Living History & Reenactment Music

Musical Rambles Through History © by Sara L. Johnson

Packington's Pound

One of the top three popular ballad tunes before 1700 was "Packington's Pound". There's a setting of it in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Sir John Packington (1549-1625) is likely to be the Packington referred to. He was one of Queen Elizabeth's favorites. William Chappell, in his The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Time, said Packington was commonly called "lusty Packington", and that he was " the same who wagered that he would swim from the Bridge at Westminster, i.e. Whitehall Stairs, to that at Greenwich, for the sum of £3,000.... But the good Queen, who had a particular tenderness for handsome fellows, would not permit Sir John to run the hazard of the trial." His portrait is still preserved at Westwood, the ancient seat of the family. The title Packington's Pound supposedly refers to an incident in which Sir John built a pond, or "pound", which was ordered removed as it encroached on a public highway. He then cut through the walls and let the water flood the countryside.

The tune was used in The Beggar's Opera for one of its most wonderfully cynical songs, "Thus Gamesters United."

Thus gamesters united, in friendship are found, though they know that their industry all is a cheat.
They flock to their prey at the dice-box's sound, and join to promote one another's deceit.
But if by mishap, they fail of a chap, to keep in their hands, they each other entrap.
Like pikes, lank with hunger, who miss of their ends, they bite their companions and prey on their friends.

The sheet music and lyrics, and a midi file of Packington's Pound are available on the music page.