by Marriott Edgar (1937)
I'll tell of the Magna Carta
As were signed at the Baron's command
On 'Runnymead' Island in t'middle of t'Thames
By King John, as were known as 'Lack Land'.
Some say it were wrong of the Barons,
Their will on the King so to thrust,
But you'll see if you look at both sides of the case
That they had to something, or bust.
For John, from the moment they crowned him,
Started acting so cunning and sly,
Being King, of course, he couldn't do any wrong,
But, by gum, he'd a proper good try.
He squandered the ratepayer's money;
All their cattle and corn did he take,
'Til there wasn't a morsel of bread in the land,
And folk had to manage on cake.
The way he behaved to young Arthur
Went to show as his feelings was bad;
He tried to get Hubert to poke out his eyes,
Which is no way to treat a young lad.
It were alright him being a tyrant
To vassals and folks of that class,
But he tried on his tricks with the Barons an' all,
And that's where he made a faux pass.
He started bombarding their castles,
And burning them over their head,
'Til there wasn't enough castles left to go round,
And they had to sleep six in a bed.
So they went to the King in a body,
And their spokesman, Fitzwalter by name,
He opened the 'ole in his 'elmet and said,
'Concil-latory' like, "What's the game ?"
The King starts to shilly and shally,
He sits and he haws and he hums,
'Til the Barons in rage started knashing their teeth,
And them with no teeth gnashed on t'gums.
Said Fitz', through the 'ole in his 'elmet,
"It was you as put us in this plight,"
And the King having nothing to say to this 'ere
Murmurred, "Leave your address and I'll write."
This angered the gallant Fitzwalter;
He stamped on the floor with his foot,
And were starting to give John a rare ticking off,
When the 'ole in his 'elmet fell shut.
"We'll get him to sign Magna Carta",
Said Fitz' when his face he had freed;
Said the Barons, "That's right and if one's not enough,
Get a couple and happen they'll breed."
So they set about making a Carta,
When at finish they'd got it drawn up,
It looked like a paper on cattle disease,
Or the entries for t'Waterloo Cup.
Next day, King John, all unsuspecting,
And having the afternoon free,
To Runnymead Island had taken a boat,
And were having some shrimps for his tea.
He had just pulled the 'ead off a big 'un,
And were pinching its tail with his thumb,
When up came a barge load of Barons, who said,
"We thought you'd be here, so we've come."
When they told him they'd brought Magna Carta,
The King seemed to go kind of limp,
But minding his manners he took off his hat
And said, "Thanks very much, have a shrimp."
"You'd best sign at once", said Fitzwalter,
"If you don't I'll tell you for a start
The next coronation will happen quite soon,
And you won't be there to take part."
So they spread Carta out on t'tea table,
And John signed his name like a lamb,
His writing in places were sticky and thick
Through dipping his pen in the jam.
And it's through that there Magna Carta,
As were signed by the Barons of old,
That in England today we can do what we like,
So long as we do what we're told.