Reliques of Ancient English Poetry

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Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765), edited by Thomas Percy, was the first of the great ballad collections, though he may have written some of it himself based on ballad fragments.


  • Every white will have its blacke,
    And every sweet its soure.
    • Reliques of Ancient Poetry. Sir Cauline.
  • Late, late yestreen I saw the new moone,
    Wi’ the auld moon in hir arme.
    • Sir Patrick Spens. Compare: "I saw the new moon late yestreen, Wi’ the auld moon in her arm", from Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (author unknown).
  • He that had neyther been kith nor kin
    Might have seen a full fayre sight.
    • Guy of Gisborne.
  • Have you not heard these many years ago
    Jeptha was judge of Israel?
    He had one only daughter and no mo,
    The which he loved passing well;
    And as by lott,
    God wot,
    It so came to pass,
    As God’s will was.
    • Jepthah, Judge of Israel. Compare: "'As by lot, God wot;' and then you know, 'It came to pass, as most like it was.'", William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act ii, scene 2.
  • A Robyn,
    Jolly Robyn,
    Tell me how thy leman does.
    • A Robyn, Jolly Robyn. Compare: "Hey, Robin, jolly Robin,

Tell me how thy lady does", William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, act iv, scene 2.

  • Where gripinge grefes the hart wounde,
    And dolefulle dumps the mynde oppresse,
    There music with her silver sound
    With spede is wont to send redresse.
    • A Song to the Lute in Musicke. Compare: "When griping grief the heart doth wound, And doleful dumps the mind oppress, Then music with her silver sound", William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, act iv, scene 5.
  • The blinded boy that shootes so trim,
    From heaven downe did hie.
    • King Cophetua and the Beggar-maid. Compare: "Young Adam Cupid, he that shot so trim, When King Cophetua loved the beggar-maid!", William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, act ii, scene 1.
  • “What is thy name, faire maid?” quoth he.
    "Penelophon, O King!" quoth she.
  • We ’ll shine in more substantial honours,
    And to be noble we ’ll be good.
    • Winifreda. Compare "Min be the travaille, and thin be the glorie", Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, "The Knightes Tale", line 2408; "Nobilitas sola est atque unica virtus" (translated: "Nobility is the one only virtue"), Juvenal, Satire viii, line 20.
  • And when with envy Time, transported,
    Shall think to rob us of our joys,
    You ’ll in your girls again be courted,
    And I ’ll go wooing in my boys.
    • Winifreda.
  • King Stephen was a worthy peere,
    His breeches cost him but a croune;
    e held them sixpence all too deere,
    Therefore he call’d the taylor loune.

    He was a wight of high renowne,
    And those but of a low degree;
    Itt ’s pride that putts the countrye doune,
    Then take thine old cloake about thee.
    • Take thy old Cloak about Thee. The first stanza is quoted in full, and the last line of the second, by William Shakespeare in Othello, act ii, scene 3.
  • A poore soule sat sighing under a sycamore tree;
    Oh willow, willow, willow!
    With his hand on his bosom, his head on his knee,
    Oh willow, willow, willow!
    • Willow, willow, willow. Compare: "The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree, Sing all a green willow; Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee, Sing willow, willow, willow", William Shakespeare in Othello, act iv, scene 3.
  • When Arthur first in court began,
    And was approved king.
  • Shall I bid her goe? What if I doe?
    Shall I bid her goe and spare not?
    Oh no, no, no! I dare not.
  • But in vayne shee did conjure him
    To depart her presence soe;
    Having a thousand tongues to allure him,
    And but one to bid him goe.
    • Dulcina.

The Friar of Orders Gray (1765)

  • And how should I know your true love
    From many another one?
    Oh, by his cockle hat and staff,
    And by his sandal shoone.
  • O Lady, he is dead and gone!
    Lady, he's dead and gone!
    And at his head a green grass turfe,
    And at his heels a stone.
  • Weep no more, lady, weep no more,
    Thy sorrowe is in vaine;
    For violets pluckt, the sweetest showers
    Will ne’er make grow againe.
    • Compare: "Weep no more, nor sigh, nor groan, Sorrow calls no time that's gone; Violets plucked, the sweetest rain Makes not fresh nor grow again", John Fletcher, The Queen of Corinth, Act iii, scene 2.
  • He that would not when he might,
    He shall not when he wolda.
    • Compare: "He that will not when he may, When he would he shall have nay", John Heywood, Proverbes, Part i, Chapter iii.

See also