Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parker, Martin

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PARKER, MARTIN (d. 1656?), ballad-monger, seems to have been a native of London and a royalist. In ‘Vox Borealis’ (1641) he is described as ‘the Prelats Poet who made many base ballads against the Scots, for which he was like to have a taste of Justice Long's liberality [Justice Long = the Long Parliament], and hardly escaped the powdering tubb, which the vulgar call a prison; but now he swears that he will never put pen to paper for the prelats again, but betake himself to his pitcht Kanne and Tobacco and Pipe, and learne to sell his frothie Pots againe and give over Poetrie.’

Whether Parker had ever been a tavern-keeper (as seems here implied) there is no evidence to show; but he was not converted into a roundhead, as in 1643 he produced the words of the celebrated song, ‘When the king enjoyes his owne again,’ the authorship being settled by the remark of Gammer Gowty-legs in ‘The Gossips' Feast’ (1647): ‘By my faith Martin Parker never got a fairer brat; no, not when he penned that sweet ballad, “When the king enjoyes his owne again.”’ The original refrain, however, was ‘When the king comes home in peace again’ (Roxburghe Collection of Ballads, iii. 256; Loyal Garland, 1671 and 1686; Ritson, Ancient Songs). Ritson calls it the most famous and popular air ever heard in this country. Invented to support the declining interest of Charles I, the song served with more success to keep up the spirits of the cavaliers and promote the succession of his son. It was naturally used to celebrate the Restoration, while after the revolution it became a loyal adherent of the Pretender. Parker perhaps died in 1656, when he is commemorated in ‘A Sportive Funeral Elegy,’ written by ‘S. F.’ upon the ballad-writer, along with ‘Robbin the Annyseed Seller,’ and ‘Archee’ the king's jester [see Armstrong, Archibald]. Parker's familiar signature, ‘M.P.,’ was attached to numerous ballads after this date, but the popular initials may well have been borrowed by Lambert, Cotes, and other printers whom Parker had been in the habit of supplying. On the other hand, the assumption of Parker's death while he was still alive may have given point to a depreciatory ‘elegy’ such as that by ‘S. F.,’ who was probably one of Parker's rivals. Yet the fact that no retaliatory ode by Parker is discoverable must be considered as strong evidence that he was not alive after 1656.

Equally at home in the sentimental and the broadly humorous vein, Parker, who was a strict conservative in his art, must be considered the worthiest seventeenth-century successor of William Elderton [q. v.] Dryden commends him as the best ballad-maker of his day. Sheppard alluded to him in his ‘Times Displayed’ (1646) as

    That ballad-maker … now extold
    With the great name of poet;

and Flecknoe, in his ‘Miscellania’ (1653), spoke of him as inspired with the spirit of balletting, though ‘S. F.’ mischievously attributed the inspiration to Parker's practice of ‘bathing his beak’ in nut-brown ale.

In addition to broadsides and ballads printed in single sheets, Parker produced a number of small books, often mere chapbooks, of which the following are the most important: 1. ‘A true Tale of Robbin Hood; or a brief Touche of the Life and Death of that Renowned Outlaw, Robert Earle of Huntingdon, who lived and died in A.D. 1198,’ b.l. for T. Cotes, 1632, London, 8vo (Brit. Mus.) 2. ‘The Nightingale Warbling forth her owne Disaster; or the Rape of Philomela,’ 1632, 8vo. The only known copy of this quaint poem, which was dedicated to Henry Parker, lord Morley and Monteagle, is in the Huth collection. A few copies were, however, reprinted for A. Strettell, one of which is in the British Museum (cf. Corser, Collectanea, and Collier, Bibl. Cat.) 3. ‘Robin Conscience, or Conscionable Robin, in English meeter,’ 1635, 12mo, Brit. Mus. A satirical ballad which overstepped the usual ballad limits, and had consequently to be printed in the form of a chapbook. It is reprinted in the ‘Harleian Miscellany’ (cf. Haslewood, Brit. Bibliogr. ii. 548). 4. ‘A briefe Dissection of Germaines Affliction with Warre, Pestilence, and Famine, and other deducable Miseries, lachrimable to speak of; more lamentable to partake of. Sent as a (friendly) monitor to England, warning her to beware of (generally) Ingratitude and Security, as also (Particularly) other greevous sinnes, the weight whereof Germany hath a long time felt’ (verse), 1638, 8vo (Brit. Mus.) 5. ‘The Poet's Blind Man's Bough, or have among you my Blind Harpers,’ 1641, 8vo. The object of these verses was to reply with severity to some anonymous scribblers, the author of ‘Vox Borealis’ among them, who had bespattered Parker with abuse for being an advocate of Laud. In it he says ‘whatever yet was published by mee was known by Martin Parker, or M. P.’ (see Haslewood, Brit. Bibl. ii. 431; Corser, Collect. v. 114; Bibl. Heber. p. 227). 6. ‘Harry White his Humour,’ n.d. 12mo. The only known copy is in the Bodleian Library, and consists of a few leaves of comical opinions, each concluding with the words ‘This is Harry White his humour.’ It was reprinted in J. O. Halliwell's ‘Literature of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century,’ illustrated (Brit. Bibliogr. ii. 549).

Parker also appears to have produced Romances, his ‘Guy, Earl of Warwick,’ having been entered at Stationers' Hall in 1640, while ‘A most admirable Historie of that most renowned Christian Worthy, Arthur, King of the Britaines,’ b.l., 4to, appeared with his well-known signature in 1660. Moreover, in the mock romance of ‘Don Zara del Fogo,’ 1656, Parker is alluded to in a marginal note as author of an heroic poem called ‘Valentine and Orson.’

Parker's most popular ballads included, besides a first draft of ‘When the king enjoyes his owne again,’ a revised and final version of the excellent ballad of ‘The King and a poore Northerne Man, shewing how a Poore Northumberland man, a tenant of the king, being wronged by a lawyer (his neighbour), went to the king himself to make knowne his grievances. Full of simple mirth and merry plaine jests. Printed by Thos. Cotes, London, 1640’ (reprinted by the Percy Society, 1841). The song ‘When the stormy winds do blow’ is moreover derived from an original ballad by Parker, entitled ‘Saylers for my Money,’ but containing the words of the present title as a refrain (Pepys Collection, i. 420); a version, entitled ‘Neptune's Raging Fury,’ is printed in Ashton's ‘Real Sailor-Songs,’ 1891.

Among the less-known ballads by Parker may be cited from the unique collection in the British Museum ‘The Cooper of Norfolk’ (1625); ‘Rochell her yielding to the Obedience of the French King’ (1628); ‘An Excellent New Medley’ (1630); ‘The Desperate Damsells Tragedy, or the Faithless Young Man’ (1630); ‘The Bonny Bryer, or a Lancashire Lasse, her sore Lamentation for the Death of her Love and her owne Reputation’ (1630); ‘A briefe Description of the Triumphal Show made by the Rt. Hon. Algernon Percie, Earl of Northumberland, at his Installation into the princelie Fraternitie of the Garter, 13 May 1635’ (reprinted in 1851); ‘The Whoremongers Conversion’ (1635); ‘A Fayre Portion for a Fayre Mayd’ (1635); ‘A good Workeman needes never want Worke’ (1635); ‘Mans Felicity and Misery, which is a good Wife and a bad’ (1635); ‘The Honor of the Inns of Court Gentlemen’ (1636); ‘A Paire of Turtle Doves’ (1640); ‘A Messe of Good Fellows’ (1640); ‘John and Joan, or a mad Couple well met’ (1641); ‘Have among you good Women’ (1641); ‘Robin and Kate, a bad Husband converted by a good Wife’ (1646); ‘The Distressed Virgin’ (1655). The titles of others catalogued under ‘M.P.’ in the British Museum Library are given in Hazlitt's ‘Bibliographical Collections.’ A few additional ballads, such as ‘The Pope's Pedigre’ and ‘A Warning to all Lewd Livers,’ probably written by Parker, are described in the Earl of Crawford's ‘Catalogue of a Collection of English Ballads of the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries.’

[Brydges's Censura Literaria, vii. 53; Corser's Collectanea Anglo-Poetica (Chetham Soc.), v. 110; Collier's Bibliogr. Cat. ii. 102; Crawford's Cat. p. 616; Chappell's Ancient Popular Music, i. 212; Ritson's Bibl. Anglo-Poetica; Hindley's Old Book Collector's Miscellany, vol. iii.; Ritson's Ancient Popular Poetry, vol. ii.; Dryden's Comedies, 1701, p. 217; Hazlitt's Bibliographical Collections; Lowndes's Bibliographer's Manual, iii. 1776; Add. MS. 24491, f. 101 (Hunter's Chorus Vatum); Bibliotheca Heberiana; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. x. 212.]

T. S.