“The Lamentation of a Bad Market”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1651 (The Loves of Hero and Leander, according to Opie-Oxford2)
Keywords: wager execution death drowning fire parody children nobility

Description

On January 10 a carpenter starts a fire that burns a bridge over the Thames. A lord and the King, looking at the thin ice, bet whether a man's weight could be held. The king loses when three children fall through and drown. John is beheaded.

Notes

Immediately after the King loses his bet a man is beheaded without explanation or follow-up.

Opie-Oxford2 99, "Three children sliding on the ice": "It describes the burning of 'a bridge of London town' and was probably occasioned by the fire which, in February 1633, destroyed much of London Bridge. Stanzas 12, 18, and 19, run:

Three children sliding there abouts, Upon a place too thin, That so at last it did fall out, That they did all fall in.

Yee Parents all that Children have And ye that have none yet; Preserve your Children From the Grave, And teach them at home to sit.

For had these at a Sermon been, Or else upon dry ground, Why then I never have been seen, If that they had been drown'd.

This is undoubtedly a burlesque of the pious ballad-mongers whose 'Providential Warning and Good Counsels' wearied the Cavalier aristocracy."

The three verses survive as "Three Little Girls A-Skating Went" changed slightly to add paradox. - BS

According to the _Riverside Shakespeare_, p. 1395, it has never been common for the Thames to freeze over -- but that page shows a woodcut from Dekker's 1608 publication _The Great Frost: Cold Doings in London_; the winter of 1607-1608 did see the river frozen solid. Most amazing is the fact that it shows a fire burning in a pan set directly on the ice. Evidently this sort of thing was common.

And don't get me started on Minnesota ice fishermen who park their pickup trucks out in the middle of lakes. - RBW

Cross references

Broadsides