Perkin Warbeck


At Turney in Flanders I was born
Fore-doomed to splendour and sorrow,
For I was a king when they cut the corn,
And they strangle me to-morrow.


Oh ! why was I made so red and white,
So fair and straight and tall ?
And why were my eyes so blue and bright,
And my hands so white and small ?


And why was my hair like the yellow silk,
And curled like the hair of a king ?
And my body like the soft new milk
That the maids bring from milking ?


I was nothing but a weaver's son,
I was born in a weaver's bed ;
My brothers toiled and my sisters spun,
And my mother wove for our bread.


I was the latest child she had,
And my mother loved me the best.
She would laugh for joy and anon be sad
That I was not as the rest.


For my brothers and sisters were black as the gate
Whereby I shall pass to-morrow,
But I was white and delicate,
And born to splendour and sorrow.


And. my father the weaver died full soon,
But my mother lived for me ;
And I had silk doublets and satin shoon
And was nurtured tenderly.


And the good priests had much joy of me,
For I had wisdom and wit;
And there was no tongue or subtlety
But I could master it.


And when I was fourteen summers old
There came an English knight,
With purple cloak and spurs of gold,
And sword of chrysolite.


He rode through the town both sad and slow,
And his hands lay in his lap ;
He wore a scarf as white as the snow,
And a snow-white rose in his cap.


And he passed me by in the market-place,
And he reined his horse and stared,
And I looked him fair and full in the face,
And he stayed with his head all bared.


And he leaped down quick and bowed his knee,
And took hold on my hand,
And he said, ' Is it ghost or wraith that I see,
Or the White Rose of England .? '


And I answered him in the Flemish tongue,
' My name is Peter Warbeckke,
From Katharine de Faro I am sprung,
And my father was John Osbeckke.


' My father toiled and weaved with his hand
And bare neither sword nor shield
And the White Rose of fair England
Turned red on Bosworth field.'


And he answered, ' What matter for anything ?
For God hath given to thee
The voice of the king and the face of the king,
And the king thou shalt surely be.'


And he wrought on me till the vesper bell,
And I rode forth out of the town :
And I might not bid my mother farewell,
Lest her love should seem more than a crown.


And the sun went down, and the night waxed black,
And the wind sang wearily ;
And I thought on my mother, and would have gone back,
But he would not suffer me.


And we rode, and we rode, was it nine days or three ?
Till we heard the bells that ring
For ' my cousin Margaret of Burgundy,'
And I was indeed a king.


For I had a hundred fighting men '
To come at my beck and call,
And I had silk and fine linen
To line my bed withal.


They dressed me all in silken dresses,
And little I wot did they reck
Of the precious scents for my golden tresses,
And the golden chains for my neck.


And all the path for ' the rose ' to walk
Was strewn with flowers and posies,
I was the milk-white rose of York,
The rose of all the roses.


And the Lady Margaret taught me well,
Till I spake without lisping
Of Warwick and Clarence and Isabel,
And ' my father ' Edward the King.


And I sailed to Ireland and to France,
And I sailed to fair Scotland,
And had much honour and pleasaunce,
And Katharine Gordon's hand.


And after that what brooks it to say
Whither I went or why ?
I was as loath to leave my play
And fight, as now to die.


For I was not made for wars and strife
And blood and slaughtering,
I was but a boy that loved his life,
And I had not the heart of a king.


Oh ! why hath God dealt so hardly with me,
That such a thing should be done,
That a boy should be born with a king's body
And the heart of a weaver's son ?


I was well pleased to be at the court,
Lord of the thing that seems;
It was merry to be a prince for sport,
A king in a kingdom of dreams.


But ever they said I must strive and fight
To wrest away the crown,
So I came to England in the night
And I warred on Exeter town.


And the King came up with a mighty host
And what could I do but fly ?
I had three thousand men at the most,
And I was most loath to die.


And they took me and brought me to London town,
And I stood where all men might see ;
I, that had well-nigh worn a crown,
In a shameful pillory !


And I cried these words in the English tongue,
' I am Peter Warbeckke,
From Katharine de Faro I am sprung
And my father was John Osbeckke.


' My father toiled and weaved with his hand,
And bare neither sword nor shield ;
And the White Rose of fair England
Turned red on Bosworth field.'


And they gave me my life, but they held me fast
Within this weary place ;
But I wrought on my guards ere a month was past,
With my wit and my comely face.


And they were ready to set me free,
But when it was almost done,
And I thought I should gain the narrow sea '
And look on the face of the sun,


The lord of the tower had word of it,
And, alas! for my poor hope,
For this is the end of my face and my wit
That to-morrow I die by the rope.


And the time draws nigh and the darkness closes,
And the night is almost done.
What had I to do with their roses,
I, the poor weaver's son ?

hey promised me a bed so rich
And a queen to be my bride,
And I have gotten a narrow ditch
And a stake to pierce my side.


They promised me a kingly part
And a crown my head to deck,
And I have gotten the hangman's cart
And a hempen cord for my neck.


Oh ! I would that I had never been born,
To splendour and shame and sorrow,
For it's ill riding to grim Tiborne,
Where I must ride to-morrow.


I shall dress me all in silk and scarlet,
And the hangman shall have my ring,
For though I be hanged like a low-born varlet
They shall know I was once a king.


And may I not fall faint or sick
Till I reach at last to the goal,
And I pray that the rope may choke me quick
And Christ receive my soul.