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King Leir* once ruled in this land,
With princely power and peace;
And had all things with heart's content,
That might his joys increase.
Amongst those things that nature gave,
Three daughters fair had he,

So princely seeming beautiful,

As fairer could not be.

So on a time it pleas'd the king
A question thus to move,
Which of his daughters to his grace
Could show the dearest-love:
For to my age you bring content,
Quoth he, then let me hear
Which of you three in plighted troth
The kindest will appear.

To whom the eldest thus began ;
Dear father, mind, quoth she,
Before your face, to do you good,
My blood shall render'd be :
And for your sake my bleeding heart
Shall here be cut in twain,

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.


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Thus flattering speeches won renown
By these two sisters here:

The third had causeless banishment,
Yet was her love more dear:
For poor Cordelia patiently
Went wand'ring up and down,
Unhelp'd, unpity'd, gentle maid,
Through many an English town:

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
With his two daughters staid;
Forgetful of their promis'd loves,
Full soon the same decay'd;
And living in queen Ragan's court,

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.

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But there of that he was deny'd,
Which she had promis'd late:
For once refusing, he should not
Come after to her gate.

Thus 'twixt his daughters, for relief
He wander'd up and down;
Being glad to feed on beggar's food,
That lately wore a crown.

And calling to remembrance then
His youngest daughter's words,
That said, the duty of a child
Was all that love affords:
But doubting to repair to her,
Whom he had banish'd so,
Grew frantick mad; for in his mind

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,
Did seem to sigh and groan.

Even thus possest with discontents,
He passed o'er to France,
In hopes from fair Cordelia there

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:

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