A warning for all desperate VVomen.


A warning for all desperate VVomen.


By the example of Alice Dauis who for killing of her husband was burned in Smithfield the 12 of Iuly 1628. to the terror of all the beholders.


One of two ballads about Alice Davis, convicted of petty treason for the murder of her husband and burned at the stake in Smithfield, London in 1628. Davis was one of a spate of executions of women for this crime in early seventeenth-century London, and the ballad's judgmental tone is meant to teach a lesson of subservience to all listening wives.

Digital Object

Image notice

Full size images of all ballad sheets available at the bottom of this page

Image / Audio Credit

Magdalene College - Pepys Library, Pepys Ballads 1.120-121; EBBA 20050.  Audio recording by Hannah Sullivan.

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UNto the world to make my moane,
I know it is a folly,
Because that I have spent my time,
which have beene free and jolly,
But to the Lord which rules above,
I doe for mercy crie,
To grant me pardon for the crime,
for which on earth I dye.

Hells fiery flames prepared are,
for those that live in sinne,
And now on earth I tast of some,
but as a pricke or pin,
To those which shall hereafter be,
without Gods mercy great,
Who once more calls us to account,
on his Tribunall Seate.

Then hasty hairebraind wives take heed,
of me a warning take,
Least like to me in coole of blood,
you burn't be at a stake;
The woman which heere last did dye,
and was consum'd with fire,
Puts me in minde, but all to late,
for death I doe require.

But to the story now I come,
which to you Ile relate,
Because that I have liv'd like some,
in good repute and state,
In Westminster we lived there,
well knowne by many friends,
Which little thought that each of us,
should have come to such ends.

A Smith my husband was by trade,
as many well doe know,
And divers merry dayes we had,
not feeling cause of woe,
Abroad together we had bin,
and home at length we came,
But then I did that fatall deede,
which brings me to this shame.

He askt what monies I had left,
and some he needes would have,
But I a penny would not give,
though he did seeme to crave,
But words betwixt us then did passe,
as words to harsh I gave,
And as the Divell would as then,
I did both sweare and rave.

The second Part, To the same tune.

And then I tooke a little knife,
and stab'd him in the heart.
Whose Soule from Body instantly,
my bloody hand did part,
But cursed hand, and fatall knife
and wicked was that houre,
When as my God did give me ore
unto his hellish power.

The deede no sooner I had don,
But out of doores I ran,
And to the neighbours I did cry,
I kil'd had my good man,
Who straight-way flockt unto my house,
to see that bloody sight,
Which when they did behold with griefe,
it did them much affright.

Then hands upon me there was lay'd,
And I to Prison sent,
Where as I lay perplext in woe,
and did that deede repent,
When Sizes came I was arraign'd,
by Jury just and true,
I was found guilty of the fact,
for which I have my due.

The Jury having cast me then,
to judgment then I came,
Which was a terrour to my heart,
and to my friends a shame,
To thinke upon my husbands death,
and of my wretched life,
Betwixt my Spirit and my flesh,
did cause a cruell strife.

But then the Judge me sentence gave
to goe from whence I came,
From thence, unto a stake be bound
to burne in fiers flame,
Untill my flesh and bones consum'd,
to ashes in that place,
Which was a heavie sentence then,
on on[e] so voyd of grace.

And on the twelfth of July now,
I on a sledge was laid,
To Smithfield with a guard of men
I streight way was conveyd,
Where I was tyed to a stake,
with Reedes was round beset,
And Fagtos, Pitch, and other things
which they for me did get.

Now great Jehovah I thee pray,
my bloudy sinnes forgive,
For on this earth most wretched I
unworthy am to live.
Christ Jesus unto thee I pray,
and unto thee I cry,
Thou with thy blood wilt wash my sinnes
away, which heere must dye.

Good wives and bad, example take,
at this my cursed fall,
And Maidens that shall husbands have,
I warning am to all:
Your Husbands are your Lords & heads,
you ought them to obey,
Grant love betwixt each man and wife,
unto the Lord I pray.

God and the world forgive my sinnes,
which are so vile and foule,
Sweete Jesus now I come to thee,
O Lord receive my Soule.
Then to the Reedes they fire did put,
which flamd up to the skye,
And then she shriek'd most pittifully,
before that she did dye.

The Lord preserve our King & Queene,
and all good Subjects blesse,
And Grant the Gospell true and free,
amongst us may encrease.
Betwixt each husband and each wife,
send lond and amitie,
And grant that I may be the last.
that such a death did dye.


Method of Punishment






Printing Location

Printed for F. Coules

Tune Data

The Ladies Fall (Simpson 1966, pp, 98, 104, 105, 248, 369-371, 368), is linked with In Peascod Time. Tune first appeared in 1597.


Lament 'to the world I make my moan'.mp3


“A warning for all desperate VVomen.,” Execution Ballads, accessed July 17, 2024, https://omeka.cloud.unimelb.edu.au/execution-ballads/items/show/930.

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