The Kentish Ballad c.1600 - By Thomas Deloney
THE VALIAUNT COURAGE AND POLICYE of the Kentishmen with long tayles, whereby they kept their ancient lawes which William the Conqueror sought to take from them.
TO THE TUNE OF "ROGERO" (A well known Elizabethan melody at that time)
When as the duke of Normandie,
With glistring speare and shield,
Had entred into fayre England,
And fo(i)ld his foes in fielde.
On Christmas day in solemne sort,
Then was he crowned here
By Albert, Archbishop of Yorke,
With many a noble Peere.
Which being done, he changed quite
The custome of this land,
And punisht such as daily sought
His statutes to withstand ;
And many cities he subdude,
Fair London with the rest,
But Kent did still withstand his force
Which did his lawes detest.
To Dover then he tooke his way,
The Castle downe to fling,
Which Arviragus builded there,
The noble Britaine King.
Which when the brave Archbishop bold
Of Canterburie knew,
The Abbot of St. Austines eke,
With all their gallant crue,
They set themselves in armour bright
These mischiefs to prevent,
With all the yeoman brave and bold
That were in fruitfull Kent.
At Canterburie they did meete
Upon a certaine day,
With sword and speare, with bill and bow,
And stopt the Conqueror's way.
"Let us not live like bondmen poore
To Frenchmen in their pride,
But keepe our auncient libertie,
What chaunce so ere betide.
And rather die in bloudie fielde,
In manlike courage prest,
Then to endure the servile yoake
Which we so much detest."
Thus did the Kentish Commons crie
Unto their leaders still,
And so marcht forth in warlike sort
And stand on Swanscombe hill;
Where in the woodes they hid themselves
Under the shady greene,
Thereby to get them vantage good,
Of all their foes unseene.
And for the Conqueror's comming there
They privily laide waight,
And thereby sodainely appald
His lofty high conceipt.
For when they spied his approach,
In place as they did stand,
Then marched they to hem him in,
Each one a bough in hand.
So that unto the Conqueror's sight,
Amazed as he stood,
There seemed to be a walking grove,
Or else a mooving wood.
The shape of men he could not see,
The boughes did hide them so;
And now his heart for feare did quake
To see a forrest goe.
Before, behind, and on each side
As he did cast his eye,
He spide these woodes with sober pace
Approach to him full nye.
But when the Kentishmen had thus
Inclosed the Conqueror round,
Most suddenly they drew their swordes,
And threw the boughs to ground.
Their banners they displaide in sight,
Their trumpets sounde a charge;
Their rattling drummes strike up alarme,
Their troopes stretch out at large.
The Conqueror with all his traine
Was hereat sore agast,
And most in perill when he thought
All perill had beene past.
Unto the Kentishmen he sent
The cause to understand,
For what intent, and for what cause
They took this warre in hand?
To whome they made this short replie:
"For liberty wee fight,
And to enjoy K. Edwards lawes,
The which wee hold our right."
Then said the dreadfull Conqueror,
"You shall have what you will,
Your ancient customes and yo-ur lawes,
So that you will be still.
And each thing els that you will crave
With reason at my hand,
So you will but acknowledge mee
Chiefe kinge of fair England."
The Kentishmen agreed here on,
And laid their armes aside,
And by this means king Edwards lawes
In Kent doth still abide ;
And in no place in England else
Those customes do remaine,
Which they by manly policie
Did they of Duke William gaine.