The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard

Benjamin Britten

As it fell on one holy-day,
As many be in the year,
When young men and maids together did go
Their matins and mass to hear,

Little Musgrave came to the church-door -
The priest was at private mass -
But he had more mind of the fair women
Then he had of Our Lady's grace.

The one of them was clad in green,
Another was clad in pall,
And then came in my Lord Barnard's wife,
The fairest amongst them all.

Quoth she, 'I have loved thee, Little Musgrave,
Full long and many a day.' -
'So have I loved you, fair ladye,
Yet never word durst I say.' -

'But I have a bower at Bucklesfordberry,
Full daintily it is dight;
If thou'lt wend thither, thou Little Musgrave,
Thou's lig in my arms all night.'

With that beheard a little tiny page,
By his lady's coach as he ran.
Says, 'Although I am my lady's foot-page,
Yet I am Lord Barnard's man.'

Then he's cast off his hose and shoon,
Set down his feet and ran,
And where the bridges were broken down
He bent his bow and swam.

'Awake! awake! thou Lord Barnard,
As thou art a man of life!
Little Musgrave is at Bucklesfordberry
Along with thy own wedded wife.' -

He callèd up his merry men all:
'Come saddle me my steed;
This night must I to Bucklesfordberry,
For I never had greater need.'

But some they whistled, and some they sung,
And some they thus could say,
Whenever Lord Barnard's horn it blew:
'Away, Musgrave, away! ... -

'Methinks I hear the threstle cock,
Methinks I hear the jay;
Methinks I hear Lord Barnard's horn,
Away, Musgrave, away!' -

'Lie still, lie still, thou little Musgrave,
And huggle me from the cold;
'Tis nothing but a shepherd's boy
A-driving his sheep to the fold.'

By this, Lord Barnard came to his door
And lighted a stone upon;
And he's pull'd out three silver keys,
And open'd the doors each one.

He lifted up the coverlet,
He lifted up the sheet:

'Arise, arise, thou Little Musgrave,
And put thy clothès on;
It shall ne'er be said in my country
I have kill'd a naked man.

'I have two swords in one scabbard,
They are both sharp and clear;
Take you the best, and I the worst,
We'll end the matter here.'

The first stroke Little Musgrave struck,
He hurt Lord Barnard sore;
The next stroke that Lord Barnard struck,
Little Musgrave ne'er struck more.

'Woe worth you, woe worth, my merry men all,
You were ne'er born for my good!
Why did you not offer to stay my hand
When you saw me wax so wood?

'For I have slain the fairest lady
That ever wore woman's weed,
Soe I have slain the fairest lady
That ever did woman's deed.

'A grave, a grave,' Lord Barnard cried,
'To put these lovers in!
But lay my lady on the upper hand,
For she comes of the nobler kin.'


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