Author Topic: Add: Come Write Me Down


Posted - 14 Mar 03 - 12:57 pm

Come Write Me Down

Come write me down you powers above,
The man that first created love,
For I have a jewel all in my eyes,
Where all my joy and fancy lies.

"I'll give you gold, I'll give you pearl,
If you can fancy me, my girl.
Such costly robes as you shall wear,
If you can fancy me, my dear."

"It's not your gold shall me entice
To rob me of my virtuous life,
For I never do intend at all
To be at any young man's call."

"Then go, you proud and scornful dame,
If you prove false, I'll do the same,
For I have no doubt that I shall find,
Another young girl to please my mind."

"Oh! stay, young man, don't be in haste,
You seem afraid your time you'll waste;
Let reason rule your roving mind,
And unto you I will prove kind."

To church they went the very next day,
And married were without delay;
And now that girl she is his wife,
And proves his comfort day and night.

So now my roving days are past,
My joy and comfort's come at last;
For all the pains that ever we know,
There's nothing but death shall part us more.

Source: Purslow, F, (1972), The Constant Lovers, EDFS, London


Frank Purslow's notes are as follow:

Gardiner Hp. 523. Henry Day, Basingstoke, Hants. August 1906.
The fourth verse has been added from Hammond Dt. 713 (Mrs Seale, Dorchester, 1906) and the first half of the last verse restored from an Irish broadside in the Boldeian. Almost certainly of Irish origin, it has been printed in many Itsih collections from Bunting's of 1840 to the present day. It has often been collected in England and in North America, and the tune has passed into the traditional repertoire and can be found with other texts, notably The Daughter in the Dungeon and Eggs in Her Basket. (The first of these songs, and probably the other, may also be of Irish origin.) The words are to be found on broadsides from many printers, English, Irish and Scottish. Some Irish shhets give "contiguous" for "convenient" and in traditional versions this is frequently rendered as "contagious".

Database entry is here.

Edited By dmcg - 14/03/2003 18:44:05

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 14 Mar 03 - 05:29 pm

You have accidentally copied the wrong notes; those above refer not to Come Write Me Down, but to the song following it, The Constant Lovers. I have just wasted a couple of hours following up references which went nowhere, largely in order to refute what would be a ludicrous assertion, that this is a song of Irish origin! Of course, I should have checked at the beginning that you had quoted what Purslow actually wrote. Some of the information below is given by Purslow, but I'm not typing out his notes as well; that can be your penance.

Roud 381

Traceable ultimately to an English broadside registered in 1656, If you love me tell me so; or, Loves fierce dispute. A copy issued in the late 1670s by F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke (London) can be seen at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

4o Rawl. 566(53)

The early 19th century saw the appearance of a broadside song based on the older one, though much shortened; it was usually called Second Thoughts are Best. That would put the song (with the familiar text) in tradition for around two centuries (it is still sung by the Copper Family of Rottingdean, of course), though it may perhaps have been lurking around unremarked-upon in an intermediate form during the 18th century. The tune prescribed on the 17th century broadside was Love's Tide (a popular tune in various forms; Simpson, The British Broadside Ballad and Its Music, 1966, pp. 749-752, quotes three examples. It was used for a good few songs of the latter 17th century, including Laurence Price's Famous Flower of Serving-Men) and If You Love Me was successful enough for its title to have become attached to the melody at times.

There are a number of 19th century examples at the Bodleian:

Second Thoughts Are Best

A new song called The true lovers

A tune called Second Thought's Best appeared in the final editions of Playford's Dancing Master; the 1728 edition can be seen at An American Ballroom Companion:

Dancing Master  -The notation is on page 343; whether there is any connection with either the earlier or later forms of the song that shares its name is beyond my limited musical abilities to determine.

The song was found incorporated into two Plough Plays (Bassingham and Swinderby) in the 1920s; further details at The Traditional Drama Research Group:

Second thoughts are best

Obviously, the best-known set is that sung by the Coppers: a transcription by Kate Lee from the singing of "Mr Copper" appeared in the first number of the Journal of the Folk Song Society (1899, p. 22). A hundred years later, two generations of Coppers sang at a conference in Sheffield to mark the centenary of the Society. The song has been popular in the Revival; almost everyone singing the Copper version. It has been found in tradition mainly in England (by Baring Gould, Sharp and others), but there are sets in the Greig-Duncan Collection (Aberdeenshire) and Peacock's Songs of the Newfoundland Outports.

Edited By Malcolm Douglas - 14/03/2003 17:46:22


Posted - 14 Mar 03 - 06:55 pm

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. What is worse, I realised it didn't make sense at the time I typed it, if only for that contagious/contiguous bit.

Frank Purslow's real notes are as follow:

Hammond Dt 181/Dt 732. Joseph Elliot, Todber, Dorset. September 1905 and Henry Marsh, Dorchester, January 1907
Of these two versions I preferred Marsh's form of the tune, although I have shown Elliot's ending as an alternative [lower notes]. The text is Elliot's; except for insignificant details, Marsh's was almost identical. The texts of collected versions can almost all be traced to early 19th century broadside texts, sometimes with titles like Wedding Song or Courtship, and for some of Elliot's misremebrances I have substituted the broadside phraseology. What is presumably the original form of the song appears on a boradside of about 1656 entitled If You Love Me Tell ME so; or, Love's Fierce Dispute, to be sung to a tune called Love's Tide, which is in triple time incidentally. A later printer seems to have taken certain of the verses, added one or two new ones of his own and set the result to a popular glee-type tune in common time. Yet another version of the song is The Sincere Courtship in a garland of songs printed by T. Duncan of Glasgow early last [19th] century, which is more or less an abbreviated version of the 17th century text mentioned earlier. Both the Hammonds' singers, and also one noted by Mr Gardiner, had variants of the the same tune which is not the tune of a version currently popular around the clubs, which emanated from Bob and Ron Copper of Sussex. The Coppers' tune is more usually associated with The Turkish Lady, but both tunes are of the same "glee" type and lend themselves well to harmonisation.

Edited By dmcg - 14/03/2003 19:11:36


Posted - 14 Mar 03 - 07:13 pm

In an effort to save some of your wasted effort, Malcolm, would any of your research be relevant if I entered The Constant Lovers?

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 14 Mar 03 - 07:48 pm

Not really, no; as that wasn't what I was looking for! In fact such things are never really wasted in the long term, though, even if I ought to have been working instead. At some point in the future, I'll probably find something else more easily as a result.

Abby Sale

Posted - 17 Mar 03 - 08:04 pm

Good background. I didn't know it was that well established. The Coppers sing, but I didn't notice an equivalent line in any of the above citations:
So to church they went the very next day
And were married by Asking, as I've heard say

Any idea what "by Asking" specifically means?

Posted by rob derrick to in May 1993, with express permission of the author:

by Lynn Noel
( (c) sometime in the not too distant past )

(tune: Come Write Me Down the Powers Above,
trad. mummers' song from a wooing play)

I opened the bills when I got home
And I can't believe my telephone
Why must you live so far away
Why must I have so much to say
Why must I have so much to say?

Ah, where are the days when a parted pair
Would write fond letters their love to share
I dry my eyes and I sign my name
When I write the check-- but it's not the same
When I write the check it's not the same.

Perhaps someday when I'm old and grey
And the grandchildren have come to play
We will climb the stairs to the attic box
Where the old phone bills lie filed and locked
Where the old phone bills lie filed and locked.

Now (416) made me lose my head
And (617) said we'd soon be wed
And 251-4552
Was a love he swore forever true
Was a love he swore forever true.

Oh, where are the sketches and poetry
Of the grand love letters that used to be
And the tender words that I unfold
To warm my heart when a love grows cold
To warm my heart when a love grows cold.

So I tie these bills with a ribbon blue
I hear the phone, it must be you
And with all my heart, you'll hear me say
Hang up my love, write me today
Hang up my love, write me today.

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 18 Mar 03 - 12:55 am

"Married by asking". I don't know, but I've always assumed that it was some kind of short-cut (like a special licence, perhaps) that avoided having to have the banns called for a few weeks before the ceremony could take place. Does anyone know about that?

Edited By Malcolm Douglas - 18/03/2003 00:59:56

Mr Happy

Posted - 21 Mar 03 - 01:19 pm

these lines are the ones i've always heard sung, perhaps they're regional variations?

Come write me down you powers above,
The man that first created love,
For I've a diamond in my eye,
Where all my joys and comfort lie.

"Then go away, you proud young dame,
If you prove false, I'll do the same,
For I have no doubt that I shall find,
Another young girl to my mind."

So to church they went the very next day
And were married by asking, as I've heard say


Posted - 21 Mar 03 - 01:58 pm

The words Mr Happy quote were used on "Anthems in Eden" by Shirley Collins, if I remember rightly, with the last verses as follows (from memory):

"Oh stay, young man, don't be in haste,
You seem afraid your time you will waste.
Let reason rule your roving mind,
And unto you I will prove kind,
And unto you I will prove kind.

So to church they went the very next day
And were married by asking, as I've heard say,
So now that girl, she is his wife,
She will prove his comfort day and night,
She will prove his comfort day and night.

So now his troubles and sorrows are passed,
His joys and comforts have come at last,
That girl to him, ..........
She will prove his comfort night and day,
She will prove his comfort night and day.

This song has a particular association for me. As a student, my flatmates and I held a party in the flat based on variously not-quite-traditional things, including a somewhat strange mummer's play, based on an official set of words from somewhere and our spin on them:

In comes I, St George, the hero bold,
With my bloody spear I gained ten thousand pounds in gold!
[throwing it away petuantly] Bloody spear!

You get the idea. Anyway, I was the suitor and my (male) flatmate in drag was the young girl. Happy days!

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