Hunting the Wren

Brett Williams brettwi at
Fri Sep 8 12:44:39 PDT 1995

>>>Greetings all,
>>>I'm looking for a period source for the song "Hunting the Wren".  
>I've heard rumor that this song which was popularized by Hart and 
>(on the album "Songs of Old England" I think) is actually period.  
>I haven't been able to verify this - though the practice of hunting  
>the wren is to mentioned in the Red Book of Hergest (see also: 
>Tradition and Folk Life: A Welsh View, by Iorwerth C. Peate (London: 
>Faber and Faber, 1972),  or  'The Wren in Welsh Folklore', MAN, 1936, 
>same author).  Anyone got a source for this?
>>>- Liam Mac Mhuire

**much stuff snipped for brevity as I stupidly erased Lord Liam's reply 
before I answered...ah, unfamiliar software!**

I replied originally: 

>It's my personal suspicion that the tune for this particular version  
>is old-- perhaps a couple of centuries, as it falls in the Aeolian 
>mode/natural minor scale and, on recall, omits one note in that scale, 
>but I can't back that up with anything other than opinion and some 
>fifteen years of experience in folk song collection.  This is a 
>processional song with a steady pace suitable for walking; it's melody 
>has rhythmic counterpoint vs. the steady beat of feet.
>ciorstan macAmhlaidh
Specifically, the tune for The Cutty Wren (the version I know) reminds 
me of The Lykewake Dirge, another one I haven't yet found in print and 
learned orally.

I offer the assertion that this piece falls into that vast and grey 
category of "unproven", just like Matty Groves-- though Matty Groves 
appears as a reference in a play published in 1604 or so and the 
audience is assumed to know exactly what the plotline of the song is, a 
manuscript firmly placing any version of either the text or tune(s) 
associated with the general plot of Matty Groves (Little Musgrave and 
Lady Barnard, Child #84, I theenk off the top of my head since the 
books are in a closet somewheres) has yet to be found.

And yes, I read Child and Bronson for amusement...(grin)

(who STILL makes that same typo, Unca Joe!)

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