The Rime of King William


Poem published in 1087

He had castles built
and poor men terribly oppressed.
The king was severe
and he took many marks of gold
and hundreds of pounds
of silver from his underlings.
All this he took from the people,
and with great injustice from his subjects,
out of trivial desire.
He had fallen into avarice
and he loved greediness
above everything else.
He established many deer preserves
and he set up many laws concerning them
such that whoever killed a hart or hind
should be blinded.
His forbade (hunting of) harts
and also of boars.
He loved the wild deer
as if he were their father.
And he also decreed
that the hares should be allowed to run free
His great men complained of it,
and his poor men lamented it;
but he was so severe
that he ignored all their needs.
But they had to follow above all else
the king’s will, if they wanted to live
or to hold on to land, land or property
(or esteem) or have his good favour.
Woe, that any man should be so proud
as to raise himself up
and reckon himself above all men.
May almighty God show mercy on his soul
and forgive him his sins.

The poem was thought to have been written by a member of King William’s household. The poem is translated from Old English. The line endings here are my own to highlight the rhyming scheme. Technically the poem is poor, but historically it tells us a great deal about the enclosure of the New Forest.

You can read about about The Rime of King William here:

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