Three Maidens Ballade

The Ballade (as opposed to the ballad) is one of the three “formes fixe” or “fixed forms” of 14th century French verse, the other two being the roundeau (round) and the verelai. The Ballade is made up of three stanzas and a shorter final dedication known as the prince – as that usually was the first word in it, or the envoi.

The most common is the eight line verse ending with the four line envoi, in this rhyme pattern: ababbcbC ababbcbC ababbcbC bcbC. There are only three rhymes, C is a refrain and identical in every measure and no rhyme word should be repeated. Usually iambic the most common line lengths are eight (tetrameter) or ten syllables (pentameter).

Warning: There is a terrible pun in the envoi.

There once were three maidens, all fair, I own
Who wished to marry, to be lovely brides.
Though one did weigh some twenty stone
And another was quite squinty-eyed,
But all three were beauteous, would I lie?
A tale, I shall tell a tale to amuse.
A tale of three maidenss, who wished to be brides
For the feast, sirrah, go slaughter a goose.

One maiden did catch a squire all alone,
With a poke and a tickle, she had him tied.
For nothing could hide how her belly had grown.
And the squire? He fair beamed with pride.
‘Twas his first, he did it! Without a guide!
The second had one with a mug of sweet juice
And a fly from Castile that in it did slide.
For the feast, sirrah, go slaughter a goose.

Two sons were borne, conception condoned
With one maiden left, now fit to be tied.
But, a bride she’d be, she would not postpone.
For she would be equal to her sisters, she cried,
She planned a snare with rope, pot and hide.
A large pot in a tree, on the pathway a noose,
She caught her own squire, a rich one besides.
For the feast, sirrah, go slaughter a goose.

Gentles all heed, by this judgment abide,
Equal to the squire of the high pot and noose,
Are the sons of the squires of the other two brides.
For the feast, sirrah, go slaughter a goose.