The Text is from Ravenscroft's Deuteromelia (1609), the only text that has come down to us of a 'three-man's song' which achieved extraordinary popularity during' the seventeenth century.
The Story.--'Good King John of France' is presumed to be John II., who was taken prisoner at the battle of Poictiers and died in 1364. But the earliest literary reference to this ballad occurs in the play of Gammar Gurton's Needle, acted in 1566, where the song 'I cannot eat but little meat' is to be sung 'to the tune of John Dory.' From Carew's Survey of Cornwall (1602) we learn a little more: 'Moreover, the prowess of one Nicholas, son to a widow near Foy [Fowey], is descanted upon in an old three-man's song, namely, how he fought bravely at sea with John Dory (a Genowey, as I conjecture), set forth by John, the French king, and, after much bloodshed on both sides, took, and slew him, in revenge of the great ravine and cruelty which he had fore committed upon the Englishmen's goods and bodies.'
As it fell on a holy-day,
And upon a holy-tide-a,
John Dory bought him an ambling nag
To Paris for to ride-a.
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.
The first man that John Dory did meet
Was good king John of France-a;
John Dory could well of his courtesie,
But fell down in a trance-a.
'A pardon, a pardon, my liege and my king,
For my merry men and for me-a,
And all the churles in merry England,
I'll bring them all bound to thee-a.'
And Nicholl was then a Cornish man
A little beside Bohide-a,
And he manned forth a good black bark
With fifty good oars on a side-a.
'Run up, my boy, unto the main-top,
And look what thou canst spy-a.'
'Who ho, who ho! a goodly ship I do see;
I trow it be John Dory-a.'
They hoist their sails, both top and top,
The mizzen and all was tried-a,
And every man stood to his lot,
What ever should betide-a.
The roaring cannons then were plied,
And dub-a-dub went the drum-a;
The braying trumpets loud they cried
To courage both all and some-a.
The grappling-hooks were brought at length,
The brown bill and the sword-a;
John Dory at length, for all his strength,
Was clapped fast under board-a.
John Dory by Frank Sidgwick