Monday, August 27, 2007

Alas, poor souldier, whither wilt thou march?

Ballad: The Lamentation Of A Bad Market, Or The Disbanded Souldier

(July 17th, 1660.) - From the King's Pamphlets, British Museum.

This ballad relates to the disbanding of the Parliamentary army.
Contrary, however, to what is pretended in it, says Mr. Wright, in
his volume printed for the Percy Society, the writers of the time
mention with admiration the good conduct of the soldiers after they
were disbanded, each betaking himself to some honest trade or
calling, with as much readiness as if he had never been employed in
any other way. Not many weeks before the date of the present
ballad, a prose tract had been published, with the same title, "The
Lamentation of a Bad Market, or Knaves and Fools foully foyled, and
fallen into a Pit of their own digging," &c. March 21st, 1659-60.

In red-coat raggs attired,
I wander up and down,
Since fate and foes conspired,
Thus to array me,
Or betray me
To the harsh censure of the town.
My buffe doth make me boots, my velvet coat and scarlet,
Which used to do me credit with many a wicked harlot,
Have bid me all adieu, most despicable varlet!
Alas, poor souldier, whither wilt thou march?

I've been in France and Holland,
Guided by my starrs;
I've been in Spain and Poland,
I've been in Hungarie,
In Greece and Italy,
And served them in all their wars.
Britain these eighteen years has known my desperate slaughter,
I've killed ten at one blow, even in a fit of laughter,
Gone home again and smiled, and kiss'd my landlor's daughter;
Alas! poor souldier, etc.

My valour prevailed,
Meeting with my foes,
Which strongly we assailed;
Oh! strange I wondred,
They were a hundred;
Yet I routed them with few blowes.
This fauchion by my side has kind more men, I'll swear it,
Than Ajax ever did, alas! he ne'er came near it,
Yea, more than Priam's boy, or all that ere did hear it.
Alas! poor souldier, etc.

For King and Parliament
I was Prester John.
Devout was my intent;
I haunted meetings,
Used zealous greetings,
Crept full of devotion;
Smectymnuus won me first, then holy Nye prevail, (111)
Then Captain Kiffin (112) slops me with John of Leyden's tail,
Then Fox and Naylor bangs me with Jacob Beamond's flail. (113)
Alas! poor souldier, etc.

I did about this nation
Hold forth my gifts and teach,
Maintained the tolleration
The common story
And Directory
I damn'd with the word "preach."
Time was when all trades failed, men counterfeitly zealous
Turn'd whining, snievling praters, or kept a country ale-house,
Got handsome wives, turn'd cuckolds, howe'er were very jealous.
Alas! poor souldier, etc.

The world doth know me well,
I ne're did peace desire,
Because I could not tell
Of what behaviour
I should savour
In a field of thundring fire.
When we had murdered King, confounded Church and State,
Divided parks and forests, houses, money, plate,
We then did peace desire, to keep what he had gat.
Alas! poor souldier, etc.

Surplice was surplisage,
We voted right or wrong,
Within that furious age,
Of the painted glass,
Or pictured brass,
And liturgie we made a song.
Bishops, and bishops' lands, were superstitious words,
Until in souldiers' hands, and so were kings and lords,
But in fashion now again in spight of all our swords.
Alas! poor souldier, etc.

Some say I am forsaken
By the great men of these times,
And they're no whit mistaken;
It is my fate
To be out of date,
My masters most are guilty of such crimes.
Like an old Almanack, I now but represent
How long since Edge-Hill fight, or the rising was in Kent,
Or since the dissolution of the first Long Parliament.
Alas! poor souldier, etc.

Good sirs, what shall I fancie,
Amidst these gloomy dayes?
Shall I goe court brown Nancy?
In a countrey town
They'l call me clown,
If I sing them my outlandish playes.
Let me inform their nodle with my heroick spirit,
My language and worth besides transcend unto merit;
They'l not believe one word, what mortal flesh can bear it?
Alas! poor souldier, etc.

Into the countrey places
I resolve to goe,
Amongst those sun-burnt faces
I'le goe to plough
Or keep a cow,
'Tis that my masters now again must do.
Souldiers ye see will be of each religion,
They're but like stars, which when the true sun rise they're gon.
I'le to the countrey goe, and there I'le serve Sir John;
Aye, aye, 'tis thither, and thither will I goe.

London, printed for Charles Gustavus, 1660.

(111) Philip Nye.

(112) William Kiffin was a celebrated preacher of this time, and
had been an officer in the Parliamentary army. A little before the
publication of the present ballad a tract had appeared, with the
title, "The Life and Approaching Death of William Kiffin.
Extracted out of the Visitation Book by a Church Member." 4to,
London, March 13, 1659-60. He is here said to have been originally
'prentice to a glover, and to have been in good credit with
Cromwell, who made him a lieutenant-colonel. He appears to have
been busy among the sectaries at the period of the Restoration. He
is thus mentioned in a satirical pamphlet of that time, entitled
"Select City Quaeries:" - "Whether the Anabaptists' late manifesto
can be said to be forged, false, and scandalous (as Politicus terms
it), it being well known to be writ by one of Kiffin's disciples;
and whether the author thereof or Politicus may be accounted the
greater incendiary?" - T. W.

(113) Fox and Naylor were the founders of the sect of Quakers.
Naylor, in particular, was celebrated as an enthusiast. Jacob
Boehmen, or Behmen, was a celebrated German visionary and
enthusiast, who lived at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of
the seventeenth centuries, and the founder of a sect.

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