Babes in the Wood


There was a youth, and a well belov'd youth,
And he was a esquire's son,
He loved the bailiff's daughter dear,
That lived in Islington.

Now ponder well, you parents deare,
  These wordes which I shall write;
A doleful story you shall heare,
  In time brought forth to light.
A gentleman of good account
  In Norfolk dwelt of late,
Who did in honor far surmount
  Most men of his estate.

Sore sicke he was, and like to dye,
  No helpe his life could save;
His wife by him as sicke did lye,
  And both possest one grave.
No love between these two was lost,
  Each was to the other kinde,
In love they liv'd, in love they dyed,
  And left two babes behind.

The one a fine and pretty boy,
  Not passing three years olde;
The other a girl more young than he,
  And fram'd in beautyes molde.
The father left his little son,
  As plainly both appeare,
When he to perfect age should come,
  Three hundred pounds a yeare.

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

Now, brother, said the dying man,
  Look to my children deare;
Be good unto my boy and girl,
  No friends else have they here:
To God and you I recommend
  My children deare this daye;
A little while be sure we have
  Within this world to staye.

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 bespoke their mother deare,
  O brother kinde, quoth shee,
You are the man must bring our babes
  To wealth or miserie!

And if you keep them carefully,
  The God will you reward;
But if you otherwise should deal,
  God will your deedes regard,
With lips as cold as any stone,
  They kist their children small:
God bless you both, my children deare;
  With that the teares did fall.

These speeches then their brother spake
  To this sicke couple there,
The keeping of your little ones
  Sweet sister do not fear:
God never prosper me nor mine,
  Nor aught else that I have,
If I do wrong your children neare,
  When you are layd in grave.

The parents being dead and gone,
  The children home he takes,
And bringes them straite into his house,
  Where much of them he makes.
He had not kept these pretty babes
   A twelvemonth and a daye,
But for their wealth he did devise
  To make them both awaye.

He bargain'd with two ruffians strong,
  Which were of furious mood,
That they should take these children young,
  And slaye them in a wood.
He told his wife an artful tale,
  He would the children send
To be brought up in faire London,
  With one that was his friend.

Away they went those pretty babes,
  Rejoicing at that tide,
Rejoicing with a merry minde,
  They should on cock horse ride.
They prate and prattle pleasantly,
  As they rode on the aye,
To those that should their butchers be,
  And work their lives decaye.

To that the pretty speeche they had,
  Made Murder's heart relent:
And they that undertooke the deed,
  Full sore did now repent.
Yet one of them more hard of heart,
  Did vowe to do his charge,
Because the wretch that hired him,
  Had paid him very large.

The other won't agree thereto,
  So here they fall to strife;
With one another they did fight,
  About the children's life:
And he that was of mildest mood,
  Did slaye the other there,
Within an unfrequented wood;
  The babes did quake for feare!

He took the children by the hand,
  Tears standing in their eye,
And bad them straightwaye follow him,
  And look they did not crye:
And two long miles he ledd them on,
  While they for food complaine.
Staye here, quoth he, I'll bring you bread,
  When I come back again.

These pretty babes, with hand in hand,
  Went wandering up and downe;
And never more could see the man
  Approaching from the town:
Their prettye lippes with black-berries,
  Were all besmear'd and dyed,
And when they sawe the darksome night,
  They sat downe and cryed.

Thus wandered these poor innocents,
  Till death did end their grief,
In one another's armes they dyed,
  As wanting due relief:
No burial this pretty pair'
  Of any man receives
Till Robin-red breast piously
  Did cover them with leaves.

And now the heavy wrathe of God
  Upon their uncle fell;
Yea, fearful fiends did haunt his house,
  His conscience felt an hell:
His barnes were fir'd, his goodes consum'd,
  His landes were barren made,
His cattle dyed within the field,
  And nothing with him stay'd.

And in a voyage to Portugal
  Two of his sonnes did dye;
And to conclude, himself was brought
  To want and miserye:
He pawn'd and mortgaged all his land
  Ere seven years came about,
And now at length this wicked act
  Did by this means come out:

The fellowe, that did take in hand
  These children for to kill,
Was for a robbery judg'd to dye,
  Such was God's blessed will:
Who did confess the very truth,
  As here hath been display'd:
Their uncle having dyed in gaol
  Where he for debt was layd.

You that executors be 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 with such like miserye
  Your wicked minds requite.

Main Location:

Norfolk, UK