Hunting the Wren

Bill Hodghead billho at
Fri Sep 8 14:23:20 PDT 1995

Greetings to all and especially cirostan from Liam,

| 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)
| cirostan

I hope you're wrong, but suspect you're right. I've run across several 
of these recently where I can find reference or a piece of the song in 
period, but the earliest written version is 1700 or later.  My favorite 
example is Bedlam Boys.  The version most often sung in the SCA is the 
one I believe was popularized by Steeleye Span.  It's words and tune 
are close to, but not identical to, the earliest tune I could find: 
Pill's to Purge Melancholy (the earliest printing containing this is 
roughly 1698). There's 3 filks to the song in Le Prince D'Amor (1666, 
words only) and several period references to the song, but I've no clue 
how it was sung in period, only that something like it was.  ' 
frustrates the heck out of me :-(.  I still sing it, though, 'cause 
it's fun and "something very close to it was sung in period".

- Liam Mac Mhuire
(who also reads this stuff for amusement, but prefers reading Chappell 
and Ravenscroft over Child, 'cause more of the fun ones are provably 
pre-1650 :-).

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