A declaration of the death of Iohn Lewes,


A declaration of the death of Iohn Lewes,


a most detestable and obstinate Hereticke, burned at Norwich, the xviii, daye of September. I583. About three of the clocke in the after noone.


Lewes was an early Unitarian. Although this piece vilifies him as 'this devil.../though shape of man he bare', yet because the text presents a detailed account of events on the day of his execution, Lewes' courage in the face of death shines through.

Digital Object

Image / Audio Credit

Society of Antiquaries, London no. 77; EBBA 36314 

Set to tune of...

John Careless


OF late (alas) the great untruth
Of Traitours, how it sped
Who list to know, shal here [?]ave
How late allegeance fled.

If Rivers rage against the Sea.
And swell with soddeine rayne:
How glad are they to fall agayne,
And trace their wonted traine?

If fire by force wolde forge the fall
Of any sumptuouse place,
If water floods byd him leave of,
His flames he wyll disgrace.

If God command the wyndes to cease,
His blastes are layd full low:
If God command the seas to calme,
They wyll not rage or flow.

All thinges at Gods commandement be,
If he their state regarde:
And no man lives whose destinie
By him is unpreparde.

But when a man forsakes the ship,
And rowles in wallowing waves:
And of his voluntarie wyll,
His owne good hap depraves:

How shal he hope to scape the gulfe?
How shal he thinke to deale?
How shal his fansie bring him sound
To Safties shore with sayle?

How shall his fraight in fine succede?
Alas what shall he gayne?
What feare by storms do make him quake
How ofte subjecte to payne?

How sundrie times in Dangers den
Is throwne the man unwyse?
Who climes withouten holde on hye,
Beware, I him advize.

All such as trust to false contracts,
Or secret harmes conspire?
Be sure, with Nortons they shal taste
A right deserved hire.

They can not looke for better speede,
No death for such too fell?
God grant the justice of the worlde
Put by the paynes of hell.

For such a pensive case it is,
That English harts did dare
To passe the boundes of duties lawe,
Or of their cuntrie care.

And mercie hath so long releast
Offendours (God doth know)
And bountie of our curteous Queene
Too long hath spared her foe.

But God, whose grace inspires her harte,
Wyll not abyde the spight
Of Rebels rage, who rampe to reach
From her, her title quight.

Although shee flowe in pitifull zeale,
And loveth to sucke no blood:
Yet God a caveat wyll her lend
Tappease those Vipers moode.

A man that sees his house on fire,
Wyll seke to quench the flame:
Els from the spoyle some parte convey,
Els seke the heate to tame.

Who seee a penthouse wether beate,
And heares a boistrouse wynde:
But heedefull safetie of himselfe,
Wyll force him succour fynde?

The pitifull pacient Pellican,
Her blood although shee shed:
Yet wyll shee seme her date to end,
Or care her young be sped.

The Eagle flynges her yong ones downe
That sight of sunne refuse:
Unperfect fowles shee deadly hates,
And rightly such misuse.

The Crane wolde flye up to the Sunne,
I heard it once of olde:
And with the kyng of byrdes did strive
By Fame, I heard it tolde

And do woe she wolde not fal f[?]e no,
But higher styll did moun[t]:
Til past her reach (saith olde reporte)
Shame made a backe recoun[?]

I touch no Armes herein at all [?]
But shew a fable wyse:
Whose morall sence doth repr[?]
Of clymers hye the guyse.

Who buyldes a house of many [?],
and laith not ground work[?]
But doth extorte the ground b[?]g,
His buildyng can not dure[?]

Who sekes surmising to disp[?]
a Ruler sent by GOD:
Is subject sure, devoide of grace[?]
The cause of his owne rod.

A byrde that wyll her nest defyle
By right should loose a wyng:
And then is shee no flying fowle,
But slow as other thyng.

And he that loseth all at games,
Or spendes in fowle excesse:
And hopes by haps to heale his harme,
Must drinke of deare distresse.

To speake of brydles to restrayne
This wylfull wayward crewe:
They care not for the booke of God,
To Princes, men untrue.

To cuntrye, causers of much woe,
To faithfull freendes, a fall:
And to their owne estates, a styng,
To others, sharpe as gall.

O Lorde, how long these Lizerds lurkt,
Good GOD, how great a whyle
Were they in hand with feigned harts
Their cuntrye to defyle?

How did they frame their furniture?
How fit they made their tooles:
How Symon sought our englysh Troie
To bryng to Romaine scooles.

How Simon Magus playd his parte,
How Babilon bawde did rage:
How Basan bulles begon to bell,
How Judas sought his wage.

How Jannes and Jambres did abyde
The brunt of brainesicke acts,
How Dathan, Chore, Abiram seemd
To dash our Moyses facts.

How Romaine marchant set a fresh
His pardons brave a sale,
How alwayes some against the Truth
Wolde dreame a senceles tale.

Gods vicar from his god receaved
The keyes to lose and bynd:
Baals chaplein thoght h[?] fire wold [?]e
Such was his pagan mynd.

Good Lorde how hits the text their [?]ts
That saith such men shall bee
In their religion hot nor colde
Of much varietie.

And sundry sorts of sects surt[?]
Division shall appeare:
Against the father, sonne sha[?]yve,
Gainst mother, daughter [?]re.

Is it not come to passe trow y[?]?
Yea, bastards sure they bee,
Who our good mother Queene of [?]
Withstand rebelliouslie.

Can God his vengeance long retain[?]
Where his true servants feele
Injuriouse spights of godlesse men,
Who turne as doth a wheele?

No no, his suffryng long (be sure)
Wyll pay his foes at last:
His mercye moved once away,
He shall them quight out cast

With sentence just for their untruth,
And breakyng of his wyll:
The fruits of their sedicious seeds,
The barnes of earth shall fyll.

Their soules God wot sore clogd with crime
And their posteritie
Bespotted sore with their abuse,
And stand by their follie.

Their livyngs left their name a shame,
Their deedes with poyson sped:
Their deathes a wage for want of grace
Their honours quite is dead.

Their flesh to feede the kytes and crowes
Their armes a maze for men:
Their guerdon as examples are
To dash dolte Dunces den.

Throw up your snouts you sluggish sorte
You mumming maskyng route:
Extoll your exclamations up,
Baals chapleines, champions stoute.

Make sute for pardons, papists brave,
For traitours indulgence:
Send out some purgatorie scraps,
Some Bulls with Peter pence.

O swarme of Drones, how dare ye styl
With labouryng Bees contend?
You sought for honie from the hives,
But gall you found in end.

These waspes do wast, their stings be out
Their spight wyll not avayle:
These Peacocks proude are naked lefte
Of their displayed tayle.

These Turkye cocks in cullour red,
So long have lurkt aloofe:
The Beare (although but slow of foote)
Hath pluct his wynges by proofe.

The Moone her borowed light hath lost,
Shee wayned as we see:
Who hoped by hap of others harmes,
A full Moone once to bee.

The Lyon suffred long the Bull,
His noble mynd to trye:
Untyll the Bull was rageyng wood,
And from his stake did hye.

Then time it was to bid him stay
Perforce, his hornes to cut:
And make him leave his rageing tunes
In scilence to be put.

And all the calves of Basan kynd
Are weaned from their wish:
The Hircan Tigers tamed now,
Lemathon eates no fish.

Beholde before your balefull eyes
The purchace of your parte,
Survey your sodeine sorrowful sight
With sighes of dubble harte.

Lament the lacke of your alies
Religious rebells all:
Bewepe that yll successe of yours,
Come curse your sodeine fall.

And when ye have your guiles out sought
And all your craft approved,
Peccavimus shall be your song
Your ground worke is removed.

And looke how Nortons sped their wills
Even so their sect shall have,
No better let them hope to gayne
But gallowes without grave.

Composer of Ballad

Thomas Gilbart

Method of Punishment






Execution Location

Norwich, Norfolk

Printing Location

London, by Richard Jones, dwelling neere Holburne Bridge. October. 8.

Tune Data

John Careless mentioned in Simpson (1966, p. 534).




“A declaration of the death of Iohn Lewes,,” Execution Ballads, accessed June 16, 2024, https://omeka.cloud.unimelb.edu.au/execution-ballads/items/show/843.

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