34  The Brides Buriall [Roxburghe 1.59]

Author: Anonymous

Recording: The Brides Buriall

Bodies - clothing Bodies - health/sickness Bodies - looks/physique Death - burial/funeral Death - godly end Death - grief Death - illness Death - tragedy Emotions - anger Emotions - love Emotions - sorrow Environment - flowers/trees Gender - courtship Gender - femininity Gender - masculinity History - ancient/mythological Recreation - weddings Religion - Christ/God Religion - charity Religion - heaven/hell Religion - prayer

Song History

This ballad was highly successful throughout the seventeenth century and it remained in print more than two hundred years later. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was published in various British cities. It also crossed the Atlantic and there are surviving copies from Philadelphia and Hudson, New York, in the late 1700s. When William Winstanley dreamt up a fictional country alehouse in 1783, The Brides Buriall was one of the ballads with which he decorated its interior wall. Along with other ballads, it ‘furnish’d the contemplative Mind with ample matter’. Extracts from the ballad were sometimes written out in private notebooks and it was also printed in several song collections of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. There is little evidence, however, of its survival as a modern folksong.

The reasons for the song’s success have not always been apparent to commentators. The editor of A collection of old ballads (1723) compared The Brides Buriall to other historic songs and, in attempting to praise it, could only say that it was ‘far from being the most despicable’ that had ever been printed. Perhaps we can do a little better. The experience of losing a spouse long before old age was, of course, much more common in the early-modern period than it is today, and the ballad thus dealt with what must have been a common preoccupation of ‘the contemplative Mind’. In typical ballad style, The Brides Buriall dramatises and intensifies the nightmare by killing off the virtuous young wife on the very day of her wedding. As many other ballads show, extreme versions of common challenges were highly marketable.

Responsible grieving was also a frequently debated topic in the period, and the ballad skilfully represents two radically contrasting positions. The dying wife is perfectly godly, accepting of her fate as the Lord’s will and determined to guide her husband in his own imminent grief. He, however, takes up a position at the opposite end of the spectrum, being angry, resistant and ‘discontented’ at the tragic turn that events have taken. It is in fact a little surprising that the portrayal of the husband – who effectively rejects his wife’s wise advice – is so hard-hitting and unresolved. He is described but not judged, and it seems likely that the realistic representation of a young husband’s reaction to extreme misfortune contributed to the song’s success.

Overall, the clarity and purity with which the ballad presents the opposing positions may have been appealing to listeners, and it presumably served to stimulate debate among them. The ballad tackles issues that were also covered in numerous conduct books of the period but it did so in a way that was dramatic, relatively open-ended and highly affordable.

Other particularly appealing aspects of the song may have included the admirable recycling instinct that the bride reveals as she faces death – she asks, for example, that her ‘Bride-bed’ be repurposed as a coffin by a ‘cunning Carpenter’ – and the memorable description of her funeral. The particular power of the final verses over the imaginations of listeners and readers is also suggested by the scene chosen for the long-lasting woodcut picture (See Featured woodcut history).


Anon, A collection of old ballads (1723), pp. 231-35.

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

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

English Short Title Catalogue.

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. 236, 237 and 238.

Madden Collection, Garlands, vol. 1, nos. 86-88, Cambridge University Library.

William Winstanley, Old Poor Robin, an almanack (1783), p. 37.

Union first line index of English verse: https://firstlines.folger.edu/

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library: https://www.vwml.org/ (Roud number V4032).

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Featured Tune History

To the Tune of ‘The Ladies fall’ (standard name: In peascod time)

The purpose of this section is to provide brief notes on the melody followed by detailed evidence relating to  its ballad 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 enduring Elizabethan tune came to be known variously as ‘In Pescod time’, ‘The Ladies fall’, ‘The Brides buriall’, ‘Bateman’, ‘John True’ and ‘Help Lords and Commons’. Notation can be found in several sources, most of them from the early seventeenth century. A printed version appears in Anthony Holborn’s Cittharn School (1597), and surviving manuscripts include several settings for either cittern or virginals.

Examples can be found, for example, in Robert Creighton’s virginal book and the cittern partbook held at Mills College in California. Some of the greatest composers of the age, including William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons, wrote instrumental arrangements, and it is clear that this melody was exceptionally well known. Our recording of The Brides Buriall uses the version that features in the manuscript of early seventeenth-century keyboard music known as Drexel 5612.

Echoes (an overview)

This was an immensely successful tune, easy to learn and easy to sing. Its earliest title, ‘In Pescod time’, came from the opening line of a song or poem entitled ‘The Sheepheards slumber’, published in Englands Helicon (1600) by John Bodenham. This featured a shepherd’s disturbing dream, in which a tense debate takes place about the power of Cupid, the dangers of love and the roles played by men and women.

The melody was subsequently named on ballads throughout the early modern period, and it developed a strong and consistent attachment to two particular textual themes. Most strikingly, the tune was chosen for songs about suffering women, and The Brides Buriall is a good example. The women in the various narratives were not always the only ones to suffer but it is likely that the tune helped to concentrate the attention of listeners particularly upon female woe. Although there is nothing inherently miserable about the melody, it clearly came to express sadness through its association with tragic narratives (to early modern listeners, Ross Duffin’s recent characterisation of ‘The lady’s fall’ as a ‘rollicking tune’ would probably have seemed strange).

The dominant tune title originated with A Lamentable ballad called the Ladye’s fall and this song’s focus on the anguish of its main female character was constantly echoed in others. The melody’s name seems to have carried particular force, as suggested by the fact that the impoverished female ballad-singer in Hogarth’s engraving, ‘The Enraged Musician’, is clutching a sheet entitled ‘The Ladies Fall’. Two ballad-makers even wove into their narratives episodes in which their female characters fell physically rather than morally (see A Lamentable ballad of the tragical end of a Gallant Lord, and a Vertuous Lady and A Looking-glasse for Young-men and Maids).

The female characters in all these ballads, though united by their melody and their suffering, cover quite a range, including a roughly equal mixture of impeccably virtuous women, good women who make mistakes, and women who are predominantly wicked (though some of them repent their sins before death). They all come to suffer but some are to blame and others are blameless. The tune must have come to suggest both possibilities, setting up some interesting relationships between the different songs.

The Brides Buriall presents a compelling variation: the woman suffers a sudden fatal illness, but her conduct as she faces death is absolutely exemplary and, in this case, the real anguish is experienced by her grieving husband. Female pain may have been the tune’s primary domain, but the shock-waves affected others too.

The tune was also used repeatedly in a second area. A Warninge to Worldlings to learne them to dye is the first surviving example from a series of ballads that nominated the tune for texts that disseminated moral rules, urged people to prepare for death or, more occasionally, told stories from the Bible or from Christian legend. It also, therefore, came to possess religious undertones that must have interacted with and reinforced the songs about suffering women. Only two of the ballads listed below are clearly outliers with no strong connection to either theme (see The Lawyers Plea and the very peculiar Lamentation of a bad Market).

Some of these songs were connected with one another not just by their shared tune but also by inter-textual referencing, whether deliberate or unconscious. Only a small number of examples can be noted here. The appeals to potential customers that open several ballads clearly echo one another: ‘Marke well my heavy dolefull tale,/ yow loyal lovers all’ (A Lamentable ballad called the Ladye’s fall); ‘Marke well thys storye strange and trew,/ yow wicked lovers all’ (A most lamentable or dolefull dittye); ‘Come mourn, come mourn with me/ you loyall lovers all’ (The Brides Buriall). There is a cummulative effect at work here, with each new appeal adding a further layer to the melody’s significance. 

In Two unfortunate Lovers, the lines, ‘Six maids in white as custome is,/ did bring her to the grave’ recalled a similar description in The Brides Buriall: ‘Sixe maidens all in white,/ did beare her to the ground’ (this moment was also the subject of a woodcut that appears regularly on these ballads: see Featured woodcut history). Two unfortunate Lovers also includes a verse that appears, almost verbatim, in A Lamentable Ballad of the Ladies Fall (the differences are indicated in square brackets): ‘Woe to [worth] the time I did beleeve,/ that flattering looke [tongue] of thine,/ Would God that I had never seene,/ the teares of thy false eyne’.  And two ballads - A Lamentable ballad of the tragical end of a Gallant Lord and  The Lady Isabella's Tragedy – present villains who declare, ‘Thy butcher I will be’.

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

Songs and Summaries

A Lamentable ballad called the Ladye’s fall... To THE TUNE OF of Peascoode time (no printed copy of the earliest editions has survived but the song was registered in1603 and transcribed by hand around the same date). Shirburn Ballads, XLIX. Gender – courtship; Morality – sexual; Death – tragedy; Emotions – love, anger, sorrow; Family – pregnancy and childbirth; Employment – apprenticeship/service. A young lady becomes pregnant before marriage and runs away to meet her lover but he doesn’t show up and the consequences are tragic.

A most lamentable or dolefull dittye, of an Italian Gentleman and his three sonnes... To THE TUNE OF The Ladye’s Fall (no printed copy from this period has survived but the song was transcribed by hand in c. 1600-03). Shirburn Ballads, LXXI. Family – children/parents, pregnancy/childbirth, siblings, inheritance; Gender – marriage, courtship, incest, sex; Crime – murder; Death – unlawful killing, suicide, heartbreak; Violence – interpersonal, self-inflicted; Emotions – greed, anger, horror, jealousy; Morality – familial, romantic/sexual; Places – European; Bodies – clothing; Religion – Christ/God. A couple have three sons before the woman dies in childbirth, at which point an evil step-mother joins the family with consequences that include incest, murder and suicide.

Two unfortunate Lovers, or, a true Relation of the lamentable end of John True, and Susan Mease... To the tune of, The Brides Buriall (Henry Gosson, 1601-40).  Roxburghe 1.428-29; EBBA 30291.  Gender – courtship; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – love, sorrow; Death – heartbreak, tragedy; burial/funeral; Bodies – health/sickness; Places – English; Employment – crafts/trades; Religion – ghosts/spirits. John overcomes Susan’s initial disdain and she agrees to marry him, but he then decides to test her love with some disdain of his own, and the consequences are tragic.

The Lamenting Lady, Who for the wrongs done to her by a poore woman, for having two children at one burthen, was by the hand of God most strangely punished... To the tune of the Ladies fall (Henry Gosson, 1601-40). Pepys 1.44-45; EBBA 20210. Family – children/parents, pregnancy/childbirth; Gender – femininity, marriage, adultery/cuckoldry; Society – rich/poor; Emotions – anger, guilt, wonder, horror; Employment – begging; Bodies – looks/physique, health/sickness; Religion – divine intervention; Economy – hardship/prosperity, livings. A barren lady expresses her anger at the evident fertility of a poor woman with twin babies in her arms, and after the poor woman curses her response a terrible punishment unfolds.

The Judgement of Salomon... To the tune of the Ladies fall (Henry Gosson, 1601-40). Pepys 1.30-31; EBBA 20143. Religion – Bible; Family – children/parents; Gender – femininity, masculinity; History – ancient/mythological; Royalty – praise; Emotions – love, longing, confusion; Death – grief, accident; Bodies – health/sickness, injury; Politics – controversy, court; Violence – interpersonal. This recounts the famous Biblical story of King Solomon’s wise judgement in the case of the two harlots and the baby.

A most strange and trew ballad of a monst[r]ous child born in Southampton upon tuesdaye being the 16. day of March last, 1602... To THE TUNE OF The Ladye’s fall (no printed copy has survived but the song was transcribed by hand in c. 1603). Shirburn Ballads, LXXII. Bodies – looks/physique; Disability – physical; Emotions – horror, anxiety; Family – pregnancy/childbirth; Religion  - Christ/God, sin/repentance; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Places – English; Royalty – praise. This describes a baby, still-born with many physical abnormalities, and urges us to understand it as a warning from God of the need to repent our sins.

The Brides Buriall. To the tune of the Ladies fall (registered 1603; H. G.,  1624-40). Roxburghe 1.59; EBBA 30586. Death – illness, godly end, grief, tragedy, burial/funeral; Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Emotions – love, sorrow, anger; Bodies – looks/physique, health/sickness, clothing; Religion – charity, prayer, heaven/hell, Christ/God; History – ancient/mythological; Environment – flowers/trees; Recreation – weddings. A sorrowful man describes the sudden death of his virtuous sweetheart on their wedding day and the sad funeral that followed.

Of a maide now dwelling at the towne of meurs in dutchland, that hath not taken any foode this 16 yeares... To THE TUNE OF Th[e] ladie’s fall (no printed copy has survived but the song was transcribed by hand in c. 1603-16). Shirburn Ballads, X. Bodies – nourishment, health/sickness; Recreation – food, sight-seing; Religion – Christ/God, divine intervention; Economy – money; Emotions – wonder; Environment – flowers/trees; Gender – femininity; News – international, sensational; Places – European, travel/transport. The story of a Dutch woman who, fearing the moral corruption associated with over-indulgence, has refused all food for many years and keeps herself alive by smelling a fragrant flower and trusting in the Lord.

A Warninge to Worldlings to learne them to dye... To the tune of The Ladye’s fall (no printed copy has survived but the song was transcribed by hand in c. 1603-16). Shirburn Ballads, III. Religion – sin/repentance, angels/devils, Christ/God, Death – godly end; Bodies – health/sickness; Emotions – anxiety; Family – children/parents; Gender – marriage; Society – friendship, neighbours, criticism,  Royalty – praise. A song urging us that our health and wealth will not last, and that that we must therefore repent our sins immediately and prepare to die.

The Wandring Jew, OR, The Shoo-maker of Jerusam [sic], who lived when our Saviour Christ was crucified, and appoynted by him to live untill his comming again. To the Tune of, the Ladies Fall (registered ?1612; E. Wright, 1638-56). Wood 401(123); Religion – Christ/God, Judaism, prophecy, sin/repentance, charity, heathens/infidels; History – ancient/mythological, heroism, villainy; Violence – punitive; Death – execution; Emotions – anger, despair, shame, wonder; Places – travel/transport, European, extra-European; Bodies – looks/physique; Employment – crafts/trades. This recounts the legend of the Wandering Jew, who insulted Christ on the day of his crucifixion and was punished by being made to walk the earth until the end of time.

Miraculous Newes from the cittie of Holdt in Germany, where there were three dead dobyes seene to rise ouf their Graves... To THE TUNE OF The ladye’s fall (no printed copy has survived but the song was transcribed by hand in c. 1616). Shirburn Ballads, XVI.  Death – general; Emotions – fear, horrow, wonder; Environment – wonders, weather; Religion – sin/repentances; ghosts/spirits, church; Christ/God; Places – European; Bodies – health/sickness; News – international, sensational; Morality – general. This describes a terrible firestorm in a German city, during which three skeletons emerged temporarily from their graves and delivered dire warnings to the local populace about the need to repent.

A Prophesie of the Judgement Day. Being lately found in Saint Denis Church in France... To the tune of the Ladyes fall (J. W., 1616-20?). Pepys 1.36-67; EBBA 20171. Religion – prophecy, Christ/God, divine intervention, clergy, heathens/infidels; Environment – wonders, weather, buildings; News – international, sensational; Places – European; Death – general; Violence – divine. This converts into metrical form a series of prophecies for the 1620s – wars, earthquakes and so on – that were recently discovered hidden in a church wall in Paris.

[The] Damnable Practises Of three Lincolne-shire Witches... To the tune of the Ladies fall (John Barnes, 1619). Pepys 1.132-33; EBBA 20058. Crime – witchcraft, murder, robbery/theft; Death – unlawful killing, execution; Religion – angels/devils, conjuration; Family – children/parents, siblings; Emotions – anger, horror; Violence – diabolical; Employment – apprenticeship/service; Bodies – clothing, health/sickness, nourishment; Environment – animals; Places- English Gender – femininity, sex; Society – rich/poor, rural life. A song about the malicious activities of three Lincolnshire witches, who tormented the Earl of Rutland and his family after one of them was dismissed from his service for stealing.

A warning for all desperate Women. By the example of Alice Davis who for killing of her husband was burned in Smithfield the 12 of July 1628... To the tune of the Ladies fall (F. Coules, 1628). Pepys 1.120-21; EBBA 20050. Crime – murder; Violence – domestic, interpersonal; Death – unlawful killing, execution, godly end; Gender – marriage, femininity;  Economy – money; Emotions – anger, horror, guilt, shame, sorrow; Morality – familial; Religion – sin/repentance, Christ/God; prayer; Employment – crafts/trades; Society – neighbours; Places – English. A woman, about to be executed by burning for the murder of her husband, describes her crime and expresses her remorse in the hope that others will avoid a similar fate.

A Warning for Maidens. To the Tune of, The Ladies fall [also published subsequently as A Godly Warning for all Maidens] (no imprint, 1630-58?). Roxburghe 1.501; EBBA 30336. Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Death – suicide, ghostly abduction; Morality – romantic/sexual; Religion – ghosts/spirits, divine intervention, body/soul, sin/repentance; Emotions – greed, despair, anger, guilt, shame, fear, wonder; Family – pregnancy/childbirth; Environment – buildings; Places – English. A young woman breaks her engagement to one man in favour of a second, wealthier individual, and a terrible tale of suicide and supernatural abduction unfolds.

A Looking-glasse for Young-men and Maids... The tune is, the Brides Buriall (Tho: Vere, 1645-82).  British Library, Book of Fortune, C.20.f.14.(24.); EBBA 36948. Gender – sexual violence, masculinity, femininity, courtship; Violence – sexual; Death – accident, tragedy, godly end; Bodies – injury; Emotions – longing, horror, shame; Morality – romantic/sexual; Religion – Christ/God, prayer; News – sensational; Employment – crafts/trades; Places – English. A miller attempts to force a maiden to kiss him and, in the struggle, they both fall into a vat of scalding liquid with fatal consequences.

A Warning for Married Women... To a west-country Tune called, The fair Maid of Bristol: Bateman, or, John True (no imprint, mid-seventeenth century?). Roxburghe 1.502; EBBA 30338. Gender – courtship, marriage; Death – warfare, ghostly abduction, suicide; Family – children/parents; Emotions –love, longing, despair; Employment – sailors/soldiers, crafts/trades; Religion – ghosts/spirits; Morality – romantic/sexual; Environent – sea; Places – English, travel/transport. A man dies at sea after having been pressed into the navy, and when his sweetheart eventually marries another and raises a family, he returns in human form to tempt her away.

A Lamentable ballad of the tragical end of a Gallant Lord, and a Vertuous Lady... To the tune of, The Ladies fall (F. Coles, T. Vere, and W. Gilbertson, 1661-63). Euing 197; EBBA 31955. Family – children/parents; Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity, sexual violence; Crime – murder, rape; Violence – interpersonal, sexual, self-inflicted; Death – unlawful killing, suicide; Emotions – horrow, hatred, fear; Recreation – hunting; Environment – animals, buildings, landscape; Bodies – looks/physique, injury; Places – European. When a nobleman goes on a hunting trip, an aggrieved servant – ‘a Heathenish Blackamoor’ – exacts terrible revenge on his wife and family.

The West-countrey Gentlemans last Will & Testament... The Tune is I am James Harris call’d by name, or Ladies Fall (imprint missing, mid-seventeenth century?). Bodleian 4o Rawl. 566(154). Family – children/parents; Morality – social/economic, romantic/sexual, general; Religion – moral rules, charity, church, Christ/God; Society – neighbours, rural life; Bodies – health/sickness; Emotions – love; Places – English. An exemplary gentleman makes his will, passing on his estate and a series of moral injunctions to his son and heir.

The Lawyers Plea, In the behalf of Young TOM of LINCOLN... To the Tune of, Help Lords and Commons, &c (no imprint, mid-seventeenth century?). British Library, 82.l.8.(21.); EBBA 36918. Gender – sex; Humour – bawdry; Morality – romantic/sexual; Religion – Protestant nonconformity; Employment- professions, prostitution; Places – English; Politics – domestic, Royalist; Society – urban life. This is a robust defence of the sexual behaviour that occurs among the lawyers of Lincoln’s Inn, arguing – in response to a previous ballad (apparently lost) – that the wenching of hypocritical nonconformists is far worse.

A friendly Caveat To all true Christians, Showing the them the true way to Heaven. To the Tune of, The Ladies fall (W. Thackeray, T. Passenger, and W. Whitwood, 1666-79). Beinecke 2000 Folio 6 237; EBBA 35987. Morality – general; Religion – Bible, moral rules, Christ/God, prayer; Family – children/parents; Gender – adultery/cuckoldry; Bodies – nourishment. This urges the importance of moral conduct on all Christians, summarising the Ten Commandments for good measure.

The Lady Isabella's Tragedy; OR, The Step-Mothers Cruelty... To the Tune of, The Ladies Fall (P. Brooksby, 1670-98).  Pepys 2.149; EBBA 20767. Crime – murder; Death – unlawful killing, execution; Violence – interpersonal; Family – children/parents, inheritance; Gender – femininity, masculinity; Morality – familial; Emotions – hatred, anger, sorrow; Recreation – food; Employment – crafts/trades. A beautiful young lady is cruelly murdered by her jealous step-mother and the household’s master-cook, but an honest scullion boy reveals the truth and both killers are executed – the woman is burnt at the stake and the man is boiled in oil.

Loves Overthrow; OR, A full and true account of a young Maid that lived in Exeter-Exchange-Court, in the Strand... To the Tune of, Bateman (P. Brooksby, 1670-98). Crawford 61; EBBA 32713. Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Death – suicide, heartbreak; Violence – self-inflicted; Emotions – despair, love; Employment – apprenticeship/service;  Economy – livings; news – general; Places – English. A young woman misunderstands her sweetheart’s good reasons for delaying marriage, and after killing herself in desperation she is buried with a stake through her body.

The lamentation of a bad Market, OR, The Drownding of three Children on the Thames...Tune of, The Ladies Fall (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80).  Pepys 2.146; EBBA 20764.  Family – children/parents; Death – accident; News – sensational; Places – English; Humour – extreme situations. This describes a recent fire on London Bridge and a separate episode in which three children fell through the ice on the Thames and drowned.


The melody was regularly nominated in printed songbooks of the period. In ‘A most royall song of the life and death of our late renowned Princesse Queene Elizabeth’, published in Richard Johnson’s Crowne-Garland of Golden Roses (1612), the fallen heroine is the late lamented monarch. And in Good and true, fresh and new Christmas carols (1642), the tune is used for ‘A Caroll for Twelfe day’, bidding a sad farewell to Christmas cheer (this song has the same opening line as A Lamentable ballad called the Ladye’s fall). See also: ‘A Pastoral Song’ and ‘The story of Ill-May day’ in Cupids Garland (1674); and one of the metrical religious songs in William Slatyer’s, Psalmes, or songs of Sion turned into the language, and set to the tunes of a strange land (1631).

The tune was also named on a scurrilous white-letter ballad entitled THE FOUR-LEGG'D ELDER, OR, A true RELATION OF A DOG and an ELDER'S Maid (‘Printed in the year 1647. And Reprinted 1677’). Here, strikingly, the author’s satirical intention was to deploy the unquestionably sober associations of the tune in order to denigrate the ballad’s fallen lady, a Quaker’s maidservant who found herself in trouble for having sex with her master’s dog. The mocking tone also extended to the tune designation, which poured scorn on the simplicity and similarity of many short ballad melodies: ‘To the Tune of The Lady's Fall, or Gather your Rose-buds; and Fourty other Tunes’.

Occasionally, however, the basic nature and the ubiquity of the tune were referenced nostalgically to recall simpler times in the past. Henry Bolt’s poem, ‘On a Barber who became a great Master of Musick’, looks back to the days when barbers lacked musical pretension and their citterns were ‘confin’d unto/ The Ladies fall, or John come kiss me now’.


John Bodenham, Englands Helicon (1600), Z3r-4v.

Henry Bolt, Latine songs, with their English (1685), pp. 148-49.

Robert Creighton, virginal book, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, MS Conservatoire Rés. 1186, fo. 101v.

Cupids Garland (1674), A5v-6r and B3v-4r.

Ross W. Duffin, Some other note. The lost songs of English Renaissance comedy (Oxford, 2018), p. 49.

Orlando Gibbons, Complete Keyboard works, ed. M. H. Glyn (1925), vol. 2, 14.

Good and true, fresh and new Christmas carols (1642), B1r-2r.

Anthony Holborn, Cittharn School (1597), C1v.

Richard Johnson, The Crowne-Garland of Golden Roses (1612), C8v-D3v.

New York Public Library MS Drexel 5612, p. 22 (transcribed in Simpson).

Claude Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 368-71.

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

Walsingham consort partbook for cittern, Mills College, Oakland, California, no. 32.

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Maid’s funeral

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)

The image appears on all surviving editions of this ballad from the seventeenth century, and it has been neatly cut out from one copy (Crawford 267), perhaps because the owner planned to display it somewhere else. The customary virgin’s funeral featuring ‘Sixe maidens all in white’ is described at the end of the song, and so it is not surprising that the woodcut became strongly associated with this hit ballad in particular.

It was also used on numerous other songs, however, and most of these told tragic love stories in which the woman died. In a few cases, the corpse inside the coffin belonged to a man – one of whom was the second Duke of Albemarle – and viewers presumably had to decide whether to overlook the discrepancy or treat it as a point for comment (it is tempting to speculate that critics of Albemarle, an ineffectual military leader who died without issue, may have felt amused by an image of his coffin being carried by female virgins).

At least five different woodblocks existed, and at least two of these produced images in which the funeral party travels from right to left rather than vice versa. Several printers clearly saw the benefits to be gained from holding a copy of the block in stock.

Songs and summaries:

Two unfortunate Lovers, or, a true Relation of the lamentable end of John True, and Susan Mease (Henry Gosson, 1601-40).  Roxburghe 1.428-29; EBBA 30291.  Gender – courtship; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – love, sorrow; Death – heartbreak, tragedy; burial/funeral; Bodies – health/sickness; Places – English; Employment – crafts/trades; Religion – ghosts/spirits. John overcomes Susan’s initial disdain and she agrees to marry him, but he then decides to test her love with some disdain of his own, and the consequences are tragic (picture placement: the scene appears beneath the title and there are no other woodcuts).

The Brides Buriall (H. G., 1624-40). Roxburghe 1.59; EBBA 30586. Death – illness, godly end, grief, tragedy, burial/funeral; Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Emotions – love, sorrow, anger; Bodies – looks/physique, health/sickness, clothing; Religion – charity, prayer, heaven/hell, Christ/God; History – ancient/mythological; Environment – flowers/trees; Recreation – weddings. A sorrowful man describes the sudden death of his virtuous sweetheart on their wedding day and the sad funeral that followed (picture placement: it appears beneath the title, and there are no other woodcuts).

The Dying Lovers last Farwel: Or, the Tragical downfal of Martellus and Arminda (J. Conyers, 1661-92) Pepys 3.8; EBBA 21001. Gender – courtship; Death – heartbreak, grief, tragedy; Emotions – sorrow, love; Employment – agrarian. Martellus, a shepherd, dies of a broken heart before Arminda arrives to reassure him of her love, and she, in dismay, follows him to the grave (picture placement: a reversed variant of the woodcut, with additional mourners, appears beneath the title).

The pining Maid OR A Pattern for Lovers (Philip Brooksby, 1670-98). Roxburghe 3.118-19; EBBA 30434. Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Death – suicide, heartbreak; Morality – romantic/sexual; Bodies – nourishment, health/sickness; Emotions – love, sorrow; Places – English; Religion – ghosts/spirits, Christ/God; Society – friendship, neighbours.  A young woman expresses her regret after causing a man’s suicide by breaking her vow to him, and she declares herself ready to join him beyond the grave (picture placement: a reversed image, with two additional women following the coffin, appears beneath the title, and there are no other woodcuts).

THE TRUE Lovers Lamentable Overthrow, OR, THE Damosels Last Farewell (J. Deacon, 1671-99).  Pepys 3.353; EBBA 21368.  Family – children/parents; Gender – courtship; Morality – familial; Death – heartbreak, grief; Emotions – love, sorrow.  A young woman is driven to despair by her parents’ disapproval of her choice of sweetheart, and their desperate efforts to back-track fail to save her life (picture placement: the coffin appears beneath the title, and the three maidens carry it towards a grave-digger at work).

An ANSWER to the Dairy Maid's Tragedy: Or, The sad Overthrow of two West Country LOVERS (J. Deacon, 1671-99). Pepys 3.321; EBBA 21336.  Gender – courtship; Death – heartbreak, grief, suicide; Moralith – romantic/sexual; Emotions – love, sorrow; Nature – animals, birds. A man finds that his heartbroken lover has died as a result of his unkindness and, in anguish, he throws himself into the sea (picture placement: the scene appears beneath the title and there are no other woodcuts).

The two Unfortunate Lovers: OR, THE Flintshire 'SQUIRE and Shropshire MAID's Misfortunes (J. Deacon, 1671-99).  Pepys 3.363; EBBA 21379.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Society – rich and poor; Death – heartbreak, tragedy; Emotions – sorrow; Family – children/parents; Places – English, Welsh.  An esquire seduces a young woman with a promise of matrimony but then abandons her, with tragic consequences (picture placement: the procession appears over the second column of text and is followed by a man with downcast eyes).

Love and Honour: Or, The Lovers Farewel to Calista (P. Brooksby, 1677-84).  Roxburghe 2.306; EBBA 30758.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Death – warfare, heartbreak; Emotions – love, disdain, sorrow; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Violence – between states; Bodies – health/sickness; Royalty – authority; Politics – foreign affairs, Royalist.  A dying soldier accuses his sweetheart of inflicting wounds more severe than those obtained in battle, and she delivers a not entirely sympathetic response (picture placement: a reversed image, with two additional women who follow the coffin, appears beneath the title).

Repentance too Late: Being fair Celia's complaint of the loss of her Virginity (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, J. Clark, W. Thackeray, and T. Passenger, 1680-81).  Pepys 3.386; EBBA 21402.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – sorrow; Death – heartbreak. A young woman regrets losing her virginity to an untrustworthy man and, having advised others to avoid the same fate, she dies (picture placement: a variant version of the scene, with two female mourners following the procession as it moves from right to left, appears on the right side of the sheet).

The last Dying Words of Robert Boxall, of Petworth, TO HIS False-hearted Lover, Margaret Mills (J. Blare, 1682-1706) Pepys 3.362; EBBA 21378.  Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – anger, sorrow. An angry young man criticises his former sweetheart for breaking off her engagement to him in favour of a man with slightly better prospects (picture placement: the procession appears over the third and final column of text).

Dirty Dolls Farewel (J. Wright, J. Clark, W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger, 1684).  Pepys, Loose Ballads; EBBA 21247.  Death – result of immorality; Religion – angels/devils; Employment – female/male; Gender – femininity; Morality – social/economic; News – sensational; Places – English; Violence -  diabolical. A warning to all by the example of Dirty Doll, a disreputable practitioner of extortion, who was beaten during a visitation from the Devil and died of her injuries (picture placement: an inverted version of the scene, with additional mourners, appears over the third and fourth columns of text).

A New Mournful Ballad, CALLED The Duke of Allbemarle's Farewell, Who lately departed this Life, in the Island of Jamaica (J. Bissel, 1688).  Pepys 4.305; EBBA 21967. Politics – foreign affairs; News – political, international; Places – extra-European; Death – grief,  general; Emotions – sorrow; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Religion – heaven/hell.  An eulogy for a loyal and brave servant of the crown (picture placement: in an inverted version with additional mourners, the procession appears over the third and fourth columns of text)

Barbara Allen's Cruelty: OR, THE Young-man's Tragedy (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1688-96). Roxburghe 2.25; EBBA 30145.  Gender – courthship, femininity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Bodies – health/sickness; Death – heartbreak; Emotions – love, disdain, sorrow; Places – English.  A man, dying from heartbreak, is treated with callous cruelty by the woman he loves, and her repentance comes too late for them both (picture placement: it appears beneath the title, next to a woman who faces the approaching coffin).

THE Lamented LOVERS: OR, THE Young Men and Maiden's Grief for the Unhappy Tragedy of this Unfortunate Couple (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1688-96).  Pepys 3.372; EBBA 21388. Gender – courtship; Morality – romantic/sexual;  Death – heartbreak, grief, tragedy; Emotions – sorrow, guilt.  A young man dies of a broken heart, and the woman who mistreated him is consumed by guilt (picture placement: the procession appears beneath the title).

The Woman Warrier: BEING An Account of a young Woman who lived in Cow=Cross, near West-Smithfield (Charles Bates, 1690).  Pepys 3.309; EBBA 21325.  Employment – sailors/soldiers, female/male; Gender – femininity, masculinity; Politics – foreign affairs; Bodies – health/sickness; Death – warfare; Places – English, Irish; Violence – between states, civil war.  A brave London woman, disguised as a man, serves as a soldier in Ireland and loses her life (picture placement: the funeral appears over the text on the right side of the sheet).

The False-hearted Lover, WHO Lately courted a Damsel in Wood's Close near St. John's-Street (C. Bates, 1690-1716).  Pepys 5.348; EBBA 22175.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Death – heartbreak; Emotions – sorrow; Places – English; Religion – ghosts.  A young woman pines to death after the man she loves marries somebody else (picture placement: the procession appears beneath the title and there are no other woodcuts).

The Ruined Lover: OR, THE Young Ladies Tragedy (Charles Bates, 1690-1716).  Pepys 3.369; EBBA 21385.  Family – children/parents, kin; Gender – courtship, femininity; Morality – familial; Death – heartbreak, tragedy; Emotions – sorrow, anger.  A woman cannot endure her family’s disapproval of her choice of sweetheart, and she dies heartbroken (picture placement: the procession appears beneath the title and appears to be moving away from a seated woman with her hand on her heart).

The Young-Mans Lamentation: BEING An Answer to the Maid that Dy'd for Love in Wood's-Close, near St. John's-street (C. Bates, 1690-1716). Pepys 5.337; EBBA 22174.  Gender – courtship; Morality – sexual/romantic; Emotions – sorrow; Death – grief, tragedy; Places – English.  A man, having caused the death of a woman by marrying someone else - see False-hearted Lover, above - now repents his behaviour (picture placement: the procession appears beneath the title and is followed by a walking man with bowed head).

Christopher Marsh

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Related Texts

We have not found other printed versions of this story from the seventeenth century. There is, however, a later American hymn, associated particularly with Baptist congregations, that seems to be closely related to The Brides Buriall. The fact that an edition of the ballad was printed in Philadelphia, a Baptist centre, during the late eighteenth century, the same period that saw the origins of this hymn, increases the probability of a connection. The hymn was clearly intended to support any husband whose wife had died, and it opens ‘Come, my dear friends, and mourn with me’, echoing the opening of the original ballad. The husband then proceeds to describe his desperate grief before concluding that he must and will accept God’s will (‘Since it is so, let sorrows go’).

The hymn looks and feels like a reduced and rewritten version of the ballad. It dilutes the emotional realism of its source and presents a more purposefully didactic narrative. The two positions that were set out in the ballad – the wife’s acceptance of God’s will and the husband’s resistance to it – are now both attributed to the husband and presented sequentially so that he moves in godly fashion from one to the other. The hymn was clearly popular in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America, appearing in numerous published hymn books. Unfortunately, these publications do not appear to provide melodies, and the only hymn tune that can currently be associated with the song bears no relation to the music for the earlier ballad (see Tallmadge, below).

Occasionally, the opening verse of the hymn was also quoted in obituaries, funeral announcements and even on gravestones. One wonders how many of the people who knew and loved this religious song in modern America were aware of its origins as a broadside ballad in Jacobean London?

Christopher Marsh

Texts (in chronological order)

The Brides Buriall. To the Tune of the Ladies fall (registered, 1603).

‘Come, my dear friends, and mourn with me’ in A new collection of hymns and spiritual songs (America [city unknown], 1793). The website https://hymnary.org/ identifies eleven hymn books that included the song between 1793 and 1935.


http://files.usgwarchives.net/mo/clay/newspapers/deathsin111gnw.txt (death of Margaret Warren, 1869).

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6656189/rose-hester (gravestone of Rose Hester, Rome Cemetery, Athens, Texas, 1937).

William H. Tallmadge, 'Baptist monophonic and heterophonic hymnody in sourthern Appalachia', Anuario Interamericano de investigacion musical 11 (1975), pp. 106-36 (especially p. 122).

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The Brides Buriall.  To the tune of the Ladies fall.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


COme mourn, come mourn with me

you loyall lovers all,

Lament my losse in weedes of woe,

whom griping griefe doth thrall,

Like to the dropping Vine,

cut downe by gardners knife,

Even so my heart with sorrow slaine,

doth bleed for my sweet wife.


By Death (that grisly Ghost),

My turtle Dove is slaine:

And I am lost unhappy man,

to spend my daies in paine:

Her beauty late so bright,

like Roses in their prime,

Is wasted like the mountaines snow,

by force of Phoebus shine.


Her fair red coloured lips,

now pale and wan, her eyes

That late did shine like christall stars,

alas their light it dies:

Her pretty lilly hands,

with fingers long and small,

In colour lie like earthly clay,

yea cold and stiffe withall.


When as the morning gray,

her golden gate had spread,

And that the glistring sunne arose,

forth from fair Thetis bed:

Then did my love awake,

most like a lilly flower,

And as the lovely Queene of heaven,

so shin’d she in her bower.


Attired she was then,

like Flora in her pride,

As faire as brave Dianas Nimphs,

so lookt my lovely Bride,

And as faire Helens face,

gave Grecian Dames the lurch,

So did my deare exceed in sight,

all Virgins in the Church.


When we had knit the knot,

of holy wedlocks band:

Like Alablaster joynd to jett,

so stood we hand in hand:

Then loe a chilling cold,

struk every vitall part:

And griping griefe like pangs of death,

seaz’d on my true Love’s heart.


Downe in a sound she fell,

as cold as any stone:

Like Venus picture lacking life,

so was my Love brought home.

At length arose a red,

throughout her comely face,

As Phoebus beames with watry clouds

ore covered her face.


Then with a grievous groane

and voice most hoarse and dry,

Farewell quoth she my loving friends

for I this day must die:

The messenger of God,

with golden Trumpe I see:

With many other Angels more,

doth sound and call for me.


In stead of musicke sweet,

goe tole my passing bell:

And with these flowers strow my grave

that in my chamber smell:

Strip off my Brides array,

my Corke-shooes from my feet,

And gentle mother be not coy,

to bring my winding sheet.


My Wedding dinner drest,

bestow upon the poore:

And on the hungry needy maind,

that craveth at the doore.

In stead of Virgins young,

my Bride-bed for to see,

Goe cause some cunning Carpente[r]

to make a chest for mee.


My Bride laces of silk,

bestow’d on maidens meete,

May fitly serve when I am dead,

to tie my hands and feet:

And thou my Lover true,

my husband and my friend,

Let me intreate thee here to stay,

until my life doth end.


Now leave to talke of love,

and humbly on your knee:

Direct your prayer unto God,

but mourne no more for me:

In love as we have lived,

in love let us depart:

And I in token of my love,

doe kisse thee with my heart.


O stench thy bootlesse teares,

thy weeping is in vaine:

I am not lost, for we in heaven,

shall one day meet againe.

With that she turn’d her head,

as one disposd to sleepe,

And like a Lambe departed life:

while friends full sore did weepe.


Her true Love seeing this,

did fetch a grievous groane,

As though his heart did burst in two,

and thus he made his moane:

O dismall heavy day,

a day of griefe and care,

That hath bereft the Sun so high,

whose beames refresht the ayre.


Now woe unto the world,

and all that therein dwell,

O that I were with her in heaven,

for here I live in hell:

And now this Lover lives,

a discontented life:

Whose Bride was brought unto the gra[ve,]

A Maiden and a Wife.


A garland fresh and faire,

of Lillies there was made,

In signe of her Virginity,

and on her Coffin laid:

Sixe maidens all in white,

did beare her to the ground,

The Bells did ring in solemne sort,

and made a solemne sound.


In earth they laid her then,

for hungry wormes a prey:

So shall the fairest face alive,

at length be brought to clay.

London Printed for H. G[o]ssor.

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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; Coles, Vere, Wright and Clarke, 1675; and Thackeray, 1689.

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: 1603.

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

No. of extant copies: 10

New tune-titles generated: 'Bride's burial' (2 ballads).

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: ?Maid's funeral on featured edition (and other editions).

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 28 references, with no evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. V4032).

POINTS: 0 + 30 + 5 + 16 + 10 + 4 + 5 + 3 = 73

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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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