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OF THE DEATH OF
KING LEIR AND HIS THREE DAUGHTERS.
King Leir* once ruled in this land,
With princely power and peace;
And had all things with heart's content,
That might his joys increase,
Amongst those things that nature gave,
Three daughters fair had he,
So princely seeming beautiful,
As fairer could not be.
So on a time it pleas'd the king
A queftion thus to move,
Which of his daughters to his grace
Could fhow the deareft love:
For to my age you bring content,
Quoth he, then let me hear
Which of you three in plighted troth
The kindeft will appear.
To whom the eldest thus began;
Dear father, mind, quoth fhe,
Before your face, to do you good,
My blood fhall render'd be:
And for your fake my bleeding heart
Shall here be cut in twain,
Ere that I fee your reverend age
The smallest grief sustain.
King Leir &c.] This ballad is given from an ancient copy in The Golden Garland, black letter, to the tune of-When flying fame. It is here reprinted from Dr. Percy's Reliques of ancient English Poetry, Vol. I. third edit.
Thus flattering fpeeches won renown
By these two fifters here:
The third had caufelefs banishment,
Yet was her love more dear:
For poor Cordelia patiently
Went wand'ring up and down,
Unhelp'd, unpity'd, gentle maid,
Through many an English town:
Until at laft in famous France
She gentler fortunes found; Though poor and bare, yet she was deem'd The faireft on the ground:
Where when the king her virtues heard,
And this fair lady feen,
With full confent of all his court
He made his wife and queen.
Am I rewarded thus, quoth he,
In giving all I have
Unto my children, and to beg
For what I lately gave?
I'll go unto my Gonorell;
My fecond child, I know,
Will be more kind and pitiful,
And will relieve my woe.
Full faft he hies then to her court ;
Where when the hears his moan
Return'd him anfwer, That the griev'd
That all his means were gone:
But no way could relieve his wants;
Yet if that he would stay
Within her kitchen, he thould have
What fcullions gave away.
When he had heard with bitter tears,
He made his answer then;
In what I did let me be made
Example to all men.
I will return again, quoth he,
Unto my Ragan's court;
She will not use me thus, I hope,
But in a kinder fort.
Where when he came, the gave command To drive him thence away:
When he was well within her court,
(She faid) he would not flay.
Then back again to Gonorell
The woeful king did hie,
That in her kitchen he might have
What fcullion boys fet by.
But there of that he was deny'd,
Which the had promis'd late:
For once refufing, he should not
Come after to her gate.
Thus 'twixt his daughters, for relief
He wander'd up and down;
Being glad to feed on beggar's food,
That lately wore a crown.
And calling to remembrance then
His youngest daughter's words,
That faid, the duty of a child
Was all that love affords :
But doubting to repair to her,
Whom he had banish'd fo,
Grew frantick mad; for in his mind
He bore the wounds of woe:
Which made him rend his milk-white locks,
And treffes from his head,
And all with blood beftain his cheeks,
With age and honour spread :
To hills and woods, and watry founts,
He made his hourly moan,
Till hills and woods, and fenfeless things,
Did seem to figh and groan,
Even thus poffeft with discontents,
He paffed o'er to France,
In hopes from fair Cordelia there
To find fome gentler chance:
Moft virtuous dame! which when the heard
Of this her father's grief,
As duty bound, fhe quickly fent
Him comfort and relief:',