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Lord Delaware Post by :Mark624 Category :Poems Author :Unknown Date :May 2011 Read :1369

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Lord Delaware

(This interesting traditional ballad was first published by Mr. Thomas Lyle in his Ancient Ballads and Songs, London, 1827. 'We have not as yet,' says Mr. Lyle, 'been able to trace out the historical incident upon which this ballad appears to have been founded; yet those curious in such matters may consult, if they list, Proceedings and Debates in the House of Commons, for 1621 and 1662, where they will find that some stormy debating in these several years had been agitated in parliament regarding the corn laws, which bear pretty close upon the leading features of the ballad.' Does not the ballad, however, belong to a much earlier period? The description of the combat, the presence of heralds, the wearing of armour, &c., justify the conjecture. For De la Ware, ought we not to read De la Mare? and is not Sir Thomas De la Mare the hero? the De la Mare who in the reign of Edward III., A.D. 1377, was Speaker of the House of Commons. All historians are agreed in representing him as a person using 'great freedom of speach,' and which, indeed, he carried to such an extent as to endanger his personal liberty. As bearing somewhat upon the subject of the ballad, it may he observed that De la Mare was a great advocate of popular rights, and particularly protested against the inhabitants of England being subject to 'purveyance,' asserting that 'if the royal revenue was faithfully administered, there could be no necessity for laying burdens on the people.' In the subsequent reign of Richard II, De In Mare was a prominent character, and though history is silent on the subject, it is not improbable that such a man might, even in the royal presence, have defended the rights of the poor, and spoken in extenuation of the agrarian insurrectionary movements which were then so prevalent and so alarming. On the hypothesis of De la Mare being the hero, there are other incidents in the tale which cannot be reconciled with history, such as the title given to De la Mare, who certainly was never ennobled; nor can we ascertain that he was ever mixed up in any duel; nor does it appear clear who can be meant by the 'Welsh Lord, the brave Duke of Devonshire,' that dukedom not having been created till 1694 and no nobleman having derived any title whatever from Devonshire previously to 1618, when Baron Cavendish, of Hardwick, was created the first EARL of Devonshire. We may therefore presume that for 'Devonshire' ought to be inserted the name of some other county or place. Strict historical accuracy is, however, hardly to be expected in any ballad, particularly in one which, like the present, has evidently been corrupted in floating down the stream of time. There is only one quarrel recorded at the supposed period of our tale as having taken place betwixt two noblemen, and which resulted in a hostile meeting, viz., that wherein the belligerent parties were the Duke of Hereford (who might by a 'ballad-monger' be deemed a WELSH lord) and the Duke of Norfolk. This was in the reign of Richard II. No fight, however, took place, owing to the interference of the king. Our minstrel author may have had rather confused historical ideas, and so mixed up certain passages in De la Mare's history with this squabble; and we are strongly inclined to suspect that such is the case, and that it will be found the real clue to the story. Vide Hume's History of England, chap. XVII. A.D. 1398. Lyle acknowledges that he has taken some liberties with the oral version, but does not state what they were, beyond that they consisted merely in 'smoothing down.' Would that he had left it 'in the ROUGH!' The last verse has every appearance of being apocryphal; it looks like one of those benedictory verses with which minstrels were, and still are, in the habit of concluding their songs. Lyle says the tune 'is pleasing, and peculiar to the ballad.' A homely version, presenting only trivial variations from that of Mr. Lyle, is still printed and sung.)


In the Parliament House, a great rout has been there,
Betwixt our good King and the Lord Delaware:
Says Lord Delaware to his Majesty full soon,
'Will it please you, my liege, to grant me a boon?'

'What's your boon,' says the King, 'now let me understand?'
'It's, give me all the poor men we've starving in this land;
And without delay, I'll hie me to Lincolnshire,
To sow hemp-seed and flax-seed, and hang them all there.

'For with hempen cord it's better to stop each poor man's breath,
Than with famine you should see your subjects starve to death.'
Up starts a Dutch Lord, who to Delaware did say,
'Thou deserves to be stabbed!' then he turned himself away;

'Thou deserves to be stabbed, and the dogs have thine ears,
For insulting our King in this Parliament of peers.'
Up sprang a Welsh Lord, the brave Duke of Devonshire,
'In young Delaware's defence, I'll fight this Dutch Lord, my sire;

'For he is in the right, and I'll make it so appear:
Him I dare to single combat, for insulting Delaware.'
A stage was soon erected, and to combat they went,
For to kill, or to be killed, it was either's full intent.

But the very first flourish, when the heralds gave command,
The sword of brave Devonshire bent backward on his hand;
In suspense he paused awhile, scanned his foe before he strake,
Then against the King's armour, his bent sword he brake.

Then he sprang from the stage, to a soldier in the ring,
Saying, 'Lend your sword, that to an end this tragedy we bring:
Though he's fighting me in armour, while I am fighting bare,
Even more than this I'd venture for young Lord Delaware.'

Leaping back on the stage, sword to buckler now resounds,
Till he left the Dutch Lord a bleeding in his wounds:
This seeing, cries the King to his guards without delay,
'Call Devonshire down,--take the dead man away!'

'No,' says brave Devonshire, 'I've fought him as a man,
Since he's dead, I will keep the trophies I have won;
For he fought me in your armour, while I fought him bare,
And the same you must win back, my liege, if ever you them wear.'

God bless the Church of England, may it prosper on each hand,
And also every poor man now starving in this land;
And while I pray success may crown our King upon his throne,
I'll wish that every poor man may long enjoy his own.


(The end)
Anonymous's poem: Lord Delaware

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