“Singing Simpkin,” an Elizabethan Jig (1993)

[From Cox’s Actaeon and Diana, 1656. I have modernized the spelling and punctuation.] 



Simpkin, a Clown

Bluster, a Roarer [Braggart Soldier]

Old Man

His Wife


Enter Wife, Simpkin following.

Wife. Blind Cupid hath made my heart for to bleed,

Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.

Simpkin. But I know a man can help you at need,

Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.

 Wife. My husband he often a-hunting goes out,

Fa, la, la, & etc.

Simpkin. And brings home a great pair of horns there’s no doubt;

Fa, la, la, & etc.

 Wife. How is’t Monsieur Simpkin, why are you so sad?

Fa, la, la, la & etc.

 Simpkin. I am up to the ears in love, and it makes me stark mad,

Fa, la, la, & etc.

I am vexed, I am tortur’d, and troubled at heart,

Fa la, la, & etc.

 Wife. But I’ll try my skill to take off your smart,

Fa la, la, & etc.

And on that condition I give you a kiss,

Fa la, la, & etc.

 Simpkin. But what says your husband when he hears of this?

Fa la, la, & etc.

 Wife. You know my affection, and no one knows more,

Fa, la, la, & etc.

 A knock within.

 Simpkin. ‘Uds niggers noggers who knocks at the door?

Fa, la, la, & etc.

 Enter a Servant. The tune alters.*

 Servant. There is a roister at the door,

He seems a fellow stout.

 Simpkin. I beseech you worthy friend,

Which is the back way out?

 Servant. He swears and tears he will come in,

And nothing shall him hinder.

 Exit Servant.

 Simpkin. I fear he’ll strip me out my skin

And burn it into tinder.

 Wife. I have consider’d of a way,

And ‘twill be sure the best.

 Simpkin. What may it be my dearest Dear?

 Wife. Creep into this same chest.

And though he roar, speak you no word,

If you’ll preserve my favor.

                    Simpkin gets into a chest.

Simpkin. Shut to the chest, I pray, with speed,

For something has some savour.

 Wife closes the lid of the chest. Enter Bluster.

 Bluster. I never shall be quiet

If she use me in this fashion.

 Wife. I am here to bid you welcome,

What mean you by this passion?

 Bluster. With some young sweet-face’d fellow

I thought gone out you were.

 Simpkin, peaks out from the chest.

Simpkin. No sooth, the sweet-face’d fellow is kept a prisoner here.

 Bluster. Where is the fool thy husband?

Say, whither is he gone?

 Wife. The wittol [cuckold] is a-hunting.

 Bluster. Then we two are alone.

But should he come and find me here,

What might the cuckold think?

Perhaps he’d call the neighbors in.

 Simpkin (same business). And beat you till you stink.

 Bluster. Yet in the bloody war full oft,

My courage I did try.

 Wife. I know you have killed many a man.

 Simpkin (same business). You lie, you slut, you lie.

Bluster. I never came before a foe,

By night nor yet by day,

But that I stoutly rous’d myself,

 Simpkin (same business). And nimbly ran away.

 Bluster. Within this chest I’ll hide myself,

If it chance he should come.

 Wife. O no, my love, that cannot be,

 Simpkin (same business).  I have bespoke the room.

 Wife. I have a place behind here,

Which yet is known to no man.

 Simpkin (same business). She has a place before too,

But that is all too common.

 Old Man (within). Wife, wherefore is the door thus barr’d?

What mean you, pray, by this?

 Wife. Alas! it is my husband.

 Simpkin (same business).  I laugh now till I piss.

 Bluster. Open the chest, I’ll into it,

My life else it may cost.

 Wife. Alas, I cannot open it.

 Simpkin ( same business). I believe the key is lost.

 Wife. I have bethought myself

Upon a dainty trick.

 Bluster. What may it be my dearest love?

I prithee now be quick.

 Wife. You must say that your enemy

Into this house is fled,

And that your heart can take no rest,

Until that he is dead.

Draw quickly out your furious blade,

And seem to make a strife.

Swear all th’excuses can be made,

Shall not preserve his life.

Say that the rogue is fled in here,

That stole away your coin,

And if I’ll not deliver him,

You’ll have as much of mine.

 Bluster. Here’s no man but myself,

On whom shall I complain?

 Simpkin( same business). This great fool does not understand.

Wife. This thing you must but feign.

My husband thus must be deceiv’d,

And afterwards we’ll laugh.

 Old Man. Wife, since you will not ope the door,

I’ll break it ope with my staff.

Old Man enters.

 Bluster (pretending to be searchin for his prey). Good woman show me to the slave,

His limbs I straight shall tear.

 Wife. By all the honesty I have,

There’s no man came in here.

 Bluster. When I have fought to purchase wealth,

And with my blood did win it,

This rogue has got my purse by stealth,

 Simpkin (same business). But never a penny in it.

Old Man. She’s big with child, therefore take heed

You do not fright my Wife.

 Bluster. But know you who the father is?

 Simpkin (same business). The Roarer on my life.

 Old Man. She knows not of your enemy,

Then get you gone ‘twere best.

 Wife. Peace husband, peace, I tell you true,

I have hid him in the chest.

 Old Man. I am glad on’t at my heart,

But do not tell him so.

 Wife. I would not for a thousand pound

The Roarer should it know.

 Bluster. When next we meet his life is gone,

No other must he hope;

I’ll kill him whatsoere comes on’t.

 Simpkin (same business).Pray think upon a rope.

 Old Man. What kind of person is it

That in the chest does lie?

 Wife. A goodly handsome sweet young man,

As ere was seen with eye.

 Old Man. Then let us both entreat of him—

Pray put us not in fear:

We do beseech you go from hence.

 Bluster. But tomorrow I’ll be here.


 Old Man. Wife, run with all the speed you can,

And quickly shut the door:

I would not that the roaring man

Should come in any more.

Meantime I will release the youth,

And tell him how we have sped.

 Simpkin comes forth.

 Be comforted my honest friend.

 Simpkin. Alas, I am almost dead.

My heart is tortur’d in my breast

With sorrow, fear and pain.

 Old Man. I’ll fetch some aqua vitae,

To comfort you again.

 Simpkin. And cause I will requite you,

Whose love doth so excell,

(aside) I’ll graft a pair of horns on your head,

That may defend it well.

 Wife. Good husband, let the man stay here,

‘Tis dang’rous in the street.

 Old Man. I would not for a crown of gold,

The Roarer should him meet. For should he come by any harm,

They’d say the fault were mine.

Wife (to Simpkin). There’s half a crown, pray send him out,

To fetch a quart of wine.

 Simpkin. There’s money for you, sir—

Pray fetch a quart of sack.

 Old Man. ‘Tis well, ‘tis well, my honest friend,

I’ll see you shall not lack.

 Wife. But if he should dishonest me,

For there are such slipp’ry men,

 Old Man. Then he gets not of his half crown

One penny back again.

 Exit. Old Man and Servant listen.

  Simpkin. Thy husband gone my love,

We’ll sing, we’ll dance, and laugh,

I am sure he is a good fellow,

And takes delight to quaff.

 Wife. I’ll fold thee in my arms my love,

No matter for his list’ning.

 Simpkin. Gentlemen, some forty weeks hence

You may come to a christ’ning.

 Enter Old Man

Old Man. O sirrah, have I caught you,

Now do the best you can,

Your schoolmaster nere taught you

To wrong an honest man.

 Simpkin. Good sir, I never went to school,

Then why am I abused? The truth is, I am but a fool.

And like a fool am used.

 Old Man. Yet sirrah you had wit enough

To think to cuckold me.

 Wife. I jested with him, husband,

His knavery to see.

 Simpkin. But now you talk of knavery,

I pray where is my sack?

 Old Man. You shall want it your belly, sir,

And have it on your back.

 They beat him off stage. Exeunt.


* There were probably additional changes of tune not noted in the received text.

© 2004-2013 Donato Colucci