120  The Happy Husbandman:/ OR,/ Country Innocence [Pepys 3.45]

Author: Anonymous

Recording: The Happy Husbandman

Bodies - looks/physique Economy - household Economy - rural/urban Emotions - joy Emotions - love Employment - agrarian Employment - female Environment - animals Environment - birds Environment - buildings Environment - flowers/trees Environment - landscape Gender - femininity Gender - marriage Gender - masculinity Gender - sex Politics - obedience Recreation - music

Song History

The Happy Husbandman was published by Philip Brooksby between November 1685 and early March 1689.


The Happy Husbandman was written in a classical pastoral vein as a description of an idyllic rural scene featuring young lovers. Underlying the song, however, was a call for placid content and political obedience. One verse brings this to the fore:

While Changes and Chances
amuse all the Great, and Disturbance bring.
We will with our young Lambs go to Bed,
And observe the Lives that our Fathers led;
We'll mind not Ambition,
Nor sow Sedition,
And leave State-Affairs to the States-man's Head.

Publication History and Popularity

The sentiments of this ballad would have been very welcome to the authorities at any time but perhaps particularly during the turbulence of James II's reign. The approving initials of Richard Pocock, appointed by Sir Roger L'Estrange to assist in his role as Surveyor of the Press, appear on all three known editions of the song - an indication of the heavy censorship regime that operated under James II. While the tune remained current, the song does not seem to have retained its popularity after the Revolution of 1688/9.

Angela McShane


Angela McShane, The Ballad Trade and its Politics in Seventeenth Century Britain (Woodbridge, forthcoming), chs. 6 & 7.



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Featured Tune History

‘To a pleasant new Court Tune’ (standard name: My young Mary)

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

Versions and variations

This tune seems to have originated with the ballad under discussion here in the second half of the 1680s and its main name, ‘My young Mary’, derives from the opening line (it was also known occasionally as ‘My maid Mary’). An instrumental version of the tune appears in Youth’s Delight on the Flagelet (1690). Our recording is based upon this version, though it also draws on the tune as it appeared in the third volume of John Walsh’s The British Musical Miscellany (1735). Another version occurs in Charles Coffey’s ballad-opera, The Merry Cobler (1735). These examples are all very clearly the same tune, though there is considerable variation in the melodic particulars (most notably in the approach to the final cadence).

Echoes (an overview)

The Happy Husbandman enjoyed conspicuous success during the later 1680s but its melody seems to have been nominated on only one other black-letter ballad. The romantic theme that was established in The Happy Husbandman was picked up by the composer of The Country Lass, but the sentimentality of the original was replaced by sexual cynicism, voiced by a young woman who explains to her mother that she will henceforth abandon spinning in favour of prostitution. The idealisation of rural life, carried from one song to the next on the shared tune, becomes humorous.

The point is amplified by textual affinities between the ballads. In particular, the opening lines of the first song are simultaneously echoed and mocked by the corresponding lines in the second: ‘My young Mary do’s mind the Dairy/ while I go a Howing and Mowing each morn’ (The Happy Husbandman); and ‘Sweet facd Jenny receivd a Guinea/ but she lost her Maiden-head just at that time’ (The Country Lass). There are other echoes too, and the same melodic lines serve for the following lyrics in the two songs: ‘We'll tast all Love's Treasure,/ And enjoy that Pleasure’; and ‘I had Gold and Treasure besides the Pleasure’.

Songs and Summaries

The Happy Husbandman: OR, Country Innocence... To a pleasant new Court Tune (P. Brooksby, 1685-89).  Pepys 3.45; EBBA 21041.  Gender – marriage, femininity, masculinity, sex; Economy – household, rural/urban; Employment – agrarian, female; Emotions – love, joy; Environment flowers/trees, animals.  A man describes his idyllic rural marriage.

The Country Lass, Who left her Spinning-Wheel for a more pleasant Employment. To the Tune of My Maid Mary (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1688-96). Crawford 1100; EBBA 33842. Gender – sex, femininity; Humour – bawdry, domestic/familial; Employment – female, crafts/trades, prostitution; Family – children/parents, pregnancy/childbirth; Economy – money, livings, hardship/prosperity; Society – friendship, old/young; rich/poor; Bodies – clothing; Morality – romantic/sexual. A young woman, having been paid a guinea to have sex with a squire, now resolves to abandon her old ‘Spinning-Trade’ for this lucrative new occupation, much to her mother’s concern.


The tune was also used for the white-letter ballad, THE English PAINTER FOR The French King’s Picture (1689). This was an anti-French, anti-Catholic song that urged Englishmen to march against the forces of Louis XIV.  Arguably, it deployed the feel-good romantic tune to stimulate positive feelings and distract attention from the horrors of war. The tune remained popular into the eighteenth century and appeared in a number of published collections and ballad operas.

Christopher Marsh


Charles Coffey, The Merry Cobler (1735), p. 27.

Claude Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (New Brunswick, 1966), p. 502.

John Walsh, The British Musical Miscellany, 6 vols. (1734-36), vol. 3, p. 43.

Youth’s Delight on the Flagelet (1690), no. 15? [the numbering is unclear].

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Walking woman

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 was regularly encountered on ballads of the period 1660-90. Most of these were published either by Joshua Conyers or by Philip Brooksby and his associates, and the absence of the main ballad partners – Thackeray and company – from the list is worthy of note. The woodcut appears on all surviving editions of The Happy Husbandman, taking its place in a picture scheme that clearly contributed to the success of the song in the mid-1680s.

At least two woodblocks were in existence, though some of the slight variations in detail may have been the result of modifications made to an existing block. Some of the images are back-to-front, presumably because the carver copied from a printed version without worrying about the fact that the picture would be reversed during the production process. Printers clearly understood the importance of having their own copies of the block in stock.

The ballads listed below reveal that the Walking woman was associated with courtship in general and sex in particular (we come to understand why she is walking away from her house with such purpose). She appears on some conventionally happy love-ballads ([THE] Merry Wooing of Robin & Joan, for example) but also on a range of songs that feature women who sell sex, women who are eager to lose their maidenheads, and women whose sexual morals appear relaxed (Diana’s Darling is, for instance, unusually explicit in describing the joy of sex). The association is so strong that the picture must also have highlighted the sex that was mentioned more fleetingly in other ballads.

On The Happy Husbandman, the Walking woman moves eagerly towards her husband and is situated just over a verse that alludes to sex but coyly refuses to ‘name the thing’. Similarly, on Jolly Jack of All Trades, her presence encourages us to listen out for the crude sexual metaphors that punctuate the text. Her appearance on A Looking glass for all Good-fellows, a ballad in which a sober wife talks to her drunken husband about his life-style, was perhaps more unsettling, though the potential for text-image tension was reduced somewhat by the promise of wholesome marital sex as part of the final reconciliation (‘Then prethee dear Wife let us lovingly joyn’).

Songs and summaries

Diana's Darling, Or The Modish Courtier (J. Conyers, 1661-92).  Pepys 3.230; EBBA 21243.  Gender – sex; History – ancient/mythological; Bodies – physique; Emotions – longing; Nature – flowers/trees. This praises Diana’s beauty and describes Hylas’ ultimately successful efforts to have amazing sex with her (picture placement: she appears on the far right, completeing a series of five small pictures of individual women and men).

[THE] Merry Wooing of Robin & Joan The West-Country Lovers (J. Convers, 1661-92).  Pepys 4.15;  EBBA 21682. Gender – courtship; Humour – mockery; Places – English; Society – rural life.  A courtship dialogue, written in west-country dialect and describing a couple’s journey from discord to harmony (picture placement: she walks towards Respectful man with raised foot though he has his back to herand away from another man).

The Scotchmans Lamentation for the loss of his PACK. OR, A warning to all Scotch-Pedlers how they open their Packs in Bawdy Houses (J. Conyers, 1661-92). Pepys 3.340; EBBA 21355. Gender – sex; Humour – deceit/disguise; Employment – crafts/trades; Crime – robbery; Emotions – anxiety, fear; Places – nationalities, travel; Morality – general; Bodies – clothing;   A Scotsman travels to London to sell cloth but is tricked and robbed by a ‘whore’ and her ‘pimp’ (picture placement: she appears over the opening verse, walking away from two men in hats).

All is ours and our HUSBANDS, Or the Country Hostesses VINDICATION (P. Brooksby, 1670-98).  Roxburghe 2.8; EBBA 30111.  Employment – alehouses/inns, female/male, prostitution; Economy – livings, money; Recreation – alcohol; Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, femininity, sex; Family – children/parents; Humour – deceit/disguise, satire. A hostess explains, on behalf of all her co-workers, that the tricks of the trade – false measure, confiscating goods and selling sex – are an integral and legitimate feature of the livelihood (picture placement: she appears beneath the title and alongside two other women).

The Doctor and Beggar-Wench OR, The Barkshire FROLLICK (J. Back, 1685-88).  Pepys 3.280; EBBA 21294.  Gender – sex, adultery/cuckoldry, marriage, masculinity; Society – rich/poor; Humour – extreme situations/surprises, mockery; Emotions – longing, anger, sorrow; Morality – romantic/sexual; Employment – professions; Family – children/parents; Places – English.  A doctor’s attempt to pay a beggar-woman for sex comes unstuck when the two of them are spotted by passers-by, and the man’s parents and wife are understandably furious when they find out what he has been doing (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, to the right of a well-dressed man).

The Happy Husbandman: OR, Country Innocence (P. Brooksby, 1685-88).  Pepys 3.45; EBBA 21041.  Gender – marriage, femininity, masculinity, sex; Economy – household, rural/urban; Employment – agrarian, female; Emotions – love, joy; Nature – flowers/trees, animals. A man describes his idyllic rural marriage (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, to the right of a Countryman with staff and a spinning wheel).

Jolly Jack of all Trades, OR, The Cries of London City (J. Conyers, 1685-88).  Pepys 4.263; EBBA 21924.  Employment – crafts/trades; Humour – extreme situations/surprises, bawdry; Bodies – clothing; Society – urban life; Places – English. A trader claims to sell everything imaginable and lists his wares for all who will listen (picture placement: she appears on the right side of the sheet, alongside two men).

A Looking glass for all Good-fellows; or, The Provident Wives Directions to her Husband (J. Conyers, 1685-88).  Pepys 4.79; EBBA 21743.  Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity; Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship; Family – children/parents; Emotions – anger, sorrow; Economy – hardship, household; Morality - familial; Society – neighbours. In this dialogue-ballad, a wise wife counsels her ale-loving husband and eventually persuades him to reform his behaviour (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, walking towards a man standing in a field).

A New BALLAD Of an Amorous Coachman, Who was so difficult in pleasing his Love-sick Fancy; that after his several Addresses to the Female Sex, he was at last Married (P. Brooksby, 1685-88).  Pepys 4.96; EBBA 21760.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Emotions – frustration; Employment – services; Humour – extreme situations/surprises; Bodies – physique. A coach-man courts and then abandons a number of young women, before eventually marrying one who turns out to be ‘a Pick-pockit, a Whore a & a Thief’ (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, alongside two other young women and a man driving a coach).

Wanton wenches of Wiltshire Being a Pleasant Discourse between Four young Females, as they Sat together in a convenient place to scatter their Water (J. Back, 1685-88).  Roxburghe 2.492; EBBA 31001.   Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Humour – bawdry, deceit/disguise; Bodies – bodily functions, physique/looks; Emotions – frustration, longing; Recreation – food; Places – English.  Four young women urinate in the countryside while complaining about the romantic inadequacies of the local men, two of whom observe them from a secret hiding place (picture placement: in a reversed version of the woodcut, she is one of four women who appear beneath the title, watched from the right by a Respectful man in archway and another man, hiding in the bushes).

The Distressed Damsels: OR, A dolefull Ditty of a sorrowfull Assembly of young Maidens that were met together near Thames-street (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1688-96). Pepys 4.64; EBBA 21730. Gender – courtship; Emotion – anxiety, sorrow; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Politics – foreign affairs. The maidens of London lament the pressing of many young men into military service, and they complain that the marriage market has been severely compromised by a sudden shift in the gender balance (picture placement: she appears on the right, third in a series of four young women).

THE LONDON Lasses Lamentation: OR, Her Fear she should never be MARRIED (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1688-96). Pepys 3.239; EBBA 21253. Gender – courtship, femininity; Emotions – longing, anxiety; Family – children/parents; Bodies – clothing, physique; Places – English. A young woman explains sadly that she cannot find a husband, despite possessing an attractive range of attributes, both physical and material (picture placement: she appears on the far right, completing a series of four pictures of individual women).

The Maiden's New Wish: BEING Her earnest desire to Marry a Lord, that she might ride in her gilded Coach, but at length contented her self with a Cobler, rather than live longer a Maid (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1688-96). Pepys 3.88; EBBA 21089. Gender – courtship, femininity, sex; Employment – female/male, crafts/trades; Emotions – longing, pride; Society – rich/poor;  Bodies – clothing; Recreation – music, fashions. A young and lazy woman hopes to marry far above herself and lead a life of luxury but, in the end, her wish to lose her maidenhead as soon as possible motivates her to marry a poor cobbler (picture placement: she appears over the fourth and final column of text, moving towards a man in a hat).

The Mothers Kindness, Conquer'd by her Daughters Vindication of Valiant and Renowned Seamen (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1688-96).  Pepys 4.212; EBBA 21874. Employment – sailors/soldiers; Gender – courtship, masculinity; Bodies – physique. A mother warns her daughter that sailors are not to be trusted in love but is eventually persuaded by the counter-arguments (picture placement: she appears in two reversed variants, once on the left with a man in a similar setting, and once on the right, alongside a Woman with fan).

The Unnatural Mother: OR, The two Loyal Lovers Fatal Overthrow (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1688-96).  Pepys 4.72; EBBA 21738. Gender – courtship, masculinity; Emotions – love, anger, sorrow; Family – children/parents; Morality – familial; Employment – apprenticeship/service, sailors/soldiers; Death – heartbreak, tragedy. A man falls in love with his master’s daughter, but her mother imprisons her in order to obstruct the match, thus precipitating her heart-broken death (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, in between a man in a plumed hat and another woman).

The Maidens Frollick: OR, / A brief Relation how Six Lusty Lasses has Prest full Fourteen Taylors on. the backside of St. Clements, and the other adjacent Places (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1688-96).  Pepys 4.368; EBBA 22032. Employment – sailors/soldiers; Gender – cross-dressing, femininity, masculinity; Humour – deceit/disguise, extreme situations/surprises, mockery; Violence – interpersonal; Politics – foreign affairs; Emotions –fear; Bodies – clothing; Places – English, nationalities; Society – urban life. Just for fun, a group of young women dress up as sailors and wander around London, ‘pressing’ all the cowardly tailors they can find into military service (picture placement: she appears on the far right, next to a slightly effeminate-looking man).

Christopher Marsh

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Related Texts

We have found no other texts with close links to the content of this ballad. For other songs that used the same melody, see Featured tune history.

Angela McShane

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The Happy Husbandman:/ OR,/ Country Innocence.

To a pleasant New Court Tune.   This may be Printed, R. P.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


MY young Mary do's mind the Dairy,

while I go a Howing, and Mowing each morn

Then hey the little Spinning=Wheel

Merrily round do's Reel;

while I am singing amidst the Corn:

Cream and Kisses both are my Delight,

She gives me them, and the Joys of Night

She's soft as the Air,

As morning Fair,

Is not such a maid a most pleasing Sight?


While I whistle, she from the Thistle

does gather Down, for to make us a Bed,

And then my little Love does lie

All the Night long and Dye

in the kind Arms of her nown dear Ned;

There I taste of a delicate Spring,

But I mun not tell you, nor name the thing,

To put you a Wishing,

And think of Kissing,

For Kisses cause sighs, and young Men shou'd sing.


Sedge and Rushes, and tops of Bushes

shall thatch our Roof, and shall strow all our Floar,

And then the pretty Nightingales

Will fly from Groves and Dales

to live with us, and we'll ne'er be Poor:

Little Lambkins whenever they dye

Will bequeath new Blankets to thee and I,

Our Quilts shall be Roses

Which June disposes;

So warm and so sweet my young Love shall lye.


Fountains pure, shall be thy Ewer,

to sprinkle wate[r] upon thy fair Face;

And near the little Flock shall Play

All the long Summers Day;

gentle white Lambs will adorn the place.

Then at night we'll hie home to our Hive,

And (like Bees) enjoy all the sweets alive:

We'll tast all Love's Treasure,

And enjoy that Pleasure,

While others for Fame & for Greatness strive.


No man's frowns are on the Downs,

for truly there we most freely may sing,

And kiss the pretty Nancies,

While Changes and Chances

amuse all the Great, and Disturbance bring.

We will with our young Lambs go to Bed,

And observe the Lives that our Fathers led;

We'll mind not Ambition,

Nor sow Sedition,

And leave State=Affairs to the States=man's Head.


Oaten Reeds (those humble Weeds)

shall be the Pipes, upon which we will play

And on the merry Mountain,

Or else by a Fountain,

we'll merrily pass the sweet Time away:

Sure no mortal can blame us for this.

And now mark the way of your London Miss,

She masters your Breeches,

And takes your Riches

While we have more Joys by a harmless Kiss.


No Youth here need Willow wear,

no beauteous Maid will her Lover destroy;

The gentle little Lass will yield

In the soft Daizy Field,

freely our pleasures we here enjoy:

No great Juno we boldly defie,

With young Cloris Cheeks, or fair Celia's Eye,

We let all those things alone,

And enjoy our own,

Every Night with our Beauties lie.


Printed for P. Brooksby at the Gol/den=Ball in Pye=corner.

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

No. of known editions c. 1560-1711: 3

No. of extant copies: 7

Appearances on publishers' lists: none.

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: none.

3-yr periods that produced multiple editions: none known. 10-year periods that produced multiple editions: 1695-1704 (2).

New tune titles generated: 'My young Mary' (1 ballad).

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: none known.

Pre-1640 bonus: no.

POINTS: 6 + 7 + 0 + 0 + 8 + 2 + 0 + 0 = 23

[On this ballad, see also Angela McShane, Political Broadside Ballads of Seventeenth-Century England, no. 832].

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