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The Butcher Boy

  • Trad

    My parents gave me learning, good learning they gave to me
    For they sent me to a butcher's shop a butcher boy to be

    It's there I met sweet Mary Ann with the dark and the rovin' eye
    And I promised I would marry her in the month of sweet July

    He went down to her mother's house 'tween the hours of eight and nine
    And he asked her for to walk with him down by the foaming brine

    Down by the foaming brine we'll go, down by the foaming brine
    Now that won't be a pleasant walk, down by the foaming brine

    They walked it east and they walked it west and they walked it all alone
    Till he took a knife from out his breast and he stabbed her to the ground

    She fell upon one bended knee and for mercy she did cry
    Oron Willie dear, don't murder me, I'm not prepared to die

    He took her by the lily-white hands and he dragged her to the brim
    And with a mighty downward push he threw her body in

    He went back to his mother's house 'tween the hours of twelve and one
    And little did his mother think what her only son had done

    He asked her for a handkerchief to tie around his head
    And he asked her for a candlelight to show him off to bed

    No sleep, no rest did the young man get, no rest he could not find
    For he thought he saw the gates of hell approaching his bedside

    For the murder it was soon found out and the gallows was his doom
    For the murdering of sweet Mary Ann who lies where the roses bloom

    As sung by Enoch Kent

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1962:] Though Francis James Child characterised the broadside ballads as "veritable dunghills" he conceded the occasional "moderate jewel".This one, ennobled by a splendid tune, is a good deal more than that. It contains little of the conventional trappings of the professional product - no last dying speech, no explanation for the murder, usually pregnancy, no 'take warning by me'. Indeed it shows much of the bare economy of story line of our classical ballads and is obviously moulded by a community in which the great tradition was still very much alive. Learnt from Jeannie Robertson. (Norman Buchan, notes 'The Butcher Boy')

    [1967:] Perhaps the most important and widest-accepted of the murder songs carried across the country by broadside pedlars and street singers, known as The miller's apprentice, The prentice boy, The Oxford miller, The Wexford miller (in Ireland), and (in Scotland) The butcher boy, had appeared in print on a London broadside very early in the eighteenth century, when it was called: The Berkshire tragedy or the Wittam miller, with an account of his murdering his sweetheart (Wytham is just outside the city of Oxford but falls within the Berkshire county boundary). But our point is that [...] the vogue for meandering ballads of desperation, violence and disaffection assumed special importance during the time of upheaval. Thus, the printed records tell us, The miller's apprentice remained uneventfully in circulation until near the close of the eighteenth century; but then suddenly it begins to show signs of great activity, being recomposed time and again, appearing in one form or another on broadsides from nearly every stall-ballad publisher in business between 1780 and 1850, and serving as a model for a large number of pieces of musical journalism relating to murder cases. (Lloyd, England 220f)

    [1984:] Where the theme of the girl murdered by her boy-friend appears in Western folk song, it is generally understood that she is pregnant, even when this is not explicitly stated. (Munro, Revival 289)

    [1994:] [Luke] had no proprietary interest in the Dublin street ballads except to wish they were sung properly: "When Ronnie Drew, with that ridiculous voice of his, sang The Butcher Boy I liked it for the first time. It's not a Dublin ballad, but it's been adapted to Dublin and it's usually sung by girls in a sugary and meaningless way. Ronnie is hard and unsentimental [...]. (Geraghty, Luke Kelly 38)

Quelle: Scotland

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