Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

Ancient Songs, Ballads, & Dance Tunes, Sheet Music & Lyrics - online book

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" Lament, lament, for he is dead
Who serv'd his prince moat faithfully; Lament, each subject, and the head
Of this our realm of Brittany. Our Queen has lost a soldier true ; Her subjects lost a noble friend : Oft for his queen his sword he drew, And for her subjects blood did spend," &c. The ballad of WeU-a-day is entitled " A lamentable dittie composed upon the death of Robert Lord Devereux, late Earle of Essex, who was beheaded in the Tower of London, upon Ash Wednesday, in the morning, 1601. To the tune of Well-a-day. Imprinted at London for Margret Allde, &c, 1603. Reprinted in Payne Collier's Old Ballads, 124, 8vo., 1840; and in Evans', iii. 158. Copies are also in the Bagford and Roxburghe Collections (i. 184) ; and Harl. MSS., 293. The first verse is here given with the tune.
The ballads to the tune of Essex's last Good-night are in quite a different metre to those which were to be sung to Well-a-day; and either the melody consisted originally of but eight bars, and those bars were repeated for the last four lines of each stanza, or else the second part differed from my copy.
WeU-a-day seems to be older than the date of the death of either Earl, because, in 1566-7, Mr. Wally had a license to print "the second Well-a-day" {Ex. Reg. ' Stat, i. 151.) ; and, in 1569-70, Thomas Colwell, to print " A new Well-a-day, •As plain, Mr. Papist, as Dunstable way."
To " sing well-away " was proverbial even in Chaucer's time; for in the pro­logue to the Wife of Bath's Tale, speaking of her husbands, she says (lines 5597-600)        " I sette [t]hem so on werke, by my fay!
That many a night thay songen weylareay. The bacoun was nought fet for hem, I trowe, That som men fecche in Essex at Dnnmowe." * And in the Shipman's Tale, " For I may synge alias and waylaway that I was born." So in the Owl and the Nightingale, one of our earliest original poems, the owl says to the nightingale—
" Thu singest a night, and noght a dai, And al thi song is wail awai." 'In the sixteenth century we find a similar passage in Nicholas Breton's Farewell to town                 " I must, ah me! wretch, as I may,
Go sing the song of Welaway." The ballads sung to one or other of these tunes are very numerous. Among them are—
" Sir Walter Rauleigh his Lamentation," &c, " to the tune of Well-a-day. Pepys Collection, i. Ill, b. 1.
" The arraignment of the Devil for stealing away President Bradshaw." Tune, Well-a-day, well-a-day. (King's Pamphlets, vol. 15, or Wright's Political Ballads, 139.)
• The claiming the Flitch of Bacon at Dunmow was fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. See also a song in a custom to which frequent allusions are made in the Rcliqnia Antiqua, ii. 29.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III