Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 2

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

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George Wither is said to have got " The Statute Office " from Cromwell, " by rhyming," but I have not found any song written by him in his favour. Wither was a loser, rather than a gainer, by his advocacy of the cause of the Parliament, for having been the first person of any note in the county of Surrey who took up arms for the parliament, his house was destroyed, and his property injured to the uttermost, when, the Cavaliers were there, and he could never obtain adequate redress. His muse had been employed for some time before upon sacred subjects, and he appears then to have given up song-writing altogether. The Rev. Robert Aris Willmott, in his Lives of Sacred Poets, dates Wither's accession to the Statute Office between 1655 and 1656, and concludes that the appointment was, in other words, to the Record Office, which was bestowed upon Prynne after the Restoration. The passage from which I derived the information of his having held the office is in " The last Speech and dying words of Thomas (Lord, alias Colonel) Pride, being touched in conscience for his inhuman murder of the Bears in the Bear garden, when he was High-Sheriff of Surrey," 4to., 1680. (Re­printed in Harl. Miscellany, 4to., iii. 135.) " I do not mean Mr. George Withers, for he got the Statue-office by rhyming, but when will he sell his verses ? A statue lies upon them, so as no body will buy them."
I have said that the " remonstrance" of the " play-poets " that they should be compelled to enter Martin Parker's society seemed to convey a covert threat to those who closed the theatres, that they would become the subjects of ballads. A few quotations from plays will perhaps best show how general was the fear of being " balladed " in the seventeenth century. " Good Master Sheriff, your leave too ; This hasty work was ne'er well done : give us so much time As but to sing our own ballads, for we'll trust no man, Nor no tune but our own; 'twas done in ale too, And, therefore, cannot be refus'd in justice; 'Your penny-pot poets are such pelting thieves, They ever hang men twice." This is from an unfinished play of Fletcher's, The Moody Brother; or, Holla, Duke of Normandy, which was one of those secretly performed " in the winter before the King's murder." Again, in The Lover's Progress, act v., sc. 3, he makes Malfort say:— " I have penn'd mine own ballad Before my condemnation, in fear Some Rhymer should prevent me." In the Humourous Lieutenant, act ii., sc. 2—
" Now shall we have damnable ballads out against us, Most wicked Madrigals; and ten to one, Colonel, Sung to such lamentable tunes." In The Pilgrim, act iii., sc. 4— "I shall be taken For their commander now, their General, And have a commanding gallows set up for me As high as a May pole, and nasty songs made on me, Be printed with a pint pot and a dagger."

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