away her blood.

Thus died the mayor of London’s wife,
   Most grievous for to hear;
Which made the Spaniard grow more proud,
   As after shall appear.
The wheat that daily made her bread
   Was bolted twenty times;
The food that fed this stately dame
   Was boiled in costly wines.

The water that did spring from ground
   She would not touch at all;
But washed her hands with the dew of heav’n,
   That on sweet roses fall.
She bathed her body many a time
   In fountains filled with milk;
And ev’ry day did change attire,
   In costly Median silk.

But coming then to London back,
   Within her coach of gold,
A tempest strange within the skies
   This queen did there behold:
Out of which storm she could not go,
   But there remained a space;
For horses could not stir the coach
   A foot out of the place:

A judgment lately sent from heav’n,
   For shedding guiltless blood,
Upon this sinful queen that slew
   The London lady good.
King Edward then, as wisdom willed,
   Accused her of that deed;
But she denied, and wished that God
   Would send his wrath with speed;

If that upon so vile a thing
   Her heart did ever think,
She wished the ground might open wide,
   And therein she might sink!
With that at Charing-cross she sunk
  Into the ground alive;
And after rose with life again.
   In London, at Queenhithe.

When, after that, she languished sore,
   Full twenty days in pain,
At last confessed the lady’s blood
   Her guilty hand had slain;
And likewise how that by a friar
   She had a base-born child,
Whose sinful lusts and wickedness
   Her marriage-bed defiled.

Thus have you heard the fall of pride,
   A just reward of sin;
For those who will forswear themselves
   God’s vengeance daily win.
Beware of pride, ye courtly dames,
   Both wives and maidens all;
Bear this imprinted on your mind,
   That pride must have a fall.