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Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?

GUEST 06 Aug 13 - 12:41 PM
Jim Carroll 06 Aug 13 - 01:03 PM
Jim Carroll 06 Aug 13 - 01:39 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Aug 13 - 02:22 PM
Jim Carroll 06 Aug 13 - 02:28 PM
GUEST,John Bowden (not a typo!) 06 Aug 13 - 02:30 PM
pavane 06 Aug 13 - 03:27 PM
Steve Gardham 06 Aug 13 - 04:11 PM
Steve Gardham 06 Aug 13 - 04:12 PM
Gibb Sahib 06 Aug 13 - 04:23 PM
MGM·Lion 06 Aug 13 - 04:27 PM
John on the Sunset Coast 06 Aug 13 - 05:58 PM
Joybell 06 Aug 13 - 06:35 PM
Gibb Sahib 06 Aug 13 - 06:37 PM
Joybell 06 Aug 13 - 09:25 PM
Noreen 06 Aug 13 - 09:31 PM
MGM·Lion 07 Aug 13 - 12:54 AM
Bert 07 Aug 13 - 01:42 AM
Jim Carroll 07 Aug 13 - 02:52 AM
MGM·Lion 07 Aug 13 - 03:45 AM
Jim Carroll 07 Aug 13 - 03:58 AM
catspaw49 07 Aug 13 - 07:25 AM
Edthefolkie 07 Aug 13 - 07:41 AM
GUEST,saulgoldie 07 Aug 13 - 07:48 AM
Roger the Skiffler 07 Aug 13 - 09:28 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 07 Aug 13 - 02:24 PM
GUEST 07 Aug 13 - 06:23 PM
Steve Gardham 07 Aug 13 - 06:40 PM
Lighter 07 Aug 13 - 07:13 PM
MGM·Lion 08 Aug 13 - 12:30 AM
Gibb Sahib 08 Aug 13 - 12:57 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Aug 13 - 01:40 AM
GUEST,henryp 08 Aug 13 - 02:24 AM
Gutcher 08 Aug 13 - 03:57 AM
Nigel Parsons 08 Aug 13 - 07:04 AM
Steve Gardham 08 Aug 13 - 07:39 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 08 Aug 13 - 01:48 PM
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Subject: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 12:41 PM

I've been listening to a lot of Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention lately, and there's a scenario that repeatedly shows up in their ballads that puzzles me.

Essentially, guy meets girl and demands either her "mantle" or her "maidenhead." What puzzles me is that she always opts to give him the latter. I've been assuming a "mantle" is a garment, but it's not making sense. Why does he want her clothes? Why doesn't she just give her mantle to him? I'm guessing that I'm missing some sort of meaning here, particularly an alternate definition (or connotation) for the word "mantle."

Does anyone know?


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 01:03 PM

"Why does he want her clothes? "
Presumably for the same reason that The Outladish Knight wanted them
"For they are too good and too costly
To rot in the salt sea foam"
Mantle is a commonplace in many ballads - it's often the safest to assume that the mening is the obvious one rather than looking for hidden meanings.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 01:39 PM

Just checked in Wimberley 'Folklore in the English and Scottish Ballads' and it seems that my conclusion may have been wrong - in some cases mantle has something to do with a test for virginity it seems.
Sorry for the assumptiopn
I suppose it is down to which particular ballad.
It's always intrigued me how the feller knows the girl is a virgin and why she like Queen Eleanor - "Hadna been a maiden at a'"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 02:22 PM

It is surely the polite thing to presume in such circumstances.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 02:28 PM

Wasn't particularly polite to give her the choice of one or t'other.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: GUEST,John Bowden (not a typo!)
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 02:30 PM

It's "the mantle of your maidenhead", not "or" - the man "lays her down" and takes away her maidenhead/virginity. The idea is that she has been "wearing"/"carrying" her maidenhead like a garment, which he has now removed.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: pavane
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 03:27 PM

Fairport dramatically pruned the song, which has many more verses. Probably just as well, but inevitably some meaning was lost. One of my all-time favourites.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 04:11 PM

Jim,
Whilst I agree with your observations I'm buggered if I can find any link directly with mantle as ascribed to maidenhead in Wimberley. Mantle here is a magic cloak used for a chastity test, whereas I think mantle in its euphemism for the hymen simply means the wider meaning of mantle, a covering. I'm perhaps splitting hairs if I can use that expression in this context.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 04:12 PM

Excuse my ignorance, but which specific ballad are we looking at, Guest?


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 04:23 PM

English ballads are annoying that way.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 04:27 PM

Steeleye Span - Royal Forester Lyrics

I am a forester of this land / As you may plainly see, / It's the mantle of your
maidenhead / That I would have from thee.

A somewhat attenuated version of Child #110, The Knight & The Shepherd's Daughter.

You will find a fuller version on my U-tube channel,

http://www.youtube.com/user/mgmyer

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 05:58 PM

Come on, stop beating around the bush, so to say. "Maidenhead" is a euphemism for a female's hymen. A mantle, among other definitions, is a covering of sorts; so perhaps it is euphemistically a covering before the maidenhead.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Joybell
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 06:35 PM

We need a few more examples. Just thinking out aloud -- If the line is "mantle OR your maidenhead" is it possible he's giving two names for the same thing? Coy and then direct? Just so's there's no misunderstanding his request. Such poetic exchanges. I miss them in the songs of now.
Joy


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 06:37 PM

stop beating around the bush
Nice!

"Mantle" is pussy lips, by the way.
Dang English and their euphemisms.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Joybell
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 09:25 PM

So he needs both her mantle and her maidenhood. So why does he give her a choice? As John points out "mantle of your maidenhead" makes more sense.
Speaking of sense. "The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter" makes wonderful reading. I just went through the various versions in Child.
Seems the lady is a linguist. When the knight tells her his name -- Sweet William, John, Jack, Lithgow, Mitchcock .... she exclaims that because she's conversant with the Latin tongue she knows he's really Earl Richard. I love that sort of information. Also her mother taught her to swim like an otter. What wonderful tangles the ballads are.
Joy


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Noreen
Date: 06 Aug 13 - 09:31 PM

I thought our anonymous initial GUEST was referring to Tam Lin (Child 39, recorded by both Steeleye and Fairport):

O I forbid you, maidens a',
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
For young Tam Lin is there.

There's nane that gaes by Carterhaugh
But they leave him a wad,
Either their rings, or green mantles,
Or else their maidenhead.

Tam Lin Balladry


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 12:54 AM

There's no 'or', but definitely 'of', in the Steeleye version which the OP refs. Maddy definitely sings 'of'. Google the lyrics which I ref'd in my last post:

http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/s/steeleye_span/royal_forester.html

Tam Lin a slightly confusing ref, I think, in that, the 'green mantle' is there used referentially and euphemistically (with a play on 'green' as = so-far unused?). In Royal Forester [Knight & Shep's Dtr], it is surely used more directly as a folklorically recognised sex-organ synonym.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Bert
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 01:42 AM

Splitting hairs, Steve Gardham, you are just too funny.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 02:52 AM

"I'm buggered if I can find any link directly with mantle as ascribed to maidenhead"
Steve.
You may be right and I may be getting hold of the wrong end of the stick (so to speak) - I was in the middle of doing something else when I make my posting.
I read in the index ""Mantle; a magic employed in a chastity test, pp 211 (see chastity)" didn't have time to follow it up and briefly looking at it now, it is a bit too convoluted to chase up this time of the morning - will try again later - I'm sure I'll get to the bottom of it.
"Steeleye Span - Royal Forester Lyrics"
I'm sure this comes from John Strachan's beautiful version, (never was a great SS fan) - it really is worth following these ballads to their source sometimes rather than sticking with the popularised versions.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 03:45 AM

Indeed, Jim: but it was specifically the Steeleye version that the OP was enquiring about.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 03:58 AM

Sorry Mike - I thought the specific motifs that occur in many ballads and come to us via many singers was the point of the question.
As Strachan was the source of this particular ballad I thought the answer might lie in Aberdeenshire rather than Robin Hoods Bay.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: catspaw49
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 07:25 AM

Mickey was pretty much on board with getting as many maidenheads as possible and all that fast livin' probably hurt what was already one of the greatest ever.   No matter though to the thousands and thousands of kids, there was no one like The Mick..........


Spaw


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Edthefolkie
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 07:41 AM

That's all well and good, but none of this explains the provenance in traditional balladry of other Home Counties towns.

e.g. "The young girl who lost her aylesbury on the way to Maidenhead"?

And what about green mantelpieces, eh?? Very Art Nouveau, no doubt, but what's the symbolism?


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: GUEST,saulgoldie
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 07:48 AM

Somehow--can't remember 'zactly where or when but...

"You fusty, crusty, musty, dusty cold blacksmith.
You have done me no harm (?)
You never shall get me maidenhead, which I hae kept so long.
...
A maiden I shall die."

Or something like that.

Saul


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 09:28 AM

A mantle was the fabric "bulb" on a gas lamp when I were a lad, or a cloak. Maidenhead is a town in Berkshire. The rest of you have dirty minds!

RtS


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 02:24 PM

Dirty minds? Ever tried trying to enter Scunthorpe on some web fora?


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 06:23 PM

Michael,
Only another opinion but I don't agree on Tam Lin. When there are no other sexual euphemisms in the ballad I'd say the green mantle was just a green cloak in this case unless further evidence can be quoted.
Maidenhead is more of a cliché than a euphemism. A 'green gown' on the other hand is always euphemism, but even that is more of a cliché.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 06:40 PM

Sorry that was a cookieless me. Losing one's cookie seems to become more frequent as one gets older, or bolder perhaps!


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 07:13 PM

"Maidenhead" used to mean "virginity."

None of the dictionary meanings of "mantle" seem quite appropriate (though "pretence" is at least conceivable). Somebody along the way may simply have misheard something that sounded vaguely similar and replaced it with the possibly meaningless "mantle."

Steeleye's version is indeed essentially John Strachan's. He too sings "the mantle o' your maidenhead"


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 12:30 AM

Not too sure no other refs or euphemisms in Tam Lin, Steve. But, to take the instant quote we are talking of: "rings or green mantles or maidenheads" -- no possible implied double entendre on "rings", as well as "green mantles"? ~~ oh, come on! Surely a subtle way of saying the same thing three times, the 'or' leading to a sort of tongue-in-cheek rhetorical tautology. And what of the symbolism of "pulling the rose" to summon Tam Lin who has left his horse as earnest he is somewhere about & can be summoned by whoever knows how? The rose is a well-known virginity symbol ~~

Non, Gaston, tu n'auras pas ma rose!

I think, without going all Golden Bough, that there might be a bit more to this most atmospheric ballad than you appear to want to give it credit for...

~M~


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 12:57 AM

I knew a girl who had her mantle pierced. Perhaps she wanted a song written about "the ring o' her mantle o' her maidenhead." But I wasn't interested.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 01:40 AM

"You fusty, crusty, musty, dusty cold blacksmith."
The Twa Magicians (Child 44)
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 02:24 AM

I've never seen the text, but I always imagined that it was 'coal-blacksmith'.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Gutcher
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 03:57 AM

"Gie me yer green manteel fair maid
Gie me yer maidenheed
If ye winna gie me yer green manteel
Gie me yer maidenheed"
Third verse in the version of the Bonny Hind on MTCD 313.
The lassies manteel was indeed green--"He's tane her by the milk white haun,
and by the grass- green sleeve--start of 4th. verse.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 07:04 AM

I've never seen the text, but I always imagined that it was 'coal-blacksmith'.
Or, even, coal-black smith.


With regards to mantle & maidenhead, as Freud said "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar", or was that Bill Clinton?


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 07:39 AM

Michael,
I'm well aware of the 'plucking of a rose' as a symbol of taking a maiden's virginity as everyone is, but in this case it is the maiden who is plucking the rose. Does it work that way round? Is she deflowering herself? Hmmmm! As for 'ring', the only use of that in a sexual connotation I can think of at the moment is 'Sing, sing or show us ............'

Hi Gutcher,
Yes, that's pretty much how it runs in Child's solitary version (Herd)(No versions in Bronson). Again we can't say whether or not the green sleeve or mantle are symbolic or not. The presence of the word green can mean a whole host of things to different people.


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Subject: RE: Mantle or maidenhead; what does it mean?
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 01:48 PM

Hymen, the god of weddings, was usually depicted wearing a golden mantle. Deriving from this, the word mantle is frequently linked with virginity in poetry, and "virgin's mantle" is a poetic metaphor for the maidenhead.

The ballad simply seems to be adopting a widespread poetic association. From a technical point of view, it helps the line to scan and the alliteration and repetition of the idea, if not the word, helps to emphasise the point.


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