All Things Warrington

Butler of Bewsey

Stacks Image 503

Listen, lord and ladies fair,
And gentles, do my roundelay;
List, youths and maidens debonnaire,
To this most doleful tragedy.

Of Pincerna, that noble race,
That Botiller was yclept, I say;
And Bewsey Hall, that goodly place,
Where traitors did the Butler slay.

Fatal the feud 'tween him and one
Whose sister was his wedded wife;
The proud Earl Derby, whose false son
Did plot to take the Butler's life.

Savage by name and nature too,
Piers Legh, that pierced all too free,
Join'd with Lord Stanley and his crew,
And bought the warder's treacherie.

A light shone from the warder's tow'r,
When all the house lay sunk in sleep,
To guide those murd'rers, fell and stour,
Across the moat, dark, wide, and'deep.

In leathern boats they cross'd, and then
The warder softly oped the gate:
Bold 'fronted them the chamberlain;
Holcrofte his master warn'd—too late.

Him they slew first, and then the knight,
While sleeping, 'neath their daggers bled;
A faithful negro, black as night,
Snatcht up the infant heir and fled.

That felon porter craved reward
For treach'rous guiding in the dark:
They paid him ; then for his false guard
They hung him on a tree in the park.

In vain they sought—the child was saved;
But gallant Butler was no more:
That night his wife in London dreamt
That Bewsey Hall did swim with gore.

When that she learn'd the foul deed done,
She pray'd they might have felons' doom;
But might 'gainst right the struggle won;
Then sigh'd she forth in bitter gloom:

" If by my lord's fell foes and mine
My will in life is thus denied
And I must live, bereaved, to pine,
Death nor the grave shall us divide."

An alabaster tomb she made,
To her lov'd husband's mem'ry true;
And on her death her corpse was laid
Close by his side, 'neath aged yew.

Mourn for the brave, the fair and true,
Sleeping in love, and hope, and faith;
May ruthless ruffians ever rue
Their murder foul, brave Butler's death!

'Butler of Bewsey' first appeared in John Harland's book 'Ballads and Songs of Lancashire, ancient and modern' in 1875. It tells of the murder of Sir John Butler (Boteler) of Bewsey Old Hall, Warrington, in the 15th century. The story has been captured in prose on at least four different occasions. This version is a reworked and edited version of another ballad entitled 'The Ballad of Bewsey'. For further information on this and other works inspired by Sir John's murder, plus a little background information on the murder itself, see The Bewsey Ballads.

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poetry section of All Things Warrington.