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King John and the Abbot of Canterbury I'll tell you a story, a story anon Concerning a prince and his name is King John He was a prince and a prince of great might And he held up great wrong, put down great right Derry down, down, hey derry down I'll tell you a story, a story so merry Concerning the Abbot of Canterbury Of his housekeeping and high renown Which caused him to go up to fair London town "How now, Brother Abbot, it's told unto me That thou keepest a far better house than I For thy housekeeping and high renown I fear you of treason against me crown" "Well I hope, My Liege, that you hold me no grudge For spending of me true gotten goods" "If thou dost not answer me questions three Thy head will be taken from thy body" "When I am set so high on my steed With me crown of gold all on me head With my nobility, joy, and much mirth Thou must say to one penny how much I am worth" "And the next question you must not flout How long I'll be riding the world about And the third question thou must not shrink But tell to me truly what I do think" "Oh these are hard questions for my shallow wit For I cannot answer Your Grace as yet But if you will give me but three days space I'll do my endeavor to answer Your Grace" "Oh three days space I will thee give For that is the longest that thou hast to live And if thou dost not answer these questions right Thy head will be taken from thy body quite" Well as the shepherd was going to his fold He saw the old abbot come riding along "How now, Master Abbot, you're welcome home What news have you brought from good King John?" "Sad news, sad news I have for to give For I have but three days space for to live If I do not answer him questions three My head will be taken from my body" "Oh Master, have you never heard it yet That a fool may learn a wise man wit? Lend me your horse and your apparel I'll ride up to London and answer the quarrel" "When I am set so high on my steed With me crown of gold all on me head With my nobility, joy, and much mirth Thou must say to one penny how much I am worth" "For thirty pence our Savior was sold Amongst the false Jews as we have been told Nine and twenty is the worth of thee For I think you are one penny worse than He" The King he laughed and swore by St. Bittel "I did not think I was worth so little" But the next question you must not flout How long I'll be riding the world about" "You must rise with the sun and ride with the same Until the next morning he rises again And then I am sure you will make no doubt But in twenty-four hours you'll ride it about" The King he laughed and he swore by St. Jone I did not think it were done so soon! But the third question thou must not shrink But tell to me truly what I do think" "That I can do, it will make your Grace merry You think I'm the Abbot of Canterbury But I'm his poor shepherd, as you can see I've come to beg pardon for he and for me" The King he did turn him about and did smile Saying, "Thou can be Abbot the other while" "Oh no, Your Grace, there is no need For I can neither write nor read" "Then tuppence a week, I'll give unto thee For this merry jest you have told unto me And tell the old Abbot when you get home You bring him a pardon from good King John" Child #45 recorded by Chris Foster a common theme in folklore there was an abbot as well as an archbishop in Canterbury, but an archbishop is more likely to keep up a house in great style. Indeed, Henry VIII took over Hampton Court from Archbishop Woolsey for outshining him. Henry II was unhappy with Becket's display as well. King John was good in few people's eyes. SOF, DE
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