And now to be brief, let us pass over the rest
Who seldom or never were given to jest
And come to King Jamie, the first of our throne,
A pleasanter monarch sure never was known.
As he was a-hunting the swift fallow deer,
He dropped all his nobles, and when he got clear
In hope of some pastime away he did ride,
Till he came to an alehouse hard by the wood-side.
And there with a tinkler he happened to meet,
And him in kind sort he so friendly did greet:
"Pray thee, good fellow, what hast in thy jug,
Which under thy arm thou dost lovingly hug?"
"By the mass!" quoth the tinkler, "its nappy brown ale.
And for to drink to thee, friend, I will not fail;
For although thy jacket looks gallant and fine,
I think that my twopence as good is as thine."
"By my soul! honest fellow, the truth thou hast spoke!"
And straight he sat down with the tinkler to joke;
They drank to the King and they pledge to each other.
Who'd seen 'em had thought they were brother and brother.
As they were a-drinking the King pleased to say,
"What news, honest fellow? come tell me, I pray."
"There's nothing of news, beyond that I hear
The King's on the border, a-chasing the deer.
And truly I wish I so happy may be
Whilst he is a-hunting the King I might see,
For although I have travelled the land many ways.
I never have yet seen a King in my days."
The King with a hearty brisk laughter replied
"I tell thee, good fellow, if thou canst but ride
Thou shall get up behind me, and I will thee bring
To the presence of Jamie, thy sovereign King."
"But he'll be surrounded with nobles so gay,
And how shall we tell him from them, sir, I pray?"
"Thou'lt easily ken him when once thou art there;
The King will be covered, his nobles all bare."
He got up behind him and likewise his sack,
His budget of leather and tools at his back;
They rode till they came to the merry greenwood,
His nobles came round him, bareheaded they stood.
The tinkler then seeing so many appear
He slily did whisper the King in his ear:
Saying "They're all clothed so gloriously gay,
But which among them is the King, sir, I pray?"
They King did with hearty good laughter reply
"By my soul, my good fellow, it's thou or it's I!
The rest are bareheaded, uncovered all round" -
With his bag and his budget he fell to the ground.
Like one that was frightened quite out of his wits,
Then on his knees he instantly gets,
Beseeching for mercy; the King to him said,
"Thou art a good fellow, so be not afraid.
Come, tell me thy name!" "I am John of the Dale,
A mender of kettles, a lover of ale."
"Rise up, Sir John, I will honour thee here, -
I make thee a knight of three thousand a year!"
This was a good thing for the tinkler indeed;
Then unto the Court he was sent for with speed,
Where great store of pleasure and pastime was seen
In the royal presence of King and a Queen.
Sir John of the Dale he has land, he has fee,
At the court of the King who so happy as he?
Yet still in his hall hangs the tinkler's old sack
And the budget of tools which he bore at his back.
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Source: Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Dec 1936
The entry in the Journal is in an article by Anne G Gilchrist based on the 'Edinburgh' manuscript which was part of Frank Kidson's notes. Anne Gilchrist wrote:
I have transcribed the whole ballad from Dixon's Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England, first published in 1846, as it is the only copy known to me, "The incident recorded is said to be fact, though the locality is doubtful. By some the scene is laid at Norwood by others in some part of the English border." (The familiar "Jamie" suggests a north-country ballad). Percy mentions the ballad, but it is not in the Reliques or any other popular collection, says Dixon, and is to be found only in a few broadsheets and chap-books of modern date [i.e. around 1840]. The above is a traditional version taken down from the recital of Francis King, known as the "Skipton [in Craven] Minstrel" - a musician and a singer of heroic ballads, who was accidentally drowned in December 1844, and is buried in Gargrave churchyard. See Dixon for further notes. The thirteenth and fifteenth verses, he says, were taken from a broadside, to which this version is "much superior." The ballad in his time was popular on the Border and in the dales of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Craven. The tune is of a familar ballad type.
Roud: 248 (Search Roud index at VWML)