The London Lackpenny
To London once my steps I bent,
Where truth in no wise should be faint;
To Westminster-ward I forthwith went,
To a man of Law to make complaint.
I said, 'For Mary's love, that holy saint,
Pity the poor that would proceed!'
But for lack of money, I could not speed.
And, as I thrust the press among,
By froward chance my hood was gone;
Yet for all that I stayed not long
Till to the King's Bench I was come.
Before the Judge I kneeled anon
And prayed him for God's sake take heed.
But for lack of money, I might not speed.
Beneath them sat clerks a great rout,
Which fast did write by one assent;
There stood up one and cried about
'Richard, Robert, and John of Kent!'
I wist not well what this man meant,
He cried so thickly there indeed.
But he that lacked money might not speed.
To the Common Pleas I yode tho,
There sat one with a silken hood:
I 'gan him reverence for to do,
And told my case as well as I could;
How my goods were defrauded me by falsehood;
I got not a mum of his mouth for my meed,
And for lack of money I might not speed.
Unto the Rolls I gat me from thence,
Before the clerks of the Chancery;
Where many I found earning of pence;
But none at all once regarded me.
I gave them my plaint upon my knee;
They liked it well when they had it read;
But, lacking money, I could not be sped.
In Westminster Hall I found out one,
Which went in a long gown of ray;
I crouched and knelt before him; anon,
For Mary's love, for help I him pray.
'I wot not what thou mean'st', 'gan he say;
To get me thence he did me bid,
For lack of money I could not speed.
Within this Hall, neither rich nor yet poor
Would do for me aught although I should die;
Which seing, I gat me out of the door;
Where Flemings began on me for to cry,--
'Master, what will you copen or buy?
Fine felt hats, or spectacles to read?
Lay down your silver, and here you may speed.'
To Westminster Gate I presently went,
When the sun was at high prime;
Cooks to me they took good intent,
And proffered me bread, with ale and wine,
Ribs of beef, both fat and full fine;
A faire cloth they 'gan for to spread,
But, wanting money, I might not then speed.
Then unto London I did me hie,
Of all the land it beareth the prize;
'Hot peascodes!' one began to cry;
'Strawberries ripe!' and 'Cherries in the rise!'
One bade me come near and buy some spice;
Pepper and saffrone they 'gan me bede;
But, for lack of money, I might not speed.
Then to the Cheap I 'gan me drawn,
Where much people I saw for to stand;
One offered me velvet, silk, and lawn;
Another he taketh me by the hand,
'Here is Paris thread, the finest in the land';
I never was used to such things indeed;
And, wanting money, I might not speed.
Then went I forth by London stone,
Throughout all the Canwick Street;
Drapers much cloth me offered anon;
Then comes me one cried, 'Hot sheep's feet!'
One cried, 'Mackarel!' 'Rushes green!' another 'gan greet;
One bade me buy a hood to cover my head;
But for want of money I might not be sped.
Then I hied me into East Cheap:
One cries 'Ribs of beef and many a pie!'
Pewter pots they clattered on a heap;
There was harpe, pipe, and minstrelsy:
'Yea, by cock!' 'Nay, by cock!' some began cry;
Some sung of 'Jenkin and Julian' for their meed;
But, for lack of money, I might not speed.
Then into Cornhill anon I yode
Where there was much stolen gear among;
I saw where hung my owne hood,
That I had lost among the throng:
To buy my own hood I thought it wrong;
I knew it as well as I did my creed;
But, for lack of money, I could not speed.
The Taverner took me by the sleeve;
'Sir,' saith he, 'will you our wine assay?'
I answered, 'That cannot much me grieve;
A penny can do no more than it may.'
I drank a pint, and for it did pay;
Yet, sore a-hungered from thence I yede;
And, wanting money, I could not speed.
Then hied I me to Billings-gate,
And one cried, 'Ho! go we hence!'
I prayed a bargeman, for God's sake,
That he would spare me my expense.
'Thou 'scap'st not here,' quoth he, 'under twopence;
I list not yet bestow any almsdeed.'
Thus, lacking money, I could not speed.
Then I conveyed me into Kent;
For of the law would I meddle no more.
Because no man to me took intent,
I dight me to do as I did before.
Now Jesus that in Bethlehem was bore,
Save London and send true lawyers their meed!
For whoso wants money with them shall not speed.
John Lydgate's Other Poems
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