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The Jolly Juggler Post by :cyberlife Category :Poems Author :Frank Sidgwick Date :September 2011 Read :2542

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The Jolly Juggler

The Text is from a manuscript at Balliol College, Oxford, No. 354, already referred to in the First Series (p. 80) as supplying a text of The Nut-brown Maid. The manuscript, which is of the early part of the sixteenth century, has been edited by Ewald Fluegel in Anglia, vol. xxvi., where the present ballad appears on pp. 278-9. I have only modernised the spelling, and broken up the lines, as the ballad is written in two long lines and a short one to each stanza.

No other text is known to me. The volume of Anglia containing the ballad was not published till 1903, some five years after Professor Child's death; and I believe he would have included it in his collection had he known of it.

The Story narrates the subjugation of a proud lady who scorns all her wooers, by a juggler who assumes the guise of a knight. On the morrow the lady discovers her paramour to be a churl, and he is led away to execution, but escapes by juggling himself into a meal-bag: the dust falls in the lady's eye.

It would doubtless require a skilled folk-lorist to supply full critical notes and parallels; but I subjoin such details as I have been able to collect.

In The Beggar Laddie (Child, No. 280, v. 116) a pretended beggar or shepherd-boy induces a lassie to follow him, 'because he was a bonny laddie.' They come to his father's (or brother's) hall; he knocks, four-and-twenty gentlemen welcome him in, and as many gay ladies attend the lassie, who is thenceforward a knight's or squire's lady.

In The Jolly Beggar (Child, No. 279, v. 109), which, with the similar Scottish poem The Gaberlunzie Man, is attributed without authority to James V. of Scotland, a beggar takes up his quarters in a house, and will only lie behind the hall-door, or by the fire. The lassie rises to bar the door, and is seized by the beggar. He asks if there are dogs in the town, as they would steal all his 'meal-pocks.' She throws the meal-pocks over the wall, saying, 'The deil go with your meal-pocks, my maidenhead, and a'.' The beggar reveals himself as a braw gentleman.

A converse story is afforded by the first part of the Norse tale translated by Dasent in Popular Tales from the Norse, 1888, p. 39, under the title of Hacon Grizzlebeard. A princess refuses all suitors, and mocks them publicly. Hacon Grizzlebeard, a prince, comes to woo her. She makes the king's fool mutilate the prince's horses, and then makes game of his appearance as he drives out the next day. Resolved to take his revenge, Hacon disguises himself as a beggar, attracts the princess's notice by means of a golden spinning-wheel, its stand, and a golden wool-winder, and sells them to her for the privilege of sleeping firstly outside her door, secondly beside her bed, and finally in it. The rest of the tale narrates Hacon's method of breaking down the princess's pride.

Other parallels of incident and phraseology may be noted:--

4.1 'well good steed'; 'well good,' a commonplace = very good; for 'well good steed,' cf. John o' the Side, 34.3 (p. 162 of this volume).

7.1 'Four-and-twenty knights.' The number is a commonplace in ballads; especially cf. The Beggar Laddie (as above), Child's text A, st. 13:

'Four an' tuenty gentelmen
They conved the beager ben,
An' as mony gay lades
Conved the beager's lassie.'

12.4 For the proper mediaeval horror of 'churl's blood,' see Glasgerion, stt. 12, 19 (First Series, pp. 4, 5).

13.3 'meal-pock.' The meal-bag was part of the professional beggar's outfit; see Will Stewart and John, 78.3 (Child, No. 107, ii. 437). For blinding with meal-dust, see Robin Hood and the Beggar, ii. 77, 78 (Child, No. 134, iii. 163). The meal-pock also occurs in The Jolly Beggar, as cited above.


Draw me near, draw me near,
Draw me near, ye jolly jugglere!

Here beside dwelleth
A rich baron's daughter;
She would have no man
That for her love had sought her.
So nice she was!

She would have no man
That was made of mould,
But if he had a mouth of gold
To kiss her when she would.
So dangerous she was!

Thereof heard a jolly juggler
That laid was on the green;
And at this lady's words
I wis he had great teen.
An-ang'red he was!

He juggled to him a well good steed
Of an old horse-bone,
A saddle and a bridle both,
And set himself thereon.
A juggler he was!

He pricked and pranced both
Before that lady's gate;
She wend he (had) been an angel
Was come for her sake.
A pricker he was!

He pricked and pranced
Before that lady's bower;
She wend he had been an angel
Come from heaven tower.
A prancer he was!

Four-and-twenty knights
Led him into the hall,
And as many squires
His horse to the stall,
And gave him meat.

They gave him oats
And also hay;
He was an old shrew
And held his head away.
He would not eat.

The day began to pass,
The night began to come,
To bed was brought
The fair gentlewoman,
And the juggler also.

The night began to pass,
The day began to spring;
All the birds of her bower,
They began to sing,
And the cuckoo also!

'Where be ye, my merry maidens,
That ye come not me to?
The jolly windows of my bower
Look that you undo,
That I may see!

'For I have in mine arms
A duke or else an earl.'
But when she looked him upon,
He was a blear-eyed churl.
'Alas!' she said.

She led him to an hill,
And hanged should he be.
He juggled himself to a meal-pock;
The dust fell in her eye;
Beguiled she was.

God and our Lady
And sweet Saint Joham
Send every giglot of this town
Such another leman,
Even as he was!

2.3: 'But if,' unless.
3.4: 'teen,' wrath.
5.3, 6.3: 'wend,' thought.
5.3: 'had' omitted in the manuscript.
8.3: 'He': the manuscript reads '&.'
13.3: 'meal-pock,' meal-bag.
14.3: 'giglot,' wench.)

(The end)
Frank Sidgwick's poem: Jolly Juggler

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