Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

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

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200
ENGLISH SONG AND BALLAD' MUSIC.
THE CHILDREN IN THE WOOD.
In the Registers of the Stationers' Company, under the date of 15 th October, 1595, we find, " Thomas Millington entred for his copie under t'handes of bothe the Wardens, a ballad intitutled ' The Norfolk Gentleman, his Will and Testament, and howe he commytted the keeping of his children to his owne brother, whoe delte moste wickedly -with them, and howe God plagued him for it." This entry agrees, almost verbatim, with the title of the ballad in the Pepys Collection (i. 518), but which is of later date. Copies will also be found in the Roxburghe (i. 284), and other Collections; in Old Ballads, 1726, i. 222; and in Percy's Beliques, series iii., book 2.:
Sharon Turner says, "I have sometimes fancied that the popular ballad of The Children in the Wood may have been written at this time, on Richard [IIL] and his nephews, before it was quite safe to stigmatize him more openly."— {Mist. JEng., iii. 487, 4to). This theory has been ably advocated by Miss Halsted, in the Appendix to her Bichard III. as Duke of Gloucester and King of England. Her argument is based chiefly upon internal evidence, there being no direct proof that the ballad is older than the date of the entry at Stationers' Hall.
In Wager's interlude, The longer thou livest the more fool thou art, Moros says, " I can sing a song of Robin Redbreast;" and in Webster's The White Devil, Cornelia says, " I'll give you a saying which my grandmother was wont, when she heard the bell toll, to sing unto her lute:
Call for the robin-redbreast and the wren, Since o'er the shady groves they hover, And with leaves and flowers do cover The friendless bodies of unburied men," &c.
Dodsley's Old Plays, vi. 312,1825. These may be in allusion to the ballad.
In Anthony a Wood's Collection, at Oxford, there is a ballad to the tune of The two Children in the Wood, entitled " The Devil's Cruelty to Mankind," &c.
The history of the tune is somewhat perplexing. In the ballad-operas of The Jovial Crew, The Lottery, An old man taught wisdom, and The Beggars' Opera, it is printed under the title of Now ponder well, which are the first words of " The Children in the Wood."
The broadsides of Chevy Chace, which were printed with music about the com­mencement of the last century, are also to this tune; and in the ballad-opera of Penelope, 1728, a parody on Chevy Chace to the same.
In Pills to purge Melancholy, 1707 and 1719, the ballads of " Henry Y. at the -battle of Agincourt," " The Lady Isabella's Tragedy," and a song by Sir John Birkenhead, are printed to it. The last seems to be a parody on " Some Christian people all give ear," or " The Fire on London Bridge."
According to the old-ballads, The Battle of Agincourt should be to the tune of Plying Fame, The Lady Isabella's Tragedy to In Pescod Time, and The Fire on London Bridge to Chevy Chace. I suppose the confusion to have arisen from Chevy Chace being sung to all the three tunes.
The traditions of the stage also give this as the air of the Gravedigger's Song in Samlet, " A pick-axe and a spade."