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Origins: Since Robin Hood (Thomas Weelkes)

08 Oct 08 - 09:32 PM (#2460709)
Subject: Origins: Since Robin Hood (Thomas Weelkes)
From: Artful Codger

Can you supply historical notes on this madrigal by Thomas Weelkes?

Since Robin Hood
by Thomas Weelkes (c.1575-1623)

|: Since Robin Hood, Maid Marian,
And Little John are gone-a,
The hobby horse was quite forgot,
When Kemp did dance alone-a. :|

|: He did labour / After the tabor,
For to dance / Then into France,
(for to dance then into France.)
He took pains / To skip, (to skip,)
to skip it in hope of gains, of gains.
He will trip it, trip it, trip it on the toe,
Diddle diddle diddle doe, (diddle diddle diddle doe.) :|

Source: The Oxford Book of English Madrigals, ed. Philip Ledger; Oxford University Press, 1978.

In particular, I'd like to know:
(1) Who is the Kemp referred to? The morris dancer Wil[l] Kemp?
(2) What is the historical context? What events does Weelkes refer to?
(3) When was the song written, or in which collection of pieces was it first published?

09 Oct 08 - 02:45 PM (#2461302)
Subject: RE: Origins: Since Robin Hood (Thomas Weelkes)
From: GUEST,Ian cookieless

AC, I can't answer all your questions, but I did arrange this for guitar 7 years ago and my notes of the time read as follows.

When Kemp Did Dance Alone
Thomas Weelkes c.1575-1623

The author of this tune (also known by the title of the words it was later attached to, 'Robin Hood, Maid Marian and Little John are gone') was Thomas Weelkes, an English madrigalist and church musician, described by a contemporary as "a drunkard and notorious swearer and blasphemer"! He lived in the same period as William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and William Kemp (c.1560-c.1603), an actor and clown in Shakespeare's company, after whom this tune was named. The title refers to Kemp's morris dance all the way from London to Norwich in nine days (twenty three if you count the rest days) in 1599. Although he did dance alone, he had with him Thomas Slye, "Taberer", William Bee, servant, and George Sprat, his overseer, "that I should take no other ease but my prescribed order".

Hope this helps.

10 Oct 08 - 07:22 AM (#2461925)
Subject: RE: Origins: Since Robin Hood (Thomas Weelkes)
From: Artful Codger

Yes, thanks for the info.

Do you mean that Weelkes did not write the words at all or that he wrote the tune first and only later arranged it for voices?

I had heard or read that it was a political metaphor, using Will Kemp's dance to signify the machinations of some other figure. A straight interpretation of the text doesn't quite work--it's a bit too Mother Goosian.