Henry's Songbook

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Jack Orion

  • Jack Orion was as good a fiddler
    As ever fiddled on a string
    And he could drive young women mad
    With the tune his wife would sing

    But he would fiddle the fish out of salt water
    Water from bare marble stone
    Or milk from out of a maiden's breast
    Though baby she had none

    And there he played in the castle hall
    And there he played them fast asleep
    Except it was for the young countess
    And for love she stayed awake

    And first he played at a slow slow air
    And then he played it brisk and gay
    And it's oh dear love behind her hand
    The lady she did say

    When the day has dawned and the cocks have crowed
    And flapped their wings so wide it's you
    Must come up to my chamber then
    And lie down by my side

    So he lapped his fiddle in a cloth of green
    And he stole out on his tiptoe
    And he's got back to his boy Tom
    As fast as he could go

    When the day has dawned and the cocks have crowed
    And flapped their wings so wide I'm bid
    To go up to that lady's door
    And stretch out by her side

    Lie down, lie down, my good master
    And here's a blanket to your hand
    And I'll waken you in as good time
    As any cock in this land

    So Tom took the fiddle into his hand
    And he fiddled and he sang for a full hour
    Until he's played him fast asleep
    And he's off to the lady's bower

    And when he come to the countess' door
    He twirled so softly at the pin
    And the lady true to her promise
    Rose up and let him in

    Well he did not take that lady gay
    To bolster nor to bed but down
    Upon the hard cold bedroom floor
    Right soon he had her laid

    And neither did he kiss her when he come
    Nor yet when from her he did go
    But in at the lady's bedroom window
    The moon like a coal did glow

    Oh rugged are your stockings, love
    And stubbly is your cheek and chin
    And tousled is that yellow hair
    That I saw late yestre'en

    The stockings belong to my boy Tom
    But they were the first came to my hand
    And the wind it tousled my yellow hair
    As I rode over the land

    Tom took the fiddle into his hand
    And he fiddled and he played so saucily
    And he's off back to his master's house
    As fast as go could he

    Then up, then up, my good master
    Why snore you there so loud for there
    Is not a cock in all this land
    But has clapped his wings and crowed

    Jack Orion took the fiddle into his hand
    And he fiddled and he played so merrily
    And he's off away to the lady's house
    As fast as the coal could gae

    And when he come to the lady's door
    He twirled so softly at the ring
    Saying, Oh my dear here's your true love
    Rise up and let me in

    She said, Surely you didn't leave behind
    A golden brooch or a velvet glove
    Or are you returned back again
    To taste more of my love

    Jack Orion he swore a bloody oath
    By oak, by ash, by bitter thorn
    Lady, I never was in this room
    Since the day that I was born

    Oh then it was your own boy Tom
    That cruelly has beguiled me
    And woe that the blood of that ruffian boy
    Should spring in my body

    Jack Orion took to his own house saying
    Tom my boy, come here to me
    And he hung that boy from his own gate-post
    As high as the willow tree

    (as sung by Martin Carthy)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1966:] In the roll-call of famous musicians the sonorous name of the Bardd Glas Geraint - Geraint the Blue Bard - occurs. He was a ninth century Welsh harper of such legendary eminence that when Chaucer wrote his 'House of Fame' he set 'the Bret Clascurion' up in the minstrels' gallery alongside Orpheus and similar well-known string-pickers. That was in the 1380s, some five hundred years after the harper's time, but his fame endured for much longer in the English folk ballad named Glasgerion, that by chance came to be called Glenkindie when it spread to Scotland. The ballad of Glasgerion dropped out of tradition long ago but the story it tells is an engaging one (a modern and more democratic parallel is the well-liked Do Me Ama) and it seemed to me too good a song to be shut away in books, so I took it out and dusted it off a bit and set a tune to it and, I hope, started it on a new lease of life. Farm boys, tailors' apprentices, stable-grooms and other tricksters who overhear assignations and forestall the lover are standard stuff in folklore, but they don't usually come to such an unjustly [?] sticky end as opportunistic Tom, the apprentice minstrel of our ballad. (Notes A. L. Lloyd, 'First Person')

  • [1967:] In the old ballad of Glasgerion, the high-born feudal lady, consumed with chagrin that a low-class youngster has tricked his way into her bed, stabs herself; in the later, more 'democratic' analogue of this ballad, the fo'c'sle song Do me ama, the bourgeois lady is delighted with the sailor who so cheekily smuggled himself into her arms in place of the squire. (Lloyd, England 155)

  • [1986:] A possible contact in the Middle Ages with the Celtic world of Welsh-speakers is suggested by the nomenclature of one ballad: this is Glasgerion (Child 67), which was preserved in the Percy MS. A Scottish variant, Glenkindie, was collected from an old woman in Aberdeenshire at the end of the eighteenth century. Kittredge's head-note to this ballad in the one-volume reduction of 'English and Scottish Popular Ballads' (1904) draws attention to the appearance of 'The bret (Briton) Glascurion' in Chaucer's 'House of Fame', where he is joined with the harpers Orpheus, Orion (Arion) and Chiron. Glascurion is also mentioned by Gavin Douglas (copying Chaucer) in his 'Palice of Honour'. There is a strong possibility that this character can be identified with Y Bardd Glas Keraint (Keraint the Blue Bard), who is said to have been 'an eminent poet of distinguished birth, son of Owain, Prince of Glamorgan'. The version in the Percy MS opens:

    Glasgerion was a King's own sonne,
    And a harper he was good.
    (Child 67)

    The Glenkindie version likewise sets the hero in a courtly setting:

    Glenkindie was ance a harper gude
    He harped to the King
    (Child 67)
    (Henderson, Alias MacAlias 86)

  • [1993:] Passed to Martin Carthy by Bert Lloyd. "He made some comment ... I wish I could remember exactly what it was ... but it was along the lines of 'You'll like it because it's almost about you.' With a twinkle in his eye." (Ken Hunt, Sing Out 38/1)

  • [1999:] "Twirl" is a variant (chiefly Scottish) of "tirl" (also chiefly Scottish) which means to make a rattling sound. When we were visiting some old fortified houses in Scotland, I seem to recall being shown a device on the outside of a door that was a vertical piece of metal with spiral ridges (a twisted "pin") mounted perhaps an inch or three out. On the pin was a ring that was free to move up and down [to] produce a rattling sound that would transmit to the inside and announce a visitor ... "twirling" or "tirling" the ring, or the pin. .. as we find in so many of the old ballads. (Judy Cook,, 14 Nov)


Quelle: England

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aktualisiert am 19.08.2000