A Friendly Invitation to a New Plantation

Words by Anonymous; tune “Tom O'Bedlam,” 1638

Who is the audience for this song? Puritans. Where is the setting? England. What are they being invited to do? Move to England.

What hints does verse 2 give about the beliefs of the Puritans and the kind of discrimination they encountered in England? They disagreed with fancy vestments for clergy, rituals, bishops rule. What did they think was “superstitious” and “wicked” about the Church of England? Roman Catholic influence.

What are some of the “selling points” the song uses to coax people to make the move? What does verse 3 suggest? There will be girls! What are some of the occupations in verse 4? Tailor, blacksmith, cobbler, weaver. Why are they important? Trades will bring the “comforts of home.”

For the settlers, what was New England like in 1638 when this song was written? What motivated people to settle there then? Religious freedom. The opportunity to put their religious ideas into practice and build a “City on a Hill” as an example for others. Which other colonies were beginning to be settled by this time? Virginia, New Amsterdam, Spanish colonies in Florida, California, etc. For what reasons did people move to Virginia? Growing tobacco and other cash crops for export. How well would this song work to recruit settlers for Virginia?

“A Friendly Invitation to a New Plantation” performed by David and Ginger Hildebrand. All rights reserved. © 2004.

In this recording, “A Friendly Invitation to a New Plantation” is sung unaccompanied by a solo male voice, much as it would have been at that time.

View the music and lyrics for “Friendly Invitation to a New Plantation."

View the oldest surviving publication.

Rump: or an Exact Collection of the Choycest Poems and Songs Relating to the Late Times. By the Most Eminent Wits, from Anno 1639 to 1661.

This ballad, written to recruit Puritans to immigrate to the New World, was first registered in 1638 by an anonymous composer. Although the original no longer exists, it made another appearance in 1662 as the first song in Rump; or An Exact Collection of the Choycest Poems and Songs relating to the late times (London), but under a different name: “The Zealous Puritan.” The title was most likely changed to fit better in a collection of several ballads that were hostile to the Puritans.

Lyrics of songs like these were found on broadsides, which were sold on the street, and made popular primarily by the subject matter. The melodies of songs like these would be sung from memory in various social situations. The tune to which “A Friendly Invitation to a New Plantation” is sung is called “Tom O’Bedlam,” which took its name from the slang name for a person of unsound mind. Bedlam was the name of London’s mental hospital. The original chorus contains the text:

  Still I sing bonny boys, bonny mad boys
Belam boys are bonny,
For they all go bare and live by the air
And they want no drink nor money.

Singing it to this tune carries with it the connotation that perhaps the Puritans who traveled to the New World were a little crazy.

surplice: Clergyman's vestment.

What would “A Friendly Invitation to a Virginia Plantation” emphasize as “selling points” in 1638? Write new lyrics to this song to make it work for Virginia.

Write two newspaper ads: One recruiting colonists for New England and one recruiting colonists for Virginia.


Creative Commons License
Voices Across Time is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at voices.pitt.edu/Permissions.html.