Malt's Come Down

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MALT'S COME DOWN. English, Air (6/2 time). G Mixolydian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AA. The tune dates back to the 16th century, and appears in a setting by the English composer William Byrd in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (No. CL), and in Deuteromelia (1609). Chappell notes: "...it appears that Ravenscroft, in arranging it as a round, has taken only half the tune." Since the latter two lines are always the same, it makes a great convivial song, with the first two line being made up spontaneously by each participant in turn. Various stanzas begin:

There's never a drunkard in all of the town,
But well he knows the malt's come down.
Malt's come down, malt's come down,
From an old angel to the French crown.

There's never a maiden in all of the town
But sleeps alone now the malt's come down.
Malt's come down, malt's come down,
From an old angel to the French crown.

An 'angel' from the time of Henry VIII

The 'angel' can either refer to an English gold coin [1] that weighed 23-3/4 carats, minted from 1465 to the time of Charles I and worth approximately 7 shillings, or to a prostitute (see Routledge, Dictionary of Historical Slang, p. 81). 'French crown' refers similarly to a gold coin weighing 23 carats and worth about 5 shillings, or to the pox (see Routledge, Dictionary of Historical Slang, p. 1945). Some of the rhymes appear in nursery-rhyme collections, and collections of English rounds.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time), vol. 1, 1859; p. 151.

Recorded sources:




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