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REIGN OF CHARLES II.
THE LEATHER BOTTEL. Although I have not found any copy of this ballad printed before the reign of Charles II., there appears reason for believing it to be of much earlier date. The irregularity in the number of lines in each stanza,—eight, ten, and sometimes twelve in the earlier copies,—gives it the character of a minstrel production, such as Richard Sheale's Qhevy Ckace, rather than of the Eldertons, Delonys, or Martin Parkers of the reigns of Elizabeth and James, who all observed a just number of lines in their ballads. The word " bottle " was not pronounced "bottdl" in the reign of Charles II., or even in the time of Shakespeare; such pronunciation belongs rather to the era of Chaucer and Piers Ploughman, than to the later period. The Rev. Arthur Bedford, in his Great Abuse of Music, 8vo, 1711, speaks of the commencement of the ballad,—
" 'Twas God above that made all things," &c, ending the stanza with—" 80 I wish his soul in heav'n may dwell
That first devised the leather bottell," as irreverent; but I believe it by no means to have been intentionally so, but rather that the rambling beginning is another proof of its antiquity. A very early ballad, written by a priest in the reign of Queen Mary (a copy of which is in the library of the Society of Antiquaries), commences in a very similar manner, and the metre is so like that it might be sung to the same tune. It is entitled " A new Ballade of the Marigolde," and opens thus:—
" The God above, for man's delight, And flowres that are so flourishyng :
I lath heere ordaynde every thing, Amonges all which that I beholde
Sonne, Moone and Sterres shinying so (As to my minde best contentyng), bright, [spring, I doo commende the Marigolde."
With all kind fruites, that here doth In the seventh stanza—
" To Marie our Queene, that flowre bo For her enduryng paciently This Marigolde I doo apply, [sweete, The stormes of such as list to scolde For that the name doth serve so meete At her dooynges, without cause why, And properlee in each partie, Loth to see spring this Marigolde.
At the end, " God save the Queene. Quod William Forrest, Preest."* Printed by B ichard Lant, in Aldersgate Street.
But, to return to The Leather Bottel. Copies are to be found in the Bagford, Roxburghe, and other Collections; in the list of those printed by Thackeray; in Wit and Drollery, 1682; in The New Academy of Compliments, 1694 and 1713 ; in Pills to purge Melancholy; in Dryden's Miscellany Poems ; and in a succession of others to the present day. Mr. Sandys contributed a Somersetshire version to Mr. Dixon's Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England.
We find it alluded to in " Hey for our Town, or a fig for Zommersetshire" (Douce Coll., p. 96):—
" Come, sing us a merry catch, quo' Bob, Quo' scraper, what's the words ? In praise o' th' Leather Bottel, quo' Bob, For we'll be merry as lords."
• In the same volume in the library of the Society of Antiquaries, is a ballad on the marriage of Queen Mary
and Philip, by John Heywood.