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LYDGATE, John


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.