A Song of Sir Richard Whittington, who by Strange Fortunes Came to bee Thrice Lord Mayor of London; with His Bountifull Guifts and Liberallity Given to This Honourable Citty by Richard Johnson

To the Tune of “Dainty come thou to me.”

Here must I tell the praise
Of worthy Whittington;
Known to be in his dayes
Thrice Mayor of London.
But of poor parentage
Borne was he, as we heare;
And in his tender age
Bred up in Lancashire.

Poorely to London than
Came up this simple lad;
Where, with a marchant-man,
Soone he a dwelling had;
And in a kitchen plast
A scullion for to be,
Whereas long time he past
In labour drudgingly.

His daily service was
Turning spitts at the fire,
And to scour pots of brasse,
For a poore scullions hire.
Meat and drinke all his pay,
Of coyne he had no store,
Therefore to run away,
In secret thought he bore.

So from this Marchant-man,
Whittington secretly
Towards his country ran,
To purchase liberty.
But, as he went along
In a fair summer morne,
London’s bells sweetly rung,
“Whittington back return.”

Evermore sounding so,
“Turn againe, Whittington,
For thou in time shall grow
Lord Mayor of London.”
Whereupon back againe
Whittington came with speed,
A prentise to remaine,
As the lord had decreed.

Still blessed be the bells:
This was his daily song,
“They my good fortune tells,
Most sweetly have they rung.
If God so favour me,
I will not proove unkind,
London my love shall see,
And my great bounties find.”

But see his happy chance:
This scullion had a cat,
Which did his state advance,
And by it wealth he gat.
His maister ventred forth,
To a land far unknown,
With marchandise of worth,
As is in stories showne.

Whittington had no more
But his poore cat as than,
Which, to the ship he bore,
Like a brave marchant man.
Vent’ring the same, quoth he,
“I may get store of golde,
And mayor of London be,
As the bells have me told.”

Whittington’s merchandise
Carried was to a land
Troubled with rats and mice,
As they did understand;
The king of that country, there
As he at dinner sat,
Daily remain’d in fear
Of many a mouse and rat.

Meat that in trenchers lay,
No way they could keepe safe,
But by rats borne away,
Fearing no wand or staffe.
Whereupon soone they brought
Whittington’s nimble cat,
Which by the king was bought;
Heapes of gold giv’n for that.

Home againe came these men
With their ships loaden so,
Whittington’s wealth began
By this cat thus to grow.
Scullions life he forsook
To be a marchant good,
And soon began to looke
How well his credit stood.

After that he was chose
Shriefe of the citty heere,
And then full quickly rose
Higher, as did appeare.
For to this cities praise,
Sir Richard Whittington
Came to be in his dayes,
Thrise Mayor of London.

More his fame to advance,
Thousands he lent his king,
To maintaine warres in France,
Glory from thence to bring.
And after, at a feast
Which he the king did make,
He burnt the bonds all in jeast,
And would no money take.

Ten thousand pound he gave
To his prince willingly,
And would not one penny have:
This in kind curtesie.
God did thus made him great;
So would he daily see
Poor people fed with meat,
To shew his charity.

Prisoners poore cherish’d were;
Widdowes sweet comfort found;
Good deeds both far and neere,
Of him do still resound.
Whittington Colledge is
One of his charities;
Records reporteth this,
To lasting memories.

Newgate he builded faire,
For prisoners to live in;
Christ’s-Church he did repaire,
Christian love for to win.
Many more such like deedes
Were done by Whittington,
Which joy and comfort breedes
To such as looke thereon.

Lancashire, thou hast bred
This flower of charity!
Though he be gon and dead,
Yet lives he lastingly.
Those bells that call’d him so,
“Turne again Whittington”
Call you back many moe
To live so in London.

From: Johnson, Richard and Chappell, W. (ed.), The Crown Garland of Golden Roses Consisting of Ballads and Songs by Richard Johnson, From the Edition of 1612, 1842, Percy Society: London, pp. 20-25.

Date: 1612

By: Richard Johnson (1573-c1659)


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