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Earl Bothwell Post by :Jerry Category :Poems Author :Frank Sidgwick Date :September 2011 Read :3528

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Earl Bothwell

The Text is from the Percy Folio, the spelling being modernised. Percy printed it (with alterations) in the Reliques.

The Story of the ballad represents that Darnley was murdered by way of revenge for his participation in the murder of Riccio; that Mary sent for Darnley to come to Scotland, and that she was finally banished by the Regent. All of these statements, and several minor ones, contain as much truth as may be expected in a ballad of this kind.

Mary escaped from Lochleven Castle on May 2, 1568, and found refuge in England on the 16th. The ballad was doubtless written shortly afterwards. On March 24, 1579, a 'ballad concerninge the murder of the late Kinge of Scottes' was licensed to Thomas Gosson, a well-known printer of broadsides.


Woe worth thee, woe worth thee, false Scotland!
For thou hast ever wrought by a sleight;
For the worthiest prince that ever was born
You hanged under a cloud by night.

The Queen of France a letter wrote,
And sealed it with heart and ring,
And bade him come Scotland within,
And she would marry him and crown him king.

To be a king, it is a pleasant thing,
To be a prince unto a peer;
But you have heard, and so have I too,
A man may well buy gold too dear.

There was an Italian in that place
Was as well beloved as ever was he;
Lord David was his name,
Chamberlain unto the queen was he.

For if the king had risen forth of his place,
He would have sit him down in the chair,
And tho' it beseemed him not so well,
Altho' the king had been present there.

Some lords in Scotland waxed wonderous worth,
And quarrell'd with him for the nonce;
I shall you tell how it befell;
Twelve daggers were in him all at once.

When this queen see the chamberlain was slain,
For him her cheeks she did weet,
And made a vow for a twelvemonth and a day
The king and she would not come in one sheet.

Then some of the lords of Scotland waxed wroth,
And made their vow vehemently;
'For death of the queen's chamberlain
The king himself he shall die.'

They strowed his chamber over with gun powder,
And laid green rushes in his way;
For the traitors thought that night
The worthy king for to betray.

To bed the worthy king made him boun;
To take his rest, that was his desire;
He was no sooner cast on sleep
But his chamber was on a blazing fire.

Up he lope, and a glass window broke,
He had thirty foot for to fall;
Lord Bodwell kept a privy watch
Underneath his castle wall.
'Who have we here?' said Lord Bodwell;
'Answer me, now I do call.'

'King Henry the Eighth my uncle was;
Some pity show for his sweet sake!
Ah, Lord Bodwell, I know thee well;
Some pity on me I pray thee take!'

'I'll pity thee as much,' he said,
'And as much favour I'll show to thee,
As thou had on the queen's chamberlain
That day thou deemedst him to die.'

Through halls and towers this king they led,
Through castles and towers that were high,
Through an arbour into an orchard,
And there hanged him in a pear tree.

When the governor of Scotland he heard tell
That the worthy king he was slain,
He hath banished the queen so bitterly
That in Scotland she dare not remain.

But she is fled into merry England,
And Scotland too aside hath lain,
And through the Queen of England's good grace
Now in England she doth remain.

1.2: 'sleight,' trick.
3.3,4: A popular proverb; see The Lord of Learne, 39.3,4 (Second Series, p. 190).
10.1: 'made him boun,' prepared himself.)

(The end)
Frank Sidgwick's poem: Earl Bothwell

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The Text is another of the lively battle-pieces from the Percy Folio, put into modern spelling, and no other version is known or needed. The battle of Durham, which the minstrel says (27.1, 64.2) was fought on a morning of May, and (64.3,4) within a month of Crecy and Poictiers,(1) actually took place on October 17, 1346. Stanza 18 makes the king say to Lord Hamilton that they are of 'kin full nigh'; and this provides an upper limit for the date of the ballad, as James Hamilton was married to Princess Mary, sister of James III., in 1474. (Footnote 1:

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The Text is taken from the Percy Folio, but I have modernised the spelling. For the Reliques Percy made a ballad out of the Folio version combined with 'a modern ballad on a similar subject,' a broadside entitled The Drunkard's Legacy, thus producing a very good result which is about thrice the length of the Folio version. The Scottish variant was noted by Motherwell and Buchan, but previous editors--Herd, Ritson, Chambers, Aytoun--had used Percy's composition. The Story.--There are several Oriental stories which resemble the ballad as compounded by Percy from The Drunkard's Legacy. In most of these--Tartar, Turkish, Arabic, Persian, etc.--the