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The Princess Of Canterbury

from Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales - NURSEY STORIES





In days of yore, when this country was governed by several sovereigns,
amongst them was the King of Canterbury, who had an only daughter, wise,
fair, and beautiful. She was unmarried, and according to a custom not
unusual in those days, of assigning an arbitrary action for the present
of a lady's hand, the king issued a proclamation that whoever would
watch one night with his daughter, and neither sleep nor doze, should
have her the next day in marriage; but if he did either, he should lose
his head. Many knights attempted to fulfil the condition, and, having
failed in the attempt, forfeited their lives.

Now it happened that a young shepherd, grazing his flock near the road,
said to his master, "Zur,[17] I zee many gentlemen ride to the court at
Canterbury, but I ne'er zee 'em return again." "O, shepherd," said his
master, "I know not how you should, for they attempt to watch with the
king's daughter, according to the decree, and not performing it, they
are all beheaded." "Well," said the shepherd, "I'll try my vorton; zo
now vor a king's daughter, or a headless shepherd!" And taking his
bottle and bag, he trudged to the court. In his way thither, he was
obliged to cross a river, and pulling off his shoes and stockings, while
he was passing over he observed several pretty fish bobbing against his
feet; so he caught some, and put them into his pocket. When he reached
the palace, he knocked at the gate loudly with his crook, and having
mentioned the object of his visit, he was immediately conducted to a
hall, where the king's daughter sat ready prepared to receive her
lovers. He was placed in a luxurious chair, and rich wines and spices
were set before him, and all sorts of delicate meats. The shepherd,
unused to such fare, eat and drank plentifully, so that he was nearly
dozing before midnight. "O shepherd," said the lady, "I have caught you
napping!" "Noa, sweet ally, I was busy a-feeshing." "A-fishing!" said
the princess in the utmost astonishment: "Nay, shepherd, there is no
fish-pond in the hall." "No matter vor that, I have been feeshing in my
pocket, and have just caught one." "Oh me!" said she, "let me see it."
The shepherd slily drew the fish out of his pocket, and pretending to
have caught it, showed it her, and she declared it was the finest she
ever saw. About half an hour afterwards, she said, "Shepherd, do you
think you could get me one more?" He replied, "Mayhap I may, when I have
baited my hook;" and after a little while he brought out another, which
was finer than the first, and the princess was so delighted that she
gave him leave to go to sleep, and promised to excuse him to her father.

[Footnote 17: The present Kentish dialect does
not adopt this form, but anciently some of the
peculiarities of what is now the western dialect
of England extended all over the southern
counties.]

In the morning the princess told the king, to his great astonishment,
that the shepherd must not be beheaded, for he had been fishing in the
hall all night; but when he heard how the shepherd had caught such
beautiful fish out of his pocket, he asked him to catch one in his own.
The shepherd readily undertook the task, and bidding the king lie down,
he pretended to fish in his pocket, having another fish concealed ready
in his hand, and giving him a sly prick with a needle, he held up the
fish, and showed it to the king. His majesty did not much relish the
operation, but he assented to the marvel of it, and the princess and
shepherd were united the same day, and lived for many years in happiness
and prosperity.





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