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ENGLISH SONG AND BALLAD MUSIC.
MY FATHER WAS BORN BEFORE ME.
In the fourth, and all subsequent editions of The Dancing Master, this tune is entitled Jamaica. The island of Jamaica was taken from the Spaniards in 1655, and the tune probably took the name from some song on that event.
The following were sung to it:—
1. " The Prodigal's Resolution; or, My Father was born before me " (Pills to purge Melancholy, vol. i., 1699 and 1707). This is taken from Thomas Jordan's London Triumphant, 4to., 1672. Jordan was the " professed pageant-writer and poet laureat for the City, and if author of this song," says Ritson, who includes it in his Ancient Songs, " he seems to have possessed a greater share of poetical merit than usually fell to the lot of his profession." It begins with the line, " I am a lusty, lively lad," which was probably suggested by, and the tune taken from, an earlier song, beginning—
" Heigh, for a lusty, lively lad ; Heigh for a lad that's seldom sad,
Heigh for a lad lacks kissing; But when "—
These lines are from a medley of songs at p. 30 of Sportive Wit: The Muses' Merriment, 8vo., 1656. I have not seen it complete, and it breaks off at the words, " But when," into another song.
2. "Two Toms and Nat in council sat. To the tune of Jamaica." (State Poems, continued, p. 140, 1697.)
4. " Slow men of London; or The Widow Brown " (Pills, vi. 93); , This is a song of three Londoners being outwited by a Welshman, in a competition for the Widow Brown. It consists of twelve stanzas, and commences thus:— " There dwelt a widow in this town In truth it has of late been told
That was both fair and lovely; That many strove to have her.
Her face was comely, neat and brown : There were three'young men of this town, ' To pleasure she would move thee. Slow men of London,
Her lovely tresses shone like gold, And they'd go woo the Widow Brown,
Most neat was her behaviour; Because they would be undone."
The last four lines form the subject of another song, which is printed in Watts' Musical Miscellany, ii. 74,1729. It consists of only sixteen lines, and is said to have been sung in the play of Wit without Money; I suppose on the revival of Beaumont and Fletcher's play, about the year 1708, with alterations and, as the title-page modestly asserts, " with amendments, by some persons of quality." It suggests the possibility of the longer song having been introduced in 1639 or 1661. There is a situation for one near the end of the play, but (according to the Rev. A. Dyce) it is not printed either in the quartos or in the folio.
Three other songs are printed to the tune in Pills to purge Melancholy,.™., "The Angler's Song," beginning, "Of all the recreations," iii. 126; "Of the Downfall of one part of the Mitre Tavern in Cambridge, or the sinking thereof into the cellar," iii. 136; and " The Jolly Tradesmen," beginning, " Some time I am a tapster new," vi. 91. Others will be found in the ballad-operas of Polly, •1729; Love and Revenge, n.d.; &c.
" The Prodigal's Resolution" consists of eleven stanzas, of which three are subjoined.