3. The Nutbrown Lass - Henry Purcell (1659-95)

Our first catch by Purcell, possibly the most prolific writer of these little songs. We’re going to be hearing from him a fair bit so I might spread the biographical detail out a little.

This one is a typically blatant, unsubtle drinking song from Mr Purcell. No real hidden secret messages here, just people drunk on wine and sack (like sherry), singing about a lady with nice appendages amongst other things. Bowdlerised by the Victorians; the bit about thighs was transformed to “in loving is wise” and “and is never slack” substituted the final word which, in the original, is used as a rather self explanatory euphemism. This is an example of the common tactic of keeping the most offensive thought to the end, something this composer in particular liked doing. The naughty boy.

"A health to the nutbrown lass with the hazle eyes! She that has good Eyes has also good thighs: let it pass. As much to the livelier gray: they're as good by night as day; She that has good Eyes has also good thighs: drink away. I'll pledge, sir, what ho! Some wine here: To mine, and to thine, to thine and to mine, the colours are divine. But oh! the black eyes! Give me as much again, and let it be sack; She that has good Eyes has also good thighs, and a better knack."

The Nutbrown Lass - Henry Purcell