Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth.

Merry drollery compleat, being jovial poems, merry songs, &c. online

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contrast between true grandeur and pestilent incom-
petence was beheld whenever he had passed away, in
1658, and left The Gang of rival claimants, who were
all proved incapable to bend the bow of the dead

The Restoration became a necessity, not so much
from a survival of enthusiastic love to the Stuarts as
from the intense disgust excited by the Parliament,
the Independents, and the disorganised soldiery.
These fell, chiefly owing to their own inherent
rottenness. How little was done to reward the hopes
of those who looked for establishment of a pure
exalted monarchy, avails not now to tell.

Of the conflict between Oliver and the men who
were endeavouring to dispossess him of the power he
held, few records surpass in value one contemporary
ballad (found here on page 62), filled with exultation
over the downfall of the Rump. What masterly
c satire,


satire, cutting both ways, we find in the verse telling
of " brave Oliver's " rebuke to his old companion :

" It went to the heart of Sir Henry Vane
To think what a terrible fall he should have :

For he who did once in the Parliament reign
Was call'd, as I hear, a dissembling knave.

Who gave him that name you may easily know,
'Twas one that studied the art full well ;

You may swear it f was true, if he call'd him so,
And ho*w to dissemble Fm sure he can tell."

There is no mistaking it, despite this irresistible gibe
against Noll himself, he is the better loved for crushing
the horde of public enemies thus summarily. The
Commonwealth is divided against itself, and its fall is
known to be inevitable. There had been nothing
(scarcely excepting his incurable duplicity and con-
tinual breaches of faith) which had been charged
against the murdered King, during the Civil War
and for which he was brought to trial in a dangerously
illegal manner, and slaughtered ruthlessly, but what
was afterwards perpetrated against the constitutional
liberties of England by the men who had arrogated to
themselves the right to judge and execute their Sov-

As helping us materially to understand those times,
which can never be without the gravest interest to us
while we remain a nation, the Merry Drollery, Complete,
is truly valuable, and now re-printed. Ridentem dicere
verum quid vetat ?




We need not go to Joseph Addison to learn that
" a reader seldom peruses a book till he knows whether
the writer of it be a black or a fair man, of a mild or
choleric disposition, married or a bachelor, with other
particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much
to the right understanding of an author." " Who
wrote it ? " is a question most of us are in the habit of
asking, when any book or song gives us pleasure.
Let us mention the writers of some songs and ballads
in Merry Drollery, Complete.

Ten of the Songs are by Alexander Brome, whose
gay spirit made him a favourite among the Cavaliers ;
his numerous Epistles in verse, preserved among his
Poems, prove the intimacy of his friendship with many
leading men, Charles Cotton, Colonel Lovelace,
Thomas Stanley, &c. Though given to writing Bac-
chanalian ditties, he does not seem to have been of
dissolute habits, and his Muse is singularly decorous
in morals, like himself preferring Wine to Women. A
word here or there of plain language may exceed our
present forms of speech ; but he never wantonly in-
dulges in foulness of thought or expression, and we
love him well for his own sake, as also for the friendly
labours he encountered to print and publish his name-
sake Richard Brome's choice Comedies. Few of these
might have come down to us, but for such editorial



care. He himself was reproached by a friend (J. B.)
for wasting his poetic gifts in mere Song-writing :

"Why pedler'st thus thy muse ? Why dost set ope

A shop of wit to set thejidlers up ?

Fie, prodigal ! canst statuated shine,

By the abuse of Women, praise of Wine ?

Or such like toyes, which every hour are

By every pen spu'd forth int' every ear ?

Thy comely Muse dress up in robes, and raise
Majestic splendour to thy wreath of bayes :
Don't prostitute her thus, her Majesty
{Like that of Princes) when the vulgar see
Too frequently, respect and awe are fled,
Contempt and scorn remaineth in their stead."

But we believe that Alexander Brome received quite
as much fame, and more instant popularity, for this
light work in his Lyrics, as he could have won by sus-
tained labours at such disturbed times. He answers
J. B. (who wrote a Tragedy, not traced, in 1652) :

"If making Sonnets were so great a sin,
Repent ; 'twas you at first did draw me in :
And if the making one Song be not any,
I can't believe I sin in making many.

But oh ! the Themes displease you, you repine,
Because I throw down Women, set up Wine :
Why that offends you, I can see no reason,
Unless, 'cause I, not you, commit the treason.
Our judgments jump in both, we both do love
Good Wine and Women ; if I disapprove
The sleights of some, the matter's understood,
I'm ne'er the less belov'd by th' truly good."



And he plainly declares that, already, for having
written on some of those high themes, "of State-
matters, and affairs of Kings/ 7 his teeth had been
nearly beaten out by the Parliamentarians. He died
in 1665, within a lustre after the Restoration.

We feel less certain as to the authorship of Thomas
Jordan ; some of the flowers of his " Royal Arbor of
Loyal Poesie," 1664, being apparently of foreign
growth, and transplanted. But, probably we have to
thank him for the clever parody on Thomas Carew,
which describes "Pym's Anarchy" of 1642, beginning,

"Aske me no more why there appears

Dayly such troops of Dragooneers/' &c. (p. 70).

We know not to whose pen we are indebted for the
delightful companion-songs, " The Cavalier's Com-
plaint," beginning " Come, Jack, let's drink a pot of
Ale" (p. 52), with Answer to it, " I marvel, Dick, that
having been," &c. They lift our thoughts to con-
sideration of a nobler type of gentlemen than the
roysterers who brought discredit on the King's
party. Printed, and widely popular as a broadside,
within a few months after Charles the Second arrived
in London, they give trustworthy evidence of what
was felt and spoken by those gallant Royalists who
had so often imperilled life and liberty in his cause.
For him their cash and plate had been cheerfully
given, their estates had been seized and confiscated



by the rebel Parliament, and their sufferings had
been borne patiently, until the last lingering hopes
were dispelled on beholding the personal unworthiness
of the monarch whom they had welcomed back to the
throne of his murdered father. We mark them
retreating, disappointed and disgusted, from the
Court, where gilded popinjays, sleekest time-servers,
and handsome wantons alone are cherished. We
remember an event of evil augury was recorded, that,
even on the night of that memorable twenty-ninth of
May, 1660; the royal birthday, moreover; when all his
Capital was a-blaze with bonfires, and filled with loyal
enthusiasm, and when many an earnest thanksgiving
to heaven was uttered by devoted Cavaliers who had
prayed for him and for his cause during more than ten
years of exile the King himself was so lost to a sense
of common decency, as well as of honour and religion,
that he allowed it to become publicly notorious he was
then toying with Barbara Palmer, afterwards the
Duchess of Cleveland, at Sir Samuel Morland's house
in Lambeth. Thenceforward, all was in accordance
with the bad beginning. Female influence en-
slaved him, and the most easy and good-natured
of all monarchs, whose abilities as well as dispo-
sition had offered much for praise, lent himself
to such counsellors as not only degraded him per-
sonally, but also impoverished, humiliated and in



great part corrupted the nation. How gross was the
mismanagement, how foul were the orgies, we can
best understand by one fact, that those English Caval-
iers whose hearts were sound came speedily to regret
the triumph of their cause, and almost to lament the
passing away of the Commonwealth, which, although
intolerant, covetous, arrogant and cruel, had yet been
respected abroad for courage and high principle. So
much more unwilling are we, generally, despite
Hamlet's experience, to

"bear the ills we have,
than fly to others that we know not of."

Historically of deep significance is the dialogue (on
p. 131), "a Quarrel betwixt Tower-Hill and Tyburn,"
referring to the expected execution of the Regicides.
There is no mirth here, scarcely any humour even
of a sardonic kind ; all is stern, bitter hatred and
scorn. It is not a ravening for blood, as though
revengefully afraid of the criminals escaping punish-
ment, but rather a contemptuous and cruel impatience
to cleanse the land from the presence of those who in
their day of power had shown themselves devoid of
mercy. Nothing but abhorrence salutes the miserable
and cowardly Hugh Peters, whose blood, it was felt,
would defile the scaffold on which braver men had
laid down their lives. The fanatical enthusiast Harri-
son, a ruthless tool of tyranny, and probably a mad



man, had three days earlier died gallantly at the same
place, Charing Cross, (on i3th October, 1660,) as
became one who believed he saw the coming Mil-
lenium of the elect saints. On his way to execution,
some unfeeling spectator called out mockingly, "Where
is your good Old Cause ? " With a cheerful smile, the
dying man clapt his hand on his breast, and answered,
" Here it is ! I am going to seal it with my blood." As
he drew nearer to the gallows, beholding it, he seemed
transported with joy, and when asked how he did,
replied " Never better in my life," declaring that he
saw the crown of glory prepared for him. Sir Henry
Vane, we must admit, approved himself to be no un-
worthy follower of the ancient stoics and republicans
he admired, by the dignity wherewith he made his place
of butchery, on Tower Hill become an altar of self-
sacrifice. After a long imprisonment, he suffered in
June, 1662. His address to the people had been
forbidden, and as he himself declared, " It is a bad
cause which cannot bear the words of a dying man."
Samuel Pepys had witnessed the execution of Harrison :
quaintly recording how at being hanged, drawn, and
quartered, he was " looking as cheerful as any man
could do in that condition ;" and how it was reported
that Harrison said " he was sure to come shortly at
the right hand of Christ to judge them that now had
judged him ;" and that "his wife do expect his coming



again." Pepys seems to have enjoyed the view of
several other such scenes of slaughter, and indeed all
sight-seeing was pleasant to him but he yields steady
testimony to the gallant bearing of Vane, who " in all
things appeared the most resolved man that ever died
in that manner, and showed more of heate than
cowardize, but yet with all humility and gravity."
Later, he mentions that " the courage of Sir H. Vane
at his death is talked on every where as a miracle."
And Will Swan declared to him that "Sir H. Vane
must be gone to Heaven, for he died as much a
martyr and saint as ever man did ; and that the King
hath lost more by that man's death than he will get
again a great while." There can be no question of the
fact that a reaction began to set in after beholding
such courage, and contrasting it with the misconduct
of those in power, whose loyalty could only manifest
itself in servility and persecutions. Let us confess,
however, that if there was not to be entire amnesty or
indemnity, such men as Hugh Peters were more fitted
for Tyburn tree than the block on Tower HJ11 : the
rabble rout of rebellion was not worthy of mingling
blood with those royalist soldiers who had died
valiantly, imploring a blessing on King Charles.

A score of songs were added, indeed several of
them had been written after the publication of Merry
Drollery, the first edition, in 1661. Among them are



two, from his comedies, by " Glorious John," whose
hey-day of popularity belongs properly to the date of
our Westminster Drolleries. As we pass onward from
our earlier choice in poetry, such time as Keats and
Tennyson allured us chiefly, with sensuous imagery
and artificial trickeries of pleasant sound some of us,
whose love of verse is strong enough to have survived
the sturm und drang Zeit of youthful passion, and our
entrance on the practical business of middle age, feel
an ever-deepening sense of Dryden's grandeur. Other
men have surpassed him in the ability to harmonize
their powers, powers immeasurably weaker than his,
and have secured a position in their country's litera-
ture by single poems complete in themselves, and thus
satisfying a fastidious taste. But of all the great,
capricious, blundering giants and heroic demi-gods in
the poetic Walhalla, none is more absolutely a crown-
less king of the Infanti Perduti than our almost-for-
gotten John Dryden. The robust manliness, the
sound-heartedness of this sturdy Englishman, against
whom faction clamoured loudly, is so imperishable
that his most grievous faults cannot efface his grandeur.
His worst utterances we are willing to forget, his errors
of judgment and of conduct are at once condoned, by
all who have learnt to know him thoroughly. His
genius was irregular, it is true, but it was genius such
as few have equalled. His grasp of power once laid



on us, the sustained strength and beauty of his verse,

"The long majestic march, and energy divine,"
once fairly recognised, he is mighty enough to hold us
bound to him for ever. He was alike the sociable and
homely-attired Citizen, who gave delight to a circle of
admiring Wits at coffee-houses ; and yet, when a dress-
suit was donned and actors were obsequious, the Play-
wright whom a clamourous public set to task-work,
loving somewhat to excess bombastic rant and courtly
gallantry : whose tragedy queens bespoke their sorrows
in rhymed couplets, and whose impassioned heroines
threw overboard their modesty, with less compunction
than measly pork is cast into the deep within the
Tropics. Glorious John ! He could captivate men
with his flowing talk at Wills', and no less bind
attention to his pages by vivacious criticism in spark-
ling Prefaces, that half disguised the soundness of
their common-sense by seeming to have been written
without more premeditation than his daily gossip.
What scores of lesser men are talked about, and com-
mented on by learned Pundits, to the world's admira-
tion, simply because they are the lesser and more
easily measured; while Dryden in unwieldy folios
remains comparatively unread, unpraised. Yet was he
the creator of the loftiest satires in the English lan-
guage, the writer of a manly, masterly prose style, dis-
tinct from all preceding, the voluminous author of



translations, panegyrics, fables, and odes, beside trage-
dies and comedies that enwrap two score of songs
delightfully musical, and not so naughty as to sin
beyond forgiveness. Even such trifles as we have here
from him (on pp. 171, 292) are pleasant gifts that we
can thankfully receive.

His friend and fellow-workman, Sir William D'Ave-
nant, yields us two other songs : One of which helped
Mistress Mary Davis, the lady who first sang it, to a
reversion of the heart of our inflammable "Old Rowley."
" My lodging is on the cold ground," is here, and also
another half-phrensied but pathetic ditty, a sort of
dirge, " Wake all you dead, what ho ! " (pp. 290, 151).
The Anacreontic, beginning " The thirsty earth drinks
up the rain," meets us (on p. 22) from one of the
three friends who feasted D'Avenant with praise for
his poem of "Gondibert" (concerning which un-
finished Epic, see the lampoons from mocking wits,
on pp. 100, 1 1 8) : that "melancholy Cowley," whose
" Essays in Prose and Verse," left as a legacy, and
published by Bishop Sprat, 1668, are among the most
delicious that were ever penned ; and whose choice
" Chronicle" of imaginary Mistresses,

" Margarita first possest,

If I remember well, my breast," &c.,

we prize more highly than his ambitious " Davideis,"
or the " Davideidos."



Some doubt exists as to whether we owe to William
Cavendish, first Duke of Newcastle, the lively Song
(p. 237) "I doat, I doat, but am a sot to show it." It
is partly quoted in his " Triumphant Widow," written
during exile, but not printed until 1677. We have it
complete in the 1661 edition of Merry Drollery. It
is certainly in his spirit, and until the claim of another
author to it has been proved by demonstration we
may hold it to be his.

Fortunately, no doubt afflicts us concerning whom
we have to thank for that gay " Ballad on a Wedding,"
and that mirthful record of " Apollo's Session of the
Poets," which adorn our volume (pp. 101, 72). To
Sir John Suckling be the praise for verses that never
lose their charm. Men jested upon him for his
gaudily-attired hundred horsemen, whose tailoring
surpassed their prowess and their service in the field :

" Sir John got him on an ambling Nag,

To Scotland for to ride a,

With a hundred horse more, all his own he swore,
To guard him on every side a," &c.

(Musarum D elicits.)
And again

" I tell fhee, Jack, thou gav'st the King
So rare a present, that no thing

Could welcomer have been ;
A hundred horse ! beshrew my heart,
It was a brave heroick part,

The like will scarce be seen," &c.

(Le Prince d 9 Amour.)



This was answered by " I tell thee, fool, who e're thou
be," &c. (Ibid. 1660, p. 148.) Some lack of moral or
physical courage to repel and punish the ferocious
ruffianism of a Court-bully exposed Suckling to a
graver censure ; and a degenerate namesake, so lately
as 1836, had the vile mendacity to insinuate without
proof a charge of suicide. But always by us must Sir
John Suckling be lovingly rememhered for some of
the daintiest bewitching poems of love and merriment
One who assailed him ridiculously in the verses to the
tune of "John Dory," referred to above, viz., Dr.
James Smith (unless the mockery came from his friend
Sir John Mennis) gave us " The Song of the Black-
smith (p. 225), having the burden of " Which no body
can deny." For fully sixty years men seemed never
weary of repeating it. We have another, and much
more rare, Blacksmith Song (p. 319) ; as well as two
songs in ironical praise of " The Brewer," in reference
to stout old Oliver Cromwell, whose family connection
with the maltster's trade was no more forgotten than
Hewson's with cobbling, and Harrison's with that of a
butcher : which trades seemed congenial to them.

Two other gallant Cavalier Poets, William Cart-
wright and Robert Herrick, are represented here,
although only by a brief song from each, charming
lyrists as they were (pp. 289, 199). Cartwright had
given brilliant promise as a dramatist before he gained



fresh fame as a preacher, and like Thomas Randolph
died young. Still earlier voices are heard echoing
through our pages. A few lingering strains from the
survivor of that literary brotherhood Beaumont and
Fletcher (himself, alas! prematurely snatched away in
all the ripeness of his manhood), greet us here (on pp.
92, 109, 196). There is an exuberance of mirth and
poetry in John Fletcher that has rarely if ever been
equalled. In this he takes after the man whom he
loved to follow, and sometimes playfully to parody,
William Shakespeare ; even as John Phillips mocked
the Miltonic style in his " Splendid Shilling," yet all
the while loved the bard of Paradise Lost, and took
him as exemplar in most things that he wrote. Ben
Jonson, Thomas Middleton, Richard Brome, and
Thomas Heywood, dramatic brethren all dead before
the date of Merry Drollery -, were not forgotten in it,
or left without a verse from each to keep their memory

To " rare Ben Jonson" is another tribute, however,
oddly expressed by Dr. Henry Edwards in the high-
flown praise of Sack, with all its embodied transfor-
mations, beginning " Fetch me Ben Jonson's scull, and
fill 't with Sack " (p. 293). Like many another bard
of those wild days, he cannot resist defaming Ale,
while yielding a laudation to the Vine. How he
finds heresie in hops, and condemns beer to be given



to Calvin and his disciples, is not quite clear. It was
Luther who, if not misrepresented, told a grievously
self-tormented casuist, beseeching ghostly counsel as a
medicine, to " Drink beer, and dance with the girls ! "
advice which, if the brew were good and lasses young
and pretty, was by no means to be sniffed at, except
by the degenerate Barebones sectaries or Agnewites.
By many a roystering Cavalier (see p. 121) excuse was
made that he abhorred malt liquor, from its connection
with Noll Crorfcell and his brewery. A reveller,
overcome by potations, mentions the Brewer's Dog as
having bitten him (p. 255); and another (p. 348)
acting anticipatively on homoeopathic theories, similia
similibus curantur, recommends a hair of the said dog
to be taken medicinally :

" If any so wise is, that Sack he despises,

Let him drink small beer, ana be sober,

Whilst we drink Sack and sing, as if it were Spring,

He shall droop like the trees in October.

But be sure if over-night this dog do you bite,

You take it henceforth for a warning,

Soon as out of your bed, to settle your head,

Take a hair of his tail in the morning," &c.

In one of our songs we find a Lover so addicted to
his cups that he prefers Sack to his mistress, and his
mistress gives him the sack accordingly (pp. 304, 306) ;
she yet shews sign of a relenting, if he will but quit his
bottle and be constant to herself. In much later days,



we should remember, one jovial swain defended him-
self from a charge of fickleness, by pleading the
unfailing smiles of the goblet he loved better :

" The Women all tell me I'm false to my Lass,
That I quit my poor Chloe, and stick to my glass ;
But to you, Men of Reason, my reasons I'll own,
And if you don't like them, why let them alone,

" Altho' I have left her, the Truth I'll declare,
I believe she was good, and I'm sure she was fair;
But goodness and charms in a Bumoer I see,
That makes it as good and as charging as she.

" My Chloe had dimples and smiles, I must own,

But though she could smile, yet in truth she could frown,

But tell me, ye Lovers of Liquor divine,

Did you e'er see a frown in a Bumper of Wine ?

"Her Lillies and Roses were just in their prime,
Yet Lillies and Roses are conquer'd by Time ;
But in Wine from its age such a Benefit flows,
That we like it the better, the older it grows."

(5 verses more.)

"Then let my dear Chloe no longer complain ;
She's rid of her Lover and I of my pain ;
For in Wine, mighty wine, many comforts I spy;
Should you doubt what I say take a Bumper and try."

This, sung by Beard, before 1754, or when remodelled
in our own days, " They tell me I've proved unkind
to my Lass," is as complete a statement of the superior
advantages of the flask as could be desired. In Merry
Drollery there is somewhat too much about Sack.
But it is not unimportant, as indicating the besetting
d dangers


dangers of the Cavaliers. Their enemies' cannon
balls had not damaged them so much as their friends'
grape. Nowadays, to our young men, Bitter Beer is
the peril. Cassandra gives warnings, but their rock-
ahead is the Bass. As Tom Hood used to say of his
Lieutenant, "The rock he split upon was quarts."

Although, for reason such as the above, Wine gained
more praise than Ale, we find that " A Cup of Old
Stingo" was recognized as being potent, and " Ale in
a Saxon Rumkin" had its Laureate, even in those days
of vinous revelry (pp. 140, 164, 259). Chocolate,
also, then coming into vogue for public drinking, as
soon as the Restoration gave license for more
sociality, has a special song in its honour, that we have
not found elsewhere (p. 48). And the best known
song of moralizing on Tobacco is seen adorning our
volume (p. 26).

Although drinking and love-making were favourite
themes among the Cavaliers, our English fondness for
field-sports shows itself in the brisk song of the

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