The Loving Ballad of Lord Bateman / William Makepeace Thackeray

Warning to the Public



In some collection of old English Ballads there is an ancient ditty which I am told bears some remote and distant resemblance to the following Epic Poem. I beg to quote the emphatic language of my estimable friend (if he will allow me to call him so), the Black Bear in Piccadilly, and to assure all to whom these presents may come, that "I am the original."
This affecting legend is given in the following pages precisely as I have frequently heard it sung on Saturday nights, outside a house of general refreshment (familiarly termed a wine vaults) at Battle-bridge. The singer is a young gentleman who can scarcely have numbered nineteen summers, and who before his last visit to the treadmill, where he was erroneously incarcerated for six months as a vagrant (being unfortunately mistaken for another gentleman), had a very melodious and plaintive tone of voice, which, though it is now somewhat impaired by gruel and such a getting up stairs for so long a period, I hope shortly to find restored. I have taken down the words from his own mouth at different periods, and have been careful to preserve his pronunciation, together with the air to which he does so much justice. Of his execution of it, however, and the intense melancholy which he communicates to such passages of the song as are most susceptible of such an expression, I am unfortunately unable to convey to the reader an adequate idea, though I may hint that the effect seems to me to be in part produced by the long and mournful drawl on the last two or three words of each verse.

I had intended to have dedicated my imperfect illustrations of this beautiful Romance to the young gentleman in question. As I cannot find, however, that he is known among his friends by any other name than "The Tripe-skewer," which I cannot but consider as a soubriquet, or nick-name; and as I feel that it would be neither respectful nor proper to address him publicly by that title, I have been compelled to forego the pleasure. If this should meet his eye, will he pardon my humble attempt to embellish with the pencil the sweet ideas to which he gives such feeling utterance? And will he believe me to remain his devoted admirer,


P.S.--The above is not my writing, nor the notes either, nor am I on familiar terms (but quite the contrary) with the Black Bear. Nevertheless I admit the accuracy of the statement relative to the public singer whose name is unknown, and concur generally in the sentiments above expressed relative to him.

The Loving Ballad Of Lord Bateman.

For the notes to this beautiful Poem, see the end of the work.


Lord Bateman vos a noble Lord, A noble Lord of high degree; He shipped his-self all aboard of a ship, Some foreign country for to see.[1]


He sail-ed east, he sail-ed vest, Until he come to famed Tur-key, Vere he vos taken, and put to prisin, Until his life was quite wea-ry.


All in this prisin there grew a tree, O! there it grew so stout and strong, Vere he vos chain-ed all by the middle Until his life vos almost gone.


This Turk[2] he had one ounly darter, The fairest my two eyes e'er see, She steele the keys of her father's prisin, And swore Lord Bateman she would let go free.


O she took him to her father's cellar, And guv to him the best of vine; And ev'ry holth she dronk unto him, Vos, "I vish Lord Bateman as you vos mine!"[3]


"O have you got houses, have you got land, And does Northumberland belong to thee? And what would you give to the fair young lady As out of prisin would let you go free?"


"O I've got houses, and I've got land, And half Northumberland belongs to me; And I vill give it all to the fair young lady As out of prisin vould let me go free."


"O in sevin long years, I'll make a wow For sevin long years, and keep it strong,[4] That if you'll ved no other voman, O I vill v-e-ed no other man."


O She took him to her father's harbour, And guv to him a ship of fame, Saying, "Farevell, Farevell to you, Lord Bateman, I fear I ne-e-ever shall see you agen."


Now sevin long years is gone and past, And fourteen days vell known to me;[5] She packed up all her gay clouthing, And swore Lord Bateman she would go see.


O ven she arrived at Lord Bateman's castle, How bouldly then she rang the bell, "Who's there! who's there!" cries the proud young porter, "O come, unto me pray quickly tell."


"O! is this here Lord Bateman's castle, And is his lordship here vithin?" "O Yes! O yes!" cries the proud young porter; "He's just now takin' his young bride in."


"O! bid him to send me a slice of bread, And a bottle of the wery best vine, And not forgettin' the fair young lady As did release him ven close confine."


O! avay and avay vent this proud young porter, O! avay and avay and avay vent he,[6] Until he come to Lord Bateman's charmber, Ven he vent down on his bended knee.


"Vot news, vot news, my proud young porter,[7] Vot news, vot news, come tell to me?" "O there is the fairest young lady As ever my two eyes did see.


"She has got rings on ev'ry finger, And on one finger she has got three: Vith as much gay gould about her middle As would buy half Northumberlee.


"O she bids you to send her a slice of bread And a bottle of the wery best vine, And not forgettin' the fair young lady As did release you ven close confine."


Lord Bateman then in passion flew, And broke his sword in splinters three,[8] Saying, "I vill give half my father's land If so be as Sophia[9] has crossed the sea."


Then up and spoke this young bride's mother, Who never vos heerd to speak so free:[10] Sayin, "You'll not forget my ounly darter, If so be as Sophia has crossed the sea."


"O it's true I made a bride of your darter, But she's neither the better nor the vorse for me; She came to me with a horse and saddle, But she may go home in a coach and three."


Lord Bateman then prepared another marriage, With both their hearts so full of glee, Saying, "I vill roam no more to foreign countries Now that Sophia has crossed the sea."[11]



[Footnote 1:

Some foreign country for to see.

The reader is here in six words artfully made acquainted with Lord Bateman's character and temperament.--Of a roving, wandering, and unsettled spirit, his Lordship left his native country, bound he knew not whither. Some foreign country he wished to see, and that was the extent of his desire; any foreign country would answer his purpose--all foreign countries were alike to him. He was a citizen of the world, and upon the world of waters, sustained by the daring and reckless impulses of his heart, he boldly launched. For anything, from pitch-and-toss upwards to manslaughter, his Lordship was prepared. Lord Bateman's character at this time, and his expedition, would appear to Have borne a striking resemblance to those of Lord Byron.

His goblets brimmed with every costly wine,
And all that mote to luxury invite.
Without a sigh he left to cross the brine,
And traverse Paynim shores, and pass earth's central line.


[Footnote 2:

This Turk he had, &c.

The poet has here, by that bold license which only genius can venture upon, surmounted the extreme difficulty of introducing any particular Turk, by assuming a fore-gone conclusion in the reader's mind, and adverting in a casual, careless way to a Turk unknown, as to an old acquaintance. "This Turk he had--" We have heard of no Turk before, and yet this familiar introduction satisfies us at once that we know him well. He was a pirate, no doubt, of a cruel and savage disposition, entertaining a hatred of the Christian race, and accustomed to garnish his trees and vines with such stray professors of Christianity as happened to fall into his hands. "This Turk he had--" is a master-stroke--a truly Shakspearian touch. There are few things like it in the language.]

[Footnote 3:

And every holth she drunk unto him Vos, "I vish Lord Bateman as you vos mine!"

A most affecting illustration of the sweetest simplicity, the purest artlessness, and holiest affections of woman's gentle nature. Bred up among the rough and savage crowds which thronged her father's lawless halls, and meeting with no responsive or kindred spirit among those fierce barbarians (many of whom, however, touched by her surpassing charms, though insensible to her virtues and mental endowments, had vainly sought her hand in marriage), this young creature had spent the greater part of her life in the solitude of her own apartments, or in contemplating the charms of nature arrayed in all the luxury of eastern voluptuousness. At length she hears from an aged and garrulous attendant, her only female adviser (for her mother died when she was yet an infant), of the sorrows and sufferings of the Christian captive. Urged by pity and womanly sympathy, she repairs to his prison to succour and console him. She supports his feeble and tottering steps to her father's cellar, recruits his exhausted frame with copious draughts of sparkling wine, and when his dim eye brightens, and his pale cheek becomes flushed with the glow of returning health and animation, she--unaccustomed to disguise or concealment, and being by nature all openness and truth--gives vent to the feelings which now thrill her maiden heart for the first time, in the rich gush of unspeakable love, tenderness, and devotion--

I vish Lord Bateman as you vos mine!]

[Footnote 4:

Oh, in sevin long years I'll make a wow, I'll make a wow, and I'll keep it strong.

Love has converted the tender girl into a majestic heroine; she cannot only make "a wow," but she can "keep it strong;" she feels all the dignity of truth and love swelling in her bosom. With the view of possessing herself of the real state of Lord Bateman's affections, and with no sordid or mercenary motives, she has enquired of that nobleman what are his means of subsistence, and whether allNorthumberland belongs to him. His Lordship has rejoined, with a noble regard for truth, that half Northumberland is his, and that he will give it freely to the fair young lady who will release him from his dungeon. She, being thus assured of his regard and esteem, rejects all idea of pecuniary reward, and offers to be a party to a solemn wow--to be kept strong on both sides--that, if for seven years he will remain a bachelor, she, for the like period, will remain a maid. The contract is made, and the lovers are solemnly contracted.]

[Footnote 5:

Now sevin long years is gone and past, And fourteen days vell known to me.

In this may be recognised, though in a minor degree, the same gifted hand that portrayed the Mussulman, the pirate, the father, and the bigot, in two words. The time is gone, the historian knows it, and that is enough for the reader. This is the dignity of history very strikingly exemplified.]

[Footnote 6:

Avay and avay vent this proud young porter, Avay and avay and avay vent he.

Nothing perhaps could be more ingeniously contrived to express the vastness of Lord Bateman's family mansion than this remarkable passage. The proud young porter had to thread courts, corridors, galleries, and staircases innumerable, before he could penetrate to those exquisite apartments in which Lord Bateman was wont to solace his leisure hours, with the most refined pleasures of his time. We behold him hastening to the presence of his lord: the repetition of the word "avay" causes us to feel the speed with which he hastens--at length he arrives. Does he appear before the chief with indecent haste? Is he described as rushing madly into his presence to impart his message? No! a different atmosphere surrounds that remarkable man. Even this proud young porter is checked in his impetuous career which lasted only

Until he came to Lord Bateman's chamber, Vere he vent down on his bended knee.

Lord Bateman's eye is upon him, and he quails.]

[Footnote 7:

Vot news! vot news! my proud young porter?

A pleasant condescension on the part of his lordship, showing that he recognised the stately youth, and no less stately pride of office which characterized his follower, and that he was acquainted with the distinguishing appellation which he appears to have borne in the family.]

[Footnote 8:

And broke his sword in splinters three.

Exemplifying, in a highly poetical and striking manner, the force of Lord Bateman's love, which he would seem to have kept strong as his "wow." We have beheld him patient in confinement, descending to no base murmurings against fortune, even when chained by the middle to a tree, with the prospect of ending his days in that ignominious and unpleasant position. He has borne all this and a great deal more, seven years and a fortnight have elapsed, and, at last, on the mere mention of the fair young lady, he falls into a perfect phrenzy, and breaks his sword, the faithful partner and companion of his glory, into three splinters. Antiquarians differ respecting the intent and meaning of this ceremony, which has been construed and interpreted in many different ways. The strong probability is that it was done "for luck;" and yet Lord Bateman should have been superior to the prejudices of the vulgar.]

[Footnote 9:

If my own Sophia.

So called doubtless from the mosque of St. Sophia, at Constantinople; her father having professed the Mahomedan religion.]

[Footnote 10:

Then up and spoke this young bride's mother, Who never vos heerd to speak so free.

This is an exquisite touch of nature, which most married men, whether of noble or plebeian blood, will quickly recognise. During the whole of her daughter's courtship, the good old lady had scarcely spoken, save by expressive smiles and looks of approval. But now that her object is gained, and her daughter fast married (as she thinks), she suddenly assumes quite a new tone, "and never was heerd to speak so free." It would be difficult for poetry to comprehend any thing more strictly true and life-like than this.]

[Footnote 11:

With both their hearts so full of glee.

If any thing could add to the grace and beauty of the poem, it would be this most satisfactory and agreeable conclusion. At the time of the foreign lady's arrival on the shores of England, we find Lord Bateman in the disagreeable dilemma of having contracted another marriage; to which step his lordship has doubtless been impelled by despair of ever recovering his lost Sophia, and a natural anxiety not to die without leaving an heir to his estate. The ceremony has been performed, the Church has done its office, the bride and her mamma have taken possession of the castle, when the lost Sophia suddenly presents herself. An ordinary man would have been overwhelmed by such a complication of perplexities--not so Lord Bateman. Master of the human heart, he appeals to feminine ambition and love of display; and, reminding the young lady that she came to him on a saddle horse (with her revered parent following no doubt on foot behind), offers to bestow upon her a coach and three. The young lady closes with the proposition; her august mother, having brought it about by her freedom of speech, makes no objection; Lord Bateman, being a nobleman of great power, and having plenty of superfluous wealth to bestow upon the Church, orders another marriage, and boldly declares the first one to be a nullity. Thereupon "another marriage" is immediately prepared, and the piece closes with a picture of general happiness and hilarity.]

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