Posts Tagged ‘Ranters’

Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Ranters

May 27, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

Yesterday, I put up the sheet music for the Diggers’ Song, from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England. As usual, I didn’t have the words, but Jess kindly supplied them, as well as the another Digger song, The Diggers’ Christmas Carol. As well as the Diggers, another radical Civil War sect were the Ranters. Jess in her comment to my post of the Diggers’ Christmas Carol, has also provided two examples of their poetry, expressing their radical, pantheist, Christian beliefs, along with another poem by Gerrard Winstanley, the Diggers’ ideologue. Jess writes

Ranter Poems

“The Saints in virtue, which did aye excel,
This hainous heresie condemn’d to hell;
The General Councils with considerate ire
Adjudg’d these crimes to be calcin’d with fire.
Yee that so boast of spirit to be brim full,
Which say yee have no sin, your selves yee gull.
Com all yee missed, erring, gross mistakers,
Vain glorious Ranters, or censorious Quakers;
Bring all your tricks, your toies and wrested sleights,
Let’s poise them by the Sanctuaries weights.
Lord, if wee sin against thee and offend,
(For who sin’s not, that here his dayes doth spend?)
Wash me, O wash nee throughly from my sin,
Blood, and pollution which I wallow’d in. ”
[Divine poems being meditations upon several sermons, ….. And put into vers by William Wood of Eckington, Gent. 1655]

Another group of dissidents from round the same period as The Diggers were those termed ‘Ranters’. They are generally believed to have evolved from the Familist sect of Elizabethan times, whose core beliefs were ‘that perfection may be attained in this life’, denial of the Sabbath as a holy day, everyday should be a sabath and repentence must precede remission of sins’ [Hill, p.184]

They were known to hold their ‘meetings’ and festivals in pubs where the use of tobacco and alcohol was intended to heighten spiritual vision’. To more straight-laced sects ranter behaviour was licentiousness. The classic text on the group is A.L. Morton’s ‘World of The Ranters’, Nigel Smith edited a collection of their pamphlets whilst Christopher Hill devotes two chapters to them in his ‘World Turned Upside Down’

The pieces here come from two sources. Hill reprints the first in his ‘World Turned’

A Christmas Carol
They prate of God; Believe it fellow creatures”
There s no such bugbear; all was made by Nature.
We know all came of nothing, and shall pass
Into the same condition once it was,
By Nature’s power and that hey grossly lie
That say there’s hope of immortality.
Let them but tell what a soul is, then
We will adhere to these mad brain-sick men.
[Hill World Turned….” from ‘The Arraignment and Tryall, with a Declaration of the Ranters” (1650)]

The second two were found in the Clarke Mss [Also the original source of the better known ‘Diggers Song’] by Anne Laurence and published by her in ‘The Review of English Studies, Vol 31, 1980’ and are dated by her to c.1650. ‘ I have kept the spelling of her transcriptions from Clarke 18

Peter Davidson ‘Poetry and Revolution’ (1998) collects a lot of verse from the period, including a couple of other Winstanley poems. I

My Flesh the plagues of God consume,
With all Relacions of the same,
The which now makes mee out of Tune,
And I shall not bee in right frame;
Untill the vialls of Gods wrath.
Uppon this Earth of mine be powr’d,
And all the Idolls of the same.
Hee quite hath turned out of doores
For Christ our Kinge shall all things chuse
Out of his Kingedome that offend,
All things therin that are impure
Hee bringeth to a totall end,
And when those thinges are fully wrought
Such libertie then wee shall see
Within the Temple of our God
For Wee his Temple then shall bee,
For wee shall then rejoice and singe
Still praysing him that is our might
And ever Triumph in our Kinge
Hee is our libertie and Light.
[From Valentine Sharpe to J. Radman Castle Mary & Margery.]