A Century Of Ballads 1810-1910, Their Composers & Singers

With Some Introductory Chapters On Old Ballads And Ballad Makers - online book.

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THE EVOLUTION OF THE BALLAD n
from this reign, or even a little earlier, is the famous "John Dory," though no version of the tune seems to be known as existing before 1600. Carew, in his Survey of Cornwall, published in 1602, says : "The prowess of one Nicholas, son to a widow near Foy, is descanted upon in an old three-man's song, namely, how he fought bravely at sea with one John Dory (a Genowey as I con­jecture) set forth by John, the French King, and after much blood shed on both sides, took and slew him." It may be noted in passing that the old songs were always written for three or more voices, and hence came to be known as "three-man's songs," often corrupted into "freeman's songs."
This old ballad of "John Dory" was still well known and popular in Charles II's reign. Dryden refers to it in one of his lampoons as follows :—
But Sunderland, Godolphin, Lory, These will appear such chits in story,
'Twill turn all politics to jests, To be repeated like John Dory
When fiddlers sing at feasts.
Before his death Henry V granted an annuity of a hundred shillings to each of his minstrels, and the grant was confirmed in the reign of his son Henry VI.
From the latter's reign probably date " Nowell,
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