Chapter Nine 3


Hey Ho Raggedy-O

 

Chapter 9 – page 4

 

The Cutty Wren and Billy Barlow

 

The real fascination of The Rat-Catcher’s Daughter lies in the possibility that it might connect two much more interesting songs:

One is old, its written history dating from 1776, when it appeared in David Herd’s Scots Songs. Here it has no title, but it is now called The Cutty (little) Wren. The other is a song called, at first, Let’s Go A-Hunting, and now called Billy Barlow.

This song is very different from all of Billy Barlow’s other songs. It appears to be either an authentic American folksong or a very clever imitation. The Cutty Wren comes to us in an ancient form. It is sung as a dialogue song. It has the form of Anglo-Saxon poetry in the alliteration seen in the first two lines of each verse, but it also rhymes the second and third line, in a newer style.

Where are you going? says Milder to Malder.
Oh we may not tell you says, Festle to Foze.
We’re off to the woods, says John the Red Nose.
We’re off to the woods, says John the Red Nose.

Oh what will you do there? says Milder to Malder.
Oh we may not tell you, says Festle to Foze.
We’ll hunt the Cutty Wren, says John the Red Nose.
We’ll hunt the Cutty Wren, says John the Red Nose.

Oh how will you kill her? says Milder to Malder.
Oh we may not tell you, says Festle to Foze.
With bows and with arrows, says John the Red Nose.
With bows and with arrows, says John the Red Nose.

Oh that will not do, says Milder to Malder.
Oh what will do then? says Festle to Foze
Big guns and big cannons, says John the Red Nose.
Big guns and big cannons, says John the Red Nose.

How shall we haul her? says Milder to Malder.
Oh we may not tell you, says Festle to Foze.
On four strong men’s shoulders, said John the Red Nose.
On four strong men’s shoulders, said John the Red Nose.

Oh that will not do, says Milder to Malder.
Oh what will do then, says Festle to Foze.
Great carts and great wagons, says John the Red Nose.
Great carts and great wagons, says John the Red Nose.

How shall we divide her? says Milder to Malder.
Oh we may not tell you, says Festle to Foze.
With knives and with forks, says John the Red Nose.
With knives and with forks, says John the Red Nose.

Oh that will not do, says Milder to Malder.
Oh what will do then? says Festle to Foze.
Great hatchets and cleavers, says John the Red Nose.
Great hatchets and cleavers, says John the Red Nose.

How shall we cook her? says Milder to Malder.
In pots and in kettles, says Festle to Foze.
Great pans and large cauldrons, says John the Red Nose.
Great pans and large cauldrons, says John the Red Nose.

Who’ll get the spare ribs? says Milder to Malder.
Oh we may not tell you, says Festle to Foze.
We’ll give them to the poor, says John the Red Nose.
We’ll give them to the poor, says John the Red Nose.

[Memorised, by the author, from the singing of Danny Spooner and Gordon MacIntyre at Frank Trayner’s Coffee House in Melbourne during 1960s]

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IN THIS SECTION:

 

 

HEY HO RAGGEDY-O:

 

A Study of the Billy Barlow Phenomenon
(written by Joy Hildebrand)

 

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