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OF THE DEATH OF
KING LEIR AND HIS THREE DAUGHTERS.
King Leir* once ruled in this land,
So princely seeming beautiful,
As fairer could not be.
So on a time it pleas'd the king
To whom the eldest thus began ;
Ere that I see your reverend age
The smallest grief sustain.
King Leir &c.] This ballad is given from an ancient copy in The Golden Garland, black letter, to the tune of When flying fame. It is here reprinted from Dr. Percy's Reliques of ancient English Poetry, Vol. I. third edit.
Thus flattering speeches won renown
The third had causeless banishment,
Until at last in famous France
She gentler fortunes found;
Though poor and bare, yet she was deem'd
The fairest on the ground:
Where when the king her virtues heard,
And this fair lady seen,
With full consent of all his court
He made his wife and queen.
Her father, old king Leir, this while
The eldest of the twain,
She took from him his chiefest means,
And most of all his train.
For whereas twenty men were wont
To wait with bended knee:
She gave allowance but to ten,
And after scarce to three:
Nay, one she thought too much for him:
So took she all away,
In hope that in her court, good king,
He would no longer stay.
But there of that he was deny'd,
Thus 'twixt his daughters, for relief
And calling to remembrance then
He bore the wounds of woe:
Which made him rend his milk-white locks,
And tresses from his head,
And all with blood bestain his cheeks, . age and honour spread:
To hills and woods, and watry founts,
He made his hourly moan,
Till hills and woods, and senseless things,
Even thus possest with discontents,
To find some gentler chance:
Most virtuous dame! which when she heard
Of this her father's grief,
As duty bound, she quickly sent
Him comfort and relief: