45  A pleasant new Ballad of the Miller of Mansfield, in Sherwood and of King Henry the second [Roxburghe 1.228-29]

Author: Anonymous

Recording: A pleasant new Ballad of the Miller of Mansfield (part 1)

Recording: A pleasant new Ballad of the Miller of Mansfield (part 2)

Bodies - bodily functions Bodies - clothing Bodies - looks/physique Emotions - anxiety Emotions - confusion Employment - crafts/trades Employment - female Environment - animals Environment - buildings Environment - flowers/trees Family - children/parents Gender - courtship Gender - marriage Gender - sex Humour - deceit/disguise Humour - domestic/familial Humour - extreme situations/surprises Humour - misunderstanding Humour - mockery Humour - scatological Places - English Politics - court Politics - domestic Politics - power Recreation - alcohol Recreation - dance Recreation - food Recreation - hunting Royalty - authority Royalty - incognito Royalty - praise Society - rich/poor Society - rural life

Song History

This song was regularly published in single-sheet form between the late sixteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The ballad collection known as the Shirburn Ballads  (1585-1616) contains hand-written transcripts of two distinct songs but most subsequent printed editions united parts one and two on a single sheet. The ballad also appeared in song-books, particularly after 1700 (see, for example, A collection of old ballads and A select collection of English songs). In addition, it was issued in chapbook form during the mid-seventeenth century, illustrated with woodcuts and broken into sections by headings.

The Pleasant new Ballad also generated some interesting spin-offs (see Related texts) but there is little evidence to suggest that it survived as a folk-song in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Perhaps the socio-political relevance and humorous potential of the king who went unrecognised among his people had finally run out. In its day, undoubtedly, this was a very popular theme, and two other hits songs on our list present comparable narratives (A Pleasant new Ballad betweene King Edward the fourth, and a Tanner of Tamworth and The Shepherd and the King).

The success and longevity of such tales can be thought about in a number of ways. In a society so familiar with inequality and the ideology of hierarchy, stories about close and unexpected encounters between kings and commoners clearly delivered a certain thrill, particularly if the humour ran both ways. In this particular song, the dice are loaded in favour of the king – he is knowing, and amused by the clottish rusticity of the miller – and many readers/listeners must have felt encouraged to share his viewpoint. At the start of the story, however, the king is lost and, as it unfolds, he is dependent upon the generous, if wary, welcome offered by his hosts. The miller and family are certainly unsophisticated but they are also resourceful, straight-talking and successful. They manage their situation so skilfully that they are able to feed the king delicious ‘lightfoot’ (venison) that has been poached illegally from his own forest. We are thus invited to laugh with and at both parties.

The capacity of the king to take such effrontery in good part was politically reassuring, suggesting a generosity of spirit that might not have been anticipated in one so powerful. The conservative implications of this are obvious, and for most consumers this was probably a song that played with the status quo but did not seriously challenge it (Mark Truesdale has argued that such conservatism distinguished most early-modern ballads on the king-commoner theme from their more radical medieval precursors). A pleasant new Ballad may at times have held particular relevance for Royalists; in 1651, for example, the future Charles II travelled incognito in order to escape from war-torn England and begin his period of continental exile (tales were told of his dependence on ordinary people for help along the way). And at the time of his Restoration in 1660, there were particularly good reasons for re-circulating a song that suggested such an ultimately positive relationship between the monarchy and the people.

Harriet Phillips has also emphasised the conservatism of this and other stories about kings and commoners, though she concentrates particularly on the urge that many people may have felt to escape from the cultural tensions of the later sixteenth century. At this time, medieval-style 'mirth' was under fire from zealous protestants, and ballads such as this one offered relatively safe passage to a fantasical and vaguely historical past in which such debates had no place. It could also be argued, however, that such escapism was itself culturally charged by 1600 so that to run from the debate was actually to engage in it.

Despite the central conservatism of the ballad, it seems possible that the medieval setting also opened up the more subversive possibility of unfavourable comparison between early-modern monarchs and the best of those who had gone before. This may have been why, in c.1688-90, the supporters of William III issued The Royal Recreation, a ballad in which the new king himself, rather than a medieval monarch, had fun with commoners. The ballad-makers made reference to old stories about incognito kings and clearly aimed to associate William with ‘the best days when great kings they would be Jocose with their Subjects of e’ery degree’. 

The ballad about the Miller of Mansfield was also an invitation to lament the decline of healthy social customs more generally, and the editor of A collection of old ballads (1723) noted in his introduction to the song that the original author ‘had an Intent to hint at the Hospitality used here in Days of Old, common to the English in general, now confin’d to Rusticks only’ (rustics could be mocked and idealised simultaneously). Others again may have loved the ballad not for its social conservatism but for the temporary freedom with which a mere miller and his family addressed their monarch as 'fool' and 'knave', threatened him with violence and asked searching questions ('hast any creepers within thy gay hose?). This was one song but it may have had many meanings.

The marketability of the Miller of Mansfield is not quite dead, even today. At the time of writing, a successful gastro-pub in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, is named after him, and its website even includes a copy of the ballad. The owners add, ‘We can proudly and honestly say that all our venison and game is sourced locally and wholly legitimately!’

Christopher Marsh


Anon, A collection of old ballads (1723), pp. 53-63.

Anon, ‘English historical ballads. No. II – King Henry and the Miller of Mansfield’, The Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (11 May, 1839), pp. 177-79.

Anon, [The] pleasant history of the Miller of Mansfield in Sherwood and Henry the second, King of England, shewing how the King was lodged in the millers house, and the mirth and sports he had there (1651 and 1655).

Anon, A select collection of English songs, 3 vols. (1783), vol. 2, pp. 272-82.

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

English broadside ballad archive: https://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/

Madden Collection, Garlands, vol. 2, nos. 465-70, Cambridge University Library.

‘Miller of Mansfield’ (pub): https://themillerofmansfield.com/

Thomas Percy, Reliques of ancient English poetry, 3 vols. (1766), vol. 3, pp. 151-60.

Harriet Phillips, Nostalgia in print and performance 1510-1613 (Cambridge, 2019), pp. 45-58, 68 and152.

The Shirburn Ballads, 1585-1616, ed. Andrew Clark (Oxford, 1907), nos. LI and LXXVI.

Mark Truesdale, The king and the commoner tradition: carnivalesque politics in medieval and early modern literature (2018), ch. 4.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library:

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Featured Tune History

To the tune of ‘The French Lavolta’ (standard name: The French levalto)

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

Versions and variations

This tune was associated with a lively dance of continental origin, known in English as the ‘levalto’ or ‘lavolta’ (with further variations of spelling). The dance was in triple time and its most famous feature was a move in which the male partner lifted the woman into the air. This caused a certain degree of controversy but the levalto was nevertheless fashionable at the courts of Elizabeth I and James I. The particular melody known as ‘The French Levalto/Lavolta’ does not appear to have acquired alternative names (an eighteenth-century tune entitled 'The Miller of Mansfield' is unrelated: see Related texts).

Notation for the tune, in closely related versions, can be found in one of Matthew Holmes’ lute manuscripts (c. 1597-1621) and in Robert Creighton’s virginal book (1630s). We have used the second of these as the basis for our recording.

Echoes (an overview)

We have not found any other seventeenth-century ballads that nominated this tune, and there is therefore nothing that can be said about intertextual relationships. This was probably because the unusual metre did not appeal to authors who were used to writing for tunes that followed more common patterns. Alternatively, the tune became so closely associated with this particular song that it felt inappropriate to use it for other texts. Incidentally, the origins of the tune in courtly and vigorous Elizabethan dancing must have added to the humour for at least the first generation of listeners. Simpson’s suggestion that the recorded tune is inappropriate for singing the words of A pleasant new Ballad seems overstated. With minor modifications of the sort that early-modern singers must have made all the time, it serves very well.

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

Songs and Summaries

A pleasant new Ballad of the Miller of Mansfeild in Sherwood; and of king Henry the seconde... TO THE TUNE OF The French Levalto (surviving copies are later but this was copied out by hand from a broadside in 1600-03). Shirburn ballads, LI. Later copies were usually issued on a sheet with the sequel to this ballad, listed below (see, for example, our featured edition). Humour – extreme situations/surprises, deceit/disguise, domestic/familial, misunderstanding, mockery; Royalty – incognito, authority, praise; Society – rural life, rich/poor; Recreation - alcohol, food, hunting; Gender – marriage; Family – children/parents; Bodies – clothing, looks/physique; Politics – domestic, dourt, power; Emotions – confusion, anxiety; Employment – crafts/trades, female; Environment – buildings, animals, flowers/trees; Places – English. The king gets lost while out hunting and is taken in by a rude miller and his wife, who fail to recognise him and proceed to feed him venison poached from his own forest.

A merry Ballad of the miller and king Henry the second; shewing howe he came to the Court with his wife and sonne... TO THE TUNE OF The French Levalto (surviving copies are later but this was copied out by hand from a broadside in 1600-03). Shirburn ballads, LXXVI. Later copies were usually issued on a sheet with the ballad to which this was song was a sequel, listed above (see, for example, our featured edition). Humour – extreme situations/surprises, misunderstanding, mockery, scatological; Bodies – clothing, bodily functions; Recreation – food, alcohol, dance; Royalty – praise;  Employment – crafts/trades; Family – children/parents; Gender – marriage, courtship, sex; Society – rich/poor, rural life;  Places – English. The miller of Mansfield and his family are invited to court, where everyone finds them highly amusing because of their rustic ways.


The melody does not appear to have been nominated for the singing of additional texts in published song-books of the period. The levalto dance was, however, frequently referred to in literary sources, where it was associated with extreme energy and high spirits. Angry seas, mad brains and hot blood could all be said to ‘dance levaltos’.

Christopher Marsh


Robert Creighton, virginal book, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, MS Conservatoire Rés. 1186, fo. 85v.

Matthew Holmes, lute partbook, Cambridge University Library, MS Dd.3.18, fo. 8.

Claude M. Simpson, The British Broadside Ballads and its Music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 237-38.

John M. Ward, ‘Apropos The British broadside ballad and its music’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 20.1 (Spring 1967), pp. 41-43.

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Related Texts

This ballad was clearly related to several other texts of the medieval and early-modern periods (see the list below). A key example is the poem known as ‘John the Reeve’, written at some point in the period 1377-1461. The narrative is very similar to the one presented in our ballad, though it is difficult to determine whether we should think of ‘John the Reeve’ as an actual source for the song. It might perhaps be wiser to regard it as evidence that the king-meets-commoner trope was very widely known throughout the era. The early-modern ballad-makers were probably tapping into a long tradition rather than re-working a particular text. Indeed, A pleasant new Ballad bears a general resemblance to several other songs and poems from the late-medieval and early-modern periods that tell essentially the same story (several examples are listed below). None of these, however, is closely related to our ballad in terms of precise verbal content.

In the seventeenth century, we can be fairly sure that there was also a chapbook treatment of the ballad narrative. There is no surviving text, but an ‘Advertisement of Books’ that appears at the end of The knowledge of things unknown (1663) includes a plug for The miller and the king; or the merry Progress and hunting of King Henry the 2nd in the Forest of Sherwood in Nottinghamshire; with the pleasant pastime and mery conferences with the Miller of Mansfield.

At the start of the next century, Robert Dodsley turned the story into an immensely successful play entitled The king and the Miller of Mansfield. A dramatic tale. As it was acted at the Theatre-Royal in Drury Lane (1701). This was re-staged and re-printed on dozens of occasions throughout the eighteenth century, and a six-verse song from the play, set to a new tune, took on a life of its own (the tune, confusingly, came to be called 'The miller of Mansfield). The song appears under various titles on broadsheets and in numerous song collections of the period (The bullfinch, for example), usually opening with the lines, ‘How happy a state did the miller possess,/ Who would be no greater, nor fears to be less?’ Although it is sometimes confused with the original ballad, the two songs are in actual fact almost completely unrelated. The success of Dodsley’s play also led to a sequel, based on the second half of our hit ballad and entitled Sir John Cockle at court (1738).

Christopher Marsh

Texts (in chronological order)

‘John the Reeve’ (1377-1461), University of Rochester, Middle English Text Series: https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/furrow-ten-bourdes-john-the-reeve

Anon, ‘The king and the hermit’ (c. 1377-1483), University of Rochester, Middle English Text Series: https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/furrow-ten-bourdes-king-and-the-hermit

Anon, ‘King Edward and the shepherd’ (mid-fourteenth century), University of Rochester, Middle English Text Series: https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/furrow-ten-bourdes-king-edward-and-the-shepherd

Anon, ‘The king and the barker’ (mid-fifteenth century), printed in Anon, Pieces of ancient popular poetry (1791), pp. 58-65.

The Shepherd and the King... To the Tune of Flying Fame (probably registered in 1578 as ‘A merry songe of a kinge and a shepherd’).

A pleasant new Ballad betweene King Edward the fourth, and a Tanner of Tamworth (registered, 1586).

A pleasant new Ballad of the Miller of Mansfield... To the Tune of, The French Lavolta (originally composed 1585-1616).

The miller and the king; or the merry Progress and hunting of King Henry the 2nd in the Forest of Sherwood in Nottinghamshire; with the pleasant pastime and mery conferences with the Miller of Mansfield (c. 1663: no surviving copy).

Anon, The Royal Frolick... To the Tune of, Let Caesar Live long (1692).

Anon, The KING and the FORRESTER (late seventeenth century).

Robert Dodsley, The king and the Miller of Mansfield. A dramatic tale. As it was acted at the Theatre-Royal in Drury Lane (1701).

Anon, A new song. Sung in the play of the King and the Miller of Mansfield (eighteenth century).

Robert Dodsley, Sir John Cockle at court. Being the sequel of The king and the miller of Mansfield (1738).

Anon, The bullfinch. Being a choice collection of the newest and most favourite English songs (1755), p. 118.

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A pleasant new Ballad of the Miller of Mansfield, in Sherwood and of King Henry the second,/ and how he was lodged in the Millers house, and of their pleasant communication.

To the Tune of, The French Lavolta.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its textVerses in square brackets do not feature on the recording].


HEnry our royall King would ride a hunting,

To the greene forrest so pleasant and faire,

To have the hart chased and daintie Does tripping,

Unto merry Sherwood his Nobles repaire:

Hawk and hound was unbound, all things prepar’d

for the same to the game, with good regard.


All a long Summers day, rod the King plesantly,

With all his Princes and Nobles each one,

Chasing the Hart and Hinde, and the Buck gallantly,

Till the darke evening enforcst them turn home:

then at last, riding fast, he had lost quite,

all his Lords in the wood, late in darke night.


Wandring thus wearily all alone up and downe,

With a rude Miller he met at the last,

Asking the ready way unto faire Nottingham,

Sir (quoth the Miller) your way you have lost,

yet I thinke, what I thinke, truth for to say,

you doe not likely ride out of your way,


Why what dost thou think of me, qd. our King merrily

Passing thy judgement upon me so briefe?

Good faith (quoth the Miller) I mean not to flatter thee,

I ghesse thee to be some Gentleman thiefe:

stand thee backe in the dark light thee not down,

lest that I presently cracke thy knaves crowne.


Thou dost abuse me much (quoth our King) saying thus

I am a Gentleman, and lodging I lacke:

Thou hast not (quoth the Miller) one groat in thy purse,

All thy inheritance hangs on thy backe:

I have gold to discharge all that I call,

if it be forty pence I will pay all.


If thou beest a true man, then (said the Miller)

I sweare by my tole-dish Ile lodge thee all night,

Here’s my hand (quoth our King) that was I ever,

Nay soft (quoth the Miller) thou maist be a spright:

better Ile know thee ere hands I doe shake

with none but honest men hands will I take.


Thus they went all along unto the Millers house,

Where they were seething of Puddings and Souse,

The Miller first entred in, then after him the King,

Never came he in so smoaky a house:

now (quoth he) let me see, here what you are

quoth our King looke your fill and doe not spare.


I like well thy countenance, thou has an honest face,

With my sonne Richard this night thou shalt lye,

Quoth his wife, by my troth, it is a handsome youth,

Yet it is best (quoth his wife) for to deale warily,

art not a run away I pray thee youth tell,

shew me thy Passport and all shall be well.


[Then our King presently making low courtesie,

With his hat in his hand, thus he did say,

I have no Passport, nor never was servitour,

But a poore Courtier rode out of my way.

and for your kindnesse here offered to me,

I will requite it in every degree.]


[Then to the Miller his wife whispered secretly,

Saying it seemeth this youth’s of good kin,

Both by his apparell, and eke by his manners,

To turne him out certainely it were a great sinne:

Ye (quoth he) you may see he hath some grace,

when he doth speake to his betters in place.]


Well qd. the Millers wife young man welcome here,

And though I say it, well lodg’d thou shalt be.

Fresh straw I will have laid out on your bed so brave,

Good browne hempen sheetes likewise (quoth she)

I (quoth the goodman) and when that is done,

you shall lye with no worse than our owne sonne.


Nay first quoth Richard, good fellow tell me true,

hast any creepers within thy gay hose?

Or art thou not troubled with the Scabado?

I pray you (quoth the King) what things are those?

art thou not lowsie, nor scabby (quoth he)

if thou beest surely thou liest not with me.


This caus’d the King suddenly to laugh most heartily

Till the teares trickled downe from his eyes,

Then to their supper were they set orderly,

With a hot bag=pudding and good apple=pies:

nappy ale, good and stale, in a browne bowle:

which did about the boord merrily trowle.


[Here (quoth the Miller) good fellow I drinke to thee,

And to all Courtnols that courteous be,

I pledge (quoth our King) and thanke you heartily,

For your good welcome in every degree:

and here in like manner Ile drink to your sonne,

doe so (quoth Richard[)] but quicke let it come.]


Wife (quoth the Miller) fetch me forth light-foot,

That we of his sweetnesse a little may taste,

A faire Venison pasty then brought she forth presently,

Eate (quoth the Miller) but sir make no waste:

here’s dainty Light-foot in faith then said our King, [‘then’ is omitted in some editions]

I never before eate so dainty a thing.


I wis (said Richard) no dainty at all it is,

For wee doe eat of it every day,

In what place (said our king) may be bought like this,

We never pay penny for it by my fay:

from merry Sherwood we set it home here,

now and then we make bold with our Kings Deere.


[Then I thinke (said our King) that it is Venison,

Each foole, said Richard, full well may see that,

Never are we without two or three in the roofe,

Very well fleshed and excellent fat:

but pray thee say nothing, where ere thou dost goe,

we would not for two pence the King should it know.]


Doubt not then, said our King, my promised secrecy,

The King shall never know more on’t for me,

A cup of Lambs=wooll they dranke unto him then,

And then to bed they passed presently:

the Nobles next morning went all up and downe,

for to seek out the King in every Towne.


At last at the Millers house soone they espy’d him plain

As he was mounting upon his faire steed,

To whom they came presently, falling downe on their knees

Which made the Millers heart wofully bleed:

shaking and quaking before him he stood,

thinking he should have bin hang’d by the rood.


The King perceiving him fearefull and trembling,

Drew forth his sword but nothing he said,

The Miller downe did fall, crying before them all,

Doubting the King would have cut off his head:

but his kinde courtesie there to requite,

gave him a great living and made him a Knight.


The second part of the Miller and the King: Shewing how he came to the Court with his/ wife and Sonne: and what merry conceits passed betweene the King and him.


WHen as our Noble King came home from Nottingham,

And with his Nobles in Westminster lay,

Recounting the sports and pastimes they had tane,

In this last progresse along by the way:

of them all, great and small, this did he protest,

the Miller of Mansfields sport liked him best.


And now my Lords quoth the King I am determined

Against Saint Geoges next sumptuous feast,

That this old Miller our last confirmed knight,

With his sonne Richard shall both be my guest,

for in this merriment ‘tis my desire,

to talke with the jolly Knight and the brave Squire.


When as the Noblemen saw the Kings pleasantnes,

They were right joyfull and glad in their hearts,

A Pursevent their was sent straight on the businesse,

The which had many times beene in those parts,

when he came to the place where he did dwell,

his message orderly then he did tell.


[God save your worship then said the Messenger,

And grant your Lady her hearts desire:

And to your son Richhrd good fortune and happiness,

That sweet yong Gentleman and gallant yong Squire

our King greets you all and thus he doth say,

you must come to the Court on S. Georges day.]


[Therefore in any case, faile not to be in place,

I wis (quoth the Miller) this is one odde jest,

What should be doe there he said, faith I am halfe afraid

I doubt quoth Richard be hang’d at the least:

nay quoth the Messenger you doe mistake,

our King prepares a great feast for your sake.]


[Then said the Miller now by my troth Messenger,

Thou hast contented my worship full well,

Hold here’s three farthings to quit thy great gentlenes

For these happy tydings which thou dost me tell:

let me see hear’st thou me, tell to our King,

wee’l wait on his mastership in every thing.]


[The Pursevant smiled at their simplicity,

And making many legs tooke their reward,

And taking then his leave with great humility,

To the Kings Court, againe he repair’d,

shewing unto his Grace in each degree,

the Knights most liberall gift and bounty.]


When as he was gone away, thus did the Miller say,

Here comes expences and charges indeed,

Now we must needs be brave, though we spend all we have,

For of new garments we have great need;

of horses and servingmen we must have store,

with bridles and saddles and twenty things more,


Tush sir John (qd. his wife) neither do fret nor frowne

You shall be at no more charges for me:

For I will turne and trim up my old Russet gowne,

With every thing as fine as may be:

and on our Mil horses full swift we will ride,

with pillowes and pannels as we shall provide,


In this most stately sort, rode they unto the Court,

Their lusty sonne Richard formost of all:

Who set up by good hap, a Cocks feather in his Cap,

And so they jetted downe towards the Kings Hall,

the merry old Miller with his hand on his side,

his wife like Maid-marrian did mince at that tide.


The King and his Nobles, that heard of their comming

Meeting this gallant Knight with his brave traine,

Welcome sir Knight (qd he) with this your gay Lady,

Good sir John Cockle, once welcome againe:

and so is this Squire of courage so free,

quoth Dicke abots on you, doe you know me?


Quoth our King gently, how should I forget thee,

Thou wast mine owne bedfellow well that I wot,

But I doe thinke on a tricke tell me that prethe Dicke

How we with farting did make the bed hot,

thou whorson happy knave, then quoth the Knight,

speake cleanely to our King, or else goe shite.


The King and his Counsellors heartily laught at this,

While the Kinge tooke them both by the hand,

With Ladies & their maids, like to the Queen of spades,

The Millers wife did so orderly stand,

a milke=maids courtesie at every word,

and downe the folks were set at the side boord,


Where the King Royally, in princely Majesty,

Sate at his dinner with joy and delight:

When he had eaten well, to jesting then they fell,

Taking a bowle of wine dranke to the Knight,

here’s to you both he said, in wine, ale, and beere,

thanking you all for your Countrey cheere.


Quoth sir John Cockle Ile pledge you a pottle,

Were it the best ale in Nottingham=shire,

But then said our King, ‘I thinke of a thing, [‘I do thinke of a thing’ in other editions]

Some of your Light-foot I would we had here:

ho ho, quoth Richard, full well I may say it,

tis knavery to eat it and then to bewray it.


Why art thou angry quoth our King merrily?

In faith I take it very unkind,

I thought thou wouldst pledg me in ale & wine heartily

Y’are like to stay, quoth Dicke, till I have dinde:

you feed us with twatling dishes so small,

zounds a blacke pudding is better than all.


[I marry, quoth our King, that were a daintie thing,

If a man could get one here for to eate,

With that Dicke straight arose, & pluckt one out of his hose

Which with heat of his breech began to sweat:

the King made proffer to snatch it away,

’tis meat for your Master, good sir you must stay.]


Thus with great merriment, was the time wholy spent

And then the Ladies prepared to dance,

Old sir John Cockle and Richard incontinent,

Unto this practice the King did advance:

here with the Ladies, such sport they did make,

the Nobles with laughing did make their hearts ake


Many thanks for their pains did the K. give them then,

Asking young Richard if he would wed,

Amongst these Ladies free, tell me wich liketh thee,

Quoth he, Jugge Grumball with the red head:

she’s my Love, she’s my life, she will I wed,

she hath sworne I shall have her Maiden-head.


Then sir John Cockle, the King called unto him,

And of merry Sherwood made him Overseer,

And gave him out of hand, three hundred pound yeerely,

But now take heed you steele no more of my Deere,

and once a quarter let’s here have your view,

and thus sir John Cockle I bid you adieu.

Printed at London for E. Wright, dwelling at Christ-Church Gate.  FINIS.

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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: nos. LI and LXXVI (the two parts were transcribed separately).

Appearances on Ballad Partners' lists: Pavier and partners, 1624 (as 'Miller and King'); Coles, Vere, Wright and Clark, 1675; and Thackeray, 1689 ('King & the Miller').

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: none.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 12

No. of extant copies: 10

New tune-titles generated: none known.

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: none known.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 19 references, with no evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. V1474: the ballad is here confused with a newly written and largely unrelated stage song of the eighteenth century. See 'Related texts').

POINTS: 2 + 30 + 0 + 24 + 10 + 0 + 0 + 2 = 68

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