110  The doleful Dance, and Song of Death; Intituled, Dance after my Pipe [Pepys 2.62]

Author: Hill, Thomas

Recording: The doleful Dance, and Song of Death

Bodies - clothing Death - general Death - godly end Emotions - excitement Emotions - pride Employment - crafts/trades Employment - professions Gender - courtship Places - English Places - European Recreation - dance Recreation - fashions Recreation - music Religion - body/soul Religion - mortality Society - education Society - old/young Society - rich/poor

Song History

This ballad was almost certainly not the ‘The Daunce and songe of Death’ that was entered in the Stationers’ Register in 1569. A different broadside was issued under exactly this title (see Related texts) and the ballad in which we are currently interested mentions in its fourth verse an event that had not occurred in 1569: the famously disastrous meeting of the assizes court at Oxford  in 1577, when an outbreak of ‘gaol fever’ killed hundreds of people, including several important officials (see Walsham).

The ballad was definitely in circulation and attracting attention by c.1580, when a wealthy man named John Heyricke wrote from Leicester, asking his brother in London to send ‘one hundred of ballits [ballads]’, including ‘as many of shocking of the shits as yow can get’. Despite the idiosyncratic and somewhat unfortunate spelling, we can be certain that this was our song, which opens, 'Can you dance the shaking of the sheets'. Such clear evidence of personal ballad-acquisition is highly unusual and therefore precious. It also reminds us that ballads were performance-texts, often remembered by their opening lines, rather than by their titles.

The probability that the ballad was composed in the late 1570s is further reinforced by the switch of a single letter that occurred at some point between this date and the 1650s. The oldest surviving version appears in a British Library manuscript of the early seventeenth century, and the first line of the verse about the Oxford catastrophe runs, ‘Thinke on the solempe syses last’ but in surviving printed versions, all of which were issued at least eighty years after the event, the word ‘last’ has been changed to ‘past’. This alteration was probably designed to suit the perspectives of later generations, for whom the ‘Black Assize’ of 1577 was a historical curiosity rather than a fresh memory.

Another puzzle surrounds the song’s composer. None of the surviving printed texts carries the name of an author but the British Library’s manuscript version attributes it to Thomas Hill. This early seventeenth-century text was very similar to surviving printed copies and it therefore seems likely that the compiler of the manuscript was transcribing a published broadside, now lost, that included the author’s name. It has sometimes been suggested that this was the Benedictine monk, Edmund Hill (also known as ‘Thomas of St. Gregory’), but he was in his early teens in 1578-79 and therefore seems a most unlikely candidate.

Another possible candidate is the man named Thomas Hill who wrote and translated several books about dreams, gardening, astrology, chemistry and medicine in the mid-sixteenth century. Unfortunately for us (and for him), Hill died around 1574 and so cannot have written the verse about the Oxford assizes. It is of course possible that a now lost text, composed before 1577, was merely updated by the addition of a single, topical verse.

Although surviving copies of the ballad all seem to date from the mid- or late-seventeenth century, it had certainly been in circulation for many decades already. There were several editions between the 1650s and the 1680s, and those issued after c.1664 usually included a second piece – A Godly Ballad of the Just Man Job – on the same sheet (an essay on patient suffering to add to the main song’s darkly humorous call for contemplation of mortality). The popularity of the The doleful Dance seems to have declined somewhat after the 1680s and there is no evidence that it survived in the repertoires of folk-singers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This decline may reflect an eventual fading of the pre-modern notion that death could and should be discussed openly and with humour. The ballad is a highly compelling example of the ‘dance of death’ tradition that is often associated with the late-medieval fixation on demise and decay in the wake of the cataclysmic Black Death of 1346-53. As The doleful Dance suggests, however, the representation of Death as a scary skeleton who worked his way through society without fear or favour was alive and kicking throughout the early modern period. ‘The shaking of the sheets’ was also a well-known dance, though it is not entirely clear whether it preceded the ballad or grew out of it (see Featured tune history).

The culture of death changed in many significant ways as a consequence of the English Reformation (see Gittings, Houlbrooke and Marshall) but the ‘dance of death’ tradition appears to have been relatively untouched. It had the advantage of denominational neutrality because it said nothing about controversial issues such as intercession for the souls of the dead. The figure of Death was neither Catholic nor Protestant, and the basic responsibility of clergymen and moralists to urge awareness of mortality pertained on either side of the divide. Similarly, the dance’s potent message about the socially levelling effects of death retained its force throughout the turbulence of the Reformation.

Admittedly, England’s most famous visual representation of the ‘dance of death’, in the Pardon Churchyard at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, was destroyed in 1549 on the orders of the committedly Protestant Duke of Somerset, but it seems that the pictures were caught up in the assault upon a controversial tomb, rather than targeted because of their content (Appleford). Zealous Protestant divines were surely less likely than their late-medieval priests to treat the subject of death with knockabout humour, and they generally did not wish to see such macabre mirth on the walls of churches, but the ‘dance of death’ motif was not of itself a cause of particular concern.

Late-medieval church murals of the ‘dance of death’ sometimes survived the Reformation – in the Guildhall chapel at Stratford (Warwickshire), for example – and representations of the figure of Death were occasionally painted on church walls even after the mid-sixteenth century (Watt). It seems likely, however, that many visual versions of the 'dance of death' shared the fate of the one at St. Paul's, caught in the Reformation crossfire.

We might therefore think of The doleful Dance as a multi-media successor to these ecclesiastical murals.  The ballad-makers avoided all the references to the popes and cardinals that characterised late-medieval works in the genre, and they also steered well clear of the fierce sectarian controversy that surrounded the ‘Black Assize’ (Walsham). In all other respects, however, they followed the established patterns of the ‘dance of death’ very precisely. Like other religious tropes, the ‘dance of death’ skipped out of the church to find a new life on the printed page. Admittedly, ballad-consumers had to use their imaginations because the woodcut actually represents Death and Time rather than the 'dance of death' but it was close enough (see Featured woodcut history). The ballad provided something familiar in a changing world, and it may therefore have played a small part in helping the people of England to negotiate their way through the Reformation.

The success of The doleful Dance should also be related to the skilful and witty manner in which its creators went about their task. The opening verse, for example, is deliberately provocative and ear-catching. ‘The shaking of the sheets’ was normally a metaphor for sexual intercourse (see, for example, the anonymous Humble petition) but here it is re-purposed to describe the physical fits that often accompanied death. Of course, the connection between sex and death was an Elizabethan favourite, and the song’s opening lines were cleverly constructed to confuse and amuse. The opening question (‘Can you dance the shaking of the sheets, a dance that every one must do?’) clearly implies sex but very soon we realise the dreadful truth (‘Make ready then your winding sheet’).

The song also presents an impressively concise survey of society from the king to the beggar and we might imagine consumers listening out for the types most relevant to them. Some of Death’s warnings were also stylishly menacing in the great tradition of the ‘dance of death’: ‘And all good fellows that flash and swash,/ In reds and yellows of revel dash,/ I warrant you need not be so rash’. Bob Dylan could hardly have put it more effectively.

Christopher Marsh


Anon, The humble petition of many thousands of wives and matrons of the city of London (1643), p. 6.

Amy Appleford, ‘The dance of death in London: John Carpenter, John Lydgate, and the Daunce of Poulys’, Journal of medieval and early modern studies, 38.2 (Spring, 2008), pp. 285-314.

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

John Considine, ‘Hill, Thomas [pseud. Didymus Mountaine] (c. 1528-c.1574)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

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

English Short Title Catalogue.

Clare Gittings, Death, burial and the individual in early modern England (1984).

John Heyricke, letter to William Heyricke (c. 1580), MS Eng. Hist c.474, no. 159, Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Ralph Houlbrooke, Death, religion and the family in England, 1480-1750 (Oxford, 1998).

Peter Marshall, Beliefs and the dead in Reformation England (Oxford, 2002).

Religious poems and songs (c. 1616), British Library, Add MS 15225, fos. 15r-16r. For a transcript, see the University of Rochester’s Middle English Texts series: https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/cook-and-strakhov-dance-of-death-shaking-sheets

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. 2408 (see also 480).

Alexandra Walsham, Providence in early modern England (Oxford, 1999), pp. 234-36.

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Featured Tune History

‘To a Pleasant New Tune’ (standard name: The shaking of the sheets)

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 interesting and irregular melody can be found in two principal sources: William Ballet’s lute book (late sixteenth or early seventeenth century); and John Hawkins’ A general history of the science and practice of music (1776).

The Ballet version is unclearly recorded and therefore difficult to decipher, but it begins to make more sense when considered alongside Hawkins’ rendition. The two examples are clearly versions of the same tune, and both sources entitle it ‘The shaking of the sheets’ (an expression that occurs in the opening line of our ballad).  Hawkins, moreover, identifies his version as a ‘very ancient country-dance tune’. We have used his tune for our recording. The melody is also quoted playfully in the final section of William Byrd’s keyboard fantasy ‘Ut re mi fa sol la’ and, with extracts from our ballad’s text, in William Cobbolds quodlibet (or medley of popular tunes), ‘New fashions’.

‘The shaking of the sheets’ was strongly associated with dancing and does not appear to have been known by alternative names. It is mentioned as a dance in 'Misogonus', a manuscript play of c.1571, and in several subsequent sources. Confusion arises, however, because Playford regularly published another dance tune under the title ‘The shaking of the sheets’. This is a completely different melody and does not fit The doleful Dance at all well.

Echoes (an overview)

Verses set to this dance tune required an asymmetrical seven-line pattern (see 'Postscript', below). Probably for this reason, it was nominated only very rarely for the singing of ballads. By far the most successful was The doleful Dance, and Song of Death, an Elizabethan composition that brilliantly redeployed the sexy dance-related mood and associations of the tune in order to energise a ballad about the importance of preparing for death (‘The shaking of the sheets’ was a euphemism for intercourse).

Of course, such black humour was very much in the medieval ‘dance of death’ tradition, and success of the song into the seventeenth century is interesting for this reason. The only other ballad listed below re-told the well-known story of a medieval king who set riddles to test a wealthy abbot. Perhaps the medieval feel of the two songs made them mutually reinforcing. More certainly, the lively mood and resonances of the tune helped to augment the joke.

Songs and Summaries

The doleful Dance, and Song of Death; Intituled, Dance after my Pipe [issued with A Godly Ballad of the Just Man Job] (registered 1568-69; F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, J. Clarke, W. Thackeray, and T. Passenger, 1680-81). Pepys 2.62; EBBA 20686. Death – godly end, general; Recreation – dance, music, fashions; Religion - Employment – crafts/trades, professions; Gender – courtship; Emotions – excitement; Bodies – clothing; Society – rich/poor, old/young, education. Death dances through society and summons all sorts of men and women to follow him.

The Old ABBOT AND King OLFREY. To the Tune of, The Shaking of the Sheets (J. Wright, J. Clarke, W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger, 1682-84). Pepys 2.127; EBBA 20747. History – medieval; Humour – deceit/disguise, verbal; Politics – domestic, court; Religion – clergy; Royalty – authority; Bodies – clothing; Economy – hardship/prosperity, livings; Emotions – suspicion, anxiety, relief; Employment – professions, aprrenticeship/service, agrarian; Family – siblings. The king threatens to confiscate the lands of a rich abott unless he can answer three riddles, and the churchman has to call upon the wisdom of his brother, a mere shepherd, in order to pass the test.


Arguably, the seven-line stanzas of The doleful Dance, and Song of Death generate a mood of irregularity that seems to suit the subject matter. It is as if the tune has been cut short unexpectedly, and the mood of restlessnes is further enhanced by the somewhat rootless feel of the melody (where is the bass note of the scale upon which it is built?) It is interesting that an anonymous late-medieval text in the same tradition, entitled 'The dawnce of Makabre', was also written in seven-line stanzas.

In other literary sources, ‘the shaking of the sheets’ is used very regularly to signal some combination of dancing and sex (see, for example, Thomas Dekker’s The shoemakers holiday and the ballad entitled The West-Country jigg, 1672-96). In A BAWD (1635), John Taylor listed ‘the Shaking of the sheets’ as one of the ‘pretty provocatory Dances’ that prostitutes used in order to drum up business. Our hit ballad tapped into these associations and may even had done a little to supplement them. In Middleton’s The Meeting of Gallants at an Ordinarie (1604), a character who dies is said to have ‘daunced the shaking of one sheet’, apparently a reference to the throes of death.

Christopher Marsh


Anon, 'The dawnce of Makabre' (early sixteenth century?), University of Rochester, Middle English texts series:  https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/cook-and-strakhov-dance-of-death-dawnce-makabre

Anon, 'Misogonus' (c. 1571). See Lester E. Barber, ' "Misogonus: Edited with an introduction (PhD thesis, University of Arizona, 1967), p. 172.

William Ballet, lute book (late sixteenth or early seventeenth century), Trinity College Dublin, MS 408, p. 84.

Jeremy Barlow (ed.), The Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford’s Dancing Master (1985), no. 70.

William Byrd, ‘Ut re mi fa sol la’, can be heard on Glen Wilson’s CD, Byrd: Complete Fantasias for Harpsichord (Naxos, 2010), track 13.

William Cobbold. ‘New fashions’, can be heard on Circa 1500’s CD, New Fashions – Cries and ballads of London (CRD, 1992), track 21.

Thomas Dekker’s The shoemakers holiday (1600), K1v.

John Hawkins, A general history of the science and practice of music, 5 vols. (1776), vol. 5, pp. 469 and 481.

Thomas Middleton, The Meeting of Gallants at an Ordinarie (1604), C3r.

Claude Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 651-53.

John Taylor, A BAWD (1635), B4r.

John M. Ward, ‘Apropos The British broadside ballad and its music’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 20.1 (Spring 1967), pp. 73-74.

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Walk of death

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 woodcut was strongly associated with The doleful Dance and it appears on more than one surviving edition (though the earliest extant version of the ballad, published around 1660, displays a different picture). The ballad is clearly in the 'dance of death' tradition (see Song history), but the woodcut actually depicts Death and Time, rather than the dance itself. The relevance of the picture to the song is nevertheless obvious. The skeleton and his assistant quickly take on the grim jollity that is conveyed by the tune and the text. We see the two macabre figures coming for us, whoever and wherever we are, to the sound of raucous music and rattling bones (‘For death is the man that all must meet’).

All surviving copies of the picture were produced from the same woodblock, including the one that appears on the only other ballad listed below. In this case, a special verse is included within the subtitle, informing ‘Papists’ that Death and Time have come for the condemned plotter, Edward Coleman, but also warning other Catholics against similar subversion. This ties the picture to the new ballad, but the skeleton in the picture may also carry with him - along with his spade and dart - some hint of the mocking tone that characterised The doleful Dance.

Songs and summaries

The Plotter Executed: OR, The Examination, Tryal, Condemnation, and Execution, of Edward Coleman Esquire (P. Brooksby, 1678). Roxburghe 3.32; EBBA 30386.  Crime – treason; Death – execution; Religion – Catholicism/Protestantism, divine intervention, sin/repentance; Politics – plots, domestic, treason; Emotions – hatred; Violence – punitive. News – convicts/crimes, political. A vehemently anti-Catholic ballad about the arrest, trial and execution of Edward Coleman, allegedly a participant in the Popish Plot of 1678 (picture placement: it appears over the opening lines, immediately below an additional verse about the premature arrival of Death and Time that appears to have been written specifically to fit the picture).

The doleful Dance, and Song of Death; Intituled, Dance after my Pipe [issued with A Godly Ballad of the Just Man Job] (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, J. Clarke, W. Thackeray, and T. Passenger, 1680-81). Pepys 2.62; EBBA 20686. Death – godly end, general; Recreation – dance, music, fashions; Religion - Employment – crafts/trades, professions; Gender – courtship; Emotions – excitement; Bodies – clothing; Society – rich/poor, old/young, education. Death dances through society and summons all sorts of men and women to follow him (picture placement: it appears beneath the title, and there is no other wooduct).


Representations of Death as a skeleton were, of course, extremely common in pre-modern culture. Though we perhaps tend to think of the figure of Death as a medieval icon, The doleful Dance suggests that an appetite for this thoroughly traditional imagery remained strong into the seventeenth century. Pictures such as this one reminded viewers wordlessly to remember that death could strike at any moment and that it was therefore imperative to make godly preparation.

Christopher Marsh

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Related Texts

Many other texts of the period addressed the ‘dance of death’ theme. These reveal general similarities to The doleful Dance but precise verbal affinities are not very common. One important work was The dance of death (c. 1426), written by John Lydgate, the ‘monk of Bury’ and a prolific poet. This was a translation of a French text about the newly fashionable ‘danse macabre’ and it clearly remained well-known in England during the sixteenth century.

In 1549, for example, Lydgate’s contribution to the genre was published as ‘The daunce of Machabree’ at the end of his translation of Boccaccio’s Fall of princes (see Boccaccio). At one point, Lydgate’s figure of Death warns an archbishop that he ‘pursueth every coast’, an expression echoed in the fifth verse of the ballad when Death asks  ‘am I not in every Coast?’ It is unclear whether this indicates that the ballad-maker was aware of Lydgate’s text; many tropes moved freely through the ‘dance of death’ literature without necessarily indicating the direct influence of one particular source on another (references to ‘winding sheets’ were common, for example).

Another relevant work was The Daunce and Song of Death, an anonymous Elizabethan broadside that presented the famous metaphor in pictorial form with explanatory boxes of text (see also Marke well the effect, 1580). It is also worth mentioning a ballad called Deaths Dance, registered with the Stationers in 1631. This warned a range of social types to consider their mortality in the usual way but was particularly notable for its skilfully assembled composite ‘dance of death’ image, created by bringing three separate woodcuts together.

And in 1632, Walter Colman’s La dance machabre or Death’s duell managed to extend the dance of death to a remarkable 262 verses. Four words, found on the first page, conveyed the central message more precisely: ‘We must all die’.

Christopher Marsh


Douglas Gray, ‘Lydgate, John (c. 1370-1449/50?), poet and prior of Hatfield Regis’ (2004), Oxford dictionary of national biography.

John Lydgate, ‘The daunce of Machabree’ (c. 1426), included at the end of Giovanni Boccaccio, A treatise excellent and compendious, shewing and declaring, in maner of tragedy, the falles of sondry most notable princes and princesses... translated into our English and vulgare tong, by Dan John Lidgate monke of Bury (1554), fos. 220-224.

John Lydgate, ‘Dance of death’, ed. Megan L. Cooks and Elizaveta Strakhov, University of Rochester, Middle English texts series: https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/publication/cook-and-strakhov-dance-of-death

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The doleful Dance, and Song of Death; Intituled, Dance after my Pipe.

To a Pleasant New Tune.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


CAn you dance the shaking of the sheets,

a dance that every one must do?

Can you trim it up with dainty sweets,

and every thing as longs thereto?

Make ready then your winding sheet,

And see how you can bestir your feet,

For death is the man that all must meet.


Bring away the Begger and the King,

and every man in his degree,

Bring the old and the youngest thing,

come all to death and follow me.

The Courtier with his lofty looks,

The Lawyer with his learned Books,

The Banker with his baiting=hooks.


Merchants have you made your Mart in France,

in Italy and all about?

Know you not that you and I must dance,

both our he[e]ls wrapt in a clout:

What mean you to make your houses gay,

And I must take the Tenant away,

And dig for your sakes the clods of clay.


Think you on the solemn Sizes past,

how suddenly in Oxfordshire,

I came and made the Judges all agast,

and Justices that did appear,

And took both Bell and Baram away,

And many a worthy man that day,

And all their bodies brought to clay.


Think you that I dare not come to Schools,

where all the cunning Clerks be most?

Take I not always both wise and fools,

and am I not in every Coast?

Assure your selves no creature can,

Make death affraid of any man,

Or know my coming where or when.


where be they that make their Leases strong

and joyn about them land to land,

Do you make account to live so long,

to have the world come to your hand:

No foolish nowle, for all thy pence,

Full soon thy soul must needs go hence,

Then who shall toyl for thy defense.


And you that lean on your Ladies laps,

and lay your heads upon their knee,

Think you for to play with beautious paps,

and not to come and dance with me:

No, fair Lords and Ladies all,

I will make you come when I do call,

And find you a Pipe to dance withal.


And you that are busie-headed fools,

to bubble of a pelting straw,

Know you not that I have ready tools,

to cut you from your crafty Law:

And you that safely buy and sell,

And think you make your Markets well,

Must dance with death wheresoe’re you dwel


Pride must have a pretty sheet, I see,

for properly she loves to dance,

Come away my wanton Wench to me,

as gallantly as your eye can glance:

And all good fellows that flash and swash,

In reds and yellows of revel dash,

I warrant you need not be so rash.


For I can quickly cool you all,

how hot or stout so e’re you be,

Both high and low, both great and small,

I nought do fear your high degree.

The Ladies fair, the Beldams old,

The Champions stout, the Souldier bold,

Must all with me to earthly mold.


Therefore take time while it is lent,

prepare with me your selves to dance,

Forget me not, your lives lament,

I come oftentimes by sudden chance.

Be ready therefore, watch and pray,

That when my Minstrel pipe doth play,

You may to Heaven dance the way.



A Godly Ballad of the Just Man Job.

Wherein his great patience he doth declare,/ His plagues and his miseries, and yet did not despair.

The Tune is, The Merchant.


WAlking all alone,

No not long agone,

I heard one wail and weep;

alas he said,

I am laid

In sorrow strong and deep,


To hear him cry,

I did reply,

and privily abode,

there did I find,

in secret mind,

the just and patient Job.


His woful pain

Did me constrain,

by force to wail and moan,

God did him prove,

How he did love,

the living Lord alone.


In heaviness,

He did express,

these words with bitter tears,

alas poor man,

wretched I am,

in care myself out=wares.


This mortal life,

Is but a strife,

a battel great and strong,

my years also,

to wast and go,

and not continue long.


The day wherein,

I did begin

to move and stir my breath,

would God I had,

an exchange made,

and turned unto death.


So should not I

In misery,

be wrapped as I am,

the time and day,

well curse I may,

when to this world I came.


For my faults past,

I am out-cast,

and of all men abhor’d,

O that I might,

once stand in sight,

to reason with the Lord.


I should then know,

Why he doth show

this extream cruelty,

upon his flesh,

which is but grass,

and born is for to dye.


From top to toe,

I feel with woe,

that sorrow is my meat,

put to exile,

with Botch and Boyl,

and dung=hill is my fear.


My Kinsfolk talk

And by me walk,

wondring at my fall,

they count my state,


and so forsake me all.


My children five,

Which were alive,

they all be quite destroy’d,

the Plague fell

on my Cattel,

with all that I enjoy’d.


Should I for them

My God Blaspheme,

and his good gifts despise,

that will I not,

but take my lot,

giving his name the praise.


They were not mine,

But for a time,

I know well it is so,

God gave them me,

why should not he,

again take them me fro.


Thus having said,

Full still I staid,

his end for to behold,

I there did see,

his felicity,

increasing manifold.


I know well then,

How patient men,

should not suffer in vain,

but shall be sure,

to have pleasure,

rewarded for their pain.


Printed for F. Coles, T. Vere,/ J. Wright, J. Clarke,/ W. Thackeray and/ T. Passenger.

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

Shirburn ballads: not included.

Appearances on Ballad Partners' lists: Pavier and partners, 1624 (as 'Shakeing of the sheets' from the first line); and Thackeray, 1689 ('Shaking of the sheets').

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: none.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 5.

No. of extant copies: 8

New tune-titles generated: 'The shaking of the sheets' (1 ballad).

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: none established with certainty.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 6 references, with no evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. V11404).

POINTS: 0 + 20 + 0 + 10 + 8 + 2 + 0 + 0 = 40

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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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