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Penguin: Tune Add: Death and the Lady

21 Jan 00 - 06:23 PM (#166368)
Subject: Death And The Lady (tune only)^^
From: Alan of Australia

From the Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs, Ed Pellow's rendition of the tune of Death And The Lady can be found here.

Previous song: The Daughter Of Peggy, 0.
Next Song: The Death Of Queen Jane.

Alan ^^

21 Jan 00 - 07:06 PM (#166384)
Subject: RE: Tune Add: Death And The Lady
From: GUEST,Bruce O.

A tune for "Death and the Lady" from 1729 is B107 among the broadside ballad tunes on my website.

27 Jul 00 - 01:26 PM (#265846)
Subject: RE: Tune Add: Death And The Lady
From: Malcolm Douglas

From the notes to the Penguin Book (1959):

"In the Middle Ages, the Dance of Death and dialogues between Death and his victims used to be enacted as a stage morality.  Later, the theme was taken up by artists as great as Holbein and as humble as the chapbook illustrators.  Miss Anne Gilchrist has noted (Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, vol.IV, pp.37-8) that "in English balladry the favourite aspect of the subject was Death in its relation to radiant beauty and lusty and careless youth."  The ballad, perhaps of late 16th. century origin, was originally in dialogue-form and it may well have been at once sung and acted.  Traditional versions have been noted from Devon (Songs of the West, Sabine Baring Gould & others, 1905, pp.202-3), Somerset (Folk Songs from Somerset, Cecil Sharp 1904-9, vol.IV p.4), Wiltshire (Folk Songs of the Upper Thames, Alfred Williams, 1923, p.173) and Sussex (English Traditional Songs and Carols, Lucy Broadwood, 1908, p.40)."  -R.V.W./A.L.L.

This version was collected from Mr. Baker of Maidstone in Kent, in 1946, and was first published in the Folk Song Journal, vol.V, p.19.

In the Forum:

Death and the Lady  The version collected by Lucy Broadwood in 1893, with tune.
Conversation With Death  Some related discussion.

There is an entry at  The Traditional Ballad Index:
Death and the Lady

Lesley Nelson has the Broadwood version, with tune, at her  Folk Music  site:
Death and the Lady

The 1729 tune that Bruce Olson mentions above is at:  Broadside Ballad Tunes

T:B107- Death and the lady
c/2|e3/4e/4 e/2g/2 f/2e/2 f/2f/2|e3::g/2|\
g/2e/2 c3/4c/4 f/2e/2 d3/4c/4|\
d3/2c/2 e3/4e/4 e/2g/2|f/2e/2 d3/4c/4 c3/2|]

The text published by the Percy Society in  Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England  (1846) is at  Poets' Corner:

The Messenger of Mortality; or Life and Death Contrasted in a Dialogue Betwixt Death and a Lady

There are a number of broadside texts at  Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads.  This is not a full listing, but covers most of the material.  There is little textual variation, but the woodcuts and engravings are well worth looking at!

Death and the Lady  Printer & date unknown (Harding B 45[21])
Death and the Lady  Printed by G Henson, Bridge Street, Northampton; no date.
Death and the Lady  Printed by A. Ryle, and Co., Monmouth-Court, Seven Dials, between 1845 and 1859.
Death and the Lady  Printed by J. Harkness, (Preston) between 1840 and 1866.

Death and the Lady; or The Great Messenger of Mortality:  Printed by T. Dash, (Kettering); no date.
Death and the Lady; or The Great Messenger of Mortality:  Printed by J. Evans, Long-lane, London between 1780 and 1812.
Death and the Lady; or The Great Messenger of Mortality:  Printed by J. Turner, High Street, Coventry between 1797 and 1846.

Messenger of Mortality; or, a Dialogue between Death and the Lady  Printed by M.W. Carrall, Walmgate, York, in 1827
Messenger of Mortality, or, a Dialogue between Death and a Lady    Printed by Kelsey, Bookbinder, Boston and Spilsby, between 1879 and 1898.
Messenger of Mortality, or Life and Death Contrasted  Printed by J. Pitts, Wholesale Toy and Marble Warhouse [sic] 6, Great St Andrew Street, Seven Dials, London, between 1819 and 1844.

These are all large images.

There is plenty of background material on The Dance of Death available on the Web; see for example:

Death, Dance of  at

41 Woodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger from a Facsimile of the 1538 French Edition


27 Jul 00 - 02:47 PM (#265916)
Subject: RE: Tune Add: Death And The Lady
From: GUEST,Bruce O.

Originally missing, the Bodley Ballads website now has a listing for the 17th century copy licensed by Richard Pocock, 1685-8, but has not yet added the GIF. [Wood 417(129). I pointed out this missing ballad to them several months ago].

The licensing by R. P. indicates that it was not a reissue of an older ballad. What is curious is that there is a slightly older ballad, "Beauties Warning-piece", (ZN1415 in my broadside ballad index at which is obviously made up of parts of two ballads, and the second part of this is very similar to "The Great Messenger of Morality = Death and the Lady". So it seems that "Death and the Lady" was modeled on an older unknown ballad, or on the 2nd part of "Beauties Warning-piece".

27 Jul 00 - 08:45 PM (#266166)
Subject: RE: Tune Add: Death And The Lady
From: GUEST,Joerg

If you ever happen to get to Colmar (France - I guess I should add this because I once had to answer "I want to go to Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland" - I really don't know what other Colmars there are):

Don't forget to visit their art museum - there are also some small but great cuts (is 'copper cut' correct?) regarding the subject 'Death and the girl' which would be called hardcore if it wasn't art by definition.


06 May 12 - 09:44 PM (#3347645)
Subject: RE: Penguin: Tune Add: Death and the Lady

Robin Williamson of the Incredible String Band sings this with different music and slightly different lyrics and title. His is called My Name Is Death.