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Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?

DigiTrad:
DIXON AND JOHNSON
TWO BUTCHERS


Related thread:
(origins) Origins:Jickson Johnson/Johnson Jinkson/3 Butchers (13)


Richard Mellish 03 Apr 10 - 04:04 PM
The Sandman 03 Apr 10 - 04:28 PM
Goose Gander 03 Apr 10 - 04:47 PM
Richard Mellish 03 Apr 10 - 05:05 PM
Gurney 03 Apr 10 - 06:24 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Apr 10 - 06:28 PM
GUEST,David E. 03 Apr 10 - 06:31 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Apr 10 - 06:34 PM
Phil Edwards 03 Apr 10 - 06:40 PM
The Sandman 03 Apr 10 - 06:45 PM
GUEST,David E. 03 Apr 10 - 07:13 PM
Joe Offer 03 Apr 10 - 09:04 PM
The Fooles Troupe 03 Apr 10 - 09:31 PM
Uncle_DaveO 03 Apr 10 - 10:03 PM
Ebbie 03 Apr 10 - 10:33 PM
Stower 04 Apr 10 - 04:23 AM
MGM·Lion 04 Apr 10 - 04:44 AM
Stower 04 Apr 10 - 05:02 AM
MGM·Lion 04 Apr 10 - 05:19 AM
Phil Edwards 04 Apr 10 - 06:21 AM
Phil Edwards 04 Apr 10 - 11:51 AM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Apr 10 - 01:14 PM
Stower 04 Apr 10 - 01:44 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Apr 10 - 03:42 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Apr 10 - 03:49 PM
Richard Mellish 04 Apr 10 - 03:52 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Apr 10 - 03:52 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Apr 10 - 04:18 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Apr 10 - 04:29 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Apr 10 - 04:40 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Apr 10 - 04:45 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Apr 10 - 04:56 PM
Goose Gander 04 Apr 10 - 04:56 PM
Little Hawk 04 Apr 10 - 05:00 PM
Goose Gander 04 Apr 10 - 05:13 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Apr 10 - 05:14 PM
Little Hawk 04 Apr 10 - 06:04 PM
MGM·Lion 05 Apr 10 - 01:01 AM
Goose Gander 05 Apr 10 - 01:13 AM
MGM·Lion 05 Apr 10 - 01:26 AM
The Fooles Troupe 05 Apr 10 - 03:21 AM
MGM·Lion 05 Apr 10 - 03:48 AM
The Fooles Troupe 05 Apr 10 - 03:55 AM
Rob Naylor 05 Apr 10 - 04:23 AM
Phil Edwards 05 Apr 10 - 04:38 AM
Stower 05 Apr 10 - 08:30 AM
MGM·Lion 05 Apr 10 - 09:17 AM
Phil Edwards 05 Apr 10 - 09:19 AM
Phil Edwards 05 Apr 10 - 09:45 AM
MGM·Lion 05 Apr 10 - 10:27 AM
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Subject: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 04:04 PM

The story is pretty consistent in all versions (such as this one and those in this earlier thread) but has always puzzled me.

I raised some questions in that thread but there were no further postings, so I'm raising them again in a more specific new thread.

The fact that the woman eventually turns out to be on the robbers' side implies that she was some sort of decoy − but why did they need a decoy?

Why did their plan require her to be naked?

And why was she tied down by her hair rather than by any more conventional method?

What purpose does her "shriekful cry" (in Henry Burstow's wonderful version) serve? The robbers could have seen the butchers riding down the road, and ambushed them, without her being involved at all.

Perhaps her role was to find out whether the butchers were carrying enough money to be worth robbing, but that is not mentioned; and what if they had had very little? Then all the palaver of her being stripped and tied down would have been a waste of effort.

If this is a fictional story, the original author might have been expected either to omit these implausible elements or to explain them, and the explanations might have been expected to survive in some versions.

The absence of such explanations makes me suspect that the story was based on a real incident.

Any theories, anyone?

Richard


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 04:28 PM

it is a good song leave it alone,another example of wanting to know the price of everything but knowing the value of nothing,if you dont like it go away and write something different,but can we stop looking up the arsehole of the tradition.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 04:47 PM

This is site more or less devoted to talking about folk/traditional songs, why would you jump down someone's throat for asking about a song? If you personally don't like talking about songs maybe you shouldn't take part in these discussions.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 05:05 PM

GSS, whatever gave you the idea that I don't like the song? I love it. I referred to Henry Burstow's version (which I myself sing) as "wonderful". I am intrigued by the strange story and I am hoping that someone can shed light (actual or supposition) on the origin of that story.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Gurney
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 06:24 PM

I've always thought the song among others reflects the paucity of possessions that earlier generations had. Working punters often would not even have a household metal knife, or a change of clothing. Before the invention of the Bessemer Converter, iron was ridiculously expensive and jealously conserved, cloth and rope hand-made, and dumps would be middens, with nothing in them that could be regarded as raw materials.

Starting from this premise, robbers could be expected to strip their 'victim' of everything. She turned out to be useful at backstabbing, too, a good fifth-columnist.
The bits that strikes me as unreal is that the butchers were mounted. A cart for bringing beasts from market, possibly, but mounted means fairly wealthy, and probably armed, even guarded.
That the other butcher(s) did a runner seems a bit unlikely, seeing how butchers are depicted in folksong.
And I can't see the tying down by her hair, either. I'd think that that wouldn't work. Glueing down, maybe.
Like Richard, elements of the song strike me as contrived. I still like it, though.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 06:28 PM

Have you had a butchers at the earliest broadside versions? Roxburghe Collection has at Vol 7 p59 (Just been won on Ebay) 'The Three Worthy Butchers of the North' printed by Phillip Brooksby c1675. It is set out in 10 stanzas each of 10 lines. A slightly later version is given on p62 which is reduced to 11 double stanzas then as it gets passed down in the print tradition over the next 2 centuries it comes down to 9, then 8, then 7 double stanzas until on Irish broadsides it is just 10 single stanzas. The writer of the ballad is given as Paul Burges on the Brooksby sheet. He gets in everywhere! There are lots of 18th and 19th c versions on the Bodl site.

Hmmm! A difficult one to say if it's true or not. It is certainly set out as a true story. The murders were discovered by a shepherd hiding in the hedge and the robbers escaped abroad at Yarmouth. Ebsworth, usually very reliable states 'We doubt not that it was genuine history, truthfully told.' That's good enough for me. In another shorter but early version the girl is captured and punished.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: GUEST,David E.
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 06:31 PM

Related question: Why does almost every Mudcat topic turn to name calling within three posts?

David E.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 06:34 PM

Dick, behave!


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 06:40 PM

For what it's worth, "naked" didn't mean "...as the day you were born" until relatively recently - certainly later than 1675. As I understand it, before the days of mains water most people would sleep in a smock or a shift; when they got up they'd, at most, wash what they could reach, then they'd put on their day clothes over the smock. "Naked" for a long time essentially meant "in nothing but your underwear". So the 'naked' woman was probably shivering in her smock, the idea being that robbers had made off with her dress to sell it for the material - which would still have been an indecorous position to be in, but wouldn't have had quite the shock value we hear in the song now.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 06:45 PM

there is no name calling.
I think it is a good song that does not require every infetissimal detail to be explained.
is it necessary to know evey detail about every song,why is it necessary to know about mcintyre in the old dun cow,why do we have to know about what defines traditional music.can we not just leave some mysteries unsolved and just accept it is a good song.
Guest David E[reread my post] is factually incorrect,almost every mudcat topic does not turn to name calling ,neither has this one,go away Troll.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: GUEST,David E.
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 07:13 PM

Actually Dick is right, "almost every" was an exaggeration on my part, however "so many" would not be. I just don't understand what it is about Mudcat which seems to attract so many mean spirited people. My apologies to Richard M. for butting in to his thread.

Back to lurker mode...
David E.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 09:04 PM

So, Dick, you've said your piece. You are no longer welcome to post on this thread. This thread seeks to explore the meaning of this song. If you don't want to explore the meaning of the song, don't post. I don't know what else to do with you, so I'm going to ban you from any thread where you are less than civil.
-Joe Offer, Forum Moderator-


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 09:31 PM

It is often useful to explore 'meanings of things'. However, often we never fully get there, especially when cultures have changed over centuries, and we have insufficient study/personal experience to connect. Also if the content/language of the object studied has changed over time, we may be misled by our own earnestness.

I discovered a good example of this when in High School - we studied Hamlet. It was a bowdlerized version, with certain speeches about 'incest' removed. When i discovered a fuller uncensored version, the whole seriousness of what was happening changed like a light bulb had gone on - the whole class (led by me I admit!) lobbied the teacher to let us access in class the full text.

QUOTE
the 'naked' woman was probably shivering in her smock, the idea being that robbers had made off with her dress to sell it for the material - which would still have been an indecorous position to be in, but wouldn't have had quite the shock value we hear in the song now.
UNQUOTE

There is a Grimm's Brothers tale about the little girl who gave away everything she owned including her dress till she was naked - she would have still been in her smock in the snow - then she was rewarded by a shower of gold coins from heaven.

To go further, some people want to investigate if certain religious figures of history actually walked the earth, or were just fictional. But then other people just want to 'exercise faith' and believe the stories they are told.

Some people just want to sing a song with a good tune and an interesting story and don't care about much else.

So there will be disagreements...

"ban you from any thread where you are less than civil."

Hmmmm, welllllllllll, this IS a music forum where we do explore meaning of songs... but when posters with no displayed interest in participating in such discussions or letting us know anything about their own musical interests/tastes seem to take over the forum swamping us with their own unique spins on politics, can we not now tell them to 'put a sock in it'...

:-P

Happy Easter Joe!

:-0


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 10:03 PM

Why have her naked in the song? My take is that she was not "put into the song" as being naked (whatever that meant at the time), but that the song was a report of an incident that happened. In that case, she's there because she was there.

Why would the robbers use a "naked" woman? She was their confederate, and her condition of undress added to the "maiden in distress" tableau which would let down the bars of suspicion of the passerby.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Ebbie
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 10:33 PM

This is a lovely thread- I love examining a song and conjecturing as to the meaning(s) of the words that were chosen. I realize that to some or even many people it is the tune of a song that matters. To me, it is always and forever, the words.

I'm hoping to read more analysis upon the Three Butchers song.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Stower
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 04:23 AM

Richard, to me this song is about an old method used by criminals that has its modern equivalents. We've probably all heard of the trick where someone 'accidentally' bumps into you in the street while his/her accomplice picks your pocket, which you don't notice as you're distracted by the bump and the 'innocent apology'. Or the person whose car has supposedly 'broken down'. You stop to help, get out of your car, and the accomplices jump into your car and drive off with it.

Didn't know the meaning of 'naked' has changed. That throws a new light on this song. Thank you.   

You may well be right, Richard, that this song is pure fiction. The specific names mentioned in the song led me to believe it was probably based on an actual incident, as broadsides sometimes where. So is there a broadside?   

I always love to go back as far as I can with a ballad. The English Broadside Ballad Archive is an excellent resource, with scans of original broadsides, citations, transcriptions and sometimes sound recordings. An earlier (earliest?) version of The Three Butchers is here, from the Pepys collection, dated somewhere between 1684-1700. Interesting to note the similarities and differences in the more truncated later version, I think.

Cheers
Stower


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 04:44 AM

Re the question of how naked she was: many versions use the formulation "stark naked" [e.g. version collected by Sharp from Tom Symes at Bredon, Puckington 1903 ~~ James Reeves: The Idiom Of The People #106, or all those with such formulations as "They robb-ed me, they stripp-ed me, They left me here fast bound; They left me here stark naked with my hair pinned to the ground"]... none of which leaves any doubt that the makers and singers of those variants conceived of her as being naked in the sense we would mean it, and no mealy-mouthed nonsense about 'just in her smock or underwear', or any such silly evasions, about it, thank you very much! Why else, also, such oft-sung details as Johnson's taking off his overcoat to keep her from the cold, &c.?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Stower
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 05:02 AM

In the broadside version of 1684-1700 (link in my post above), it says nothing of nakedness, just "a woman with her hair bound unto the ground". In this (earliest?) version, "Johnson ... wrapt his Cloak about her, for to keep her from the wind." In the broadside, we don't need her to be naked for Johnson to cover her: it was a windy day, it seems.

As everyone here knows, ballad words and sometimes their whole perceived meanings can change dramatically over time and place, so we can't always assume that what is in the mind of one singer (or the meaning of one variant of a ballad) can be transferred to another.

Cheers all
Stower


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 05:19 AM

Yes, I see all that Stower. But, whatever the earliest versions might have said, the present fact is that the nakedness {STARK!} of the woman has become current and widespread in many [if not most] variants sung these days; & that there is plenty of traditional warrant [see e.g. my Sharp ref above from 1903] for this: so the question asked in the thread title remains a perfectly valid one.

My answer to the question is that it adds an intriguingly and irresistibly dramatic touch to the situation described; providing even more convincing motivation to the brave & philanthropic Johnson for his sympathy for and assistance to the woman.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 06:21 AM

Michael - obviously the woman is perceived as being stark naked in versions sung nowadays: that follows automatically from the change in the meaning of the word 'naked'.

My point is that when the song was written & when it was first sung, she almost certainly wasn't imagined as stark naked - and if there was a real incident behind the story, there's no reason to imagine the real woman stripped naked for the occasion either. I'm not being mealy-mouthed or prudish here, just historical.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 11:51 AM

PS 'Naked' quotes from the OED include the following:

"The countrey people [were]..flying out of ther bedds nacked in their shirts" (1675)

"The streets were..filled with naked people, some with shirts and shifts on only, and numbers without either." (1761)


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 01:14 PM

Whether she's stark naked or near naked doesn't really change the story much. Either way she'd be liable to catch the attention of a passing horseman, and induce him to dismount and investigate, maybe with mixed motives.

Once dismounted he is open to be attacked.

And what's so odd about the protagonist being a butcher and riding a horse? Butchering was a profitable enough trade then as now.

If feels to me as if it probably was based on a real incident written up into a song. With its specific details - the trade being identified, and the hair tied to teh ground - it has a broadside journalism feeling to it.

Stick him in a car or on a motorbike, and change the weaponry, and it could be a contemporary story.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Stower
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 01:44 PM

McGrath of Harlow: "If feels to me as if it probably was based on a real incident written up into a song. With its specific details - the trade being identified, and the hair tied to teh ground - it has a broadside journalism feeling to it. Stick him in a car or on a motorbike, and change the weaponry, and it could be a contemporary story."

I completely agree. It seems to me that, in general, broadsides that are fantasies or moralistic fables do not name their characters or else give them common names, Jack, Joan, Nancy, etc. Here the details are so specific as to make me think this is a versification of a real event.

In this country some years ago there was a spate of criminals pretending to break down on motorway hard shoulders, awaiting a good citizen to help. When that good citizen got out of their car, the accomplices jumped into that car and drove off with it. And this story has it in reverse in (what I think is) a very satisfying way.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 03:42 PM

Stower
Please see my post of 3rd April 6.28.
The earliest/fullest version c1675 does actually contain the words 'And found her there STARK-NAKED, with her hair pin'd to the ground' and the 3 butchers are attracted initially by her cries. Johnson has to ride into the nearby woods to effect visual contact.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 03:49 PM

If you want a more graphic description of 'Stark Naked Robbery' from the early 19thc go to Bodleian Broadside Ballads website Harding B11 (3644) (Blue clicky please Mick or Joe)
Here it interprets as 'naked as ever they were born'. I presume they weren't born with smocks on!


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 03:52 PM

Many thanks to all for the light shed so far.

One crucial point that I've now picked up is that, in the earlier versions, the robbers attack immediately after Johnson has "rescued" the woman rather than, as in most of the later versions, further along the road. This provides a better explanation of why the decoy was needed: to get the victim(s) off their horses and with their attention distracted.

Stower said >You may well be right, Richard, that this song is pure fiction.<

No, I was surmising that it was based on a real incident. Anyway the explanations of the need for the decoy and her nakedness are equally valid whether the story is true or fictional.

Also interesting to me is that the broadside version that Stower provided a link to is so similar to Henry Burstow's version, even with the "high ding ding" etc refrain. Possibly he learnt the song directly from a copy of that broadside or a similar one.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 03:52 PM

Most of us seem to be in agreement that this is probably a journalistic piece, but if it is a fiction the nakedness of the lady could be construed as a poetic device to emphasise Johnson's noble spirit in not taking advantage and covering her up with his own clothes in true romantic style.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 04:18 PM

Richard, no. In the earliest extant version they have gone from the woods and up the road merrily before they are attacked. I think the simplest thing will be to post the whole of Paul Burges's 102-line ballad to stop all the conjecturing.
I have had some bad experiences in losing whole posts after half an hour's typing so I may post it in sections.


The Three Worthy Butchers of the North
(preamble)
I weep and I wail, and travel much in pain, (travail?)
Now all my youthful days are past they'l never come again;
Once I was a Man, but now alas! I am none,
For all my companions are from me fled and gone.

TO A PLEASANT NEW TUNE

Did you ever hear of worthy Butchers three,
And how they spent their days in mirth and jollity?
There was Kitson, Wilson, and Johnson (mark me what I say),
They took 300 pounds worth of Goods upon a day.
When as the day of payment began for to draw near,
Their money to their Creditors intended for tobear;
And riding thorow Blankly-lane as fast as they cou'd trig,
"Be merry, my hearts, said Johnson, let us sing up a jig.
    With a hey down, down, with a down derry dee,
    God bless all true men out of Thieves' company."


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 04:29 PM

Riding then up Blankly-lane as fast as they could hie,
"Be merry, my hearts!" said Johnson, "I hear a woman cry."
"O help, help, help! O help, or else I dye,
O help me some good Christians, for my torments they draw nigh."
"O hark, O hark, " said Johnson, "I hear a woman cry,
Sure I cam of a woman, and shall I see her dye?"
"No, ride on, neighbour Johnson," now Kitson he did say,
"For that is some lewd woman will cast us all away.
If you had but rid on this way as oft as we have done,
You would have heard this cry before, and now let us be gone."

Then Johnson whipt into the wood with all his might and main,
Whereas he found the woman with cords fast ty'd in twain,
With cords fast ty'd in twain, and hand and foot was bound,
And found her there stark-naked, with her hair pin'd to the ground.
"Alas!" [to her] said Johnson, "what man hath us'd thee so?
He came not of a woman that would work a woman's woe:
Hast thou [here] no lewd company?" now Johnson he did say,
"For here we are come to save thy life, thou mayst cast us all away."
"No, I have no lewd company," the woman she did say,
"Three ruffians came riding by, and rob'd me by the way;


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 04:40 PM

"They took my cloaths from me, and hand and foot me bound,
And left me here in woful sort, with my hair pin'd to the ground."
So Johnson he whipt out his sword with all his might and main,
And presently the woman's cords, Johnson he cut in twain,
A shirt out of his Cloak-bag presently plucked he,
And put it on the woman to cover her secrecie.
"I have neither wife nor children," Johnson he did say,
And thou shalt be the Lady of all, til death take life away:"
Johnson being a loving man, and bore a careful mind,
He put his cloak about her to keep her from the wind.

Straight upon horse-back presently got he,
And they rode all out of the wood, and rid on gallantly:
Riding then up Blankly-lane as fast as they could trig,
"Be merry my hearts," said Johnson, "let us sing up a Jigg;
With a hey down down, with a hey down derry dee,
What if there were ten thieves, so we are true men three!"
Riding then up Blankly-lane, as fast as they could hye,
"Be merry my hearts," said Johnson, "the Land's-end draweth nigh."
The woman hearing him say so, presently by and by,
She put her finger to her ear, and gave a squeaking cry. (It was Peggy Seeger, sorry Peggy, couldn't resist that one!)
(Half way through, phew!)


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 04:45 PM

Ten thieves then [came from a Bush]with weapons drawn in hand,
They step'd before Johnson, and quickly bid him stand;
"What is it so," said Johnson, "since 'twill no better be,
I vow that some of you shall dye before I killed be,

Stand fast, fight men, see that ye be not idle,
For I vow his hand shall off that lays hold on my bridle."
"Alas! [alas!]" said Kitson, "to fight no heart have I."
"No more have I,"said Wilson, "in faith, I'd rather dye;
Here is three hundred pound that we are bound to pay,
And you shall have it all, and let's scape with life away."


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 04:56 PM

(There isn't a gap in that last stanza)

The Second Part, TO THE SAME TUNE

"Why is it so@" said Johnson, "fight men, and be free,
And stand but at my back, keep the back-blows from me.
Stand fast, [then and] fight, men, fight men, and be free,
And by the help of God we shall win the Victory."
Five of these thieves and the woman they did go
To Kitson and to Wilson, and bound them fast in woe:
As these 10 thieves play before him, and play'd upon the ground,
For Johnson had five pistols with bullets charged sound;
With bullets charged sound, presently he let fly,
Till five of these thieves upon the ground did lye.

"Put up," said the other five, "put up without delay,
For if that he gets charged, he will killus all this day."
"Fight on!" said the woman, "fight on , I say to ye,
For if you five don't kill him, I vow your Priest to be."
So Johnson he whipt out his Sword with all his might and main,
And play'd about him gallantly, till three more of them were slain,
"Put up!" said the other two, "put up without delay,
For if that we continue fight, he'l kill us all this day."
"Fight on!" said the woman, "fight on i say to ye,
For if you two don't kill him, I vow your Priest to be."


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 04:56 PM

Here's a mid-twentieth century American variant in which the women is found with her hair pinned to the ground, though there is no mention of her being naked . . .

JOHNSON-JINKSON
As sung by Troy Cambron in Arvin, 1940

Johnson he was rid lug along
As fast as he could ride
He thought he heard a woman
He heard a woman cry.

Johnson getting off his horse
And searching, looked all around
Until he came to a woman
With her hair pinned to the ground.

Woman, dearest woman
Who has brought you here for sin
Who has brought you here this morning
With your hair pinned to the ground.

It were three bold and struggling men
With swords keen and hand
Who have brought me here this morning
With my hair pinned to the ground.

Johnson bein' a man of his own
And bein' a man and bold
He put off his overcoat
To hug her from the cold.

Johnson getting on his horse
And the woman getting on behind
Long this lonesome highway rode
Fortune was for to find.

They were riding all along
As fast as they could ride
She drew her fingers to her ears
And give three shivering cries.

Out sprung three bold and struggling men
With sword keen in hand
Who did commanded Johnson
Commanded him to stand.

I'll stop then, said Johnson
I'll stand then, said he
For I never worried in my life
Afraid of any of three.

Johnson killing two of them
Not watching the woman behind
While he was after the other one
She stabbed him from behind.

The day was free and the a market day
And the people all passing by
Who did saw this awful murder
And saw poor Johnson die.

Source:
Voices from the Dust Bowl


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 05:00 PM

Why the naked woman? You have to ask????

Good marketing, that's why! Nothing else sells a song or a product as effectively as a naked or semi-clothed woman. This has been proven beyond any shadow of a doubt over the past few millennia. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 05:13 PM

DIXON SAID TO JOHNSON

As sung by Nimrod Workman, Chattaroy, WV, 3-1-76, recorded by Mark Wilson and Ken Irwin.

Dixon said to Johnson upon one holiday,
"Let's ride around the mountain to pass the time away."
Old Johnson being willing as they sat down to rest
They spied a naked woman a-sitting by herself.

"Oh, woman, foolish woman, what are you doing there?"
"The robbers they have robbed me; they've left me here to die"
Old Johnson being willing, a willing man in mind
He threw his greatcoat around her and took her on behind.

They rode on a few miles further as they sat down to rest
She drew a bloody dagger; she plunged it through his chest
"Woman, foolish woman, see what that you've done done
You've killed the bravest soldier that ever fired a gun."

"I know I've killed many a man; I've killed them all my life
I know I've killed a many a one; I am that robber's wife."

Source:
Folk-Songs of the Upper South vol. 2 (Musical Traditions MTCD343-4)


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 05:14 PM

As these two thieves play'd before him, alas! he did not mind,
For presently the woman knock'd him down behind;
"Oh wretched Woman!" [cry'd he], "wickedly hast thou done,
Thou hast kill'd the bravest butcher that ever England won:
For had but my fellows, had they prov'd true to me!"--
"They were cowards," said the woman, "and as cowards they shall dye."
Two of these Thieves [tho' wounded,] and the Woman they did go,
To Kitson and to Wilson where they lay bound in woe;
A club [she took] into her hand, as she got all the gains,
Went to Kitson and to Wilson and dasht out both their brains.

How this murder was discovered, list and you shall hear;
It was by a silly Shepherd, hid in the hedge for fear,
Seeing this woful murder straight[he] sent forth hue and cry,
[To] a gentleman and his man as they came riding by.
Ay, but do what e're they could, taken [Thieves] could not be,
For they got ship at Yarmouth, and so went over sea;
This is the trick of thieves when they have murder done,
When they have committed roguery, full fast away they run.
God bless our royal King and Queen, and send them long to reign,
In helath, wealth and prosperity, true Justice to amintain,
    God bless all true men that travel by land or Sea,
    And keep all true men out of Thieves' company!
                                        Paul Burges
                        Finis
Printed for P. Brooksby, in West-Smithfield (dated by Ebsworth 1672-79) there are 2 different copies in Roxburghe but the slightly later shorter copy (44 lines) based on it has survived in at least 6 copies.
Having read it thoroughly now, I would guess that it may have been based on a real incident, but I'm pretty sure in true gutter-press fashion it has been fleshed out and grossly exaggerated.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 06:04 PM

Another important thing to remember about these songs...they play on a common fantasy of men throughout the ages, that they will somehow happen upon a naked woman in need of rescue! Then you add the theme of betrayal and you've got a really dramatic story with a shocking twist. What else could you possibly ask for?


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 01:01 AM

Just to point out that GooseGander's 1940 version above may not mention her nakedness, but does retain the detail of his taking off his overcoat 'to hug her from the cold', which surely implies it.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 01:13 AM

I'm not sure that it does . . . nothing unusual about offering your coat to someone in cold weather.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 01:26 AM

No, I see that GG ~ but my point was that, within the context of this imperfect [in the sense of incomplete] variant of the song, does it not imply recollection of his reason for having passed her his overcoat in the earlier, more complete, versions?

(Actually, GG, if you are out in cold weather, do you go around offering your coat to anyone who has chosen not to dress quite so warmly as yourself? I should call that very unusual behaviour unless there was some obviously drastic underdressing [such as nakedness!] apparent?)


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 03:21 AM

"if you are out in cold weather, do you go around offering your coat to anyone who has chosen not to dress quite so warmly as yourself?"

It used to be called 'Chivalrous Behaviour" and it was expected that guys would do do such things as this and open door for ladies, throw ones cloak over a puddle, etc. Don't feel that I'm criticising you MtheGM, people just aren't brought up the way they used to be. :-)


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 03:48 AM

Don't think so, Foolestroupe. Opening doors, raising hats &c, sure ~~ & at my age of course I still do that. But cloaks over puddles only applied to one, probably mythical, occasion re Walter Ralegh & Eliz I. & nobody ever roamed the streets looking for ladies in light dresses (probably demanded by fashion anyhow)for the purpose of offering them their overcoats, did they now? You are being whimsical, aren't you, in your rubrications of "chivalrous behaviour"?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 03:55 AM

"nobody ever roamed the streets looking for ladies in light dresses"

Ah, but for the truly Chivalourous, they always had to Be Prepared!!!

:-)


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 04:23 AM

I once lent my fleece to a woman dressed in singlet and shorts on top of Scafell Pike. It had been a nice day, but came over cold and *very* windy quite suddenly. She was shivering something rotten.

I asked her to drop it in at the campsite shop in Wasdale, which she'd have to pass on the way out of the valley (I was descending by a different route).

The cow never returned it!!! Last time *I'll* be chivalrous.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 04:38 AM

do you go around offering your coat to anyone who has chosen not to dress quite so warmly as yourself?

I'd give my coat to anyone who was naked, as I in my place and time defined "naked". That was rather the point.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Stower
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 08:30 AM

Steve Gardham: "Stower. Please see my post of 3rd April 6.28. The earliest/fullest version c1675 ..."

Sorry, Steve, I hadn't spotted your date, which slightly predates the broadside I linked to above. So it does seem, in the history of this ballad, she was stark naked, then she was fully clothed, then naked but not nude, then stark naked nude again!

Little Hawk, I really like your answer as to why she's naked in the song (regardless of its historicity, which we'll probably never know): hits the nail on the head, I think.

What a wonderfully interesting thread this is. Thanks, Richard, for bringing it up.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 09:17 AM

do you go around offering your coat to anyone who has chosen not to dress quite so warmly as yourself?

I'd give my coat to anyone who was naked, as I in my place and time defined "naked". That was rather the point. ===

No doubt you would, Pip·R. But that wasn't what I asked, was it? So what, precisely, do you assert in so complacent a knockdown tone, to have been 'rather the point'?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 09:19 AM

I've got no dictionary backup for this at all, but I do wonder whether even "stark naked" always meant what we think of it as meaning. In a sense it's irrelevant - "naked woman" has always meant a woman who's scandalously underdressed, regardless of how much you have to take off in order to be naked. Nowaydays we* think the answer is "absolutely everything"**, but that hasn't always been the case.

*Well, most of us do. If a stripper strips down to a minute G-string and a pair of tassels, so that her crotch and nipples stay "clothed", does she end up naked? I think quite a few people would say Yes even now.

**Just to be really awkward, I don't think even a straightforward phrase like "taking off absolutely everything" always means *exactly* the same thing...
"And apparently she takes off absolutely everything!"
"Yeah, I know, seen it."
"No, I mean, she takes off everything!"
"What... everything?"
(That's enough channelling my inner 13-year-old.)


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 09:45 AM

Michael - my point was that the reason that the butcher gave the woman his coat was that she was "naked" in whatever sense that word had at the time - which, if we trust the OED, clearly wasn't exactly the same sense we use it in now.


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Subject: RE: Three Butchers: WHY the naked woman?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 10:27 AM

Yes, Pip ~ but I was answering GooseGander & Foolestroupe, who had extended the argument into whimsical ideas of courtesy; I was not responding either way to your perfectly valid original point about the change in the concept of nakedness; so that your quoting my response to them only to contradict it by restatement of your point was a bit confusing & confused, was it not?

~Michael~


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