The Lyrics of Henry VIII/I am a joly foster

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Lyrics  |  Manuscript  |  Authors and Composers
The Lyrics of Henry VIII
Appendix 1: Lyrics by Occasion/Theme  |  Appendix 2: Textual/Musical Witnesses  |  Appendix 3: Bibliography

Withowt dyscord Though sum saith that yough rulyth me

[ff. 69v-71r]

I am a Ioly foster
I am a Ioly foster
and haue ben many a day
and foster will I be styll
for shote ryght well I may                                       5
for shot ryght well I may

Wherfor shuld I hang vp my bow
vpon the gren wod bough
I cane bend and draw a bow
and shot well enough.                                          10
I am a Ioly foster

wherfor shuld I hang vp myne arrow
opon the gren wode lynde
I haue strength to mak it fle
and kyll bothe hart and hynd                                15
I am a Ioly foster

wherfor shuld I hang vp my horne
vpon the gren wod tre
I can blow the deth of a dere
as well as any that euer I see.                              20
I am a Ioly foster

wherfor shuld I tye vp my hownd
vnto the gren wod spray
I can luge and make a sute
as well as any in may.                                          25
I am. a Ioly foster

Textual Commentary[edit]

This lyric, as with other forester songs in H, draws upon the double-entendre of the forester songs in their courtly-love application. Unlike the others, though, it is much less explicit; it does not, for example, draw attention to its “construccyon,” as does Cornish’s “Blow thi hornne hunter” (H 29), nor does it shift its frame of reference to address directly issues of courtly love, as does Cooper’s “I haue bene a foster” (H 47.16–25). As such, this lyric is a more implicit engagement of the forester-song tradition, and is as much a clear and immediate answer to Cooper’s “I haue bene a foster” (some parallels are noted below; see Greene 314 n.) as Cooper’s song is an adaptation and elaboration of the unattributed “y haue ben afoster long and meney day” in LRit (f. 53v). In “I am a joly foster,” a younger forester proclaims his virility and ability. As an answer to Cooper’s lyric, it likely also has associations with the play presented by Cornish at Windsor, 15 June 1522 (see the commentary and notes to Cooper’s “I haue bene a foster” [H 47], as well as to Cornish’s “Yow and I and amyas” [H 35] and “Blow thi hornne hunter” [H 29]).

1 foster Forester.
3–5, 7–8 Cf. Cooper’s “I haue bene a foster” (H 47.2–4, 6–7), to which this is a direct answer
13 lynde Lime or linden tree; in Middle English poetry often used to denote a tree of any kind (OED 1).
19 blow the death of a dere Cf. Cornish’s “Blow thi hornne hunter” (H 29), first stanza.
24 luge Throw something so that it lodges or is caught in its fall (OED “lodge” v 3.g; earliest date 1606, but see the activity noted in Medwall’s Fulgens and Lucres [circa 1497] 2.202 ff.). sute Pursuit and chase, but also in the sense of “sew” as seen earlier; cf. similar action associated with love in Henry’s lyrics; see the note to “Thow that men do call it dotage” (H 44.17).

The first two stanzas are through-set for three voices, with the remaining text underlaid. There is no authorial ascription for “I am a joly foster.”

This piece is indexed in Robbins Index & Suppl. 4068.6 and Ringler MS TM1929. It is reprinted in Flügel Anglia 245–46, Flügel Neuengl 151, Chambers Lyrics 246, Greene 314, Stevens M&P 410–11, and Stevens MCH8 50–51.

Textual Notes[edit]

Texts Collated[edit]

H1,2,3 (ff. 69v–71r, ll. 2–11 H2,3).

5 I may] omit H2