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There is a version of this song in Sabine Baring-Gould's MS collection, sent to him by the Rev J Hale Parlby, December 26, 1896, which can be seen in pdf format at Martin Graebe's website Sabine Baring-Gould and the folk songs of South-West England:

Songs from the Baring-Gould Manuscripts : Benjamin Bowlabags.

The notes in Classic English Folk Songs refer to broadside songs on a related theme, The War-like Taylor and the earlier A Dreadful Battle between a Taylor and a Louse. The former can be seen at the website of the University of California-Santa Barbara, Early Modern Center: The Pepys Ballads:

The War-like Taylor

We reproduce the latter here, as transcribed in J Woodfall Ebsworth (ed), The Roxburghe Ballads, Hertford: Ballad Society, 1890, vol VII p 479.

A Dreadful Battle between a Taylor and a Louse

A Tryal of Skill to prove if we can,
A Taylor's more than ninth part of a man.

The Tune is, I am the Duke of Norfolk


There was, upon a time, a Taylor neat and fine,
Caught a Louse on 's shoulder-bone;
"I'le make thee for know, before that thou do go,
Whether a Taylor be a man, or none."

He caught her by the back, and made her bones crack,
And made her Nose for to bleed;
But more than I can tel[l], I know it very well,
He saw'd up her [jaws] with his thread.
The Louse began to roar; drave the Taylor out of door,
Being put in a pittiful fear;
He came again at last, when the danger it was past,
And it wanted one month in a year.

A Nit did interpose, and took him by the Nose,
Whilst the Louse did his courage regain;
He entered the list, and he spit on his Fist,
And vowed to fight [the Taylor] once again.
Then he caught up his shears, to have clipt off her ears,
Which made the Louse for to tremble,
But before he durst fight, he said he must go [aright],
So armed himself in his Thimble.

The Louse she being gray, with age, as some do say,
And having no weapon to fight,
She opened her mouth, from East, West, North, and South,
And at the poor Taylor did bite.
The Taylor, with his Pike, did thrust, prick, and strike,
And [he] gave the Louse deep stitches;
But the Louse gave a tug, that made the Taylor shrug,
And wrong the in-seams of his britches.

The Taylor took his Yard, the Louse she bit hard,
Which made his Goose take his part;
But the Louse forty-strong did do the Taylor wrong,
Which grieved the Taylor at heart.
A Tinker coming by [with] a Weaver did espie,
And a broom-man, as he sat bousing;
Two Beggars they likewise, with two Gipsies, did devise,
To learn a new way of [car]ousing.

The Louse she heard them come, and away began to run,
To a Soldate on a bench sleeping;
But the Taylor, like a Jack, by the tail pull'd her back,
Which made the poor Louse fall a weeping.
She bit, she scatch'd, she scrub'd, and his elbow he rub'd,
And the Louse did herself defend;
And the Taylor, as 't befell, flung the Louse into hell,   [i.e., the receptacle for waste scraps.]
And so the fierce battle did end.

Now if any one can — say, the Taylor's not a man,
Let him shew me the reason why!
For the victory was won by a Taylor all alone,
Then there's no better man than I.

Finis. I[ohn] Taylor.

Printed for J. A[ndrews], at the White-Lyon in the Old Baily. [1652]

Claude Simpson (The British Broadside Ballad and Its Music, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press 1966, p 332) places the date at c. 1655. The attribution to John Taylor ("The Water-Poet"), previously generally accepted, is dismissed out-of-hand by Bernard Capp (The World of John Taylor the Water-Poet 1578-1653. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).

The tune prescribed, I am the Duke of Norfolk, is examined in detail by Simpson, whose earliest reference is of 1639. It appears, as [ St ] Paul's Steeple, in Playford's Dancing Master from 1651, and was used for a wide range of songs, including the well-known John Anderson my Jo.

We reproduce here notation printed by William Chappell in Popular Music of the Olden Time, London: 1859, volume I p 120. The harmonization is omitted.

I am the Duke of Norfolk

Rather slow.

I am the Duke of Norfolk: staff notation. Click on image for midi rendition
Click on the image for a midi rendition.


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