The Tournament of Tottenham (15th cent.)


The text has been modernized, though many old forms have been allowed to stand; they are glossed. The text is in the Northen Middle English dialect; occasional Northernisms have been retained















































Of all these keen conquerours to carpe it were kind;
Of fele fighting folk ferly we find:
The Tournament of Tottenham have we in mind.
It were harm such hardiness were holden behind,
In story as we read,
Of Hawkyn, of Herry,
Of Tomkyn, of Terry,
Of them that were doughty
And stalwart in deed.

It befell in Totenham on a dear day
There was made a shurting by the highway.
Thither came all the men of the country
Of Hyssyltoun, of Hygate, and of Hakenay
And all the sweet swinkers:
There hopped Hawkyn,
There danced Dawkyn,
There trumped Tomkyn;
And all were true drinkers

Till the day was gone and Even-song past,
That they should reckon their scot and their contes cast.
Perkyn the potter into the press past,
And said, "Randolf the reeve, a daughter thou hast --
Tyb, the dear;
Therefor wit would I
Which of all this bachelery
Were best worthy
To wed her to his fere."

Up start these gadelinges with their long staves,
And said, "Randolf the reeve, lo! this lad raves!
Boldly among us thy daughter he craves,
And we are richer men than he, and more good haves
Of cattle and corn."
Then said Perkyn, "To Tybbe I have hight
That I shall be always ready in my right,
If that it should be this day seven-night
Or else yet tomorn."

Then said Randolf the reeve, "Ever be he waryed
That about this carping longer would be tarried!
I would not that my daughter that she were miscarried,
But at her most worship I would she were married.
Therefor a tournament shall begin
This day seven-night,
With a flail forto fight;
And he that is of most might
Shall brook her with winne.

"Whoso bears him best in the tournament,
Him shall be granted the gre, be the common assent,
Forto winne my daughter with doughtiness of dent,
And Coppeld, my brood-hen, was brought out of Kent,
And my donned cow. For no spens will I spare,
For no cattle will I care;
He shall have my gray mare,
And my spotted sow!"

There was many bold lad there bodies to bede.
Than they took their leave and homeward they yede.
And all the week afterward they graithed their weed,
Till it come to the day that they should do their deed.
They armed them in mats;
They set on there nolles,
Forto keep there polles,
Good black bowls,
For battering of bats.

They sowed them in sheep skins for they should not brest;
Ilkon took a black hat instead of a crest,
A harrow broad as a fan above on their breast,
And a flail in their hand for to fight prest.
Forth gon they fare.
There was kid mekil force
Who should best fend his corse;
He that had no good horse,
He got him a mare.

Such another gathering have I not seen oft!
When all the great company come riding to the croft,
Tyb on a gray mare was set upon loft
On a sack full of seeds, for she should sit soft,
And led her to the gap;
For crying of all the men,
Further would not Tyb then
Till she had her good brood-hen
Set in her lap.

A gay girdle Tyb had on, borrowed for the nones,
And a garland on her head full of round bones,
And a brooch on her brest full of safer stones,
With the holy rode tokening was written for the nones --
No cattle was there spared!
When jolly Gyb saw her there,
He gird so his gray mare
That she let a faucon-fare
At the rearward.

"I vow to God," quod Herry, "I shall not leave behind!
May I meet with Bernard on Bayard the blind!
Each man keep him out of my wind,
For whatsoever that he be before me I find,
I wot I shall him grieve!
"Well said!" quod Hawkyn.
"And I avow," quod Dawkyn,
"May I meet with Tomkyn,
His flail him reeve!

"I vow to God," quod Hud, "Tyb, soon shall thou see
Which of all this bachelery grant is the gre!
I shall scomfet them all, for the love of thee.
In what place so I come, they shall have dout of me,
Mine armes are so clear:
I here a reddil and a rake
Powdered with a burning drake,
And three cantell of a cake
In each a corner."

"I vow to God," quod Hawkyn, "if I have the gout,
All that I find in the field pressing here about,
Have I twice or thrice ridden through the route,
In each a stead there they me see, of me they shall have doute
When I begin to play!
I make a vow that I ne shall -
But if Tybbe will me call,
Ere I be thrice down fall -
Right once come away!"

Then said Terry, and swore by his Creed:
"Saw thou never young boy further his body bede;
For when they fight fastest and most are in dread,
I shall take Tyb by the hand and her away lead.
I am armed at the full:
In mine armes I bear well
A dough trough and a pele,
A saddle without a panel,
With a fleece of wool."

"I vow to God," quod Dudman, and swore by the straw,
"Whiles me is left my mare, thou getes her not so!
For she is well shapen and light as the roe;
There is no capul in this mile before her shall go.
She will me not beguile;
She will me bear, I dare well say,
On a long summer's day
From Hyssultoun to Hakenay,
Not another half mile."

"I vow to God," quod Perkyn, "thou spekes of cold roast!
I shall work wiselier, without any host:
Five of the best capuls that are in this host,
I wot I shall them winne and bring them to my cost,
And here I grant them Tybbe.
Well, boys, here is he
That will fight and not flee,
For I am in my jollity,
With go forth, Gybbe!"'

When they had their vows made, forth con they tee
With flails and horns and trumps mad of tree --
There were all the bachelors of that country.
They were dight in array as themself would be:
Their banners were full bright,
Of an old raton fell;
The chevron of a plow-mell,
And the shadow of a bell
Powdered with moonlight.

I wot it is no children's game when they together met!
When each a freke in the field on his fellow beat.
And laid on stiffly; for nothing would they let --
And fought ferly fast till their horses sweat,
And few words spoken.
There were flails all to-slattered,
There were shields all to-clattered,
Bowls and dishes all to-battered,
And many heads broken.

There was clinking of cart saddles and clattering of cans;
Of fele frekes in the field, broken were their fans;
Of some were the heads broken, of some the brain-pans,
And ill were they beseen ere they went thence.
With sweeping of swepilles,
The boys were so weary forfought
That they might not fight more aloft,
But creeped then about in the croft
As they were crooked cripples.

Perkyn was so weary that he began to lout:
"Help! Hud. I am dead in this ilk route!
A horse for forty pence, a good and a stout,
That I may lightly come of my noye out!
For no cost will I spare!"
He start up as a snail
And hent a capul by the tail,
And raught Dawkyn his flail,
And won there a mare.

Perkyn won five and Hud won two --
Glad and blithe they were that they had don so.
They would have them to Tyb and present her with those;
The capuls were so weary that they might not go,
But still gon they stand.
"Allas!" quod Hudde, "my joy I lese!
Me had lever then a stone of cheese
That dear Tyb had all these
And wist it were my sand."

Perkyn turned him about in that each throng;
Among these weary boys he wrest and he wrung -
He threw them down to the earth and thrust them among,
When he saw Terry away with Tyb fang,
And after him ran.
Off his hors he him drogh
And gave him of his flail enough.
"Whee! tee-hee," quod Tyb and laugh,
"Ye are a doughty man!"

Thus they tugged and rugged till it was near night.
All the wives of Totenham come to see that sight,
With wisps and kexes and rushes their light
To fetch home there husbands, that were them troth plight.
And some brought great harwes
Their husbands home for to fetch --
Some on doors and some on hech,
Some on hurdles and some on crech,
And some on wheelbarrows.

They gathered Perkyn about, everich side,
And grant him there the gre; the more was his pride.
Tyb and he with great mirth homeward gon they ride,
And were all night together, till the morn tide.
And they in fere assent,
So well his needs he has sped,
That dear Tyb he shall wed --
The prize folk that her led
Were of the tournament.

To that ilk feast come many, for the nones:
Some come hip-halt, and some tripping on the stones;
Some a staff in his hand, and some two at once;
Of some were the heads to-broken, and some the shoulder-bones
With sorrow come they thider!
Woe was Hawkyn, woe was Herry,
Woe was Tomkyn, woe was Terry,
And so was all the bachelary
When they met together.

At that feast they were served with a riche array --
Every five and five had a cokenay --
And so they sat in jollity all the long day,
And at the last they went to bed with full great deray.
Mekil mirth was them among:
In every corner of the house
Was melody delicious,
For to hear, precious,
Of six men's song.

carp = tell
many; wonders

shurting = feast


crowd passed

wit = know
group of bachelors

as his companion


have more wealth


week from today


enjoy; pleasure



prepared; equipment

protect; crowns

each one

made known; great
defend; body





I'll take away


reddil = a farm implement
decorated; dragon



pele = baker's peal

capul = horse

did they go

drawn up

rat skin
plow hammer
outline of a bell




many warriors

ill treated
ends of flails
fought out
on horses

ilk = very, same


reached, hit with

gon = did

knew; sending

each = very, same

take (his way)



straw; flax


sleds; lattices

on every side




cock's egg


Modernized from the text of W.C. Hazlitt, Remains of Early Popular Poetry in England, London, 1864-66.

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