One Hundred English Folksongs/Notes on the Songs
NOTES ON THE SONGS
No. 1. Henry Martin
The words are on a Catnach broadside; and, in Percy’s Reliques, there is a long and much edited ballad, called “Sir Andrew Barton,” with which, however, the traditional versions have nothing in common.
In English and Scottish Ballads, Child prints the versions in Traditional Tunes and Songs of the West, and gives, in addition, four other sets — one from Motherwell’s MS., two traditional copies obtained from residents in the United States, and a Suffolk fragment contributed by Edward Fitgerald to Suffolk Notes and Queries (Ipswich Journal, 1877–78).
In these several versions, the hero is variously styled Henry Martin, Robin Hood, Sir Andrew Barton, Andrew Bodee, Andrew Bartin, Henry Burgin, and Roberton.
Child suggests that “the ballad must have sprung from the ashes of ‘Sir Andrew Barton’ (Percy’s Reliques), of which name ‘Henry Martin’ would be no extraordinary corruption.” The Rev. S. Baring-Gould, in his note to the ballad in Songs of the West, differs from this view and contends that the Percy version is the ballad “as recomposed in the reign of James I, when there was a perfect rage for re-writing the old historical ballads.”
I am inclined to agree that the two versions are quite distinct. “Sir Andrew Barton” deals with the final encounter between Barton and the King’s ships, in which Andrew Barton’s ship is sunk and he himself killed; whereas the traditional versions are concerned with a piratical raid made by Henry Martin upon an English merchantman. It is true that in Songs of the West, Henry Martin receives his death wound, but, as Child points out, this incident does not square with the rest of the story and may, therefore, be an interpolation.
Unlike so many so-called historical ballads, this one is really based on fact. In the latter part of the 15th century, a Scottish sea-officer, Andrew Barton, suffered by sea at the hands of the Portuguese, and obtained letters of marque for his two sons to make reprisals upon the trading-ships of Portugal. The brothers, under pretence of searching for Portuguese shipping, levied toll upon English merchant vessels. King Henry VIII accordingly commissioned the Earl of Surrey to rid the seas of the pirates and put an end to their illegal depredations. The earl fitted out two vessels, and gave the command of them to his two sons, Sir Thomas and Sir Edward Howard. They sought out Barton's ships, the Lion and the Union, fought them, captured them, and carried them in triumph up the river Thames on August 2, 1511.
I have noted down in different parts of England no less than seventeen variants of this ballad, and from the several sets of words so collected the lines in the text — practically unaltered — have been compiled.
The air is in the Dorian mode.
No. 2. Bruton Town
The tune, which is a very striking one, is in the Dorian mode. The singer varied the last phrase of the melody in four different ways (see English Folk Song: Some Conclusions, p. 23), For two other versions of this ballad, “Lord Burlington’s Sister” and “In Strawberry Town,” see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, p. 42; volume V, pp. 123–127), where the ballad has received a very searching analysis at the hands of Miss Lucy Broadwood. It will be seen that the story is the same as that of Boccaccio’s “Isabella and the Pot of Basil” in the Decameron, and of Keats’s poem of the same name. It is true that “Bruton Town” breaks off at the wiping of the dead lover’s eyes, and omits the gruesome incident of the planting of the head in the flowerpot; yet up to that point the stories are nearly identical. The song was popular with the minstrels of the Middle Ages, and was made use of by Hans Sachs, who derived his version from “Cento Novelli,” a translation of the Decameron by Steinhöwel (1482). Hans Sachs names his heroine Lisabetha and retains the Italian tradition that Messina was the town where the rich merchant and his family dwelt. It is interesting to observe that this ballad is one of the very few that succeeded in eluding the notice of Professor Child.
The words of both the versions that I have collected were very corrupt, so that the lines given in the text have received some editing. For the original sets the student is referred to the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, quoted above.
No. 3. The Knight and the Shepherd’s Daughter
Two versions of this ballad, under the above title, are in the Roxburghe Collection and in Percy’s Reliques. Percy states that his version is “given from an old black-letter copy with some corrections,” and that it was popular in the time of Queen Elizabeth, being usually printed with her picture before it.” The fifth verse is quoted in Fletcher’s comedy of The Pilgrim (1621).
Buchan gives two traditional forms of the ballad, “Earl Richard, the Queen’s Brother,” and “Earl Lithgow” (volume ii, pp. 81–91, ed. 1828). See also Motherwell’s Minstrelsy (p. 377); Christie’s Traditional Ballad Airs of Scotland (volume i, p. 184); and Kinloch’s Ancient Scottish Ballads (pp. 15 and 25).
Kinloch says: “The Scottish language has given such a playful naïveté to these ballads that one would be apt to suppose that version to be the original, were it not that the invariable use of English titles, which are retained in all Scottish copies, betrays the ballad to have emanated from the south, although it has otherwise assumed the character of a northern production."
I have collected several variants of this ballad, four of which may be seen in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume v, pp. 86—90). For two other versions see the third volume of the same publication (pp. 222 and 280).
The words in the text have been compiled from the several sets in my possession. With the exception of the lines in the second stanza, they are printed practically without alteration.
No. 4. Robin Hood and the Tanner
This was sung to me by a blind man, eighty-two years of age, who told me that he learned it when a lad of ten, but that he had not sung it, or heard it sung, for forty years or more. He varied the several phrases of the tune, which is in the Dorian mode, in a very free and interesting manner (see English Folk Song: Some Conclusions, p. 21). I have chosen from these variations those which seemed to me to be the most characteristic. Except for one or two minor alterations, the words are given in the text precisely as they were sung to me.
The Robin Hood ballads,which, centuries ago, were extremely popular (although they were constantly denounced by the authorities), are now but rarely sung by the country folk. Those that have recently been collected are printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, pp. 144 and 247; volume ii, p. 155; volume iii, pp. 61 and 268; and volume v, p. 94).
The words in the text follow with astonishing accuracy the corresponding stanzas of a black-letter broadside, which formerly belonged to Anthony à Wood, and is now preserved in the Bodleian Library. A copy of this broadside is printed in Ritson’s Robin Hood, by Child (No. 126), and also on two 17th century Garlands. The full title on the black-letter is:
“Robin Hood and the Tanner; or, Robin Hood met with his Match. A merry and pleasant song relating the gallant and fierce combat fought between Arthur Bland, a tanner of Nottingham, and Robin Hood, the greatest and noblest archer in England. Tune is, Robin Hood and the Stranger.”
The first verse runs:
In Nottingham there lives a jolly tanner
With a hey down, down, a down, down.
His name is Arthur-a-Bland,
There is never a squire in Nottinghamshire
Dare bid bold Arthur stand.
Robin Hood is said to have been born in Locksley in Nottinghamshire about 1160, in the reign of Henry II. He was of noble blood, and his real name was Robert Fitzooth, of which Robin Hood is a corruption. He was commonly reputed to have been the Earl of Huntingdon, and it is possible that in the latter years of his life he may have had some right to the title. He led the life of an outlaw in Barnsdale (Yorks), Sherwood (Notts), and in Plompton Park (Cumberland), and gathered round him a large number of retainers. His chief lieutenants were Little John, whose surname is believed to have been Nailor; William Scadlock (Scathelock or Scarlet); George-a-Green, pinder or pound keeper of Wakefield; Much, a miller’s son; and Friar Tuck. It is said that he died in 1247, at the age of eighty-seven, at the Kirkleys Nunnery in Yorkshire, whither he had gone to be bled, and where it is supposed that he was treacherously done to death.
The Robin Hood ballads were no doubt founded upon the French trouvère-drama, “Le Jeu de Robin et Marion,” which, in its turn, was only a dramatized version, largely etiological, of the Nature myth, Robin and Maid Marian being the lineal descendants of the King and Queen of the May-day ceremonies. In this connection it is interesting to note that country singers invariably call “Robin Hood,” “Robin o’ the ’ood,” that is, of the wood.
No. 5. The Wraggie Taggle Gipsies, O!
Compare this song with “The Gipsy Countess (Songs of the West, No. 50, 2d ed.) and “The Gipsy” (A Garland of Country Song, No. 32). A Scottish version of the words is in Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany (volume iv); see also “Gypsie Laddie,” in Herd’s Ancient and Modem Scottish Songs (volume ii, p. 95, ed. 1791). In Finlay’s Scotish Ballads (1808), the ballad appears as “Johnnie Faa,” and in Chambers’s Picture of Scotland, a valiant effort is made, after the manner of Scottish commentators, to provide the story with a historical foundation.
The tune is in the Æolian mode. I have noted no less than eighteen variants.
No. 6. Lord Bateman
This, again, is a very popular ballad with English folksingers, and I have noted down nineteen different versions of it. The singer of the Æolian tune given in the text was the old man who gave me “Robin Hood and the Tanner,” and here again he constantly varied his phrases in the several verses of the song (see English Folk Song: Some Conclusions, p. 22). The words that he sang were virtually the same as those printed on broad-sides by Pitts, Jackson, and others.
For versions of this ballad, with tunes, see English County Songs (p. 62); Mr. Kidson’s Traditional Tunes (p. 32); Northumbrian Minstrelsy (p. 64); the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 240; volume iii, pp. 192–200); Sussex Songs (p. 43); Kinloch’s Ancient Scottish Ballads (p. 260 and appendix); English Folk Songs for Schools (No. 11); and George Cruikshank’s Loving Ballad of Lord Bateman.
For words only, see Jamieson’s Popular Ballads (volume ii, p. 17); Garret’s Newcastle Garlands (volume i); and the broadsides above mentioned. The ballad is exhaustively analyzed in Child’s English and Scottish Popular Ballads (“Lord Beichan,” No. 53).
The story of Lord Bateman, Beichan, or Bekie, is very similar to the well-known and ancient legend concerning Gilbert Becket, father of Saint Thomas the Martyr. This has suggested to some the derivation of the ballad from the legend; but Child thinks that this is not so, although he admits that the ballad has not come down to us unaffected by the legend. He points out that there is a similar story in the Gesta Romanorum (No. 5, Bohn ed.), of about the same age as the Becket legend; that there are beautiful repetitions of the story in the ballads of other nations; and that it has secondary affinities with “Hind Horn.” The hero’s name, allowing for different spellings and corruptions, is always the same; but the name of the heroine varies. In ten of the twelve copies of the ballad that Child gives she is Susan Pye; in two, Isbel or Essels; and in the remaining two, Sophia, as in the text.
No. 7. Barbara Ellen
There is no ballad that country singers are more fond of than that of “Barbara Ellen,” or “Barbarous Ellen,” or “Edelin,” as it is usually called. I have taken down as many as twenty-seven variants, almost all of which are in 5-time. For other versions of the tune, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, pp. 111 and 265, volume ii, pp. 15–18); Kidson’s Traditional Tunes (p. 39); Rimbault’s Musical Illustrations to Percy’s Reliques (p. 98); Christie’s Traditional Ballad Airs (volume i, pp. 86–88); and Joyce’s Ancient Irish Music (p. 79). The well-known Scottish tune was first printed in 1740. The ballad is in Child’s collection, where many versions and notes may be found.
No. 8. Little Sir Hugh
Versions of this ballad, with tunes, may be found in Miss Mason’s Nursery Rhymes (p. 46); Motherwell’s Minstrelsy (p. 51, tune No. 7); Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 264); and in Rimbault’s Musical Illustrations of Percy’s Reliques (pp. 3 and 46). For versions without tunes, see Percy’s Reliques (volume i, p. 27); Herd’s Scottish Songs (volume i, p. 157); Jamieson’s Popular Ballads (volume i, p. 151); Notes and Queries (Series 1); and Child’s English and Scottish Ballads (No. 155).
The story of this ballad is closely connected with that of the carols “The Bitter Withy” and “The Holy Well” (see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, volume iv, pp. 35–46).
The events narrated in this ballad were supposed to have taken place in the 13th century. The story is told by a contemporary writer in the Annals of Waverley, under the year 1255. Little Sir Hugh was crucified by the Jews in contempt of Christ with various preliminary tortures. To conceal the act from the Christians, the body was thrown into a running stream, but the water immediately ejected it upon dry land. It was then buried, but was found above ground the next day. As a last resource the body was thrown into a drinking-well; whereupon, the whole place was filled with so brilliant a light and so sweet an odor that it was clear to everybody that there must be something holy in the well. The body was seen floating on the water and, upon its recovery, it was found that the hands and feet were pierced with wounds, the forehead lacerated, etc. The unfortunate Jews were suspected. The King ordered an inquiry. Eighteen Jews confessed, were convicted, and eventually hanged.
A similar tale is told by Matthew Paris (ob. 1259), and in the Annals of Burton (13th or 14th century). Halliwell, in his Ballads and Poems respecting Hugh of Lincoln, prints an Anglo-French ballad, consisting of ninety-two stanzas, which is believed to have been written at the time of, or soon after, the event. No English ballad has been recovered earlier than the middle of the 18th century.
Bishop Percy rightly concludes “the whole charge to be groundless and malicious.” Murders of this sort have been imputed to the Jews for seven hundred and fifty years or more; and similar accusations have been made in Russia and other countries of Eastern Europe even in the 19th century — and as late as 1883. Child sums up the whole matter by saying, “These pretended child-murders, with their horrible consequences, are only a part of a persecution which, with all its moderation, may be rubricated as the most disgraceful chapter in the history of the human race.”I have discovered three other versions of this ballad besides the one in this volume. The words in the text have been compiled from these sources. The singer learned the ballad from her mother, who always sang the first two lines as follows:
Do rain, do rain, American corn,
Do rain both great and small.
The tune in the text is a close variant of “Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day” (Chappell’s Popular Music, p. 227).
No. 9. Geordie
For other versions with tunes, see Traditional Tunes (p. 24); Folk Songs from the Eastern Counties (p. 47); English Traditional Songs and Carols (p. 32); and Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 164; volume ii, pp. 27 and 208; volume iii, p. 191).
The tune here given is modal, and, lacking the sixth of the scale, may be either Dorian or Æolian; it is harmonized as though it were the latter.
Child gives many versions and exhaustive notes.
Buchan (Ancient Ballads and Songs, volume i, p. 133) prints a version, “Gight’s Lady,” and suggests that the ballad “recounts an affair which actually took place in the reign, or rather the minority, of King James VI. Sir George Gordon of Gight had become too familiar with the laird of Bignet’s lady, for which the former was imprisoned and likely to lose his life, but for the timely interference of Lady Ann, his lawful spouse, who came to Edinburgh to plead his cause, which she did with success — gained his life, and was rewarded with the loss of her own, by the hand of her ungrateful husband.” The version in the text cannot, however, refer to this incident.
Kinloch (Ancient Scottish Ballads) agrees that “Geordie” was George Gordon, Earl of Huntly, and that the incident related in the ballad “originated in the factions of the family of Huntly, during the reign of Queen Mary.” Motherwell, on the other hand, says that in some copies the hero is named George Luklie. In Ritson’s Northumberland Garland (1793), the ballad is described as “A lamentable ditty made upon the death of a worthy gentleman, named George Stoole.”
The words are on broadsides by Such and others.
No. 10. Lady Maisry
For other versions of the words only of this ballad, see Motherwell’s Minstrelsy (p. 71), and Child’s English and Scottish Popular Ballads (No. 65); and of the words with tunes, the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 43; volume iii, pp. 74 and 304).In the Scottish ballad, Lady Maisry rejects the Northern lords, who come to woo her, and enters into an illicit connection with an English nobleman. Lord William. During the absence of the latter, the brothers of Lady Maisry discover her secret and make preparations to burn her. She dispatches in hot haste a messenger to apprise Lord William of her danger. He hastens home to find her at the point of death. He swears to avenge her by burning her kinsmen, and
The last bonfire that I come to
Myself I will cast in.
The first part of the story is omitted in this version, while the last four verses recall the ballad of “Lord Lovel,” rather than that of “Lady Maisry.”
The tune is in the Æolian mode.
No. 11. The Outlandish Knight
Child, speaking of this ballad (English and Scottish Ballads, No. 4), remarks: “Of all the ballads this has perhaps obtained the widest circulation. It is nearly as well known to the southern as to the northern nations of Europe. It has an extraordinary currency in Poland."
This ballad is widely known throughout England, and I have taken it down no less than thirty-six times. Although very few singers could “go through” with it, I have recorded several fairly complete sets of words, from which that given in this book has been compiled. As a rule the versions vary but little, although I have heard only one singer sing the seventh and eighth stanzas of the text. One singer, however, used the word “croppèd,” instead of the more usual “droppèd,” in the ninth stanza, and this may have been a reminiscence of the “nettle” theme. None of the printed copies contain these verses except one in the Roxburghe Collection, in which the following lines occur:
Go fetch the sickle, to crop the nettle,
That grows so near the brim;
Far fear it should tangle my golden locks,
Or freckle my milk-white skin.
As “May Colvin,” the ballad appears in Herd’s Scottish Songs (volume i, p. 153), in Motherwell’s Minstrelsy (p. 67, tune 24), and in Buchan’s Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland (volume ii, p. 45). Buchan also gives a second version of the ballad entitled “The Gowans sae Gay” (volume i, p. 22). In the latter, the hero appears as an elf-knight, and the catastrophe is brought about by the heroine. Lady Isabel, persuading her false lover to sit down with his head on her knee, when she lulls him to sleep with a charm and stabs him with his own dagger. None of the English versions introduce any supernatural element into the story. They all, however, contain the “parrot” verses.
The expression “outlandish” is generally taken to mean an inhabitant of the debatable territory between the borders of England and Scotland. In other parts of England, however, “outlandish” simply means “foreign,” i.e., not belonging to the county or district of the singer.
One singer gave me the first verse as follows:
There was a knigla, a baron-knight,
A knigks of high degree;
This knight he came from the North land,
He came a-courting me.
For versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, p. 282; volume iv, pp. 116–123); Traditional Tunes (pp. 26 and 172); English County Songs (p. 164); and a Border version in Northumbrian Minstrelsy (p. 48).
The tune is nearly always in 6⁄8 time, and is usually modal. The second air, however, in Traditonal Tunes and a variant collected by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould in Devon and printed in English Folk Songs for Schools, are both in common measure.
The singer varied his tune, which is in the Dorian mode, in nearly every verse.
No. 12. The Coasts of High Barbary
A version of this song, which the Rev. S. Baring-Gould collected in Devonshire, is published in English Folk Songs for Schools. I have collected only one other version, the first stanza of which runs thus:
Two lofty ships of war from old England set sail;
Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we,
One was the Princess Charlotte and the other the Prince of Wales,
A-coming down along the coasts of Barbary.
The George-Aloe and the Sweepstake, too,
with hey, with hoe, for and a nony no,
O, they were Merchant men, and bound far Safee
and alongst the Coast of Barbary.
Mr. Ashton thinks that the “ballad was probably written in the latter part of the sixteenth century,” and he points out that it is quoted in a play, “The Two Noble Kinsmen,” written by “the Memorable Worthies, Mr. John Fletcher and Mr. William Shakespeare.”
To the six verses which the singer sang to me I have added three others; two from the Devon version (with Mr. Baring-Gould’s kind permission), and one — the last one in the text — from the broadside above mentioned.The third phrase of the tune, which is in the Æolian mode, is not unlike the corresponding phrase of “When Johnny comes Marching Home Again.” Compare, also, “Whistle, Daughter, Whistle” (No. 59).
No. 13. The Cruel Mother
The story, which is not quite clear in this version, is of a woman who contracts an illicit alliance with her father’s clerk, and secretly gives birth to twin babes “down by the green wood side O.” She murders the infants, who afterward appear before her “all dressed in white,” that is, as ghosts. They proclaim their identity by calling her “Mother,” curse her for her cruelty to them, and say that they live in heaven, but that she will suffer in hell for her misdeeds.
The earliest published form of the ballad is in Herd’s Scottish Songs (volume ii, p. 237, ed. 1776). Other Scottish versions are given in Motherwell’s, Kinloch’s, and Buchan’s collections; see also “Lady Anne” in Scott’s Minstrelsy, and “Fine Flowers in the Valley” in Johnson’s Museum (volume iv, ed. 1792). The tune given in the latter, although quite regular in rhythm, is very similar to the air given here.
Kinloch also quotes a tune which, however, has little or nothing in common with the Mixolydian air in the text.
In the Percy Papers there is a version very similar to this one. It begins:
There was a duke’s daughter lived in York,
All alone and alone a,
And she fell in love with her father’s clarke,
Down by the green wood side a.
Four versions with tunes are printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, p. 109; volume iii, pp. 70–72), the first one of which was recorded by Miss Esther White, of New Jersey, who writes that “lately she heard it again, sung by a poor ‘mountain-white’ child in the North Carolina Mountains.”
No. 14. The Golden Vanity
Many versions of this ballad have been published with tunes, for example, the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 104; volume ii. p. 244); English County Songs (p. 182); Songs of the West (No. 64, 2d ed.); Tozer’s Sailors’ Songs and Chanties (No. 15); Songs of Sea-Labour (No. 42), etc.
Child (No. 286) reprints a 17th century broadside version, beginning:
Sir Walter Raleigh has built a ship
In the Netherlands,
And it is called the Sweet Trinity
And was taken by the false Gallaly,
Sailing in the Lowlands.
The ballad is still freely sung by English folksingers, from whom I have noted down twelve different versions.
No. 15. Lord Thomas of Winesberry
I have had to omit some of the words which the singer of this version gave me, and to supplement the rest with extracts from the three other variants I have collected. All the tunes that I have noted are of the same straightforward type.
The ballad is very nearly identical with the Scottish ballad of “Lord Thomas of Winesberry,” and that is my excuse for appropriating that title. Scottish versions are printed in Buchan’s Ancient Ballads of the North of Scotland (volume ii, p. 212), and in Kinloch’s Ancient Scottish Ballads (p. 89). Kinloch makes an attempt to connect the subject of the ballad with “the secret expedition of James V to France, in 1536, in search of a wife,” which seems more ingenious than probable. In Buchan’s version Thomas is chamberlain to the daughter of the King of France, who wanted none of her riches, as he had
. . . thirty ploughs and three:
And four an’ twenty bonny breast mills,
All on the water of Dee.
Five verses of this ballad are given in Notes and Queries (Series 5, volume vii, p. 387), “as heard sung years ago by a West Country fisherman.” As the late Mr. Hammond noted down more than one version in Dorset, the song has evidently taken root in the West of England, where all my versions were collected.
No. 16. The Green Wedding
The words of this ballad were sung to me to a very poor tune. I have, therefore, taken the liberty of mating them to a fine air which was sung to me to some very boisterous, unprintable words, called “The Boatsman and the Tailor.” The occasional substitution of a minor for the major third in a Mixolydian tune is quite a common habit with English folksingers, and several examples of this may be seen in this volume (see Nos.46, 47, and 53 [second version]); but for the major interval to follow the minor almost immediately is both curious and unusual. Miss Gilchrist has pointed out the close connection between “The Green Wedding” and the Scottish ballad “Katherine Janfarie,” or “Jaffray,” upon which Scott founded his ballad of “Lochinvar” in Marmion (see Child’s English and Scottish Ballads; Motherwell’s Minstrelsy; Sidgwick’s Popular Ballads of the Olden Time; and Scott’s Minstrelsty, 1st and 3rd editions).
In the Scottish ballad, Katherine is wooed first by the Laird of Lauderdale, who wins her consent, and secondly by Lord Lochinvar “out frae the English border,” who, however, omitted to avow his love to Katherine “till on her wedding e’en.” The rivals meet at the “wedding house” and, in the fight that ensues, Katherine is carried off by her Scottish lover.
Whether our ballad is a corrupt and incomplete version of the Scottish one, it is difficult to say. Although the two have several lines in common, there is something in the plot of “The Green Wedding” which, despite its obscurity, seems to indicate a motive which is absent from “Katherine Janfarie.” The scheme of our story seems to turn upon the dressing in green of both hero and heroine at the wedding feast, but the purpose of their device is not dear. This, however, presented no difficulty to my singer, who, when I asked him why the hero dressed in green, said, “Because, you see, he had told his true-love to dress in green also;” and when I further inquired why he told her to do this, he said, “Because, of course, he was going to put on a green dress himself” — and there was clearly nothing more to be said!
It is just possible, as Miss Gilchrist observes, that the reference to the green dress may be a reminiscence of “Robin Hood and Allan-a-Dale;” or perhaps it has been suggested by the following stanza which occurs in “Katherine Janfarie:”
He’s ta’en her by the milk-white hand,
And by the grass-green sleeve;
He’s mounted her hie behind himsell,
At her kinsmen speir’d na leave.
No. 17. The Briery Bush
The lines printed in the text are as the singer of this version sang them, with the exception of the last stanza, which I have borrowed from a variant collected elsewhere. For other versions with tunes, see English County Songs (p. 112); and the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume v, pp. 328-235), with a long and exhaustive note.
Under the heading of “The Maid freed from the Gallows,” Child (English and Scottish Ballads, No. 95) gives several versions and shows that the ballad is very generally known throughout Northern and Southern Europe — nearly fifty versions have been collected in Finland. In the foreign forms of the ballad, the victim usually falls into the hands of corsairs or pirates, who demand ransom, but none of the English versions account in any way for the situation.
Child also quotes another English variant communicated by Dr. Birkbeck Hill in 1890, “as learned forty years before from a schoolfellow who came from the North of Somerset.” This is very much like the version given in the text, the first two lines of the refrain running:
Oh the briers, prickly briers,
Come prick my heart so sore.
The Rev. S. Baring-Gould, in the appendix to Henderson’s Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties of England (p. 333, ed. 1866), gives a Yorkshire story, “The Golden Ball,” which concludes with verses very similar to those of “The Briery Bush.” A man gives a ball to each of two maidens, with the condition that if either of them loses the ball, she is to be hanged. The younger, while playing, tosses her ball over a park-paling; the ball rolls away over the grass into a house and is seen no more. She is condemned to be hanged, and calls upon her father, mother, etc., for assistance, her lover finally procuring her release by producing the lost ball.
Child quotes a Cornish variant of the same story, communicated to him by Mr. Baring-Gould.
That the ballad is a very ancient one may be inferred from the peculiar form of its construction — sometimes called the “climax of relatives.” The same scheme is used in the latter half of “Lord Rendal” (No. 18), and is one that lends itself very readily to improvisation.
No. 18. Lord Rendal
This ballad is sung very finely from one end of the island to the other, and I have taken it down at least twenty times.
The words given in the text have been compiled from different sets, but none of them have been altered.
One of the earliest printed versions of this ballad is in Johnson’s The Scots Musical Museum (1787–1803) under the heading “Lord Ronald my Son;” and that is a fragment only. The “Willy Doo” in Buchan’s Ancient Ballads (1828) is the same song; see also “Portmore” in the same volume.
Sir Walter Scott, in Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1828), calls it “Lord Randal,” and thinks it not impossible “that the ballad may have originally referred to the death of Thomas Randolph, or Randal, Earl of Murray, nephew to Robert Bruce and governor of Scotland. This great warrior died at Musselburgh, 1332, at the moment when his services were most needed by his country, already threatened by an English army. For this sole reason, perhaps, our historians obstinately impute his death to poison,” But, of course, Sir Walter did not know how many countries have the ballad.
A nursery version of the ballad is quoted in Whitelaw’s Book of Scottish Ballads, under the title, “The Croodlin Doo” (Cooing Dove). Jamieson gives a Suffolk variant, and also a translation of the German version of the same song, called “Grossmutter Schlangenkoechin” that is, Grandmother Adder-cook. The German version is like ours in that it attributes the poisoning to snakes, not toads, which is the Scottish tradition. Kinloch remarks: “Might not the Scots proverbial phrase, ‘To gie one frogs instead of fish,’ as meaning to substitute what is bad or disagreeable, for expected good, be viewed as allied to the idea of the venomous quality of the toad?” Sir Walter Scott quotes from a manuscript Chronicle of England which describes in quaint language how King John was poisoned by a conconction of toads: “Tho went the monke into a gardene, and fonde a tode therin; and toke her upp, and put hyr in a cuppe, and filled it with good ale, and pryked hyr in every place, in the cuppe, till the venom came out in every place; and brought hitt befor the kynge, and knelyd, and said, ‘Sir, wassayle; for never in your lyfe dranck ye of such a cuppe.’ ”
A very beautiful version of the song is given in A Garland of Country Song No. 38. In the note, Mr. Baring-Gould remarks that, not only is the ballad popularly known in England and Ireland, but it has also been noted down in Italy, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Bohemia, and Iceland. The ballad is exhaustively dealt with by Child.
The West Country expression “spickit and sparkit” means “speckled and blotched.”
For other versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, pp. 29–32; volume iii, p. 43; volume v, pp. 244–248).
No. 19. Blow away the Morning Dew
This is a shortened form of “The Baffled Knight, or Lady’s Policy” (Percy’s Reliques). The words beginning “Yonder comes a courteous knight” are preserved in Deuteromelia, 1609, and in Pills to Purge Melancholy (volume iii, p. 37, ed. 1719). A tune to which this ballad was once sung is to be found in Rimbault’s Music to Reliques of Ancient Poetry. See also “Blow the winds I ho!” in Bell’s Ballads of the English Peasantry, and “Blow away ye mountain breezes,” in Baring-Gould’s Songs of the West (No. 25, 2d ed.).
A Scottish version of the words, “Jock Sheep,” is given in The Ballad Book (Kinloch and Goldsmid, p. 10); and another, “The Abashed Knight,” in Buchan’s Ancient Ballads and Songs (volume ii, p. 131). For other versions, see Child’s collection. I have secured thirteen variants, one of which was used as a Capatan Chantey.
No. 20. The Two Magicians
This is, I believe, the only copy of this ballad that has as yet been collected in England. The tune, which, of course, is modern, is a variant of one which was used for a series of humorous songs of the “exaggeration” type that was very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, of which “The Crocodile” (English County Songs, p. 184) is an example,
The words were first printed, I believe, in 1828 in Buchan’s Ancient Ballads and Songs (volume i, p. 24), together with the following comment: “There is a novelty in this legendary ballad very amusing, and it must be very old. I never saw anything in print which had the smallest resemblance to it.” It has been necessary to make but one or two small alterations in the words.
Child (English and Scottish Ballads, volume i, p. 244) prints Buchan’s version and says: “This is a base born cousin of a pretty ballad known all over Southern Europe and elsewhere, and in especially graceful forms in France.”
“The French ballad generally begins with a young man’s announcing that he has won a mistress, and intends to pay her a visit on Sunday, or to give her an aubade. She declines his visit or his music. To avoid him she will turn, e.g. into a rose; then he will turn bee and kiss her. She will turn quail; he sportsman and bag her. She will turn carp; he angler, and catch her. She will turn hare; and he hound. She will turn nun; and he priest and confess her day and night. She will fall sick; he will watch with her or be her doctor. She will become a star; he a cloud and muffle her. She will die; he will turn earth into which they will put her, or into Saint Peter, and receive her into Paradise. In the end she says, ‘Since you are inevitable, you may as well have me as another;’ or more complaisantly, ‘Je me donnerai à toi, puisque tu m’aimes tant.’ ”
The ballad in varying forms is known in Spain, Italy, Romania, Greece, Moravia, Poland, and Serbia. See the chapter on “Magical Transformations and Magical Conflict,” in Clouston’s Popular Tales and Fiction. I believe there is a similar story in the Arabian Nights’ Entertainment.
No. 21. The Duke of Bedford
The singer of this ballad, a native of Sheffield, told me that he learned it from his father, who, in turn, had derived it from his father, and that it was regarded by his relatives as a “family relic” and sung at weddings and other important gatherings. The earlier stanzas of the song are undoubtedly traditional, but some of the later ones (omitted in the text) were, I suspect, added by a recent member of the singer’s family, or, possibly, derived from a broadside.
The tune, which is in the Æolian mode, has some affinities with the second strain of “The Cuckoo” (No. 35), an air which is often sung to “High Germany.” See also the tune of No. 92 of Joyce’s Ancient Irish Music.Three Lincolnshire variants collected by Percy Grainger are printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume iii, pp. 170–179); while the version in the text is given, with all the words, in the fifth volume of the same publication (p. 79).
Very full notes have been added to these by Miss Lucy Broadwood in an attempt to throw light on the origin of the historical incident upon which the ballad story is founded. Two other versions have been published in Longman’s Magazine (volume xvii, p. 217, ed. 1890), and in the Ballad Society’s edition of the Roxburghe Ballads (part xv, volume v, ed. 1885).
Professor Child reprinted the first of these in a note upon “The Death of Queen Jane,” observing that “one half seemed a plagiarism upon that old ballad,” and that the remainder of “The Duke of Bedford” was so “trivial” that he had not attempted to identify this Duke — “any other Duke would probably answer as well.” Miss Broadwood has not reached a definite conclusion, but she inclines to the theory that the Duke of the ballad was William De la Pole, first Duke of Suffolk (1396–1450). She admits, however, that there is a good deal of evidence in favor of the Duke of Grafton, son of Charles II, an account of whose death was printed on a broadside, licensed in 1690. She thinks that the ballad given here is probably a mixture of two separate ballads, the more modern of the two (describing hunting) referring to the death of the son of the fourth Duke of Bedford, born in 1739, who was killed by a fall from his horse in 1767. Woburn only came into the possession of the Bedford family after the accession of Edward VI.
The last stanza refers to the popular superstition that the flowing of certain streams, known as “woe-waters,” was the presage of coming disaster.
No. 22. Death and the Lady
For other versions with tunes see Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 169; volume ii, p. 137) ; Songs of the West (No. 99, 2d ed.); English Traditional Songs and Carols (p. 40) ; and Chappell’s Popular Music of the Olden Time (pp. 164–168).
Chappell points out that this “is one of a series of popular ballads which had their rise from the celebrated Dance of Death,” and he quotes a very long “Dialogue betwixt an Exciseman and Death” from a copy in the Bagford Collection, dated 1659 (also given in Bell’s Songs of the Peasantry of England). There is a tune in Henry Carey’s Musical Century (volume i, p. 53), set to one of the recitatives in “A New Year’s Ode.” This is headed, “The melody stolen from an old ballad called Death and the Lady.” It is this tune which Chappell prints to the words of “Death and the Lady,” from A Guide to Heaven (1736). The words of this last version are on a broadside by Evans which I am fortunate enough to possess. It is ornamented with a curious old woodcut of a skeleton holding a scythe in one hand and an hour-glass in the other.
No. 23. The Low, Low Lands of Holland
One of the earliest copies of this ballad is printed in Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs (volume ii, p. 2, ed. 1776). It is also in the Roxburghe and Ebsworth Collections and in Johnson’s Museum. The ballad appears also in Garlands, printed about 1760, as “The Sorrowful Lover’s Regrate” and “The Maid’s Lamentation for the Loss of her True Love,” as well as on broadsides of more recent date. See also the Pedlar’s Pack of Ballads (pp. 23–25); the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 97; volume iii, p. 307); and Dr. Joyce’s Ancient Irish Music (No. 68).
The “vow” verse occurs in “Bonny Bee Hom,” a well-known Scottish ballad (Child, No. 92).
The words in the text are virtually as I took them down from the singer. The tune is partly Mixolydian. The word “box” in the third stanza is used in the old sense, that is “to hurry.”
No. 24. The Unquiet Grave, or, Cold Blows the Wind
This ballad, of which I have collected a large number of variants, is widely known and sung by English folksingers. A Scottish version, “Charles Graeme,” is in Buchan’s Ancient Ballads and Songs; while several traditional versions of the words are printed by Child. Compare the ballad of “William and Marjorie” (Motherwell’s Minstrelsy, p. 186), and versions of the well-known “William and Margaret.” For variants with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, pp. 119 and 192; volume ii, p. 6); English County Songs (p. 34); Songs of the West (p. 12, 2d ed.); and English Traditional Songs and Carols (p. 50). The words of the sixth stanza in the text refer to an ancient belief that a maiden betrothed to a man was pledged to him after his death, and was compelled to follow him into the spirit world unless she was able to perform certain tasks or solve certain riddles that he propounded. In this particular version the position is, of course, reversed, and it is the maiden who lies in the grave. Compare “Scarborough Fair” (No. 74).
No. 25. The Trees they do grow high
The singer varied his tune, which is in the Dorian mode, in a very remarkable way, a good example of the skill with which folksingers will alter their tune to fit various metrical irregularities in the words (see English Folk Song: Some Conclusions, p. 25). For versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 214; volume ii, pp. 44, 95, 206, and 274); Songs of the West (No. 4, 2d ed.); English Traditional Songs and Carols (p. 56); Christie’s Traditional Ballad Airs (“Young Craigston”); and Johnson’s Scots Muisical Museum, volume iv (“Lady Mary Ann”). For some reason or other, Child makes no mention of this ballad. For particulars of the custom of wearing ribands to denote betrothal or marriage, see “Ribands” in Hazlitt’s Dictionary of Faiths and Folk-Lore.
No. 26. Lord Lovel
I do not know of any publication in which the tune of this ballad is published. I have collected six versions, but only one complete set of words, the one given in the text (with the exception of the last two stanzas). Version of the words are given in Child (English and Scottish Ballads); Bell’s Early Ballads (p. 134); and Kinloch’s Anciont Scottish Ballads.
No. 27. False Lamkin
Under the heading “Lamkin,” Child deals very fully with this ballad. There is a tradition in Northumberland that Lamkin and his tower were part of that county, and Miss Broadwood says that she has seen what is said to be the original tower close to the little village of Ovingham-on-Tyne, “now a mere shell overgrown with underwood.”
For other versions with tunes, see Christie’s Traditional Ballad Airs of Scotland and the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 212; volume ii, p. 111; volume v, pp. 81–84). The ballad given here was collected in Cambrigdeshire, in which county it is still very generally known to folksingers.
No. 28. Lord Thomas and Fair Ellinor
This, of course, is a very common ballad. The words are on ballad-sheets and in most of the well-known collections, and are fully analyzed in Child’s English and Scottish Ballads. For versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, pp.105–108); English County Songs (p. 42); Sandys’s Christmas Carols; Traditional Tunes (p. 40); Ritson’s Scottish Songs (Part iv, p. 228); etc.
The singer assured me that the three lines between the twentieth and twenty-first stanzas were always spoken and never sung. This is the only instance of the kind that I have come across (see English Folk Song: Some Conclusions, p. 6).
No. 29. The Death of Queen Jane
For other versions see Child (No. 170) and the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, p. 221; volume iii, p.67).
Queen Jane Seymour gave birth to Prince Edward, afterwards Edward VI, on October 12, 1537, and died twelve days later. There is no evidence that hear death was brought about in the way narrated in the ballad.
No. 30. Farewell, Nancy
Version with tunes are given in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 130; volume ii, pp. 99 and 298); and in Joyce’s Ancient Irish Music (No. 93). See also “William and Nancy’s parting,” in Garret’s Newcastle Garlands (volume ii).
The tune, a remarkably fine one, is in the Æolian mode, and was sung to me by a woman, seventy-four years of age.
No. 31. Sweet Kitty
The tune, which is in the Dorian mode, was used in Mr. Granville Barker’s production of Hardy’s “Dynasts,” being set to the words, “My Love’s gone a-fighting.” The words, which are related to those of “Brimbledon Fair” (No. 75), have been compiled from several versions that I have collected.
No. 32. The Crystal Spring
I have no variants of this song, nor have I been able to find it on ballad-sheets or in any published collection. I believe the tune to be a genuine folk-melody, though the sequence in the first phrase is unusual. On the other hand, the middle cadence on the third degree of the scale (thus avoiding a dominant modulation) is very characteristic of the folk-tune proper.
No. 33. The Seeds of Love
This song, which is known to the peasant-folk all over England, is a modernized version of “The Sprig of Thyme,” the next number in this collection. According to Whittaker’s History of the Parish of Whalley, the words were written by a Mrs. Fleetwood Habergam, circa 1689, who, “undone by the extravagance, and disgraced by the vices of her husband,” soothed her sorrows by writing of her woes in the symbolism of flowers. But this, of course, is merely a case of “intrusion.”
Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time), who suggests that Mrs. Habergam’s lines were originally sung to the tune of “Come open the door, sweet Betty,” prints a traditional tune noted down by Sir George Macfarren.
The tune printed in the text, with its octave in the penultimate phrase, is an example of a certain type of English folk-air.
No. 34. The Sprig of Thyme
Although this and the preceding song probably spring from the same root, it is, I think, quite possible to distinguish them, both tunes and words. “The Sprig of Thyme” is, I imagine, the older of the two. Its tone is usually modal, very sad and intense, and somewhat rugged and forceful in character; while its words are abstract and reflective, and sometimes obscure. On the other hand, the words of “The Seeds of Love,” although symbolical, are quite clear in their meaning; they are more modern in their diction, and are usually sung to a bright, flowing melody, generally in the major mode.
For other versions with words, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, p. 288); Folk Songs from Dorset (p. 10); and Songs of the West (No. 7, 2d ed.).
The words in the text are those that the singer sang me, supplemented from those of other sets in my collection. I used the tune, which is in the Æolian mode, for the “Still music” in Mr. Granville Barker’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act iv, Sc. 1).
No. 35. The Cuckoo
I have taken down fifteen different versions of this song, but the tune given in the text is the only one that is modal (Æolian). This particular tune is usually associated with the words of “High Germany.” Halliwell, in his Nursery Rhymes (p. 99), prints a couple of verses in dialect, as follows:
The cuckoo’s a vine bird,
A zengs as a vlies;
A brengs us good tidin’s.
And tells us no lies.
A zucks th’ smael birds’ eggs,
To make his voice clear;
And the mwore a cries “cuckoo!”
The zummer draws near.
The words in the text are similar to those given in a Glasgow Garland, “The Sailor's Return.”
No. 36. Blackbirds and Thrushes
Although I have collected five variants of this song, I do not know of any published version of it. I have had to amend some of the lines that were corrupt.
No. 37. The Drowned Lover
For other versions with tunes, see Traditional Tunes (p. 112); Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume iii, p. 258); and Songs of the West (No. 32, 2d ed.). In a note to the latter, Mr. Baring-Gould states that the earliest copy of the words is in the Roxburghe Ballads, under the heading “Captain Digby’s Farewell;” and that the song afterward came to be applied — at any rate, in the West of England — to the death of the Earl of Sandwich after the action in Sole Bay in 1673. Mr. Baring-Gould suggests that “Stokes Bay,” in the version given in the text, is a corruption of “Sole Bay.” In both the other versions above cited, and in another one which I have published (Folk Songs from Various Counties, No. 8), the scene is laid in the North of England, the lovers being buried in Robin Hood’s Churchyard.
The air is in the Dorian mode. The words are almost exactly as they were sung to me.
No. 38. The Sign of the Bonny Blue Bell
The subject of the ballad is clearly related to “I’m going to be married on Sunday,” in Dr. Joyce’s Ancient Irish Music (No. 17); while the first three lines of the initial stanza are identical with the corresponding lines of another song in the same volume (No. 72). The words are printed on a broadside by Williamson, Newcastle (circa 1850), and two short verses are given by Halliwell in his Nursery Rhymes (p. 94).
A country-dance air, which, however, has nothing in common with the tune in the text, is printed by Walsh (1708), and in The Dancing Master (volume ii, ed. 1719), under the heading “I mun be marry’d a Tuesday.”
The tune in the text is in the Æolian mode.
No. 39. O Waly, Waly
I have collected five variants of this song. The words are so closely allied to the well-known Scottish ballad, “Waly, Waly, up the bank” (Orpheus Caledonius), that I have published them under the same title. A close variant is to be found in Songs of the West (No. 86, 2d ed.) under the heading “A Ship came Sailing.” Mr. Baring-Gould, in a note to the latter, points out that the third stanza is in “The Distressed Virgin,” a ballad by Martin Parker, printed by J.Coles, 1646–74.
The traditional “Waly, Waly” is part of a long ballad, “Lord Jamie Douglas,” printed in the appendix to Motherwell’s Minstrelsy. Its origin seems very obscure. The tune ts given in Rimbault’s Musical Illustrations of Percy’s Reliques (p. 102); in Chambers’s Scottish Songs prior to Burns (p. 280); and elsewhere.
No. 40. Green Bushes
Other versions with tunes may be seen in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume v, p. 177); Songs of the West (No. 43, 2d ed.); English County Songs (p. 170); and Traditional Tunes (p. 47). Two stanzas of this song were sung in Buckstone’s play, “The Green Bushes” (1845), and, owing to the popularity which this achieved, the complete song was shortly afterward published as a “popular Irish ballad sung by Mrs. FitzWilliam.” There are several Irish variants of this tune in the Petrie Collection (Nos. 222, 223, 368, 603, etc.), but none of these are downright Mixolydian tunes like the one in the text, which is the form in which the air is usually sung in England. Miss Broadwood and Miss Gilchrist, in notes appended to the version published in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, consider that the words have been affected by those of a “Dialogue in imitation of Mr. H. Purcell — Between a Town Spark and a Country Lass,” 1740. It is difficult to say whether this be so or not, but I think that the phraseology of some of the lines in the text — which are also on broadsides by Disley and Such — shows distinct signs of “editing.” Mr. Baring-Gould pronounces the words as “substantially old,” “the softening down of an earlier ballad which has its analogue in Scotland,” and I suspect that this is the true explanation.
No. 41. Bedlam
For other versions with words, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 146; volume ii, pp. 37, 93, and 291; volume iii, pp. 111 and 290); English County Songs (p. 71); and Songs of the West (No.92).
“Mad songs” are great favorites with English folksingers, and I have collected several examples. The tune in the text is frankly a harmonic melody, chiefly remarkable for its very beautiful final phrase.
No. 42. The Bold Fisherman
For other versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 138; volume v, pp. 132–135); and English County Songs (p. 110).
I have always felt that there was something mystical about this song, and I was accordingly much interested to find that the same idea had independently occurred to Miss Lucy Broadwood, who, in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume v, pp. 132, 133), has developed her theory in a very interesting manner. She believes that the “Bold Fisherman,” as it appears on broadsides, is but "a vulgar and secularized transmutation of a mediæval allegorical legend,” and points out that the familiar elements of Gnostic and Early Christian mystical literature, for example, “the River, the Sea, the royal Fisher, the three Vestures of Light (or Robes of Glory), the Recognition and Adoration by the illuminated humble Soul, the free Pardon,” etc., are all to be found among variants of this ballad. The early Fathers of the Christian Church wrote of their baptized members as “fish,” emerged from the waters of baptism. For a full exposition of this view, however, the reader is referred to the note above mentioned.
I have several variants, and I think in every case the tune is in 5-time. The words in the text have been compiled from the sets given me by various singers.
No. 43. The Rambling Sailor
For other versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume iii, p. 108; volume v, p. 61); and Songs of the West (No. 87, 2d ed.). The tune, like the one in the text, is nearly always in the Mixolydian mode, and usually in hornpipe rhythm. The words on the older broadsides were always about a soldier, not a sailor, but on more modern stall copies, the latter is given the preference. The singer could remember only the first two verses; the third has been “lifted” from the broadside.
No. 44. Dabbling in the Dew
This is a very popular song all over England, and I have taken down a large number of variants. The words, which vary but little, are very free and unconventional. I have therefore taken some of the lines in the text from Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes (p. 35). In some versions, it is “strawberry leaves,” not “dabbling in the dew,” that “makes the milkmaids fair” — which I am told, though I have not been able to verify it, is the version given in Mother Goose’s Melodies for Children (Boston, ed. 1719).
The tune is in the Æolian mode.
For other versions with words, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume iv, pp. 181–285); Songs of the Four Nations (p. 58); English Folk Songs for Schools (No. 23); and Butterworth’s Folk Songs from Sussex (No. 9).
No. 45. The Saucy Sailor
Other versions with tunes are published in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume v, pp. 343–345); Tozer’s Sailors’ Songs (No. 39); Barrett’s Barrett’s English Folk Songs (No. 32); Songs of the West (No. 21); and English Folk Songs for Schools (No. 37).
Dr. Barrett, in a footnote, says that the song was a great favorite with factory girls in the East End of London, where, I am told, it is still to be heard.
That printed in English Folk Songs for Schools is undoubtedly the normal form of the tune, which is always in the major, or Mixolydian, mode. The mode in which the air given in the text is cast is the Æolian with a sharpened third, the only instance of this irregular scale that I have ever come across — probably the unconscious invention of the singer who gave me the song. The tune is a variant of the air traditionally associated with “Chevy Chase” (see Northumbrian Minstrelsy, p. 3, and Traditional Tunes, p. 19). Chappell mates the tune to “The Children in the Wood,” but states that it was known to be one of the “Chevy Chase” airs.
No. 46. Fanny Blair
The words that I took down from the singer of this song were very corrupt and almost unintelligible. I have therefore substituted lines taken from a Catnach broadside in my possession.
The tune is a very curious one. The singer varied both the seventh and third notes of the scale, sometimes singing them major and sometimes minor in a most capricious manner, so that I can only give the tune in the form in which he most frequently sang it. In English Folk Song: Some Conclusions (pp. 71, 72), I have expressed the opinion that in my experience English folksingers very rarely vary the notes of the mode, except, of course, in Mixolydian-Dorian tunes. Mr. Percy Grainger’s researches in Lincolnshire, however (Journal of the Folk-Song Society, volume iii, pp. 147–242), appear to show that this feeling for the pure diatonic scale is not shared by the folksingers of that county.
No. 47. Arise, arise
I have taken down four variants of this ballad, but I do not know of any published form of it. The tune is partly Mixolydian. The words have not been altered, although I have made use of all the sets that I have collected.
No. 48. Searching for Lambs
So far as I know, this has not been published elsewhere. The tune is modal, but lacking the sixth of the scale, it may be either Æolian or Dorian — I have harmonized it in the latter mode. The words are almost exactly as they were sung to me. Taking words and tune together, I consider this to be a very perfect example of a folksong.
No. 49. Green Broom
For other versions with words, see Pills to Purge Melancholy (volume vi, p. 100, ed. 1720); Songs of the West (No. 10); Northumbrian Minstrelsy (p. 98); and English County Songs (p. 88). The words are on broadsides by Such, Pratt, and others, and also in Gammer Gurton’s Garland.
No. 50. The Bonny Lighter-Boy
I have not heard any one sing this song except the man who gave me this version. Nor do I know of any published form of it. The tune is in the Æolian mode. The words in the text, except for four lines in the first verse which the singer could not remember, are as they were sung to me.
No. 51. The Sweet Priméroses
This is one of the most common of English folksongs. The words are on broadsides by Barraclough of Nuneaton and others. Variants of the tune are given in Barrett’s English Folk Songs (No. 46), and in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 21). In the version of the tune given here the rhythm is quite regular, differing in that particular from all other forms of the air that I know. Barrett, in a footnote, states: “This song is usually sung without any attempt to emphasize the rhythm.”The words have been compiled from those supplied to me by several singers.
No. 52. My Bonny, Bonny Boy
The earliest form of the ballad is, perhaps, that which was printed in the reign of Charles II under several titles, “Cupid’s Trappan,” “The Twitcher,” “Bonny, bonny Bird,” etc. (Chappell’s Popular Music of the Olden Time, p. 555). For other versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, pp. 17 and 274; volume ii, p. 82; volume iii, p. 85); Songs of the West (No. 106, 2d ed.); English County Songs (p. 146); Folk Songs from Various Counties (No. 9). The words are also in the Roxburghe Collection and printed in black-letter by J. Coles and by W. Thackeray (17th century). Mr. Baring-Gould claims that “bird,” not “boy,” is the proper reading, and points out that it is so given in the oldest printed version. But Miss Broadwood suggests that an old ballad-title “My bonny Burd” (or young girl) may have led to the allegorical use of the bird in later forms of the ballad.
The version given in the text was recovered in London, It was necessary to make one or two slight alterations in the words. The tune, which is in the Æolian mode, contains a passage only rarely heard in folksong, in which several notes are sung to a single syllable (see English Folk Song: Some Conclusions, p. 109).
No. 53 a and b. As I walked through the meadows
For other versions, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, pp. 10–12; volume v, p. 94). A few verbal alterations have been made in the words. The first tune is in the major mode and the second in the Mixolydian with, in one passage, a sharpened seventh.
No. 54. Erin’s Lovely Home
Other versions with tunes are printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 117; volume ii, pp. 167 and 211); and the Journal of the Irish Folk-Song Society (Part I, p. 11).
The words are on broadsides by Such and others.
The tune is almost invariably a modal one, either Æolian or, as in the present case, Dorian.
No. 55. The True Lover’s Farewell
For other versions with tunes of this ballad and of “The Turtle Dove,” with which it is closely allied, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, p. 55; volume iii, p. 86; volume iv, p. 286).
The song is clearly one of several peasant songs of the same type upon which Burns modelled his “A red, red rose” (see note to the song in The Centenary Burns by Henley and Henderson). The old Scottish tune is printed in Johnson’s Museum under the heading “Queen Mary’s Lament.” The variants of this very beautiful song that have been recently recovered in the southern counties of England prove beyond doubt that this was the source from which Burns borrowed nearly all his lines. Henderson, indeed, states that a broadside containing one of the versions of this song was known to have been in Burns’s possession. Two of the traditional stanzas are included in an American burlesque song, dating from about the middle of the last century, called “My Mary Anne” (see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, volume iii, p. 89; volume iv, p. 288). Three stanzas in the text are similar to corresponding lines in a garland entitled “The true Lover’s Farewell,” the second of “Five excellent New Songs, printed in the year 1792.” The words have been compiled from several traditional sets that I have collected.
The tune is in the Dorian mode.
No. 56. High Germany
There are two ballads of this name. The words of one of them, that given here, may be found on a broadside by Such and in A Collection of Choice Garlands, circa 1780. The second is printed on a Catnach broadside, and is entitled “The True Lovers: or the King’s command must be obeyed,” although it is popularly known as “High Germany,” For versions of both of these, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, p. 25); Journal of the Irish Folk-Song Society (Part I, p. 10); and Folk Songs from Dorset (No. 6).The words have been compiled from different versions. The tune is in the Æolian mode.
No. 57. Sweet Lovely Joan
The only variant of this that I know of is printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 270) and harmonized by Dr. R. Vaughan Williams in Folk Songs from Sussex (No. 14). As the singer could give me but five stanzas, I have had to complete his song from a broadside in my possession (no imprint). The tune, which is remarkable for the irregularity of its rhythm, is in the Æolian mode.
No. 58. My Boy Willie
A Yorkshire version of the words is given by Halliwell in his Popular Rhymes (p. 328); and a Scottish variant in Herd’s Scottish Songs (volume ii, p. 1). See also Baring-Gould’s A Book of Nursery Songs and Rhymes (No. 24).
The song, I imagine, is a comic derivative, or burlesque, of “Lord Rendal.”
No. 59. Whistle, Daughter, Whistle
I have taken down two variants of this song, and Joyce prints an Irish version under the heading “Cheer up, cheer up. Daughter,” in his Ancient Irish Music (No. 26).
The words given me by the singer were a little too free and unconventional to be published without emendation, but the necessary alterations have, nevertheless, been very few and unimportant. The tune is in the Æolian mode.
No. 60. Mowing the Barley
For other versions, see Wiltshire Folk Songs and Carols (Rev. G. Hill); Butterworth’s Folk Songs from Sussex (No. 4); and Folk Songs from Various Counties (No. 4).
No. 61. I’m Seventeen come Sunday
This ballad, with words re-written by Burns, is in The Scots Musical Museum (ed. 1792, No. 397). The tune there given, which is different from ours, is a traditional one, and was recorded by Burns himself from a singer in Nithsdale. Other versions are printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 92; volume ii, pp. 9 and 269); Songs of the West (No. 73, 2d ed.); and Ford’s Vagabond Songs and Ballads (p. 99).
The words, which are on broadsides by Bebbington (Manchester) and Such, have not been altered. The tune is in the Dorian mode.
No. 62. The Lark in the Morn
For other versions with tunes, see Folk Songs from the Eastern Counties (No. 6); A Garland of Country Song (No. 27); Traditional Tunes (p. 145); and the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, p. 272).
No. 63. Hares on the Mountains
This is a very popular song in the West of England, but it has not, I believe, been found elsewhere. Similar words are in Sam Lover’s Rory O’More (p. 101), which Mr. Hermann Löhr has set to music. There is also a tune in the Petrie Collection (No. 821), called “If all the young maidens be blackbirds and thrushes,” in the same metre as the lines in Rory O’More. Probably the song is of folk-origin and was known to Sam Lover, who placed it in the mouth of one of the characters in his novel, adding himself, presumably, the last stanza.
No. 64. O Sally, my dear
This, of course, is clearly allied to the preceding song. I have collected only two other versions of it. The words of the first three stanzas had, of necessity, to be somewhat altered. The tune is in the Æolian mode.
No. 65. Gently, Johnny, my Jingalo
I have taken down only one other variant of this. The words were rather coarse, but I have, I think, managed to re-write the first and third lines of each verse without sacrificing the character of the original song. The singer told me he learned it from his father. I have no doubt but that it is a genuine folksong. The tune is partly Mixolydian.
No. 66. The Keys of Canterbury
For other versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, p. 85); English County Songs (p. 32); Songs of the West (No, 22, 2d ed.); and Mason’s Nursery Rhymes and Country Songs (p. 67). Halliwell (Nursery Rhymes and Tales, p. 96) quotes a version of the words. The same theme is dramatized in the Singing Game, “There stands a Lady” (Children’s Singing Games, Set 3, Novello & Co.).
The tune, which is in the Æolian mode, is remarkable in that it is practically constructed upon the first five notes of the scale — the sixth is but once used, and then only as an auxiliary note.
No. 67. My Man John
This is obviously but an extension of the preceding song in which a third character is introduced. I have taken down four other versions, one of which is printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, p. 88). Mr. Baring-Gould gives the words of yet another variant in his note to “Blue Muslin” (Songs of the West, p. 8, 2d ed.), where he also points out that muslin was introduced into England in 1670, and that mous-e-line is the old form of the word.
No. 68. O No, John!
I have collected several versions of this song. The first stanza is identical with the initial verse of the Singing Game, “Lady on the Mountain” (Dictionary of British Folk-Lore, volume i, pp. 320–324). Lady Gomme shrewdly guesses that the game was derived from a ballad, and Mr. Newell, in his Games and Songs of American Children (p. 55), prints a version which he also believes to be “an old English song, which has been taken for a ring-game.” See also “The Disdainful Lady,” in Miss Burne’s Shropshire Folk-Lore (p. 561); and “Twenty, Eighteen,” in English County Songs (p. 90).
The main theme of the song — the daughter’s promise to her father to answer “No” to all her suitors during his absence — is not in any of the songs above mentioned. The idea, however, is carried out In “No, Sir!” which the late Miss A. M. Wakefield made very popular some years ago. Miss Wakefield wrote to me: “I first heard something like it from an American governess. Neither words nor music were at all complete. …I wrote it down and it got a good deal altered and I never looked upon it at all as a folk-song,” and added that her song was now sung by the Salvation Army, under the title “Yes, Lord!” The song is, of course, closely allied to the two preceding songs. The tune is a variant of the “Billy Taylor” tune (see No. 71). The Shropshire version and the one in English County Songs are Dorian and Æolian (?) variants of the same air. The first two stanzas of the text are exactly as they were sung to me; the rest of the lines were coarse and needed considerable revision.
No. 69. The Brisk Toung Bachelor
The troubles of married life, from either the husband’s or the wife’s point of view, form the subject of many folksongs. One of the best and oldest examples is “A woman’s work is never done,” reproduced in Ashton’s Century of Ballads (p. 20). I have collected several songs that harp on the same theme, two of which are printed respectively in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume v, p. 65), and Folk-Songs from Various Counties (No. 10).
The tune, which is in the Dorian mode, is a fine example of the rollicking folk-air. As the singer’s words were incomplete, I have supplemented them with lines from my other versions.
No. 70. Ruggleton’s Daughter of Iero
This song, of which I have only collected one variant, is a version of a very ancient ballad, the history of which may be traced in Child’s English and Scottish Ballads (No. 227), and in Miss Gilchrist’s note to “The Wee Cooper of Fife,” in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, pp. 223, 224). In some versions the husband is deterred from beating his wife through fear of her “gentle kin.” To evade this difficulty he kills one of his own wethers, strips off its skin, and lays it on her back, saying:
I dare na thump you, for your proud kin,
But well sall I lay to my ain wether’s skin.
This motive is absent from the present version, of which it may or may not once have formed part. For it is possible to argue that the “wether’s skin” motive is an addition, which became attached to an older and simpler form of the ballad. The facts, as they stand, admit of either interpretation.
There is yet a third variation of the story in “Robin-a-thrush (see English County Songs, The Besom Maker, English Folk Songs for Schools, etc.), in which the story is still further curtailed by the omission of the wife-beating episode. In this latter form, it becomes a nursery nonsense-song, which relates in humorous fashion the ridiculous muddles made by a slovenly and incompetent wife. Its connection with “Ruggleton” or “Sweet Robin” is to be inferred from the title and refrain, “Robin-a-thrush,” which as Miss Gilchrist has pointed out, is probably a corruption of “Robin he thrashes her.”
I have collected another song which has some affinity with “Ruggleton.” Here the husband married his wife on Monday; cut “a twig of holly so green” on Tuesday; “hung it out to dry” on Wednesday; on Thursday he “beat her all over the shoulders and head, till he had a-broke his holly green twig;” on Friday she “opened her mouth and began to roar;” and, finally,
On Saturday morning I breakfast without
A scolding wife or a brawling bout.
Now I can enjoy my bottle and friend;
I think I have made a rare week’s end.
The same motive is to be found in “The Husband’s Complaint,” printed in Herd’s Manuscripts, edited by Dr. Hans Hecht (p. 106).
The words given in the text are almost exactly as they were sung to me. I have, however, transposed the order of the words “brew” and “bake” in the fourth and fifth verses, in order to restore some semblance of a rhyme. Clearly there was some corruption; but whether my emendation is the correct one or not, it is difficult to say. There is a fragment, quoted by Jamieson, in which the verse in question is rendered:
She wadna bake, she wadna brew,
(Hollin, green hollin),
For spoiling o’ her comely hue,
(Bend your bow, Robin).
There is, too, a version in The Journal of American Folk-Lore (volume vii, p. 253), quoted by Child, which is closely allied to the song in the text. In this variant, the following stanza occurs:
Jenny could n’t wash and Jenny could n’t bake.
Gently Jenny cried rosemaree.
For fear of dirting her white apurn tape.
As the dew flies over the mulberry tree.
No. 71. William Taylor
For other versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 254; volume iii, pp. 214–210); and Folk Songs from Somerset (No. 118). No tune is better known to the average English folksinger than this. It is usually in the major or, as in the present case, in the Mixolydian mode, but occasionally (see the versions cited above) in the Dorian or Æolian. A burlesque version of the words, with an illustration by George Cruikshank, is given in the Universal Songster (volume i, p. 6). “Billy Taylor” became a very popular street-song during the first half of the last century, and I suspect that it was during that period that the last stanza in the text was added.
No. 72. Sweet William
Other versions are given in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i,p. 99); English County Songs (p. 74); and Christie’s Traditional Ballad Airs (volume i, p. 248). The song is a very common one and I have noted several variants of it.
No. 73. The Watchet Sailor
I have only one variant of this song, “Three-penny Street,” and so far as I know it has not been published elsewhere. Compare the tune, which is in the Æolian mode, with that of “Henry Martin” in this collection (No. 1).
No. 74. Scarborough Fair
For other versions, see Songs of the West (No. 48, 2d ed.); English County Songs (p. 12); Traditional Tunes (pp. 42 and 172); Northumbrian Minstrelsy (p. 79); Folk Songs from Somerset (No. 64); Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume 1, p. 83; volume ii, p. 212; volume iii, p. 274), etc.
This is one of the ancient Riddle Songs, a good example of which occurs in the Wanderer scene in the first act of Wagner’s Siegfried. In its usual form, one person imposes a task upon his adversary, who, however, evades it by setting another task of equal difficulty, which, according to the rules of the game, must be performed first. In the version given here, the replies are omitted. For an exhaustive exposition of the subject, see Child’s “Elfin Knight,” and “Riddles wisely expounded,” in his English and Scottish Popular Ballads. See, also, Kinloch’s Ancient Scottish Ballads (p. 145); Motherwell’s Minstrelsy (Appendix, p. 1 ); Buchan’s Ancient Ballads of the North of Scotland (volume ii, p. 296); Gesta Romanorum (pp. xl, 124, and 233, Bohn ed.); Gammer Gurton’s Garland; and Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes. Mr. Baring-Gould’s note to the song in Songs of the West should also be consulted.
The tune is in the Dorian mode, except for the final and very unusual cadence. The words have been supplemented from those of other traditional versions which I have collected.
No. 75. Brimbledon Fair, or Young Ramble-Away
Mr. Kidson prints a major version of this song in his Traditional Tunes (p. 150), under the heading “Brocklesby Fair.” The words are on a broadside, “Young Ramble Away,” by Jackson of Birmingham. The tune is in the Dorian mode.
No. 76. Bridgwater Fair
St. Matthew’s Fair at Bridgwater is a very ancient one, and is still a local event of some importance, although it has seen its best days. The tune, which is partly Mixolydian, is a variant of “Gently, Johnny, my Jingalo” (No. 65), and also of “Bibberly Town” (Songs of the West, No. 110, 2d ed.). I have only one other variant of this, from which, however, some of the lines in the text have been taken.
No. 77. The Crabfish
A Scottish version of this curious song, “The Crab,” is given in A Ballad Book by C. K. Sharpe and Edmund Goldsmid (volume ii, p. 10), published in 1824. The footnote states that the song is founded upon a story in Le Moyen de Parvenir. Some of the words have been altered.
The tune is in the Mixolydian mode, and was sung to me very excitedly and at break-neck speed, the singer punctuating the rhythm of the refrain with blows of her fist upon the table at which she was sitting.
No. 78. The Beggar
The words of the refrain of this song are very nearly identical with the chorus of “I cannot eat but little meat,” the well-known drinking-song in Gammer Gurton’s Needle. This play was printed in 1575 and, until the discovery of Royster Doyster, was considered to be the earliest English comedy. Its author was John Still, afterwards, that is, 1592, Bishop of Bath and Wells. The song, however, was not written by him, for Chappell points out that “the Rev. Alex. Dyce has given a copy of double length from a manuscript in his possession and certainly of an earlier date than the play.” Chappell furthermore calls attention to the custom of singing old songs or playing old tunes at the commencement, and at the end, of the acts of early dramas. “I cannot eat” has been called “the first drinking-song of any merit in our language.”
The words of this Exmoor song, excluding the chorus, are quite different from the version in Gammer Gurton’s Needle. It appears that under the title of “The Beggar and the Queen,” they were published in the form of a song not more than a century ago (see A Collection of English Ballads from beginning of Eighteenth Century, volume vii, Brit. Mus.). The tune, which is quite different from the one given here, is clearly the invention of a contemporary composer, but there is no evidence to show whether or not the words were the production of a contemporary writer; they may have been traditional verses which happened to attract the attention of some musician. There is a certain air of reckless abandonment about them which seems to suggest a folk-origin, and they are, at any rate, far less obviously the work of a literary man than are the verses — apart from the refrain — of “I cannot eat.”
In The Songster’s Museum (Gosport), there is a parody of the above song (chorus omitted), which, the Bagford Ballads (volume i, p. 214), are attributed to Tom Dibdin.
A tune to “I cannot eat” is given in Ritson, and in Popular Music of the Olden Time (p. 72), and is a version of “John Dory.” The tune in the text has no relation whatever to that well-known air, nor to any other tune that I know of. In my opinion, it may well be a genuine folk-air.
The singer gave me two verses only, the second and third in the text. The other two are from a version which the Rev. S. Baring-Gould collected in Devon, and which he has courteously allowed me to use. Mr. H. E. D. Hammond has recovered similar words in Dorset, but, like Mr. Baring-Gould, he found them mated to quite a modem and “composed” air.
No. 79. The Keeper
This is one of the few two-men folksongs. I have several variants of it, but the words of all of them, except this particular one, were so corrupt as to be unintelligible. The words are printed in an old garland, from which the last stanza in the text has been derived. The rest of the words are given as they were sung to me.
No. 80. The Three Sons
For other versions with tunes, see English County Songs (p. 20), and Miss Mason’s Nursery Rhymes and Country Songs (p. 7).
No. 81. Jack Hall
Jack Hall, who had been sold to a chimney-sweep for a guinea, was executed for burglary at Tyburn in 1701. The song must have been written before 1719, for in Pills to Purge Melancholy (volume ii, p. 182), there is a song, “The Moderator’s Dream,” “the words made to a pretty tune, call’d Chimney Sweep,” which is in identically the same metre as that of “Jack Hall.” A vulgarized edition of the song was made very popular in the middle years of the last century by a comic singer, G. W. Ross.
I have taken down four versions, the tunes of which, with the exception of that given in the text, are all variants of the “Admiral Benbow” air (see No. 87). The metre in which each of these two ballads is cast is so unusual that we may assume that one was written in imitation of the other. As Jack Hall was executed in 1701 and Admiral Benbow was killed in 1702, it is probable that “Jack Hall” is the earlier of the two.
The singer could recall the words of one verse only. The remaining stanzas have been taken from my other versions. The tune is in the Æolian mode.
No. 82. Driving away at the Smoothing Iron
I have noted two other versions of this song. The tune is a variant of “All round my hat,” a popular song of the early years of the last century. Chappell, in his Ancient English Melodies (No. 126), prints a version of the air and dubs it “a Somersetshire tune,” the original of ‘All round my hat.’ ” I believe it to be a genuine folk-air, which, as in other cases, formed the basis of a street-song.
No. 83. The Robber
The words to which this remarkably fine Dorian air was sung were about a highwayman and his sweetheart, but were too fragmentary for publication. I have wedded the tune to a different, but similar, set of words which another singer sang to a very poor tune.
No. 84. John Barleycorn
For other versions with tunes of this well-known ballad, see Songs of the West (No. 14 and Note, 2d cd.); Barrett’s English Folk Songs (No. 8); Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 81; volume iii, p. 255); and Christie’s Traditional Ballad Airs of Scotland (volume i, p. 134).The earliest printed copy of the ballad is of the time of James I.
Versions with words only are given in Dick’s Songs of Robert Burns (p. 314); Roxburghe Ballads (volume ii, p. 317); and Bell’s Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England (p. 80). Chappell gives “Stingo or Oil of Barley” as the traditional air; while Dick says it is uncertain whether Burns intended his version of the ballad to be sung to that tune or to “Lull me beyond thee.”
It is not easy to express in musical notation the exact way in which the singer sang this song. He dwelt, perhaps, rather longer upon the double-dotted notes than their written value, although not long enough to warrant their being marked with the formal pause. The singer told me that he heard the song solemnly chanted by some street-singers who passed through his village when he was a child. The song fascinated him and he followed the singers and tried to learn the air. For some time afterward he was unable to recall it, when one day, to his great delight, the tune suddenly came back to him, and since then he has constantly sung it. He gave me the words of the first stanza only. The remaining verses in the text have been taken from Bell’s Songs of the Peasantry of England. The tune, which is in the Æolian mode, is such a fine one that I have been tempted to harmonize it somewhat elaborately. Those who prefer a simpler setting can repeat the harmonies set to the first verse.
No. 85. Poor Old Horse
For other versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, pp. 75 and 260; volume ii, p. 263); Miss Mason’s Nursery Rhymes and Country Songs (p. 49); Songs of the West (No. 77, 2d ed.); and Songs of Northern England (p. 60).
The song was evidently one that was sung during the ceremony of the hobby horse, for example, the Hooden Horse in Kent (see The Hooden Horse, by Percy Maylam). A kindred ceremony, also associated with a song, “The Dead Horse,” is still celebrated by sailors after they have been a month at sea (English Folk Chanteys, p. 73).
The tune is partly Mixolydian.
No. 86. Botany Bay
I do not know of any published versions of this song. I made use of the tune in Mr. Granville Barker’s production of Hardy’s Dynasts, setting the words of the “Trafalgar” song to it.
No. 87. Admiral Benbow
Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time, volume ii, pp. 642 and 678) gives two versions of this ballad. The first of these is entirely different from that given in the text; but the words of the second version, which are taken from Halliwell’s Early Naval Ballads of England, are substantially the same, though set to a different air. The air “Marrinys yn Tiger,” in Mr. Gill’s Manx National Songs (p. 4), is a variant of our tune. Messrs. Kidson and Moffat publish a variant of the first of Chappell’s versions in Minstrelsy of England (p. 25) with an instructive note. See also Ashton’s Real Sailor Songs (p. 19).
John Benbow (1653–1702) was the son of a tanner at Shrewsbury. He was apprenticed to a butcher, from whose shop he ran away to sea. He entered the navy and rose rapidly to high command. The ballad is concerned with his engagement with the French fleet, under Du Casse, off the West Indies, August 19–24, 1702. The English force consisted of seven ships, of from fifty to seventy guns. Benbow’s ship was the Breda. Captain Walton of the Ruby was the only one of his captains to stand by him; the rest shirked. The Ruby was disabled on August 23, and left for Port Royal. Shortly afterwards Benbow’s right leg was shattered by a chain shot. After his wound was dressed, he insisted on being carried up to the quarter-deck, as narrated in the ballad. On the following day, his captains, headed by Captain Kirkby of the Defiance, came on board and urged him to discontinue the chase. This they compelled him to do, and he returned to Jamaica, where he at once ordered a court-martial. Captains Kirkby and Wade were sentenced to be shot; Vincent and Fogg were suspended; while Captain Hudson of the Pendennis died before the trial. Kirkby and Wade were executed on board the Bristol, in Plymouth Sound, on April 16, 1703. Admiral Benbow succumbed to his wounds November 4, 1702, at Port Royal, and was buried at Kingston. His portrait is, or was, in the Painted Hall, Greenwich, to which it was presented by George IV. Mr. Ashton states that there is a tradition “that his body was brought to England and buried in Deptford Church.”
It is a little difficult to account for the popularity Benbow excited. Personally brave he certainly was; but he has been described as “an honest rough seaman,” who, it is alleged, treated his inferiors with scant courtesy. Their failure to stand by him in the French fight wag, of course, a disgraceful act of cowardice; but it may also be attributed, to some extent, to their want of personal regard for their chief.
No. 88. Bold Nelson’s Praise
This is the only version of this song that I know. The singer mixed his words in all the verses except the first one, necessitating a certain amount of rearrangement. The air is in the Dorian mode, and is a variant of “Princess Royal,” a well-known Morris-Jig tune. Shield adapted the air to the words of “The Saucy Arethusa,” one of the songs in the ballad-opera The Lock and Key (1796). The composition of the air has sometimes been attributed to Carolan. The tune is also printed in Walsh’s Compleat Dancing Master (circa 1730), under the title “The Princess Royal: the new way.”
No. 89. Spanish Ladies
This is a Capstan Chantey. It is also well known in the navy, where it is sung as a song, chanteys not being permitted, Captain Kettlewell, R.N., who has made a special study of this song and has very kindly revised the words for me, tells me that when it is sung on board ship, the conclusion of the chorus is, or always used to be, greeted with a shout of “Heave and pawl!” (the pawl is the catch which prevents the recoil of the windlass).
The tune is in the Æolian mode and, in my opinion, it is one of the grandest of our folk-tunes and one of which a seafaring nation may well be proud. Nowadays, alas! sailors sing a modernized and far less beautiful form of the air in the major mode.
No. 90. The Ship in Distress
For other versions with tunes, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume iv, pp. 320–323). Ashton, in his Real Sailor Songs (No. 44), prints a broadside version of the words. A similar song is sung by French sailors, “Le petit Navire” (Miss Laura A. Smith’s Music of the Waters, p. 149), of which Thackeray’s “Little Billee” was a burlesque.
The tune is in the Dorian mode.
No. 91. Come all you worthy Christian men
Several versions of this moralizing ballad with tunes are printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 74; volume ii, pp. 115–122). The tune is one of the most common, the most characteristic, and, I would add, the most beautiful of English folk-airs. The version here given is in the Æolian mode, but it is often sung in the major, Dorian, and Mixolydian modes. For other versions of the tune set to different words, see English County Songs (pp. 34, 68, and 102); and Songs of the West (No. 111, 2d ed.). The well-known air “The Miller and the Dee” is a minor and “edited” version of the same tune. Chappell, too, noted down a version of it which he heard sung in the streets of Kilburn in the early years of the last century (Popular Music, p. 748). For an exhaustive note by Miss Broadwood upon the tune and its origin, see the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume ii, p. 119).
No. 92. Wassail Song
The old custom of wassail singing still survives in many parts of England, though it is fast dying out. The ceremony is performed on January 5, i.e., the eve of Epiphany. It is of Saxon origin, the word “wassail” (accent on the last syllable) meaning “be of good health,” from A.-S. wes=be, and hāl=whole or hale. The cup “made of the good old ashen tree” takes us back to the period when all common domestic vessels were of wood. In early times there was an ecclesiastical edict against the use of wooden vessels for the Holy Communion.
Sir James Ramsay, in his Foundations of England (volume ii), quotes an old Saxon “toasting-cry” from Wace, the Anglo-Norman poet (d. 1180). The Chronicler says that the following lines were sung in the English camp on the eve of the battle of Hastings:
Bublie crient é weissel,
E laticome é drencheheil
Drinc Hindrewart é Drintome
Drinc Helf, é drinc tome.
This, according to Sir James Ramsay, may be translated thus:
Rejoice and wassail
Let it come (pass the bottle) and drink health
Drink backwards and drink to me
Drink half and drink empty.
For Other versions, see “ Somersetshire Wassail” (A Garland of Country Song, No. 20); Sussex Songs (No. 3); and The Besom Maker (p. 9). For a Gloucestershire version, see English Folk Carols (No. 21).
The strong tune in the text is in the Dorian mode.
No. 93. It’s a rosebud in June
The Rev. John Broadwood noted a Sussex version of this song before 1840 (see Sussex Songs, No. 11, Leonard & Company, Oxford Street). The words were also set to music by John Barrett, and were probably sung in “The Custom of the Manor” (1715). As the words of this version show traces of West Country dialect, and the tune, with its Dorian characteristics, is not altogether unlike that printed here, it is just possible that Barrett founded his tune upon the folk-air. The Sussex tune is quite different from our Dorian version, which was collected by me in Somerset. The words are printed exactly as they were sung to me.
No. 94. A Brisk Young Sailor
This is one of the most popular of English folksongs. I have collected a large number of variants, from the several sets of which the words in the text have been compiled. For other versions see “There is an ale-house in yonder Town,” in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 252; volume ii, pp. 155, 158, 159, and 168; volume iii, p. 188).
No. 95. The Sheep-Shearing
The tune to which this song is set is, of course, that of “The Sweet Nightingale,” a song that is known to almost every folksinger in the West Country (see Songs of the West, No. 15, 2d ed.). Bell, in his Ballads and Songs of the English Peasantry, prints the words, which he first heard from some Cornish miners at Marienberg and afterwards procured from a gentleman at Plymouth. He erroneously assigns them to the 17th century. For the Rev. S. Baring-Gould has shown that they first appeared in Bickerstaff’s “Thomas and Sally” (1760), set to music by Dr. Arne. The West Country tune, however, is quite distinct from Dr. Arne’s, and has all the qualities of the genuine folk-air. Mr. Baring-Gould suggests that Bickerstaff’s words “travelled down into Cornwall in some such collection as ‘The Syren,’ and were there set to music by some local genius.”I have collected several variants of “The Sweet Nightingale,” and the singer of one of them casually remarked that the tune did not really belong to those words but to a sheep-shearing song. He went on to say that many years ago, when he was a boy, a very old man used to come to his cottage and sing this sheep-shearing song; and then he repeated to me the words of the first stanza, which were all that he could recall. Now the singer was a man of ninety years of age, so that the sheep-shearing song must, presumably, have been in existence before 1760. It will be noticed that in this version of the air, the fourth phrase is not lengthened as it always is when sung to the words of “The Sweet Nightingale.” How and why this variation came to be made is an interesting point (see English Folk Song: Some Conclusions, p. 110).
No. 96. The Twelve Days of Christmas
This song consists of twenty-three verses, and is sung in the following way. The second verse begins:
On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true Love sent to me
Eleven bulls a-beating, etc.,
and so on till the twelfth verse, as given in the text. The process is then reversed, the verses being gradually increased in length, so that the thirteenth verse is:
On the second day of Christmas
my true Love sent to me
Two turtle doves
One goldie ring,
And the part of a June apple-tree.
In this way the twenty-third verse is triumphantly reached, and that, except for the last line, is the same as the first verse.
Another way to sing the song is to begin with “On the first day of Christmas,” etc., and to continue to the “twelfth day,” when the song concludes.
“June Apple-Tree” may or may not be a corruption of “Juniper-Tree,” but the singer explained it by saying that it meant a tree whose fruit kept sound and good till the following June.
For the third gift, the singer sang “Three Britten Chains,” which she said were “sea-birds with golden chains round their necks.” All the other singers I have heard sang “Three French Hens,” and, as this is the usual reading in printed copies, I have so given it in the text. “Britten Chains” may be a corruption of “Bréton hens.”
The “twelve days” are, of course, those between Christmas Day and Epiphany, or Twelfth Day.
For other versions, see Mr. Baring-Gould's note to “The jolly Goss-hawk (Songs of the West, No. 71); Chambers’s Popular Songs of Scotland (p. 42); Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes (pp. 63 and 73); and Northumbrian Minstrelsy (p. 129), where the song is described as “one of the quaintest of Christmas carols now relegated to the nursery as a forfeit game, where each child in succession has to repeat the gifts of the day and incurs a forfeit for every error.” In this last version also given in Halliwell's Nursery Rhymes, p.73, and Husk’s Songs of the Nativity), the first gift is “a partridge on a pear tree,” and this I have heard several times in country villages. One singer who gave it to me volunteered the statement that it was only another way of singing “part of a Juniper-tree,” of which, of course, it may be a corruption.
These words are also used as a Children’s Game. One of Halliwell’s versions (p. 63) is still used by children in Somerset, and Lady Gomme (Dictonary of British Folk-Lore, volume i, p. 315), besides reprinting three of the forms given above, gives a London variant. In a note to the game, Lady Gomme points out that the festival of the twelve days, the great midwinter feast of Yule, was a very important one, and that in this game may, perhaps, be discerned the relic of certain customs and ceremonies and the penalties or forfeits incurred by those who omitted religiously to carry them out; and she adds that it was a very general practice for work of all kinds to be put entirely aside before Christmas and not resumed until after Twelfth Day.
Country singers are very fond of accumulative songs of this type, regarding them as tests of endurance and memory, and some times of sobriety!
No. 97. The Ten Commandments
This song is very common in Somerset and over the whole of the West of England. The Rev. S. Baring-Gould has published a version in Songs of the West, and there are two versions in English County Songs. Both of these publications contain notes respecting the origin, distribution, and meaning of this curious song.
It will be seen that the words of many of the verses are corrupt; so corrupt, indeed, that in some cases we can do little more than guess at their original meaning. The variants that I have recovered in Somerset are as follows:
(1) All versions agree in this line, which obviously refers to God Almighty.
(2) “Two of these are lizaie both, clothed all in green, O!” Mr. Baring-Gould suggests that the “lily-white babes” are probably the Gemini, or signs for Spring.
(3) “Thrivers,” “Tires,” or “Trivers.” It has been suggested that these may be corruptions of “Wisers,” as one printed version gives it, and may refer to the Wise Men from the East.
(4) Always “Gospel Preachers” or “Makers.”
(5) “The boys upon the pole,” “The thimble over the ball,” “The plum boys at the bowl,” or “in the brow.”
(6) “Broad Waiters,” “Charming Waiters,” “Go Waiters,” “The Minger Waiters.” The editors of English County Songs suggest that these may refer to the six water-pots used in the miracle of Cana of Galilee.
(7) Always “Seven stars in the sky” — presumably the constellation of Ursa Major.
(8) “The Gibley Angels,” “The Angel Givers,” “The Gabriel Angels.”
(9) No Somerset variants. Mr. Baring-Gould records a Devon variant, “The Nine Delights,” that is, the joys of Mary.
(10) No variants.
(11) “Eleven and eleven is gone to heaven,” that is, the twelve Apostles without Judas Iscariot.
(12) No variants.
In Notes and Queries for December 26, 1868, there is a version of the words of this song as “sung by the children at Becktngton, Somerset.” It begins as follows:
Sing, sing, what shall we sing ?
Sing all ever one.
One! What is one?
One they do call the righteous Man.
Save poor souls to rest. Amen.
These are the remaining verses:
Two is the Jewry.
Three is the Trinity.
Four is the open door.
Five it the man alive.
Six is the crucifix.
Seven is the bread of leaven.
Eight is the crooked straight.
Nine is the water wine.
Ten is our Lady’s hen.
Eleven is the gate of heaven.
Twelve is the ring of bells.
A Hebrew version of the words of “The Ten Commandments” is to be found in the service for the Passover (see Service for the First Nights of Passover according to the custom of the German and Polish Jews, by the Rev. A. P. Mendes). The service for the second night of the Passover concludes with two recitations, both of which are accumulative songs. The second of these, “One only kid,” has nothing to do with “The Ten Commandments,” but, as it is analogous to the English nursery song, “The Old Woman and her Pig,” it is perhaps worth while to quote the last verse:
Then came the Most Holy, blessed be He, and slew the slaughterer, who had slaughtered the ox, which had drunk the water, which had burnt the staff, which had smitten the dog, which had bitten the cat, which had devoured the kid, which my father bought for two zuzim; one only kid, one only kid.
This, of course, is explained esoterically. The “cat,” for instance, refers to Babylon; the “dog” to Persia; the “staff” to Greece, and so on (see Mendes).
The other accumulative song, which precedes “One only kid,” is a Hebrew rendering of “The Ten Commandments” of western England. It contains thirteen verses:
Who knoweth one? I, saith Israel, know one: One is God, who is over heaven and earth.
Who knoweth two? I, saith Israel, know two: there are two tables of the covenant; but One is our God, who is over heaven and earth.
Who knoweth three? I, saith Israel, know three: there are three patriarchs, the two tables of the covenant; but One is our God, who is ever heaven and earth.
Etc., etc., etc.
Who knoweth thirteen? I, saith Israel, know thirteen: Thirteen divine attributes, twelve tribes, eleven stars, ten commandments, nine months preceding child-birth, eight days preceding circumcision, seven days in the week, six books of the Mishnah, five books of the Law, four matrons, three patriarchs, two tables of the covenant; but One is our God, who is over the heavens and the earth.
Whether “One only kid” and “Who knoweth One?” originated with the common people and were afterward taken into the Passover service, or vice versa, is a matter of some doubt. Simrock (Die deutschen Volkslieder, p. 520) says that “Who knoweth One?” was originally a German peasants’ drinking-song; that it was changed by the monks into an ecclesiastical song, very similar to the form in which we know it; and that afterward, probably during the latter half of the 16th century, it suffered a further adaptation and found a place in the Passover service of the German Jews. “Ehad Mi Yodea” — to give it its Hebrew title — has, however, since been found in the Avignon ritual as a festal table-song for holy-days in general, so that its inclusion in the Jewish Passover service may have been earlier than Simrock surmised. It appears that to the early manuscript Jewish prayer-books it was customary to append popular stories and ballads. That may have been the case with the two songs in question, in which event it is easy to see how they may gradually have been absorbed into, and have become, an integral part of the service itself.
The Rev. A. A. Green, in The revised Hagada, expresses the opinion that both of these accumulative songs are essentially Hebrew nursery-rhymes, and he regrets “that they have ever been regarded as anything else.” He quotes the first verse of the Scottish “Song of Numbers:”
We will all gae sing, boys.
Where will we begin, boys?
We’ll begin the way we should
And we’ll begin at one, boys.
The literature on the subject is a very large one. Those who are interested in the matter should consult the articles “Ehad Mi Yodea” and “Had Gadya” in the Jewish Encyclopædia (volumes v and vi), where many authorities are quoted. It will be noticed that all the Christian forms of the song stop at the number twelve. It has been suggested that the Hebrew version was purposely extended to thirteen, the unlucky number, in order that the Jew might be able to feel that with him thirteen was a holy and, therefore, lucky number.
Like many accumulative songs, “The Ten Commandments” is a most interesting one to listen to. The best folksingers combine their musical phrases in a different manner in each verse, and in so doing display no little ingenuity. Their aim, no doubt, is to compound the phrases so as to avoid the too frequent recurrence of the full-close. I should have liked to have shown exactly how the singer sang each verse of the song, but this would have entailed printing every one of the twelve verses, and consideration of space forbade this. I have, however, given the last verse in full, and this, I hope, will be some guide to the singer.
No. 98. The Tree in the Wood
Miss Mason prints an interesting Devon variant in Nursery Rhymes and Country Songs (p. 26), and there is another version from the same county in the Rev. S. Baring-Gould’s Songs of the West (No. 104, 1st ed.). In his note to the latter, Mr. Baring-Gould says that under the name of “Ar parc caer” the song is well known in Brittany (see Luzel’s Chansons Populaires de la Basse Bretagne). There are also French (“Le Bois Joli”) and Danish forms of the song. See also the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (volume iii, p. 277); Journal of the Welsh Folk-Song Society (volume i, p. 40); and Folk-Songs from Somerset (No. 93).
The version given here has not been previously published. The tune, wich is in the Æolian mode, is a variant of “Come all you worthy Christian men” (No. 91).
This is one of the easiest of all accumulative songs, both to learn and to sing, and it may, of course, be lengthened indefinitely, according to the taste and inventive powers of the singer.
No. 99. The Barley-Mow
I have a large number of variants of this song, which used to be in great request at Harvest Homes.
Chappell, without giving its origin, prints a traditional version in his Popular Music (p. 745), and connects it with one of the Freemen’s Songs in Deuteromelia. In Bell’s Songs of the Peasantry of England, two versions of the words are given, one from the West Country, and a Suffolk variant. In a note to the former, it is stated that the song was usually sung at country meetings immediately after the ceremony of “erying the neck,” an ancient pagan rite, traces of which still survive in Somerset.
A good singer, proud of his memory, will often lengthen the song to abnormal proportions by halving the drink-measures, half-pint, half-quart, half-gallon, and so on.
No. 100. One man shall mow my meadow
Although this is a very popular song and very widely known, and I have recently heard soldiers singing it on the march on more than one occasion, I am unable to give a reference to any published version of it.