The Babes In The Wood
He had not kept these pretty babes
A twelvemonth and a day,
But, for their wealth, he did devise
To make them both away.
He bargained with two ruffians strong,
Which were of furious mood,
That they should take these children young.
And slay them in a wood.
He told his wife an artful tale
He would the children send
To be brought up in London town
With one that was his friend.
Away then went those pretty babes,
Rejoicing at that tide,
Rejoicing with a merry mind
They should on cock-horse ride.
They prate and prattle pleasantly,
As they ride on the way,
To those that should their butchers be
And work their lives' decay:
So that the pretty speech they had
Made Murder's heart relent;
And they that undertook the deed
Full sore now did repent.
Yet one of them, more hard of heart,
Did vow to do his charge,
Because the wretch that hired him
Had paid him very large.
The other won't agree thereto,
So there they fall to strife;
With one another they did fight
About the children's life;
And he that was of mildest mood
Did slay the other there,
Within an unfrequented wood;
The babes did quake for fear!
He took the children by the hand,
Tears standing in their eye,
And bade them straightway follow him,
And look they did not cry;
And two long miles he led them on,
While they for food complain:
"Stay here," quoth he, "I'll bring you bread,
When I come back again."
These pretty babes, with hand in hand,
Went wandering up and down;
But never more could see the man
Approaching from the town.
Their pretty lips with blackberries
Were all besmeared and dyed;
And when they saw the darksome night,
They sat them down and cried.
Thus wandered these poor innocents,
Till death did end their grief;
In one another's arms they died,
As wanting due relief:
No burial this pretty pair
From any man receives,
Till Robin Redbreast piously
Did cover them with leaves.
And now the heavy wrath of God
Upon their uncle fell;
Yea, fearful fiends did haunt his house,
His conscience felt an hell:
His barns were fired, his goods consumed,
His lands were barren made,
His cattle died within the field,
And nothing with him stayed.