minstrel: Gypsies, tramps and thieves

Lisa and Ken Theriot lnktheriot at compuserve.com
Tue Mar 14 09:15:51 PST 2000

Iain wrote:

< i hate to break it to you but cersions of the gypsie
rover are period.>

Well, no, certain versions are TRADITIONAL.  Child #200 is listed 
alternately as "The Gypsie Laddie", "Johnnie Faa", and "The Raggle-Taggle 
Gipsies".  I quote one of my sources, _The Ballad Book_ by MacEdward Leach, 
"no version has been found earlier than the latter half of the 18th 
century".  This is supported by Child, Cecil Sharp, and a number of other 
scholars in the field.

The story is probably period, and there have been many attempts (none 
successful that I have seen) to tie the song to an actual event.  The easy 
way to tell the traditional versions is the disposition-if it doesn't turn 
out badly, it's not traditional.  Possible endings from traditional 

1. Lady ends up with gypsies.  Cold and hungry.
2. Lady's husband catches them.  Hangs all the gypsies.
3. Gypsy throws lady off (too much maintenance).
4. Lady goes back to her husband.  He beats her.
5. Lady goes back to her husband.  He has already replaced her and throws 
her out.

It just doesn't make sense from a traditional mindset that a woman who 
leaves her lawful husband is going to end up in a good situation.  If the 
guy turns out to be a lord in disguise, you've got a modern version.  The 
"gypsy rover came over the hill, ah-dee-doo-ah-dee-doo-dah-day" is under 
valid copyright, Leo Maguire, Ireland.


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