> Peter Bellamy > Songs > God a Mercy Penny

There’s Nothing to Be Had Without Money / God a Mercy Penny

[ Roud V4463 ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl sang There’s Nothing to Be Had Without Money in 1963 on his Folkways album Broadside Ballads Vol. 1. Ted Culver sang it in 1966 on The Critic Group’s album A Merry Progress to London.

Peter Bellamy sang God a Mercy Penny in 1985 on his EFDSS album Second Wind. He noted:

I am also indebted to [Ewan MacColl] for God a Mercy Penny, the text of which is to be found in the Pepys collection, the tune coming from Simpson’s British Broadsides with Music. More properly (if laboriously) called There’s Nothing to Be Had Without Money, it can’t be later than 1642—that’s when the Globe theatre burned down. It’s refreshing to find a song about how rotten it is to be poor from the viewpoint of someone who isn’t ashamed of being well-heeled himself, isn’t it? Have it your own way.

Danny Spooner sang There’s Nothing to Be Had Without Money on his 2008 CD Brave Bold Boys. He noted:

This broadside appears in Evan’s Old Ballads, the tune is Stingo, sometimes known as Pil of the Barley. The popular tune was regularly used by broadside publishers to carry their latest effusions. As well as being a tour of 18c London with its pleasures and traps for the unwary, the ballad reminds us that everything comes with its price, even the singer’s verses.


Peter Bellamy sings God a Mercy Penny

You gallants and you swaggering blades,
    Give ear unto my ditty,
I am a boon companion known
    In country, town, and city,
I always lov’d to wear good clothes,
    And I ever scorned to take blows,
I am belovèd by all me knows,
    But God a mercy penny.

My father was a man well born,
    Who loved to hold his money,
His bags of gold, be would declare
    Far sweeter were than honey,
But I, his son, I do let it fly
    In tavern and ordinary,
Yes, I am beloved in company,
    But God a mercy penny.

All parts of London I have tried,
    Where merchant’s wares are plenty,
The Royal Exchange, and fair Cheapside,
    With speeches fine and dainty,
They bid me in for to behold
    Their shops of silver and of gold,
That I may choose what wares I would,
    But God a mercy penny.

And for my contentment once a day
    I walk for recreation,
Saint Paul’s, Ludgate, and Fleet Street way;
    I gaze an elevation;
Sometimes my humour it is to range
    Through Temple, Bank, and New Exchange,
For to view the fashions rare and strange,
    But God a mercy Penny.

The famous abbey I have seen,
    And the pictures I have viewèd
Of many a noble king and queen
    Who are by death subdued.
When I have seen the sights most rare,
    The watermen ready willing are,
Me o’er the river Thames to bear,
    But God a mercy penny.

Bear Garden, when I do frequent,
    And the Globe upon the Bank-side,
Afford to me much great content,
    And I full oft have tried:
The best pastime that they can make,
    They instantly do undertake,
For my content and pleasure sake,
    But God a mercy penny.

Yes, all parts of London I have come
    Both I and my sweet penny
Got entertainment in the same,
    And we won the love of many,
Both tapsters, cooks, and vintners fine,
    With other jovial friends of mine,
They do pledge my health in beer and wine,
    But God a mercy penny.

But never shall I niggard be,
    While I have life in earth,
But I’ll spend my money frolickly
    In friendship, love, and mirth;
I will drink my fill, I will pay my score,
    And I’ll eke dispense some of my store,
And to the needy and the poor,
    I’ll freely give my penny.

Thus to conclude as I began
    I wholly am inclin’d,
Wishing each true hearted man,
    A faithful friend may find:
And you that my verses stay to hear,
    Draw money for to buy me beer,
The price of it is not too dear,
    ’T will cost you but a penny.