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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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?

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

And 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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

And then I am sure you will make no doubt
But in twenty-four hours you'll ride it about
And the third question thou must not shrink
But tell to me truly what I do think

Derry down, down, hey derry down

That I can do, it will make your 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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

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

Derry down, down, hey derry down

The abbot would have been in charge of the monastery and the archbishop in charge of the cathedral. Generally an archbishop was more likely to keep up a house in great style. However, in the larger, more important cities and towns the monastery would have been kept up in great style as well. Henry VIII took over Hampton Court from archbishop Woolsey for outshining him and Henry II was unhappy with Thomas Beckett's display as well. King John was not quite as bad as history has made out.

TOP OF PAGE

BACK

MAIN PAGE