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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

III. Political and Ecclesiastical Satire

§ 11. Litanies

Among ballad-tunes, the litany stands in the front rank. With its three riming lines and short refrain, it was, in fact, the most successful variation of the three-lined satiric verse. Its name was taken from its original refrain, “Which nobody can deny,” which was often superseded, especially when the attack was most bitter, by the litany-prayers Libera nos, Domine, Quaesumus te, Domine, or their English equivalents. A hortatory, and less implacable, satire, which came into vogue in the later days of Charles, altered the refrain again to “This is the Time.” They were mainly, however, sung to the one tune, although The Cavallilly Man, a cavalier air, was occasionally used, when the lilt of the three lines and their length were suitable. The usual type may be seen by one stanza of the tory Loyal Subject’s Litany (1680):

  • From the Dark-Lanthorn Plot, and the Green-Ribbon Club;
  • From brewing sedition in a sanctified Tub;
  • From reforming a Prince by the model of Job,
  • Libera nos, Domine!
  • The other ballad-tunes may be conveniently divided into old and new. Of the first class, two were much more popular than their congeners. Packington’s Pound was a lilting tune, fitted for a scheme of words not unlike parts of The Ingoldsby Legends, and a ready vehicle for broad and dashing fun. Its vogue continued unabated till the reign of queen Anne, and some of the best ballad-satires were written in it, the more easily as it admitted some small variations of structure in the verse. Almost equal to Packington’s Pound in general favour was Hey, boys, up go we! or Forty-one. This accompanied an eight-lined stanza of vigorous movement, octosyllabic and hexasyllabic lines being alternated. The eighth line was usually the refrain, such as “Hey, boys, up go we!” or “The clean contrary way,” or some special one for the occasion; but it might remain undistinguished from the rest of the verse. Other old tunes only need a mention; there were used, for example, Chevy Chase, Sir Eglamore, Eighty-eight, Cock Lawrel, Ohone, ohone, Fortune, my foe, The Jolly Beggars, I’ll tell thee, Dick and Phillida flouts me, all of which date from before the commonwealth.