The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #108324   Message #2253815
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
05-Feb-08 - 02:34 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: Rambling Soldier
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Rambling Soldier
A standard 'Rambling Sailor' text, with tune, is in the DT: The Rambling Sailor. It is copied from Roy Palmer, The Oxford Book of Sea Songs, but sadly neglects to include the source information: text is from a broadside issued by Disley of London, while the tune was noted by Cecil Sharp from George Wyatt, West Harptree, Somerset, 14 April 1904.

The DT file Rambling Soldier/Trim-Rigged Doxy is from Louis Killen and isn't actually 'The Rambling Soldier' at all, but a completely different song with the first verse of 'Rambling Sailor' stuck on at the beginning. Where this came from prior to him (supposing that the combination wasn't his own idea), we are not told.

The 'Rambling Soldier' text Tim posted isn't quite as collected by Gardiner. Mr Digweed didn't leave a gap in the final line, but sang 'Bill' as in broadside editions of the song; it was Frank Purslow's idea to leave a gap so that singers could insert the name of their choice. Digweed also sang 'queen' instead of the original 'king', having learned the song during Victoria's reign.

It was written, presumably a little before Victoria's accession in 1837, by one John Morgan, who produced a number of songs for the broadside press in the '30s and '40s. He modelled it closely, of course, on the earlier 'Rambling Sailor', and it is usually sung to the same tune. Broadside examples of both songs can be seen at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

[The] Rambling Soldier

[The] Rambling Sailor

'Rambling Sailor' has been found in tradition reasonably often, but 'Rambling Soldier' rarely. Beside Mr Digweed's set, there is one from Cornwall in Fred Hamer, Garners Gay, London: EFDS 1967, 74; and the Roud Index lists a few in American collections.

My guess would be that John Tams (who, by the bye, has recently been awarded an honorary degree by Sheffield Hallam University) adapted the Digweed set as it appeared in Frank Purslow's Marrow Bones: English Folk Songs from the Hammond and Gardiner Manuscripts (London: EFDS, 1965) complete with Frank's 'insert your name here' option. The new edition of Marrow Bones ( available from The English Folk Dance and Song Society ) contains further background information on the song.

I should add that the text 'Walrus' quotes from Palmer's Rambling Soldier isn't from tradition, but was taken from a broadside edition by Such, which can be seen at the Bodleian website. The tune Palmer set it to is another 'Rambling Sailor' version, noted by Cecil Sharp from John Fry of Tomarton, Gloucestershire, 3 April 1907.