Literary Meditations

A Mind's Journey

‘The Frolicksome Duke’ or ‘The Tinker’s Good Fortune’

This ballad is upon the same subject as the ‘Induction’ to Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’, whether it may thought to have suggested the hint to the dramatic poet, or is not rather of later date, the reader must determine. The story is told of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy.

Now as fam’d as report, a young duke keeps a court,
One that pleases his fancy with frolicksome sport:
Now amongst all the rest, here is one I protest,
Which make you to smile when you hear the true just:
A poor tinker he found, lying drunk on the ground,
As secure in a sleep as if laid in a shrowd.
The duke said to his men, ‘William, Richard and Ben,
Take him home to my palace, We’ll sport with him then;
O’er a horse he was laid, and with care soon convey’d
To the palace, altho’ he was poorly arrai’d;
Then they stript off his cloaths, both his shirt, shoes, and hose,
And they put him to bed for to take his repose.
Having pull’d off his shirt. which was all over durt,
They did give him clean holland, this was no great hurt;
On a bed of soft down, like a lord of renown,
They did lay him to sleep the drink out of his crown;
In the morning when day, he admiring lay.
For to see the rich chamber both gaudy and gay.
Now he lay something late, in his rich bed of state,
Till at last knights and squires, they on him did wait;
And the chamberling bare, then did likewise declare,
He desir’d to know what apparel he’d ware:
The poor tinker amaz’d, on the gentleman gaiz’d.
And admir’d how he to this honour was rais’d.
Tho’ he seem’d something mute, yet he chose a rich suit,
Which he streitways put on without longer dispute;
With a star on his side, which the tinker offt ey’d,
And it seem’d for to swell him a little with pride;
For he said to himself, Where is Joan my sweet wife?
Sure she never did see me so fine in her life/
From a convenient place, the right duke his good grace,
Did observe his behaviour in every case;
To a garden of state, on the tinker they wait,
Trumpets sounding before him, thought he this is great
Where on horses or two, pleasant walks he did view,
With commanders and squires in scarlet and blew.
A fine dinner was drest, both for him and his guest,
He was plac’d at the table above all the rest,
In a rich chair of state, lin’d with fine crimson red,
With a rich golden canopy over his head;
As he sat at his meat, the musick play’d sweet,
With the choicest of singing his joys to compleat.
While the tinker did dine, he had plenty of wine,
Rich canary with sherry, and tent superfine;
Like a right honest soul, faith, he took off his bowl,
Till at last he began for to tumble and roul
From his chair to the flower, where he sleeping did snore,
Being seven times drunker then ever before.
Then the duke did ordain, they should strip him amain,
And restore him his old leather garments again;
‘Twas a point next the worst, yet perform it they must,
And they carry’d him strait where they found him at first;
Then he slept all the night, as indeed well he might,
But when he did awaken his joys took their flight.
For the height of his glory so pleasant did seem,
That he thought it to be but a meer golden dream,
Till at length being brought, to the duke where he sought
For a pardon, as fearing he had set them at nought:
But his highness he said, Thou’rt a jolly bold blade,
Such a frolick before I think never was plaid.
Then his highness bespoke him a new suit and a cloak,
Which he gave for the sake of this frolicksome joak,
Nay, and five hundred pound, with ten acres of ground,
Thou shalt never, said he, range the counteries round,
Crying old brass to mend, for I’ll be thy good friend,
Nay, and Joan thy sweet wife shall my dutchess attend.
Then the tinker reply’d, What must Joan my sweet bride
Be a lady, in chariots of pleasure to ride?
Must we have gold and land, e’ry day at command?
Then I shall be a squire I well understand.
Well, I thank your good grace, and your love I embrace,
I was never before in so happy a case.


For more ballads, check Thomas Percy’s ‘Reliques of Ancient English Poetry’.

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