93  Ragged, and Torne, and True./ Or, the poore mans Resoltion [Roxburghe 1.352-53]

Author: Anonymous

Recording: Ragged, and Torne, and True

Bodies - clothing Bodies - looks/physique Crime - antisocial Crime - immorality Crime - prison Crime - punishment Crime - robbery/theft Death - execution Employment - alehouses/inns Employment - prostitution Morality - general Places - English Recreation - games/sports Society - criticism Society - rich/poor emotions - contentment

Song History

This ballad appears in the chart because it generated a popular new title for an existing tune (see Featured tune history). Only one edition of the song has survived from the seventeenth century and there is little evidence to suggest that it persisted into later periods as a folk-song.

Ragged, and Torne, and True presents the words of a fictional poor man, idealised and exemplary, who cheerfully accepts his lot in life. He offers listeners/readers a lesson in living as one of the ‘honest’ or ‘deserving’ poor who do their very best to get by without burdening others. The tone of the ballad is deeply conservative, and it is notable that its melody gathered Royalist associations during the seventeenth century (see Featured tune history).

This representation of poverty may feel wildly unrealistic to modern minds but we should note that there actually were examples in seventeenth-century England of documented individuals who shared the singer’s ‘honest’ and long-suffering attitude to life, or who were at least prepared to say that they did when seeking aid. In the 1630s, for example, a man from Bocking (Essex) petitioned his parish for assistance but made it clear ‘I have never chargd the towne for a penny, not soe I desire now but Crave work of them’. In other words, he sought employment rather than a hand-out, and he went on to distance himself from all forms of lewd and criminal conduct (Hindle, p. 15). In a similar case, a poor wheeler stated proudly that he ‘laboreth as a trewe poor man getting his lyving from hand to mouth’ (Boulton, p. 327).

Unlike these men, the singer of Ragged, and Torne, and True tells us virtually nothing about how he makes his living, perhaps heightening the impression that he is an ideal type rather than a realistic role-model. Steve Hindle has skilfully set out the characteristics of livings made ‘by the shift’ in this period, highlighting intermittent wage-labour, the support of neighbours and kin, the exploitation of customary rights, and habitual resort to forms of petty criminality. In the ballad, however, the ‘poore man’ states explicitly, ‘I scorne to live by the shift’, leaving us uncertain how it is that he manages to ‘pay every man his due’. Presumably, he defines living ‘by the shift’ exclusively in terms of criminality and we are supposed to assume that he labours honestly for his living.

Arguably, this uncertainty opens a path towards a more critical or satirical understanding of the song in which the singer’s words are understood as nonsensical. A suitably theatrical performance could easily have encouraged this perspective, and the association of the left-hand picture with madness during the later seventeenth century might have had the same effect (see Featured woodcut history). The reputation of the melody almost certainly implies that a socially conservative understanding of the song predominated in the period, but other options always existed.

Several additional features of the song probably added to its appeal: the singer’s assertion that his moral superiority to the period’s booted gallants, highway robbers and dice-players endows him with a degree of freedom that is reserved for the ‘honest and just’, no matter how poor they are; the interesting relationships that are sketched between clothing, wealth and honesty; and the way in which the singer’s exemplary attitude to his own condition allows him the licence to criticise others, including some of those who are richer than he. Although the song might be said to caricature the ‘honest poor’, it may also have encouraged some of them to believe in their worth.

Ragged, and Torne, and True did not die out completely in the seventeenth century. Somewhat surprisingly, the first and last verses were set to a new tune in the 1870s and published in a version for four-part choir by Clara Macirone. This setting appears to have been performed regularly in concerts of the late nineteenth century. In 1891, for example, it was sung by an enormous choir of 4000 people, drawn from all over the nation, at a festival held at the Crystal Palace in London. This festival aimed at ‘the improvement of the music in Nonconformist services’. Even in so different an age, the seventeenth-century ballad’s message about living honestly and accepting poverty with grace retained something of its original force.

Christopher Marsh


Jeremy Boulton ‘The “meaner sort”: labouring people and the poor’ in Keith Wrightson (ed.), A social history of England 1500-1750 (Cambridge, 2017), pp. 310-29.

‘Choral festival at the Crystal Palace’, Wrexham weekly advertiser (13 June 1891), vol. 43, p. 3.

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

English Short Title Catalogue.

Steve Hindle, On the parish? The micro-politics of poor relief in rural England c. 1550-1750 (Oxford, 2004), ch. 1.

Clara A. Macirone, ‘Ragged and torn and true. Four-part song’, The Musical Times and singing class circular 20.438 (August, 1879), pp. 427-30.

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), no. 2234.

Paul Slack, Poverty and policy in Tudor and Stuart England (1988), ch. 4.

Danae Tankard, ‘“I think myself honestly decked”: attitudes to the clothing of the rural poor in seventeenth-century England’, Rural history 26.1 (2015), pp. 17-33.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, https://www.vwml.org/ [search for Roud number 27968].

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Featured Tune History

To the tune of ‘Old Simon the King’ (standard name)

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 tune had several different names, alongside ‘Old Simon the King’: It was also known as: ‘Ragged and torn [and true]’ (from the title and refrain of the ballad under discussion here); ‘O such a rogue [would be hang’d]’; ‘Ile nere be drunk againe’; ‘When this old cap was new’; ‘The character of sundry trades and callings’; and, probably, ‘All trades’. Most of these derived from the texts of the ballads listed below.

The melody was extremely well-known in seventeenth-century England and notation can be found in numerous sources. The earliest and most singable is in Playford’s Musicks Recreation on the Lyra Viol (1652). Later versions are a little more complicated; perhaps the tune was so famous that nobody felt the need to state it in its most basic form, preferring to get straight on with the business of elaboration. A good example of this can be found in The Division Violin (1685), published again by Playford, where the variations or ‘divisions’ seem to begin almost from the start. Our recording draws on both these versions of the tune.

Others can be found in the following sources: Playford’s Dancing Master (in the editions that appeared after 1679); Humphrey Salter’s Genteel Companion… for the Recorder (1683); Nathaniel Thompson’s Choice Collection of 180 Loyal Songs (1685); Apollo’s Banquet (1693); and a white-letter ballad of 1683 entitled The WHIGS laid open and set ‘To a Mery Tune, called Old Symon the King’(EBBA 34923).

Versions of the melody, with new adjustments, also appear in numerous eighteenth-century sources, including the celebrated song collection, Wit and Mirth, and the equally famous Beggar’s Opera by John Gay. When Henry Fielding published Tom Jones in 1749, he described Squire Western as a character who ‘never relished any Music but what was light and airy; and indeed his most favourite Tunes, were Old Sir Simon the King, St. George he was for England, Bobbing Joan, and some others’.

Echoes (an overview)

This lively tune was nominated, under one or more of its various titles, on over twenty-five surviving black-letter ballads. Its earliest associations were with a highly traditional brand of social conservatism involving some combination of nostalgia, attachment to hierarchy, celebration of historical pastimes, and criticism of those who failed to live by the long-established rules that were supposed to hold society together (see, for example: Ragged and Torne, and True; Times Alteration; The praise of our Country Barly-Brake; and Knavery in all Trades).

From the 1660s, the melody’s reputation also suited it to Royalist ballads that celebrated the Restoration and mocked the enemies of the crown (A Merry new song wherein you may view/ The drinking Healths of a Ioviall Crew and Rebellion given over House-keeping).

The tune’s conservative associations were therefore extremely strong, but alongside them a second area of influence developed. Many of the songs listed below deal with gender relations, particularly courtship, marriage and sex. These include ballads about romantic happiness (A New Wedding), ballads about troubled marriages (Joy and sorrow mixt together) and ballads in which courtship advice is offered to men or women (The Young Mans Counsellor and Directions for Damosels). There is often humour in these songs, most obviously in those with titles such as The Lusty Friar of Dublin or The Doting Old DAD, OR, The Unequal Match betwixt a Rich Muckworm of Fourscore and Ten, and a Young Lass scarce Nineteen.

It seems certain that the melody’s two main resonances must also have interacted, perhaps adding a traditionalist vibe to the courtship songs or somewhat sexy undertones to the ballads expressing social or political conservatism. The only obvious outlier in the list below was The Wonder of Wonders: OR, An Excellent SONG of a Six-Legged Creature, a riddling song about the flea (and perhaps there is a nod towards one of the tune’s main associations in the line, ‘she’s known to be loving by Nature’).

The songs are connected not only by tune and theme but also through a number of close textual affinities. In Ragged, and Torne, and True and Times Alteration, for example, the final lines of the two refrains bear comparison: ‘Ime ragged, and torn, and true’ and ‘when this old Cap was new’. Some of the chosen rhymes, set to the same portion of the tune, also echo one another:

‘O fie on those coozening scabs,/ that rob the poore Jades of their due/ I scorne all theeves and Drabs:/ Ime ragged, and torne, and true’ [Ragged, and Torne, and True].

‘But seeke to rob the Poore/ of that which is their due:/ This was not in time of yore,/ when this old Cap was new’ [Times Alteration].

And Times Alteration, in turn, includes a verse that shares a rhyme scheme with lines in a later ballad:

‘God save our gracious King,/ and send him long to live,/ Lord, mischife on them bring,/ that will not their Almes give [Times Alteration].

‘The one to the other did say,/ what course shall I take to live,/ For none can thrive at this day,/ but such as their mindes doe give?’ [Knavery in all Trades].

Two ballads by Martin Parker were similarly comparable, and the last lines of their refrains are mutually reminiscent: ‘O such a rogue would be hangd’ (Well met Neighbour) and ‘Oh such a scold would be cuckt’ (Have among you good Women). Parker clearly wrote the ballads as a pair, addressing one to men and one to women, and the numerous connections between the songs suggest that he designed them specifically to echo one another, thus stimulating debate among consumers.

The Young Mans Counsellor and Directions for Damosels were connected in much the same way, and the two refrains begin with lines that are closely related: ‘As for the Black and the Brown’ and ‘But as for the Brown and the Black’.

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

Songs and Summaries

The praise of our Country Barly-Brake: OR, Cupids advisement for Young-men to take Up this loving old sport... To the tune of, when this Old Cap was new (H. Gosson, 1624-40).  Roxburghe 1.344-45; EBBA 30235.  Recreation – games/sports; Gender – courtship; Society – rural life, urban life.  Young people of both sexes are advised to revive the old rural game of barley-break in order to stimulate love, thus benefitting society.

Ragged, and Torne, and True. Or, the poore mans Resoltion. To the tune of Old Simon the King (‘Printed by the Assignes of Thomas Symcocke, 1628-30). Roxburghe 1.352-53; EBBA 30240.  Society – criticism; Emotions – contentment; Crime – robbery/theft, antisocial, prison, punishment; Death – execution; Morality – general; Bodies – clothing, physique/looks; Recreation – games/sports; Employment – alehouses/inns, prostitution; Places – English. A poor man expresses his contentment with his lowly life, and criticises others for their immorality and criminality.

Times Alteration: OR, The Old Mans rehearsall, what braue dayes he knew A great while agone, when his Old Cap was new. To the Tune of, Ile nere be drunke againe (Assign of Thomas Symcocke, 1628-31). Roxburghe 1.406-07; EBBA 30278. History – nostalgia, recent, medieval; Humour – satire, extreme situations/surprises; Society – criticism, neighbours, old/young, rich/poor; Morality – social/economic; Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship, hospitality, fashions, fairs/festivals, food; Emotions – sorrow; Employment – sailors/soldiers, professions; Gender – masculinity, femininity; Bodies – clothing, adornment; Economy – hardship/prosperity; Violence – between states. An aged man, in nostalgic mood, regrets the many changes that have ruined English society in the 200 years since his hat was first made.

The Praise of Saint Davids day... To the Tune of When this Old Cap was new (no imprint, 1630-50?). Roxburghe 1.324-25; EBBA 30222. History – ancient/mythological, medieval, recent; Environment – crops, animals; Places – nationalities; Bodies – clothing, adornment; Emotions – pride; Employment –sailors/soldiers; Religion – saints; Politics – war; Royalty – praise. This celebrates the ancient people of Wales and provides a historical explanation for their choice of the leak as a symbol of identity.

Knavery in all Trades, OR, Here's an age would make a man mad. To the tune of, Ragged and torne and true (F. Grove, c.1632).  Pepys 1.166-67; EBBA 20073.  Society – criticism; Economy – extortion, hardship, livings; Employment – crafts/trades, professions, urban; Morality – social/economic, general;  Emotions – sorrow. Two men converse about the depressing immorality of the times, highlighting in particular the abuse of the poor by the rich.

Well met Neighbour... To the tune of Ragged and Torne (Thomas Lambert, 1633-69). Euing 383; EBBA 32002. Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity, adultery/cuckoldry; Society – neighbours, friendship; Violence – domestic, punitive; Morality – romantic/sexual; Bodies – clothing; News – domestic; Recreation – alcohol. Two women discuss the cruelty, drunkenness and infidelity of a series of local husbands, declaring in each case, ‘O such a Rogue would be hangd’.

A Messe of good Fellows...To the tune of, Ragged and torne (Thomas Lambert, c. 1634).  Roxburghe 1.260-61; EBBA 30186.  Recreation – good fellowship, alcohol, music, hunting; Gender – masculinity, marriage; Emotions – joy; Morality – social/economic, romantic/sexual; Bodies – health/sickness; Economy – hardship/prosperity, money.  A celebration of honest good fellowship, with the joys of communal alcoholic intake and living for the moment placed to the fore.

Have among you good Women... To the tune of, O such a Rogue (Thomas Lambert, c. 1634). Roxburghe 1.146-47; EBBA 30093. Gender – marriage, femininity, masculinity, adultery/cuckoldry, sex; Society – neighbours; Morality – romantic/sexual, social/economic; Violence – interpersonal, punitive; Employment – crafts/trades, female, prostitution; Crime – robbery/theft, prison, punishment; News – domestic; Economy – trade. Two men, on the way to market, discuss the scolding, dishonesty and infidelity of a series of local wives, declaring in each case ‘oh such a scold would be cuckt’ (with variations).

Joy and sorrow mixt together: Or, a pleasant new Ditty, wherein you may find Conceits that are pretty to pleasure your mind... To the tune of, Such a rouge [sic] would be hang’d (John Wright the younger, 1634-58).  Roxburghe 1.170-71; EBBA 30107.  Gender – courtship, marriage, sex; Family – pregnancy/childbirth; Bodies – looks/physique; Emotions – longing, contentment, sorrow; Morality – sexual/romantic; Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship; Society – neighbours.  In the first part, a man sings the praises of his sweetheart and marries her, but in the second part, he realises that she is already pregnant by another man and regrets his hurry to be hitched.

The Wonder of Wonders: OR, An Excellent SONG of a / Six-Legged Creature... Tune of, Old Simon the King (registered 1638; James Bissel, 1685-88).  Pepys 4.281; EBBA 21942.  Humour – deceit/disguise, misunderstanding, satire; Nature – animals. A riddling ballad that commends the loyalty and courage of a well-known parasite.

The good Fellowes Complaint... To the Tune of, Raged [sic] and torne and true (John Hammond, 1642-51). Manchester Central Library, Blackletter Ballads 2.23. Economy – taxation, trade, hardship/prosperity, livings, prices/wages, money, credit/debt; Morality – social/economic; Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship; Emotions – anger; Employment – crafts/trades, alehouses/inns; Gender – masculinity, femininity; Politics – domestic, foreign affairs, war; Religion – charity. An angry ballad that blames the Excise for driving up the price of drink, thus endangering good fellowship and threatening trade.

A Merry new song wherein you may view/ The drinking Healths of a Ioviall Crew,/ To 'thappie Return of the Figure of Two. The tune is, Ragged and torn and true (no imprint, 1659-60?).  Roxburghe 2.344-45; EBBA 30788.  Politics – Royalist, celebration, domestic; Royalty – praise; Emotions – joy; History – recent; Humour – verbal. This welcomes Charles II back to England, praises the figure of 2 in general, and looks forward to happier times ahead.

The English Seamans Resolution, OR, The Loyall Subjects Undaunted Valour... To the Tune of, I prethee Love turn to me. OR, When this Old Cap was New (F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1665-74). Euing 106; EBBA 31810.  Politics – war, foreign affairs, Royalist; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Royalty – praise; Emotions – patriotism excitement, pride; Death – warfare; Violence – at sea, between states; Gender – masculinity; Environment – sea; Recreation – alcohol. A sailor declares his readiness to die fighting at sea for Charles II against the Dutch in particular.

A New Wedding: OR, The Marriage of Jenny, and Tommy. To the Tune of Old Simond the King (F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1665-74). 4o Rawl. 566(79). Gender – courtship; Emotions – love, hope, joy; Recreation – weddings, food, dance, music, hospitality, Bodies – looks/physique; Society – neighbours, friendship. In the first part, Tommy plans his married life with his beloved Jenny, and in the second part their lovely wedding is described.

The English Fortune-Teller... The Tune is, Ragged and Torn, &c (W. Thackeray, T. Passenger, and W. Whitwood, 1666-79).  Crawford 1443; EBBA 34134. Gender – courtship, femininity; Bodies – looks/physique; Recreation – games/sports. This offers advice to men on how to choose good potential wives based on their temperament, wealth and appearance, but ultimately the author concludes that courtship is like throwing dice.

A Leicester-shire Frolick; Or, The valiant Cook-Maid... Tune is, Ragged and torn (P. Brooksby, 1670-98). Crawford 589; EBBA 33024. Crime – robbery/theft; Gender – femininity, masculinity; Humour – deceit/disguise, mockery;  Economy – money; Emotions – excitement, shame, scorn; Environment – animals; Employment – crafts/trades, female, apprenticeship/service; Bodies – clothing; Recreation – alcohol, food; Violence – interpersonal. A cook-maid amuses her aristocratic master by successfully robbing five tailors of all their cash, armed only with a black pudding and a bold personality.

Mirth for Citizens: Or, A Comedy for the Country... Tune of, Ragged, torn, and true (P. Brooksby, 1670-98).  Roxburghe 2.328; EBBA 30775. Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, femininity, masculinity; Humour – mockery, bawdry; Morality – romantic/sexual; Recreation – weddings, food, drink, music; Violence – domestic; Bodies – looks/physique; Economy – money; Emotions – despair, anger; Employment – agrarian; Environment – animals. A wealthy young man marries a beautiful maiden, confident of the joys that lie ahead, but it soon emerges that she is a domineering, violent, scolding adulteress.

The Young Mans Counsellor... Tune of All Trades (J. Deacon, 1671-99). Crawford 43; EBBA 32685. Gender – femininity, courtship, marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, sex; Bodies – looks/physique, adornment; Employment – prostitution. This surveys womankind according to hair colour, complexion and associated characteristics, advising young men that ‘the Black and the Brown’ are ‘the cream of the Town’.

The Souldiers delight in the North... To the Tune of the Northerne Diddle, or Raged and torne, & [true] (imprint missing; 1672-1700?). Manchester Central Library, Blackletter Ballads 2.32; EBBA 36206. Gender – marriage, sex, masculinity, femininity; Emotions – longing, sorrow, anger, contentment; Humour – bawrdry, domestic/familial; Environment – animals. A wife complains to her husband that they no longer make love as once they did and, after a frank exchange of views, he persuades her to make do with what he is now able to offer.

A True CHARACTER OF Sundry Trades & Callings... To the Tune of, Old Simon the KING (composed before 1672; P. Brooksby, 1685-88). Euing 352; EBBA 32049.  Employment – agrarian, crafts/trades, professions; Economy – livings; Gender – femininity, masculinity; Humour – bawdry, verbal. A series of pithy social observations, most of them pointing out that an individual who lacks something that is vital to his or her trade will not be able to thrive.

Rebellion given over House-keeping: OR, A General Sale of Rebellious Houshould stuff... To the Tune of, Old Simon the King (J. W., J. C., W. T., T. P., and M. C., 1682). Pepys 2.209; EBBA 20820. Politics – celebration, controversy, domestic, Royalist, satire, Tories/Whigs; History – recent; Humour – extreme situations/surprises, verbal, mockery, satire; Royalty – praise; Religion – Protestant nonconformity; Economy – household; Employment – crafts/trades; Recreation – food, music. A politically loyal song in which an auctioneer sells off the discredited paraphernalia of the mid-century war against King Charles I, father of the current king.

A Tryal of skill, performed by a poor decayed Gentlewoman, Who cheated a rich Graiser of Sevenscore pound, and left him a Child to keep...The Tune is, Ragged and Torn (I. Wright, I. Clarke, W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger, 1682-84).  Pepys 4.303; EBBA 21965.  Gender- sex, masculinity, femininity; Emotions – anger; Humour – deceit/disguise, bawdry; Employment – agrarian, crafts/trades; Places – English, travel; Recreation – hospitality, food.  A wealthy grazier comes to London but his plans to celebrate his profits with a night of sex are ruined by an opportunistic woman who runs off with his money while leaving her illegitimate baby behind.

The Naked-Truth: OR, A New Song without a Lye[.] Tune of, Old Simon the King: Or, The Character of sundry Trades and Callings (J. Blare, 1682-1706). Euing 236; EBBA 31784. Employment – crafts/trades, professions; Humour – bawdry, verbal; Economy – livings, trade. This presents a set of pithy observations with bawdy undertones about men of various occupations.

Directions for Damosels... Tune of, All Trades (J. Deacon, 1685-88). Roxburghe 2.108; EBBA 30594. Gender – courtship, masculinity, marriage; Bodies – looks/physique. A companion-piece to The Young Mans Counsellor, advising women on how to choose suitable men for marrying, based on their hair colour, complexion and associated characteristics.

The Doting Old DAD, OR, The Unequal Match betwixt a Rich Muckworm of Fourscore and Ten, and a Young Lass scarce Nineteen... To the Tune of, All Trades (P. Brooksby, 1685-88).  Roxburghe 2.122-23; EBBA 30607. Gender – courtship, marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, sex; Humour – bawdry, extreme situations/surprises; Society – old/young; Bodies – health/sickness, adornment; Disability – physical; Emotions –disdain, frustration; Recreation – fashions.  A young woman refuses to be courted by a wealthy old man because of his impotency but she is persuaded to change her mind when her mother describes, from personal experience, the pleasures of adultery.

The Lusty Friar of Dublin... To the Tune of Old Simon the King (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, J. Back, 1688-96). Pepys 3.43; EBBA 21039. Gender – adultery/cuckoldry, marriage, sexual violence; Humour – bawdry, domestic/familial, deceit/disguise; Religion – clergy; Morality – romantic/sexual; Places – Irish; Bodies – injury; Emotions – anger; Violence – interpersonal. A friar cuckolds the wealthy squire with whom he lodges but receives justice when, on the order of the angry husband, he is castrated by a surgeon.


The melody may have originated with an Elizabethan ballad that does not survive in a broadside edition but that later appeared in several published collections of songs (see, for example, Playford's Antidote against melancholy, 1669). It was a humorous drinking song entitled 'Old Simon the king', designed for good fellows who had decided ‘To think of no matters of State,/ But to seek for good companie’. It clearly influenced some of the conservative ballads that followed (see above), and the line ‘Then hang up sorrow and care’ appeared both here and in Ragged, and Torne, and True.

The tune was also used for numerous white-letter ballads, most of them promoting loyal political opinion and some of them echoing the songs listed above. See, for example: The WHIGS laid open (1683); THE New-Market SONG (1684); and The Jesuites Market (1689). Songs with similar themes were set to the tune in collections such as Ratts Rhimed to Death (1660) and The Rump (1660).

In Goodlove Freeman’s Dialogue Between Hodge and Heraclitus (1682), the political resonances of the tune are perhaps in play when Hodge explains that the harmful effects of a ‘Whigish Paper’ are only counteracted by ‘the Charms of a new Song of Old Simon the King, which [?] Chanters sing daily by my Window’.

Christopher Marsh


Jeremy Barlow (ed.), The Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford’s Dancing Master (1985), no. 233.

Henry Fielding, Tom Jones (1749), p. 174.

John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera (1728), p. 71.

John Playford, Musicks Recreation on the Lyra Viol (1652), p. 80.

John Playford, An antidote against melancholy made up in pills (1669), pp. 81-82.

John Playford, The Division Violin (1685), no. 4.

 John Playford, Apollo’s Banquet (1693), no. 42.

Humphrey Salter, The Genteel Companion; Being exact Directions for the Recorder (1683), p. 38.

Claude Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 545-51.

Nathaniel Thompson, A Choice Collection of 180 Loyal Songs (1685), p. 149.

John M. Ward, ‘Apropos The British broadside ballad and its music’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 20.1 (Spring 1967), p. 64.

Wit and Mirth (1705), pp. 162-63.

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Mad man with horn and staff

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 eye-catching image was used sparingly on ballads of the seventeenth century, though it appears on nearly every surviving edition of New Mad TOM of Bedlam and was clearly very well-known in association with this song. Indeed, it seems likely that the woodcut was originally designed for a now lost edition of New Mad TOM, rather than for Ragged, and Torne, and True. Surviving copies suggest that there were at least three subtly different wood-blocks in circulation.

Ragged, and Torne, and True survives in only one edition – the song is included in our list primarily because of the influence of its tune – and so it is impossible to say whether other versions of the ballad used the picture. In this case, the wild man with the horn represents the impoverished character who, in the text, explains that he is happy because he accepts his lot in life.

It is possible that the influence of New Mad TOM  brought to Ragged, and Torne, and True a touch of madness during periods when the sheets circulated together. If so, the effect may often have been to connect Ragged, and Torne, and True with the well-established tradition of ‘reason in madness’, a trope that was more explicitly described in New Mad TOM. Alternatively, the woodcut might have tempted some consumers to interpret the long-suffering happiness of the impoverished singer as deranged or nonsensical.

Songs and summaries

Ragged, and Torne, and True. Or, the poore mans Resoltion (‘Printed by the Assignes of Thomas Symcocke, 1628-30).  Roxburghe 1.352-53; EBBA 30240.  Society – criticism; Emotions – contentment; Crime – robbery/theft, antisocial, prison, punishment; Death – execution; Morality – general; Bodies – clothing, physique/looks; Recreation – games/sports; Employment – alehouses/inns, prostitution; Places – English. A poor man expresses his contentment with his lowly life, and criticises others for their immorality and criminality (picture placement: he appears beneath the title).

New Mad Tom of Bedlam + The Man in the Moon drinks Clarret (I. Wright, I. Clark, W. Thackeray, and T. Passenger, 1682-84).  Pepys 1.502-03; EBBA 20237.  Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship, food, dance, music, tobacco; Disability – mental; Gender – masculinity; History – ancient/mythological; Humour – extreme situations/surprises; Bodies – health/sickness. The first song presents the disconnected rantings of a disturbed individual, and the second describes the many strange effects of excessive alcohol upon male behaviour (picture placement: he appears beneath the first title, alongside a man playing the bagpipes).

Christopher Marsh


Jonathan Andrews, ‘The (un)dress of the mad poor in England, c. 1650-1850. Part 1’, History of psychiatry 18.1 (2007), pp. 5-24.

Jonathan Andrews, ‘The (un)dress of the mad poor in England, c. 1650-1850. Part 2’, History of psychiatry 18.2 (2007), pp. 131-56.

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Related Texts

We have not found other sources that reveal close textual affinities with Ragged, and Torne, and True, with the exception of several of the songs that used the same melody (see Featured tune history).

Christopher Marsh

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Ragged, and Torne, and True./ Or, the poore mans Resoltion,

To the tune of Old Simon the King.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


I Am a poore man, God knowes,

and all my neighbours can tell,

I want both money and clothes,

and yet I live wondrous well:

I have a contented mind,

and a heart to beare out all,

Though Fortune (being unkind)

hath given me substance small.

Then hang up sorrow and care,

it never shall make me rue:

What though my backe goes bare:

Ime ragged, and torne, and true.


I scorne to live by the shift,

or by any sinister dealing,

Ile flatter no man for a gift,

nor will I get money by stealing.

Ile be no Knight of the Post;

to sell my soule for a bribe,

Though all my fortunes be crost,

yet I scorne the Cheaters tribe.

Then hang up sorrow and care,

it never shall make me rue,

What though my cloake be thred=bare,

Ime ragged, and torne, and true.


A Boote of Spanish leather,

I have seene set fast in the stockes,

Exposed to wind and weather,

and foule reproach and mocks,

While I in my poore ragges,

can passe at liberty still:

O fie on these brawling bragges,

when the money is gotten so ill.

O fie on these pelfering knaves,

I scorne to be of that crue.

They steale to make themselves brave,

Ime ragged, and torne, and true.


I have seene a Gallant goe by,

woth all his wealth on his backe,

He lookt as loftily,

as one that nothing did lacke,

And yet he hath no meanes,

but what he gets by the sword,

Which he consume on Que[e]nes,

for it thrives not take my worde

Oh fie on these high=way theives,

the Gallowes will be their due:

Though my doublet be rent ith sleeves

Ime ragged, and torne, and true.


The Second Part. To the Same Tune. 


SOme do themselves maintaine,

with playing at cardes and Dice,

O fie on that lawlesse gaine,

got by such wicked vice:

They coozen poore Countrey=men,

with their delusions vilde,

Yet it happens now and then,

that they are themselves beguilde:

For if they be caught in a snare,

then the Pillory clames its due,

Though my Jerkin be worne and bare

Ime ragged, and torne, and true.


I have seene some gallants brave,

up Holborne ride in a Cart,

Which sight much sorrow gave

to every tender heart:

Then have I saide to my selfe,

what pity is it for this,

That any man for pelfe,

should do such a foule amisse:

O fie on deceit and theft,

it makes men at the last rue,

Though I have but little left,

Ime ragged, and torne, and true.


The Pick=pockets in a throng,

at a Market or a Faire.

Will try whose purse is strong

that they may the money [s]hare:

But if they are caught ith action,

they are carried away in disgrace,

Either to the house of Correction,

or else to a worser place:

O fie on these pelfering Theeves,

the Gallowes will be their due,

What need I suee for a repreeve:

Ime ragged, and torne, and true.


The Hostler, to maintaine

himselfe with money ins purse,

Approves the Proverbe true,

and sayes Gramercy Horse:

He robs the travelling beast,

that cannot divulge his ill,

He steales a whole handfull at least,

from every halfe peck he should fill,

O fie on those coozening scabs,

that rob the poore Jades of their due

I scorne all theeves and Drabs:

Ime ragged, and torne, and true.


Tis good to be honest and just,

though a man be never so poore,

False dealers are still in mistrust,

thare afraid of the officers doore:

Their conscience doth them accuse

and the quake at the noise of a bush:

While he that doth no man abuse,

For the aw needs nat care a rush,

Then welfare the man that can say,

I pay every man his due,

Although I go poore in aray,

Ime ragged, and torne, and true.

Printed by the Assignes of Thomas Symcocke.   FINIS.

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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: 'Ragged and torn and true' (9 ballads).

Appearances on publishers' lists: none.

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: 1630.

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

No. of extant copies: 1

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: none known.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 16 references, with very occasional evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. 27968).

Pre-1640 bonus: yes.

POINTS: 18 + 0 + 5 + 4 + 1 + 0 + 2 + 20 = 50

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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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