Mudcat Café message #3887824 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3887824
Posted By: Jim Carroll
10-Nov-17 - 05:33 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: Lyr Add: THE MERCHANT AND THE FIDDLER'S WIFE
To continue this 'chicken or egg?' song/story theme
Below is a story we recorded from a retired Irish building worker we met in Deptford in the 1970s; as far as I know, the song never entered to oral tradition, if such a turgid piece was ever sung.
Mikey Kelleher was originally from Quilty, the next village from here Clare, a small coastal fishing village; he moved to England and in the 1940s and never returned home
The village was renowned for stories like these' basically jokes, often without punch lines
Mikey gave us dozens of these 'yarns' including a story version of 'The Bishop of Canterbury' (Child 45) and a convoluted tale of a young woman presenting a mouse in a matchbox to a former lover who she had promised her maidenhead to, as substitute for her sexual parts
MacColl traced this to the writings of Spanish playwright, Rojas (1465/73)
The area Mikey came from was totally devoid of literature such as this; as far as the songs are concerned, its overwhelming literary influence would be the 'ballads' sold by non-literate Travellers who would go to a printer, recite songs from their own oral repertoire and sell them at the fairs and markets; this continued right up to the 1950s, when the last 'ballad' found as 'The Bar With No Stout', a parody of one of the latest pop songs.
The point I am trying to make is that to consign our traditional repertoire to the broadsides seems to me an exercise in the facile by desk-bound researchers who simply haven't done the math
The link reall is far more complicated than that.
Jim Carroll

The Fiddler's wife
There was two old walkers and they wanted to go across to America and the hadn't enough money
So she went down to the captain and she was a lovely piece, and he said, "Oh, I'll be all right there"
She asked him to now would he take here across
"All right", he said, himself and herself and the man went in and he was playing the old fiddle, you see.
They had travelled away, of course, and she didn't like to refuse him, you know, in case he wouldn't let her off, you know.
She carries on with him and he went up to the old boy and, "I'll bet you this ship" he said, "and cargo, against your fiddle", he said, "That I'll have her before I land".
The old boy bet the fiddle with him anyway; and up they goes, he called them in.
The old boy was frettin', he knew she was inside.

"Hold tight my love", he says, "hold tight", (he was singing a song)   
For just a half an hour
Hol tight my love, hold tight
And the ship and cargo will be ours

She said:

"You're late my love, you're late my love," she said
He has me by the middle,
"I',m on my back, we're havin' a craic,
And you have lost your old fiddle"   

The Merchant and the Fidler's Wife.
From 'D'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy, (Vol 5 pp77-80) (1719)
It was a Rich Merchant Man,
That had both Ship and all;
And he would cross the salt Seas,
Tho' his cunning it was but small.

The Fidler and his Wife,
They being nigh at hand ;
Would needs go sail along with him,
From Dover unto Scotland.

The Fidler's Wife look'd brisk,
Which made the Merchant smile ;
He made no doubt to bring it about,
The Fidler to beguile.

Is this thy Wife the Merchant said,
She looks like an honest Spouse;
Ay that she is, the Fidler said,
That ever trod on Shoes.

Thy Confidence is very great,
The Merchant then did say;
If thou a Wager darest to bet,
I'll tell thee what I will lay'.

I'll lay my Ship against thy Fiddle,
And all my Venture too;
So Peggy may gang along with me,
My Cabin for to View.

If she continues one Hour with me,
Thy true and constant Wife ;
Then shalt thou have my Ship and be,
A Merchant all thy Life.

The Fidler was content,
He Danc'd and Leap'd for joy ;
And twang'd his Fiddle in merriment,
For Peggy he thought was Coy.

Then Peggy she went along,
His Cabin for to View ;
And after her the Merchant-Man,
Did follow, we found it true.

When they were once together,
The Fidler was afraid ;
For he crep'd near in pitious fear,
And thus to Peggy he said.

Hold out, sweet Peggy hold out,
For the space of two half Hours;
If thou hold out, I make no doubt,
But the Ship and Goods are ours.

In troth, sweet Robin, I cannot,
He hath got me about the Middle ;
He's lusty and strong, and hath laid me along,
O Robin thou'st lost thy Fiddle.


If I have lost my Fiddle,
Then am I a Man undone ;
My Fiddle whereon I so often play'd,
Away I needs must run.

O stay the Merchant said,
And thou shalt keep thy place;
And thou shalt have thy Fiddle again,
But Peggy shall carry the Case.

Poor Robin hearing that,
He look'd with a Merry-chear;
His wife she was pleas'd, and the Merchant was eas'd,
And jolly and brisk they were.

The Fidler he was mad,
But valu'd it not a Fig;
Then Peggy unto her Husband said,
Kind Robin play us a Jigg.

Then he took up his Fiddle,
And merrily he did play ;
The Scottish Jigg and the Hornpipe,
And eke the Irish Hey.

It was but in vain to grieve,
The Deed it was done and past;
Poor Robin was bom to carry the Horn,
For Peggy could not be Chast.

Then Fidlers all beware,
Your Wives are kind you see ;
And he that's made for the Fidling Trade,
Must never a Merchant be.

For Peggy she knew right well,
Although she was but a Woman ;
That Gamesters Drink, and Fidlers Wives,
They are ever Free and Common.