Location: Bellerby, Yorkshire, England (SE1192)
Year: Perf. 1879. Revived and Col. 1926
Time of Occurrence: Christmas
Collective Name: Sword Dance


M.K. [Maud Karpeles]
Some Fragments of Sword Dance Plays
Journal of the English Folk Dance Society, 2nd Series, 1928, Vol.2, pp.35-42



1st Clown {walking round in a ring}

Gentlemen and ladies, I have sprung from a noble knight;
I have come here to spill my blood for old England's right;
Old England's right and a free goodwill;
Gentlemen and ladies, I'll sing be mesel'.
{Sings [Note 1]}
Oh, there isn't a family
That can compare to mine,
My father he was hanged
For stealing of three swine.
O my father he was hanged,
And my mother was drowned in a well;
Isn't I a bonny chuck
To be living by mesel'?

2nd Clown {spoken}

Rumble, rumble, here my brave lads
And give us leave to sport,
For on this ground I mean to resort,
Resort and play - show you many rhymes.
Gentlemen and ladies, this is Chris-a-mas time.
Cris-a-mas comes but once a year,
When it comes it brings good cheer.
Roast beef, bull beef, apple pie,
With very small shares for you and I, Bess.
{Turns and taps Bess on the chest with his stick.}
So mind, brave lads, what I do say;
My name is bold Hector, I've come to clear the way;
Hector, Hector, from Dulberry Bush,
The devil's own sister-in-law clothed in lamb's wool.
Our king stands waiting on this ground
{pointing to the king with his stick}
He swears and tears he will be in
To teach me of my skill.
He is some silly fool I vow.
He will say more in the burning of an inch of candle
That he will perform in ten times ten pounds burning out.

{The Clowns walk about during the next part}


Hold, Hector, hold.
Shall I wound thee on the leg,
Or wilt thou fall down on thy knees and beg?

2nd Clown

No. Neither for my hand nor my van;
Thousands have I slain,
And here I've travelled to set old England right again.


I'm the king of the conquerors and here I do advance.

2nd Clown

And I the ragged clown and I've come to see thee dance.


Dance? Thou admits to see a king dance?
Dance? I am a king that's highly known.
I'll be very sorry to be offended by a saucy fellow, ragged clown.

2nd Clown

Hearty good fellow, art thou a king?
Wasn't thou stealing swine last night?


Stealing swine?

2nd Clown

Tenting swine, perhaps I mean.


My blood is raise, I swear and vow
I've been the death of many a man,
And I'll be the death of thou.
Young men, draw your shavers,
and quit this scoundrel from my sight;
For if I stand to prate with him,
he'll prate with me all night.

{From this point until the performance of the dance the words are all sung}

1st Clown {walking about}

With your leave, kind gentlemen,
I've come to see a sport,
And likewise for to see
If a lady I can court.
But the lasses nowadays
They are so plaguey shy,
My clothing is so fine
They will not come me nigh.
Our king is coming in
Dressed in his grand array,
He'll call his young men in
By one, by two, or three.

{Goes to one side.}

King {walking round in a circle}

Spectators, silence keep,
And you will plainly see,
I'll call these young men in
Dressed in their grand array
By one, by two, or three. [Note 2]
Oh, the first is Mr Spark
Who's lately come from France
He's the first man in our list
And the second in our dance.

2nd Dancer {following King, walking behind him in a circle}

God bless your honour's fame
And all your young men too;
I've come to act my part
As well as I can do.


If thou wilt act thee part
And wil not from me flee
I'll call these young men in
By one, by two or three. [Note 3]
Oh, the next is Mr Stout
As you will understand;
As good a swordsman he is
As ever took sword in hand.

3rd Dancer {following 2nd Dancer}

My valour has been tried
Through city, town, and field;
I never met the man
That yet could make ye yield.

King {walking round in a circle}

O the next is Mr Wild
Who has travelled many a mile;
I'm afraid the worst of all
The lasses he'll beguile.

4h dancer {following 3rd dancer}

Although I've travelled the world
Not for any wrong;
It is for my false love
Because from me she's gone.


O the next he is a prince,
He is a squire's son,
I'm afraid he's lost his love
Because from me she's gone.

5th Dancer {following 4th Dancer}

Although I be too young,
I've money for to roam [or, rove] ;
I'll freely spend it all
Before I'll lose my love.


Then in comes last of all,
Mount Zion is his name;
He's a worthy gentleman
And by birth of noble fame.

6th Dancer {following 5th Dancer}

My father's a metal man
And a tinker too by trade;
He never stopped one hole,
But two for it he made.

1st Clown {running after them}

Now, I'm the last of all
My name is Captain Tom.
If you've got fifty girls,
I'll kiss them every one.

2nd Clown

Cox Bobs, I'd like forgot;
I am one of your crew,
If you want to know my name,
My name is 'Love so True'.


So you've see us all go round,
Think of us what you will.
Music, strike up and play
A tune - just what you will.

{The Dance follows. At the end of the Dance Bessie comes forward and stands in the middle of the dancers, they getting into hilt and point position and walking round.}

King {sings}

Our lady she comes in,
She looks both pale and wan;
She's got a long beard on,
Just like a collier's man.

{Dancers make Lock and hang it round Bessie's neck.}

Bessie {sings, standing, dancers walking round}

Just now I'm going to die,
As you can plainly see;
These six fine glittering swords
Will soon put an end to me.
Farewell unto you all,
And my old father here,
Farewell unto you all,
And my old grannie dear.

{Dancers draw swords and Bessie falls dawn and lies flat on her back. The Dancers continue marching round.}

King {sings}

Our lady she is dead,
And on the ground she's laid;
We must all suffer for this,
Young men, I'm sore afraid.

2nd Dancer sings

I'm sure it's none of I
That did this awful crime;
It's the man that follows me,
He drew his sword so fine.

3rd, 4th and 5th Dancers sing in turn

I'm sure it's none of I
That did this awful crime;
It's the man that follows me,
I caught him in the act.

6th Dancer {sings}

Since I'm the last of all,
And I the blame must take,
Down on my bended knee
For pardon I must pray {Bends knee}
Yet I not daunted be,
Although I be the last,
Our king had done this crime
And laid the blame on me.

King {sings}

Cheer up, my lively lads,
And be of courage bold;
We'll carry her to the church
And bury her in the mould.

{Dancers stand still. The following words are all spoken.}

2nd Dancer

Bury her, bury her, where do you mean to bury her,
and all these people standing round?
How do you mean to escape a halter?
Send for a doctor out of van.
I've heard tell of a doctor famed far and near;
if he'd been here he would have brought this queen to life again.


Send for a doctor.

2nd Dancer

Doctor, doctor, twenty pounds for a doctor.

Doctor {one of the clowns}

Here am I.


Hearty good fellow, art thou a doctor?


Yes, I am a doctor.


What is thy name, doctor?


My name is Evan Lovan rantantiser to a boarding master
taught by twelve universals,
fried balsam upon balsam
made of dead man's fat, rosin, and goose grease -
that's my name, doctor.


And a very curious name, doctor.


Aye, Ah think so.


How far hast thou travelled, doctor?


Travelled? I've travelled through Itty Titty,
where there is neither house, land, nor city;
wooden churches, leather bells, and black-puddings for bell-ropes.


Is that all doctor?


No. I've travelled through England, Ireland, Scotland, France, and Spain
And here I've travelled to bring this old queen to life again.


Well done, doctor.
What can you cure, doctor?


Cure? I can cure the itch, the stitch, the ague, and the gout.
If there be nineteen devils in, I can bring one-and-twenty out.
I can cure the whisky jade,
the smiling maid,
I can make the paper soak to crack, sir.
I can make the deaf to hear,
the dumb to speak,
or the lame to walk or fly, sir.


Is that all, doctor?


No. I can cure the maiden with a red pale face,
I can do the like to a hare.
Any maiden wishing to cure her sweetheart,
I can tell her how she shall win.
I can cure, aye, boys, aye.
I once cured my old grandmother who had been dead two year,
after which she lived three and brought forth two children.


Well done, doctor.
What's thy fee, doctor?


My fee is twenty pounds.


Far too much, doctor.


Well, as it's thee, I'll take nineteen pounds, nineteen shillings, and elevenpence three farthings.


Fall to work, doctor.
I will see thee paid, or unpaid, in the morning.

Doctor {going away}

Paid, the devil.
One bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
I've got my own old wife at home been dead a fortnight
a far better job than that.


Fall to work, doctor.
I'll see thee paid out of my own pocket.

{Doctor comes back}


How did this old queen happen her misfortune?


She tumbled upstairs and broke her neck.


Well done, stupid.
I've heard tell of falling down.


Well, down, I mean.

Doctor {goes to Bessie's feet and lifts them up}

Her neck is broken.
{Goes to her head and raises it.}
Her things are out of joint
and she is filling with wind
causing her bowels to be in an uproar.
She is in a very bad state indeed, sir.
But I've got some pills in my pocket that will cure all ills,
time present, time gone, and time to come.
If that won't do, I'll scour her over and up again
till the spirit moves;
{Doctor rubs Bessie's stomach and she arches her back.}
and I've got a little bottle in my pocket called oakum-pokum pennyroyal.
Open thy niff-naff
and I'll let it down thy chiff-chaff.
Rise, old girl, and sing.

Bessie {sings, standing up}

Good morning, gentlemen,
A-sleeping I have been,
I've had such a sleep
As the like was never seen.
But now I am awake
And alive unto this day;
So we will have a dance
And the doctor must seek his pay.

{Dance performed as before, Bessie and Clowns fooling about. The performers stand in two lines, facing audience, the two Clowns in front with Bessie in the middle of them.}

{All sing [Note 4]}


Gentry and sentry all stand in a row
I mean you no manner of ill;
But I wish you sweethearts
And our Clown a new coat,
So, ladies, I bid you farewell,
So, ladies, I bid you farewell.

{At the word 'farewell', they bow, singing swords down and up. They march off in the order of coming on.}


Peter Millington's Notes:

This text was scanned from Alex Helm "The English Mummers' Play", Woodbridge, D.S.Brewer, 1981, pp.93-215

Helm's Introduction:

"The version was last performed in 1879 and was revived in 1926 when it was collected by Dr Karpeles. Performers are alive in the village who still remember the dialogue, and the text which follows contains lines recently col- lected by Miss B. G. Wilson. Both old and new costumes are shown on Plates 11 and 12. In recent years disguised men have been appearing at Whitsuntide to collect money, but without performing either dance or drama. Their costume is said to be exactly that of the old per- formers: on the white tunic and trousers are appliqued cut out shapes of animals, geometric patterns and faces. Colour photographs taken by Mr Tom Chambers show these clearly as well as three 'Females'. They now call themselves 'Guisers' and show no desire to revive the ceremony in full as it used to be performed, which is unfortunate.
The text received comment in the chapter on Sword Dance Ceremonies and needs no further comment here.
The players process in the following order and form up in a straight line facing the audience:
Drummer, Fiddler, Bessie with a clown on either side, King, Five dancers, one behind the other.
The performers, as they speak, leave the line and move forward."

Helm's Footnotes to Bellerby text:

1. This song tune was used throughout except for the last song. [[Music for this tune is printed in both] M.K. (1928) and A.Helm (1981).]
2. Added from a version collected by Miss B. G. Wilson.
3. ll. 76-9 are added from the Miss Wilson version.
4. The music for 'Gentry and Sentry' was only imperfectly remembered, and Dr Karpeles was unable to note it."

File History:

2002-02-23 - Scanned and coded by Peter Millington
2021-01-15 - TEI-encoded by Peter Millington


Dramaturgical Chart

Dramaturgical chart for 87se19km
Click on the image to view the chart full size.

The chart reveals the dramaturgical structure of the play by showing which speeches in the script are spoken by which character. Vertical lines indicate stage directions.

TEI-encoded File

A TEI-encoded XML version of this text can be downloaded here.

Text Relatives Map

See how many of the lines in this text also appear in other plays:
  • As a histogram sorted by the number of shared lines
  • On a map with markers sized according to the number of shared lines

Other Information

There may be more about this text at: