Author Topic: Add: Three Maidens A-Milking did Go


Posted - 28 Feb 03 - 01:55 pm

Three Maidens A-Milking did go

Three maidens a-milking did go,
Three maidens a milking did go;
The wind it blew high, and the wind it blew low,
And it blew these three maidens to and fro

[They met with a man by the way
And one of them to him did say
Kind sir have you the will, and kind sir have you the skill
For to catch little birds off the tree ?

O yes I will show you some skills
And very good skills they be too
If you'll come along with me to yonder shady tree
I will catch you a small bird or two.

To the merry greenwood they all went
To the merry greenwood they all went
For the birds they did whistle on every green thistle
For they very well knew their intent.

I laid my love under a bush
I laid my love under a tree
And he beat at the bush and the bird it did fly in
A little above my love's knee.

Then her sparkling eyes turned around
As if she had been in a swound
And she said, upon my word I have caught a little bird
Picking upon its own ground.

Pretty maidens be ruled by me
Pretty maidens be ruled by me
Never catch a small bird upon a green ground
But catch them upon the green tree.

Source: Kidson F, 1891, Traditional Tunes, A Collection of Ballad Airs, Oxford, Taphouse and Son


Kidson write:

This air my friend, Mr Holgate, remembers being sung in and about Leeds. If not very old, it is good, and it could only be wished that the succeeding verses to the first (the only one I have printed) were equally meritorious and more suitable for this work.

I have added verses from a site on the Internet but cannot confirm they are traditional. A more official version would be appreciated.

Database entry is here.

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 28 Feb 03 - 04:42 pm

Roud 290

Also known as The Bird in the Bush.

The additional text above is not traditional as such, as it has been copied (apparently without acknowledgement) from Stephen Sedley's book The Seeds of Love (Essex Music/EFDSS, 1967, p. 85): "Text collated from two broadsides (one from the Baring-Gould collection and one from the files of Kendrew, a York printer of the early 19th century), and from sets noted by Hammond in Dorset and Priscilla Wyatt-Edgell in Devon."

Given that caveat, it's a perfectly reasonable text, and not too far from examples actually found in tradition; though it does seem that some singers were unaware of the nature of the symbolism, so it sometimes gets rather muddled. Frank Purslow (Marrowbones, EFDSS 1965 p. 2) prints a similar text noted by Hammond from William Poole (Taunton, Somerset, 1905), and Palmer (English Country Songs, Dent 1979 p. 124) gives the original text noted by Baring Gould from Roger Hannaford of Lower Widdecombe, Devon, hitherto only published in heavily edited or completely rewritten forms. Even restored, this latter is quite innocent compared to the broadside versions, some mid-19th century examples of which can be seen at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballad:

Three maids a-milking would go

According to Palmer, the song first appeared in print in the 1820s. It persisted in tradition at least to the mid-20th century; Bob Copper recorded a set from Fred Hewett of Mapledurwell, Hampshire, in 1955. (Songs and Southern Breezes, Heinemann 1973, p. 280; Kennedy, Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland, Oak 1984, p. 422)

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