The Oxford Book of Ballads - online book

A Selection Of The Best English Lyric Ballads Chosen & Edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch

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' Yes, yes, Father Abbot, thy fault it is highe, And now for the same thou needest must dye ; For except thou canst answer me questions three, Thy head shall be smitten from thy bodie.
'And first,' quo' the King, ' when I'm in this stead, With my crowne of golde so faire on my head, Among all my liege-men so noble of birthe, Thou must tell me to one penny what I am worthe.
' Secondlye, tell me, without any doubt, How soone I may ride the whole worlde about. And at the third question thou must not shrinke, But tell me here truly what I do thinke.'
' O, these are hard questions for my shallow witt. Nor I cannot answer your Grace as yet: But if you will give me but three weekes space, I'll do my endeavour to answer your Grace.
' Now three weekes space to thee will I give, And that is the longest time thou hast to live; For if thou dost not answer my questions three, Thy lands and thy livings are forfeit to mee.'
Away rode the Abbot all sad at that word, And he rode to Cambridge, and Oxenford; But never a doctor there was so wise, That could with his learning an answer devise. 850
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