Anon. An excellent BALLAD of GEORGE BARNWELL

Anon. An excellent BALLAD of GEORGE BARNWELL, an Apprentice in the City of LONDON, who was Undone by a STRUMPET, who caused him thrice to Rob his Master, and to Murder his Uncle in Ludlow, etc. To the Tune of, The Merchant, etc. (London: 1693–4?).

This traditional ballad was first known to be published in the seventeenth century, but the text may predate that. It was meant to be sung to the tune of “The Rich Merchant Man.” An extract of it appears in the print anthology; both parts of the ballad are reproduced in their entirety here.

ALL Youths of fair England,
that dwell both far and near,
Regard my Story that I tell,
And to my Song give ear,

A London Lad I was,
a Merchant's Prentice bound,
My name George Barnwel, that did spend
my Master many a pound.

Take heed of Harlots then,
and their enticing trains,
For by that means I have been brought
to hang alive in chains.

As I upon a day
was walking through the street,
About my Master's business,
I did a Wanton meet,

A gallant dainty Dame,
and sumptuous in attire,
With smiling looks she greeted me,
and did my name require:

Which when I had declared,
she gave me then a kiss,
And said, If I would come to her,
I should have more than this:

In faith my Boy (quoted she)
such news I can you tell,
As shall rejoice the very heart,
then come where I do dwell.

Fair Mistress, then said I,
I the place may know,
‘This evening I will be with you,
I abroad must go

‘To gather monies in,
is my Master's due,
‘And ever that I do home return,
come and visit you.

Good Barnwel, then (quoted she)
do you to Shoreditch come,
And ask for Mistress Milwood there,
next door unto the gun;

And trust me on my truth,
if thou keep touch with me,
For thy Friends sake, and as my own heart
you shall right welcome be.

Thus parted we in peace,
and home I passed right,
Then went abroad and gathered in,
by six a clock at night,

An hundred pound and one,
with bag under my arm,
I went to Mistress Milwood's house,
and thought on little harm:

And knocking at the door,
straightway herself came down,
Rustling in most brave attire,
her hood and silken gown.

Who through her beauty bright,
so gloriously did shine,
That she amazed my dazzling eyes,
she seemed so divine.

She took me by the hand,
and with a modest grace,
Welcome sweet Barnwell, then (quoted she)
unto this homely place;

Welcome ten thousand times,
more welcome then my Brother,
And better welcome I protest
than any one or other:

And seeing I have thee found
as good as thy word to be,
A homely supper ever you part,
you shall take here with me.

pardon me (quoted I)
Mistress, I you pray,
‘For why, out of my Master's house
long I dare not stay.

Alas, good Sir, she said,
are you so strictly tied,
You may not with your dearest Friend
one hour or two abide:

Faith then the case is hard,
if it be so (quoted she)
I would I were a Prentice bound,
to live in house with thee:

Therefore my sweetest George,
list well what I do say,
And do not blame a Woman much,
her fancy to betray:

Let not affection's force
be counted lewd desire,
For think it not immodesty
I should your love require.

With that she turned aside,
and with a blushing red,
A mournful motion she betrayed;
by holding down her head:

A handkerchief she had
all wrought with silk and gold,
Which she to stay her trickling tears
against her eyes did hold.

This thing unto my fight
was wondrous, rare and strange,
And in my mind and inward thoughts
it wrought a sudden change:

That I so hardy was,
to take her by the hand,
Saying, ‘Sweet Mistress why do you
sad and heavy stand?

Call me no Mistress now,
but Sarah thy true Friend,
Thy Servant Sarah, honoring you
until her life does end:

If you wouldn’t there allege
you aren’t in years a Boy,
So was Adonis, yet was he
fair Venus love and joy.

Thus I that never before
of Woman found such grace,
And seeing now so fair a Dame
give me a kind embrace;

I spent with her that night
with joys that did a bound,
And for the same paid presently,
in money twice three pound:

An hundred kisses then,
for my farewell she gave,
Saying, Sweet Barnwell, when shall I
again thy company have?

O stay not too long my Dear,
sweet George, have me in mind.
Her words bewitched my childishness,
she uttered them so kind.

To that I made a vow,
next Sunday without fail,
With my sweet Sarah once again,
to tell some pleasant tale.

When she heard me say so,
the tears fell from her eyes,
O George, quoted she, if you do fail
your Sarah sure will die.

Though long, yet loe at last,
the pointed day was come,
That I must with my Sarah meet,
having a mighty sum

Of money in my hand,
unto her house went I,
Whereas my Love upon her bed
in saddest sort did lye:

‘What ails my heart's delight,
Sarah dear, quoted I,
‘Let not my Love lament and grieve,
sighing pain and die,

‘But tell to me my dearest Friend,
may your woes amend,
‘And you shall lack no means of help,
forty pound I spend.

With that she turned her head,
and sickly thus did say,
O my sweet George, my grief is great,
ten pounds I have to pay

Unto a cruel Wretch,
and God he knows, quoted she,
I have it not. Tush rise, quoted he,
take it here of me;

‘Ten pounds, nor ten times ten
make my love decay.
Then from his bag into her lap
he cast ten pound straightway.

All blithe and pleasant then,
to banqueting they go,
She proffered him to lie with her,
and said it should be so:

And after that same time,
I gave her store of coin;
Yea, sometimes fifty pound at once,
all which I did purloin.

And thus I did pass on,
until my Master then,
Did call to have his reckoning in
cast up among his Men.

The which when as I heard,
I knew not what to say,
For well I knew that I was out
two hundred pounds that day.

Then from my Master straight
I ran in secret sort,
And unto Sarah Milwood then
my state I did report.

But how she used this Youth,
in this his extreme need,
The witch did her necessity
so oft with money feed;

The Second Part behold,
shall tell it forth at large,
And shall a Strumpet's wily ways,
with all her tricks discharge.

The Second PART of GEORGE BARNWELL, to the same Tune.


come young Barnwell unto thee,
sweet Sarah, my Delight,
‘I am undone except thou stand
faithful Friend this night:

‘Our Master to command accounts,
just occasion found,
‘And I am found behind the hand
two hundred pound:

‘And therefore knowing not at all,
answer for to make,
‘And his displeasure to escape,
way to thee I take;

‘Hoping in this extremity,
will my succor be,
‘That for a time I may remain
safety here with thee.

With that she knit and bent her brows,
and looking all a coy,
Quoted she, What should I have to do
with any Prentice-boy?

And seeing you have purloined and got
your Master's goods away,
The case is bad, and therefore here
I mean thou shalt not stay.

Sweet-heart you know, he said
all which I did get,
‘I gave it and did spend it all
thee every whit:

‘You know I loved thee so well,
could not ask the thing,
‘But that I did incontinent,
same unto the bring.

Quoted she, You are paultry Jack,
to charge me in this sort,
Being a Woman of credit good,
and known of good report:

And therefore this I tell thee flat
be packing with good speed,
I do defy thee from my heart,
and scorn thy filthy deed.

Is this the love and friendship which
did to me protest?
‘Is this the great affection which
seemed to express?

‘Now fie on all deceitful shows,
best is I may speed,
‘To get a lodging any-where,
money in my need:

‘Therefore false Woman now farewell,
twenty pound doth last,
‘My anchor in some other haven
will with wisdom cast.

When she perceived by his words,
that he had money store,
That she had guild him in such sort,
it grieved her heart full sore:

Therefore to call him back again,
she did suppose it best:
Stay George, quoted she, thou art to quick,
why Man I do but jest;

Think you for all my passed speech
that I would let you go?
Faith no, quoted she, my love to thee
I wish is more then so.

will not deal with Prentice-boys,
heard you even now swear,
Therefore I will not trouble you.
My George hark in thine ear,

Thou shalt not go tonight, quod she,
what chance to ever befall,
But Man we'll have a bed for thee,
or else the Devil take all.

Thus I that was with wiles bewitch
and snared with fancy still,
Had not the power to put away,
or withstand her will.

Then wine and wine I called in,
and cheer upon good cheer,
And nothing in the World I thought
for Sarah’s love too dear,

Whilst I was in her company
in joy and merriment,
And all too little I did think,
that I upon her spent:

‘A fig for care and careful thoughts,
all my gold is gone,
‘In faith my Girl we will have more,
it light upon.

‘My Father’s rich, why then, quod I,
I want any gold?
With a father indeed, quoted she,
a Son may well be bold.

I have a Sister richly wed,
rob her ever I’ll want;
Why then, quod Sarah, they may well
consider of your scant.

No more then this, an Uncle I have
Ludlow he doth dwell,
‘he is a Grasier, which in wealth
all the rest excel:

‘Ever I will live in lack, quoted he,
have no coin for thee,
‘I’ll rob his house and murder him
Why should you not, quoted she:

Ever I would want, were I a Man,
or live in poor estate,
On Father, Friends, and all my Kin,
I would my talons grate:

For without money, George, quod she,
a Man is but a beast,
And bringing money thou shalt be
always my chief Guest.

For say you should pursued be
with twenty Hues and Crys,
And with a warrant searched for
with Argus hundred eyes:

Yet in my house thou shalt be safe,
such privy ways there be,
That if they sought an hundred year
they could not find out thee.

And so carousing in their cups,
their pleasures to content,
George Barnwell had in little space
his money wholly spent.

Which being done, to Ludlow then
he did provide to go,
To rob his wealthy Uncle then,
his Minion would it so;

And once or twice he thought to take
his Father by the way,
But that he thought his Master had
took order for his stay:

Directly to his Uncle then
he rode with might and main,
Where with welcome and good cheer
he did him entertain:

A sennight’s space he stayed there,
until it chanced so,
His Uncle with his cattle did
unto a market go:

His Kinsman needs must ride with him,
and he saw right plain,
Great store of money he had took;
in coming home again,

Most suddenly with in a wood
he struck his Uncle down,
And beat his brains out of his head,
so sore he cracked his crown:

And fourscore pound in ready coin
out of his purse he took,
And coming into London Town,
the Country quite forsook:

To Sarah Milwood then he came,
shewing his store of gold,
And how he had his Uncle slain,
to her he plainly told,

Tush, it’s no matter, George, quod she,
so we the money have,
To have good cheer in jolly sort
and deck us fine and brave.

And thus they lived in filthy sort,
till all his store was gone,
And means to get them anymore,
I wiss poor George had none.

And therefore now in railing sort,
she thrust him out of door,
Which is the just reward they get,
that spend upon a Whore:

‘O do me not this foul disgrace,
this my need, quoted he.
She called him Thief and Murderer,
with all despite might be.

And to the Constable she went
to have him apprehended,
And shewed in each degree how far
he had the law offended.

When Barnwel saw her drift,
to sea he got straightway,
Where fear and dread and conscience sting
upon himself doth stay:

Unto the Mayor of London then,
he did a letter write,
Wherein his own and Sarah’s faults
he did at large recite.

Whereby she apprehended was,
and then to Ludlow sent,
Where she was judged, condemned and hanged
for murder incontinent,

And there this gallant Quean did die,
this was her greatest gains:
For murder in Polonia
was Barnwell hanged in chains.

Lo, here’s the End of willful Youth,
that after Harlots haunt,
Who in the spoil of other Men,
about the streets do flaunt.