“Fortune My Foe (Aim Not Too High)”


"Fortune my foe, why dost thou frown on me? And will thy favour never better be?" The singer laments the sad fortune that has stolen his love away, and hopes for ease. Notable primarily for the tune, often cited under the title "Aim Not Too High"

Supplemental text

Fortune My Foe (Aim Not Too High)
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From an anonymous photocopy reported to be from a modern
collection of songs for Celtic harp. Included because
it is the fullest text of this song to which I have

Fortune, my foe, why dost thou frown on me?
And will thy favours never greater be?
Wilt thou, I say, forever breed me pain?
And wilt thou ne'er restore my joys again?

Fortune hath wrought me grief and great annoy,
Fortune hath falsely stol'n my love away,
My love, and joy, whose sight did make me glad;
Such great misfortunes never young man had.

In vain I sigh, in vain I wail and weep;
In vain mine eyes refrain from quiet sleep;
In vain I shed my tears both night and day,
In vain my love my sorrows do bewray.

No man alive can Fortunes spight withstand,
With wisdom, skill, or mighty strength of hand;
In midst of mirth she bringeth bitter moan,
And woe to me that hath her hatred known.

If wisdoms eyes blind Fortune had but seen,
Then had my love, my love for ever been;
Then, love farewell, though Fortune favour thee,
No Fortune frail shall ever conquer me.


As a song, this is of no particular note, but the tune was immensely popular, and sustained numbers of broadsides (see the Same Tune list; these more often list the tune as "Aim Not Too High," but many give both titles; in any case, it's the same melody). This popularity, rather than the not-demonstrably-traditional and quite banal text, explain the song's inclusion here.

Chappell claims that Shakespeare alludes to this song in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act II, Scene iii. I can't find anything that strikes *me* as an allusion to the song, though. - RBW

Same tune

  • A Caveat for Young-men/Give ear to me you youngmen whilst I write (BBI ZN963)
  • The Great Assize../Here is presented to the eye (BBI ZN1135)
  • The Disturbed Ghost/Good Christain people all pray lend an ear (BBI ZN992)
  • A Looking- Glass for Traytors [executed Dec. 3, 1678]/Let all bold Traytors here come take a view (BBI ZN1614)
  • The true manner of the Kings Tryal/King Charles was once a Prince of great state (BBI ZN1578)
  • A Pill against Popery/Kind countrymen give ear unto these lines (BBI ZN1565)
  • A Godly Guide of Directions/Good people all I pray you understand (BBI ZN1034)
  • Newes from Hereford..Earthquake [Oct. 1, 1661]/Old England of thy sins in time repent (BBI ZN2135)
  • The Godly Mans Instruction/Good people all I pray hear what I read (BBI ZN1031)
  • Sad News from Salisbury. Dreadful Frost and Snow.. 23d. of December, 1684/Good Christians all that live both far & near (BBI ZN999)
  • Dying Tears [death of Henry, son of K. Chas. I, 13 Sept., 1660]/Great are the wonders that our God has done (BBI ZN1072)
  • The Bloody- minded Husband... John Chamber/Good people all I pray attend, and mind (BBI ZN1025)
  • The Bloody Murtherer..James Selbee/All you that come to see my fatal end (BBI ZN115)
  • The Gunpowder Plot/True Protestants I pray you to draw near (BBI ZN2674) [cf. in this Index "Guy Fawkes"]
  • The Downfall of Pride/In London liv'd a wealthy merchants wife (BBI ZN1439)
  • The Distressed Gentlewoman/Good people all, I pray you now draw near (BBI ZN1032)
  • The Royal Court in Mourning.. Death.. King William/England, thy Sun have shined many years (BBI ZN828)
  • The Young-Mans A. B. C./Accept dear Love, these shadows of my grief (BBI ZN6)
  • ..Strange and Wonderful Storm of Hail.. 18th of May 1680../Good Christians all attend unto my ditty (BBI ZN997)
  • Criminals Cruelty.. Tho. Wise.. murdered Elizabeth Fairbank.. executed.. Oct. 1684/Oh! this would make a stout heart lament (BBI ZN2048)
  • Englands Miseries..preserving ..Royal Brother.. last horrid Plot/Old England now rise up with one accord (BBI ZN2134)
  • Looking- glass for a Christian Family/All you that fear the Lord that rules the sky (BBI ZN133)
  • Looking-Glass for all true Christians/O hark, O hark, methinks I hear a voice (BBI ZN2012)
  • The Despairing Lover/Break heart and dye, I can no longer live (BBI ZN449)
  • The Young Man's Counsellor/All you that to begin the world intend (BBI ZN149)
  • [Title lost. Naval Warfare of 1692]/To God alone, let us all Glory give (BBI ZN2641); C. H. Firth, _Publications of the Navy Records Society_ , 1907 (available on Google Books), p. 114
  • The Kentish Wonder/You faithful Christians, whereso'er you be (BBI ZN3008)
  • The Young- Mans Repentance/You that have spent your time in wickedness (BBI ZN3127)
  • Dying Christians friendly Advice/You mortal men who vainly spend your youth (BBI ZN3073)
  • Truth brought to Light/Amongst those wonders which on earth are shown (BBI ZN178)
  • A Lamentable List.. Prodigious signs.. 1618.. 1638/You who would be inform'd of forraine news (BBI ZN3147)
  • A Warning for Swearers/All you that do desire to hear and know (BBI ZN124)
  • A True Relation of the Great Floods/Oh, England, England! 'tis high time to repent (BBI ZN2002)
  • [missing title, Fire on London bridge]/It grieves my heart to write such heavy news (BBI ZN1510)
  • The Hartford-shires Murder/All melting hearts come here and.. (BBI ZN93)
  • A wonderfull wonder/Look downe, O Lord, upon this sinful land (BBI ZN1715)
  • Death's loud Allarum/Lament your sinnes, good people all, lament (BBI ZN1599)
  • You that the Lord have blessed with riches (BBI ZN3134)
  • Now to discourse of man I take in hand/A discourse of Man's life (BBI ZN1982)
  • What woeful times we have now in our land/A Looking- Glass for all true Protestants (BBI ZN2812)
  • Behold, O Lord, a Sinner in distresse/A Godly Song, entituled, A Farewell to the world (BBI ZN400)
  • Give thanks, rejoyce all, you that are secure/A Sad and True Relation of a great fire or two (BBI ZN972)
  • Brave Windham late/Iohn Flodder and his Wife,... burning Town of Windham. .xi day of June 1615 (BBI ZN448)
  • Who please to heare such news as are most true/The lamentable burning..Corke..1621 (BBI ZN2912(
  • All Christian men give ear a while to me/The Judgement of God..John Faustus (BBI ZN59)
  • Aim not to high in things above thy reach/An excellent song..consolation for a troubled mind (BBI ZN37)
  • As I lay slumbering in my bed one night/St. Bernard's Vision (BBI ZN224)
  • Ay me, vile wretch, that ever I was born/complaint and lamentation of Mistresse Arden of Feuversham in Kent (BBI ZN369)
  • Listen a while dear friends I do you pray/sad judgement..Dorothy Mattley.. 1660 (BBI ZN1698)
  • You disobedient children mark my fall/Save a Thief from the Gallows (BBI ZN3006)
  • Kind countreymen, and our acquaintances all/The lamentation of Edward Bruton [Mar. 18, 1633] (BBI ZN1563)
  • Now, like the swan, before my death I sing/.. lamentation of..John Stevens..[executed Mar. 7, 1632 (old style)] (BBI ZN1933)
  • England, give prayse unto the Lord thy God/A joyfull new ballad..Victory obtained by my Lord Mount-joy.. 2 of December last [1601] to [Jan. 9, 1602] (BBI ZN825)
  • I pray give ear unto my tale of woe/..cruel murder.. upon..Abraham Gearsy (BBI ZN1320)
  • Great God that sees all things that here are don/Anne Wallens Lamentation,. murthering ..husband...22 June 1616 (BBI ZN1077)
  • Vnhappy she whom fortune hath forlorne/Lamentation ..Master Pages Wife of Plymouth [1609?] (BBI ZN2697)
  • Titus Andronicus's Complaint/You noble minds, and famous martial wights (Percy/Wheately I, pp. 224-229; BBI ZN3085)


  1. Chappell/Wooldridge I, pp. 76-79, "Fortune" (1 tune, with partial texts of "Fortune My Foe" and "Aim Not Too High")
  2. BBI ZN912, "Fortune my foe, why dost thou frown on me"
  4. ST ChWI076 (Full)
  5. BI, ChWI076


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1610 (W. Corkine's Instruction Book for the Lute)
Found in: Britain