“John Dory”


John Dory gets a horse and sets out for Paris. There he meets King John. He offers to bring King John "all the churles in merie England" in return for a pardon. Dory is overtaken by one Nicholl of Cornwall, who takes him prisoner after a sharp battle

Supplemental text

John Dory [Child 284]
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

As printed by Francis James Child, #284 (p. 132 in volume V of the
five volume Dover edition). Derived from Ravenscroft's 1609 printing.

1 As it fell on a holy-day,
    And vpon all holy-tide-a,
  Iohn Dory bought him an ambling nag,
    To Paris for to ride-a.

2 And when John Dory to Paris was come,
    A little before the gate-a,
  John Dory was fitted, the porter was witted
    To let him in thereat-a.

3 The first man that John Dory did meet
    Was good king John of France-a;
  John Dory could well of his courtesie,
    But fell downe in a trance-a.

4 'A pardon, a pardon, my liege and my king,
    For my merie men and for me-a,
  And all the churles in merie England,
   I'le bring them all bound to thee-a.'

5 And Nicholl was then a Cornish man,
    A little beside Bohide-a,
  And he mande forth a good blacke barke,
    With fiftie good oares on a side-a.

6 'Run vp, my boy, vnto the maine top,
    And looke what thou canst spie-a:'
  'Who ho! who ho! a goodly ship I do see,
    I trow it be John Dory-a.']

7 They hoist their sailes, both top and top,
    The meisseine and all was tride-a,
  And euery man stood to his lot,
    What euer should betide-a.

8 The roring cannons then were plide,
    And dub-a-dub went the drumme-a;
  The braying trumpets lowde they cride
    To courage both all and some-a.

9 The grappling-hooks were brought at length,
   The browne bill and the sword-a,
  John Dory at length, for all his strength,
    Was clapt fast vnder board-a.


In addition to the citation from Ravenscroft, we find a reference to this song in Beaumont and Fletcher's _Knight of the Burning Pestle_; ActII, scene iv, line 35 reads, "Would I had gone to Paris with John Dory."

There is a fish, Latin name Zeus astralis, informally known as the "John Dory." It is apparently carniverous, approaching its prey cautiously and colored so as to resemble seaweed. I do not know if the name is in any way connected with this song. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1350-1364 - Reign of John II of France (the only French king named John who lived during the Hundred Years' War)


  1. Child 284, "John Dory" (1 text)
  2. Bronson 284, "John Dory" (7 versions)
  3. OBB 133, "John Dory" (1 text)
  4. Chappell/Wooldridge I, pp. 93-96, "John Dory" (1 text, 3 tunes) {Bronson's #1d, #3, #1c}
  5. ADDITIONAL: C. H. Firth, _Publications of the Navy Records Society_ , 1907 (available on Google Books), p. 16, "John Dory" (1 text)
  6. ST C284 (Full)
  7. Roud #249
  8. BI, C284


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1609 (Ravenscroft)
Found in: Britain(England)