Martyrdom

A Ballad of Anne Askew

This ballad, by an unknown author (possibly Anne Askew herself), remained popular through much of the seventeenth century. The following version is based on a broadsheet printed in 1635, almost a hundred years after her death.

[I Am a Woman Poor and Blind]


I am a woman poor and blind
and little knowledge remains in me,
Long have I sought, but fain >> note 1 would I find,
what herb in my garden were best to be.

A garden I have which is unknown,
which God of his goodness gave to me,
I mean my body, wherein I should have sown
the seed of Christ's true verity.

My spirit within me is vexed sore,
my flesh striveth against the same:
My sorrows do increase more and more,
my conscience suffereth most bitter pain:

I, with myself being thus at strife,
would fain have been at rest,
Musing and studying in mortal life,
what things I might do to please God best.

With whole intent and one accord,
unto a Gardener >> note 2 that I did know,
I desired him for the love of the Lord,
true seeds in my garden for to sow.

Then this proud Gardener seeing me so blind,
he thought on me to work his will,
And flattered me with words so kind,
to have me continue in my blindness still.

He fed me then with lies and mocks,
for venial >> note 3 sins he bid me go
To give my money to stones and stocks, >> note 4
which was stark lies and nothing so.

With stinking meat then was I fed,
for to keep me from my salvation,
I had trentals >> note 5 of mass, and bulls >> note 6 of lead,
not one word spoken of Christ's passion.

In me was sown all kind of feigned seeds,
with Popish ceremonies many a one,
Masses of requiem >> note 7 with other juggling >> note 8 deeds,
till God's spirit out of my garden was gone.

Then was I commanded most strictly,
If of my salvation I would be sure,
To build some chapel or chantry, >> note 9
to be prayed for while the world doth endure.

"Beware of a new learning," quoth he, "it lies,
which is the thing I most abhor,
Meddle not with it in any manner of wise,
but do as your fathers have done before."

My trust I did put in the Devil's works,
thinking sufficient my soul to save,
Being worse then either Jews or Turks,
thus Christ of his merits I did deprave.

I might liken my self with a woeful heart,
unto the dumb man in Luke the Eleven,
From whence Christ caused the Devil to depart,
but shortly after he took the other seven.

My time thus, good Lord, so wickedly spent,
alas, I shall die the sooner therefore.
Oh Lord, I find it written in thy Testament,
that thou hast mercy enough in store

For such sinners, as the scripture sayeth,
that would gladly repent and follow thy word,
Which I'll not deny whilst I have breath,
for prison, fire, fagot, >> note 10 or fierce sword.

Strengthen me good Lord in thy truth to stand,
for the bloody butchers have me at their will,
With their slaughter knives ready drawn in their hand
my simple carcass to devour and kill.

O Lord forgive me mine offense,
for I have offended thee very sore,
Take therefore my sinful body from hence,
Then shall I, vile creature, offend thee no more.

I would with all creatures and faithful friends
for to keep them from this Gardener's hands,
For he will bring them soon unto their ends,
with cruel torments of fierce firebrands.

I dare not presume for him to pray,
because the truth of him it was well known,
But since that time he hath gone astray,
and much pestilent seed abroad he hath sown.

Because that now I have no space,
the cause of my death truly to show,
I trust hereafter that by God's holy grace,
that all faithful men shall plainly know.

To thee O Lord I bequeath my spirit,
that art the work-master of the same,
It is thine, Lord, therefore take it of right,
my carcass on earth I leave, from whence it came.

Although to ashes it be now burned,
I know thou canst raise it again,
In the same likeness as thou it formed,
in heaven with thee evermore to remain.

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