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DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)

DigiTrad:
KING JOHN AND THE ABBOT OF CANTERBURY


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Folklore: Answer 3 questions by the king (3)
Happy! – Dec 24 (Bad King John) (1)


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Subject: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 Feb 16 - 02:19 AM

This is an edited DTStudy thread, and all messages posted here are subject to editing and deletion.
This thread is intended to serve as a forum for corrections and annotations for the Digital Tradition song named in the title of this thread.

Search for other DTStudy threads


We haven't had much discussion of this interesting song, so I thought time to do some work on it. The version in the Digital Tradition is called "King John and the Abbot of Canterbury." Where's the DT version from?



Here are the DT lyrics:



KING JOHN AND THE ABBOT OF CANTERBURY (DT Version)

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

"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"

"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"

"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"

"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"

"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"

"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"

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?"

"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"

"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"

"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"

"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"

The King he laughed and swore by St. Bittel
"I did not think I was worth so little"
But 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
And then I am sure you will make no doubt
But in twenty-four hours you'll ride it about"

The King he laughed and he swore by St. Jone
I did not think it were done so soon!
But the third question thou must not shrink
But tell to me truly what I do think"

"That I can do, it will make your Grace 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"

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"

"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"

Child #45
recorded by Chris Foster
a common theme in folklore
there was an abbot as well as an archbishop in Canterbury, but an
archbishop is more likely to keep up a house in great style.
Indeed, Henry VIII took over Hampton Court from Archbishop
Woolsey for outshining him. Henry II was unhappy with Becket's
display as well. King John was good in few people's eyes.
@riddle @royalty @humor
filename[ KJONCANT
TUNE FILE: DERRYDWN
CLICK TO PLAY
SOF, DE

Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song:

King John and the Bishop [Child 45]

DESCRIPTION: King John tells the (bishop of Canterbury) he must answer the King's questions or die. The bishop, unable to answer, turns to a shepherd (his brother?). The answers are so clever the king rewards the shepherd and pardons both (makes the shepherd bishop)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: before 1695 (broadside)
KEYWORDS: questions help riddle royalty
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
1199-1216 - Reign of King John
FOUND IN: Britain(England,Scotland(Aber)) US(MW,MA,NE,NW,Ro)
REFERENCES (21 citations):
Child 45, "King John and the Bishop" (2 texts)
Bronson 45, "King John and the Bishop" (15 versions plus 1 in addenda)
BronsonSinging 45, "King John and the Bishop" (4 versions: #1, #4, #7, #15)
GlenbuchatBallads, pp. 198-200, "King John" (1 text)
GreigDuncan2 281, "The Jolly Abbot" (1 text)
Percy/Wheatley II, pp. 303-312, "King John and the Abbot of Canterbury" (2 texts, one from the Percy folio and one as printed in the _Reliques_)
BarryEckstormSmyth p. 445, "King John and the Bishop" (brief notes only)
Flanders/Olney, pp. 111-112, "The King's Three Questions" (1 text)
Flanders/Brown, pp. 200-203, "The King's Three Questions" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #11; note that Bronson has the wrong date in his headnotes}
Flanders-Ancient1, pp. 280-298, "King John and the Bishop" (5 texts plus 2 fragments, 3 tunes; the texts are listed A1, A2, B1, B2, B3, C, D, because A1 and A2 were both ultimately derived from the same singer through different informants and B1, B2, B3 are from the same informant at different times) {A1=Bronson's #11}
Thompson-Pioneer 1, "The Bishop of Canterbury" (1 text)
Gardner/Chickering 155, "King John and the Bishop" (1 fragment, 1 tune) {Bronson's #5}
Hubbard, #5, "King John and the Bishop" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach, pp. 154-158, "King John and the Bishop" (1 text)
OShaughnessy-Yellowbelly1 28, "King John and the Abbot of Canterbury" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach-Labrador 2, "King John and the Bishop" (1 text: Newfoundland story related by theme to the ballad)
OBB 172, "King John and the Abbot of Canterbury" (1 text)
Niles 19, "King John and the Bishop" (1 text, 1 tune)
BBI, ZN1364, "I'le tell you a story, a story anon"
DT 45, KJONCANT*
ADDITIONAL: Katherine Briggs, _A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language_, Part A: Folk Narratives, 1970 (I use the 1971 Routledge paperback that combines volumes A.1 and A.2), volume A.2, pp. 423-424, "King John and the Abbot of Canterbury" (1 text, a folktale close enough to this song as to strongly imply common origin)

Roud #302
RECORDINGS:
Warde Ford, "The Bishop of Canterbury" (AFS 4196A, 1938; tr.; on LC57, in AMMEM/Cowell) {Bronson's #4}
SAME TUNE:
The Shaking of the Sheets (Chappell/Wooldridge II, pp. 228-229; British Library Add. MS. 15225; entered in the Stationer's Register for John Awdelay 1568/9; Playford, The Dancing Master, 1651; rec. by The Baltimore Consort on The Ladye's Delight)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
The King and the Bishop
NOTES: King John did not have a good relationship with the Catholic Church; he refused, e.g., to accept Stephen Langton, the Pope's choice for Archbishop of Canterbury (Warren, pp. 161-163). From 1208 to 1213 England was placed under Interdict by the Pope. John responded by removing bishops from their offices -- and taking away their mistresses (though he allowed them pensions). The historical story bears only the slightest similarity to the tale in the ballad, however, which may also have been influenced by the war of wills between John's father Henry II and Thomas Becket.
The one thing that is certain is that John (reigned 1199-1216) had a horrid relationship with the church. McLynn, p. 78, says that his early upbringing in Fontrevrault abbey "seems to have turned him violently against the Christian religion," adding that John collected works of theology so he could read them and mock them.
It is also of note that, while his father and brother promised to take part in the Third Crusade (his father Henry II did not live, but of course Richard went), John never took a crusading vow, and never went to the Orient (McLynn, p. 110). The flip side of this is, this was partly in obedience to his father -- and there had been an earlier offer to make John King of Jerusalem, and John had been forced to turn this down because his father reasoned, correctly, that the Crusader State was too internally weak to hold up to serious attack (Warren, pp. 32-33).
McLynn, p. 29, says that "John was notable for quasi-autistic tendencies, and he always seemed to have a grudge against the world." It is noteworthy that older parents are more likely to have autistic children -- and John was born when his mother was at least 41 and very likely 44 or even 45. However, I don't buy the "quasi-autistic" bit -- John had a strong streak of low humor, which indeed cost him badly in Ireland (Warren, p. 36), and this is most unusual for victims of autism, or even of autism spectrum disorders. It strikes me as much more reasonable to assume that John, as the last of many children, had a lot of grudges.
More likely is McLynn's conjecture on p. 94 that John suffered from bipolar disorder, or perhaps simply clinical depression. This would explain his occasional tendency to sit on his hands in the case of trouble (e.g. when Normandy was falling; Warren, p. 99). It would also explain his tendency to extreme anger.
And he was a typical Plantagenet in his violent rages (Warren, p. 2); this was simply the way the family worked. Markale, p. 68, brands him "almost a lunatic," but his father and brothers were equally capable of fury; it's just that they were wiser in their use of their anger. Warren, p. 47, in comparing John to his three older brothers claims that John as king "was to show a grasp of political realities that eluded the young Henry, more fierce determination than ever Geoffrey could boast of, as sure a strategic sense as Richard displayed and a knowledge of government to which the heroic crusader never even aspired." His real fault, in Warren's view, was a lack of forgiveness -- he was always kicking people while they were down, causing them to become permanent enemies. Certainly that was true of his relations with the Church!
Even McLynn, who considers John a very bad king, admits that although John "lacked his brother [Richard]'s military genius he had wider interests. He had more administrative ability, a greater sense of the art of the possible, was more cunning and devious. In time he also turned himself into an above average general. Infinitely more complex than Richard... John was in many ways a psychological oddity.... Yet one should not exaggerate John's unique qualities. Although he was well known to imitate his father by biting and gnawing his fingers in rage... this was a general, shared Angevin characteristic" (p. 94).
Bronson notes that the song has been in constant contact with broadside prints, and doubts that any of the versions arose entirely from traditional stock. Several of the broadsides list the tune as "The Shaking of the Sheets"; see the "Same Tune" reference.
Briggs, volume A.2, pp. 410-411, has a folktale, "The Independent Bishop," on much the same theme; in it, the king is George and the bishop is Bishop of Winchester. Which George is not specified. The tale originally comes from Hrefordshire; see Leather, pp. 177-178. She also has a tale, "The Story of the Miller," on volume A.2, pp. 485-487, which has some parallels but is not as close. And is very bad, from a science standpoint, but I'll spare you the analysis of that....
The Norwegian tale of "The Parson and the Sexton" (AMNorwegian, pp. 15-16) also bears strong similarities to this. A Parson is forever driving about and forcing others off the road -- until he runs across the King. The Monarch not only forces him off the road but demands that the Parson come to answer his questions. The Parson, frightened, calls on the Sexton to deal with the King. The Sexton successfully answers "How far is it from east to west," "How much do you think I'm worth," and "What am I thinking just now." The answer to the last is, "You're thinking I'm the parson, but I'm the sexton." The king proceeds to make him the Parson, which has interesting implications if you like recursive stories. - RBW
Bibliography
  • AMNorwegian: Norwegian Folk Tales from the collection of Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe, illustrated by Erik Werenskiold and Theodor Kittelsen, translated by Pat Shaw Iversen and Carl Norman, The Viking Press, 1960
  • Markale: Jean Markale (translated by Jon E. Graham), Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of the Troubadours (French title: La vie, la legende, l'influence d'Alienor), 1979, 2000; English edition, Inner Traditions, 2007
  • McLynn: Frank McLynn, Richard & John: Kings at War, Da Capo, 2007
  • Warren: W. L. Warren, King John, 1961 (I use the 1978 University of California paperback edition)
Last updated in version 4.1
File: C045

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Subject: ADD Version: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 Feb 16 - 02:46 AM

The Library of Congress offers album notes from their LP 57, CHILD BALLADS TRADITIONAL IN THE UNITED STATES, edited by Bertrand H. Bronson. The lyrics in the album notes:

KING JOHN AND THE BISHOP
(Child No. 45)

1. A story, a story, a story anon
I'll tell unto thee concerning King John
He had a great mind for to make himself merry
So he called for the Bishop of Canterbury
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

2. Good morning, good morning, the old king did say
I've called you to ask you questions three
And if you don't answer them all right
Your head shall be taken from your body quite.
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

3. My first question is, and that without doubt
How long I'll be travelling this whole world about
And the next question is when I sit in state
With my gold crown upon my pate
And all the nobility join in great mirth
You must tell to one penny just what I am worth.
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

4. And the last question is and when I do wink
You must tell to me presently, what I do think
• • •
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

5. As the old bishop was returning home
He met his young shepherd and him all alone
Good morning, good morning, the young man did say,
What news do you bring from the old King today?
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

6. O very bad news, the old bishop did say,
The King has asked me questions three
And if I don't answer them all right
My head shall be taken from my body quite.
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

7. Well, I'm sorry a man of such learning as thee
Can't go back and answer the king's questions three
But if you will lend me a suit of apparel
I'll go to King John and settle the quarrel.
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

8. A suit of apparel I freely will give
And ten thousaad pounds as sure as you live
And now the young shepherd has gone to King John
To settle the quarrel that he had begun.
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

9. Good morning, good morning, the young shepherd did say,
I've called to answer your questions three
Your first question is and that without doubt
How long you'll be travelling this whole world about
If you start with the sun and you travel the same
In twenty-four hours you'll come back again.
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

10. The next question is when you sit in state
With your gold crown upon your pate
And all the nobility join in great (mirth)
I'm to tell to one penny just what you are worth.
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

11. For thirty gold pieces our dear Lord was sold
By those old Jews so brazen and bold
And for twenty-nine pieces I think you'll just do
for I'm sure he was one piece better than you.
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

12. The last question is and when you do wink
I'm to tell to you presently what you do think
And that I will do if 't will make your heart merry
You think I'm the Bishop of Canterbury.
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

13. And that I am not as is very well known
I am his young shepherd and him all alone
Go tell the old bishop, go tell him for me
That his young shepherd has outwitted me.
Lolli-doll-lay, Lolli-doll-luddy-tri-ol-de-dum-day.

[(a) "The Bishop of Canterbury." Sngg by Warde B. Ford at Central. Valley, California, 1938. recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell.]

Half-a-dozen of the ballads in Child's collection turn on the setting riddles to be answered either on pain of heavy forfeit or in hope of high reward. The story suggested in the present one exists in many shapes, both oriental and occidental, and can be followed back to the early Middle Ages. The English ballad has been long a favorite and has been well preserved, thanks partly to its appearance in printed broadsides from the seventeenth century onward. But it is not common in the United States. The fine copy here recorded probably went West from the loggers of the Maine
Woods to Wisconsin, whence it was brought to California by the present singer when he came to work on the great Shasta Dam. He learned it and other Child ballads from his mother, in Crandon, Wisconsin.


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Subject: ADD: King John and the Bishop (Child #45a)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 Feb 16 - 03:41 AM

Here's Child 45a

KING JOHN AND THE BISHOP
(Child #45a)

Here's #45a from Child:



OFF an ancient story Ile tell you anon,
Of a notable prince that was called King Iohn,
In England was borne, with maine and with might;
Hee did much wrong and mainteined litle right.

This noble prince was vexed in veretye,
For he was angry with the Bishopp of Canterbury;
Ffor his house-keeping and his good cheere,
The rode post for him, as you shall heare.

They rode post for him verry hastilye;
The king sayd the bishopp kept a better house then hee:
A hundred men euen, as I [have heard] say,
The bishopp kept in his house euerye day,
And fifty gold chaines, without any doubt,
In veluett coates waited the bishopp about.

The bishopp, he came to the court anon,
Before his prince that was called King Iohn.
As soone as the bishopp the king did see,
O, quoth the king, Bishopp, thow art welcome to mee.
There is noe man soe welcome to towne
As thou that workes treason against my crowne

My leege, quoth the bishopp, I wold it were knowne
I spend, your grace, nothing but that thats my owne;
I trust your grace will doe me noe deare
For spending my owne trew gotten geere.

Yes, quoth the king, Bishopp, thou must needs dye,
Eccept thou can answere mee questions three;
Thy head shalbe smitten quite from thy bodye,
And all thy liuing remayne vnto mee.

First, quoth the king, Tell me in this steade,
With this crowne of gold heere vpon my head,
Amongst my nobilitye, with ioy and much mirth,
Lett me know within one pennye what I am worth.

Secondlye, tell me without any dowbt
How soone I may goe the whole world about;
And thirdly, tell mee or euer I stinte,
What is the thing, bishopp, that I doe thinke.
Twenty dayes pardon thoust haue trulye,
And come againe and answere mee.

The bishopp bade the king god night att a word;
He rode betwixt Cambridge and Oxenford,
But neuer a doctor there was soe wise
Cold shew him these questions or enterprise.

Wherewith the bishopp was nothing gladd,
But in his hart was heauy and sadd,
And hyed him home to a house in the countrye,
To ease some part of his melanchollye.

His halfe-brother dwelt there, was feirce and fell,
Noe better but a shepard to the bishoppe himsell;
The shepard came to the bishopp anon,
Saying, My Lord, you are welcome home!

What ayles you, quoth the shepard, that you are soe sadd,
And had wonte to haue beene soe merry and gladd?
Nothing, quoth the bishopp, I ayle att this time;
Will not thee availe to know, brother mine.

Brother, quoth the shepeard, you haue heard itt,
That a ffoole may teach a wisemane witt;
Say me therfore whatsoeuer you will,
And if I doe you noe good, Ile doe you noe ill.

Quoth the bishop: I haue beene att the court anon,
Before my prince is called King Iohn,
And there he hath charged mee
Against his crowne with traitorye.

If I cannott answer his misterye,
Three questions hee hath propounded to mee,
He will haue my land soe faire and free,
And alsoe the head from my bodye.

The first question was, to tell him in that stead,
With the crowne of gold vpon his head,
Amongst his nobilitye, with ioy and much mirth,
To lett him know within one penye what hee is worth.

And secondlye, to tell him with-out any doubt
How soone he may goe the whole world about;
And thirdlye, to tell him, or ere I stint,
What is the thinge that he does thinke.

Brother, quoth the shepard, you are a man of learninge;
What neede you stand in doubt of soe small a thinge?
Lend me, quoth the shepard, your ministers apparrell,
Ile ryde to the court and answere your quarrell.

Lend me your serving men, say me not nay,
With all your best horsses that ryd on the way;
Ile to the court, this matter to stay;
Ile speake with King Iohn and heare what heele say.

The bishopp with speed prerpared then
To sett forth the shepard with horsse and man;
The shepard was liuely without any doubt;
I wott a royall companye came to the court.

The shepard hee came to the court anon
Before [his] prince that was called King Iohn.
As soone as the king the shepard did see,
O, quoth the king, Bishopp thou art welcome to me.
The shepard was soe like the bishopp his brother,
The king cold not know the one from the other.

Quoth the king, Bishopp, thou art welcome to me
If thou can answer me my questions three.
Said the shepeard, If it please your grace,
Show mee what the first quest[i]on was.

First, quoth the king, Tell mee in this stead,
With the crowne of gold vpon my head,
Amongst my nobilitye, with ioy and much mirth,
Within one pennye what I am worth.

Quoth the shepard, To make your grace noe offence,
I thinke you are worth nine and twenty pence;
For our Lord Iesus, that bought vs all,
For thirty pence was sold into thrall
Amongst the cursed Iewes, as I to you doe showe;
But I know Christ was one penye better then you.

Then the king laught, and swore by St Andrew
He was not thought to bee of such a small value.
Secondlye, tell mee with-out any doubt
How soone I may goe the world round about.

Saies the shepard, It is noe time with your grace to scorne,
But rise betime with the sun in the morne,
And follow his course till his vprising,
And then you may know without any leasing.

And this [to] your grace shall proue the same,
You are come to the same place from whence you came;
In twenty-four houres, with-out any doubt,
Yoiurr grace may the world goe round about;
The world round about, euen as I doe say,
If with the sun you can goe the next way.

And thirdlye tell me or euer I stint,
What is the thing, bishoppe, that I doe thinke.
That shall I doe, quoth the shepeard; For veretye,
You thinke I am the bishopp of Canterburye.

Why, art not thou? the truth tell to me;
For I doe thinke soe, quoth the king, By St Marye.
Not soe, quoth the shepeard; The truth shalbe knowne,
I am his poore shepeard; my brother is att home.

Why, quoth the king, if itt soe bee,
Ile make thee bishopp here to mee.
Noe, Sir, quoth the shepard, I pray you be still,
For Ile not bee bishop but against my will;
For I am not fitt for any such deede,
For I can neither write nor reede.

Why then, quoth the king, Ile giue thee cleere
A pattent of three hundred pound a yeere;
That I will giue thee franke and free;
Take thee that, shepard, for coming to me.

Free pardon Ile giue, the kings grace said,
To saue the bishopp, his land and his head;
With him nor thee Ile be nothing wrath;
Here is the pardon for him and thee both.

Then the shepard he had noe more to say,
But tooke the pardon and rode his way:
When he came to the bishopps place,
The bishopp asket anon how all things was.

Brother, quoth the shepard, I haue well sped,
For I haue saued both your land and your head;
The king with you is nothing wrath,
For heere is the pardon for you and mee both.

Then the bishopes hart was of a merry cheere:
Brother, thy paines Ile quitt them cleare;
For I will giue thee a patent to thee and to thine
Of fifty pound a yeere, land good and fine.

. . . . . .
. . . .
I will to thee noe longer croche nor creepe,
Nor Ile serue thee noe more to keepe thy sheepe.

Whereeuer wist you shepard before,
That had in his head witt such store
To pleasure a bishopp in such a like case,
To answer three questions to the kings grace?
Whereeuer wist you shepard gett cleare
Three hundred and fifty pound a yeere?

I neuer hard of his fellow before.
Nor I neuer shall: now I need to say noe more.
I neuer knew shepeard that gott such a liuinge
But David, the shepeard, that was a king.


Percy MS, p. 184. Hales and Furnivall I, 508.


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Subject: ADD: King John and the Bishop (Child #45b)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 Feb 16 - 03:50 AM

And here's Child #45b

KING JOHN AND THE BISHOP
(Child #45b)

I'LL tell you a story, a story anon,
Of a noble prince, and his name was King John;
For he was a prince, and a prince of great might,
He held up great wrongs, he 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,
And of his house-keeping and high renown,
Which made him resort to fair London town.

How now, father abbot? 'Tis told unto me
That thou keepest a far better house than I;
And for [thy] house-keeping and high renown,
I fear thou has treason against my crown.

I hope, my liege, that you owe me no grudge
For spending of my true-gotten goods:
If thou dost not answer me questions three,
Thy head shall be taken from thy body.

When I am set so high on my steed,
With my crown of gold upon my head,
Amongst all my nobility, with joy and much mirth,
Thou must tell me to one penny what I am worth.

And the next question you must not flout,
How long I shall be riding the world about;
And the third question thou must not shrink,
But tell to me truly what I do think.

O 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.

O three days space I will thee give,
For that is the longest day thou hast to live.
And if thou dost not answer these questions right,
Thy head shall be taken from thy body quite.

And as the shepherd was going to his fold,
He spyd the old abbot come riding along:
How now, master abbot? Your welcome home;
What news have you brought from good King John?

Sad news, sad news I have thee 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.

When he is set so high on his steed,
With his crown of gold upon his head,
Amongst all his nobility, with joy and much mirth,
I must tell him to one penny what he is worth.

And the next question I must not flout,
How long he shall be riding the world about;
And the third question I must not shrink,
But tell him truly what he does think.

O master, did you never hear it yet,
That a fool may learn a wiseman wit?
Lend me but your horse and your apparel,
I'll ride to fair London and answer the quarrel.

Now I am set so high on my steed,
With my crown of gold upon my head,
Amongst all my nobility, with joy and much mirth,
Now tell me to one penny what I am worth.

For thirty pence our Saviour was sold,
Amongst the false Jews, as you have been told,
And nine and twenty's the worth of thee,
For I think thou are one penny worser than he.

And the next question thou mayst not flout;
How long I shall be riding the world about.
You must rise with the sun, and ride with the same,
Until the next morning he rises again,
And then I am sure you will make no doubt
But in twenty-four hours you'l ride it about.

And the third question you must not shrink,
But tell me truly what I do think.
All that I can do, and twill make you merry;
For you think I'm the Abbot of Canterbury,
But I'm his poor shepherd, as you may see,
And am come to beg pardon for he and for me.

The king he turned him about and did smile,
Saying, Thou shalt be the abbot the other while:
O no, my grace, there is no such need,
For I can neither write nor read.

Then four pounds a week will I give unto thee
For this merry jest thou hast told unto me;
And tell the old abbot, when thou comest home,
Thou hast brought him a pardon from good King John.


Broadside, printed for P. Brooksby, at the Golden Ball in Pye-corner (1672-95)


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Feb 16 - 07:04 AM

We recorded a story about Cromwell, the Bishop and the fool from a West of Ireland ex-fisherman and currach maker living in London which is a narrated version of the song
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Susan of DT
Date: 16 Feb 16 - 12:28 PM

Joe - At this point, I do not remember where I got that version from so long ago. I do not have any particular singer in my head for this song. I have been singing it for years.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 Feb 16 - 12:45 PM

It's a nice version, Susan. I hope you'll sing it for me sometime. It makes the song understandable without making it seem too updated.
I really like the version on Margaret MacArthur's Ballads Thrice Twisted. I tried to find a link to a YouTube recording, but couldn't.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Reinhard
Date: 16 Feb 16 - 12:54 PM

"King John and the Abbot of Canterbury." Where's the DT version from?

Below the DT lyrics is noted "recorded by Chris Foster", who released in in 1979 on his Topic album All Things in Common. His liner notes gave this synopsis:

King John and the Abbot of Canterbury … a song about a clash between church and state, including a shepherd with a misplaced sense of loyalty, three good riddles and a dubious happy ending.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Susan of DT
Date: 16 Feb 16 - 07:49 PM

Back in the early days of the Digital Tradition, we only put in one version of any song and listed various performers who sang some version of it. After we had a couple thousand songs entered, we put in additional versions of most songs. Therefore, if I said Chris Foster recorded a version of the song, it was not necessarily the version entered in the DT. Sorry.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 Feb 16 - 08:32 PM

Threads like this give me an excuse to buy recordings, which I do in great profusion. So this thread was a good excuse for me to get the two Topic Chris Foster recordings that were available at emusic.com. The first half of the Digital Tradition lyric correspond almost exactly with the Foster recording, but the second halves are quite different. The Foster recording is terrific, by the way.

Foster uses the typical "Down, Derry Down" melody that's used in "Iron Ore" and other songs of the ilk.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Reinhard
Date: 17 Feb 16 - 01:59 PM

Well, Chris Foster's version is quite similar to Child #45b above except that he leaves out verses 11 and 12 (the king's questions repeated by the abbot).


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 18 Jan 17 - 09:04 PM

So, I got a call from Robert Rodriquez this evening. He wants to know how many North American oral versions of "King John and the Abbott of Canterbury" we can find.
Please post both the lyrics and the source.
Ladies and Gentlemen, to your mark....
Go!

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Jan 17 - 03:21 AM

Bronson gives seven reported from American oral sources, the most well known one being Ward H Forde's on from California
Not sure where you go to find more up-to-date information, but I can't recall hearing a newer one from a traditional singer.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Jan 17 - 03:25 AM

Hi, Jim -

I'm not quite sure what to do with Robert's request. The Traditional Ballad Index (copy above) lists several, and I suppose we could find more. Maybe Robert will explain more next time he calls. (Robert is blind, so he keeps all this in his memory. Best damn memory I've ever seen).

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Jan 17 - 04:24 AM

If it's traditional versions he's after, surely the Library of Congress is the place.
It's an extremely rare ballad so it should stick out on any list Isn't there the equivalent of the English Folk Dance and Song Society in America?
The only one I've come across this side of the pond is the story version we recorded about Cromwell and the priest, in Ireland back in the 1970s
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Jan 17 - 08:30 AM

Someone should look through the Roud Index for him. That is kept up-to-date and is pretty comprehensive.

Re the tune, if you didn't already know, this, somewhat strangely, is the most commonly used tune in the English language for having different sets of words put to it. It easily eclipses Villikins which is probably more recent. If you look through old collections of songs and local pieces, especially 18th and 19th centuries it crops up time after time. The fact that once you see the chorus it is easily recognised might have something to do with it. I say surprisingly because its best fit is for stirring songs of adventure and peril, but it seems to have been utilised for practically any subject, many humorous songs, and it is still very popular today. I set one of my songs to it recently. It is a great tune!


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: King John and the Bishop (Child #45)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Jan 17 - 09:22 PM

OK, so Robert's eating ice cream now, and he's going to call me back in five minutes.
In Roud, I see 131 entries. One is from the New York Folklore quarterly and another from the WPA collection of the University of Virginia, and at least a few more from the U.S., so that should make him happy.
Robert gives his thanks to both of you, Steve and Jim.
Steve - am I right in thinking the tune is often referred to as "Down, Derry Down"?

-Joe-


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