23  The Countrey FARMER:/ OR, THE/ Buxome VIRGIN [Roxburghe 2.77]

Author: Anonymous

Recording: The Countrey FARMER

Bodies - adornment Bodies - looks/physique Emotions - anger Emotions - joy Emotions - longing Emotions - love Employment - agrarian Environment - animals Environment - buildings Environment - flowers/trees Gender - courtship Gender - femininity Gender - masculinity Gender - sex Humour - bawdry Recreation - fairs/festivals Recreation - food Recreation - weddings Society - rural life

Song History

The popularity of this song during the second half of the 1680s is indicated by the number of surviving copies and by the fact that its tune was used on over thirty other black-letter ballads, almost all of them printed during the same short period. Indeed, one of the most interesting aspects of this ballad is its melody, which apparently came into being in 1685 as the setting for several songs that celebrated the start of James II’s reign, before being appropriated for The Countrey Farmer. Rather remarkably, it seems to have retained its association with the controversial king even when used for dozens of love-songs, and ballad-makers abruptly stopped nominating the tune when James lost his throne in 1688 (see Featured tune history).

Perhaps the redeployment of a Royalist tune for a bawdy courtship ballad generated humour. If so, this may help to account for the success of the song in 1685. In seeking to understand its popularity, we must also look at the comic characterisation of the two central characters. Nell is described as ‘brisk’ (meaning some combination of quick, lively, witty, sharp and attractive, perhaps with just a hint of wantonness) and we are told right from the start that she is in charge of the courtship. She goes after her man, winning him over with frank promises of sex and ‘Cream-Bowls sweet’, despite the fact that he is already engaged. Ned, for his part, is far too easily swayed by this approach and abandons his dull fiancé, Joan, with hardly a backward glance.

Something about this representation of a forward woman and a passive man clearly appealed to ballad consumers in the 1680s. It also invites comparison with other successful ballads that featured infractions of gender norms (see also A worthy example of a virtuous wife and The Woman to the PLOW).

There is very little evidence to suggest that the ballad remained successful into the eighteenth century. Nor did it survive as a folk song, though the collector, Sabine Baring-Gould, copied out a version in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. This scholarly clergyman noted that his text was ‘not taken down orally’ so perhaps he had found a printed copy of the original. Interestingly, he was careful to censor the text in order to remove any hint of bawdiness. He clearly worked hard at this, for the substitute lines all scan and rhyme effectively. Most notably, Nell’s promise that she and Ned will go ‘quick to bed’ is transformed into the more responsible suggestion that the couple will ‘quick be wed’. The verse beginning ‘You know that my love is a Flame of Fire’ was too much for the Reverend Baring-Gould, and he left it out entirely.

Christopher Marsh


Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, ‘Ned and Gillian’, SBG/1/3/117, https://www.vwml.org/

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Featured Tune History

To the tune of ‘King James’ Jigg’ (standard name: The country farmer)

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

This tune seems to have been composed specially in c.1685, hence the original title ‘King James’s Jigg’ (the new monarch was crowned on 23 April). This name was soon joined by others, including ‘Painted Chamber’, ‘The Buxom Virgin’, ‘The sorrowful damsels lamentation for want of a husband’, ‘There was a brisk lass’, ‘The Country Farmer’ and ‘The Country Farmer’s now undone’.

Notation appeared in various publications, including Apollo’s Banquet (edition of 1687) and Youth’s delight upon the flageolet (edition of c. 1690). Most existing versions of the tune are very similar, and our recording is based on those that appear in Nathaniel Thompson’s Choice Collection of 180 Loyal Songs, printed in 1685 (see ‘Postscript’, below) and in editions of John Playford’s Dancing Master from 1688 onwards. In 1685, an inaccurate but recognisable rendition of the tune appeared on the white-letter political ballad, Englands Royal Renown in the Coronation (though the song was actually designed for a different melody). And there is an interesting version in 6/8 time with running quavers in the eighteenth-century tunebook kept by the Welsh fiddler, John Thomas. This seems to reveal the manner in which local musicians, experimental by instinct, re-worked familiar tunes to suit their instruments and the social occasions at which they played.

Echoes (an overview)

This was one of the hit tunes of the 1680s and its original associations were clearly political. Initially, it was known as ‘King James Jig’ and was used particularly for songs that expressed loyal devotion to the new monarch (three such pieces were included in Thompson’s collection of 1685).

Over the next few years, however, its most common title was ‘The Country Farmer’, generated by the hit romantic ballad under discussion here. This song also came into being in in 1685, and the earliest surviving edition called the tune, ‘King James’s Jigg’. Within the next few years, an additional 33 surviving black-letter ballads named the tune under one of its titles, representing a remarkable and perhaps unparalleled density of reappearances. As the list below indicates, the majority of these songs followed The Countrey FARMER in dealing with romantic and sexual relations, and it seems clear that this additional association swiftly became dominant (though the tune’s political implications were never entirely displaced).

Several of these new songs were every bit as bright and optimistic as The Countrey FARMER (see, for example, The True-Lovers Glory). Other songs redeployed the tune but imagined more stressful relationships. The ANSWER to the Buxome VIRGIN, for example, presents a sequel to The Countrey FARMER in which the honeymoon is well and truly over: the buxom virgin is now a wanton wife whose husband has no option but to raise the child of another man. There is one ballad in which a single women, relishing her freedom, refuses to marry (TOBIAS Observation), and two in which single women are desperate to find husbands but unable to do so (see, for example, THE Country Damosels Lamentation For her LOVE).

Further songs tell stories of cuckolded men or deliver warnings about the dangers of marrying shrews, scolds and sluts. The buoyancy of the melody itself, along with the positive associations it carried from The Countrey FARMER, helped to ensure that there was potential for laughter in most of these ballads.

The tune’s associations were also in play when it was nominated for other types of song. In The Seamens Wives Frolick, a group of women are devoted not to their husbands, all of whom are at sea, but to the wonderful drink of punch. Three songs replaced the romantic tussles of many ballads with the tension between town and country (Down-Right Dick of the West, for instance). Arguably, the tune helps to present this as a quasi-romantic tiff rather than anything more serious. Two ballads mocked the Welsh, though again the melody may imply a certain warmth within the English scorn (see The Welch WEDDING).

A few ballads praised the reigning monarch, demonstrating that the tune’s original association with political loyalty was still in play. The Manifestation of Joy and The Western-TRIUMPH both commended James II to his people in 1687. The strongest evidence that the tune retained a close association with James II comes, however, from 1689 - the year after he was deposed - when a white-letter ballad entitled The Irish-mens prayers to St. Patrick appropriated it for a mocking text in which two ‘Teagues’ converse, generously conceding that they are about to be beaten by the brave English. One line runs, ‘I fear dat King Yeamus he will soon run away’, and the tune is named as ‘The Countrey Farmer’s now undone’ (taken from the first line of The Answer to the Buxome Virgin). It seems clear that James II is here being identified as ‘The Countrey Farmer’ and connected with a famous ballad character whose marriage began well but broke down.

In 1689, A Full Description of these Times attempted the difficult task of re-attaching King James’ tune to King William, but it does not appear to have been particularly successful and was not re-issued. More conclusively, the tune – so popular between 1685 and 1689 – swiftly fell out of fashion for all sorts of ballads in the years that followed, suggesting strongly that, despite all the romantic titles listed below, it was still understood as ‘King James’ Jigg’. Of the thirty-four songs on the list, twenty-three can be dated with reasonable certainty, and all of these were published in the second half of the 1680s (this makes it likely that bulk of the remaining songs also date from the same short period, despite the broader date-ranges given below). There can be few clearer demonstrations of the fact that seventeenth-century tunes carried powerful associations for contemporaries that we struggle to hear today.

The songs listed below were connected not only by their melody but also by frequent intertextual references. In A Groats-worth of Mirth for a PENNY, the line, ‘And bring all his Grist home to trusty Joan’ recalls ‘And bring all my Grist to my true Lovers Mill’ in The Countrey FARMER (other songs on the list also use the ‘bringing grist’ motif). The ANSWER to the Buxome VIRGIN, a sequel to The Countrey FARMER, follows its originator in rhyming ‘Roan,’ ‘Joan’, ‘alone’ and ‘moan’ in a single verse.  The Welch WEDDING and Couragious JOCKEY also present some closely-related lines: ‘And let her no longer disputing stand’ and ‘Then why should we longer disputing stand’. And several songs begin with an opening line that echoes ‘There was a brisk Lass both Bonny and Brown’ at the start of The Countrey FARMER (see, for example, THE Country Damosels Lamentation). It is also worth noting that the repetitious use of ‘Jugg-Jugg-Jugg’ in The Countrey FARMER echoed ‘a Mug a Mug’ in a Tory drinking song published by Thompson and set to the tune.

[See 'Postscript', below, for additional notes on the melody].

Songs and Summaries

The Countrey FARMER: OR, THE Buxome VIRGIN. To a New Tune, called, New-Market, or King James’s Jigg (composed 1685-88; P. Brooksby, 1685-96). Roxburghe 2.77; EBBA 30548. Gender – courtship, sex, femininity, masculinity; Humour – bawdry; Emotions – longing, love, joy, anger; Recreation – food, fairs/festivals, weddings; Bodies – looks/physique, adornment; Employment – agrarian; Environment – animals, flowers/trees, buildings; Society – rural life. A young woman courts a man with great purpose, promising him sex, food and other joys; after weighing up his options, he agrees to abandon his current sweetheart and marry this ‘Buxome Virgin’.

Advice to Batchelors, OR, A Caution to be careful in their Choice… To the Tune of, A Touch of the Times. Or, The Country Farmer (P. Brooksby, 1685-88). Roxburghe 2.5; EBBA 30091. Gender – courtship, marriage, femininity; Economy – money. Unmarried men are advised to choose their wives very carefully, avoiding proud shrews and other undesirable types in favour of women who are modest, discreet, quiet and obedient.

THE Coy COOK-MAID… To the Tune of, There was a brisk Lass, &c (P. Brooksby, 1685-88). Euing 45; EBBA 31706. Gender – courtship, sex; Places – nationalities, Scottish, Irish, Welsh; Humour – mockery; Employment – female, crafts/trades; Bodies – looks/physique;  Emotions – longing, anger, contentment. Joan, a fine cook-maid, is courted by a series of men from different countries but she sends them all packing and eventually settles down with a wholesome English tailor.

The Difficult French-Man’s Unsuccessful Adventers… To the Tune of, There was a brisk Lass, &c (P. Brooksby, 1685-88). Pepys 3.136; EBBA 21147. Gender – courtship, sex; Humour – mockery; Places – English, nationalities, travel/transport; Recreation – alcohol, theatre, fairs/festivals; Bodies – looks/physique, adornment, health/sickness; Economy – money.  A vain Frenchman travels to England in order to seek a wealthy wife, but his trip goes laughably wrong and he ends up marrying ‘a Nasty Sow’ after she picks him up in a state of drunkenness.

Down-Right Dick of the West… To the Tune of, The Country Farmer (J. Deacon, 1685-88).  Pepys 4.273; EBBA 21934.  Recreation – sight-seeing; Economy – rural/urban, general; Employment – agrarian, urban; Society – rural life, urban life; Gender – masculinity; Humour – extreme situations/surprises; Violence – interpersonal; Nature – crops; Emotions – anger; Bodies – clothing. A ploughman travels to London and out-wits some gay gallants in an argument about the relative importance of country and town to the economy.

 [The] Innocent Shepherd and the Crafty Wife… To the Tune of, The Country-Farmer; Or, The Buxom Virgin (C. Dennison, 1685-88).  Pepys 3.209; EBBA 21222. Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, femininity, masculinity, sex; Humour – domestic/familial, bawdry, misunderstanding, verbal, mockery; Employment – agrarian; Bodies – clothing.  A shepherd complains to his wife that he is always ‘cuc-cold’ so she tries to help him think of ways in which his problem can be managed.

The Londoners Answer to Down-right Dick of the West… To the Tune of, The Countrey Farmer (J. Back, 1685-88).  Pepys 4.274; EBBA 21935.  Economy – livings, rural/urban; Employment – general; Society – rural life, urban life.  A Londoner argues that the country is just as dependent on the city as the city is on the country.

The Long-Nosd LASS… Tune of, The Country Farmer (P. Brooksby, 1685-88). Crawford 915; EBBA 33398. 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.

A New BALLAD Of an Amorous Coachman… To the Tune of, There was a brisk Lass (P. Brooksby, 1685-88).  Pepys 4.96; EBBA 21760.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Emotions – frustration; Employment – services; Humour – extreme situations/surprises; Bodies – looks/physique, health/sickness. A coach-man courts and then abandons a number of young women, before eventually marrying one who turns out to be ‘a Pick-pockit, a Whore a & a thief’.

Nothing like to a good Wife… To the Tune of, The Country Farmer (J. Conyers, 1685-88).  Pepys 4.80; EBBA 21744. Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, sex; Morality – familial; Family – children/parents; Religion – Christ/God, heaven/hell. This warns husbands to be content with their honest wives, rather than ignoring them in favour of lascivious women who bring only ruin.

POOR ROBIN’S Miserable Misfortunes. OR, The late Experience of a Golder-Plaister to be a perfect cure for a painful Melody. To the Tune of, The Countrey-Farmer (P. Brooksby, 1685-88). Pepys 4.97; EBBA 21761. Gender – courtship; Recreation – music; Family – pregnancy/childbirth; Humour – extreme situations/surprises; Emotions – sorrow, anger, contentment; Employment – crafts/trades; Economy – livings, money; Violence – interpersonal. A poor fiddler struggles to find a wife and, when he eventually marries, his spouse turns out to be pregnant by another already; initially, he is angry but he calms down completely when the woman’s father offers him generous financial compensation.

The Seamens Wives Frolick OVER A BOWL OF PUNCH… To the Tune of, The Country Farmer (C. Dennisson, 1685-88). Pepys 4.184; EBBA 21846. Recreation – alcohol, music; Employment – sailors/soldiers, alehouses/inns; Gender – femininity, marriage, adultery/cuckoldry; Humour – extreme situations/surprises; Environment – sea. A group of wives, left alone at home by their sailor-husbands, get together to drink punch and sing a song in praise of this ‘dainty fine pleasing Liquour’.

EVAN’S Gamesome Frollick; OR, PETER’S sorrowful Lamentation for the loss of JENNY… To the Tune of, The Country Farmer (J. Back, 1685-88). Bodleian Douce Ballads 1(70a). Family – siblings; Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, masculinity, femininity; Morality – romantic/ sexual, familial; Recreation – alcohol, games/sports; Violence - interpersonal. Evan, a disreputable man, leaves his wife and abandons a second woman before taking up with the spouse of his brother Peter, whom he subjects to a life of humiliation and torment.

The Sorrowful CITIZEN; Or, the Couragious PLOW-MAN…To the Tune of, The Country Farmer (J. Blare, 1685-88). Crawford 771; EBBA 33503. Gender – sex, femininity, masculinity; Emotions – longing, anger; Violence – interpersonal; Employment – agrarian; Economy – money, livings; Places – English; Bodies – clothing, adornment, injury; Society – rural life, urban life; Morality – romantic/sexual; News – general. A rich Londoner makes a trip into the country and attempts to buy sex with a maiden but she refuses the offer, and her local sweetheart, a stout ploughman, thrashes the interloper and drives him out of the area.

True Blew the Plowman… To the Tune of, The Country Farmer (P. Brooksby, 1685-88). Crawford 911; EBBA 33387. Morality – social/economic; Employment – agrarian, crafts/trades, alehouses/inns, female; Economy – hardship/prosperity, livings, prices/wages; Family – children/parents; Emotions – anger; Crime – robbery/theft. A ploughman reacts to an economic downturn by seeking a new occupation, but he finds all lines of work infected with corruption and therefore returns, at the last, to honest agrarian labour.

THE Unfortunate WELCH-MAN; OR, The Untimely Death of Scotch JOCKEY...To the Tune of, The Country Farmer (J. Deacon, 1685-88). Pepys 2.173; EBBA 20790. Crime – murder, robbery/theft, punishment; Violence – interpersonal, punitive; Death – execution, unlawful killing; Emotions – anger, despair; Places – nationalities; Humour – mockery; Environment – landscape; Bodies – clothing; Recreation – alcohol. The sad but amusing tale of a Welshman who travels to London to seek out a cousin, but ends up murdering a deceitful Scot and being condemned to execution.

The Welch WEDDING Betwixt Ap-Shinkin and Shinny… To the Tune of, The Devonshire Frolick Or, The Country Farmer (J. Deacon, 1685-88). Crawford 903; EBBA 33375. Gender – courtship; Recreation – weddings, music, dance, food, alcohol; Humour – mockery; Places – nationalities, Welsh; Emotions – love, excitement; Family – kin; Violence – interpersonal. In Wales, Shinny accepts Shinkin’s marriage proposal, and the wedding is a raucous and joyous affair.

THE Young-Man & Maidens Fore-cast; SHEWING HOW They Reckon’d their Chickens before they were Hatcht. To the Tune of, The Country Farmer. Or, The Devonshire Damosels (P. Brooksby, 1685-88). Crawford 588; EBBA 33023. Environment – animals, birds; Employment – agrarian, female; Recreation – games/sports; Gender – courtship; Economy – livings, money; Emotions – hope; Violence – animals. A cautionary tale of a young woman and a maiden who each make grand but ill-fated plans for the future based on the small number of eggs that they possess.

The Loving Mistress, AND The WANTON CLERK… The Tune is, A fig for France, or, The Country Farmer, or, Where’s my Shepherd (J. Conyers, 1685-92). Pepys 3.164; EBBA 21176. Gender – adultery/cuckoldry, sex, femininity, masculinity; Humour – bawdry, deceit/disguise, misunderstanding; Bodies – looks/physique; Employment – professions, apprenticeship/service. A lawyer’s wife and her maid bet a young man that he won’t be able to restrain himself if he spends the night between them; he apparently loses the wager but then tricks the cuckolded lawyer into offering legal advice to the contrary.

The Country-Clowns Delight… To the Tune of the Country Farmer (C. Dennisson, 1685-95). Pepys 3.261; EBBA 21275. Gender – sex, courtship, masculinity, femininity; Emotions – longing; Bodies – looks/physique, health/sickness; Morality – romantic/sexual. A young man declares his lustful longing for a maiden and, after initial caution, she grants him his desire.

The True-Lovers Glory… To the Tune of, The Country-Farmer: Or, The New-Market Jigg (C. Dennisson, 1685-95). Pepys 3.205; EBBA 21218. Gender – courtship; Emotions – despair, love; Environment – flowers/trees, landscape; Employment – agrarian; Bodies – looks/physique; Religion – ancient gods. A woman is in despair because she believes that her shepherd-lover has found another sweetheart, but he delivers a reassuring answer and all is well.

The Cuckold’s Lamentation of a Bad WIFE… To the Tune of The Country Farmer. Or, Why are my Eyes still flow---ing (P. Brooksby, 1685-98). Roxburghe 2.89; EBBA 30573. Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, femininity, masculinity; Economy – household, livings, money, prices/wates; Emotions  - despair, anger; Violence – domestic, interpersonal; Employment – crafts/trades; Recreation - alcohol Morality – familial. A husband laments his marriage to a scolding, sluttish whore of a wife and warns ‘Young Batchelours all’ to avoid such torment at all costs.

The new Married Couple OR, A Friendly Debate between the Countrey FARMER and his Buxome WIFE (P. Brooksby, 1685-98). Bodleian Douce Ballads 2(165b). Emotions – love, joy; Gender – marriage, sex; Recreation – music, dance. A sequel to The Countrey Farmer in which he and his new wife discuss the joys of marriage and the importance of loyalty and trust.

The Sorrowful Damsels Lamentation For Want of a Husband… To the Tune of The Country Farmer (P. Brooksby, 1685-98). Crawford 552; EBBA 32984. Gender – courtship, singles, femininity, masculinity; Emotions – longing, frustration. A young woman longs for a husband and complains about all the eligible men who ignore her.

Couragious JOCKEY OR, CUPID’S Victorious Triumph… To the Tune of, King Jameses Jigg: Or, The Country Farmer (J. Deacon, 1685-99). Pepys 4.38; EBBA 21704. Emotions – love, longing; Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Places – Scottish, nationalities; Recreation – weddings, music; Bodies – looks/physique. Brave, strong Jockey declares his love for lovely Jenny and, after initial caution, she accepts him and they are married.

The Extravagant YOUTH, OR, An Emblem of PRODIGALITY… To the Tune of, King James’s Jigg; Or, The Country Farmer (J. Deacon, 1685-99). Crawford 255; EBBA 33445. Emotions – sorrow; Family – children/parents; Morality – familial, social/economic; Recreation – alcohol, games/sports, fashions; Gender – masculinity; Bodies – clothing; Crime – debt, prison; Economy – hardship/ prosperity, credit/debt, money; Society – friendship. A young man regrets squandering all the wealth he inherited from his miserly father in a life of lewd luxury, and he warns others to avoid the same fate.

The ANSWER to the Buxome VIRGIN... To the Tune of, The Countrey-Farmer, Or, The Buxom Virgin (composed 1685-89; J. Deacon, 1685-99).  Pepys 3.189; EBBA 21202.  Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, femininity, masculinity, sex; Family – children/parents, pregnancy/childbirth; Emotions – anxiety; Humour – deceit/disguise, bawdry, domestic/familial; Employmnet – crafts/trades, female/male; Morality – familial, romantic/sexual; Bodies – health/sickness. Composed as a sequel to The Country Farmer, this imagines a young man cuckolded by his wife and left with no option but to raise a child that is not his own.

THE Country Damosels Lamentation For her LOVE… To the Tune of, The Country Farmer (J. Deacon, 1685-99).  Pepys 3.341; EBBA 21356.  Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity, adultery/cuckoldry; Emotions – longing, sorrow; Society – old and young; Humour – mockery; Recreation - music.  A woman is desperate for a husband but cannot find a candidate who is both honest and agreeable.

A Groats-worth of Mirth for a PENNY… To the Tune of, The Country Farmer (J. Blare, 1685-1706). Pepys 4.346; EBBA 22010. Gender – femininity, masculinity, sex; Family – children/parents; Bodies – clothing, looks/physique, injury; Economy – trade; Emotions – anger, anxiety, longing; Violence – interpersonal;  Employment – crafts/trades; Morality – romantic/sexual; Nature – animals; Places – travel/transport; Recreation – food. A miller’s daughter is ill-treated by a barber as she travels to market, but she manages to get word to her father and he sees to it that the miscreant is soundly punished.

The Manifestation of Joy Or, The Loyal Subjects grateful acknowledgment… Tune of, The Country Farmer (W. Thackeray and T. Passinger, 1687). Pepys 2.247; EBBA 20861. Royalty – praise; Politics – celebration, domestic, Royalist, obedience; Religion – general; Emotions – joy, hope; Economy – trade. A song that praises James II for bringing religious conflicts to an end, and for the ‘mildness and mercy’ with which he rules (all subjects are advised to follow his tolerant lead).

TOBIAS Observation… Tune of, The Country Farmer (P. Brooksby, 1687).  Pepys 3.155; EBBA 21167.  Gender – courtship, singles; Employment – female/male; Recreation – fairs/festivals; Emotions – love, sorrow.  A young man declares his love for a damsel at a fair, but she turns him down on the grounds that she is too poor for him and much prefers the freedom of her single life.

The Western-TRIUMPH: OR, The ROYAL PROGRESS of Our Gracious King James the II. into the West of England… Tune of, King James’s Jigg (P. Brooksby, 1687).  Pepys 2.246; EBBA 20860.  Politics – celebration, domestic, Royalist; Royalty – praise; Emotions – joy, patriotism; Recreation – hospitality, music; Places – English. This describes the king’s tour of western England, ending in Bristol, and the rapturous receptions that greeted him at every location.

A Warning and good Counsel to the WEAVERS. Tune of The Country-Farmer. Or, The Devonshire Damosels (P. Brooksby, 1688).  Pepys 4.356; EBBA 22020. Employment – crafts/trades, apprenticeship/service; Economy – hardship, livings, rural/urban; Emotions – anger; Morality – social/economic; Society – rich and poor; Places – English. This is billed as a ‘jest’ but the text seems to present a serious complaint on behalf of Norfolk’s weavers, who have allegedly been deceived and mistreated by the wealthy merchants with whom they deal.

A Full Description of these Times, Or The Prince of ORANGE's March from EXETER to LONDON... Tune of, Packingtons Pound, Countrey Farmer, Or, Digby’s Farwel (A. B., 1689).  Pepys 2.257; EBBA 20870.  Politics – celebration, domestic, controversy, Royalist; Royalty – praise; Religion – Catholic/Protestant, church, heroism, Bible; Emotions – joy, patriotism; News – political; Recreation – public festivity. This celebrates William of Orange’s arrival and the saving of England from popery, but actually says very little about his journey to the capital.


The melody was also called for on several white-letter ballads, most of which were primarily political rather than romantic. These included A New Song Upon the Coronation of King James II, Monmouth Routed and The King and Parliament, all published by James Dean in 1685. The tune was also recommended for a courtship ballad entitled ‘A pleasant Song to be sung at Easter’, published in Canterbury tales (1687), a merry collection of festive pieces said to have been written by ‘Chaucer Junior’.

'New-Market', the tune suggested as an alternative for singing The Countrey FARMER, cannot be identified with any confidence. There are three melodies that can be connected with this title ('Old Simon the King', 'Cock up thy beaver' and the dance tune 'Newmarket') but none of them fits the text smoothly.

Christopher Marsh


Apollo’s Banquet (edition of 1687).

Jeremy Barlow (ed.), The Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford’s Dancing Master (1985), no. 301.

Chaucer Junior, Canterbury talses composed for the entertainment of all ingenious young men at their merry meetings (1687), B3v-4v.

Claude Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 406-08.

John Thomas, Alawon John Thomas. A Fiddler’s Tune Book from Eighteenth-Century Wales, ed. Cass Meurig (Aberystwyth, 2004), no. 406.

Nathaniel Thompson, Choice Collection of 180 Loyal Songs (1685), pp. 322-25 and 358-60.

Youth’s delight upon the flageolet (edition of c. 1690).

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Country couple with houses on hills

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 image also exists in a back-to-front version, so there were at least two different wood-blocks in existence. It does not appear, however, to have been a particular favourite. Only two examples exist in the two largest ballad collections and both, not surprisingly, deal with the subject of courtship. The Countrey FARMER is, broadly speaking, a happy story (except for the jilted lover), but The Country MAIDENS Lamentation is a more serious cautionary tale. Given the rarity of the woodcut’s appearances, it is not possible to identify any significant associations – beyond the obvious one – that might have built up. Both surviving editions of The Countrey FARMER make prominent use of the image.

Songs and summaries

The Countrey FARMER: OR, THE Buxome VIRGIN (P. Brooksby, 1670-98). Roxburghe 2.77; EBBA 30548. Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity, sex; Emotions – longing;  Employment – female/male; Bodies – looks/physique, adornment; Environment – flowers/trees; Recreation – food. An eager young woman courts a man, and he agrees, without too much persuasion, to ditch his existing sweetheart and marry the new candidate (picture placement: they appear beneath the title, watched by another young woman who stands to the right).

The Country MAIDENS Lamentation For the Loss of her TAYLOR (R. Kell, 1685-88).  Pepys 3.343; EBBA 21358. Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity, sex; Family – pregnancy/childbirth; Bodies – clothing; Society – urban life; Crime – robbery; Employment – crafts/trades; Humour – bawdry; Morality – romantic/sexual; Places – English. An innocent country maiden moves to London where she is seduced by a deceiving tailor who impregnates her, steals her clothes and then runs away (picture placement: an inverted image appears alongside an Akimbo man with raised hand and a Welcoming woman).

Christopher Marsh

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Related Texts

The Countrey FARMER: or, THE Buxome VIRGIN does not appear to have been closely related to any pre-existing texts. There was a sequel, however, entitled The ANSWER to the Buxome VIRGIN (EBBA 32438) and set to the same tune. In this undated ballad, Ned copes with the unsettling fact that Nell has given birth to a boy within two months of their wedding. He thus receives his punishment for abandoning his previous fiancé and is left with no option but to raise a child that is not his own (a recurring nightmare for seventeenth-century men).

The sequel begins, ‘The Country Farmer is now undone,/ He knoweth not whether to go or run’, and it is tempting to wonder whether listeners may have perceived some connection with the ‘warming pan’ scandal of 1688, when it was widely rumoured that James II’s newly born son and heir was in fact somebody else’s baby, smuggled into the Queen’s bedchamber by persons unknown. The tune’s mysterious association with the King adds to the intrigue (see Featured tune history).

Christopher Marsh

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The Countrey FARMER:/ OR, THE/ Buxome VIRGIN.

To a New Tune, called, New-Market, or King James’s Jigg;

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


THere was a brisk Lass both Bonny and Brown,

That courted her Sweet heart, in our Town,

Sh laid by her work, her wheel, and Yarn,

To find out her love in the Farmers Barn,

Quoth she, if thou wilt be married,

We’l high to the Priest, then to bed,

My Virgin Treasure, i’le give thee Ned,

That is to be plain my Maiden=head.


You know that my love is a Flame of Fire,

And burns when it cannot obtain desire,

My Beauty is now in it’s bloom and prime,

And I cannot, nor wonnot delay the time:

I long for to taste of those tender joys,

Those soft kisses, and wanton Toys,

That every Maid in her Wedding enjoys,

When Lasses with Lovers get lusty Boys.


A Garland of Flowers my love shall wear,

And i’le give him a lock of my coal=black hair,

At every Wake my love i’le treat,

And i’le give him kind busses as Cream-Bowls sweet;

Thou shalt be my Buck and i’le be thy Doe,

And i’le Milk, and thou shalt mowe,

I’le Card, and i’le Spin, while you Harrow and sowe

And call upon Dobbin with Hey-ge-woe.


Quoth Ned, for your Love I take no care,

But busie my self with my Plow, and Mare.

Young Cupid I think is a lazy Loon,

And besides I intend for to marry Joan?

Quoth Nell, as for Joan she will never Wed,

She lies like an Eunuch in her dull Bed,

She’s ugly, and Old, looks paler then Lead,

Not like a Brisk Lass of a Woman bred.


Young Colin upon Martilla’s Cheeks

A thousand delightful pleasures seeks,

He kisses her of’t by her own good=will,

And will scarcely once let her all night lye still:

Come touch but my lips, with those lips of thine,

They are all melting, and all divine,

Like Grapes that appear on the Springing Vine,

As plump, and as soft, and as sweet as thine.


My dearest quoth Ned, I’le but clout my shoone,

And we will be Married before ‘tis noone:

I’le go to the Church and a Licence bring,

And buy thee a dainty fine Golden Ring:

I’le give thee to ride on my pacing Roan,

With the Grey Pillian I lent to Joan,

Ah! waies me poor Jugg, how will she make moan,

That Fate has design’d her to lye alone.


While Jugg feels the pains of Cupids Dart,

That wounds the breast of each Lovers heart,

She’l sit and she’l sigh upon the Plain,

And rehearse her disloyal Shepherds name,

While thee my dear Gill in my arms I’le hugg,

And hide thee in the soft Sheet and Rugg,

Poor Joan shall look pale, that never lookt smugg,

Adieu to my gentle sweet Jugg=Jugg-Jugg.


Though Juggy be crusty what need I care,

For she may have Lovers enough to spare,

But now she is lately so sower grown,

She minds not the young=men that make their moan

Yet lusty for Life, and full of good will,

I was yesterday, so I am still,

Ile bring all my Grist to my true Lovers Mill,

And hugg and make much of my Gill, Gill, Gill.


Printed for P. Brooksby, at the Golden=Ball in Pye-corner.

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

New tune titles deriving from the ballad: 'The country farmer' (31 ballads); and 'There was a brisk lass' (3 ballads).

Appearances on publishers' lists: none.

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: none.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 2

No. of extant copies: 7

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: none known.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 1 reference, with no evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. V27782).

Pre-1640 bonus: no.

POINTS: 68 + 0 + 0 + 4 + 7 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 79

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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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