If All the World Were Paper
X: 1 T:If All The World Were Paper. (p)1651.PLFD.042 M:6/4 L:1/4 Q:3/4=90 S:Playford, Dancing Master,1st Ed.,1651. O:England H:1651. Z:Chris Partington. K:C % transposed from D G|A2 G A2 B|c3 C2D|E2 D E2 F|G3-G2 E| F2 E F2 G|A2 F D2 c|d2 G A2 B|c3-c2:|
IF ALL THE WORLD WERE PAPER. English, Country Dance Tune (6/8 or 6/4 time). D Major (Karpeles, Raven, Sharp): C Major (Kidson, Playford). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Karpeles, Raven, Sharp): AB (Kidson). "If all the World were Paper" was first published by John Playford as a round dance for eight persons in his English Dancing Master (1651) and in subsequent editions of the long-running Dancing Master series through the tenth edition of 1698. The last volume was published by John's son, Henry. "If all the World were Paper" is a one-strain tune in the Playford cannon. A second strain was composed for it in the mid-1960's by Everal de Jersey at the behest of musician, choreographer and researcher Pat Shuldham-Shay, and it is the version played for dancing today.
The original tune goes to an old and well-known nursery rhyme that goes:
If all the world were paper,
And all the sea were ink?
And all the trees were bread and cheese,
What should we do for drink?
If all the world were sand O,
Oh then what should we lack O,
if as they say there were no clay
How should we take Tobacco?
“If All the World were Paper” first came to prominence during the reign of Charles I and was published in a collection called Witt's Recreation that contained a pot-pourri of poems, puzzles, witty sayings and other such material. However the rhetorical questioning scheme of the piece is an ancient construction, and can be found in nearly every culture in every part of the world. The Playford rhyme is said to be a parody of the elaborated language used in ancient Jewish and Medieval Adoration. A Chaldee ode sung in synagogues during the first day of Pentecost includes the lyrics:
Could we with ink the ocean fill... and,
And were the skies of parchment made…
Similar imagery appears in many folk songs from throughout Europe, as well as the Koran. See also "If All the Sea Were Ink" from Smollet Holden's Collection of Favorite Irish Airs (c. 1841).