The poem The Abbot of Canterbury, included in our book, is a ballad. Ballads have crude language because fine writing would not be suitable for the telling of this straightforward and amusing folk story. King John ruled England from 1199 to 1219, was a very unpleasant man and a thoroughly bad kind.
Structure of Poem
The Abbot of Canterbury is a ballad of unknown poet telling an ancient story consisting of 100 lines of regular rhythm.
There was a king of England whose name was King John. He ruled England very cruelly and he always did the wrong thing. Once he came to know that there was an Abbot of Canterbury who was leading life better than the king. He had one hundred servants and each one there wore fifty gold chains and velvet coat. They where always ready to serve the Abbot. For very minor things they used to go to the city of London.
This way of leading life angered the king and his sent for the Abbot to explain his position before the king. The Abbot said to him that he was spending the money so luxuriously because he had inherited a lot of money from his fore fathers. The king disbelieved him and charged him to be a traitor.
The king said to Abbot that his life and properties would be confiscated by the government if he could not answer his three questions. There was given three weeks time to answer those questions.
- The first question was what his worth and value was when he was having such a precious crown on his head.
- The second question was how soon he could make the journey of the whole world.
- The third question was that he was thinking at that time when he was talking to the Abbot of Canterbury.
After listening three questions the Abbot was very much confuse. He confessed that he had no mind to answer those difficult questions. He went to many universities but no one was able to answer him.
Then the shepherd of the Abbot offered him that he would imposter the Abbot prodded he was given the relevant dress of the Abbot.
In reply to the first question he said that his value was twenty-nine pence. In response to the second question he said if he rose with the sun and rode with the same he would complete the journey of the world in 24 hours. In response to the third question he said that he thinking that he was talking to the Abbot by he was not the Abbot but the shepherd. The king was very happy, he rewarded him and pardoned the Abbot.