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