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Playford Songs

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The Begger Boy

The tune name may derive from the song "The Begger Boy of the North" (c. 1630). This tune is in the rare Phrygian mode--suggested chords are given

From ancient pedigree, by due descent
I well can derive my generation
Throughout all Christendome, and also Kent
My calling is known both in terme and vacation
My parents old taught me to be bold
Ile never be daunted, whatever is spoken
Where e're I come, my custome I hold
And cry, Good your worship, bestow one token!

--Roxburghe Ballads


Alan Ramsey's song The Bonny Scot (1728) is set to this tune

Ye gales that gently wave the sea
And please the canny, Boat-man
Bear me frae hence, or bring to me
My brave, my bonny, Scot-man
In haly bands we join'd our hands
Yet may this not, discover
While parents rate a large estate, Before a faithfu' lover

 broome, broome, The bonny bonny Broome

 The tune "The Broom of Cowdenknows" was listed in 1632 with a ballad entitled "The lovely northern lasse", who in the ditty here "complaining shews what harme she got milking her Daddies ewes." Cowdenknows was a Scottish estate and barony on the east bank of the river Leander, 32 miles SE of Edinburgh, close to the English border. The broom, a shrub which blooms with spikes of small golden flowers, once grew plentifully of its hillsides but was stripped away for turnip farming in the 19th century

Chestnut or Doves Figary

The tune is reminiscent today of the first phrase of "God rest ye merry, gentlemen", and is a folk tune of widest distribution, the "tune of luck-visit songs, wassails, harvest suppers, may carols and their parodies, 'chestnut' having feminine symbolism. The second title may be expalined by Deloney's ballad of 1600 on Dove's roguery with the women. Although it is an awkward fit, repeating the last words of some lines might make it work.

Welcome to town, Tom Dove, Tom Dove,
The merriest man alive
Thy company stil we love, we love,
God grant thee well to thrive
All never will depart from thee
For better or worse, my joy
For thou shalt still have our good will
God's blessing on my sweet boy

Cuckolds all a row

Come bachelors and married men, and listen to my song
And I will shew you plainly then, the injury and wrong
That constantly I do sustain through my unhappy life
The which does put me to great pain, by my unquiet wife


 An early 17th century song retells Ovid's myth of the pursuit of Daphne, who was turned into a laurel tree to prevent violation by Apollo. Bernini's spectacular sculpture of the moment of Daphne's transformation had been created in Tome in 1622-24, the subject being popular in baroque art. Apollo was also known as Phoebus.

 When Daphne from fair Phoebus did fly
The west wind most sweetly did blow in her face
Her silken scarf scarce shadowed her eyes
The God cried, O pity! and held her in chace
Stay, Nymph, stay, Nymph, cries Apollo, tarry and turn thee, Sweet Nymph, stay
Lion nor Tiger doth thee follow, turn thy fair eyes, and look this way
O turn, O pretty sweet, and let our red lips meet
O pity me, Daphne, pity me,


Dargason or Sedauny

 With two titles of Welsh derivation, both of which escape convincing explanation, this unique progressive dance is paired with a 16th century double-tonic circular tune of haunting familiarity. The title of the song also connects the tune to Wales, Shropshire lying in the foothills on the English side of the border.

 Chappell quotes the first of 16 verses set to this tune in the 17th century:

The Shrop-shire Wakes, or hey for Christmas, being the delightful sports of most countries, to the tune of Dargason.


Come Robin, Ralph, and little Harry
And merry
Thomas to our green
Where we shall meet with Bridget and Sary
And the finest girls that e'er were seen
Then hey for Christmas a once year
When we have cakes, with ale and beer
For at Christmas every day
Young men and maids may dance away

Faine I would, The King's Complaint, or Parthenia

Original instructions:"As at Oxford" Having lost London to Cromwell, Charles I convened a royalist parliament in Oxford in 1644. A supporter of Charles I, John Playford continued a royalist at heart and again served as printer to the king at the restoration of Charles II.

Faine I would, if I could
By any means obteine
Leave of my best
Masters to sit with them againe
But my blest Parliment
Will never give consent
They say tis such a thinge
For the worst of them's a Kinge
Wee will rule still
In spight of Cavalieres
O brave house of Commons
O brave house of Peeres
Religion you have pull'd downe
And soe you have the crowne
My laws & Kingdome too
I think the Devill's in you
Else you'll not endure
Such a constant flood
All of childrens teares
And theire dead Fathers blood ...


 The A strain appears titled "CLIV Courante" in Michael Praetorius's "Terpsichore" (1612).

The Health or The Merry Wasel

Chappell cites a song which certainly fits the title. Probably originally from a play, it has a number of specific personal references. The reference to Wickham may be a seafaring one, as that village is very near Portsmouth, a major port, particularly for military operations.

Come, faith, since I'm parting
And that God knows when
The walls of sweet Wickham I shall see again
Let's e'en have a frolic, and drink like tall men
Till heads with healths go round
Till heads with healths go round

Hearts Ease

There are two distinct tunes named "Heartsease" and considerable differences of opinion as to whether any of the known lyrics fit either of them. The earliest lyric is "a songe to the tune of hartes ease" from Thomas Richardes' play on an Italian model, called "Misogonus" (c. 1560). Although it scans well, the text is arranged in short verses which would only use half the dance tune, implying that an earlier tune by this name may have had only one strain.

Richard Dering's catch "Cries of London" is set to the A strain.

Hearts-ease in 16th century herbal culture was the little wild pansy, known today as Johnny-jump-up. It was also called "Love in Idleness".


Singe care away with sport & playe
Pasttime is all our pleasure
Yf well we fare, for nought we care
In mearth our constant treasure ...



A cooper I am, and have been long, and hooping is my trade
And married man am I to as pretty a wench as ever God hath made

 Hide Parke

This short-lived dance may be associated with Shirley's popular play "Hide Park" (1637), which contained a wedding scene with dancing. In 1668, Pepys attended a revival which included live horses brought on stage, probably for the race scene in the fourth act. He was not much impressed and considered it "a very moderate play".

 If all the World were Paper

 If all the world were paper and all the seas were ink,
And all trees were bread and chease what would we have to drink.
If all the bottles leaked and none but had a crack,
And spanish apes ate all the grapes what would we do for sack.

 Jenny pluck Pears 

Jenny is a common name for a rustic sweetheart and can be as disreputable as Betty or Moll, a pear, or pear-tree has an oblique meaning, and the whole may have much the same sexual significance as "Green Sleeves".

 Lulle me beyond thee

 A variant to "Stingo", "Oil of Barley" or "Cold and Raw", printed by Thomas Urfey in 1686. He believed the tune to be Scots. Robert Burns made a song on this title entitled "Craigieburn Wood".

 Mage on a Cree

The dance is a progressive round, one of the earliest types found in The Dancing Master. No one has been able to explain the meaning of the title, and from the entries in old books, it seems it was not clear then. It may have been Irish. When the title was first used for a ballad in 1633, the tune name was "Magina-cree".

The Maid peept out at the window or The Frier in the Well

"The Friar in the Well": The story is an old one, and one of the many popular songs against monks and friars. D'Urfey included the song in "Pills to Purge Melancholy" (1719).

As I lay musing all alone, a merry tale I thought upon
Now listen a while and I will you tell
Of a fryar that lov'd a bonny lass well
He came to her when she was going to bed
Desiring to have her maidenhead
But she denied his desire
Saying that she did fear hellfire
Tush tush, quoth the fryer, thou need's not
If thou wert in hell I could sing thee out
Why then, quoth the maid, thou shalt have thy request
The fryer was as glad as a fox in his nest ...

 The merry merry Milke Maids

One of the verses in "The Milkemaid's Life" describes an 18th century May Day custom in which the milkmaids and the sweeps dance in the street with a garland.

Upon the first of May, with garlands fresh and gay
With mirth and music sweet, for such a season meet
They pass their time away
They dance away sorrow, and all the day thorow
Their legs do never fail
They nimbly their feet to ply
And bravely try the victory
In honour o' th' milking pail, in honour ...


The New Exchange or The New Royal Exchange

One of two tunes commemorating a large commercial building built in 1609 in competition with the Royal Exchange. Because there was another tune by this title, it was renamed "The New New Exchange" (1665) and "The New Royal Exchange" (1670).

I'll go no more to the New Exchange, there is no room at all
It is so throng'd and crowded by the gallants of Whitehall
But I'll go to the Old Exchange, where old things are in fashion
For now the Kew's become the shop of this blessed Reformation
Come, my new Courtiers, what d'ye lack? Good consciences? I you do
Here's long and wide, the only wear, the straight will trouble you


Simpson feels that the surviving tune is not the one which had some currency in Elizabethan days. He points out that wrenchings of accent are necessary to accomplish the fit of Playford's dance tune to a curious fragment of text found in the 18th century Percy folio MS, a source of dubious authenticity itself.

Came you not from Newcastle?

Came yee not there away?

It is quite possible that this dance was inspired by William, Duke of Newcastle, a royalist who remained in London and bent his interests towards the theatre during the interregnum.


Nonesuch was built in 1538 by Henry VIII over the demolished property of the village of Cuddington, near Epsom Wells in Sussex, to be the most ostentatious hunting lodge ever made. At the very end of her life, Elizabeth I visited Nonesuch, as a guest of Lord Lumley, son-in-law of the Earl of Arundel, and it was reported that "there is much dancing of country dances in the privy chamber at Nonesuch, before the Queen's majesty, who is exceedingly pleased therewith".

Picking of Sticks

 A variant of an older tune called "Whoop, do me no harm", a salacious song which Chappell could not bring himself to print.

 Saint Martin's

 The old church of St. Martin, Ludgate, named for the patron saint of the vintners, described as "a proper church and lately new built", was destroyed in the Great Fire and rebuilt in 1673-1684 from the designs of Sir Christopher Wren. 1997 by John Chambers,

Shepheards Holyday or Labour in Vaine

Fie upon love! fond love! false love!
Great are the torments that W:lovers endure
It is a snare - brings care - bones bare
None can a remedy for it procure
Of all the afflictions that are incident
To us while we march under Time's regiment
There's nothing to man brings such discontent
As love unbeloved againe
It breaketh our sleep, it distracteth the wit
It make use doe things that for men are unfit
If I may but give a true censure on it
It shall be call'd "Labour in vaine".

Sta(i)nes Morris

First printed in the "William Ballet Lute Book" (1595). It is not known that the town of Staines, on the Thames, had any connection with this tune.  There is much disagreement over which e's should be flat or natural. Older books all show Eb throughout, but this could just be an result of using "proper" classical notation. Current practice seems to be to play it mostly in Dorian mode.

Barnes (dated 1650), E. Hunt #32, Playford, Raven (in Em)

Stingo The Oyle of Barly or Cold and Raw

Refer to the notes for "Lulle me beyond thee" Many lyrics were set to the tune, all having in common the metaphorical themes of strong ale, and of "selling barley", the feminine equivalent of "sowing wild oats". In 1688 a "new Scotch song" set to the tune appear. Written by D'Urfey, it began "Cold and raw the North did blow".

lBe merry, my friends, and list a while
Unto a merry jest
It may from you produce a smile
When you heare it exprest
Of a young man lately married
Which was a boone goode fellow
This song in's head he alwaies carried
When drink made him mellow
I cannot go home, nor will I go home
It's long of the oyle of Barly
I'le tarry all night for my delight
And go home in the morning early

--Humour, Wit and Satire (1647)

 Upon a Summer's Day or The Garland


My dearest deare adue, since that I needs must goe
My fortunes to pursue against some Forraine Foe
Being that it is so, I pray thee patient be
and doe no kilt thy Coat, to goe along with me.


Alas my dearest heart, if that thou leave me here
Death kills me with his dart, as plainly may appear
For sorrow griefe and smart will quickly make me dye
Therefore lie kilt my Coat, and goe along with thee.

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Revised: 03/01/02