The London Lackpenny

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  To London once my steps I bent,
  Where truth in no wise should be faint;
  To Westminster-ward I forthwith went,
  To a man of Law to make complaint.
  I said, "For Mary's love, that holy saint,
  Pity the poor that would proceed!"
  But for lack of money, I could not speed.

  And, as I thrust the press among,
  By froward chance my hood was gone;
  Yet for all that I stayed not long
  Till to the King's Bench I was come.
  Before the Judge I kneeled anon
  And prayed him for God's sake take heed.
  But for lack of money, I might not speed.

  Beneath them sat clerks a great rout,
  Which fast did write by one assent;
  There stood up one and cried about
  "Richard, Robert, and John of Kent!"
  I wist not well what this man meant,
  He cried so thickly there indeed.
  But he that lacked money might not speed.

  To the Common Pleas I yode tho,
  There sat one with a silken hood:
  I 'gan him reverence for to do,
  And told my case as well as I could;
  How my goods were defrauded me by falsehood;
  I got not a mum of his mouth for my meed,
  And for lack of money I might not speed.

  Unto the Rolls I gat me from thence,
  Before the clerks of the Chancery;
  Where many I found earning of pence;
  But none at all once regarded me.
  I gave them my plaint upon my knee;
  They liked it well when they had it read;
  But, lacking money, I could not be sped.

  In Westminster Hall I found out one,
  Which went in a long gown of ray;
  I crouched and knelt before him; anon,
  For Mary's love, for help I him pray.
  "I wot not what thou mean'st", 'gan he say;
  To get me thence he did me bid,
  For lack of money I could not speed.

  Within this Hall, neither rich nor yet poor
  Would do for me aught although I should die;
  Which seing, I gat me out of the door;
  Where Flemings began on me for to cry,--
  "Master, what will you copen or buy?
  Fine felt hats, or spectacles to read?
  Lay down your silver, and here you may speed."

  To Westminster Gate I presently went,
  When the sun was at high prime;
  Cooks to me they took good intent,
  And proffered me bread, with ale and wine,
  Ribs of beef, both fat and full fine;
  A faire cloth they 'gan for to spread,
  But, wanting money, I might not then speed.

  Then unto London I did me hie,
  Of all the land it beareth the prize;
  "Hot peascodes!" one began to cry;
  "Strawberries ripe!" and "Cherries in the rise!"
  One bade me come near and buy some spice;
  Pepper and saffrone they 'gan me bede;
  But, for lack of money, I might not speed.

  Then to the Cheap I 'gan me drawn,
  Where much people I saw for to stand;
  One offered me velvet, silk, and lawn;
  Another he taketh me by the hand,
  "Here is Paris thread, the finest in the land";
  I never was used to such things indeed;
  And, wanting money, I might not speed.

  Then went I forth by London stone,
  Throughout all the Canwick Street;
  Drapers much cloth me offered anon;
  Then comes me one cried, "Hot sheep's feet!"
  One cried, "Mackarel!" "Rushes green!" another 'gan greet;
  One bade me buy a hood to cover my head;
  But for want of money I might not be sped.

  Then I hied me into East Cheap:
  One cries "Ribs of beef and many a pie!"
  Pewter pots they clattered on a heap;
  There was harpe, pipe, and minstrelsy:
  "Yea, by cock!" "Nay, by cock!" some began cry;
  Some sung of "Jenkin and Julian" for their meed;
  But, for lack of money, I might not speed.

  Then into Cornhill anon I yode
  Where there was much stolen gear among;
  I saw where hung my owne hood,
  That I had lost among the throng:
  To buy my own hood I thought it wrong;
  I knew it as well as I did my creed;
  But, for lack of money, I could not speed.

  The Taverner took me by the sleeve;
  "Sir," saith he, "will you our wine assay?"
  I answered, "That cannot much me grieve;
  A penny can do no more than it may."
  I drank a pint, and for it did pay;
  Yet, sore a-hungered from thence I yede;
  And, wanting money, I could not speed.

  Then hied I me to Billings-gate,
  And one cried, "Ho! go we hence!"
  I prayed a bargeman, for God's sake,
  That he would spare me my expense.
  "Thou 'scap'st not here," quoth he, "under twopence;
  I list not yet bestow any almsdeed."
  Thus, lacking money, I could not speed.

  Then I conveyed me into Kent;
  For of the law would I meddle no more.
  Because no man to me took intent,
  I dight me to do as I did before.
  Now Jesus that in Bethlehem was bore,
  Save London and send true lawyers their meed!
  For whoso wants money with them shall not speed.

© John Lydgate