Pace-Egging Song, The
DESCRIPTION: We have come pace-egging; give us eggs and beer and we'll not come till next year. A British tar who served with Nelson has returned to England pace-egging. A lady has run from her country and is here to collect eggs in a basket and drink neat gin.
EARLIEST DATE: 1846 (Dixon-Peasantry)
KEYWORDS: Easter drink nonballad religious
FOUND IN: Britain(England(Lond,North))
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Broadwood/Maitland, pp. 22-25, "Peace-Egging Song" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Palmer-ECS, #132, "Pace Egging Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Dixon-Peasantry, Song #17, pp. 196-199,246-247, "The Maskers' Song" (1 text)
Bell-Combined, pp. 400-403, "The Maskers' Song" (1 text)
Emma Vickers, "The Pace-Egging Song" (on Voice16)
NOTES: Yates, Musical Traditions site Voice of the People suite "Notes - Volume 16" - 13.9.02: "Pace-Egging customs were once common throughout north-west England (the word Pace, meaning Peace, may be derived from the French word Pasque, which means Easter) and this song is used as an introduction to an accompanied Mummer's Play." - BS
Yates's derivation of "pace," which is repeated by Palmer, is oversimplified. Most agree that "pace" is from Middle English "paschal" -- which does clearly derive from either a late Latin or an early French root. But it's not a word for "peace"; it's derived ultimately from the Greek root underlying "passion." The Latin word "pascha," according to FreundEtAl, p. 1311, is exclusively derived from Greek "pascha," and is used solely in Christian contexts, seemingly first by Tertullian in the third century, for the Passover; it is also used in the Latin translation of 1 Corinathians 5:7.
Nonetheless the idea of "peace" may be mixed in somehow. The Latin for peace is "pax," and one of the most familiar of all Latin liturgical phrases is surely "pace [pronounced, in Church Latin, 'pach-ay'] vobiscum," "peace to you."
The term "Pace Eggs," as opoosed to "Easter Eggs," is mostly confined to the north of England, Upton/Widdowson, pp, 150-151, map the usage of the two terms. Unlike most cases where the dividing lines between terms are rather ragged, there is really only one line between "Pace" and Easter." The term "Pace" is used in Lancashire, Cumbria, Durham, Northumbria, and central Yorkshire; "Easter" is used everywhere else (except for a few areas in the south that don't have a name for these eggs).
Of course, none of this has anything to do with the actual custom of pace-egging.
Simpson/Roud, p. 105, note that eggs could not be eaten by Catholics during Lent, so eggs laid in that time were preserved for Easter. "In northern England they were called 'pace eggs,' 'peace eggs,' or 'paste eggs', corruptions of pasche, the Latin-based medieval word for Easter, here confused with pax='peace'." Hazlitt, p. 478, calls them "pasch eggs," although without adding anything except a citation of another book.
It should be pointed out that the Easter Bunny is a much newer phenomenon; rabbits were not introduced into England until the thirteenth century.
Egg customs are also late; although many cultures associated eggs with life (Jones-Larousse, pp. 159-160), they are rarely mentioned in the Bible, and in the early Old Testament period, there seem to have been no domesticated egg-laying fowl, although an egg eventually became part of the Jewish Seder celebration (InterpretersDict, volume 2, p. 38). In the New Testament, the word is used only in Luke 11:12, and in a saying of Jesus, not referring to an actual egg.
Alexander, p. 211, notes a custom of rolling pace eggs at Preston, but this seems to be more recent. Kellett, p. 132, says that they were rolled down a hill, and it was a sign of good fortune if they reached the bottom without breaking. He also notes that they could be rolled on Monday (sometimes called "Troll Monday") rather than Easter Sunday.
Based on Kellett, there were in relatively recent times quite a few other Pace Egg customs in Yorkshire, including "Pace Egg Plays" (in which, e.g., Saint George kills an enemy, who then is revived by a magic potion), and "jawping" pace eggs in a conkers-like game.
Depending on the version, quite a few characters show up to beg for their eggs and beer, starting with Lord Horatio Nelson himself. For Nelson, see e.g. "Nelson's Victory at Trafalgar (Brave Nelson)" [Laws J17], which in some ways is similar to this in structure. We also meet (Vice Admiral) Lord (Cuthbert) Collingwood, Nelson's second-in-command at Trafalgar, and sundry anonymous sailors who are listed as serving under Nelson. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
- Marc Alexander, A Companion to the Folklore, Myths & Customs of Britain, Sutton Publishing, 2002
- FreundEtAl, A New Latin Dictionary, "Founded on the Translation of Freund's Latin-German Lexicon Edited by E. A. Andrews... Revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short," Harper & Brothers, 1886
- Hazlitt: W. C. Hazlitt, Dictionary of Faiths & Folklore, Reeves & Turner, 1905 (I use the 1995 Studio Editions paperback)
- InterpretersDict: [George Arthur Buttrick et al, editor], The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, four volumes, 1962 (a fifth supplementary volume was published later)
- Jones-Larousse: Alison Jones, Larousse Dictionary of World Folklore, Larousse, 1995 (I use the 1996 paperback edition)
- Kellett: Arnold Kellett, The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition, and Folklore, revised edition, Smith Settle, 2002
- Simpson/Roud: Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud, A Dictionary of English Folklore, Oxford, 2000
- Upton/Widdowson: Clive Upton and J. D. A. Widdowson, An Atlas of English Dialects, Oxford University press, 1996
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.