1520 - Rastell, John - Four Elements

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Date 1520
Author Rastell, John
Title A New Interlude and a Mery of the Nature of the Four Elementis
Mentions Song of Robin Hood; ballad; 'down, down, down' [burden]; [Gest]; Barnsdale; Our Lady; Geoffrey Cook

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2014-08-08. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-01-07.


Hu. Now yf that Sensuall Appetyte cā fynd
Any good mynstrellℯ after hys mynd
Dowt not we shall haue good sport
yng. And so shall we haue for a suerte
But what shall we do now tell me
The meane whyle for our cōfort
Hu. Then let vs some lusty balet syng
yng. Nay syr by þe heuyn kyng,
For me thynkyth it seruyth for no thyng
All suche peuysh prykyeryd song.
Hu. Pes man pryksong may not be dispysyd
For ther with god is well plesyd
Honowryd praysyd & seruyd
Jn the churche oft tymes among
yng. Js god well pleasyd trowst thou therby
Nay nay for there is no reason why
For is it not as good to say playnly
Gyf me a spade
As Gyf me a spa ve va ve va ve vade
But yf thou wylt haue a song þt is good
J haue one of robyn hode
The best that euer was made
Hu. Then a feleshyp let vs here it
yng. But there is a bordon thou must bere it
Or ellys it wyll not be [sig. E8r:]
Hu. ¶Than begyn and care not for [page torn]
     ¶ Downe downe downe &c.
yng. Robyn hode in barnysdale stode
And lent hym tyl a mapyll thystyll
Thā cam our lady & swete saynt andrewe
Slepyst thou wakyst thou geffrey coke
¶ A.C. wynter the water was depe
J can not tell you how brode
He toke a gose nek in his hande
And over the water he went
¶ He start vp to a thystell top
And cut hym downe a holyn clobe
He stroke þe wren betwene the hornys
That fyre sprange out of the pyggℯ tayle
¶ Jak boy is thy bowe J broke
Or hath any mā done þe wryguldy wrage
He plukkyd muskyllys out of a wyllowe
And put them in to his sachell
¶ wylkyn was an archer good
And well coude handell a spade
He toke his bend bowe in his hand
And set hym downe by the fyre
¶ He toke with hym.lx.bowes and ten
A pese of befe a nother of baken
Of all the byrdes in mery englond
So merely pypys the mery botell[1]

Source notes

The symbol "ℯ" in the cited allusion text is used for the original's tall, narrow e-like abbreviation that stands for "is", "ys" or "es".
Lines 1369-1419 in Axton's edition.[2] The speakers are: Humanyte and Yngnoraunce.
At the place where the original page is torn, Axton adds "[r me]" so that the line reads "Than begyn and care not fo[r me]". This is very likely the correct reading, but it should be noted that there is room on the line for a longer word than "me" (or perhaps a couple of words).

IRHB comments

For an earlier version of this burlesque in a late 15th century MS see 1500 - Anonymous - Untitled burlesque (3).


mynstrellℯ: musicians.
some lusty balet: a song; the word later became a synonym for (or an alternative form of the word) ballad, but in the early 16th cent. it had not yet acquired this meaning. Axton's note: "The basic metre of popular ballad (a4b3c4b3) is barely discernible in 1369-1419. The term balet covers a wide range of sophisticated and popular Tudor songs."[3]"
All suche peuysh prykyeryd song: a sophisticated (as opposed to "folk") song of the kind that was written down ("pricked") in musical notation. Axton notes: "The argument here is over the propriety of prick-song (i.e. written part-music in measured notes) in divine service. The notorious feature in England was the use of elaborate melismas (parodied in line 1387). Wyclif had scorned 'smale brekynge', 'knackynge and tatterynge' of the divine office. Bale railed at 'fresh descant, pricksong, [p. 139:] counterpoint, and fa-burden . . . the very synagogue of Satan' [...]"
Gyf me a spa ve va ve va ve vade: Yngnoraunce is parodying the melismatic style that was then fashionable among composers of liturgical and other "art" songs.
Downe downe downe: a very common burden (with variations such as "down, down, derry down") in later broadside ballads. It was evidently already in vogue in Robin Hood ballads and perhaps other popular music at this early date.
Robyn hode in barnysdale stode | And lent hym tyl a mapyll thystyll: As Axton notes,[4] this is "recognizably the proper opening of the Geste of Robyn Hode". Gest, st. 3:1 reads "Robyn stode in Bernesdale [|] and lenyd hym to a tre". The first of these two lines led, as it were, a life of its own as a legal maxim in use as early as 1429,[5] but the fact that both lines are being parodied leaves little doubt that the writer of the song had the Gest in mind. The nonsense song or burlesque of which the two lines form the opening is also found in an MS which has been dated to the period c.1457-c.1500. If the dating of the MS is correct, the song obviously was not written expressly for the Four Elements, and there is then no reason to think it was the work of John Rastell.
wryguldy wrage: Axton notes that "[t]he sense seems to be 'Has anyone quarreled with you (done the wryguldy wrag to thee)? In Lancashire dialect 'wrigglety wry' means awry; wrag (scold, accuse) and wraggle (dispute) support the conjecture." OED2, s.n. wriguldy-wrag, cites Rastell as its only example, refrrring to its entry for "wrig-wrag" which lists 16th cent. examples for the sense "a contentious person" and the expression "at wrig-wrag", meaning "at daggers-drawn; at enmity or variance."
.lx.bowes and ten: Axton emends to "threscore bowes and ten".[6]





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