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In prime of years, when I was young,
I took delight in youthful toys,
Not knowing then what did belong,
Unto the pleasure of those days.
At seven years old I was a child,
And subject for the be beguiled.

At twice seven, I must needs go learn,
What disciple was taught at school;
When good from evil I could discern
I thought myself no more a fool.
My parents were contriving then
How I might live when {I became/grown} a man.

At three times seven, I wex-ed wild,
And manhood led me to be bold;
I thought myself no more a child,
My own conceit it so me told.
Then I did venture far and near
To buy delight at price full dear.

At four times seven I must {take a wife/wive}
And leave off all my wanton ways,
Thinking thereby perhaps to thrive
And save myself from sad disgrace.
So fare ye well, companions all,
For other business doth me call.

At five times seven, I would go prove
What I could gain by art or skill;
But still against the stream I strove,
I bowled stones up against the hill.
The more I laboured with might and main,
The more I strove, {against the stream./and strove in vain.}

At six times seven, all covetness,
Begain to harbour in my breast,
My mind then still contriving was
How I might gain all worldly wealth,
To purchase lands, and live on them,
To make my children mighty men.

As seven times seven, all worldly care
Began to harbour in my brain;
Then I did drink a heavy draught
Of water of experience plain.
Then none so ready was as I,
To purchase, bargain, sell, or buy.

At eight time seven, I wex-ed old,
I took myself unto my rest;
My neighbours then my counsel craved
And I was held in great request.
But age did so abate my strength
That I was forced to yield at last.

At nine times seven, I must take leave
Of all my carnal {Vain delight/vanity}
And then full sore it did me grieve
I fetched up many a bitter sigh.
To rise up early, and sit late
{I was no longer fit, my strength did abate/I was not fit, strength did abate.}

At ten time seven, my glass was run,
And I, put silly man, must die,
I look-ed up, and saw the sun,
Was overcome with crystal sky.
And now I must this world forksake,
Another man my place must take.

Now you may see within the glass
The whole estate of mortal man;
How they from seven to seven do pass,
Until they are three score and ten,
And when their glass is fully run,

They (must} leave off where they first begun.

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Source: Broadwood, L, 1908, English Traditional Songs and Carols, London, Boosey

Tune from Mr. Buttifant, organist of Horsham Parish Church. Sung by Mr H Burstow, 1893

See Douce and Pepys Collections for black letter broadsides of 12 stanzas (ten lines in each), called "The Age and Life of Man." These are illustrated with Jacobean woodcuts. The ballad begins " As I was wandering all alone," and on the Douce copy is stated to be "by P. Fancy." It is directed to be sung to the tune "Jane Shore." Williamson, Cole, Wright, etc., published these. Thackeray in the reign of Charles II. also printed " The Life and Age of Man " on broadsides ; and, until lately, Such printed "The Seven Ages of Man," very similar to this version and to that in Bell's Songs of the Peasantry (1857), but rather more corrupted. The fine tune, previously sung to the editor, was noted by Mr. Buttifant, late organist of Horsham Parish Church. In the Ballad Opera of Silvia (1731) there is a minor tune (Air xiv.) called "The State of Man," which, rhythmically, suggests that it was used for similar words to those here given.

Roud: 617 (Search Roud index at VWML)

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