62  The Honour of a London Prentice [Pepys 3.252]

Author: Anonymous

Recording: The Honour of a London Prentice

Bodies - clothing Death - duelling/jousting Death - execution Emotions - excitement Emotions - patriotism Emotions - pride Employment - apprenticeship/service Employment - professions Environment - animals Gender - marriage Gender - masculinity History - heroism History - recent Places - English Places - extra-European Places - travel/transport Politics - Royalist Politics - foreign affairs Recreation - games/sports Religion - Bible Religion - Christ/God Religion - Muslims Religion - angels Religion - divine intervention Royalty - praise Violence - animals Violence - interpersonal Violence - punitive

Song History

This was clearly a very popular song for two hundred years or more. The earliest surviving edition dates from 1658-64 but the references to Elizabeth I suggest composition in the late sixteenth century. Certainly, the song was already well-established by 1639, when a character in a play by Henry Glapthorne mentions ‘the Ballad oth’ famous London Prentice’ as one of his two favourites.

There were numerous editions in the eighteenth century, and the ballad was also included in several songbooks of this century and the next, some of them published in America (see Evans, Phillips, Ritson and Anon, Forget-me-not songster). In a very patchy fashion, it also appears to have survived as a folksong into the twentieth century. A version was transcribed, for example, from the singing of Ben Henneberry of Devil’s Island, Nova Scotia, around 1950 (Creighton and Senior).

The Honour of a London Prentice was also mentioned regularly in other forms of literature. It is one of the songs offered for sale by Ditty, the ballad-seller in The London chaunticleres, an anonymous play of 1659. In Commendatory verses (1700), one anonymous author wrote in mock-praise of another, suggesting that the works of his rival might be read to English soldiers in order to activate the nation’s ‘ancient Military genius’ and render ‘every London Prentice able to worst his Brace of Lions’ (readers were clearly expected to recognise this reference to the song). Two years later, Thomas Brown referred in passing to the ‘veneration’ with which ‘the Boys in Cheapside talk of the London Prentice, that killed his brace of Lions’ (for discussion of a pictorial reference to the ballad, see Featured woodcut history).

One of the key reasons for the song’s success may have been the capacity of its hero to appeal simultaneously to masters and apprentices. Employers could point to the ‘London prentice’ as an example of hard work and the success that follows it, emphasising the manner in which the young man impresses his master in London and reaps the rewards. Apprentices, in contrast, might feel the appeal of other details more keenly. The ballad’s hero is not only industrious but also brave, outspoken, undaunted, richly dressed and extremely violent. These were qualities that must have seemed more edgy and exciting to the young men of London than a capacity for hard work.

The contrast between these two dimensions of the ballad’s appeal calls to mind Alexandra Sheppard’s distinction between patriarchal and alternative forms of early-modern masculinity. London’s apprentices were strongly associated with riot in this period, and at times of particular tension – the 1590s and the 1640s, for example – this ballad could both inspire youthful aggression and urge obedience to legitimate authority. And, for the publishers, multiple messages meant multiple markets.

Of course, the ballad was also an escape from present circumstances for all parties because it presented the apprentice almost as one of the chivalric super-heroes of old. He excels at tilting (jousting) and uses his skills to defend ‘the honour of his Queen, Elizabeth the Princess’. His own honour demands that he must respond to insults, and the Sultan’s son pays the price for calling him both a ‘Traytor’ and a ‘boy’.

Furthermore, the apprentice does battle with wild animals, just as St. George and Guy of Warwick had done before him. A barrage of terms reinforce his epic heroism: ‘matchless’, ‘brave’, ‘worthy’, ‘manly’, ‘noble’ and so on. Some of this may have appealed particularly to the younger sons of the gentry, who not infrequently approached adulthood – a little uncomfortably – as proud and prickly apprentices in London.

An invitation to escapism was also written into the ballad’s exotic setting in Turkey. The song was composed in the late-sixteenth century, at a time when English society was becoming increasingly interested in Turkey and its culture. The ambivalence of Turkey’s status – a land of dangerous Muslims who were useful to Protestant England because they opposed Catholic Spain – was strongly reflected in numerous cultural products, as Süheyla Artemel has shown.

The ballad is a good example: the apprentice’s presence in Turkey reflects the important trading relations that connected the two nations; the brutality of ‘The King’ (Sultan) of Turkey taps into negative stereotypes about the violence and tyranny of Muslim rule; and yet the Sultan’s subsequent change of heart, which enables him to admire Queen Elizabeth and reward her valiant servant – suggests generosity of spirit and a capacity for reason. The success of the song indicates that this representation was right on the money in early-modern England.

Christopher Marsh


Anon, Commendatory verses on the author of The two Arthurs and the Satyr against wit (1700), preface ‘To all the honourable citizens’.

Anon, Forget-me-not songster (Boston, c. 1850), pp. 153-57 (reference from VWML website; see below).

Anon, The London chaunticleres a witty comoedy (1659), p. 7.

Ian Archer, The pursuit of stability. Social relations in Elizabethan London (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 1-9.

Süheyla Artemel, ‘“The Great Turk’s particular inclination to red herring”: The popular image of the Turk during the Renaissance in England’, Journal of Mediterranean studies 5.2 (1995), pp. 188-208.

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

Christopher Brooks, ‘Apprenticeship, social mobility and the middling sort, 1550-1800’ in Jonathan Barry and Christopher Brooks, The middling sort of people. Culture, society and politics in England 1550-1800 (Basingstoke, 1994), pp. 52-83.

Thomas Brown, Select epistles or letters (1702), p. 353.

Helen Creighton and Doreen Senior, Traditional songs of Nova Scotia (Toronto, 1950). pp. 124-26 (reference from VWML website; see below).

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

English Short Title Catalogue.

Thomas Evans, Old ballads, historical and narrative, 4 vols. (1784), vol. 2, pp. 134-40.

Henry Glapthorne, Wit in a constable. A comedy written 1639 (1640), E4r.

Paul Griffiths, Youth and authority: Formative experiences in England 1560-1640 (Oxford, 1996).

Madden Collection, Garlands, vol. 2, no. 509, Cambridge University Library.

Ambrose Phillips, A collection of old ballads (1723), pp. 199-203.

Joseph Ritson, A select collection of English songs, 3 vols. (1783), vol. 3, ballad 20.

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. 1138 and 1139.

Alexandra Shepard, Meanings of manhood in early modern England (Oxford, 2003).

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, https://www.vwml.org/ [search for Roud number 1016].

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Featured Tune History

To the tune of ‘All you that are Good-Fellows’ (standard name: All you that love good fellows)

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

Notation for this distinctive, march-like tune can be found in a number of sources, printed and manuscript: the Shirburn ballads (1585-1616); the Fitzwilliam virginal book (late sixteenth and early seventeenth century); the Welde lute book (c. 1598-1603); Wit and mirth (edition of 1714); and Charles Coffey’s ballad-opera, The Devil to Pay (1731). There are minor variations between these versions but they are all unmistakably the same tune. Indeed, the stability of the melody across a period of well over one hundred years is notable. Our recording uses the notation in Wit and mirth, where the tune provides the setting for ‘The LONDON PRENTICE’, the hit song under discussion here. The melody also occurs in several Dutch songbooks of the seventeenth century, a list of which is provided by Claude Simpson (see below).

Within English balladry, the tune was known variously as ‘All you that are/love/be good fellows’, ‘[The worthy] London prentice’ (from the current song) and ‘England’s fair dainty dames’ (for the source of this name, see Prides fall). In instrumental manuscripts, it is also found under the titles ‘Nancie’ and ‘Nowells delight’.

Echoes (an overview)

The Honour of a London Prentice was one of the first ballads to use this melody, though the tune-title, ‘All you that are Good Fellows’, probably indicates the existence of an earlier song, now lost, that opened with this line. The earliest associations of the melody therefore appear to have been with manly sociability and heroism. These associations were carried into the third ballad on the list below, A true discourse of the winning of the towne of Berke by Grave Maurice, which celebrates the military prowess of a great Dutch leader (see also Good Newes from Virginia).

During the early seventeenth century, however, the melody took a somewhat surprising turn, and the remaining ballads on the list below are all cautionary tales, most of them telling stories about sinful women who repent or receive punishment (sometimes both). The first of these, Prides fall: Or, A warning for all English Women, was a highly successful song in its own right, and it was clearly significant in shifting, or augmenting, the tune’s associations. All the subsequent ballads on the list reveal its influence (see, for example, Natures Wonder, which follows Prides fall in describing a ‘monstrous’ birth).

The continuing success of The Honour of a London Prentice suggests, however, that the tune’s manly and heroic resonances remained potent, and it is interesting to speculate on the interplay between songs – two of them certainly hits – that deployed the melody for such different subject matter. Perhaps it brought to the ballads about sinful women - Prides fall, for example - an upbeat hint of heroism that was not explicit in the text.

In A true Relation of one Susan Higges, for example, the tune may help to fashion a female criminal as an anti-hero, subverting all that is praiseworthy in The Honour of a London Prentice (including his masculinity, his honour and his dedication to duty). In A true Relation, Susan Higges is purposefully provocative, boasting, ‘We women still for gallant minds/ may well compare with men’. In the long term, the march-like manliness of the melody may have proved its strongest asset; it seems likely that a still-famous tune, ‘The British Grenadiers’, began life as a variant of ‘All you that are Good-Fellows’.

The melody provides the strongest connection between the songs but there are also a number of textual cross-references or affinities. Compare, for example, three pairs of half-verses:

Pair 1: ‘One hand held right the shape/ of a fair looking-glasse,/ In which I took delight/ how my vain beauty was’ [Prides fall]; ‘My Glass it was my Book,/ wherein I took delight;/ In it I usd to look,/ from morning until night’ [The Court-Miss Converted].

Pair 2: ‘For being faint for food,/ they scarcely could withstand/ The noble force, and fortitude,/ and courage of his hand’ [The Honour of a London Prentice]; ‘With Judgments for to humble them,/ and make them feel his hand:/ O turn unto the Lord in time,/ for none can him withstand’ [Natures Wonder].

Pair 3: ‘Where to the Magistrates/ in a most fearful sort,/ Began aloud to speak,/ and these words did report [Prides fall]; ‘Where thus, for twenty yeeres at least,/ I livd in gallant sort:/ Which made the Countrey marvell much,/ to heare of my report’ [A true Relation of one Susan Higges].

Although groups of songs to other tunes are sometimes more intricately interwoven in textual terms, it is nevertheless clear that the ballads set to this tune invite consideration in relation to one another.

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

Songs and Summaries

The Honour of a London Prentice. Wherein is declared his matchless Manhood, and brave Adventures... The Tune is, All you that are Good-Fellows (originally Elizabethan; W. Thackeray and T. Passinger, 1687-88). Pepys 3.252; EBBA 21266. Gender – masculinity; Employment – apprenticeship/service, professions; Places – English, extra-European, travel/transport; Politics – Royalist; foreign affairs; Royalty – praise; Violence – animals, interpersonal, punitive; Emotions – excitement, patriotism, pride; Bodies – clothing; Death – duelling/jousting, execution; Recreation – games/sports; Religion – Christ/God, Bible. This tells the story of a valiant young man from London, sent to Turkey as a merchant’s factor, who battles all-comers at the Sultan’s court and then defies death by pulling out the hearts of the lions appointed to eat him.

Good Newes from Virginia... To the tune of All those that be good fellowes (John Trundle, 1597-1626). National Archives, London, reprinted in E. D. Neill, Virginia Vetusta, 1885, pp. 147-53. Death – warfare; Emotions – pride, hope; Employment – sailors/soldiers, crafts/trades; Gender – marriage; Places – extra-European, travel/transport; Politics – foreign affiars, war; Violence – between states. This trumpets the bravery of those who are defending England’s colonies in Virginia against attacks from the native Americans.

A true discourse of the winning of the towne of Berke by Grave Maurice... To the Tune of All those that are good fellowes (copied out by hand, 1600-03). Shirburn ballads,  LXVII. Places – European; Politics – foreign affairs, war; Bodies – injury; Death – warfare; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Gender – masculinity; News – political, international; Violence – between states; Royalty – praise. This describes how Maurice of Nassau besieged the town of Rheinberg, hereby wresting it back from Spanish control.

Prides fall: Or, A warning for all English Women... The Tune is, All you that love good fellows (composed c. 1609 but perhaps to a different tune; registered 1656; F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1665-74). Euing 269; EBBA 31879. Family – pregnancy/childbirth, children/parents; Gender – femininity; Morality – general; Religion – Divine intervention, sin/repentance, Christ/God, Bible, Bodies – looks/physique, clothing, adornment; Emotions – pride, fear, shame, horror, wonder; Places – European, travel/transport; Recreation – fashions, food; Death – illness; Employment – professions; News – international, sensational. A vain and wealthy continental woman who craves a baby is punished by God with a monstrous birth, intended as a warning to her and all others of her sex.

A true Relation of one Susan Higges... To the tune of, The worthy London Prentice (F. C., 1624-80). Roxburghe 1.424-25; EBBA 30289. Crime – robbery/theft, murder, punishment; Death – execution, unlawful killing; Violence – interpersonal; Economy – livings; Places – English; Emotions – sorrow; Employment – female; Gender – femininity, cross-dressing, sex; Morality – general; Religion – sin/repentance; Bodies – physique/looks; Environment – roads. A woman describes her life of crime, brought finally to an end when she is convicted of murder.

Natures Wonder... The Tune is, London Prentice: Or, Jovial Batchelor (E. Andrews, 1664). Euing 237; EBBA 31785. Family – pregnancy/childbirth, siblings; Disability – physical; Bodies – looks/physique; Death – providential; Religion – sin/repentances, Christ/God, divine intervention; Morality – general; News – domestic, sensational; Emotions – wonder, fear;  Places – English. This describes a deformed baby born in Salisbury, interpreting the new arrival as a warning from God to all parents about the urgent need to repent their sins.

The Court-Miss Converted: OR, A Looking Glass for Ladies... Tune of, Englands fair dainty Dames (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-804-79?). Crawford 1317/1; EBBA 33986. Religion – sin/repentance, prayer; Gender – femininity, courtship; Bodies – looks/physique, clothing, adornment; Emotions – shame; Morality – general. A woman charts her journey from a life of pride and vanity to one of repentance and godliness, thus setting an example for ‘Ladies of each degree’.


The tune was also nominated for a festive song designed for Christmas Day in the collection, Good and True, Fresh and New Christmas Carols (1642). The first line is ‘All you that are good fellowes’ and it therefore seems possible that an earlier version of this song, now lost, may have been the source of one of the main tune titles, though we cannot be sure.

Christopher Marsh


Andrew Clark (ed.), The Shirburn ballads, 1585-1616 (Oxford, 1907), pp. 272-73.

Charles Coffey, The Devil to Pay (1731), p. 2.

The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, ed. J. A. Fuller Maitland and W. Barclay Squire, 2 vols (Leipzig, 1894-99), vol. 1, p. 57.

Good and True, Fresh and New Christmas Carols (1642), A3v-4r.

Claude Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 13-16.

Welde lute book (c. 1598-1603), private collection of Lord Forester, fo. 7.

Wit and mirth (1714), vol. 5, p. 259.

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: London apprentice composite

The purpose of this section is to provide evidence relating to  the career of the image under discussion, paying particular attention to the ‘reflections’ (inter-song associations and connections) that may have been set up if it was chosen to illustrate more than one ballad. The list given below includes all ballads from the Pepys and Roxburghe collections that feature this woodcut or a close variant (these are the two largest collections, including approximately 3300 sheets, in total). References to ballads from other collections occur only when the featured edition of the song under consideration here (or the featured edition of another song from our list) comes from such a source. Ballads from our chart of best-sellers are presented in bold type, and they also appear in colour where there is a link to another song in the database. Please note, however, that the editions of hit songs listed below are not necessarily those for which digital images are presented on this website. Cross-references to other examples of our featured woodcuts are also presented in bold. It is extremely difficult to date many ballads precisely and the chronological order in which the songs are listed is therefore very approximate (we have drawn on previous attempts to date the ballads, making adjustments when additional evidence can be brought into play).

Reflections (an overview)

This image was clearly designed specifically for the ballad, and viewers were presumably being encouraged to pick out the key narrative moments as they heard or read the text. This specificity naturally limited the woodcut’s relevance to other songs. All surviving copies and editions of The Honour of a London Prentice from the seventeenth century feature the image, but it is found on no other title in the two largest ballad collections. The only sheet listed below is therefore our featured edition. The picture stood so strongly for this particular tale that consumers perhaps did not wish or expect to encounter it on other ballads.

Several subtly different woodblocks were in existence, and printers clearly perceived the need to hold their own versions in stock. It is clear that the picture must have contributed to the song’s success, even when the blocks were peppered with woodworm holes. When the publisher Alexander Milbourn put out an edition in the late seventeenth century, during a period in which he evidently did not have access to the common woodblocks, he chose to commission a new copy of the famous picture, rather than make do with something less specific (he also had his initials carved onto the new block). This was clearly an image that demanded inclusion, even at considerable expense.

When other authors of the period mentioned this ballad in passing, it was often the apprentice's fight with the lions that sprang to mind; it seems likely that the picture played its part in establishing this incident as a key reference point (See also Song history).

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

Songs and summaries:

The Honour of a London Prentice. Wherein is declared his matchless Manhood, and brave Adventures (W. Thackeray and T. Passinger, 1687-88). Pepys 3.252; EBBA 21266. Gender – masculinity; Employment – apprenticeship/service, professions; Places – English, extra-European, travel/transport; Politics – Royalist; foreign affairs; Royalty – praise; Violence – animals, interpersonal, punitive; Emotions – excitement, patriotism, pride; Bodies – clothing; Death – duelling/jousting, execution; Recreation – games/sports; Religion – Christ/God, Bible. This tells the story of a valiant young man from London, sent to Turkey as a merchant’s factor, who battles all-comers at the Sultan’s court and then defies death by pulling out the hearts of the lions appointed to eat him (picture placement: the woodcut appears beneath the title, and there are no others).


A particularly fascinating version of the picture appears in miniature within the first of William Hogarth’s magnificent set of twelve engravings, collectively entitled Industry and idleness (1747). The individual title of this image is The fellow 'prentices at their looms, and it depicts two young men - one good, one bad - working under the watchful eye of their master. Tom Idle has clearly allowed his focus to drift from the task in hand, but his companion, Francis Goodchild, concentrates hard. He has also surrounded himself with suitably inspiring publications. One of these is a ballad entitled 'The London Prentice', and Hogarth has taken care to include an image of the hero with his hands in the mouths of two lions. This is clearly a tiny sketch of the famous ballad illustration, and viewers were surely expected to recognise it.

Christopher Marsh


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Related Texts

A highly successful chapbook version of the London apprentice’s story was written by John Shirley in c. 1686. As with his book about Guy of Warwick, Shirley here expanded a highly successful ballad into a fuller story, written in prose. His dependence on the ballad is obvious, both in the general trajectory of the narrative and in the language used. Expressions such as ‘brake his Neck asunder’, ‘the cruelest death the ever man dyed’ and ‘Swearing he was some Angel’ were all closely modelled on lines from the ballad, and there are many more examples.

More inventively, Shirley fills out the narrative at all points along the way, providing the reader with a wealth of new contextual details. The apprentice is now named Aurelius because he ‘promised great things’. In his childhood, he was a hungry consumer of chivalric tales, an observation that makes the connection with Guy of Warwick and others more explicit than it is in the ballad. Shirley also says more about the apprentice’s love interest; he falls for his master’s daughter before leaving for Turkey and, at the end of the story, he brings the Sultan’s daughter back with him to England (she also converts to Christianity). Again, such examples could be multiplied.

Curiously, another work by Shirley told the same story in 1700, under the title London’s glory. The black-letter text of the previous work is replaced by white-letter, perhaps because the publishers were now aiming at a somewhat wealthier and more sophisticated section of the market. And this is a new text, rather than a fresh edition of its precursor. It nevertheless presents a similar combination of detail from the ballad and newly-composed material. To add to the excitement of the ballad narrative, baby-Aurelius now kills a serpent in his cradle, smiling happily throughout the encounter. He later bites a bear on the nose before muzzling it (‘a dangerous tho’ successful Adventure’). The name Aurelius is now said to mark a connection with a British prince who fought against the Romans (this individual is difficult to identify precisely). And after dispatching the lions in the usual way, ‘our undaunted Youth’ asks the Sultan if there are any more big cats for him to fight.

Christopher Marsh

Texts (in chronological order)

The Honour of a London Prentice... The Tune is, All you that are Good-Fellows (composed late-sixteenth century; extant editions from 1658-64).

J. S. [John Shirley], The famous history of Aurelius the valiant London-prentice shewing his noble exploits at home and abroad, his love, and great success, very pleasant and delightful. Written for the incouragement of youth (1686). Subsequent editions appeared as The famous history of the valiant London-Prentice.

J.S. [John Shirley], London’s glory: or, The history of the famous and valiant London-‘prentice: Being an account of his parentage, birth and breeding together with many brave and heroick exploits perform’d by him throughout the course of his Life; to the honour of London, and the whole nation (1700).

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The Honour of a London  Prentice./ Wherein is declared his matchless Manhood, and brave Adventures, done by him in/ Turkey, and by what means he Married the Kings daughter of the same Country.

To Tune is , All you that are Good-Fellows.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


OF a worthy London Prentice,

my purpose is to speak,

And tell his brave adventures

done for his country sake,

Seek all the world about,

and you shall hardly find,

A man in valour to exceed

a Prentice gallant mind,


He was born in Cheshire,

the chief of men was he,

From thence brought up to London,

a Prentice for to be.

A Merchant on the Bridge,

did like his service so,

That for three years his Factor,

to Turky he should go,


And in that Famous Country,

one year he had not been,

E’re he by tilt maintained

the honour of his Queen,

Elizabeth the Princess,

he nobly did make known,

To be the Phenix of the world,

oand none but she alone.


In armour richly guilded,

well mounted on a steed,

One score of Knights most hardy,

one day he made to bleed:

And brought them all to ground,

who proudly did deny,

Elizabeth to be the Pearl,

of Princely Majesty.


The King of that same Countrey,

thereat began to frown,

And wil’d his Son there present

to pull this Youngster down,

Who at his Fathers words,

these boasting speeches said,

Thou art a Traytor, english boy,

and hast the Traytor plaid.


I am no boy nor traytor,

thy speeches I defie,

For which i’le be revenged,

upon thee by and by.

A London Prentice still,

shall prove as good a man,

As any of your Turkish Knights,

do all the best you can.


The second part, to the same Tune.


ANd there withal he gave him,

a box upon the ear,

Which broke his neck asunder,

as plainly doth appear,

Now know proud Turk quoth he,

I am no English Boy,

That can with one small box o’th ear

the Prince of Turks destroy.


When as the King perceiv[e]d,

his son so strangely slain

His soul was sore efflicted,

with more then Mortal pain,

And in revenge thereof,

he swore that he should dye,

The cruel’st death that ever man

beheld with mortal eye.


Two Lions were prepared

this prentice to devour,

Near famisht up with hungar,

ten days within a Tower,

To make them ear more fierce

and eager of their pray,

To glut themselves with humane gore

upon this dreadful day.


The appointed time of torment,

at length grew near at hand,

Where all the noble Ladies

and Barons of the Land

Attended on the King,

to see this prentice slain,

And buried in the hurgry maws

of these fierce Lyons twain.


Then in his shirt of Cambrick,

with silk most richly wrought,

This worthy London Prentice,

was from the prison brought,

And to the Lyons given

to stanch their hungar great,

Which had not eat in ten days space

not one small bit of meat.


But God that knows all secrets,

the matter so contriv’d,

That by this young man’s valour

they were of life depriv’d:

For being faint for food,

they scarcely could withstand,

The noble force and fortitude,

and courage of his hand:


For when the hungry Lyons

had cast on him their eyes,

The Elements did thunder

with the eccho of their cries

And running all amain

his body to devour,

Into their throats he thrust his arms,

with all his might and power.


From thence by manly valour

their hearts he tore in sunder,

And at the King he threw them,

to all the peoples wonder,

This have I done quoth he,

for lovely England’s sa[k]e,

And for my country Maiden Queen,

much more will undertake.


But when the King perceived

his wrothful lyons hearts,

Afflicted with great terrour,

his rigor soon reverts:

And turned all his hate

into remorse and love,

And said it was some Angel

sent down from heaven above.


No, no, I am no angel,

the courteous young man said,

But born in famous England,

where God’s wo[r]d is obeyd:

Assisted by the Heavens,

who did me thus befriend,

Or else they had most cruely,

brought here my life to end.


The king in heart amazed

lift up his eyes to heaven,

And for his foul offences,

did crave to be forgiven:

Believing that no Land

like England may be seen,

No people better governed

by vertue of a Queen,


So taking up this young man,

he pardon’d him his life,

And gave his Daughter to him

to be his wedded wife,

Where then they did remain,

and live in quiet peace,

In spending of their happy days,

in joy and love encrease.

Printed for W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger.

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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: Coles, Wright, Vere and Gilberston, 1656; Coles, Vere, Wright and Clarke, 1675; and Thackeray, 1689 (as 'London-Prentice').

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: none.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 9

No. of extant copies: 8

New tune-titles generated: '[The worthy] London prentice' (2 ballads). 

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: London apprentice composite on featured edition (and other editions).

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 75 references, with very occasional evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. 1016).

POINTS: 0 + 20 + 0 + 18 + 8 + 4 + 5 + 8 = 63

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This box will be used to highlight any new information on this song that might come to light after the launch of the website.

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