King Jamie and the Tinker
John Kirkpatrick sang King Jamie and the Tinker in 1992 on the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented in the sleeve notes:
Published in the EFDSS Journal in 1936 by Anne Gilchrist who had found it in Dixon's Ballads & Songs of the Peasantry of England, printed in 1846. The idea of the King dressing as a commoner and going among his subjects is as old as the idea of kingship. It's a good tale evoking images of the merry greenwood. John, a bit nimble on various squeezeboxes, shows himself no slouch when it comes to a straightforward declamatory style of singing. There is a pub in Enfield called King Jamie & the Tinkler. John has never been there, but knows a man who has.
John Kirkpatrick sings King Jamie and the Tinker
Well now, to be brief, let's pass over the rest,
Who seldom or never were given to jest,
And sing of King Jamie, the first of our throne,
A pleasanter monarch sure never was known.
As he was out hunting the swift fallow-deer,
He dropped all his nobles; and when he got clear,
In search of some pastime away he did ride,
Till he came to an alehouse, hard by the woodside.
And there with a tinkler he chanced for to meet,
And him in kind sort so freely did greet:
“Pray tell me, good fellow, what hast in thy jug,
Which under thy arm thou dost lovingly hug?”
“By the mass!” quoth the tinkler, “'tis nappy brown ale,
And for to drink to thee, friend, I'll not fail;
For although thy jacket be gallant and fine,
I think that my twopence as good is as thine.”
“By my soul! honest fellow, 'tis truth thou hast spoke,”
And straight he sat down with the tinkler to joke;
And they drank to the King, they pledged to each other;
Who'd seen 'em had thought they was brother and brother.
And as they were a-drinking the King pleased to say,
“What news, honest fellow? Come tell me, I pray?”
“Well there's nothing of news, save that I hear
That the King's on the border a-chasing the deer.
“And truly I wish I so happy may be
Whilst he is out hunting the King I might see;
For although I have travelled the land many ways
I never have yet seen the King in my days.”
And the King, with a hearty good laughter, replied,
“By my soul, honest fellow, if thou canst but ride,
Thou will get up behind me, and thee I will bring
To the presence of Jamie, thy sovereign King.”
“Oh, but he'll be surrounded with nobles so gay,
So how shall we tell him from them, sir, I pray?”
“Well, you'll easily know him when once thou art there;
For the King head'll be covered, but his nobles all bare.”
So he got up behind him and likewise his sack,
With his budget of leather, and his tools at his back;
And away they did ride to the merry greenwood,
Where the nobles came around, and bareheaded they stood.
The tinkler then seeing so many appear,
He slyly did whisper the King in his ear:
“Oh, they are all clothed so gloriously gay,
But which amongst them is the King, sir, I pray?”
And he King with a hearty good laughter replied,
“By my soul, honest fellow, it's thou or it's I!
For the rest are bareheaded, uncovered all round.” —
And the tinkler the gaped and he fell to the ground,
And like one that was frightened quite out of his wits,
Down on his knees then he instantly gets,
Beseeching for mercy; but the King to him said,
“Oh, you're a good fellow, so be not afraid.
“Now come, tell me thy name?” “I am John of the Dale,
I'm a mender of kettles and a lover of ale.”
“Well, rise up, Sir John, I will honour thee here, —
For I make thee a knight of three thousand a year!”
Which was a fine thing for the tinkler indeed;
And straight to the court he was sent for with speed,
Where great store of pleasure and pastime was seen,
All in the royal presence of King and of Queen.
Now, Sir John of the Dale he has land, he has fee,
At the court of the king who so happy as he?
But still in his hall hangs the tinkler's old sack,
With his budget of leather and his tools in a pack,
To remind of the times to his back they did cling
And the day he spent drinking with Jamie the King.