BYGONE SUSSEX - online book

Essays, Sketches and Illustrations of bygone Sussex

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T HE legends relating to a choice between the halter and the altar, the " wife or the woodie," as the Northern phrase goes, are sufficiently varied. " Muckle-tnou'd Meg" is not the only heroine of song who has taken her husband from the gallows. A Sussex man is the chief actor in a ballad as old as the seventeenth century, and perhaps even older. This is "A Most Sweet Song of an English Merchant, borne at Chichester," who, travelling abroad in the pursuit of trade, had the misfortune, although he " was both grave and wise," to kill a man in a quarrel at Emden. For this he was condemned to die, and came on to the scaffold, where he was to be decapitated, very handsomely dressed, and in a very penitent frame of mind. He orders "a hundred pounds a piece" to be given to the widow and her two children. But at Emden they have a law that a woman who will wed a condemned criminal may thus safe his life. Ten merciful maidens contend for the
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