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A road near the Shepherd’s cottage.
A road near the Shepherd’s cottage.
Enter AUTOLYCUS, singing
AUTOLYCUS enters, singing.


When daffodils begin to peer,
With heigh! the doxy over the dale,
Why, then comes in the sweet o’ the year;
For the red blood reigns in the winter’s pale.
5The white sheet bleaching on the hedge,
With heigh! the sweet birds, O, how they sing!
Doth set my pugging tooth on edge;
For a quart of ale is a dish for a king.
The lark, that tirra-lyra chants,
10With heigh! with heigh! the thrush and the jay,
Are summer songs for me and my aunts,
While we lie tumbling in the hay.
I have served Prince Florizel and in my time
wore three-pile; but now I am out of service:
15But shall I go mourn for that, my dear?
The pale moon shines by night:
And when I wander here and there,
I then do most go right.
If tinkers may have leave to live,
20And bear the sow-skin budget,
Then my account I well may, give,
And in the stocks avouch it.
My traffic is sheets; when the kite builds, look to
lesser linen. My father named me Autolycus; who
25being, as I am, littered under Mercury, was likewise
a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles. With die and
drab I purchased this caparison, and my revenue is
the silly cheat. Gallows and knock are too powerful
on the highway: beating and hanging are terrors to
30me: for the life to come, I sleep out the thought
of it. A prize! a prize!


When daffodils begin to sprout, with the poor wench over the hills, why then it’s the sweetest part of the year as red blood reigns in flesh made pale by winter. The white sheet airing out on the hedge, and oh, the sweet birds singing, makes my thieving fingers itch, and a quart of beer is a drink for a king! The lark chants “tirra-lyra,” and the thrush and the jay sing, while my mistress and I tumble about in the hay. I have served Prince Florizel and worn

three-piled velvet

A luxuriously thick type of velve.

three-piled velvet
, but now I’m unemployed. But should I mourn for that, my dear? The pale moon shines at night, and in wandering here and there, I take the right course through life. If menders of metal pots have the right to live and bear the burden of their tool bag, then I can tell my own story and in

the stocks

A form of punishment in which a person was locked into a wooden device, called the stocks, in public to be exposed to ridicule

the stocks
. I deal in sheets, and when the thieving bird builds his nest, he takes up poorer linen. My father named me


In Greek myth, Autolycus was the grandfather of Odysseus and a cunning thief

. Like me he was born under


The god of thieves.

, and like me he would steal those little things left unsecured. By gambling and pimping I bought this outfit, and my income is from little deceptions. Being a highwayman might get me hanged or beat, which are terrors to me, and as for the afterlife, I try not to think about it. Oh, look—a prize!