Archive for February, 2011

33. Mary Hamilton

I had a little extra free time today, so I took the opportunity to get The Ballad Tree out of the music library. It looks like a really interesting history of balladry, and I’m really looking forward to sitting down and reading it instead of flipping through it waiting for a ballad to catch my eye.

Mary Hamilton is Child 173. I quite liked the version in The Ballad Tree, but when I looked it up, I realized what was missing: there’s an important reason why Mary is condemned to death! So instead, I’ve given the words to version 173G, and the tune from The Ballad Tree, which is almost frighteningly chipper…

033 Mary Hamilton by aliothsan

Mary Hamilton to the church is gone,
With ribbons in her hair;
And the king thought more of Mary
Then any that were there.

Mary Hamilton’s to the preaching gane,
With ribbons on her breast;
And the king thought more of Mary
Than he thought of the priest.

Soon word is through the palace gone,
I heard it told yestereen,
The king loves Mary Hamilton
More than he loves his queen.

A sad tale through the town is gone,
A sad tale on the morrow;
Mary Hamilton has born a babe,
And slain it in her sorrow!

And down then came the old queen,
Her hair with gold was tied:
‘What did you with the wee little babe
That just now loudly cried?’

‘There ne’er was a babe into my room,
And as little designs to be;
‘Twas but a stitch of my sore side,
Came over my fair body.’

‘Rise up now, Mary,’ said the queen,
‘Rise up, and come with me,
For we must ride to Holyrood,
A gay wedding to see.’

The queen was dressed in scarlet fine,
Her maidens all in green;
And every town that they came through
Took Mary for the queen.

But little knew young Mary,
As she rode in the throng,
That she was gone to Edinbro town
Her doom would befall ere long.

When she came to the Netherbow Port,
She laughed both loud and high;
But when she reached the gallows-tree,
The tears blinded her eye.

‘Oh often have I dressed my queen,
And put gold in her hair;
The gallows-tree is my reward,
And shame must be my share!

‘Oh often have I dressed my queen,
And soft, soft made her bed;
And now I’ve got for my reward
The gallows-tree to tread!

‘There’s a health to all gallant sailors,
That sail upon the sea!
Oh never let on to my father and mother
The death that I maun dee!

‘And I charge you, all you mariners,
When you sail o’er the main,
Let neither my father nor mother know
But that I’ll come home again.

‘Oh little did my mother know,
The day she cradled me,
What lands I was to travel in,
Or what death I should die.

‘Last night the queen had four Maries,
This night she’ll have but three;
There’s Mary Seaton, and Mary Beaton,
And Mary Carmichael, and me.’


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Here’s another fun bouncy song, from Canada this time, that I found while wandering around the Digital Tradition Database. It’s strongly rhythmic, but somehow isn’t begging for a lot of instrumentation… maybe just finger snaps on the off beats.

NB: the Jew’s Harp is an actual instrument, but has absolutely nothing to do with Jewish people. I don’t know what the stovepipe and bootjack are doing in there either, but they’re objects around the house that could conceivably be pressed into service as percussion instruments… which brings to mind a lively family entertaining themselves while snowbound. (Yep, no Canadian stereotypes here at all.)

032 Rattle on the Stovepipe by aliothsan

Rattle on the stovepipe, bootjack, Jew’s harp
Rattle on the stovepipe, bootjack, Joe!
Rattle on the stovepipe, bootjack, Jew’s harp
Rattle on the stovepipe, bootjack, Joe!

She was kissing, I was wishing
Didn’t know what she was about,
Robbed me of my gold and silver
Then she kicked me, threw me out.


Blue it is a pretty color
‘Fore it gets the second dip,
Young boys when they go a-courting
Very often get the slip.


Ripest apples soon grow rotten
Hottest love will soon grow old,
Pretty fair maids are soon forgotten
Pray, young man, don’t be so bold.


Deepest water running swiftly,
Birds a-flying through the air,
Kiss a young man, go a-courting
Kind sir, I don’t have a care.


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