Excellent old ballad of The babes in the wood

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The Babes in the Wood



Glasgow—Printed for the Booksellers.



Now ponder well, you parents dear,
The words which I shall write;
A doleful story you shall hear,
In time brought forth to light.
A gentleman of good account
In Norfolk liv’d of late,
Whose wealth and riches did surmount
Most men of his estate.

Sore sick he was, and like to die,
No help that he could have,
His wife by him as sick did lie,
And both possess’d one grave.
No love between these two was lost,
Each was to other kind;
In love they liv’d, in love they died,
And left two babes behind.

The one a fine and pretty boy,
Not passing three years old;
Th'other a girl, more young than he,
And made in beauty’s mould.
The father left his little son,
As plainly doth appear,
When he to perfect age should come,
Three hundred pounds a year;

And to his little daughter Jane,
Five hundred pounds in gold,
To be paid down on marriage-day,
Which might not be controul’d;
But if the children chanc’d to die
Ere they to age should come,
Their uncle should possess their wealth,
For so the will did run.

Now, brother, said the dying man,
Look to my children dear;
Be good unto my boy and girl,
No friends else have I here.
To God and you I do commend
My children night and day;
But little while, be sure, we have
Within this world to stay.

You must be father and mother both,
And uncle, all in one;
God knows what will become of them
When I am dead and gone.
With that bespake their mother dear;
O brother kind, quoth she,
You are the man must bring our babes
To wealth or misery.

And if you keep them carefully,
Then God will you reward;
If otherwise you seem to deal,
God will your deeds regard.
With lips as cold as any stone
She kiss’d her children small;
God bless you both, my children dear
With that the tears did fall.

These speeches then their brother spoke
To this sick couple there:
The keeping of your children dear,
Sweet sister, do not fear;
God never prosper me nor mine,
Nor aught else that I have,
If I do wrong your children dear,
When you are laid in grave.

The parents being dead and gone,
The children home be takes,
And brings them home unto his house,
And much of them he makes.
He had not kept these pretty babes
A twelvemonth and a day,
When for their wealth he did devise
To make them both away.

He bargain’d with two ruffians rude,
Which were of furious mood,
That they should take the children dear,
And slay them in a wood.
He told his wife, and all he had,
He did the children send
To be brought up in fair London,
With one that was his friend.

Away then went these pretty babes,
Rejoicing at that tide,
Rejoicing with a merry mind
They should on cock-horse ride.
They-prate and prattle pleasantly,
As they rode on the way,
To those that should their butchers be.
And work their lives’ decay.

So that the pretty speech they had
Made murd’rers’ hearts relent;
And they that undertook the deed
Full sore they did repent.
Yet one of them, more hard of heart,
Did vow to do his charge,
Because the wretch that hired him
Had paid him very large.

The other would not agree thereto,
So here they fell at strife;
With one another they did fight
About the children's life:
And he that was of mildest mood
Did slay the other there,
Within an unfrequented wood;
While babes did quake for fear.

He took the children by the hand,
When tears stood in their eye;
And bade them come along with him,
And look they did not cry;
And two long miles he led them on,
While they for food complain;
Stay here, quoth he, I'll bring you bread
When I do come again.

These pretty babes, with hand in hand,
Went wandering up and down;
But never more they saw the man
Approaching from the town.
Their pretty lips with blackberries
Were all besmear’d and dy’d;
And when they saw the darksome night
They sat them down and cried.

Thus wander’d these two pretty babes,
Till death did end their grief;
In one another’s arms they died,
As babes wanting relief.
No burial these pretty babes
Of any man receives;
But Robin-red-breast carefully
Did cover them with leaves.

And now the heavy wrath of God
Upon their uncle fell;
Yea, fearful fiends did haunt his house,
His conscience felt a hell:
His barns were fir’d, his goods consum'd
His lands were barren made,
His cattle died within the field,
And nothing with him staid.

And, in a voyage to Portugal,
Two of his sons did die;
And to conclude, himself was brought
To extreme misery:
He pawn’d and mortgag'd all his land
Ere seven years came about
And now at length this wicked act
Did by this means come out:

The fellow that did take in hand
These children for to kill,
Was for a robbery judg'd to die,
As was God's blessed will;
Who did confess the very truth,
The which is here express'd;
Their uncle died, while he, for debts
In prison long did rest.

All you that be executors made,
And overseers eke,
Of children that be fatherless,
And infants mild and meek,
Take you example by this thing,
And yield to each his right;
Lest God to such-like misery,
Your wicked minds requite.



This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.