Annotation:Old Man is a Bed Full of Bones (An)

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X:1 T:Old Man is a Bed Full of Bones, An M:6/4 L:1/8 R:Jig S:John Playford - English Country Dancing Master (1651) K:Amin e2e2e2 e4 e2|e2c2A2 c4 c2|d4 c2 d4 c2|d4e2 f4 d2| e2e2e2 e4e2|e2c2A2 c4e2|f4 f2 e3d c2|d4 e2 f3e d2:|]

OLD MAN IS A BED FULL OF BONES, AN. English, Country Dance Tune (6/4 time). A Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. The title has become a proverb, however, it originally referred to the name of the dance ("Longways for as many as will"), while the accompanying melody was called "Cock Robin," or "Cock Laurel." In the Pattricke Manuscript (also called the "Lovelace Manuscript", an untitled copybook dating to at least 1649, now at the Houghton Library, Harvard), for example, the country dance "The old man with a bed full of bones" (no. 13) is given with the instruction to be played to the tune of "Cooke Laurrel." The "Cock Loerel" or "Cook Laweel" tune is in Choice Collection of 180 Loyal Songs, etc. (3rd ed., 1685) and in D'Urfey's Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719), and is itself a song and appears in Ben Jonson's masque The Gypsies Metamorphosed[1]. The Cock Laurel character was a notorious rogue or knave in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The "Old Man is a Bed Full of Bones" title comes from a song, four lines of which Chappell (1858) found quoted in Rowley's A Match at Midnight (act i, sc.1).

The tune (as "An old man is a bed full of bones") appears in the first edition of bookseller and publisher John Playford's (1623-1686) The English Dancing Master (London, 1651, No. 76), reprinted in subsequent Dancing Master [1] editions through the sixteenth edition of 1716, then printed in London by John Young, successor to the Playford publishing concerns. It was also published by rival London music publisher John Walsh in The Compleat Country Dancing Master (London, 1718) and in his Complete Country Dancing-Master, Volume the Fourth (London, 1740, No. 170). An Irish derivation of the melody goes by the title "Priest in His Boots (The)."

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Barlow (Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford's Dancing Master), 1985; No. 72, p. 31. Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes, vol. 2), 2005; p. 97. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 44.

Recorded sources : - Familiar ‎– FAM47, Pyewackett - "7PM till Midnight" (1985).

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  1. “Ben Johnson’s “The Gypsies Metamorphos’d” (retitled “The Masque of Gypsies” when it was republished in the 1640’s by Benson) was the Marquess, later Duke, of Buckingham’s Entertainment for King James, first performed at Burley-on-the-Hill, Rutland, in August, 1621, at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, two days later, and in the following month at Windsor” [Keith Whitlock, “John Playford’s English Dancing Master 1650/51 as Cultural Politics”, Folk Music Journal, vol. 7, No. 5, 1999, p. 553].