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THE LAMENTING LADY
God, I beseech thee for a testimonie of mine innocencie, that it will please thee to send vnto this Lady as many children as there be daies in the yeare. A while after this Contesse was big with child by her husband; and for her lying in, she went into Holland to see the Earle of Holland her nephew, lodging in the Abbey of religious women of Losdunen: whereas she grew so exceeding great, as the like was neuer seene. Her time being come, the friday before Palme-sunday [i.e. on March 29], in the yeare 1276. she was deliuered of three hundred sixtie and fiue children, halfe sonnes and halfe daughters, the odde one being found a Hermaphrodite, all complete and well fashioned with their litde members: the which were layed in two basins and baptized by Guidon, Suffragan to the bishop of Vtrecht, who named the sonnes lohn and the daughters Elizabeth. As soone as they had been baptized, they died all, and their mother with them. The two basins are yet to be seene in the said church of Losdunen, with their Epitaph both in Latine and Dutch: the Latine was1 as followeth:
Margareta2 Comitis Hennebergae vxor, & Florentii Comitis Hollandiae & Zeelandiae filia; cuius mater fuit Mathilda,3 filia Henrici Ducis Brabantiae, fratrem quoq; habuit4 Allemaniae regem. Haec praefata domina Margareta, Anno salutis 1276. ipso die Parasceues hora nona ante meridiem, peperit infantes viuos promiscui sexus numero trecentos, sexaginta quinque: qui postquam per venerabilem Dom. Guidonem, Suffragan5 Episcopi Traiec-tensis, praesentibus nonnullis proceribus & magnatibus, in peluibus duabus ex aere, baptismum percepissent, & masculis Iohannes, foemellis vero Elizabeth nomina imposita fuissent, simul omnes cum matre vno eodemq; die satis concesserunt, in hoc Lodunensi templo6 iacent. Quod quidem accidit ob pauperculam quandam foeminam, quae ex uno partu gemellos in vlnis gestabat pueros: quam rem admirans ipsa Comitissa dicebat, id per vnicum7 virum fieri non posse, ipsamq; contumeliose reiecit: vnde haec paupercula animo turbata8 & perculsa, prolium tantum numerum ac multitudinem ex uno partu ei9 imprecabatur, quod vel totius anni dies numerentur.10 Quod quidem praeter naturae cursum, obstupenda quadam ratione ita factum est, sicut in hac tabula in perpetuam rei memoriam, ex vetustis turn manuscriptis, quam typis excusis Chronicis, breuiter posituw & narratum est. Deus ille ter maximus hac de re suspiciendus, honorandus, & laudibus extollendus in sempiterna saecula. Amen.
And vnderneath it were these two verses:
En tibi monstrosum & memorabile factum, Quale nee a mundi conditione datum.
The account in Coryat's Crudities, 1611 (1776 reprint, ill, 81-83), which is probably the immediate source of the ballad, was brought to my attention by my colleague, Professor A. L. Bouton. It runs as follows:
There is a Monument extant in a certain Monastery called Laudun neere the famous vniuersity of Leyden in Holland, where a certaine Countesse called Margarite was buried, who was the wife of one Hermannus Earle of Henneberg, the daughter of Florentius the fourth of that name, Earle of Holland and Zeland, and the sister of William King of the Romanes. This Countesse hapned to be deliuered of three hundred sixty fiue children at one burden, about three hundred
1 est. 2 Margareta Hermani. 3 Mathildis.
4 habuit Guillelmum. 5 Suffraganeum. 6 templo sepulti.
7 unum. 8 perturbata. 9 ipsi. 10 numerantur.