Author Topic: Add: The Two Magicians


Posted - 26 Oct 02 - 06:11 pm

The Two Magicians

O She look'd out of the window as white as any milk;
And He look'd in at the window as black as any silk.

Hulloa, hulloa, holloa, hulloa, you coal black smith!
You have done me no harm
You never shall change my maiden name that I have kept so long;
I'd rather die a maid, Yes, but then she said,
And be buried all in my grave
Than to have such a husky, dusky, musty, fusky coal-blank smith
A maiden I will die.

Then she became a duck
A duck all on the steam;
And he became a water dog
And fetched her back again.

Then she became a hare,
A hare upon the plain;
And he became a greyhound dog
And fetched her back again.

Then she became a fly,
A fly all in the air;
And he became a spider
And fetch'd her to his lair

Source: One Hundred English Folksongs, Ed C Sharp, ISBN 0-486-23192-5


Cecil Sharp wrote:

This is, I believe, the only copy of this ballad that has yet been collected in England. ... The words were first printed in Buchan's Ancient Ballads and Songs ... It has been necessary to make but one or two small alterations in the words.
Child prints Buchan's version"

There are two significant 'small alterations' to the lyrics. Child has the chorus as

Awa, awa, ye coal-black smith,
Woud ye do me the wrang
To think to gain my maidenhead,
That I hae kept sae lang!?

and in the last verse

Then she became a silken plaid,
And stretchd upon a bed,
And he became a green covering,
And gaind her maidenhead.

The Child version also contains a number of other transformations.

Database entry is here

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 26 Oct 02 - 08:43 pm

Roud 1350, Child 44 (not 100 as stated in the database entry).

Sharp noted this song from Mr. Sparks (himself a blacksmith) at Minehead, Somerset, on 8th August 1904. It is a mistake to assume that Sharp's alterations can be identified with reference to the rather different Child text; what you quote as the Buchan chorus is actually the third verse.

Sharp published the song as it Mr. Sparks sang it, with the following exceptions:

Verse 1, line 2: But he looked into...

Chorus, line three: You never shall have...
Chorus, line six: Than I'd have such a nasty, husky dusky musty fusty...
Chorus, line seven: My maiden name shall die.

Verse 3, line two: A hare all on...

As can be seen, most of these changes were made for the sake of euphony and singability. Mr. Sparks himself sang maiden name; whether that was an act of self-censorship on his part, or whether it simply hadn't occurred to him that it was a corruption of maidenhead, we can't know. At all events, it is usually a mistake to suppose that traditional singers in the early years of the 20th century were necessarily less "prudish" (as people think of it now) than the rest of society!

The text as collected appeared in The Journal of the Folk Song Society, vol.II issue 6, 1905, and more recently in Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs, ed. Maud Karpeles, 1974. Parts of the tune were barred in 9/8, but this was regularised to 6/8 throughout for the kind of singers One Hundred English Folksongs was aimed at.

Since Sharp, three further sets of the ballad have been found in tradition: two in Scotland, one noted by J.M. Carpenter from Bell Duncan and the other -a verse-and-chorus fragment with no tune- noted by Gavin Greig from Bell Robertson of Aberdeenshire; and one in Somerset, recorded by Bob and Jacqueline Patten from Austin Wookey at East Harptree in 1976.

The version popularised in the Revival is not traditional, but was "brushed up" by A. L. Lloyd (his own words) and fitted with a new tune. It was with reference to this that Lloyd (quoting, he said, Ralph Vaughan Williams), remarked "The practice of re-writing a folk song is abominable, and I wouldn't trust anyone to do it except myself". (Sleevenotes, The Bird in the Bush, Topic 12T135; re-issued as TSCD 479).


Posted - 26 Oct 02 - 08:58 pm

Thanks for this Malcolm. I have fixed the Child number (a brainstorm, I think. I had just looked it up and knew it was 44!) I will tackle the text tomorrow.


Posted - 27 Oct 02 - 07:52 pm

The database is now updated. For those interested, the A. L. Lloyd tune is available from The Digital Tradition Database.

While many revivalists use the A.L. Lloyd tune, there are some recordings based on the Sharp tune, such as Steeleye Span's "Two Magicians" on "Now We are Six"

Mr Happy

Posted - 01 Nov 02 - 11:31 am

Then she became a silken plaid,
And stretchd upon a bed,
And he became a green covering,
And gaind her maidenhead.

i've heard a contemporisation of this verse:

Then she became a sheet
a sheet all on the bed
then he became a duvet
and he popped her maidenhead

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