The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #102317   Message #3798154
Posted By: Richie
28-Jun-16 - 03:35 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Strawberry Fair - old English trad.
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Strawberry Fair - old English trad.

According to Baring Gould the words date back to circa 1650. It was collected in 1891.

From Songs and Ballads of the West: A Collection Made from the Mouths of the People edited by Sabine Baring-Gould, Henry Fleetwood Sheppard, Frederick William Bussell, 1892:

LXVIII. Strawberry Fair.
Melody taken down from 'Jas. Masters, of Bradstone,' by Mr. Sheppard [1891]. The ballad is a recast of "Kytt hath lost her key," given by Dr.'Rimbault in his "Little Book of Songs and Ballads gathered from Ancient Music Books," 1851, p. 49; but this was a parody in 1561 of "Kit hath lost her keye (cow)." The song was certainly early, but unsuitable; and I have been constrained to re-write it. The old air was used, in or about 1835, by Beuler, a comic song writer, for his "The Devil and the Hackney Coachman."

"Ben was a lackney coachman rare,
Jarvey! Jarvey!- Here I am, your honour."

Beuler composed the words of a good number of songs, and set nearly all to old airs. Thus he wrote "The Steam Coach" to "Bonnets of Blue," "Don Giovanni" to the air of "Billy Taylor," "the Sentimental Costermonger" to "Fly from the World," "Honesty is the best Policy" to the old melody of " The Good Days of Adam and Eve," "Ireland's the nation of Civilization" to the tune of "Paddy O'Carrol," and "The Nervous Family" to "We're a Nodding."

The same thing was done by Hudson, and a score of comic song writers. They took good old tunes and set t em to vulgar words, which were, in some cases, no doubt an improvement, for vulgar words are better than those which are obscene.

That "Strawberry Fair" is a genuine old melody I have no doubt. The ballad is sung everywhere in Cornwall and Devon to the same melody. The words are certainly not later than the age of Charles II., and are probably older. They turn on a double entendre which is quite lost- and fortunately so- to half the old fellows who sing the song. It seems to me impossible to believe that the air should have
become dissociated from Beuler's words and attached to very early words of the peculiar metre required. I have never found a singer who had any knowledge of "The Devil and the Hackney Coachman," but all have heard "Strawberry Fair," and some men of 70-80 say they learned it of their fathers. The earliest date of Jacob Beuler's song is 1834, and if what the old singers tell me is true, then certainly Beuler adopted a tune taken from a folk ballad, and did not contribute a tune to folk melody.