26  The Whig Rampant:/OR, EXALTATION [Euing 389]

Author: Anonymous, D'Urfey, Thomas (1653?–1723), Quarles, Francis (1592-1644)

Recording: The Whig Rampant

Death - execution Emotions - joy History - recent Humour - satire Politics - Civil War/Interregnum Politics - Popish Plot/Exclusion Crisis Politics - Royalist Politics - Tories/Whigs Politics - celebration Politics - controversy Politics - domestic Politics - plots Politics - satire Recreation - good fellowship Religion - Catholic/Protestant Religion: Protestant/Puritan

Song History

The Whig Rampant was first published on a broadside in 1682, in a white-letter format, under the title The Whig's Exaltation. Two black-letter editions, one of which is featured here, were published by Philip Brooksby between 1682 and 1684. 

Historical Context

Though published in 1682, The Whig Rampant took its listeners back in time: first, to the outbreak of the civil wars in 1642 (see 'Authorship' below) and, second, to March 1681 when a newly elected Parliament had assembled in ardently royalist Oxford. It was immediately clear to the king’s party that majorities in both houses were prepared to pass legislation excluding Charles II’s brother and heir, the avowedly Catholic James duke of York, from the throne. After just a week, the king dissolved the Parliament, driving political debate ‘out of doors’ and depriving exclusionist Whigs of any legislative power. At the same time, the king's sudden and decisive action helped to firm up allegiances to and political differences between exclusionist ‘Whig’ and pro-Court ‘Tory’ partisans.

A key feature of the partisan politics created by the 'Exclusion Crisis' was that the ballad market became an important arena for political campaigning. After 1681, however, it had also become an increasingly dangerous place for whig-aligned balladeers, as was gleefully noted in the black-letter edition of The Whig Rampant:

But now the Days are alter'd since,
as College plain did see:
If we Rebel against our Prince,
to Tyburn hey go we. 

The allusion was to Stephen Colledge, a carpenter and dedicated Whig campaigner. He was executed for treason in August 1681, ostensibly for authoring, performing, and distributing a seditious song, topped with an equally seditious engraved satirical image entitled The Raree Show. Colledge, ridiculously dressed in costume armour, had performed the song in the street outside the Oxford parliament's meeting place, while the sheets were distributed with the aid of his publisher, Francis Smith (who fled the country to avoid arrest). During his trial, the soldierly nature of his costume led to accusations that he had armed himself against the king. At the same time, both the song and image were said to have called for the king to be toppled from power.

By the time Philip Brooksby published The Whig Rampant for the retail market, the days had indeed ‘alter’d’ for the Whigs. Their leader, Anthony Ashley Cooper, earl of Shaftesbury, had been imprisoned and, on being released, fled the country after narrowly escaping being tried for treason. Another leading Whig, the duke of Monmouth, had been banished from the court.

Not all was yet lost, however, and for a while the London Whigs still retained some power. It was thanks to London’s whiggish grand jury that Shaftesbury was able to escape trial. Meanwhile, the ardently pro-Court and pro-Tory apologist, Nathaniel Thompson, who published D’Urfey’s song as The Whig’s Exaltation in white-letter with musical notation, was tried, imprisoned, and pilloried by the City’s Whig authorities for seeking to create division by raising memories of the civil war. Thompson’s shameful punishment was itself celebrated in a song entitled: ‘The Knight of the Wooden Ruffs Exaltation’, which was printed in Trincalo Sainted (1682), an anthology of pro-Whig songs,

Despite this moment of success, things soon went from bad to worse for the London Whigs, who lost the shrieval elections and, in consequence, their control over London's grand jury. Tory apologists pressed their advantage: in the case of our song, a second white-letter edition of The Whig Rampant appeared, without music, that was (allegedly) printed for ‘H. B.’ This was most likely a pirated edition by a printer who was not adept at music printing, though, alternatively, it may have been surreptitiously issued by Mary Thompson in her husband’s absence.

It was some time after this, possibly not until 1683, that Brooksby deemed it safe enough to openly produce an adapted and lengthened black-letter version of the song. In response to Thompson’s and Brooksby’s songs, Whig writers and publishers produced both a black-letter ballad, THE Popish Tories Confession, and a bitingly satirical white-letter version called The Tories Confession. The latter song was issued anonymously, for fear of official retribution, but the former was so popular it was printed for the Ballad Partners.


The Whig Rampant not only took its listeners back to the events of 1681, but parts of the ballad were directly lifted from a very well-known royalist song. Originally titled ‘The Roundheads Race’ it was written in 1642 by the much revered poet and propagandist, Francis Quarles. In 1646, Quarles' song was published in his Shepherds Oracles (pp. 139-41) and in 1662, it was re-published under the title ‘A Song. To the Tune of Cuckolds all a-row’, in Henry Brome’s huge royalist anthology RUMP: OR AN EXACT COLLECTION Of the Choycest POEMS AND SONGS RELATING TO THE Late Times. In 1681, another version of Quarles' original song (lengthened from eight to twelve verses) was anonymously published on a broadside under the title A Proper New Brummigham Ballad. (The joke here was that the song was not new - like 'Brummigham' [Birmingham] brass coins and buttons – it was a fake.)

In 1682, Thomas D'Urfey reused parts of Quarles' song and combined them with some contemporary additions of his own for his new play, The Royalist (1682), which was set in the time of the civil war. The play song had just five verses and a later edition of the song had six verses. Hands other than D'Urfey's extended Thompson's white-letter version to eight verses and Brooksby's black-letter edition to ten verses. 


The Whig Rampant used both old and new verses to liken exclusionist Whigs to the Presbyterian rebels and regicides of the civil-war and interregnum. Brooksby's chosen illustrations for his black-letter "crossover' version [see Ballad Business essay] were deliberately reminiscent of cuts that had appeared on songs published in the 1640 (one had already appeared on his hugely popular Ballad of the Cloak in 1679). Making sure that the signficance of the cuts would not be missed, the visual memories the images evoked were amplified with speech bubbles, notably in the cut of a puritan preaching from a ‘tub’ or ‘cask’. On one edition, he says, "Remember the good old cause" while on our featured version he declares, 'I am moved by the spirit' (see also Featured woodcut history).

Both songs accused the Whigs of being current threats to the peace of the kingdoms and claimed that they had been behind a recent shocking attack on a full-length portrait of the duke of York, hanging in Guildhall, in which his image was slashed below the knees:

We'l cut his Royal Highness down,
e'n shorter by the Knee:
That he shall never reach the Throne …

We'l smite the Idol in Guild-Hal,
and then (as we were wont)
We'l cry it was a Popish=Plot,
and Swear those Rogues have don't [i.e. done it]


Given its theatrical performances, its multiple editions, its ‘crossover’ to the popular retail market (see the Ballad Business essay), and the fact that it sparked several responses in kind, it seems clear that The Whig Rampant became very popular. D’Urfey included it in his 1683 song collection, as did Nathaniel Thompson in his loyal anthology of songs in 1684 (see Related Texts). Most of the known political collectors of the period had a copy of the edition with musical notation ––including Narcissus Luttrell, Elias Ashmole, and John Verney––though it is not known who bought the five surviving black-letter copies.

Angela McShane


Jane Wessel, ‘Performing “A Ra-ree Show” : Political Spectacle and the Treason Trial of Stephen College’, Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700, 38.1 (2014) 3-17.

G. M. Peerbooms, Nathaniel Thompson, Tory Printer, Ballad-Monger and Propagandist (Nijmegen, 1983)

Angela McShane, The Ballad Trade and its Politics in Seventeenth Century Britain (Woodbridge, forthcoming), ch. 8.

Thomas D'Urfey, The Royalist (1682), pp. 49-50

Back to contents

Featured Tune History

To the tune of ‘Hey boys up go we’ (standard name)

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

The tune was usually known as ‘Hey boys up go we’, though on rare occasions it was also named ‘Forty One’ or ‘41’ (a reference to the Civil War period, implying that the danger of rebellion was still present in the 1680s). Notation can be found in numerous sources, and there is considerable variation in the melodic details of the surviving versions. This was clearly a living tune that evolved as it travelled through English song culture during the late seventeenth century.

The melody probably existed before the 1680s, though it is referred to as 'New' on our featured edition of The Whig Rampant. Either way, this hit ballad was crucial in establishing it as one of the period’s most successful tunes. The Whig Rampant also appeared in white-letter editions with the title, The WHIG’s Exaltation, and the musical notation that features on one of these (EBBA 34895) has been used in our recording. The publisher was Nathaniel Thompson, and the same notation also appeared on other white-letter songs that bore his name (for example, Great York and Albany and An Excellent New Hymne To the Mobile).

In this version of the tune, there are four beats in a bar, and the same is true of the melody that appeared repeatedly in Thompson’s A Choice Collection of 180 Loyal Songs (1685), though the tune here differed from the ballad example in several particulars. From 1683, however, the melody was also known in triple-time versions (three beats per bar) that have the effect of replacing its march-like mood with something more lilting and, perhaps, humorous (see, for example, Humphrey Salter’s The Genteel Companion, 1683). Playford’s Dancing-Master included the tune from c. 1682 onwards, switching from quadruple to triple time in 1695.

The tune remained very well-known in the eighteenth century and was called for in a number of ballad-operas (see, for example, Charles Coffey’s The Devil to Pay, 1731). With four beats per bar, it was also written out by hand in the tune-book kept by the Newcastle hostman and recreational violinist, Henry Atkinson, during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Echoes (an overview)

This well-known and distinctive tune exerted considerable influence through its nomination on numerous ballads of the late seventeenth century. It may already have existed for some time – the text had a history going back to c. 1642 (see Song history) - but ‘the tune of Hey boys up go we’ exploded onto the black-letter ballad scene with the publication of The Whig Rampant in 1682. This loyalist song mocked the Whigs by placing words in their mouths, a device that set the tone for a number of the tune’s subsequent appearances. On several occasions, it was selected for the singing of political songs that combined loyalty to the monarch, particularly Charles II, with references to masculinity and the drinking of healths (see, for example, Merry Boys of Christmas). These potent associations were complicated by the fact that the tune also served for occasional anti-Tory songs that were clearly written in response to the models, and also by the shifting circumstances that saw it named on songs in support of William and Mary.

It has sometimes been regarded as a primarily political tune, and it therefore comes as a surprise that ballads about affairs of state are heavily outnumbered in the list of black-letter sheets presented below by songs about gender relations (courtship, marriage and particularly sex). The associations with politics and gender were so strong and consistent that the melody probably had the capacity both to politicise sex and to sexualise politics. The experience of moving from a song in which the last part of each verse discusses sexual penetration (‘And presently I down will lie,/ Oh! then Boy put it in’) to another in which the corresponding lines declare devotion to Queen Mary (‘Come Loyal Lads unto the Queen/ and briskly let it go’) can still deliver a certain frisson. Politics and gender were perhaps connected in songs such as The Country Lass for me, which romanticised rural living and argued that maidens from the countryside were far more desirable than their city cousins (another series of songs deployed the tune to argue more generally for the superiority of country life, stressing its simplicity, its honesty, its authenticity and its ignorance of politics).

By the standard of many romantic ballads, a number of those set to ‘Hey boys up go we’ are crude and explicit in their treament of sex, and it seems possible that this fed the tastes of a predominantly male portion of the audience which, influenced by the political drinking songs, had already come to feel that the tune was its own (see, for example, The Wanton Maidens Choice). Most of the songs listed below fitted one or other of these interlocking themes, though there were occasional outliers such as MONEY, MONEY, a song that shares with the ABBA hit a focus on the power of wealth as a driver of human behaviour. In some ways, the 1680s and the 1980s were a little closer together than we might imagine.

The songs listed below are connected with one another not only by their tune but by a series of intertextual echoes. Ballad-makers had particular fun with the flexibility of the refrain and it appeared in numerous connected forms: ‘hey boys up go we’, ‘hey Boys, slap goes she’, ‘ hey boys down Ile lye’, ‘such Tories now are we’, and so on. The expression ‘up go we’ was used repeatedly and came to take on a number of different meanings, each adding a new layer to the tune’s associations. It suggested the anticipation of imminent success on the part of its singers (as in The Whig Rampant) but it could also imply the prospect of execution (as in The Jesuits Exaltation, where a group of condemned Catholics expect to ascend the gallows). It also indicated sexual intercourse, and one angry wife refused to let her husband play at ‘hey Boys up go we’.

Beyond the refrains, there were further echoes. Love in a Mist, for example, rhymes the lines ‘Imbracing her, he laid her down’ and ‘I pray thee now my fancy Crown’, while Have-at a Venture juxtaposes ‘and sofly he laid her down’ and ‘and her delights did Crown’. In both of these sexual songs, moreover, a woman worked a man ‘till he began to blow’. And several songs contrast the ‘up’ of the refrain with lines that refer to various entities that travel in the opposite direction: ‘And when their B[ishop]s are pull’d down’ (Whig Rampant); ‘Who’d pull the King & Bishops down’ (A health to the Royal Family); and ‘Collectors now must all go down’ (ENGLAND’s JOY, For the Taking off The Chimney-Money).

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

Songs and Summaries

The Whig Rampant: OR, EXALTATION. Being a Pleasant New Song of 82. To a New Tune of, Hey boys up go We (P. Brooksby, 1682).  Euing 389; EBBA 32011. Politics – celebration, controversy, domestic, plots, Royalist, Tories/Whigs, satire; Religion – Catholic/ProtestantRecreation – good fellowship; Humour – satire; Death – execution; Emotions – joy; History – recent. A satirical Tory song in which a group of Whigs remember the Civil Wars and plan fresh outrages against all good order while anticipating their own executions.

THE Popish Tories Confession: Or, An Answer to the Whiggs Exaltation... to the Tune of, Hey Boys up go We (J. Wright, J. Clarke, W. Thackeray, T. Passenger, and M. Coles, 1682). Bodleian, Douce Ballads 2(182a). Religion – Catholic/Protestant, Protestant nonconformityPolitics – controversy, domestic; History – recent; Gender – sex; Royalty – praise. This seems to be an answer to The Whig Rampant, and it returns the insult by imagining a group of wicked Tories who are actually vile ‘Papists’ in disguise.

Merry Boys of Christmas OR, The Milk-Maids New-Years-Gift... To the Tune of, Hey Boys up go we (no imprint, after 1682). Roxburghe 4.24; EBBA 30942. Recreation – alcohol, fairs/festivals, good fellowship, food; Gender – masculinity; Politics – celebration, domestic, Royalist; Royalty – praise; Emotion – joy, patriotism; Bodies – nourishment; History – recent. A loyalist drinking song for the Christmas season, celebrating the fact that Charles II has returned to claim the throne.

Have-at a Venture... Tune of Hey boys up go we (J. Wright, J. Clark, W. Thackery, and T. Passenger, 1682-84). Roxburghe 2.207; EBBA 30673. Gender – sex, femininity, masculinity, singles; Humour – bawdry; Bodies – physique/looks; Emotions – longing; Society – rural life. A country lad and a bonny lass bump into one another and have thrilling sex until, eventually, they are both tired and go their separate ways.

The Politick Countreyman... Tune of, Hey boys up go we, OR, Jenny Gin (J. Wright, J. Clark, W. Thackery, and T. Passenger, 1682-84). Crawford 1069; EBBA 33694. Gender – courtship, femininity, adultery/cuckoldry; Society – urban life, rural life; Recreation – alcohol. A man resolves to stay single because so many women – with the notable exception of those from the countryside - turn out to be scolding, drunken or lazy once they are married.

True love without deceit OR, The Country Girles Happiness... Tune of, The Fair one let me in; or, Hey boys up go we (J. Wright, J. Clark, W. Thackeray, and T. Passenger, 1682-84).  Pepys 3.101; EBBA 21104.  Emotions – longing, love, joy; Gender – courtship, sex; Employment – agrarian, female/male; Morality – romantic/sexual; Bodies – physique; Society – rich/poor. This celebrates the wholesome love – simultaneously innocent and sexually fulfilling – that exists between all country maidens and their true-hearted lovers.

The unsatisfied LOVERS Lamentation... Tun of, Hey boys up go we (J. Wright, J. Clark, W. Thackeray, and T. Passenger, 1682-84). Roxburghe 2.538; EBBA 31131. Gender – femininity, sex, singles; Emotions – longing, frustration, despair; Bodies – health/sickness, looks/physique; Economy – money. An unmarried woman is desperate to lose her virginity (‘Come Jack or Will and take your fill,/ for hey boys down Ile lye’).

The Westminster Frolick: Or, The Cuckold of his own procuring... Tune of, Hey boys up go we (J. Wright, J. Clark, W. Thackery & T. Passenger, 1682-84). Pepys 4.131; EBBA 21795. Gender – adultery/cuckoldry, masculinity, femininity, sex; Humour – bawdry, deceit/disguies, extreme situations/surprises, misunderstanding, mockery; Bodies – looks/physique; Emotions – longing, greed, shame; Employment – crafts/trades, apprenticeship/service; News – sensational; Places – English; Society – urban life. A farcical sex-romp in which a vintner tries to make some money from the sexual charms of his maidservant but ends up becoming a cuckold through his own trickery.

THE Good Fellows Frolick, Or, Kent Street Clubb... Tune of , Hey boys up go we, Seamans mournful bride, or the fair one let me in (J. Coniers, 1682-92).  Pepys 4.239; EBBA 21899.  Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship, hospitality; Emotions – joy; Economy – hardship; Bodies – clothing. A drinking song in which a succession of customers in an alehouse declare and demonstrate their love of ale, despite the economic damage it causes to them.

All is ours and our HUSBANDS, Or the Country Hostesses VINDICATION... To the Tune, of the Carmans Whistle, Or High boys up go we (P. Brooksby, 1682-98?).  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.

The Country Lass for me... The Tune is, Hey Boys up go we (P. Brooksby, 1682-98). Crawford 265; EBBA 33478. Bodies – looks/physique, clothing; Gender – femininity; Society – rural life; Employment – agrarian, female; Environment – weather. This sings the praises of honest, wholesome, pretty maidens from the countryside and finds them vastly superior to the young women of London.

The Down-right Country-Man; OR, The Faithful Dairy-Maid... The Tune is, Hey Boys up go we: Or, Busie Fame (P. Brooksby, 1682-98?). Crawford 542; EBBA 32974.Society – urban life, rural life; Bodies – looks/physique, clothing; Emotions – suspicion, pride; Employment – agrarian, female, prostitution; Gender – masculinity, femininity, sex; Morality – romantic/sexual; Environment – animals; flowers/trees; Recreation – alcohol; Economy – money.  An honest countryman takes a very dim view of the morality and conduct that predominate in London, and argues that country people are superior in all ways.

The Citizens Vindication Against the Down right Countrey-man. (alias Boobee)... Tune of, Hey boys up go we (P. Brooksby, 1682-98). Bodleian, Douce Ballads 1(45b). Society – rural life, urban life; Bodies – clothing, looks/physique; Emotions – anger, pride; Employment – agrarian; Gender – femininity, masculinity; Recreation – alcohol, good felloswhip; Places – travel/transport; Religion – Bible, church. A direct answer to the ballad above, arguing the country people are simple, ignorant and laughable in comparison to the sophisticated sorts who inhabit London.

THE Good Fellows Consideration. OR The bad Husbands Amendment... To the Tune of, Hey boys up go we, &c (P. Brooksby, 1682-98). Euing 133; EBBA 31841. Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship, games/sports; Economy – money, hardship/prosperity; Employment – alehouses/inns, female; Family – children/parents; Gender – masculinity, marriage; Morality – familial, social/economic. A man regrets his former life of drinking and gaming, and resolves from now on to heed his wife’s advice and live more responsibly.

Tom and Rogers Contract: Or, what Devon-Farmers use to act... Tune of, Hey boys up go we (P. Brooksby, 1682-98). Pepys 4.18; EBBA 21685. Gender – courtship; Family – children/parents; Recreation – alcohol; Society – rural life; Employment – agrarian; Humour – mockery; Environment – animals. Tom and Roger, two countrymen, meet for a beer and decide that it would be a good idea if Tom’s son were to marry Roger’s daughter.

THE West-Country Maids advice... To the Tune of, Hey Boys, up go we (P. Brooksby, 1682-98). Crawford 372; EBBA 33096. Gender – masculinity, femininity, courtship; Religion – church. The author advises young women to avoid marriage on the grounds that men are ‘fickle’ and ‘Hoggish’.

Advice to Batchelors, OR, The Married Mans Lamentation... Tune of, Hey Boys up go we; Busie Fame; Martellus; or, Jenny Gin (J. Deacon, 1682-99). Roxburghe 2.7; EBBA 30108. Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity, adultery/cuckoldry; Violence – domestic; Humour – domestic/familial; Family – children/parents; Morality – familial, romantic/sexual; Emotions – sorrow, anger; Recreation – food; Employment – female; Bodies – nourishment. A man regrets his marriage to a domineering wife and describes the way in which she has reduced him to a ‘Cuckold, Fool, and Sot’.

A Farewel to Graves-end... Tune of, Hey Boys up go we (J. Deacon, 1682-99). Roxburghe 4.3; EBBA 30876. Gender – masculinity, femininity, sex, singles; Employment – sailors/soldiers, prostitution, alehouses/inns; Places – English; Economy – money; Emotions – anger; Crime – robbery/theft. Morality – romantic/sexual. One sailor warns others that the women of Gravesend will seduce them and take their money but abandon them when all their coin is spent.

Love in a Mist... To the Tune of, Hey boys up go we (J. Deacon, 1682-99). Crawford 1182; EBBA 34026. Gender – sex, courtship, femininity, masculinity; Bodies – looks/physique; Emotions – longing, joy, love; Humour – bawdry, extreme situations/surprises; Environment – landscape; Society – rural life. A maiden agrees to have sex with a lusty young man when he declares his love for her, and the experience is so fulfilling that she wonders why she waited so long to lose her maidenhead.

The Merry Plow-Man, AND Loving Milk-Maid... To the Tune of, Jenny Gin, hey Boys up go we, the fair one let me in (J. Deacon, 1682-99). Pepys 3.171; EBBA 21183. Environment – flowers/trees, animals, landscape; Recreation – music, walking, fairs/festivals; Society – rural life, urban life;  Emotions – joy, pride, love; Employment – agrarian; Gender – courtship, sex. Wholesome country folk describe their idyllic living conditions and their honest attitude to life, contrasting all this unfavourably with the ways of the big, bad city.

The Wanton Maidens Choice... Tune is, Hey boys up go we: OR, Alas poor thing (J. Deacon, 1682-99). Crawford 548; EBBA 32980. Gender – sex, femininity, adultery/cuckoldry; Humour – bawdry; Employment – crafts/trades; Emotions – longing, frustration, joy; Bodies – looks/physique. A young woman discusses the sexual pros and cons of a range of male types, concluding that ‘a Mettal-Man’ (tinker) is far more skilful with his tools than any other.

The Brave Boys of BRISTOL... Tune is, Hey Boys up go we; Jenny Gin; Busie Fame; Or, Russels Farewel (J. Deacon, 1682-99). Bodleian, Douce Ballads 1(19a). Places – English; Politics – Royalist, obedience, celebration, domestic; Royalty – praise; Society – urban life, rural life; Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship; Bodies – looks/physique; Emotions – pride, joy, patriotism; Gender – masculinity, femininity. A song expressing pride in the loyal bravery of Bristol’s men and the many charms of its women.

The Seamans Lamentation: Or, The CAPTAIN at the Helm... To the Tune of, Jenny Gin, Or, Hey boys up go we (J. Back, 1682-1702).  Pepys 4.194; EBBA 21856.  Gender – adultery, marriage, masculinity, sex; Employment – soldiers/sailors. One sailor is cuckolded by another while he is out of the house.

A health to the Royal Family Or, the TORIES Delight. A new Play house song, Tune, Hey boys up to we (J. Wright, J. Clark, W. Thackeray, and T. Passenger, 1683). Pepys 2.217; EBBA 20828. Royalty – praise; Politics – celebration, domestic, foreign affairs, Royalist, Whigs/Tories; Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship, music; Emotions – joy, patriotism; Gender – masculinity; Religion – Catholic/Protestant, Protestant nonconformity; Family – children/parents, kin. A loyalist drinking song, expressing joyous devotion to Charles II and his relatives.

THE Country Gentleman; Or, the happy Life. To an excellent Tune, Or, Hey boys up go we (J. Clark, W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger, 1684-86). Crawford 549; EBBA 32981. Society – rural life, rich/poor, urban life; Environment – animals, birds, flowers/trees; Emotions – joy, love, pride; Recreation – hunting, Gender – courtship; Politics – celebration; Morality – general; Employment – agrarian. A country gent expresses his love of the countryside, its sights, its sounds and its residents, all of which form a sharp contrast with life in London.

THE lovesick Maid of Waping Her Complaint for want of Apple-Pye... Tune of, Jenny Gin, Fair one let me in, Busie fame, Hey boys up go we (no imprint, 1685?).  Roxburghe 2.295; EBBA 30749.   Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity, sex; Humour – bawdry, verbal; Emotions – longing; Employment – crafts/trades, sailors/soldiers; Bodies – looks/physique, nourishment.  A seventeen-year old girl, desperate for a husband, regrets having turned numerous suitors away and settles finally for a sailor.

[THE] KIND LADY Or, The Loves of Stella and Adonis... To a new tune. Or, Hey boys up go we, the charming Nymph, or Jenny Gin (no imprint, 1685-88). Roxburghe 2.240; EBBA 30698. Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity, sex; Morality – romantic/sexual;  Emotions – longing, love; Bodies – looks/physique. Adonis visits Stella regularly in her chamber and she is upset when she becomes pregnant, but like a proper honest man he marries her to ‘conceal the crime’.

The Jesuits Exaltation, OR, A Preparation for a turn at Tyburn... Tune is, Hey Boys up go we. Or, Russel’s Farewell (J. Back, 1688). Pepys 2.277; EBBA 20891. Religion – clergy, Catholic/Protestant, heaven/hell, purgatory, church, saints; Politics – controversy, domestic; Death – execution, godly end; Violence – punitive; Crime – prison; Emotions – fear, hope; Humour – mockery; Environment – buildings; Places – English, European; Bodies – looks/physique. Jesuit prisoners are overheard lamenting their present state and anticipating execution followed by salvation.

MONEY, MONEY, my Hearts... To the Tune of high Boys up go we. OR, Jenny Gin (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, J. Back, 1688-96). Pepys 4.319; EBBA 21982. Economy – money, hardship/prosperity; Employment – crafts/trades, professions, prostitution; Religion – heaven/hell, Catholic/Protestant, purgatory; Society – criticism. A metrical meditation on the immense power of money over human conduct, and on the ‘hell’ of an empty pocket.

ENGLAND’s JOY, For the Taking off The Chimney-Money... Tune of, Hey Boys up gh [sic] we (A. Milbourn, 1689). Pepys 4.308; EBBA 21970.  Economy – taxation, hardship/prosperity; Emotions – relief, joy, patriotism; Politics – celebration, domestic, Royalist; Royalty – praise; Recreation – alcohol, music; Religion – Catholic/Protestant; Employment – female, professions. This offers thanks to William and Mary for abolishing the hated hearth-tax and for rescuing England from ‘popish’ tyranny.

POPERY'S Downfal, and The Protestants Uprising By the CROWNING of King WILLIAM and Queen MARY. Tune of, Hey boys up go we (G. C., 1689).  Pepys 2.316; EBBA 20935.  Economy – hardship, livings; Employment – crafts/trades; Religion – Catholic/Protestant; Politics – celebration, domestic, Royalist; Emotions – joy, hope, patriotism; Royalty – praise. This celebrates the arrival of William and Mary, predicting that England’s economy will improve now that ‘Popery’ has been rooted out.

A DIALOGUE BETWEEN A Baker and his Wife, living near Lambath Mash... Song by the old Tune of, Hey Boys, up go we (J. S., 1690-1700?). Pepys 4.147; EBBA 21811. Gender – marriage, femininity, masculinity, sex, adultery/cuckoldry; Humour – domestic/familal, verbal; Violence – domestic; Recreation – alcohol; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – anger, anxiety, contentment; Bodies – injury; Employment – crafts/trades. A scolding wife harangues her husband and refuses to let him touch her ‘hey boys up go we’ until a reconciliation, based on his agreement to submit to her rule, is achieved in the final verses.

News from CRUTCHET-FRYERS... Tune is, Hey Boys up go we (no imprint, undated). Pepys 4.287; EBBA 21948. Gender – femininity, sex; Society – neighbours; Environment – buildings; News – sensational; Places – English; Religion – charity. This describes an incident in which unnamed women, intent on humilating a morally upright female neigbour, made ‘dildos’ and ‘merkins’ (artificial penises and vaginas respectively)  and threw them over her wall.


The tune was also named on a number of white-letter ballads, most of which cover themes similar to those discussed above. Of particular interest is A Proper New Brummigham Ballad, published in 1681. This was set ‘to the Tune of Hey then up go we’, making it the earliest broadside known to have called for the melody. The text of the Proper New Brummigham Ballad was essentially lifted from a political song of 1642 by Francis Quarles (see Song history). Quarles’ song included the refrain line, ‘And hey then up go wee’ but it may not have had its own tune at this early stage; another version of the song, published in Rump (1662), was set to a different tune, ‘Cuckolds all a-row’. At an unknown date, therefore, the old song acquired a new tune, and this was the melody subsequently used for The Whig Rampant (the lyrics of which were themselves heavily influenced by Quarles' earlier text: see Featured tune history).

Other white-letter ballads that call for the melody include the following: The WHIGG and TORY’S Friendly DIALOGUE (1682); Animadversions on the Lady Marquess (1682-90); and The Crafty Maids Invention (T. M., 1689). In addition, the tune was named in various song-books and tracts of the period, often for versions of some of the ballads noted above but sometimes also for the singing of other texts. See, for example: A Collection of the newest and most ingenious poems, songs, catches &c (London, 1689); and Trincalo Sainted (1682). The second of these was a Whig collection and it included a song, ‘The Knight of the Wooden Ruffs Exaltation’, that turned the tables on the Tory publisher, Nathaniel Thompson, by using his favourite tune to celebrate the punishment inflicted on him in the pillory in 1682 following his conviction for libel (see also Song history).

Christopher Marsh


Henry Atkinson, Tune-book , Northumberland Record Office, MS MU 207, p. 12.

Alexander Brome, RUMP: OR AND EXACT COLLECTION Of the Choycest POEMS AND SONGS RELATING TO THE Late Times (1662), pp. 14-16.

Charles Coffey The Devil to Pay (1731), p.31.

A Collection of the newest and most ingenious poems, songs, catches &c (1689), pp. 19 and 21-22

John Playford, The Dancing-Master (edn. of 1686), p. 179.

                The Dancing-Master (edn. of 1698), p. 106.

Humphrey Salter, The Genteel Companion, 1683), no. 10.

Claude Simpson, The British Broadside Ballad and its Music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 304-08.

Nathaniel Thompson, A Choice Collection of 180 Loyal Songs (1685), pp. 6, 221 and 257.

Trincalo Sainted (1682).

Back to contents

Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Crowd looking left

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 used quite sparingly, and all the examples listed below date from the late seventeenth century and seem to have been printed from the same woodblock. In most cases, the picture was deployed fairly predictably to imply crowd interest in a sensational happening of some sort (executions and monstrous births, for example). In all cases but one, the crowd – logically enough – faces the event that is being witnessed. The exception is our hit ballad, The Whig Rampant, on which the members of the crowd stand with their backs to a nonconformist ‘tub preacher’. Given the satirical nature of the song, this may well be deliberate and meaningful, rather than clumsy. Perhaps we are to understand that the crowd's attention has been arrested by the mountebank, peddling his deceitful politics in the woodcut on the left.

Songs and summaries

The Whig Rampant: OR, EXALTATION. Being a Pleasant New Song of 82 (P. Brooksby, 1682).  Euing 389; EBBA 32011.  Politics – celebration, controversy, domestic, plots, Royalist, Tories/Whigs, satire; Religion – Catholic/ProtestantRecreation – good fellowship; Humour – satire; Death – execution; Emotions – joy; History – recent.  A satirical Tory song in which a group of Whigs remember the civil wars and plan fresh outrages against all good order while anticipating their own executions (picture placement: the crowd appears on the left, with their backs to the ‘tub preacher’ who features in the composite woodcut of the Crowd, preacher and church).

A Warning to Murtherers: OR,  [?The sa]d and Lamentable Relation of the Condemnation, [?], and Excecution, of John Gower Coach-Maker (J. Wright, I. Clarke, W. Tha[ckeray] and T. Passinger, 1682-1684).  Pepys 3.358 ; EBBA 21374. Crime – murder; Death – execution, result of immorality, godly end; Gender – marriage; Morality – familial; Religion – sin and repentance; Emotions – sorrow; Places – English. An account of Gower’s murder of his wife, and of the repentant spirit in which he faced execution (picture placement: the crowd looks towards a hanging man who is also watched by the spectators from the composite woodcut, Crowd, preacher and church).

The Wonder of this present Age. OR, An Account of a MONSTER Born in the Liberty of Westminster (J. Deacon, 1685-88).  Pepys 4.285; EBBA 21946.  Family – pregnancy/childbirth; Nature – wonders; News – sensational; Bodies – physique; Disability – physical; Emotions – wonder; Places – English. A graphic account of the birth of conjoined twins in London on 16 September 1687 (picture placement: the crowd faces in the general direction of an image of the twins).

STRANGE and DREADFUL News from Holland (J. Blare, 1686).  Pepys 2.136; EBBA 20756.  News – international, sensational; Places – European; Death – tragedy.  A description of a terrible storm in Holland that caused flooding and severe destruction (picture placement: on the left, the church appears alongside some urban scenes and a river; on the right of the sheet, the crowd faces a man who struggles in another river).

The Jesuits Exaltation, OR, A Preparation for a turn at Tyburn (J. Back, 1688).  Pepys 2.277; EBBA 20891.  Religion – Catholicism/Protestantism; Politics – controversy, domestic; Death – execution; Humour – mockery. A group of imprisoned Jesuits contemplate the political and religious changes that are about to result in their execution (picture placement: on the right of the sheet, the crowd watches a multiple hanging).

Christopher Marsh

Back to contents

Related Texts

As noted in the Song history, The Whig Rampant's lyrics were partly lifted from a well-known cavalier song (‘The Roundheads Race’ written in c. 1642 by poet and propagandist Francis Quarles) for the benefit of a D'Urfey play, The Royalist (1682), which was set at the time of the civil wars. (A royalist character called Broom sings it to parliamentarians after which he is beaten up.)

Versions of Quarles’s song were re-published in print at least three times; in 1646, in a collection of his works, Shepherds Oracles (pp. 139-41); in 1662, under the title ‘A Song. To the Tune of Cuckolds all a-row’, in Henry Brome’s huge RUMP: OR AN EXACT COLLECTION Of the Choycest POEMS AND SONGS RELATING TO THE Late Times; and in 1681 (with four additional verses) on an anonymously published broadside under the title A Proper New Brummigham Ballad.

In 1682, Thomas D'Urfey assembled parts of the song published in Bome's Rump anthology and updated them with contemporary references for his play. Either D'Urfey or an unknown hack extended the song for the broadside market.

D'Urfey's song was reprinted in A New Collection of Songs and Poems by Thomas D'Urfey (London, 1683), pp. 33-35. 

Nathaniel Thompson reprinted his seven-verse version in A Choice Collection of 120 Loyal Songs (London, 1684), p. 3 and A Choice Collection of 180 Loyal Songs (London, 1685), p. 6.

Whig balladeers issued two broadside responses to The Whig Rampant. THE Popish Tories Confession (PBB no. 621; Bodleian Ballads Online, Bod23814) was published in black-letter for the retail market. A more bitingly satirical version, called The Tories Confession (PBB no. 636; EBBA 35603), was anonymously published in a white-letter format.

Angela McShane

PBB = Angela McShane, Political Broadside Ballads of Seventeenth-Century England (London, 2011)

Back to contents

The Whig Rampant:/ OR, EXALTATION./ Being a Pleasant New Song of 82. To a New Tune of, Hey Boys up go We.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


NOw, now the Tories all shall stoop,

Religion and the Laws,

And Whigs of Common-wealth get up,

to Top the Good old Cause:

Tantivy-Boys shall all go down,

and Haughty Monarchy;

The Leathern Cap shall brave the Crown,

Then Hey Boys up go We.


When once that Anti-christian Crew

are Crush’d and overthrown,

We’l teach the Nobles how to bow,

and keep the Gentry down;

Good Manners has a bad repute,

and tends to Pride we see,

We’l therefore cry all Breeding down,

And Hey Boys up go We.


The Name of Lords shall be abhor’d,

for ev’ry Man’s a Brother,

What Reason then in Church or State,

one Man should Rule another?

Thus having Pill’d and Plunder’d all,

and Level’d each Degree,

We’l make their plump young daughters fall

And Hey Boys up go We.


What though the King and Parliament,

cannot accord together,

We have good cause to be content,

this is our Sun=shine Weather;

For if good Reason should take place,

and they should both agree,

Z____ who’d be in a Round-Heads case,

For hey then up go We.


WE’l down with all the Versities

where Learning is profest:

For they still practice and maintain

the Language of the Beast:

We’l exercise in e’ry place,

and Preach beneath a Tree:

We’l make a Pulpit of a Cask,

For hey then up go we.


The Whigs shall rule Committee=Chair,

who will such Laws invent,

As shall Exclude the Lawful Heir

by Act of Parliament:

We’l cut his Royal Highness down,

e’n shorter by the Knee:

That he shall never reach the Throne,

Then Hey Boys up go We.


We’l smite the Idol in Guild-Hall,

and then (as we were wont)

We’l cry it was a Popish-Plot,

and Swear those Rogues have don’t:

His Royal Highness to un-throne,

our Interest will be:

For if he e’re enjoy his own,

Then Hey Boys up go we.


Rebellion was a Thrveing Trade

on this our English Coast:

When Pauls=Church was a Stable made,

then Troopers Rul’d the Roast:

Then Loyalty was call’d a Crime,

in Anno Forty=Three:

A Godly Reformation time,

For Hey then up went we.


When three great Nations sweat in blood

and many thousand slain:

The bosome of the Earth bestrew’d,

then Godliness was Gain:

But now the Days are alter’d since,

as College plain did see:

If we Rebel against our Prince,

to Tyburn hey go we.


We’l break the Windows which the Whore

of Babylon has Painted,

And when their B_____s are pull’d down,

Our Deacons shall be Sainted:

Thus having quite Enslav’d the town,

pretending to set Free,

At last the Gallows claims its own.

Then Hey Boys up go We.


Printed for P. Brooksby, at the Golden-ball, in/ West-Smithfield.

Back to contents

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: 4

No. of extant copies: 15

Appearances on publishers' lists: none.

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: none.

3-yr periods that produced multiple editions: 1682-84 (4)

New tune titles generated: 'Hey boys up go we' (45 ballads but there is more than one possible source for the tune title, so we are counting only 23 of these songs).

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: none known.

Pre-1640 bonus: no.

POINTS: 8 + 15 + 0 + 0 + 24 + 30 + 0 + 0 = 77

[On this ballad, see also Angela McShane, Political Broadside Ballads of Seventeenth-Century England, no. 514X].

Back to contents

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

Back to contents