Digital Tradition Mirror

How Coventry Was Made Free By Godiva, Countess of Chester

How Coventry Was Made Free By Godiva, Countess of Chester

Leofricus, that noble earl
Of Chester, as I read,
Did for the city of Coventry,
Many a noble deed.

Great privileges for the town
This nobleman did get,
And of all things did make it so,
That they toll-free did sit,

Save only that for horses still,
They did some custom pay,
Which was great charges to the town,
Full long and many a day.

Wherefore his wife, Godiva fair,
Did of the earl request,
That therefore he would make it free,
As well as all the rest.

So when the lady long had sued,
Her purpose to obtain,
Her noble lord at length she took,
Within a pleasant vain,

And unto him with smiling cheer,
She did forthwith proceed,
Entreating greatly that he would
Perform that goodly deed.

You move me much, fair dame (quoth he)
Your suit I fain would shun.
But what would you perform and do,
To have this matter done?

Why, any thing, my lord, (quoth she)
You will with reason crave.
I will perform it with good will,
If I my wish may have.

If thou wilt grant one thing (said he)
Which I shall now require,
So soon as it is finished,
Thou shalt have thy desire.

Command what you think good, my lord,
I will thereto agree,
On this condition that this town
For ever may be free.

If thou wilt thy clothes strip off,
And here wilt lay them down,
And at noonday on horseback ride
Stark naked through the town,

They shall be free for evermore.
If thou wilt not do so,
More liberty than now they have,
I never will bestow.

The lady at this strange demand,
Was much abashed in mind,
And yet for to fulfill this thing,
She never a whit repined.

Wherefore to all the officers
Of all the town she sent,
That they perceiving her good will,
Which for the weal was bent,

That on the day that she should ride,
All persons through the town,
Should keep their houses and shut their doors,
And clap their windows down,

So that no creature, young or old,
Should in the street be seen,
Till she had ridden all about,
Throughout the city clean.

And when the day of riding came,
No person did her see,
Saving her lord, after which time,
The town was ever free.

(Tune, "Prince Arthur Died at Ludlow.")

Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!

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