A Cuckold By Consent (An English Broadside Ballad)

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This week I'd like to show you another great original source: a funny broadside ballad on Cheating Spouses called 'The Cuckold by Consent'

This was found and archived by the fantastic people at Early English Books Online and The University of California's English Broadside Ballad Archive. Please visit the sites, have a good look around and support them however you can!

This entertaining ballad was approximately published in 1681/84. Ballads had rocketed in popularity when the printing press became popular, and gave a textual form to the old bardic tradition of musical stories. Most broadsides were designed in part for communal use. While some people collected them and had them bound into books (and we thank them for keeping them safe for us!) for many people, they might be bought and displayed in public houses or for families to enjoy.

While plenty of early printed broadsides were created to announce news (such as the popular monster pamphlets, like the Killer Whales of Ipswich that we've touched upon before on this blog), or publicised theological and political debates, the broadside ballad was perhaps the most popular print for the 'common people' and was designed to be performed. As you can see in this example the poem/story was supposed to be sung to a popular tune called 'the Bed's Making'.

The original ballad. Check out the site to zoom in and find more info.

A Cuckold by Consent: 
The Frollick Miller that intic'd a Maid, 
Ar he did think, to lodge in his lawless Bed;
But she deceived him of his intent,
And in her room his Wife to bed she sent.

(The Tune is, The Beds making)


FRiends will it please you to hear me tell
Of a merry Jest that late befell,
By as good a Miller as ever laid Stone,
Yet was not contented with his own?

                                                       Chorus:  But he was deceived in the Dark,

                                                         And took his own for another's mark.

Upon a time it chanced so,
A proper Maid to the Mill did go,
To grind her Father a Bath of Corn,
The Miller's heart with her did burn;

  Yet he, etc.
And to obtain his purpose right,
He caus'd the Maid to stay all Night,
And said it would be almost Morn,
Before that he could grin'd her Corn:

But he, etc.
So when the day was done and spent,
Home to his house the Miller went;
He took the Maid with him along,
To whom he thus did use his Tongue,

                                                    But he, etc.

Sweet-heart, quoth he, I tell thee now,
That I have made a secret Vow,
That I this night must Lie with thee,
And thou shalt have thy Grist Tole-free.

But he, etc.
At home I have a speciel Room,
Where none but my chief guests do come;
Thy lodging there alone shall be,
And I will come to bed thee.

Yet he, etc.
Sweet Soul I prithee be content,
With Maidens silence gives consent,
It is no purpose to say no,
For I have sworn it shall be so:

But he, &
Then to his wife the Miller said,
I pray make much of this same Maid,
And Lodge her in the Parlor below,
For she is a good mans child I know:

But he was deceived in the Dark,

                                                         And took his own for another's Mark.

SO to the Mill again he went,
But to return was his intent,
For to perform what he had swore
Unto the Maid not long before:

                                                         Yet he, etc,
Then shortly after he was gone,
Unto his Wife the Maid made known:
Quoth she, your Husband hath this night,
Sworn to deprive you of your right:

                                                         So he, etc.
Unto your Lodging let me go,
And lye you in the Room below;
If in the Parlor bed you be,
He'l lye with you and think 'tis me.

                                                         So he, etc.
His Wife considering of the thing,
To her own bed the Maid did bring,
And for to have the thing you know,
She laid her self in the Room below:

                                                         So he, etc.
Then towards the mid-time of the night,
The Miller came to the Chamber right,
His Promise which he made, to keep,
And he thought he found the Maid asleep:

                                                        But he, etc.

For joy the Miller nothing said,
But off with his Cloaths and into bed:
And colours in the dark being like,
He at his work did briefly did strike:

                                                         Yet he, etc.
His Wife speaks not a word at all,
But took all kindly that did fall,
And that did prove so good a part,
She thankt the Maid with all her heart:

                                                         But he, etc.
The Miller out of bed again
And to the Mill he went amain;
But in his mind he was almost wild
For fear he had got the maid with child;

                                                         Yet he, etc.
He did devise to cause the mother,
To Father the Bantling on another;
And pausing on the thing a while,
His man he thought for to beguile:

                                                         But he, etc.
With that he cast his wits about,
To work the project past all doubt,
Then (with all wisdome on this wise)
He told his man of a dainty prize:

                                                         But he, etc.

Jack, quoth the Miller, by the Mass,
I'le tell thee of a curios Lass,
With a Cherry-Cheek and a dainty Chin,
With snow white brests and a Silken-skin

                                                         But he, etc.
With nut-brown hair, and a fore-head high,
With Ruby lips and pleasant eye,
With a pretty lisping, prating tongue,
Soft hands and fingers small and long:

                                                         But he, etc.
With a slender middle and a body straight,
Both back and belly proportion'd right,
With an handsome leg and a dainty foot,
And a finer thing if thou canst come to't.

                                                         But he, etc.

Now Jack if thou wilt credet me,
A sweeter wench thou ne'r didst see,
What wilt thou give me for my good will;
And thou shalt have belly bait thy fill?

                                                         But he, etc.
It is so, quod the Miller: then quoth his man
Good master do the best you can,
To bring it about, and for the same,
I'le give unto you my old Ram:

                                                         But he, etc.
A match, quod the Miller, the Ram is mine,
And the Wench she shall be thine,
And so the miller like an Ass,
Sent him to his Wife in stead of the Lass:

                                                         So he, etc.
When Jack did come where she did lye,
Into the bed then Jack did hye;
You know so well I need not name,
What Jack would do unto his Dame

                                                         But he, etc.
When Jack had finisht up his game,
Unto the Miller he went amain,
He thankt his master, and to him swore,
That he had never such sport before.

                                                         But he, etc.

Betimes i'th morning the maid arose,
And to the Miller straight she goes,
Her horse she ready Sadled found,
Besides her Corn was Tole-free ground.

                                                         But he, etc.
The Miller then disir'd the maid,
That she would remember the Parlor bed,
Quoth she good Sir you are deceiv'd,
You kist your wife all in my stead:

                                                         And you, etc.
Alas, quoth the Miller, what shall I do?
For then our Jack hath been there too,
And for this trick a vow I make,
I'le never trust maiden for thy sake,

                                                         Be he was deceived in the dark,

                                                         And took his own for another's mark.


While you could hardly call this feminist with it's rather rapey undertones, for it's time the ladies in it are pretty empowered and have a good laugh at he expense of the husband. It's mistaken identities, risquee humor and entertaining poetry certainly share a lot in common with Shakespeare's comedies. 

I thought it was a great yarn. If you manage to find the tune that this went along to, please let us know!

The full information for the above ballad is as follows:

EBBA ID: 21788, Magdalene College - Pepys 4.124
Printed for I. Wright, I. Clarke, W. Thackeray, and T. Passenger.
Magdalene College - Pepys
Pepys Library

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