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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Francis Beaumont (1584–1616) and John Fletcher (1579–1625)

Chivalrous Adventures of an Apprentice

From “The Knight of the Burning Pestle”

CITIZEN, a grocer; his WIFE; RALPH, their head apprentice; TIM and GEORGE, apprentices.

Cit.Peace, fool! let Ralph alone. Mark you, Ralph, do not strain yourself too much at the first. Peace! Begin, Ralph.

Ralph(reads).Then Palmerin and Trineus, snatching their lances from their dwarfs and clasping their helmets, galloped amain after the giant; and Palmerin, having gotten a sight of him, came posting amain, saying, “Stay, traitorous thief! for thou mayst not so carry away her that is worth the greatest lord in the world”; and, with these words, gave him a blow on the shoulder, that he struck him beside his elephant. And Trineus, coming to the knight that had Agricola behind him, set him soon beside his horse, with his neck broken in the fall, so that the princess, getting out of the throng, between joy and grief, said, “All happy knight, the mirror of all such as follow arms, now may I be well assured of the love thou bearest me.” I wonder why the kings do not raise an army of fourteen or fifteen hundred thousand men, as big as the army that the Prince of Portigo brought against Rosicler, and destroy these giants; they do much hurt to wandering damsels that go in quest of their knights.

Wife.Faith, husband, and Ralph says true, for they say the King of Portugal cannot sit at his meat but the giants and the ettins will come and snatch it from him.

Cit.Hold thy tongue! On, Ralph.

Ralph.And certainly those knights are much to be commended who, neglecting their possessions, wander with a squire and a dwarf through the deserts to relieve poor ladies.

Wife.Ay, by my faith are they, Ralph; let ’em say what they will, they are indeed. Our knights neglect their possessions well enough, but they do not the rest.

Ralph.There are no such courteous and fair well-spoken knights in this age; they will call one the son of a sea-cook, that Palmerin of England would have called fair sir; and one that Rosicler would have called right beautiful damsel, they will call old witch.

Wife.I’ll be sworn will they, Ralph. They have called me so an hundred times about a scurvy pipe of tobacco.

Ralph.But what brave spirit could be content to sit in his shop, with a flapet of wood, and a blue apron before him, selling Methridatam and Dragons’ Water to visited houses, that might pursue feats of arms, and through his noble achievements procure such a famous history to be written of his heroic prowess?

Cit.Well said, Ralph. Some more of those words, Ralph.

Wife.They go finely, by my troth.

Ralph.Why should I not then pursue this course, both for the credit of myself and our company? for among all the worthy books of achievements, I do not call to mind that I yet read of a grocer errant. I will be the said knight. Have you heard of any that hath wandered unfurnished of his squire and dwarf? My elder ’prentice Tim shall be my trusty squire, and little George my dwarf. Hence, my blue apron! Yet, in remembrance of my former trade, upon my shield shall be portrayed a burning pestle, and I will be called the Knight of the Burning Pestle.

Wife.Nay, I dare swear thou wilt not forget thy old trade; thou wert ever meek. Ralph! Tim!


Ralph.My beloved squire, and George my dwarf, I charge you that from henceforth you never call me by any other name but the Right courteous and valiant Knight of the Burning Pestle; and that you never call any female by the name of a woman or wench, but fair lady, if she have her desires; if not, distressed damsel; that you call all forests and heaths, deserts; and all horses, palfreys.

Wife.This is very fine! Faith, do the gentlemen like Ralph, think you, husband?

Cit.Ay, I warrant thee, the players would give all the shoes in their shop for him.

Ralph.My beloved Squire Tim, stand out! Admit this were a desert, and over it a knight errant pricking, and I should bid you inquire of his intents, what would you say?

Tim.Sir, my master sent me to know whither you are riding?

Ralph.No, thus: Fair sir, the right courteous and valiant Knight of the Burning Pestle commanded me to inquire upon what adventure you are bound—whether to relieve some distressed damsel, or otherwise.

Cit.Dunder blockhead cannot remember.

Wife.I’ faith, and Ralph told him on’t before; all the gentlemen heard him. Did he not, gentlemen—did not Ralph tell him on’t?

George.Right courteous and valiant Knight of the Burning Pestle, here is a distressed damsel to have a halfpennyworth of pepper.

Wife.That’s a good boy. See, the little boy can hit it. By my troth it’s a fine child.

Ralph.Relieve her with all courteous language. Now shut up shop: no more my ’prentice, but my trusty squire and dwarf, I must bespeak my shield, and arming pestle.



Ralph.What knight is that, squire? Ask him if he keep

The passage bound by love of lady fair,

Or else but prickant.
Hum.Sir, I am no knight,

But a poor gentleman, that this same night

Had stolen from me, upon yonder green,

My lovely wife, and suffered (to be seen

Yet extant on my shoulders) such a greeting,

That while I live I shall think of that meeting.

Wife.Ay, Ralph; he beat him unmercifully, Ralph; an’ thou spar’st him, Ralph, I would thou wert hang’d.

Cit.No more, wife—no more.

Ralph.Where is the caitiff wretch hath done this deed?

Lady, your pardon, that I may proceed

Upon the quest of this injurious knight.

And thou, fair squire, repute me not the worse,

In leaving the great ’venture of the purse

And the rich casket, till some better leisure.

Enter JASPER and LUCE.

Hum.Here comes the broker hath purloined my treasure.

Ralph.Go, squire, and tell him I am here,

An errant knight at arms, to crave delivery

Of that fair lady to her own knight’s arms.

If he deny, bid him take choice of ground,

And so defy him.
Squire.From the knight that bears

The golden pestle, I defy thee, knight,

Unless thou make fair restitution

Of that bright lady.
Jasp.Tell the knight that sent thee

He is an ass, and I will keep the wench,

And knock his head-piece.

Ralph.Knight, thou art but dead,

If thou recall not thy uncourteous terms.

Wife.Break his pate, Ralph—break his pate, Ralph, soundly!

Jasp.Come, knight, I’m ready for you; now your pestle(Snatches away pestle from RALPH.)

Shall try what temper, sir, your mortar’s of.

With that he stood upright in his stirrups,

And gave the knight of the calves-skin such a knock,

That he forsook his horse and down he fell,

And then he leaped upon him, and plucking off his helmet—

Hum.Nay, an’ my noble knight be down so soon,

Though I can scarcely go, I needs must run—(Exeunt HUMPHREY and RALPH.)

Wife.Run, Ralph! Run, Ralph! Run for thy life, boy!

Jasper comes! Jasper comes!

Jasp.Come, Luce, we must have other arms for you.

Humphrey and Golden Pestle, both adieu.(Exeunt JASPER and LUCE.)

Wife.Sure the devil, God bless us! is in this springald. Why, George, didst ever see such a fire-drake? I am afraid my boy’s miscarried. If he be, though he were Master Merrythought’s son a thousand times, if there be any law in England, I’ll make some of them smart for’t.

Cit.No, no, I have found out the matter, sweetheart. Jasper is enchanted; as sure as we are here, he is enchanted. He could no more have stood in Ralph’s hands than I can stand in my Lord Mayor’s. I’ll have a ring to discover all enchantments, and Ralph shall beat him yet. Be no more vexed, for it shall be so.


Wife.Oh, husband, here’s Ralph again! Stay, Ralph, let me speak with thee; how dost thou, Ralph? Art thou not shrewdly hurt? The foul great lunges laid unmercifully on thee! There’s some sugar-candy for thee; proceed, thou shalt have another bout with him.

Cit.If Ralph had him at the fencing-school, if he did not make a puppy of him, and drive him up and down the school, he should ne’er come in my shop more.

Mist. Mer.Truly, Master Knight of the Burning Pestle,

I am weary.

Mich.Indeed, la mother, and I’m very hungry.

Ralph.Take comfort, gentle dame, and your fair squire,

For in this desert there must needs be placed

Many strong castles, held by courteous knights,

And till I bring you safe to one of those,

I swear by this my order ne’er to leave you.

Wife.Well said, Ralph. George, Ralph was ever comfortable, was he not?

Cit.Yes, duck.

Wife.I shall ne’er forget him. When we had lost our child, you know it was strayed almost alone to Puddle Wharf, and the criers were abroad for it, and there it had drowned itself but for a sculler. Ralph was the most comfortablest to me. “Peace, mistress,” says he; “let it go, I’ll get you another as good.” Did he not, George? Did he not say so?

Cit.Yes, indeed did he, mouse.

Dwarf.I would we had a mess of pottage and a pot of drink, squire, and were going to bed.

Squire.Why, we are at Waltham town’s end, and that’s the Bell Inn.

Dwarf.Take courage, valiant knight, damsel, and squire;

I have discovered, not a stone’s cast off,

An ancient castle held by the old knight

Of the most holy order of the Bell,

Who gives to all knights errant entertain;

There plenty is of food, and all prepar’d

By the white hands of his own lady dear.

He hath three squires that welcome all his guests:

The first, high Chamberlino, who will see

Our beds prepared, and bring us snowy sheets;

The second, named Tapstero, who will see

Our pots full filléd, and no froth therein;

The third a gentle squire Ostlero called,

Who will our palfries slick with wisps of straw,

And in the manger put them oats enough,

And never grease their teeth with candle-snuff.

Wife.That same dwarf’s a pretty boy, but the squire’s a grout-nold.

Ralph.Knock at the gates, my squire, with stately lance.


Tap.Who’s there? You’re welcome, gentlemen. Will you see a room?

Dwarf.Right courteous and valiant Knight of the Burning Pestle, this is the squire Tapstero.

Ralph.Fair squire Tapstero, I, a wandering knight,

Called of the Burning Pestle, in the quest

Of this fair lady’s casket and wrought purse,

Losing myself in this vast wilderness,

Am to this castle well by fortune brought,

Where, hearing of the goodly entertain

Your knight of holy order of the Bell

Gives to all damsels, and all errant knights,

I thought to knock, and now am bold to enter.

Tapst.An’t please you see a chamber, you are very welcome.



Host.Not far from hence, near to a craggy cliff

At the north end of this distresséd town,

There doth stand a lowly house,

Ruggedly builded, and in it a cave,

In which an ugly giant now doth dwell,

Yclepéd Barbaroso. In his hand

He shakes a naked lance of purest steel,

With sleeves turned up; and he before him wears

A motley garment, to preserve his clothes

From blood of those knights which he massacres,

And ladies gent. Without his door doth hang

A copper basin, on a prickant spear;

At which, no sooner gentle knights can knock,

But the shrill sound fierce Barbaroso hears,

And rushing forth, brings in the errant knight,

And sets him down in an enchanted chair;

Then, with an engine which he hath prepar’d

With forty teeth, he claws his courtly crown,

Next makes him wink, and underneath his chin

He plants a brazen piece of mighty bore,

And knocks his bullets round about his cheeks;

While with his fingers, and an instrument

With which he snaps his hair off, he doth fill

The wretch’s ears with a most hideous noise.

Thus every knight adventurer he doth trim,

And now no creature dares encounter him.

Ralph.In God’s name, I will fight with him, kind sir.

Go but before me to this dismal cave

Where this huge giant Barbaroso dwells,

And by that virtue that brave Rosiclere

That wicked brood of ugly giant slew,

And Palmerin Frannarco overthrew:

I doubt not but to curb this traitor foul,

And to the devil send his guilty soul.

Host.Brave, sprighted knight, thus far I will perform

This your request; I’ll bring you within sight

Of this most loathsome place, inhabited

By a more loathsome man; but dare not stay,

For his main force swoops all he sees away.

Ralph.Saint George! set on! Before march squire and page.



Host.Puissant knight, yonder his mansion is—

Lo, where the spear and copper basin are!

Behold the string on which hangs many a tooth,

Drawn from the gentle jaw of wandering knights.

I dare not stay to sound; he will appear.(Exit HOST.)

Ralph.Oh, faint not, heart! Susan, my lady dear,

The cobbler’s maid in Milk Street, for whose sake

I take these arms, oh, let the thought of thee

Carry thy knight through all adventurous deed,

And in the honour of thy beauteous self

May I destroy this monster Barbaroso.

Knock, squire, upon the basin till it break

With the shrill strokes, or till the giant speak.


Wife.Oh, George, the giant, the giant! Now, Ralph, for thy life!

Bar.What fond, unknowing wight is this, that dares

So rudely knock at Barbaroso’s cell,

Where no man comes, but leaves his fleece behind?

Ralph.I, traitorous caitiff, who am sent by fate

To punish air the sad enormities

Thou hast committed against ladies gent,

And errant knights, traitor to God and men,

Prepare thyself! This is the dismal hour

Appointed for thee to give strict account

Of all thy beastly, treacherous villainies.

Bar.Foolhardy knight, full soon thou shalt repent

This fond reproach. Thy body will I bang,(He takes down his pole.)

And lo, upon that string thy teeth shall hang.

Prepare thyself, for dead soon shalt thou be.

Ralph.Saint George for me!(They fight.)

Bar.Gargantua for me!

Wife.To him, Ralph—to him! Hold up the giant! Set out thy leg before, Ralph!

Cit.Falsify a blow, Ralph—falsify a blow! The giant lies open on the left side.

Wife.Bear’t off, bear’t off still—there, boy! Oh, Ralph’s almost down—Ralph’s almost down!

Ralph.Susan, inspire me, now have up again.

Wife.Up, up, up, up, up! so, Ralph. Down with him—down with him, Ralph!

Cit.Fetch him over the hip, boy!

Wife.There, boy; kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, Ralph!

Cit.No, Ralph, get all out of him first.

Ralph.Presumptuous man, see to what desperate end

Thy treachery hath brought thee. The just gods,

Who never prosper those that do despise them,

For all the villainies which thou hast done

To knights and ladies, now have paid thee home

By my stiff arm, a knight adventurous.

But say, vile wretch, before I send thy soul

To sad Avernus, whither it must go,

What captives hold’st thou in thy sable cave?

Bar.Go in and free them all; thou hast the day.

Ralph.Go, squire and dwarf, search in this dreadful cave,

And free the wretched prisoners from their bonds.(Exeunt SQUIRE and DWARF.)

Bar.I crave for mercy, as thou art a knight,

And scorn’st to spill the blood of those that beg.

Ralph.Thou show’st no mercy, nor shalt thou have any.

Prepare thyself, for thou shalt surely die.

Enter SQUIRE, leading 1st KNIGHT, with a basin under his chin.

Squire.Behold, brave knight, here is one prisoner,

Whom this wild man hath used as you see.

Wife.This is the wisest word I hear the squire speak.

Ralph.Speak what thou art, and how thou hast been us’d,

That I may give him condign punishment.

1st Knight.I am a knight that took my journey post

Northward from London, and in courteous wise

This giant train’d me to his loathsome den,

Under pretence of killing of the itch,

And all my body with a powder strew’d,

That smarts and stings; and cut away my beard,

And my curl’d locks wherein were ribands tied,

And with a water washed my tender eyes—

Whilst up and down about me still he skipt—

Whose virtue is, that till my eyes be wip’d

With a dry cloth, for this my foul disgrace,

I shall not dare to look a dog i’ th’ face.

Wife.Alas, poor knight! Relieve him, Ralph—relieve poor knights whilst you live!

Ralph.My trusty squire, convey him to the town,

Where he may find relief. Adieu, fair knight.(Exit 1st KNIGHT.)

Enter DWARF, leading 2d KNIGHT, with a patch over his nose.

Dwarf.Puissant knight, of the Burning Pestle hight,

See here another wretch, whom this foul beast

Hath scotch’d and scor’d in this inhuman wise.

Ralph.Speak me thy name, and eke thy place of birth,

And what hath been thy usage in this cave.

2d Knight.I am a knight, Sir Partle is my name,

And by my birth I am a Londoner,

Free by my copy, but my ancestors

Were Frenchmen all; and riding hard this way

Upon a trotting horse, my bones did ache,

And I, faint knight, to ease my weary limbs,

Light at this cave, when straight this furious fiend,

With sharpest instrument of purest steel,

Did cut the gristle of my nose away,

And in the place this velvet plaster stands.

Relieve me, gentle knight, out of his hands.

Wife.Good Ralph, relieve Sir Partle, and send him away, for in truth his breath stinks.

Ralph.Convey him straight after the other knight. Sir Partle, fare you well.

2d Knight.Kind sir, good night.(Exit.)

(Voices within.)Deliver us!

Wife.Hark, George, what a woful cry there is! I think some one is ill there.

(Voices within.)Deliver us!

Ralph.What ghastly noise is this? Speak, Barbaroso,

Or by this blazing steel thy head goes off.

Bar.Prisoners of mine, whom I in diet keep.

Send lower down into the cave,

And in a tub that’s heated smoking hot,

There may they find them, and deliver them.

Ralph.Run, squire and dwarf—deliver them with speed!



Lady.Welcome, Sir Knight, unto my father’s court,

King of Moldavia, unto me Pompiona,

His daughter dear. But sure you do not like

Your entertainment, that will stay with us

No longer but a night.
Ralph.Damsel right fair,

I am on many sad adventures bound,

That call me forth into the wilderness.

Besides, my horse’s back is something gall’d,

Which will enforce me ride a sober pace.

But many thanks, fair lady, be to you,

For using errant knight with courtesy.

Lady.But say, brave knight, what is your name and birth?

Ralph.My name is Ralph. I am an Englishman,

As true as steel, a hearty Englishman,

And ’prentice to a grocer in the Strand,

By deed indent, of which I have one part:

But fortune calling me to follow arms,

On me this holy order I did take,

Of Burning Pestle, which in all men’s eyes

I bear, confounding ladies’ enemies.

Lady.Oft have I heard of your brave countrymen,

And fertile soil, and store of wholesome food;

My father oft will tell me of a drink

In England found, and Nipitato call’d,

Which driveth all the sorrow from your hearts.

Ralph.Lady, ’tis true, you need not lay your lips

To better Nipitato than there is.

Lady.And of a wildfowl he will often speak,

Which powdered beef and mustard called is:

For there have been great wars ’twixt us and you;

But truly, Ralph, it was not long of me.

Tell me then, Ralph, could you contented be

To wear a lady’s favour in your shield?

Ralph.I am a knight of a religious order,

And will not wear a favour of a lady

That trust in Antichrist, and false traditions.

Besides, I have a lady of my own

In merry England, for whose virtuous sake

I took these arms, and Susan is her name;

A cobbler’s maid in Milk Street, whom I vow

Ne’er to forsake, while life and pestle last.

Lady.Happy that cobbling dame, who’er she be,

That for her own—dear Ralph!—hath gotten thee.

Unhappy I, that ne’er shall see the day

To see thee more, that bear’st my heart away.

Ralph.Lady, farewell. I must needs take my leave.

Lady.Hard-hearted Ralph, that ladies dost deceive.

Ralph.Lady, before I go, I must remember

Your father’s officers, who, truth to tell,

Have been about me very diligent:

Hold up thy snowy hand, thou princely maid:

There’s twelve pence for your father’s chamberlain,

And there’s another shilling for his cook,

For, by my troth, the goose was roasted well;

And twelve pence for your father’s horse-keeper,

For ’nointing my horse back; and for his butter,

There is another shilling; to the maid

That wash’d my boot-hose, there’s an English groat,

And twopence to the boy that wip’d my boots.

And last, fair lady, there is for yourself

Threepence to buy you pins at Bumbo Fair.

Lady.Full many thanks, and I will keep them safe

Till all the heads be off, for thy sake, Ralph.

Ralph.Advance, my squire and dwarf. I cannot stay.

Lady.Thou kill’st my heart in parting thus away.