60  A new Sonnet, shewing how the Goddesse Diana transformed Acteon into the/ shape of an Hart [Manchester Central Library Blackletter Ballads 1.29]

Author: Anonymous

Recording: A new Sonnett, shewing how the Goddesse Diana transformed Acteon

Bodies - injury Bodies - looks/physique Death - tragedy Emotions - anger Environment - animals Environment - landscape Gender - femininity Gender - masculinity History - ancient/mythological Recreation - hunting Religion - ancient gods Violence - animals

Song History

This ballad appears to have been successful for almost two centuries following its initial registration with the Stationers’ Company in 1565-66. The song clearly existed in two versions, one Elizabethan and the other probably Jacobean. No sixteenth-century sheet is extant but the first half of a song entitled ‘The Historie of Diana and Acteon’ can be found in the only surviving edition of Clement Robinson’s A handefull of pleasant delites (1584). This is probably the ballad registered in the 1560s, though we cannot be sure. It is very clearly an early version of our hit song, A new Sonnet, though the metre is different because it is set to ‘Quarter Braules’, a different tune. Most of the vocabulary is shared by the two songs, and both open with the line, ‘Diana and her darlings dear’.

A new Sonnet, like its precursor, is based on a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, originally written early in the first century (see Related texts). Actaeon, a mortal, chances to see the goddess Diana bathing in the nude so she transforms him into a stag with the result that he is ripped apart by his own dogs. The tale was extraordinarily well-known in early-modern England and there was a thriving trade in pictures of the scene (see, for example,  A collection). Diana and Actaeon were also referred to hundreds of times in all forms of literature. Purchasers of A new Sonnet had text, pictures and music all rolled into one for a mere penny, and the ballad must clearly have made a very significant contribution to the celebrity of the goddess and her (un)lucky observer.

Contemporary commentary seems to suggest that Diana was perceived as unchanging in her divine and stern chastity but the example of Acteon was malleable. Analysts drew a fascinating range of lessons from his side of the story. To some, he was guiltless and terribly unfortunate, having stumbled into the wrong place at the wrong time, and the expression ‘Acteons luck’ was readily comprehensible (Fraunce and Harington). Others noted his fatal curiosity, raising the possibility that he was to some degree at fault (Mountfort). Amidst the tensions of the 1630s, critics of Charles I’s government were warned, ‘The story of Acteon might deter men from looking into the secrets of Princes’ (Frankland).

Several writers went further still, treating Actaeon as a ‘bold’ and lustful man who actively sought out Diana in the woods and subjected her to his ‘ventrous peeping’ (Jordan and Starkey). In Robert Cox’s play, Diana even warns her nymphs that Actaeon’s intention is ‘to eclipse the glory of your puritie’.

The fact that Actaeon was eaten by his own dogs also meant that his case could be used to warn people about the dangers of being undone by one’s possessions, appetites or acquaintances. The lesson was applied variously to expensive hawks, unrestrained lusts and unreliable friends, all capable of destroying the unwary individual (Wilson, Salmon and Boys).

Finally, the antlers or horns with which Diana crowned Actaeon’s head were sometimes connected with cuckoldry, despite the fact that there is no hint of this in the story. ‘Acteon’ was defined in one dictionary as ‘a Cuckold’, and unfortunate husbands were sometimes said to have been ‘Acteon’d’ (Anon,  A new dictionary, and Niccholes). It is probably important to read, hear and view the ballad with all of these possibilities in mind.

A new Sonnet presumably appealed rather differently to women and men. There are some indications that the ballad-makers may have aimed to draw female consumers in particular, though of course this is difficult to judge. The song ends by asking readers/listeners whether  Actaeon ‘had right or wrong’ but this, it seems, is particularly a question for young women: ‘let all faire Virgins judge’.

It is not difficult to imagine how a ballad about a female goddess responding aggressively to what one commentator called ‘bold Acteon’s gase’ may have appealed strongly to women (Chute). The story may have worked as a therapeutic fantasy in an age when, one suspects, men gazed very freely. The possibility of an assertive female interpretation is also suggested by the way in which the song usually shared space on the page with ‘A Lullaby’, in which a single mother sings to her baby, complaining that ‘Father false is fled away’ (this song also appeared in the anonymous Arbor of amorous devises, 1597).

This must have been a different kind of fantasy for men. The song clearly appealed to the male market too, hence its appearance in the ballad collections of the period (John Bagford had two copies). Several early-modern ballads suggest that men liked the idea of secretly observing young women bathing in rivers. In the case of A new Sonnet, the appeal of this scenario was perhaps reduced but not eradicated by the fact that the voyeur was subsequently torn to pieces by his own hounds. The diary of Samuel Pepys reveals his fixation with young women who at least tried to fend off his advances with displays of reluctance and modesty. Arguably, the retaliatory action of the goddess Diana, famed for her chastity, carried the frisson generated by this interactive tension to a new level, and Pepys was clearly not an isolated case. John Taylor, the ‘water poet’, noted in 1635 that paintings and engravings of ‘Diana and her darlings’ were sometimes displayed in brothels in order to tempt or titillate visiting men.

Christopher Marsh


Anon, The arbor of amorous devises (1597), B4r-C1r.

Anon, A collection of curious pictures... by the best masters (1690), no. 183.

Anon, A new dictionary of the canting crew (1699), B1r.

Anthony Chute, Beawtie dishonoured written under the title of Shores wife (1593), p. 29.

John Boys, Remaines of that reverend and famous postiller John Boys (1631), p. 34.

Robert Cox, Acteon and Diana (1656).

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

English Short Title Catalogue.

Thomas Frankland, The annals of King James and King Charles the First (1681), fo. 570v.

Abraham Fraunce, The third part of the Countesse of Pembrokes Yuychurch Entituled, Amintas dale (1592), p. 34.

John Harington, The most elegant and witty epigrams (1618), p. 96.

Thomas Jordan, Divine rapture (1646), p. 1.

William Mountfort, The successfull straingers (1690), p. 17.

Alexander Niccholes, A discourse, of marriage and wiving (1615), p.33.

Samuel Pepys, The diary of Samuel Pepys, ed. R. C. Latham and W. Matthews, 11 vols. (1995), vol. 9, pp. 144, 274 and 521.

Lindsay Ann Reid, ‘Translating Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Tudor balladry’, Renaissance Quarterly 72.2 (2019), pp. 537-81.

Lindsay Ann Reid, ‘Diana, Dido, and the Fair Maid of Dunsmore: classical precursors, common tunes and the question of consent in seventeenth-century balladry’, The seventeenth century 34.1 (2019), pp. 65-87.

Clement Robinson’s A handefull of pleasant delites (1584), fos. B5r-v.

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. 597, 988 and 2497.

Thomas Salmon, An essay to the advancement of musick (1672), p. 9.

George Starkey, An exposition upon Sir George Ripley’s preface (1677), p. 50.

John Taylor, A bawd A vertuous bawd, a modest bawd (1635), B4v.

John Wilson, A good and seasonable caveat for Christians (1646), p. 59.

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Featured Tune History

To the tune of 'Rogero' (standard name)

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 was almost always known as ‘Rogero’, though two of the ballads listed below name it ‘In slumbering sleep’. Its origins lay in the sixteenth century, when one of the ground basses over which Italian singers improvised descants was known as the ‘Ruggiero’ air. Somehow, this term reached the world of the London balladeers in the crudely anglicised form, ‘Rogero’. This simple and well-known tune was actually an improvised descant that had become detached from its bass-line, and one suspects that most urban ballad-singers remained blissfully ignorant of its intriguing continental roots.

Versions of the tune are found in several manuscript sources of the late sixteenth century, mainly in arrangements for cittern or lute. These vary slightly but are clearly versions of the same tune. Our recording makes use of the melody as it appears in two sources: Henry Sampson’s lute manuscript (c. 1610); and Matthew Holmes’ cittern book (early seventeenth century).

Echoes (an overview)

‘Rogero’ was an enduring tune that came to be strongly associated in the minds of English ballad-consumers with morality and religion. Almost all of the ballads listed below sit solidly within this thematic category, and it is notable that a bright tune in a major key never made the transition to significantly lighter fare. Instead, the melody animated songs about sin and repentance (The Lamentation of Follie), the neglect of friendship and kinship (A worthy Mirrour), the oppression of the poor by the rich (The poore man payes for all) , and the eternal battle between Christ and Satan (A comfortable new Ballad of a Dreame of a Sinner).

A new Sonnet, shewing how the Goddesse Diana transformed Acteon into the shape of an Hart is somewhat different in that it tells a story from classical mythology, but the horror experienced by listeners must have been reinforced and moralised by the potent associations that ‘Rogero’ carried. The tune apparently fell out of fashion in the second half of the seventeenth century and was not nominated on new ballads.

Some of these songs were connected with one another not just by their shared tune but by inter-textual referencing, whether deliberate or unconscious. In The Norfolke Gentleman, for example, the line, ‘and left two Babes behind’ may recall a similar expression, ‘and leave her younge behinde’ in A worthy Mirrour (the two songs also share a focus on the care of the young). The opening lines of A new sonnet and The Norfolke Gentleman seem to echo one another in their conspicuous final word: ‘Diana and her Darlings Deare’ and ‘Now ponder well you parents deare’. The poore man payes for all shares its dream-theme with A comfortable new Ballad, and it shares the line ‘a twelve-month and a day’ with The Norfolke Gentleman. The moral challenges thrown down to readers/listeners at the opening of The Lamentation of Follie and A most godly and comfortable Ballad of the glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus also seem to echo one another.

In addition, there are verbal echoes of ballads set to other tunes: for example, two lines in The torment of a Jealious [sic] minde - ‘To true, alas! this storye is,/ as many a man can tell’ – occur almost verbatim in A Lamentable Ballad of the Ladies Fall, set to the melody of ‘In Pescod time’ (which, again, bears a close musical resemblance to ‘Rogero’).

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

Songs and Summaries

The Lamentation of Follie: To the tune of New Rogero (Edward Allde, 1584-1627). Huntington Library - Britwell 18296; EBBA 32228. Society – criticism, rich/poor; Religion – sin/repentance, Christ/God, charity; Morality – social/economic, general; Royalty – praise. This criticises people for their uncaring sinfulness and urges them to turn urgently to God.

A most godly and comfortable Ballad of the glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ... To the tune of Rogero (originally registered 1588; Francis Coules, 1624-44). Roxburghe 1.258-59; EBBA 30184. Religion – Christ/God, heaven/hell, angels/devils, body/soul, ghosts/spirits; Death – burial/funeral, godly end, grief, ghostly abduction; Family – children/parents; Gender – femininity; Emotions – wonder, confusion, anxiety, fear, love, hope, sorrow; Bodies – physique/looks, injury; History – ancient/mythological; Environment – buildings. This asserts the importance of believing literally in the resurrection of Christ, and recounts the Biblical story in order to remind listeners of the details.

A worthy Mirrour, wherein you may Marke, An excellent discourse of a breeding Larke. To the tune of new Rogero (Richard Jhones, 1589). Huntington Library - Britwell 18271; EBBA 32090. Environment – birds, crops, seasons; Society – criticism, friendship; Family – children/parents, kin, siblings; Gender – femininity; Employment – agrarian; Emotions – fear, love; Bodies – nourishment. This uses a tale of a mother lark protecting her brood at harvest time in order to draw attention to the neglect of friendship and kinship in contemporary society.

The Norfolke Gentleman his last Will and Testament... To the tune of Rogero (registered 1595; J. W., 1602-46). Roxburghe 1.284-85; EBBA 30201. Family – children/parents, inheritance, kin, siblings; Morality – familial; Crime – murder, robbery/theft; Death – illness, result of immorality, unlawful killing, neglect, burial/funeral, execution; Violence – interpersonal, divine, punitive; Environment – birds, flowers/trees, landscape; Emotions – greed, fear, love, despair; Bodies – looks/physique, nourishment; Places – English, travel/transport; Religion – Christ/God, divine intervention. Two orphans, in the care of their uncle, are treated with hateful cruelty as he tries to gain their inheritance, and the consequences are tragic on all sides.

John Spenser a Chesshire Gallant, his life and repentance, who for killing of one Randall Gam: was lately executed at Burford a mile from Nantwich. To the Tune of in Slumbring Sleepe (J. Trundle, 1597-1626). Pepys 1.114; EBBA 20047. Crime – murder; Death – unlawful killing, result of immorality, burial/funeral; Violence – interpersonal; Recreation – dance, music, good fellowship; alcohol; Emotions – anger, excitement, sorrow; Gender – masculinity, marriage, sex; Morality – familial, romantic/sexual; Bodies – clothing, physique/looks; Society – friendship; News – convicts/crimes; Places – English. The first part tells the tale of John Spenser, whose manly instincts eventually led to his execution for murder, and the second part presents his own warning to others about the dangers of a dissolute lifestyle.

The torment of a Jealious [sic] minde, expressed by the Tragicall and true historye of one commonlye called the Jealous man of Marget in Kent. To the Tune of Rogero (no printed copies have survived but the song was copied out by hand, c. 1600-03). Shirburn Ballads LXIV. Emotions – jealousy, anger, fear; Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, masculinity, femininity, sex; Crime – murder; Death – unlawful killing, suicide; Violence – interpersonal, self-inflicted; Society – old/young; Morality – romantic/sexual; Employment – apprenticeship/service; Bodies – clothing; Places – English; Recreation – hunting, food; Environment – birds. An old man marries a young woman and, despite her virtue, is driven to distraction by jealousy, a state of mind that leads him to commit double murder followed by suicide.

The poore man payes for all. This is but a dreame which here shall insue: But the Author wishes his words were not true. To the tune of In slumbring sleepe I lay (H. G., 1601-40). Roxburghe 1.326-27; EBBA 30223. Economy – hardship/prosperity, extortion, money; Morality – social/economic; Society – criticism, rich/poor; Employment – professions, crafts/trades; Recreation – alcohol; Bodies – clothing. This describes a dream about a cruel reality – the rich live well off the hard labour of the poor.

A right Godly and Christian A.B.C. shewing the duty of every degree. To the tune of Rogero (Henry Gosson, 1601-40). Roxburghe 1.492; EBBA 30328. Morality – general, social/economic; Religion – moral rules, charity, Christ/God, Bible; Economy – hardship/prosperity, prices/wages, extortion; Society – neighbours, rich/poor; Royalty – praise. A pithy guide to godly and moral living, backed by examples from the Bible.

A new Sonnet, shewing how the Goddesse Diana transformed Acteon into the shape of an Hart. To the tune of, Rogero (registered 1624 and possibly 1565-66; J. W., 1602-46). Manchester Central Library, Blackletter Ballads 1.29; EBBA 36019. History – ancient/mythological; Religion – ancient gods; Environment – animals, landscape; Bodies -  looks/physique, injury; Violency – animals; Death – tragedy; Emotion – anger; Gender – masculinity, femininity; Recreation – hunting. Acteon observes Diana and her nymphs bathing and the angry goddess transforms him into a large deer, after which he is hunted down and torn apart by his own hounds.

 A comfortable new Ballad of a Dreame of a Sinner, being very sore troubled with the assaults of Sathan. To the tune of Rogero (E. Wright, 1611-56). Pepys 1.39; EBBA 20025. Religion – angels/devils, Christ/God, faith, heaven/hell, sin/repentance; Emotions – fear, joy. The singer describes a dream in which, on the ‘day of doome’, Satan and Christ argued over the destiny of his or her soul.


‘Rogero’ was also nominated for the singing of several texts that were published in song-books of the early seventeenth century. Here, the thematic range is somewhat wider than in the ballads listed above, though songs such as Thomas Deloney’s ‘The valiant courage and policie of Kentishmen’ (Strange Histories, 1602) and Richard Johnson’s ‘A lamentable song of Lady Elinor’ (Golden Garland, 1620) are serious in tone. In A Crowne-Garland of Golden Roses (1612), Johnson also published ‘A pleasant new sonnet, intituled, mine owne deare lady brave’ in which a man wishes he was his mistress’ cosseted pet spaniel. Even this may have been intended and received primarily as a sober statement of romantic devotion rather than a spoof on such devotion (though both interpretative options were presumably available). 

The currency of the tune in the Elizabethan period is suggested by a reference to ‘Rogero’ as a good tune for dancing on the village green in Thomas Nashe’s Have with you to Saffron-walden. This is a little surprising in view of the tune’s mainly sober associations. Perhaps more fittingly, ‘Rogero’ was chosen for a metrical version of Psalm 128 that William Slatyer published, in Latin, during the early 1630s. Common knowledge of the melody is also echoed in the words chosen by Firke, in Dekker’s Shomaker’s holiday, to explain that he is now working for a man named Roger: ‘I sing now to the tune of Rogero’.

Christopher Marsh


Dallis Lute Book, Trinity College Dublin, MS 410/1, pp. 20-21.

Thomas Dekker, The Shomakers Holiday (1600), H2r.

Thomas Deloney, Strange Histories (1602), A2r-3v.

Matthew Holmes, Cittern manuscript (early seventeenth century), Cambridge University Library MS Dd 4.23, fo. 23v.

Richard Johnson, A Crowne-Garland of Golden Roses (1612), F6r-7r.

                The Golden Garland of Princely pleasures and delicate Delights (1620), D3v-4v.

Thomas Nashe, Have with you to Saffron-walden (1596), fo. T1r.

Henry Sampson, Lute manuscript (c. 1610), p. 3. Private library of Robert Spencer.

Claude M. Simpson, The British Broadside Ballad and its Music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 612-14.

William Slatyer, Psalmes, or songs of Sion turned into the language, and set to the tunes of a strange land (1631), p. 44.

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Diana and Actaeon composite

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, clearly designed very specifically for this song, has not been found on any other ballad in the two largest collections. The only title listed below is therefore our featured edition, taken from the collection held in Manchester Central Library.

The woodcut can be seen on most surviving editions of A new Sonnet, though there was some variety in the pictures that were selected to accompany it. It seems certain that the image contributed to the ballad’s success, probably as a result of the graphic manner in which key moments from the narrative are represented. Viewers/readers/listeners are being encouraged to move back and forth between image and text, an exercise that also helps to facilitate memorisation. Most of the images that survive on seventeenth-century editions appear to have come from the same woodblock, though it is difficult to be sure. The image was copied and re-used for eighteenth-century editions of the song.

[See 'Postscript', below, for additional notes on this woodcut].

Songs and summaries

A new Sonnet, shewing how the Goddesse Diana transformed Acteon into the shape of an Hart (J. W., 1624-46). Manchester Central Library BR f 821.04 B49; EBBA 36019. History – ancient/mythological; Environment – animals, flowers/trees, landscape; Gender – femininity, masculinity; Bodies – looks/physique, injury; Violence – animals; Death – accident; Emotions – anger, horror; Recreation – hunting; Religion – ancient gods. Acteon observes Diana and her nymphs bathing in a stream, for which offence he is transformed into a stag and ripped apart by his own hunting dogs (picture placement: the scene appears beneath the title).


The story of Diana and Actaeon was frequently painted by early-modern artists, and the little woodcut that appears on our ballad can be considered an affordable version of the great works by Titian and many others. Most paintings of the period concentrated on the moment at which Actaeon surprises Diana as she bathes, sometimes representing him with a man’s body but the antlers of a stag, as if his physical transformation is in progress. More rarely, the background to this main image features a representation of Actaeon’s eventual death, torn apart by his own hounds. It is thus apparent that the anonymous artist who fashioned the ballad’s woodcut was influenced by the conventions of ‘high’ art (though the decision to position the ill-fated hero behind a tree may have been an innovation).

Christopher Marsh

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Related Texts

A new Sonnet was a highly successful indicator of the early-modern penchant for stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This first-century collection provided a surprisingly rich source of material for ballad-makers from the 1560s onwards (see Reid). The authors of this particular song were clearly very familiar with Ovid’s story of Diana and Actaeon, though the only half-acknowledgement of their dependence on the classical source is the expression, ‘the story telleth plain’.

It is difficult to be precise about the particular versions of Ovid that the ballad-makers had at their disposal because it seems likely that there were avenues of influence (word of mouth, manuscripts, lost editions) that prevent conclusive judgements. In terms of printed sources, the most obvious possibility was Arthur Golding’s translation, first published in 1567. The difficulty here is that the ballad, first registered in 1565-66, seems to predate Golding’s book. There were other translations of the Metamorphoses – by George Sandys (editions from 1628 onwards) and by ‘several hands’ (1697) – but these were clearly too late to have shaped the ballad.

Despite difficulties with publication dates, there are some striking similarities between Golding’s version of the story and our ballad. Both sources, for example, use the description ‘thick and thin’ in describing the undergrowth through which Acteon flees in his desperation to escape from his dogs (the phrase is not found in later translations of Ovid’s full work). Neither Golding nor the ballad-makers locate Diana’s bathing pool in a cave, though most other versions include this detail. And there are several looser verbal affinities that link the two texts. Golding, for example, says of Diana’s shady pool that ‘no man alive,/ A trimmer piece of worke than that could for his life contrive.’ More pithily, the ballad tells us ‘A fairer Bath their never was/ found out this thousand yeare’. We cannot be certain that the two versions are closely connected but it seems possible.

The ballad-makers stuck closely to Ovid’s account, and most of the changes they made were related to the usual challenge of reducing the original so that it could fit on a single sheet. There are, however, some more significant modifications. In the ballad, Diana has her bow and arrows to hand when she realises that Actaeon is watching, and she only decides not to shoot when he begins running away. In other versions, shooting Actaeon is not an option because Diana, in preparing to bathe, has put her weapons to one side. When Actaeon is turned into a deer, Ovid and his translators describe his new coat as ‘spotted’ but the balladeers introduce instead a hide of ‘tawnie red’. This may be because, in England, the most magnificent species was the red deer rather than the smaller roe and fallow deer (the latter have spots on their coats). Most strikingly, Actaeon in the ballad is apparently able to speak to his dogs as he tries to dissuade them from eating him. In the published translations by Golding and others, he tries to speak but can no longer make human sounds.

The ballad’s conclusion also differs from Ovid’s. It warns hunters to avoid places where virgins bathe and then invites virgins to judge whether or not Actaeon has been mistreated. Ovid issues no warning and avoids direct questions, though it is notable that he too opts for an open-ended conclusion, presumably designed partly to stimulate discussion. In fact, he notes that ‘Much muttering’ is already underway in relation to the story. It thus seems that the ballad-makers were in fact following Ovid’s lead but re-working his approach to suit their own particular needs. For Ovid, ‘much muttering’ presumably enhanced his celebrity and built his reputation; for the anonymous early-modern ballad-makers, it was useful particularly because it helped to sell songs.

Texts (in chronological order)

Anon, ‘The goddes Diana &c’ (ballad registered 1565-66; probably an early version of A new Sonnet, shewing how the Goddesse Diana transformed Acteon into the shape of an Hart... To the tune of Rogero.

The xv bookes of P. Ovidius Naso, entytuled Metamorphosis, translated out of Latin into English meeter, by Arthur Golding Gentleman, a worke very pleasaunt and delectable (1567), fos. 32v-34r

Ovid’s Metamorphosis Englished by G[eorge] S[andys] (1628), pp. 67-70.

Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Translated by several hands. Vol 1. Containing the first five books (1697), pp. 115-23.


Lindsay Ann Reid, ‘Translating Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Tudor balladry’, Renaissance Quarterly 72.2 (2019), pp. 537-81.

Lindsay Ann Reid, ‘Diana, Dido, and the Fair Maid of Dunsmore: classical precursors, common tunes and the question of consent in seventeenth-century balladry’, The seventeenth century 34.1 (2019), pp. 65-87.

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A new Sonnet, shewing how the Goddesse Diana transformed Acteon into the/ shape of an Hart.  To the tune of, Rogero.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


Diana and her Darlings Deare

went walking on a Day,

Throughout the Woods and waters clear,

for their disport and play:

The leaves aloft were gay and green,

and pleasant to behold,

These Nymphs they walkt the Trees between,

under the shadow cold.


So long at last they found a place

of springs and waters cleare,

A fairer Bath their never was

found out this thousand yeare:

Wherein Diana daintily

her selfe began to bathe,

And all her Virgins faire and pure

themselves did wash and lave.


And as the Nymphs in water stood,

Acteon passed by

As he came running through the Wood,

on them he cast his eye,

And eke behold their bodies bare,

then prensently that Tide:

And as the Nymphs of him were ware,

with voyce aloud they cry’d,


And clos’d Diana round about,

to hide her body small

Yet she was highest in the rout,

and seene above them all.

And when Diana did perceive

where Acteon did stand,

A furious look to him she gave,

and took her Bow in hand;


And as she was about to shoot,

Acteon began to run

To bide he thought it was to [‘no’ in later editions] boot,

his former fights were done:

And as he thought from her to scape,

she brought it so to passe,

[Inc]ontinent she chang’d his shape,

[ev]en running as he was.


Each Goddesse took Diana’s part,

Acteon to transforme

To make of him a huge wild Hart,

there they did all determe:

His skin that was so fine and faire,

was made a tawnie red,

His Body overgrowne with haire,

from foot unto the head;


And on his head great hornes were set,

most monstrous to behold,

A huger Hart was never met,

nor see upon the Mould;

His eares his eyes, his face full faire,

transformed were full strange,

His hands for feet compelled were

throughout the Wood to range.


Thus was he made a perfect Hart,

and waxed fierce and grim,

His former shapes did cleane depart

from every joynt and limb:

But still his memory did remaine,

although he might not speake,

Nor yet among his friends complaine,

his wofull minde to breake,


At length he thought for to repaire,

home to his dwelling place;

Anon his Hounds of him were ware,

and gan to try a pace:

Then Acteon was sore agast,

his Hounds would him devore,

And from them then he fled full fast,

with all his might and power;


He spared neither Bush nor Brake,

but ran through thick and thin,

With all the swiftnesse he could make,

in hope to save his skin:

Yet were his hounds so neare his tayle,

and followed him so fast,

His running might not him availe,

for all his speed and haste.


The second part, to the same tune.


FOr why, his Hounds would never lin,

till him they overtook,

And then they rent and tore the skin,

and all his body shook;

I am your Master Acteon,

then cry’d he to his Hounds,

And made to them most rufull moane,

with shrill lamenting sounds.


I have been he that gave you food,

wherein I did delight,

Wherefore suck not your masters bloud,

his friendship to requite:

But those Curres of a cursed kind,

of him had no remorse

Although he was their dearest friend,

they pul’d him downe by force.


There was no man to take his part,

the story telleth plaine;

Thus Acteon formed like a Hart,

amongst the Dogs was slaine.

Your [‘You’ in later editions] Hunters all that range the Woods,

although you rise up rath,

Beware you come not neer the Floods

where Virgins use to bathe.


For if Diana you espy

among her Darlings deare

Your former shape she shall disguise,

and make you hornes to weare.

And so I now conclude my Song,

having no more to alledge,

If Acteon had right or wrong,

let all faire Virgins judge.


A Lullaby.


COme little Babe, come silly Soule,

thy Fathers shame & Mothers grief,

Borne (as I doubt) to all our doles,

and to thy self unpappy chief:

Sing Lullaby, and wrap it warme,

Poore Soul it thinks no creature harm.


Thou little think’st, and least dost know

the cause of this his Mothers moane,

Thou wantst the wit to wayle her woe,

and I my self am all alone:

Why dost thou weep, why dost thou wail,

And knowst not now what thou dost ail?


Come little wretch, ah silly heart!

mine onely joy, what can I more?

If there be any wrong thy smart,

that may thy destinie, deplore;

‘Twas I, I say against my will,

I waile the time, but be thou still.


And dost thou smile? Oh thy sweet face,

I would thy Dad the same might see,

No doubt but it would purchase grace,

I know it well, for thee and me:

But come to Mother, Babe, and play,

For Father false is fled away.


Sweet Boy, if it thy fortune chance.

thy Father home againe to send,

If Death doth strike me with his Lance,

yet may’st thou me commend?

If any aske thy Mothers name,

Tell how by love she purchas’d blame.


Then will his gentle heart soon yeeld,

I know him of a noble mind,

Although a Lyon in the field,

a Lamb in Town thou shalt him find,

Ask blessing Lad, be not afraid,

His sugred lips have me betray’d.


Then may’st thou joy and be right glad,

although in woe I seeme to moane:

Thy Father is no rascall Lad,

a noble Youth of blood and bone;

His glancing look, if he once smile,

Right honest Woman will beguile.


Come little Boy, and rock asleep,

sing Lullaby, and be thou still,

I that can doe nought else but weep,

will sit by thee and Lullaby,

God blesse my Babe and Lullaby

From this his Fathers quality.  Finis.


London, Printed for J. W. dwelling in the Old-Bayly.

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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: Pavier and partners, 1624 (as 'Diana and her darlings' from first line); Coles, Vere, Wright and Clarke, 1675; and Thackeray, 1689 ('Diana').

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: 1565-66.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 8

No. of extant copies: 7

New tune-titles generated: none.

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: Diana and Actaeon composite of featured edition (and other editions).

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 9 references, with no evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. V35582).

POINTS: 0 + 30 + 5 + 16 + 7 + 0 + 5 + 0 = 63

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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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