Sidebar 6: Sir Eglamore

[transcription of music]

Some notes about the transcription:

a. Transcribing the medius an octave down is a judgment call, albeit a reasonably safe one. The notation of the time does not specify range.

b. The C-natural in measure 9 of the medius is editorial. The original doesn't specify. Today, by default, that would mean that the second C is the measure is sharped like the first, but that convention became established later. (For performance purposes, treat it as a judgment call: Would you prefer an A-minor chord in an odd place or a tritone jump from a C# to the G in the following measure?)

c. The word `all' appears in the 1650 and 1686 versions, but not in the 1615 version.

d. The three versions of the melody - 1650, 1686, 1719 - differ only in the ornamentation of the last set of fa-la's, as shown below:


Sir Eglamore

1. Sir Eglamore, that worthy knight
Fa la lanky down dilly
He took his sword and went to fight
Fa la lanky down dilly
And as he rode both hill and dale
Armed upon his shirt of male
Fa la la la la la lanky down dilly

2. A dragon came out of his den
Had slain God knows how many men
When he espied Sir Eglamore
Oh, if you had but heard him roar

3. And seene how all the trees did shake
The Knight did tremble, horse did quake
The birds betake them all to peeping
It would have made you fall a-weeping

4. But now it is in vain to fear
Being come unto, fight Dog, fight Bear
To it they go and fiercely fight
A live-long day, from morn till night

5. The dragon had a plaguey hide
And could the sharpest steel abide
No sword will enter him with cuts
Which vex'd the Knight unto the guts

6. But as in Choler he did burn
He watched the dragon a good turn
And as a-yawning he did fall
He thrust his sword in hilts and all

7. Then like a coward he to fly
Unto his den that was hard by
And there he lay all night and roared
The Knight was sorry for his sword
But riding thence, said I forsake it
He that will fetch it, let him take it.

The lyrics given above are those of the 1615 version. My personal preference is to borrow a couple of minor changes from later versions of the ballad: In "The birds betake them all to peeping", you might use `betook' instead of `betake', and instead of "He watched the dragon a good turn", you might use "He watched the dragon a great good turn." (The later lyrics introduce a number of such modifications designed to make the song scan more smoothly. For instance, "Armed upon his shirt of male" in the first verse becomes "All armed upon a coate of male".) You may also choose to follow later versions in referring to the dragon as `she' instead of `he', if you wish.

This ballad works better in three-part harmony than for a soloist. I've heard two modern recordings of the ballad. In one, a soloist is singing the melody line as written - and the `fa-la' sections sound silly. The reason the melody has those long, slow notes in the refrains is that there are underparts singing faster ones against them. Without the accompaniment, the song gets bogged down on the refrains. An at-least-partial solution is probably to sing the song at a swift tempo. In another recording, the soloist solved his problem with the aid of a chorus: He would sing the verse lines (quickly and melodramatically), and his entire audience would join him in the refrains.

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Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl)