82  The two Constant Lovers. Or,/ A patterne of true Love exprest in this loving Dialogue betweene Samuell and Sara [Euing 360]

Author: Anonymous

Emotions - anger Emotions - joy Emotions - love Employment - sailors/soldiers Family - siblings Gender - courtship Gender - masculinity Society - friends Violence - interpersonal

Song History

This song appears to have begun its long life in the 1620s, and editions were published regularly until the early 1700s. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it reappeared after an apparent lull in publication in a revised and shortened form under the titles ‘Captain Barnwell’ and ‘Young Barnwell’. Versions appeared as slip-songs and in the anonymous collection, Seven excellent new songs (c. 1775). These were all closely related to one another, though no two of them were identical.

These later editions were also recognisably related to the original broadside in terms of the characters, language and narrative but the editors also made some interesting alterations. The new title is curious because it focuses on Sarah’s brother, comprehensively beaten by her sweetheart Samuel in the song and clearly no hero. This might indicate, rather surprisingly, that the song’s appeal by c. 1800 lay more in the defeat of an authority figure (a brother and a captain) than in the triumph of true love. Had it perhaps come to serve partly as a cautionary tale about the dangers of taking the law into one’s own hands and deploying violence in the pursuit of private business? The original seventeenth-century title concentrated much more decisively on the relationship of Samuel and Sarah, and no mention is made of Captain Barnwell.

In the songs of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the confrontation between Samuel and Barnwell takes place ‘upon the mountains high’, and this expression is used repeatedly at the conclusion of individual verses (it does not appear in the original song). And as Captain Barnwell prepares to slay his sister’s boyfriend, Samuel points out in one version that he has no armour and that the contest is therefore unfair. In another edition, he is merely non-plussed by Captain Barnwell’s violent intentions.

In all of these later versions, Samuel solves his difficulty by taking the Captain’s arrows from him and snapping his bow into three pieces. Rather remarkably, this brings Barnwell’s plan to an end and he hurriedly agrees that the marriage can go ahead. The actual fight that occurs in the original song is thus avoided (perhaps this tells us something about changing attitudes to duelling).

In all the printed versions, particularly the original, the most striking feature of the narrative is probably the contrast between the captain’s ignominious collapse and Samuel’s indefatigable bravado. His confidence in his ability to defeat Sarah’s soldier-brother in combat is irrepressible. Clearly, this vision of a manliness that was emboldened by love appealed to listeners and readers throughout the period (see also A constant wife).

It contrasts markedly, however, with the rather downtrodden and dejected masculinity that features in several other highly successful romantic songs. In A sweet Sonnet, for example, the male lover fears rejection and his self-confident sweetheart therefore takes it upon herself to console him. Samuel is made of sterner stuff and repeatedly reassures Sarah that he will emerge victorious from the imminent confrontation. This all reveals Samuel’s caring side, and it is notable that his sensitive words were largely cut from the later editions of the ballad, as the editors reduced its length for the new slip-song format (In which all the text appears in a single column).

There is also evidence that the ballad survived sporadically as a folk-song in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Collectors found examples in Herefordshire, Somerset, Dorset and Berkshire. In all these versions, the influence of the slip-songs is very clear in the appearance of expressions such as ‘all on the mountains high’ and ‘bending of his bow’.

There are also occasional traces of the original, seventeenth-century ballad, perhaps mediated through oral tradition or through printed editions that are now lost or hard to find (one possible source was the song-collection published by John Ashton in 1887, which included the full seventeenth-century text). For example, the phrase, ‘tho’ he a captain be’, appears both in the original song and in the version collected in Wootton Fitzpaine, Dorset, in 1906, but it is not to be found in the intermediate slip-songs. The influence of oral transmission is also evident in the shift from ‘Barnwell’ in all the printed versions to ‘Barniwell’ and ‘Barnibel’ in some of the collected songs.

Overall, it seems likely that the original song appealed to seventeenth-century ballad-lovers for various reasons but perhaps most tellingly because it dramatised and intensified a tension that was a fact of life for almost all courting couples. The making of a marriage rested fundamentally on the consent of the two individuals involved but all sorts of checks and balances were supposed to prevent rash and rushed decisions. This ballad and several others suggest that the restraining role of the two families, particularly the woman's, was a highly contentious issue in the period. Normally, it was the parents who took the lead here. In The two Constant Lovers, we see and hear what can happen when a big brother steps in.

Christopher Marsh


Anon, Seven excellent new songs (c. 1775), pp. 5-7.

John Ashton, A century of ballads (1887), pp. 168-72.

Broadside ballads from the Bodleian Library: http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/

David Cressy, Birth, marriage and death. Ritual, religion and the life-cycle in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford, 1997), chs. 10 and 11.

English Broadside Ballad Archive: https://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/

English Short Title Catalogue.

Diane O’Hara, Courtship and constraint. Rethinking the making of marriage in Tudor England (Manchester, 2000).

Hyder E. Rollins, An analytical index to the ballad-entries (1557-1709) in the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London (1924; Hatboro, Pennsylvania, 1967), nos. 2373 and 2758.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, https://www.vwml.org/ [search for Roud number 955].

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Featured Tune History

‘To a pleasant new tune’ (unidentified)

The purpose of this section is to provide brief notes on the melody followed by detailed evidence relating to  its career, paying particular attention to the ‘echoes’ (inter-song associations and connections) that may have been set up if it was nominated for the singing of more than one ballad. In the list presented in the ‘Songs and Summaries’ section below, we have endeavoured to include as many of the black-letter ballads that used the tune as possible, under any of its variant names. Titles from our chart of best-sellers are presented in bold type (these are also in colour when there is a link to the relevant ballad page on the website). It should be noted that it is extremely difficult to date many ballads precisely and the chronological order in which the songs are listed is therefore very approximate (we have drawn on previous attempts to date the ballads, making adjustments when additional evidence can be brought into play).  In most cases, we list the earliest surviving edition of a ballad, though in many instances there may have been earlier versions, now lost.

Versions and variations

The ‘pleasant new tune’ to which this song was set has not been found and we have not been able to idenitfy a suitable melody within later vernacular tradition. We have therefore not made a recording.

Echoes (an overview)

Without a clearly identifiable tune, it is impossible to discuss the relationships between different songs that may have been set to it.

Songs and Summaries

The two Constant Lovers. OR, A patterne of true Love... To a pleasant new tune (F. Coles, T. Vere, and W. Gilberson [sic], 1661-63). Euing 360; EBBA 32057.  Gender – courtship, masculinity; Family -  siblings; Violence – interpersonal; Emotions – love, anger, joy.  A courting couple face the disapproval of the woman’s ‘friends’, and the man does battle with her brother in order to win her hand.

Christopher Marsh

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Respectful man with raised foot

The purpose of this section is to provide evidence relating to  the career of the image under discussion, paying particular attention to the ‘reflections’ (inter-song associations and connections) that may have been set up if it was chosen to illustrate more than one ballad. The list given below includes all ballads from the Pepys and Roxburghe collections that feature this woodcut or a close variant (these are the two largest collections, including approximately 3300 sheets, in total). References to ballads from other collections occur only when the featured edition of the song under consideration here (or the featured edition of another song from our list) comes from such a source. Ballads from our chart of best-sellers are presented in bold type, and they also appear in colour where there is a link to another song in the database. Please note, however, that the editions of hit songs listed below are not necessarily those for which digital images are presented on this website. Cross-references to other examples of our featured woodcuts are also presented in bold. It is extremely difficult to date many ballads precisely and the chronological order in which the songs are listed is therefore very approximate (we have drawn on previous attempts to date the ballads, making adjustments when additional evidence can be brought into play).

Reflections (an overview)

This woodcut was encountered quite frequently on English ballads of the later seventeenth century but seems to have been less successful than Respectful man with tufts of grass, despite the similar stance of the two individuals. Only one woodblock appears to have existed, perhaps because demand for the image was not intense.

Respectful man with raised foot, like his cousin, was associated with courtship and marriage, though the connection is not quite as strong in his case. A higher proportion of his appearances on romantic ballads were also attached to disreputable or tragic roles, and it sometimes feels as if there is an imploring component to his body language that is not so prominent in seemingly comparable woodcuts (see, for example, The Willow-Green: OR, The Distressed Lovers Complaint, because that his Love Compassion doth want). Is he sometimes pleading for love or for forgiveness?

This character is more heroically romantic on The two Constant Lovers, our hit ballad, but for some reason he was not retained when later editions appeared. Other characters, often adopting similar positions, were introduced instead; he lost out, for example, to both Respectful man with tufts of grass and Respectful man in archway. We cannot know why this happened, though it seems plausible to suggest that his associations were not quite right for the role of the bold battler who risks his life for his beloved.

He also appeared on other sorts of ballad, though some of these seem to nod in the direction of his more familiar roles as a lover or husband. On The Royal Character: OR, The Mirrour of Majesty, the mood of political devotion is enhanced by the manner in which he approaches Charles II rather than a woman. And on The Discontented Lover, he walks towards a How-de-do-man. Here, two men who usually play lovers approach one another in a ballad that describes a man’s trip to the alehouse as he tries to forget his romantic despair. Whether this pleasing combination came about through contrivance or coincidence, we cannot say.

Songs and summaries

The Discontented Lover (F. Coles, 1624-80).  Pepys 3.38; EBBA 21034.  Gender – courtship, masculinity; Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship; Death – general; Politics – Royalist; Emotions – love, sorrow, patriotism.  A man appears to be on the brink of suicide over a woman whom he loves but a trip to the tavern revives him (picture placement: he appears alongside a How-de-do-man).

An Old Song of the Old Courtier of the Kings, With a New Song of a new Courtier of the Kings (F. Coles, 1624-80).  Pepys 2.211; EBBA 20822. History – recent; Morality – social/economic; Society – criticism, rich/poor; Politics – court; Recreation – reading, fashions, games/sports, hospitality, music, hunting, alcohol; Economy – household; Employment – apprenticeship/service; Places – English, travel.  In alternating verses, this contrasts the lifestyle traditionally associated with the aristocracy – wealthy but honourable and charitable – with that of England’s current social elite – vain, greedy and selfish (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, approaching an armed man with hand on hip).

The two Constant Lovers. OR, A patterne of true Love (F. Coles, T. Vere, and W. Gilberson [sic], 1661-63). Euing 360; EBBA 32057.  Gender – courtship, masculinity; Family -  siblings; Violence – interpersonal; Emotions – love, anger, joy.  A courting couple face the disapproval of the woman’s ‘friends’, and the man does battle with her brother in order to win her hand (picture placement: he walks towards a woman who holds a fan).

Wit bought at a Dear Rate. Being a Relation of the Misery one suffers by being too kind hearted (F. Coles, c. 1670).  Pepys 4.259; EBBA 21920.  Society – old/young, criticism, friendship; Morality – social/economic; Emotions – sorrow. A man complains at the cold-heartedness of the times and wishes that, in his youth, he had been less generous to others and more intent upon saving for his old age (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, alongside a stooped, old man).

The Forlorn Damsel (P. Brooksby, 1670-98). Roxburghe 2.157; EBBA 30636. Gender – sex, courtship, marriage, femininity; Emotions – frustration; Bodies – health/sickness; Humour – bawdry, mockery. A woman, desperate to lose her virginity, reveals her anguish and complains that ‘my Maiden-head is such a load’ (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, approaching a young woman who reaches out towards him).

The Trappan'd Maultster: OR, The Crafty Ale-Wife (J. Deacon, 1671-99).  Pepys 3.277; EBBA 21291. Gender – sex, marriage, masculinity; Humour – bawdry, domestic/familial; Emotions – longing, anger, fear; Morality – romantic/sexual; Employment – crafts/trades, male/female; Violence – interpersonal, punitive; Recreatopm – alcohol; Places – English. A maltster tries to persuade the wife of an alehouse keeper to have sex with him, but she tells her husband and they devise a scheme to punish and humiliate the intruder (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, in between a man with horns and a young woman with a fan).

The Young-Mans Answer to the Merry Maid of Shoreditch her Resolution (J. Deacon, 1671-99).  Pepys 3.260; EBBA 21274. Gender – courtship, femininity; Morality – romantic/sexual. Young men are here advised to be very careful in choosing wives because, though there are good maidens around, there are also many who deceive and manipulate (picture placement: he appears to the right of a Roman scene with naked woman).

Constance of Cleveland (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80).  Pepys 1.476-7; EBBA 20223.  Gender – marriage, adultery; Morality – sexual; Crime – murder; Emotions – love, anger; Death – execution, unlawful killing, result of immorality; Violence – interpersonal. An incredibly loyal and long-suffering wife endures her husband’s affair with a harlot and offers to die in his place when he is convicted of murder (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, walking towards Queen Elizabeth).

A Looking-glass for all true Protestants... To the Tune of, Papists aim not too High (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1679).  Pepys 2.68; EBBA 20692.  Politics – plots, controversy, domestic, Royalist, treason; Religion – Catholic/Protestant, Bible; Royalty – general; Emotions – anger, fear, patriotism; Crime – treason. This offers thanks to God for deliverance from the popish plot and calls on all Protestants to be vigilant and repentant (picture placement: he faces the church from the woodcut, Crowd, preacher and chuch, in the company of two other men, one of whom is described in a caption as a deceiving Catholic).

The Willow-Green: OR, The Distressed Lovers Complaint, because that his Love Compassion doth want (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, J. Clarke, W. Thackeray, and T. Passenger, 1680-81).  Pepys 3.330; EBBA 21345.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity, Cupid; Emotions – sorrow, longing, love; Bodies – healty/sickness, physique; History – general.  A man finds himself in a state of despair because of the unreceptiveness and disloyalty of the woman he loves (picture placement: he gestures towards a woman in bed while Cupid aims a dart at him).

The Royal Character: OR, The Mirrour of Majesty (I. Wright, I. Clarke, W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger, 1682-84).  Pepys 4.227; EBBA 21887.  Royalty – praise; Politics – celebration, domestic, Royalist; Emotions – patriotism, joy, love.  A song in exuberant praise of Charles II (picture placement: he walks towards the king and away from the church that features in Crowd, preacher and church).

The Wanton Vintner, AND The Subtile Damosel (Josiah Blare, 1682-1706). Roxburghe 2.494-95; EBBA 31003.  Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, masculinity, femininity, sex; Humour – bawdry, deceit/disguies, domestic/familial/ extreme situations/surprises, mockery; Employment – apprenticeship/service, crafts/trades;  Bodies – looks/physique; Emotions – confusion, scorn, shame; Morality – romantic/sexual, familial. A vintner tries to arrange an assignation with his maid servant, but she tells her mistress and, in the end, the man is humiliated and becomes a cuckold (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, approaching a comely young woman).

The Distressed Damosel for the loss of her Bridgroom (I. Deacon, 1685-88).  Pepys 3.5; EBBA 20998.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – anger, sorrow; Bodies – clothing; Recreation – weddings.  A young woman lends money and clothes to the man who has promised to marry her, but he disappears at the last minute, leaving her in a state of emotional and economic distress (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, walking away from a a courting couple).

The Long-Nos'd LASS (no imprint, 1685-88). Roxburghe 2.279; EBBA 30737. Bodies – looks/physique; Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Humour – extreme situations/surprises, deceit/disguise, misunderstanding; Economy – money; Emotions – hope, fear, sorrow; Employment – crafts/trades; Environment – animals. A series of tradesmen are tempted to court a wealthy young woman, but they all run away when they realise she has the head of a pig (picture placement: he is one of two men who approach a hog-headed woman with a fan).

The poor Mans distress & tryal, Or, Fortunes Favours after her Frowns (P. Brooksby, 1685-88).  Pepys 2.94; EBBA 20717. Society – rich and poor; Economy – hardship, household; Emotions – anger, fear; Family – children/parents, siblings; Gender – singles, masculinity; Morality – social/economic; Crime – prison; Places – English. A poor man is harshly treated by a merciless landlord, but when the poor man inherits his brother’s fortune, the landlord suddenly wants to be his friend (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, walking towards a well-fed man with wavy hair).

Christopher Marsh


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Related Texts

We have not found other early-modern texts that show a close relationship to The two Constant Lovers in terms of their precise verbal content.

Christopher Marsh

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The two Constant Lovers.  Or,/ A patterne of true Love exprest in this loving Dialogue betweene/ Samuell and Sara. To a pleasant new tune.

[We have not made a recording because the tune is unknown]


AS I by chance was walking,

on a Summers day,

I heard two Lovers talking,

and thus they did say:

With a mournfull Ditty,

she began her tale,

Which mov’d my heart with pitty,

her for to bewaile.


My love I have desired,

for to speake with you,

My heart within was fired,

untill that I know:

Whether you were living,

in good health or no,

My heart it was grieved,

until I did know.


What sweet heart what ails thee,

thus for to complaine,

Let not ill befall thee,

thou shalt me obtaine:

Though I were absented,

from thee for a space,

Ile not be prevented

of thy comely face.


Samuell my owne Sweeting,

I to thee must tell,

In a heavie greeting,

what hath us befell:

My friends do grudge and murmur,

and to me they say;

That we must part a sunder,

or else they’l thee destroy.


Samuel. My Love be not grieved,

though thy friends doe frowne:

Thou shalt be relieved,

none shall put thee downe:

I for thy sweet favour,

will adventure much,

Though thy friends and Brother,

doe against me grutch.


Sara. O my own deare Sweeting,

I am griev’d in heart,

That I give thee such greeting,

for to breed thy smart:

Barnwell my owne Brother,

Captain being he,

Sweares that of all other,

killed thou shalt be.


The Second Part.



SAra be not fearfull,

though thy Brother sweare;

Of thy selfe be carefull,

I no man doe feare:

What care I for Barnwell,

though he a Captaine be,

He shall find that Samuell,

is as good as he.


O my loving Samuell;

looke where he doth goe,

‘Tis my brother Barnwell,

now begins our woe:

Would that we together

had not met this day.

O my Judas brother,

will my life bewray.


Now comes Captain Barnwell,

to these Lovers twaine,

And made count that Samuell,

he could soone have slaine:

But it prov’d contrary

to his bloody mind,

In the sight of Sara,

conquest he resign’d.


Then said he to Samuell,

what doe you make here?

I’m with my sweet=heart Sara,

put her not in feare:

Barnwell in a fury

swore he would prevent,

His owne sister Sara,

of her hearts content.


O my Brother Barnwell,

let me you intreat,

Not to wrong my Samuell,

in your bloody heat:

He hath ne’re offended

you at any time,

Let me be condemned,

save his life take mine.


I sayes Captain Barnwell,

Sara thou shalt see,

Then he call’d to Samuell,

come and answer me:

I thy death hath vowed,

ere I further goe;

Then sweet Sara bowed,

saying doe not so.


Samuell being heedfull,

of his tyranny;

Sayes Sara be not fearfull,

thou anon shalt see:

Though thy Brother Barnwel,

vow my life to spill,

Thou shalt see that Samuel,

hath both strength and skill.


Now these words being spoken,

they to Weapons goe,

Samuell gave him a token,

with a dreadfull blow:

And withall inclosed,

with his Enemy,

Then Barnwell he supposed,

that himselfe should dye.


Then sayes loving Samuel,

are you now content?

I sayes Captain Barnwell,

and withall consent,

That my Sister Sara

shall be made thy wife;

So thou wilt but spare me

and not take my life.


Thus in placed they ceased

for the present time,

Sara much was eased

of her troubled mind:

And enjoy’d her Samuell,

to her hearts content,

And her Brother Barnwel,

gave his free consent.


Now these Lovers twaine

live in joy and peace,

Pray heaven upon them raine

plenty and increase:

And to all true Lovers,

wheresoe’r they be,

Aid them with thy favour,

that have such Constancy.


LONDON Printed for Fr. Cole[s,]/ T. Vere, and W. Gilberson.

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This ballad is included according to the criteria for List A (see Methodology). The evidence presented here is accurate, to the best of our knowledge, as of 1st January 2024.

Shirburn ballads: not included

Appearances on Ballad Partners' lists: Coles, Vere, Wright and Clarke, 1675 (as 'The two constant lovers, Samuell & Sarah'); and Thackeray, 1689 ('Samuel & Sarah').

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: 1629.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 11

No. of extant copies: 13

New tune-titles generated: none.

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: none known.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 46 references, with regular evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. 955).

POINTS: 0 + 10 + 5 + 22 + 13 + 0 + 0 + 5 = 55

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This box will be used to highlight any new information on this song that might come to light after the launch of the website.

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