“Watkin's Ale”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: mentioned twice in 1592 (Mundy, Chettle)
Keywords: seduction pregnancy sex bawdy bastard


A girl laments "I am afraid to die a maid." A man overhears and offers her "Watkin's Ale." She accepts. After much witty repartee, they part. Nine months later, her child is born. The moral: "It is no jesting with sharp-edged tools."


This probably is not a traditional tune; the words are too fiendishly clever and the music too complex to have arisen in oral tradition. The song is rather frequently mentioned, however, particularly for such a bawdy piece. Chances are it was popular enough to include here. And I happen to think it too clever to omit. - RBW


  1. Chappell/Wooldridge I, p. 265, "Watkin's Ale" (1 tune)
  2. BBI, ZN3278A, "As Watkin walked by the way" (also "There was a maid this other day")
  4. BI, ChWI265